The story of Binchotan

The history of the white charcoal Binchotan

Binchotan wood charcoal has been traditionally made ever since the 17th century in the Kishu province in Japan. The raw material is oak, specifically ubamegashi (Quercus phillyraeoides); it is a particularly hard fibrous wood unsuitable for use as building timber but excellent for making wood charcoal. The local clay resists the high temperature of the kilns developed by the local craftsmen over the centuries. With new sources of energy becoming available its production diminished, but scientists have discovered the special properties of Binchotan, and given it a new lease of life perfectly suited to the 21st century. Binchotan can be used to filter and purify water, absorb odours, and is also an electromagnetic wave absorber, etc.

Origin of the name Binchotan

In the Edo period, in the 17th century, Japanese craftsmen refined Chinese techniques for producing wood charcoal, and invented ‘white’ charcoal. White charcoal is particularly dense, gives off a constant heat lasting longer, and can be used inside, unlike other charcoals which gave off carbon dioxide. It was long reserved for the homes of the emperors before being adopted by restaurants serving grilled food. This particular charcoal did not have a specific name, and to differentiate it from the rest it became BINCHOTAN: BIN and CHO from the name of a supplier (BINchuya CHOzaimon) and TAN which means coal.

Binchotan coalmakers

Until 1960 the coalmakers were itinerant workers. The owners of the forest hired the coalmakers for a period of two years. They built huts and clay kilns, cut the ubamegashi wood, made the wood charcoal, before moving on to another property. Today they are independent and sedentary. They still do the work from start to finish, selecting the branches for cutting and ensuring the continued growth of the trees. Thanks to their craftsmanship and know how, the production of Binchotan started in the middle ages, can go on.