Kiku sumi the oldest charcoal in Japan was discovered in ruins from about 300,000 years ago, and it is believed that it was used in cooking. Starting from Yayoi Era in 239 AD, Sumi was used widely from industry to the daily life of the people. The famous Buddhist monk Kukai, known as Kobo-Daishi who is the founder of Shingon sect, had introduced not only the Buddhism but also the manufacturing method of a Sumi kiln and many other state of the art technologies in Japan from the Tang Dynasty in China at the beginning of the Heian era (794-1180 AD).
An exhaust hole for smoke to ensure the efficiency of heat in the kiln is named ‘Kobo-ana, or Kobo hole after him. In the time when Sumi was used as the main fuel source, it was considered to be the most important task of woman to be a good fire keeper, in other words, to be a good charcoal user. People have said, a woman failing to keep the fire is the disgrace of a woman who keeps the household. It was considered very important to keep the fire, or to maintain the Sumi fire well.
Since chanoyu or tea ceremony was flourished in Muromachi Era (1397 – 1573 AD), the manufacturing skill of Sumi charcoal had progressed remarkably and the quality of Sumi charcoal had improved. Kunugi-sumi, or Kiku-sumi, the most superior class of Sumi charcoal used for the tea ceremony was developed then.
Sumi charcoal which has been with us since ancient time up until the present will be with us and supporting us in the future. We are going forward to fulfill our mission to “make the whole Earth where we are and will be together with Sumi charcoal which came from nature and will revert to nature like us, vigorous and balanced” reviewing and realizing as we learn things each day.