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From satoyama woodlands like this one at Kurokawa wood is gathered and used to make sumi or wood charcoal.

Read about the eco-friendliness of sumi mountain-fuel here.

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Wood gathered for use as wood charcoal.

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Sumi or wood charcoal is prepared at this shed. The chimney was billowing white smoke when I walked by earlier. There is a kiln and a charcoal making farmer or “meister sumi”. Sumi, also commonly called charcoal, is activated carbon made from natural wood. It is created when wood is fired at very high temperatures in a clay kiln. Unlike activated carbon with its gravel-like form or ordinary charcoal used at barbecues, sumi retains the shape of raw wood so it looks like a piece of black wood. Sumi has many unique characteristics that are not generally known. One characteristic that is well-known, however, is the effectiveness of activated carbon as a water filtering or deodorizing agent. Because activated carbon is porous and absorbs matter, such as colloidal particles, gases, and vapors, sumi has basically the same purifying effect as activated carbon. Other effective uses of sumi include air purification, moisture control, disinfection, protection from bugs and germs, and the shielding of radio and other waves used in modern communication.

Until the mid-1950s, sumi was used as the main source of energy in Japan, especially for heating and cooking. Two million tons of sumi were produced each year to meet the country’s demand. Since that time, however, petroleum, gas, and electricity have been used widely, and sumi has become increasingly absent in Japanese everyday life. Recently, though, sumi has regained some of its previous popularity, but in a different capacity. It is now viewed as an environmentally-safe ecologically-enhancing natural material that can provide numerous benefits beyond its original use as a man-made fuel.

Cooking with charcoal stoves is a very much loved tradition and there is a revival among barbecue loving camping Japanese families.


How to start a fire using sumi charcoal.

Making of a kamado kiln


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