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Natural Camphor

Play time
6:06

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Natural camphor has been designated as a special traditional craft by the prefectural government of Fukuoka. It has been used as a moth-repelling agent and even now it is used as an aroma oil. Uchino Natural Camphor in Miyama is home to the only natural camphor maker in Fukuoka Prefecture.

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White crystals made from the concentrated aroma of camphor trees
They are the result of arduous manual labor.
In Japan, they have been used since the old days as a moth-repelling agent for clothes.
Fukuoka's Miyama City is home to a mill that produces these beautiful white crystals with a refreshing aroma.
This is the Uchino Camphor Mill.
This is where Kazuyo Uchino continues the art of camphor production.
It is hard work, but she bears the full load of the arduous process.
It is hard work, but she bears the full load of the arduous process.

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The founder was born in the Kaei era.
This mill has been around for over 150 years.
Natural camphor uses only water and fire —- no chemicals. Right now, natural items are in vogue.
Natural camphor has a gentle aroma and if you store clothes with camphor, you can wear it immediately just by exposing it to air.

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Making natural camphor starts from collecting the camphor itself.
Camphor can be obtained from the tree trimmings of nearby shrines.
The round logs with camphor can be cut into various sizes and dirty bark is removed.
These logs are made into wood chips by the large circular saw.
A refreshing aroma arises from the highly-stacked wood chips.
The chips are placed into a large vat.
The stove is turned on and the and the chips are constantly swapped out as they are being distilled.
The steam from the camphor is funnelled into a stacked cooler.
Once the cooler is opened, you can see crystallized camphor and the camphor oil which is used in aroma oils.
Slowly, the crystallized camphor is scooped out.
To finish, the camphor crystals are placed in a compressor to squeeze out the camphor oil.
Once the hemp rope is removed, the snow-white camphor crystals can be seen.
The clumps are broken and shaped before they are ready for sale.
The process from camphor in trees to the natural camphor product takes about one week.
These crystals are made with the memories of Ms. Uchino, and a great deal of time and effort.

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Since returning here, I've done this for about 30 years.
When I first returned,there were two people already working here, so I was just a helper.
Then it just became two of us and I learned by watching.
Even for something like making the wood chips, I'd watch from afar and I'd would understand how it's done.
All from observation.
It's not like there's a manual to learn from, it's all about feeling.
Because I was working with someone else, I naturally just sort of picked it up.
So when I think back on it now, I'm very grateful.
When I was doing it with my late husband, it was more of a family business.
Once it became known as a traditional craft in Japan, there was a part of us that felt burdened.
Right now, I've come to accept the designation and I know that if I just do what I am capable of, everything will be fine.
Do everything in your power and do it to the best of your ability, nothing else.

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Natural camphor, made with with the hard work of Ms. Uchino from crystals that give off the faint scent of the forest they come from, have 150 years of rich tradition and history.