The soft thread that seems to keep everything from breaking loose all along is like the things one does everyday to earn one lazy day, which is stored up in advance, to be used from time to time to fend off exhaustion.
Housework is as such too. To maintain comfort and order requires not a little effort. How I wish to be a bit crafty sometimes, to sweep things into a bin and pretend I didn’t see it, but there must be smarter ways. I want to find a proper way that sits well with the heart and doesn’t cause suffocation.
I recall reading a Japanese monk’s writing about cleaning. He said, “Water is the foundation of life. In spaces that are associated with it, one discerns human nature easily. Washing yourself in a humid bathroom, the heart grows dark and damp too. If a bathroom gets mouldy, so does the heart. A man who washes his body carelessly will not be able to rinse the filth off his heart.” Reading this idea for the first time, I thought, how austere, but as I followed through the line of thought, I was nodding unconsciously. If taking care of a dwelling place is akin to self-care, putting in the work to keep the space clean and tidy is to let myself breathe more easily.
At home, I realised that the kitchen area is where one fritters away so much time. Washing and cutting give way to more washing and wiping. And as time is spent on restoration, people too are like bowls and dishes waiting to dry, looking forward to being clean and dry again.
And so I set my eyes on this “Sasasa Wazarashi Roll” (さささ和晒卷家事巾) at once, also known as the all-purpose kitchen cloth. Using it, one realises that what makes versatility is perhaps convenience.
Located in Sakai, Osaka and founded in 1911, the sarashi factory Takeda Sarashi is run by the Takeda father and son duo. In 2020, it launched the “Sasasa Wazarashi Roll”. “さささ” is pronounced “sasasa”, it is the sound of a rapid movement. Ah have you guessed it already – that’s right! It is an excellent item that makes housework better and more efficient, and it has quickly become the number one most useful item among house husbands and housewives too.
“Sarashi” (晒) refers to the bleaching after a fabric is rid of its impurities, and “Wazarashi” (和晒) refers to that production process. Before a fabric undergoes further treatment, a layer of substance is applied to enhance the strength of the cotton fabric. After the cotton fabric has taken in the substance, it is boiled to clear away the excess substance, and only after that is it refined. Refinement is just like washing rice in theory, it eliminates the impurities in the fibres. After that, it is ready for bleaching. After bleaching, it is taken out, dehydrated, dried out and lastly, pressed under heat. The whole process needs to be fine-tuned according to the weather and is demanding, time-consuming manual labour. Sarashi factories have become scarce over time. In the Takeda Sarashi factory, many staff were once rivals in the industry that have since become companions who pass on the skills together.
Such a painstaking process produces a “Wazarashi” with great absorbency, capable of drying quickly for repeated use. “Sasasa” was designed to be torn out conveniently and can be torn into whatever lengths required for the purpose. To drain water out of raw meat or function as a steaming cloth, tear a longer cloth. To use as a coffee filter, a shorter cloth folded into a triangular funnel would be just right.
Used in food treatment, it gently absorbs the moisture. Used as a cloth to ferment food, it speeds up the process too. If there is no bamboo steamer at home, put a rack in the pot you normally use and cover the food with a “Sasasa”, it achieves the same moistness as using a bamboo steamer. Wrap leftover rice in a wet “Sasasa”, press tightly then put it into a resealable bag to cool down. After a day, steam it again and it will be as soft as freshly cooked rice. Or when making rice balls, wet a “Sasasa”, then put rice in it and squeeze it into shape, and the single-use disposable cling wrap is needed no more.
Just one roll is needed to fulfil your imaginations at hand, at the end of which it becomes a wiping cloth too, to be used until its glorious retirement. How lightly such mature craftsmanship wraps up our daily life, how I wish we would sasasa together! Let’s make our homes the way we want them to look like.