The wax (mokuro) derived from the nuts of Japanese wax trees is being simmered at low heat on the charcoal stove. The tiny factory is getting extremely hot, and the artisan has beads of sweat collecting across his forehead. In his left hand you can see a bundle of eight to nine wick sticks that are coiled in both Japanese washi paper and soft rush grass. He starts turning the wicks as his right hand dips in the pot of melted wax which is about 50 degrees celsius. He then scoops the wax out and applies it on the wicks layer by layer. The once melted wax is now solidified and wraps around his right hand like a glove. What’s fascinating is that the dark green liquid wax becomes as white as snow when it dries.
For a while, I thought warosoku simply meant “Japanese candle.” I never imagined that they were made in such a unique way. Because the wax is applied layer by layer, if you cut up a warosoku, you will see the beautiful growth ring patterns on its cross section. Though the one I have is so small I can hardly see anything.
When burning a warosoku, it doesn’t emit any smoke and leaves no traces of wax dripping. The flame is bright and flickers, and it isn’t put off by a bit of wind; even if you deliberately blow at it, it stands as firm as steel. It is of no surprise that one can feel an indescribable sense of security by staring at its candlelight. Judging from its appearance, warosoku is a very unusual candle. It has an asymmetrical shape, uneven coloring, and it feels soft. Yet, if you put it in your hand, it is as if you are holding a woman’s slender hand, so soft and precious.
Nowadays, candles are no longer commonly used. Thanks to the shrines and temples that have constant demands for candles, the long tradition of warosoku gets to be preserved and that those less than twenty small warosoku workshops in Japan can still operate. Candles are often related to religions and rituals, and are sometimes used for creating a romantic atmosphere. However, we can also simply view and admire them to help relax our minds. As the night falls, or whenever it is the right time for you, you can turn off the music and light a candle. You might think of “someone”—the artisans who spend their lives creating candles out of wax with their hands. You might also think of “time”, as looking at the candlelight and listening to the hissing of the flame is like “keeping time”—watch it, monitor it, and witness the passing of it.