Scrubbing brushes for manual work made from Kishū hemp palm 

Kishū hemp palm
The hemp palm is a type of tall, evergreen palm. It is cultivated in Japan for ornamentation. It is also closely linked to the daily lives of the Japanese, such as being used as a building material (such as bedposts, railing, or wooden bell hammer), its leaves made into tea, or its fruits turned into medicine. The fibres of the bark are used to make ropes, rugs, brooms, and tawashi (scrubbing brushes). Kishū is a region where production of hemp palm products has been vibrant since ancient times.
Kishū hemp palm
Despite being useful in the daily life of the Japanese, demand for products made using the hemp palm gradually began to dwindle from around 1965. The situation worsened with the increasing amount of hemp palms imported from China, the decrease in domestic production of hemp palms, the ageing of craftsmen and other factors would limit Japan’s production of products made using domestic hemp palm. The production of scrubbing brushes made from hemp palm is one of the efforts to ensure Japan’s hemp palm product culture and industry can be passed on to posterity. 
How the tawashi is made
The hemp palm bark is first removed to extract the layer called bachi. The fibres differ depending on the section of the bark, and only fibres from a particular section of the bark are suitable for making tawashi. The bark is put through a machine that turns it into fibres. Because hemp palm fibre is water resistant and long lasting, it is used to make products such as ropes used on Japanese-style ships.
The fibres are neatly bundled and washed in water. The ends are then evenly trimmed and the fibres cut to the desired tawashi size. Fibres from the tip of the bark and fibres from the end of the bark attached to the tree have different firmness to them. For this reason, after the bundled fibres are cut, they are processed separately according to the firmness to make appropriate products.
The fibres are sandwiched between hairpin-shaped wires.
Even thickness is carefully checked to prevent any fibre from falling out when finished. The bundle of fibres is loosen to even thickness.
The wires are twisted in one go using even pressure.
Care must be taken to ensure the wires and the fibres are tightly twisted in order to prevent fibres from falling out when in use.
Protruding fibres are trimmed off using a special machine. There is a specific trimming machine for every size of tawashi.
The rounded shape is created by bending the twisted bundle and fastening the wire on both ends.
Various types of tawashi
Besides the round tawashi, there are also various types of shapes for various purposes, including baton-shaped tawashi and tawashi with handles. The fibre of hemp palm produced in Japan is soft, making it perfect for brushes not only designed for washing dishware, but also for massaging washing the body in the bath or shower.
Various types of tawashi- Sasara
Sasara is a type of tawashi with the fibres in bundled form. To make a sasara the fibres from the bark close to the tree are used. Sasara differs from the usual tawashi in that it can be used for heavy-duty washing that is similar to polishing. When the tips are worn, the length of the fibres can be adjusted by removing the wire that holds them in place.
Kyoto Woman's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Information provided by:

Supported by:
Wakayama Prefecture Corporate Promotions Division

Direction and text:
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

English Translation::
Eddy Y.L. Chang

This exhibition is created by:
Nagatomo Kana and Ikeda Yuuka, Kyoto Women's University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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