Kishiwada City, a city in Osaka Senshuu (the southwest part of Osaka Prefecture), is the area where Kiri Tansu(s) is being produced.

Tansu is Japanese chest of drawers occupies an important role in the house as storage furniture in Japan, while Kiri is Japanese word for Paulownia tomentosa. So, Kiri Tansu is Tansu made from Kiri Wood.

I went to the interview with Mr. Tomekawa. He is an artisan who is making Kiri Tansu with precise and thorough method with old good traditional skill that has been passed on since Tomekawa's family business was established, from the first year of the Taisho Era (1912).


Story from Mr. Tomekawa,
A Skillful Kiri Wood Artisan

This time, who we are going to have an interview with, is Mr. Noboru Tomekawa, the 4th head of the Tomekawa Company.

Noboru Tomekawa


Noboru Tomekawa

Representative director of Tomekawa Co., Ltd.
On February 1997, Received award from Osaka Prefectural Governor at The Osaka Prefecture's Craftsmen Work Exhibition

Has been succeed the company for 20 years.
He was a very friendly person, that I was told by him about a lot of things from Kiri Tansu to the development of new product. He also gladly guided and introduced the factory to me.

▼Company's website (Japanese only)

Tomekawa's Kiri Tansu

Tomekawa's Kiri Tansu is Tansu made from Kiri Wood which has been produced continously with traditional technique.

With their original coloring technology, even if you touch directly with bare hands, the handwriting that engraved on the wood does not stick to your hand. Even if the box is get wet by some water, there is no worry of discoloring. Just quickly wipe it gently.

The wood's leaf buds are straight and smooth so the finished products are beautiful, and thick materials are carefully assembled, so it is very strong.

There are also designs that are sculpted on trays and sliding doors of the drawers.

Tomekawa Kiri Tansu

The Charms of Kiri Tansu

The kiri (paulownia) wood has characteristic of humidity control, and it can protect clothes from moisture.
Furthermore, because there is little elongation and shrinkage due to moisture and drying, you can make a no-gap tansu.

The thermal conductivity of kiri wood is also low, so if the surface of the tansu is burned and carbonized it will be difficult for fire to pass through to the inside.

Components such as tannin and paulonin contained in kiri/paulownia wood showed the insecticidal effect.

Kiri Rice Bin

In old days, chest drawer made from paulownia wood (Kiri Tansu) was indispensable as a wedding tool, but its demand is decreasing year by year.
Meanwhile, Mr. Tomekawa is developing new products one after another with good quality material of kiri wood and traditional technique.

Among them, the popular items are "Rice Bins" (in Japanese: 米びつ or komebitsu) which are handled at Kawashima the Japanstore.
With high level of technique, the craftsmen made the Kiri Rice Bins with high airtightness, it can protect rice from moisture and insects by its moisture control and insecticidal characteristic of kiri wood.
Paulownia/kiri wood is lighter and stronger than other type of wood, and it also has easy-to-handle feature that even if you put the rice in, the wood does not get heavy.

This is a in-production rice bin that can measure 1合* or 150 grams of rice .
* Note: 合 (gou) is a Japanese unit of measurement, usually used to measure rice, sake, etc. (1合 equal to approx. 150 grams, 0,18 liters, or 0,33 metres square).

It was pretty much trial-and-error, and I was also told about the difficulties of the product development!

tomekawa kiri tansu

This time, while I was showed the factory, I was also demonstrated the process to make Kiri Rice Bin. Then, I asked more detail about it.

From the Factory Until the Making Process of Kiri Rice Bin


Paulownia wood

I am thrilled from just looking at the factory where many machines are lining up.
At this factory, craftsmen are carefully making Kiri Tansus one by one.

Paulownia wood chest drawer

The picture above is a Kiri Tansu brought in to Tomekawa at the request of repair.
While making use of the materials that can be used, it seems that this old Kiri Tansu will be reformed into a design that fit to the modern life.


Mr. Tomekawa showed us the actual process of making Kiri Rice Bin!

Kiri Tansu

The timber is dried thoroughly on the roof of the factory.
After this, the timber will again be dried in the machine until the moisture content is reduced to 5%.

Kiri Tansu

The picture above is Mr. Tomekawa who explained how to use the moisture meter.
It is very important to dry the wood thoroughly.

Kiri Tansu

After the drying process, the dried paulownia/kiri wood will be cut to the required length.

Tomekawa Kiri

In order for the boards to fit the other boards perfectly, the tip of the boards are aligned diagonally.

Tomekawa Kiri

Adjust the connections and glue it.

Tomekasa Kiri Tansu

Strap securely with a string so that the bonded part will not come off.

Paulownia wood chest drawer

Once the boards are firmly adhered, any unevennesses or roughnesses on the surface of the Kiri Rice Bin will be smoothened up.

Paulownia wood chest drawer

From this, the Kiri Rice Bin will undergo the finishing process by burning it.

Although this burning-for-hardening process is not usually done, only type of products that are required to be hardened are undergone this process for coloring purpose.

By coloring the box, besides for the the purpose to avoid discoloration and to dirt not become inconspicuous and also for the wood grain to rise beautifully, if it's burned and the surface carbonized, it will be difficult for the bin to burn up to the inside if faced with fire again.

It's a very technical work to do the burning process, such as changing the way fire is applied by a subtle difference in the hardness of the board.

Tomekawa Kiri Tansu

Once the whole surfaces of the bin are burned ninecly, wax is applied on.
By giving wax to the bin's surface, the wood grain will rise up glossy and beautiful.

Kiri wood rice bin

A great Kiri Rice Bin with very beautiful wood grain is completed.

Tomekawa Kiri Tansu

The picture above is Mr. Tomekawa who was talked a lot to me in front of some pretty Kiri Tansus.
The factory tour was very fun and I was withput fail able to catch the charisma of kiri/paulownia wood products.

Thank you so much!

Tomekawa Tansu's Kiri Rice Bin Products

Here in Kawashima the Japanstore, we have a wide variety of rice bins made with kiri wood with different sizes and types.

Please have a look atthese products too!