Aizuwakamatsu Hand Painted Candles.

Aizuwakamatsu Hand Painted Candles 会津若松 絵ろうそく

Japanese candles served as the main source of light at night even in poor households during the medieval period.

Western candles in the middle ages and beyond were typically made of tallow, hardened beef fat, a byproduct of the Western meat-eating culture.

In Japan, strict interpretations of Buddhist teachings prohibited the consumption of four-legged animals from the 700s on until the early 1870s. That meant that tallow was unavailable. Beekeeping was also not a popular feature in old Japan, thus bee wax candles were unknown.

Instead, the ever useful and very versatile lacquer tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum) was employed. While the sap of the tree could be used to create beautiful lacquerware, the oil-rich fruits could be cooked and pressed, resulting in a hard, waxy residue known as mokuro (Japanese wax).

That mokuro wax is what traditional Japanese candles are made of.

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