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Dried bonito shaving plane kit selected as Japanese craft product to promote for export

The "Kanna Time" dried bonito shaving plane kit is seen at Kawatsu Shouten in Ishioka, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Aug. 30, 2022. (Mainichi/Takashi Miyazaki)

ISHIOKA, Ibaraki -- A dried bonito shaving plane kit launched by a business in this eastern Japan city has been chosen as a product to support craftspeople to expand their markets abroad.

    The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) selected the "Kanna Time" kit, which was launched by Kawatsu Shouten Co., a long-established dried bonito flake store in Ishioka, Ibaraki Prefecture, as a craft product to promote to export markets. The store's third-generation manager Hideyuki Kawatsu, 56, and his wife came up with the product in the hope to "pass down the traditional taste of Japanese dining tables," and it is ready to go global.

    The Kanna Time kit consists of a special hand plane manufactured by a dedicated business in central Japan's Niigata Prefecture, a wooden plate to hold a small fillet of dried bonito to make it easy to shave, a block of wood to adjust the position of the blade, and a cleaning brush. It is priced at 33,000 yen (about $230) including tax.

    A case to carry the kit is made by a local craft shop using paulownia, which gives a premium feel and has a high moisture-retaining property. Kawatsu Shouten was so meticulous about details that it mounted a slip resistance silicone piece on the wooden plate. The kit comes with a "honkarebushi" dried bonito fillet produced in the southwestern Japan city of Makurazaki, Kagoshima Prefecture. It is dried using the assistance of mold, and characterized by a high concentration of umami.

    Kawatsu Shouten manager Hideyuki Kawatsu, right, and his wife Rumi are seen at their store in Ishioka, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Aug. 30, 2022. Products for household use are also seen at the storefront. (Mainichi/Takashi Miyazaki)

    Established in 1938 as a rice store, Kawatsu Shouten became a dried bonito flake specialty shop after a rice rationing system was introduced amid the Pacific War. While the shop had dealt with mainly soba buckwheat noodle and other Japanese restaurants, third-generation manager Kawatsu began to make efforts to sell products at the storefront as well as he had a desire for people in general households to become familiar with dashi broth.

    He has promoted broth by preparing packs of bonito flakes that are easy to use and by launching new products such as buckwheat noodles sold with broth soup. His wife Rumi, 53, who also manages the store, has put efforts into dietary education such as by holding lectures at local child-rearing classes in which participants can taste and compare chemically seasoned and fresh broth. "Back in the day, every household had a shaving plane," she said. "I'd like to pass down to younger generations what we learned from our parents."

    Such passion by the Kawatsus led to the establishment of the Kanna Time kit. Launched in April this year, the bonito shaving kits became popular through word of mouth, and JETRO selected the product for the "Takumi Next 2022" project to support craftspeople to export their goods overseas. Kawatsu himself has also visited international trade shows, and said that he aims to expand sales channels abroad.

    While firmly believing that broth is not a luxury food but an everyday item, they intend to continue underscoring the appeal of bonito.

    (Japanese original by Takashi Miyazaki, Mito Bureau)

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