Nambu Tekki Continues to Evolve—What Makes It So Great?

Nambu tekki utensils are used for many different purposes.

Nambu tekki utensils are used for many different purposes. (Photo courtesy of Itchu-do Co., Ltd.)

Nambu tekki, or Nambu ironware, is the name for cast iron products made in Morioka City, Oshu City, and other locations in Iwate Prefecture at the north of Japan. These products are also known as Nambu tetsubin and have been manufactured since around the year 1600.

Iron casting is a technique that involves pouring molten iron into a mold to create teapots, tetsubin (traditional Japanese kettles), pots, and other products. Recently, influencers have posted on social media that iron will dissolve into water when it is boiled in tetsubin made in the Nambu tekki style. As a result, this type of ironware has gained attention outside of Japan as well. Let's take a look at the reasons why Nambu tekki has currently grown in popularity.

The History of Nambu Tekki, a Traditional Japanese Handicraft with a Strong Sense of Style

Nambu tekki teapots come in many interesting designs. (Photos courtesy of Oitomi Inc.)

Nambu tekki products were originally made to be used as agricultural tools. However, tea utensils started to be created in this style from around the 1700s, and then cast iron tetsubin and teapots grew in popularity ever since. These utensils are well known for their robust feel and unique charm.

Iwate Prefecture has historically been blessed with good-quality iron ore. As such, many tea kettle casters came to the region to create Nambu tekki . In the 1600s, the feudal lords of the Nambu Domain had a deep knowledge of culture across the generations. They protected and nurtured this technique, and thanks to their efforts, Nambu tekki evolved and was eventually designated as a Japanese traditional craft in 1975. Nambu tekki was trending on social media following posts describing how this ironware lasts for a long time, and how water boiled in it contains iron, which is good for health. It has recently become a popular souvenir choice among people visiting Japan.

Skillfully Crafted Ironware That You Can Use Your Whole Life Long

An artisan designing a tetsubin to be created with Nambu tekki techniques. (Photo courtesy of Itchu-do Co., Ltd.)

Nambu tekki is not mass-produced like other ironware. It is carefully created by skilled artisans. It is said that when artisans make the design, they focus on uniqueness, beauty in the form of the finished product, and convenience for the user. The process of making a two-dimensional drawn design into a three-dimensional cast-iron product can be complex, and things may not always go as planned. For this reason, it is essential to have strong expert knowledge and experience about the properties of the materials when working in the design phase.

As a result of this process, Nambu tekki products can be used for generations if treated with care. This ironware gains added charm with age, and that is one reason for its appeal. You can use Nambu tekki your whole life long. When handled appropriately, these products can even last a century.

To make sure this ironware stays in good condition for a long time, it is important to take proper care of it before and after use. Putting in the time and effort will let you feel the Nambu tekki develop, and you may even feel more attached to it.

Nambu Tekki Continues to Evolve while Preserving Tradition

Some people are working to spread Nambu tekki across the world by taking on new challenges in the craft while staying true to its traditional elements. Many people outside of Japan see this ironware in ways that Japanese people would not expect.

For example, some people may be looking for an easy way to increase their iron intake, but are reluctant to take care of a tetsubin. In response to this, a new product called "tetsu tamago" (literally, "iron egg") was created. This makes it simple for anyone to get extra iron—all you need to do is put a tetsu tamago in the kettle or pot when boiling water. There are even tetsu tamago shaped like popular characters for sale, too.

A new brand of Nambu tekki that started in 2009 is now developing ironware that pays respect to traditional production methods and techniques while also featuring designs and functionality that blend into modern lifestyles. This brand offers a wide range of products to appeal to the younger generation and international markets, and it actively spreads information about these products through its website and social media accounts.

These colorful teapots are popular with people all around the world. (Photo courtesy of Itchu-do Co., Ltd.)

One long-running store that started in 1848 is dedicated to carrying out the finishing touches by hand, so that people can feel the gentle warmth of a uniquely human touch when they use this ironware. The artisans focus on achieving beauty all the way up to the finer details when completing each product. They carefully select the type and coarseness of sand to be used in the casting mold, as well as the volume and melting temperature of the iron material.

Some Nambu tekki creations have very unique designs. (Photos courtesy of Oitomi Inc.)

Nambu tekki is continually moving forward and growing based on ideas from people around the world, all while carefully preserving traditional techniques.