This little unassuming store along a Hida Furukawa backstreet is well worth seeking out on your Hida travels. If not to chance your luck by observing a live demonstration of Mishima-san making his Japanese candles (Wa-rousoku) inside the entrance, then just to meet and admire his incredible passion as one of the region’s many shokunin (artisans).
Just from greeting him, it is easy to see his dedication to his craft (kodawari) and—provided you can communicate in Japanese—his passion is almost infectious through the stories he tells, like when the 2002 NHK serial drama, Sakura (さくら), made the store famous overnight and handmade production needed to keep pace with demand.
Inside the candle shop, the interior has its own museum-like quality, with rows of red and white candles on display. The red colour is the same traditional shade used by temples and shrine, and is used for festivals, Buddhist rites and holiday services like Higan and Hoonko. White candles are also used in certain Buddhist contexts, with hybrid red-white varieties also available here.
Since the Edo period, Japanese candles were primarily made for Buddhist temples, so it is no surprise to find Mishima’s candle shop in the small town of Hida Furukawa. It is almost perfectly placed between the nearby temples of Honko-ji, Shinshu-ji and Enko-ji — incidentally the same three temples of Hida’s annual Santera Mairi Festival, held every January. In the run-up to this event, Mishima will even produce a special giant Japanese candle weighing almost 13 kg.
In the modern day, Japanese candles can be used for many purposes, not just Buddhist events, and they can make an ideal souvenir of your time in Hida — this candle really does capture the essence of what the town is, in terms of both its artisan/craft heritage but also its Buddhist influences.
A final reason to visit Mishima’s shop is perhaps a touch melancholic: as a trade, Japanese candle production has been in gradual slow decline with shortages of both materials and artisans seeing the industry shrink over the decades. Mishima’s is just one of ten of its kind now remaining in Japan.
Mishima Japanese Candleshop
The Mishima Japanese Candleshop has been in business for over 240 years and is run by its current seventh-generation owner, Junji Mishima, who runs it with his son.
The Japanese candles (Wa-rous...
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