Wakayama firm puts old twist on mosquito coils

by Yuika Kawazoe


Production of mosquito coils using home-grown pyrethrum has resumed after a long interval in Arida, Wakayama Prefecture, regarded as the birthplace of “katori senko,” Japan’s spiral version of mosquito repelling incense.

The coils are produced manually at Ishii Jochugiku Kogyosho K.K. by workers who press paste made of pyrethrum powder and other materials, each measuring about 12 centimeters square, onto cutters. They then dry them on a net and check for any cracks in them.

Eiichiro Ueyama (1862-1943), founder of Dainihon Jochugiku Co. known for mosquito coils of the Kincho brand, obtained seeds of pyrethrum, called “jochugiku” in Japanese, from a U.S. company and successfully grew them in Arida for the first time in Japan around 1887, according to Akira Misaki, an instructor at the department of economics at Wakayama University. Ueyama developed mosquito coils using the plant around 1900.

Cultivation of pyrethrum decreased in postwar Japan due to the development of mosquito coils using chemical compounds. Although pyrethrum-based coils are still produced in Japan, the material is imported from other countries. Domestic production of mosquito coils from home-grown pyrethrum ended half a century ago.

Ishii Jochugiku was founded in 1957 and produced synthetic mosquito coils as a subcontractor for a large manufacturer. But it lost the contract when the manufacturer shifted operations abroad.

To survive, Ishii Jochugiku decided to produce mosquito coils made from pyrethrum cultivated in Japan, as there were no other producers.

In 2011, the new operation by Ishii Jochugiku became eligible for three-year subsidies totaling some ¥10 million under the Wakayama Prefectural Government’s program to nurture local-brand products. The company then received pyrethrum seeds from a local group of people engaged in the preservation of the plant and sent officials to learn how to raise it from growers on the island of Innoshima in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, where pyrethrum is cultivated for decorations.

In May 2013, two years after the first planting of pyrethrum seeds, white flowers full of mosquito-repelling content bloomed.

“Though the area of cultivation was small, we felt a sense of satisfaction,” Toshinori Ueyama, a 61-year-old employee of Ishii Jochugiku, recalled.

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