Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Because I wanted to refinish my deck before winter, am looking to avoid the ubertoxic commercial products and have tried the uberexpensive (and pretty much untereffective) wood treatment products available on the naturo-altermarkets, I've been looking for the traditional Japanese wood treatment known as kakishibu, which is made by naturally processing a certain type of persimmon to obtain the ultimate in shibui (astringency), as I think of it.

You'd think that "traditional" pretty much says it all, but I had no idea. Oozing the usual newbie optimism, I went to the wood treatment section of the nearest farm store, which is pretty traditional, to my mind - they sell handmade tools, baskets, cord and such like - and asked the elder man there (thinking it likely that no one under 40 would have ever heard of kakishibu) if he had any kakishibu.

He instantly acquired that Dealing-with-eccentric-foreigner look and said What? I repeated my question, he said Huh? I mouthed the identical phrase once more, when he began to realize that I was in fact using a Japanese term there, and a deep light began to come forth from long ago, as he shook his head and gave the kind of small laugh you give someone who says Look there's a flying elephant throwing money! And said Nooo, we don't have any kakishibu, without actually saying the Are you out of your mind part.

I also tried at the second-closest, more commercial, but larger and more broadly shelvy farm store. Got the same response, though this elder man had the amazed Foreigner-who-knows-about-unobtainable-traditional-substances look.

Then a few weeks later, when I was up in the woods sectioning a big oak log with an upmountain friend who resides in Kyoto and is the 8th generation of a traditional Kyoto bamboo craft family, during a rest break we naturally got to talking about wood, tradition, craft and bamboo, so I asked him offhandedly if he might know where I might be able to get some... kakishibu? He got a look on his face like I'd asked if he'd ever heard of a thing called 'water,' said Sure, there's a kakishibu store not far from my house.

My subsequent related research led me not only to a traditional kakishibu store in Hyogo Prefecture that deals online (not quite fully yet, it seems), there's also a kakishibu enterprise in the US! It also turns out that kakishibu has many uses.

Fascinating little mind journey, but too late to do the deck this winter, though that pain is eased a great deal by my new knowledge. Kakishibu really is miraculous stuff.

(Plus, there's a heavily bearing wild tree of that same variety of persimmon growing on the edge of the forest, just up the road...)


KenElwood said...

Sold ! But first, if I can, I think I wanna try and make it myself. :-) As always, great posting, Mr. Brady. And BTW, hisashiburi.

Keeping on the idea of 'traditional', I've got another future vision of Japan to share with you called "gartenjapan".

Here's the link:

Keep the woodstack ample, it's gunna be a cold one !


R. Brady said...

Excellent points in your post, Ken, taken to heart. In going to your blog, I thought to go via the link on my blog, and there was no link! There is now.

As to kakishibu, I'm also thinking of trying to make my own-- so now, happily, I have to hunt for some traditional secrets...

Anonymous said...


esbboston said...

I found a www. web site.