Mito’s Sturdy Chochin
Suifu is the historical name for the city of Mito, where Suzumo is located. In the Edo Period (1603—1868), the lower-ranking samurai of the Mito clan began making chochin as a livelihood. As the leaders of the Mito clan gradually began to support this industry, more and more chochin produced in Mito came to be used in other cities, including the capital city of Edo.
Suifu chochin are known for their sturdiness and simplicity. The chochin of Gifu and Yameshi are made by winding bamboo strips to make a spiral, but Suifu chochin are made by making individual rings of bamboo and binding them together with string which makes for sturdier construction. The Japanese washi rice paper used in the lanterns is nishinouchi paper, the development of which was also promoted by the leaders of the Mito clan. Even tougher and stronger than typical washi, this paper is another reason why Suifu chochin are as sturdy as they are.
Keeping Traditional Techniques Alive
Suifu chochin were used not only in Tokyo, but also throughout the Kanto, Koshinetsu, and Tohoku districts, and at the peak of their popularity there were more than 30 wholesale shops in Mito that specialized in chochin. However, changes in lifestyles after World War II resulted in there being fewer occasions for chochin to be used, and the number of chochin manufacturers and shops gradually dwindled. Today there are only a handful of artisans that carry on the traditional techniques of making chochin.
Suzuki Mohei Shoten has made Suifu chochin since its foundation in the year 1865. In producing chochin, we still employ the techniques that have been handed down to us by our forebears, and we continue in our efforts to broaden the appeal of chochin by introducing new innovations.
*For more information about the history of chochin and how they are made, refer to Topics.