日本語  中文  한국어
炭の特性 History of Sumi / Characteristic of Sumi

〜The relations between Sumi charcoal and a human being〜

Sumi was created at the same time the fire was found. It is only mankind that is able to handle fire amongst the living creatures. It has been surmised that the first use of fire started about 1.5 million years ago, the age of the Neanderthals. Carbonized wood and ashes were excavated together with human bones in the ruins from that age

■History of Sumi in Japan

The oldest charcoal in Japan was discovered in ruins from about 300,000 years ago, and it is believed that it was used in cooking. Starting from Yayoi Era (57 ミ 239 AD), Sumi was used widely from industry to the daily life of the people. The famous Buddhist monk Kukai, known as Kobo-Daishi who is the founder of Shingon sect, had introduced not only the Buddhism but also the manufacturing method of a Sumi kiln and many other state of the art technologies in Japan from the Tang Dynasty in China at the beginning of the Heian era (794 ミ 1180 AD). An exhaust hole for smoke to ensure the efficiency of heat in the kiln is named 'Kobo-ana, or Kobo ヤholeユ after him. In the time when Sumi was used as the main fuel source, it was considered to be the most important task of woman to be a good fire keeper, in other words, to be a good charcoal user. People have said, ヤa woman failing to keep the fire is the disgrace of a woman who keeps the household.ユ It was considered very important to keep the fire, or to maintain the Sumi fire well.


Since chanoyu or tea ceremony was flourished in Muromachi Era (1397 - 1573 AD), the manufacturing skill of Sumi charcoal had progressed remarkably and the quality of Sumi charcoal had improved. Kunugi-sumi, or Kiku-sumi, the most superior class of Sumi charcoal used for the tea ceremony was developed then. The particular etiquette to arrange the fireplace called 'sumi-temae' was developed in the world of chanoyu. Sumi-temae is a specific detailed rule of manner, starting from the placing of Sumi to the ending of how to clean up the ashes, which differs depending on the season and the kind of tea to be served. Sumi-temae made it easy to understand that Sumi charcoal is not only for our living and industry but also has produced a healing culture, and it gradually became a part of people's life. After World War II, Sumi has experienced a sharp drop in demand and production as other energy sources has replaced it. The advancement of science and technology has made Sumi come into use again in various ways and places. As mentioned in the Characteristic of Charcoal page, it is makes our life comfortable and supports us in many situations from industrial technology to environment and medical care through the absorptive effect of the structural feature of Sumi and the technology based on the purifying effect of the charcoal chemical bioreactor. . However, the support we receive from Sumi charcoal is not only useful in our life and technology, but also to our culture which has been based on the sumi-temae and to mental healthcare. That might be the most important aspect of Sumi today. Sumi charcoal which has been with us since ancient time up until the present will be with us and supporting us in the future. We are going forward to fulfill our mission to "make the whole Earth where we are and will be together with Sumi charcoal which came from nature and will revert to nature like us, vigorous and balanced" reviewing and realizing as we learn things each day.

Yayoi Period
57 - 239 A.D.
People started farming in this time, and charcoal was used for processing metal for agricultural implements. Charcoal began closely relating to human life.
Nara Period
720 - 790 A.D.
Heian Period
794 - 1180
Charcoal became a heating material. Hakutan or white charcoal started to be manufactured as it has a longer burning duration. Over 800 tons of it was burned up to cast the Great Buddha of Todai-ji temple in Nara.
Kamakura Period
1185 - 1281 A.D.
Due to the growing charcoal demand, Sumi making became a business, and the government considered it as one of the most important industries.
Muromachi Period
1397 - 1573 A.D.
Chanoyu or tea ceremony culture flourished and as higher quality Sumi charcoal was required, the charcoal maker became highly skilled.
Edo Period
1603 - 1868 A.D.
The Yuyatan, a charcoal made from Kumano district in the south Kishu province since Heian Era, was modified and reinvented to binchotan by Bicchuya Chozaemon, a charcoal dealer whose name is the origin of binchotan, which had spread throughout the nation./td>
1950 - 60s Although charcoal had been used as fuel, the commercial volume was drastically decreased since gas, petrol and electricity became a common fuel.
Present Day Special characteristics of charcoal, such as the absorption of the fine particles, had clarified by various researchers and allow us to use it for healthcare and environmental preservation on top of the traditional usage.

Back to the top on this page
History of Sumi / Characteristic of Sumi