The past and the future

Founded in 1960 in Kawachinagano City, the home of toothpicks, Kikusui Sangyo, once the smallest toothpick manufacturer in the region, continues to thrive in this area today, preserving the tradition of locally produced toothpicks.
The past and the future The past and the future

History of Kikusui Sangyo

Showa Era
Circa. 1935 The wife of Arao Baku, the 1st-generation founder of the forerunner to Kikusui, initiates making Kuromoji picks as an additional source of income. Following his return home from the Sino-Japanese War in 1942, during which he was injured, Arao also ventures into Kuromoji pick production.
1955 Arao Baku establishes “The Baku Toothpick Store.”
1960-1961 Koji Baku, the son of Arao Baku, succeeds in mechanizing the production of Kuromoji picks, which were previously made by hand. He establishes a full-scale mass production system, the first of its kind in this production area.
1972 Utilizing a disused school gymnasium in the Higashi-Usuki District of Miyazaki Prefecture, the Miyazaki factory begins operations close to a source of Lindera umbellata, the raw material for Kuromoji picks.
1983 Taking the name “Kikusui” from the family crest of Kusunoki Masashige (a 14th-century samurai famed for his loyalty), Koji Baku establishes Kikusui Sangyo Co., Ltd., relocating the factory to its current address at Hino 1100. Koji Baku assumes the role of Chairman, and Tetsuo Okamoto, the 2nd-generation successor, joins as Executive Director. Kikusui begins to focus on the manufacture of toothpicks made from domestically-grown white birch.
At its peak in the 1980s, the production volume of toothpicks in Kawachinagano City accounts for 97% of the domestic market share.
The factory photographed at the time of establishment in the 1970s, with Kuromoji wood stacked up outside
Koji Baku shaving a Kuromoji pick
Heisei Era
1990 Sees the establishment of the factory in Shimane.
1992 The Shimane factory closes. Many local toothpick factories face closure or conversion of their business models due to competition from inexpensive Chinese imports.
1997 Closure of the Miyazaki factory.
2003 The 3rd-generation successor, Masahiro Baku, is appointed President.
2013 Kikusui is selected for the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Small Business Innovation Promotion Program.
2014 In September Akie Suenobu, the 4th-generation successor, joins as Executive Director.
2016 Brand “KIKUSUI” is launched at the “81st Tokyo International Gift Show Spring 2016” (February 3 - 5), which includes Kuromoji picks and White Birch Toothpicks, made with materials sourced exclusively from Japan.
2017 Recognition of Kikusui’s Japanese-made Kuromoji picks by "Made in Osaka Brand: Local and Traditional Technology Division" Kikusui receives the Hospitality Selection 2017 award
Participation in the "Osaka Product Plan"
Recognition by "Made in Osaka Brand: Local and Traditional Technology Division" in 2016
Reiwa Era
2021 Akie Suenobu, the 4th-generation successor, assumes the position of President.
Just one month into her tenure, the office and factory are hit by a fire. A crowdfunding campaign for reconstruction garners approximately ¥12 million (≈ $109,090 USD) in support, exceeding its goal fourfold in just one and a half months.
2022 Kikusui receives the “Story Award” at the “PR TIMES Press Release Awards 2022” Winner of the “Kinki Area Award” at the “CAMPFIRE Crowdfunding Awards 2022” Launch of "KIKUSUI KITCHEN," a kitchen utensils and goods brand using natural materials such as wood and bamboo sourced in Japan
Akie Suenobu, Representative

Preserving What Matters:
The value of cherished things

When I look back on my childhood, the scent of Kuromoji always comes to mind. Growing up with working parents I would spend time with my grandparents and great-grandparents, helping to package boxes of toothpicks. This remains a cherished memory.

As an adult, I was pursuing a different path from the family business, but when the incumbent president said, "I plan to close the company in a few years," my first thought was, "I don't want to lose this company filled with cherished memories of my grandparents!" My grandfather, who shaved confectionery picks by hand until just before he passed away, was my inspiration. With his image spurring me on, I approached the President and proposed the "Revival of Japanese-made Kuromoji picks.” I joined Kikusui Sangyo in 2014, spending my first days intensely focused on searching for mountains where Kuromoji trees could be harvested.

For us, trying to protect local industry, craftsmanship is about fostering relationships with people. This includes our business partners, individual customers who support us through social media, landowners who permit us to harvest Kuromoji, craftspeople dedicated to making traditional tools from wood and bamboo, and our local part-time workers who have supported us for generations. We value these connections deeply and remain committed to upholding the ethos of “Small yet long-lasting” craftsmanship.

Akie Suenobu, Representative



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