The cultivation of Igusa, the raw material for tatami mats,
has decreased, and the number of people
producing tatami mats has also decreased.
I knew that Igusa can be cultivated in most parts of Japan.
Igusa is a plant that grows naturally in various river fields.
I have heard here Wakayama used to grow and process Igusa.
I wanted to learn so I started raising Igusa. By planting and raising them with our own hands, I thought it would be possible to understand not only the hard works of farmers but also the material for tatami mats, Igusa.
I was just over 40, and the activities of both Chamber of Commerce Youth Club and
Youth Chamber were finished, I was able to have time to challenge new
things based on my career. A number of events supported me to challenge
the project. First, the grant of subsidy from Agricultural Commerce Fund has
started. Second, my underclassman has started farming. Third, a president
of a farm equipment store actively supported me. Forth, Mr. and Mrs.
Kiichiro Hashimoto, the Igusa farmer in Kumamoto Prefecture, who are always
helped to purchase tatami mats kindly supported me.
When I visited Mr. and Mrs. Hashimoto for consultation, Mrs. Hashimoto told me the words I cannot forget. “You may try, but it is not that simple.”
Grace from Kishu.
Raised by professionals. These are everything.
It cannot be said that the traditional tatami mats made of igusa are suitable for modern living spaces.
There is a resin tatami mat for mold prevention. There are wonderful tatami mats from Kumamoto for cultural properties.
The tatami mat “Kishu Igusa” we make does not have any special effects, but we are working on protecting the traditional “tatami mats”.
In order to produce tatami mats, careful work is required. I always feel that it really represents the Japanese way of thinking and temperament. I made igusa and felt that igusa, the raw material for tatami mats, was a crop that had to be made delicately.
Agriculture takes a big risk with one decision whether to do it or not, including work that seems to be irrelevant at first glance. I feel that I have realized the real pain and joy of the farmers because I have been working on this risk throughout four seasons.
Igusa has many effects that are not well known. It is a wasteful material that can be used only as a tatami mat since it has scent healing effects, abundant fibers, and soothing colors.
We want to create products that can be simply felt by various generations, and we want to make them feel the charm of igusa by preparing a system that can provide them easily.
The one who raises the rush, the one who makes tatami mats, the one who supports them, and the one who wants - We can only continue our business if we can create a system in which all the people can enjoy the value in a balanced manner.
In order to continue telling the goodness of the original tatami mats, we hope that the creation of tatami mats with each local characteristics will start throughout the country.
1460 Days of Trial and Error.
The first 4 years was a hard time.
It originally started from nothing. I am grateful about being able to start everything like searching
for a rice field since many people helped me a lot.
Igusa grows in paddy fields just like rice, but the seasons for seedling planting and harvesting are different. During the freezing season in November, we must put our feet one by one into the puddle, plant them one by one, and harvest them when it is hot in the midsummer. That alone is a very hard work.
You can plant seedlings, loosen the stocks, move the rice fields, split seedlings the next year, plant them again, and finally start growing in the main field.
You have to take weeds while igusa grows up. It is also a hard work to cut the tips of the wigs that grows unevenly and to stretch the net that supports the wigs those grow more than 150 cm high. After harvesting, mud-dying and drying the rush, you are finally ready to begin weaving tatami mats. The weaving process that follows is also an important task that needs technique.
Making a tatami mat requires a lot of labor, but there are no people with that skill in our area.
I didn't understand a lot, so I talked to the farmers in Kumamoto over the phone, and I could continued to work with the help of farm equipment stores and neighboring farmers. Via SNS, I also got some advices from farmers in Kumamoto.
I am very blessed with the people around me. I am very blessed with the staffs, too. This is my only pride.
In the first year, I tried to grow igusa without herbicide, insect repellent and fertilizer. As expected, the height did not increase, the yield was low, and the grasshopper ate most of igusa.
In the second year, Terada, who is the main figure in making igusa, participated. At that time, because it was a temporary processing plant, the work did not start, and the mowers, mud dyeing machines, etc. failed one after another. I also experienced that the agricultural season of Igusa overlapped with the busy season of our store. This was a little miscalculation as I thought about working on it while connecting it to a place for employees to learn. However, the staff learned how to make rushes in order to improve their daily work.
In the third year, only Terada and I harvested. After harvesting, the temporary storage time became longer, the igusa
And now we have something
that can be delivered.
was steamed and turned red, and about half of it had to be discarded. This is related to the lack of a processing plant and the lack of manpower. I did various things, such as sprinkling water on the post-harvest stuff and running to the site in the middle of the night, but they did not work.
In the 4th year, I was able to borrow a nearby idle facility with the cooperation of Shirahama Town and the help of those who lent me rice fields. Although the cost of refurbishment was large, it was finally possible to use the entire yield for processing.
Igusa is harvested once a year. It ends when you get used to it. There is no way to learn only by repeating for years and years. The days of trial and error continued, but in 2018, when the 4th harvest was made, it was finally finished, and I who was born in a tatami store could finally decide to deliver it to everyone.
The Meaning of Making in Kishu
I think that Wakayama citizens are the ones who have simple, courteous and polite, warm and clever minds. That's why I think we are able to continue the troublesome work of making soy sauce, Bincho charcoals, plums and tangerines, and sell them nationwide.
And now we respect and learn from our predecessors in Kishu, and from here, we will create the history of Kishu Igusa step by step.
It is often said that there are fewer tatami mats. That is an unmistakable fact. But I'm okay with that. The value may be reconsidered because it is less. It is always the case that things that are meaningless and worthless are deceived.
I think that living with tatami mats has nurtured the qualities of the original Japanese and created a Japanese character. Tatami mats are used for things that have a “do” in their names such as “Sado”, Japanese tea ceremony,
“Kado”, flower arrangement, and like “judo”. The ritual that walks away from the edges, sits straight, and corrects its posture has its own meaning and ambition. As Japanese people often say the idiomatic usage, such as “counting the stitches from the edges of tatami” and “wanting to die on the tatami”, tatami are deeply familiar to our lives.
We no longer talk about it but I believe tatami conveys the standards of the heart we the Japanese have cherished. When you think about who is in trouble when there are no tatami mats, you can understand immediately. It's not just about us, the tatami operators.
I used to think I wanted many customers to buy as many tatami mats as possible. But now I feel that it is important to keep the system that can deliver to the customers who want the amount they need at the right time. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who supported this project, and will continue to do my best to continue to be a company that needs it.
Ido Tatami Store Co.,Ltd