Charcoal in Japanese life

In the past, charcoal was an important fuel in Japanese families. Nowaday, along with the development of electricity, gas and gasoline, it is thought that charcoal will disappear. But it still exists as an integral part of this country.
In the Middle Ages, Japan’s high-quality charcoal making method was passed on to China and some other countries in the region. Since then, the way of making charcoal has become famous in the world. At present, in many rural areas of Japan, charcoal is a favorite fuel for people.
In Japanese cuisine, charcoal has an important role, it is thought to be a necessary catalyst to enhance the original taste of food.
Wakayama Prefecture’s Minabe Township is known for producing the best quality charcoal in Japan. Local people only choose Ubame trees – a species of oaks, with a life span of 20-40 years as a raw material for coal production. This tree has the advantage of small stems, although they live up to tens of years.
The wood is very solid and hard, so it burns for a long time and keeps the heat stable for a long time.
Coal kiln from ubame must be constructed of natural stone on the red soil characteristic of the locality. The ubame wood after cutting into short pieces is put into the incubator for 3 days.
During this time, the oven door was clogged with brick and clay, leaving only a few small holes to escape the steam.
By the end of the third day, the charcoal burner destroyed part of the clay in the oven door to create space for air to enter. At this point, the temperature in the furnace needs to be raised to allow the wood to burn almost completely, and at the same time, heat will also evaporate out of the remaining water in the coal. This is a very important stage, so only those who have experience of burning charcoal are responsible. If the temperature in the oven is too low, the bars will not burn to the required level resulting in poor quality coal, if the temperature is too high, the coal will burn into ash. Workers rely on changing the color of the flames in the furnace to regulate the temperature.
By the time, the operator opens the oven completely so that the internal temperature is released. At this time, the temperature in the furnace is up to 1,200 degrees Celsius, the wood bars burned to charcoal and charcoal is orange. The terrible heat from the furnace forced the worker to stand 4 meters from the oven door while scraping coal out. This is a very hard job that not everyone can endure.
The origin of the wood from Minabe town was called Binchotan by the Japanese. In addition to the hard and long lasting features, the charcoal baked binchotan is also very popular with chefs.