National

Speakers made from Tochigi gourds a hit with listeners

Kyodo

A speaker made from bottle gourd grown in Tochigi Prefecture is attracting listeners with its acoustic qualities and a cute appearance resembling an animation character.

A maker of car stereos in Tochigi, the biggest producer of dried gourd strips for rolled sushi, began developing the fucucchi speaker in 2013 in collaboration with local farmers who had found a new use for the fukube plant, as it’s known in Japanese.

“Gourds have been used to make musical instruments around the world,” said Akira Takahashi, president of Sound Tec Takahashi Denki. The company makes the unique speaker in Oyama.

“We want even those who are not interested in audio systems to experience the quality of the sound” produced by this speaker, he said.

Takahashi, 67, came up with the idea of using bottle gourd after realizing the potential of natural products in re-creating sound.

Grown and harvested by farmers in partnership with Takahashi, the gourds are dried for around two years before their flesh is scooped out. Then two speaker units are installed in each one to make them look like the round eyes of a comic book character.

After that, two legs are attached to each speaker’s wide bottom, making the final product look like yurukyara (mascots).

A large gourd with a thick skin makes a low sound that can travel over a long distance. “It is especially good for listening to string instruments,” Takahashi said.

The price of each speaker varies by size, ranging from ¥160,000 to ¥230,000. An online site for the product was launched in late September under the name Blue Star Sounds. Only 300 of the gourd speakers are sold per year.

“We were able to use the acoustic know-how we have accumulated all these years. We will be happy if we can promote the signature agricultural product of Tochigi” with this speaker, Takahashi said.