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Labor of Love

Water mills have been supporting the livelihood of Yame residents for hundreds of years. Ever since Takeshi and Chieko succeeded the mill, to now being the last remaining watermill plant, they retain the traditional way in producing cedar powder.  

Baba Cedar Powder

​杉葉粉

Cedar branches trimmed from the trees are left in the mountain.  Baba would carefully transport barrows of cedar from the forest to the mill.  Cedar leaves wouldn't stay evergreen once cut. Collecting cedar while fresh is key to retain the best fragrance.  Starting at 9am, the husband-and-wife team would begin processing 1 ton of cedar. 

While cedar leaves are still green, they will be chopped up into small stalks of about 5cm, and loaded to the deck above the boiler room to be dried.  The boiler is powered by cedar branches from the forest, and it takes 1 day to dry 1 ton of cedar.  

When thoroughly dried, the leaves will be transported to the next room for pounding. The watermill powers 15 pestles hammering the cedar leaves reducing them to very fine powder. After 1 days of shoveling and hammering, the powder would be bagged and ready to be shipped to incense makers.  

Takeshi Baba
Takeshi Baba

Collecting cedar leaves freshly trimming in the forest of Oku Yame. Photo©Noriko Masuda

Cedar of Yame mountains
Cedar of Yame mountains

Cedar leaves has to be collected and process while still green to retain the most fragrance. Photo ©Noriko Masuda

Cedar powder
Cedar powder

Photo©Noriko Masuda

Takeshi Baba
Takeshi Baba

Collecting cedar leaves freshly trimming in the forest of Oku Yame. Photo©Noriko Masuda

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Baba Cedar Leaf Incense

​杉の葉線香

Fine cedar powder is mixed with tabunoki wood power (a type of laurales tree, also planted and processed by Baba at the mill).  These 2 plant powder has natural insect-repellant property.  Tabunoki is added as a binder as the leaves secrete a glue-like sap, with water they are mixed into a mud paste. 

 

On a sunny day, the paste will be fed by hand, 2kg at a time, into a pressing machine to be formed into long strips and hand cut into incense sticks. The cut sticks will be left in the temperature and humidity- controlled room for 3 days.  

 

From incense powder to incense sticks to packaging, everything is done by the husband and wife team. 

Cedar & Tabunoki Powder
Cedar & Tabunoki Powder

Baba Watermill, driving 15 mortars, produces these fine cedar leave powder. The raw ingredient for incense. Tabunoki has a slight "stickiness" to provide binding properties. Photo ©Noriko Masuda

Cedar paste in compressor
Cedar paste in compressor

Manual processing of incense Photo ©Noriko Masuda

Incense trimmed and read for drying.
Incense trimmed and read for drying.

Photo ©Noriko Masuda

Cedar & Tabunoki Powder
Cedar & Tabunoki Powder

Baba Watermill, driving 15 mortars, produces these fine cedar leave powder. The raw ingredient for incense. Tabunoki has a slight "stickiness" to provide binding properties. Photo ©Noriko Masuda

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Sustainable, All-Natural

Baba insists in keeping production in the traditional method.  His use of cedar leaves are part of the sustainable forestry practice where trees are logged with discipline and forests are thinned to maintain the undergrowth.  He also works to ensure he delivers high-quality, all-natural products.  People comes from all over the world to study his watermill plant, to revisit the path of slow craft and of harvesting natural and renewable resources. 

The Babas are feeling forever blessed to be receiving such wonder gift of nature, and have always been keeping in mind the importance in respecting and protecting the environment.  

Photo by Noriko Masuda