The origin of Nara inksticks dates back to the beginning of the Nara period (710-794). Nara inksticks were derived from Yuenboku, inksticks made from lampblack mixed with animal glue. The lampblack was made at Nitaibo, Kofuku-Ji Temple to offer light to the altar. As the practice of sutra copying and woodblock printed Buddhist scriptures increased in demand for inksticks, inkstick production also flourished. High-quality inksticks made in Nara were called Nanto Yuenboku and became known all over the country. Nanto was an alternative name of Nara at that time.
After inkstick production by using rapeseed oil instead of traditional perilla oil brought to Japan, higher-quality inksticks were able to be made in large quantities and at low cost. As a result, inkstick production became more and more popular.
There are currently 14 workshops producing Nara inksticks by using inherited traditional techniques. They produce different colors, shapes, and designs of inksticks, such as those for writing Kana characters and those for brush painting. Nara produces over 90% of Japan’s inksticks and becomes famous for inkstick production.
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