Nambu ironware | One of the most famous Japanese crafts


Nambu Ironware (Nambu Tekki)

Traditional crafts by prefecture, this time Iwate Prefecture. Iwate Prefecture is known for its Nambu ironware. This is definitely not to be missed. Nambu ironware is one of the most well-known traditional crafts in Japan.

Main features

Nambu ironware is a traditional craft that Iwate Prefecture is proud of. The iron castings, which have been handed down from generation to generation by skilled craftsmen, are a gem of both artistry and practicality. Nanbu Tekki used to have a strong image of rugged black iron kettles, but recently many colorful and well-designed products are attracting worldwide attention as fashionable kitchen goods. In this issue, we introduce the features and reasons for the popularity.

Nambu ironware

Locations and History of Nambu ironware

Nanbu Tekki refers to iron castings made in Morioka City and the Mizusawa area of Oshu City in Iwate Prefecture. Iron castings are products made by melting iron at high temperatures and then pouring it into molds. The two production areas are famous for their different origins and histories.

Morioka’s Nambu ironware

Morioka’s version dates back to the mid-17th century, when the Morioka feudal lord invited a tea kettle master from Kyoto to make kettles for the tea ceremony. The “Nanbu” in “Nanbu-tekki” comes from the name of the Morioka domain, which was called “Nanbu-han” at that time. Morioka, with its abundant iron resources, continued to develop its foundry industry, and later, the iron kettle, a smaller version of the chanoyu kettle, was born. The tetsubin remains synonymous with Nambu ironware to this day.

Nambu Ironware from Oshu (Mizusawa)

Mizusawa’s product was first produced in the late Heian period (794-1185) when Kiyohira Fujiwara invited foundrymen from Shiga to make pots, kettles, farming implements, and other household items. In addition to supporting the Hiraizumi culture by making parts for temples and shrines, weapons such as cannonballs were also manufactured during the Warring States Period. Compared to the more artistic Morioka products, Mizusawa’s Nambu ironware is said to have developed mainly as daily necessities for the masses.


Manufacturing methods

The production of Nambu ironware begins with the creation of a mold based on a design. The mold is made with casting sand so that the inside has a cavity of the same shape as the product, and once completed, molten iron is poured into the mold at 1,300 to 1,500℃. Once cooled and hardened, the product is removed from the mold and finished by polishing and coloring.

There are two types of molds: “baking molds,” which are hardened by baking the molds at high temperatures, and “raw molds,” which do not involve the baking process. Products made from baking molds are not suitable for use in induction cookers because the entire process is done by hand and the thickness of the product is often thin. Raw-mold products, which emphasize productivity and use machines for some processes, are thicker and are said to be suitable for use in induction cooktops.

Outer and inner coating types

Various paints are used on the surface of Nambu ironware to prevent rusting. Traditionally, “urushi-yakashi” (lacquer baking) using lacquer sap has been used, but due to a shortage of lacquer, “cashew baking” using paint extracted from cashew nuts has also become mainstream. Some products are also painted with silicon.

The good points 

1. Long-lasting, lifetime product

Nambu ironware is much more difficult to break than ceramics and other types of ironware, and it is very durable and long-lasting. If handled with care, it can be used for generations to come, and the more you use it, the more you can enjoy its deep flavor.

2. Mild and gentle taste of white water

White water is now considered essential for good health. Since iron adsorbs chalky substances in water, water boiled in Nambu ironware is famous for its mild and smooth taste. Regular tea or coffee tastes better when brewed in Nambu ironware.

3. Health Benefits from Iron Leaching

Hot water and food cooked in Nambu ironware contain iron dissolved from the ironware. Since it is divalent iron (heme iron) that is easily absorbed by the body, it is effective for efficient iron intake and prevention of anemia.

4. Unparalleled heat retention

Once heated, iron is difficult to cool down and retains heat well. Thick Nambu ironware stores a particularly large amount of heat, so it does not easily lose temperature when filled with water or food, and the temperature does not become uneven during cooking.

5. Elegance

While Nambu ironware is known for its profound and deep flavor, there are also many stylish products that blend in with modern life. Color pots, which are colorful versions of the standard black tetsubin, are popular in Europe and elsewhere. Products for overseas markets are also being actively developed. At first glance, conventional tetsubin looks rugged, but it is its simplicity that gives it an elegant appearance.


Product Range

iron kettle

A typical product of Nambu tetsukiware is the tetsubin (iron kettle). Like a kettle or kettle, it can be used to boil water directly over a fire. You can also enjoy coordinating it with a bottle mat used for placing a hot iron lettle.

iron kettle


The kyusu, which looks similar to an iron kettle and can easily be confused with an iron kettle, is a tool specialized for brewing tea, with an enameled inner surface and a tea strainer. Unlike tetsubin, kyusu cannot be directly heated.

Frying pans and pots

Nambu ironware frying pans and pots are very useful for a variety of dishes, from simmered dishes to baked and fried dishes. Thanks to the fine irregularities on the surface, they are non-stick and cook slowly and evenly, making them popular for “making regular dishes tastier. Nambu ironware takoyaki cookers, egg cookers, hot sandwich makers, sukiyaki pans, woks, and rice cookers (rice pots) are also popular.

iron pot

Tableware such as plates and cups

Tableware that takes advantage of the chic texture unique to Nambu ironware, such as steak plates, sake cups, mugs, and tumblers, are also popular. The high heat-retaining properties of Nambu ironware allow food and beverages to be served hot.

Nambu ironware plate

Iwate is famous for its Nambu ironware, a traditional handicraft, but in fact, there are other high quality handicrafts in Iwate. The following pages will introduce some of them.

Iwayado Chest →


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