Traditional Japanese Craft Nambu Ironware Goes Beyond Tea, Steps into Realm of Music

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Keijiro Fukushima shows his Nambu ironware effects pedal in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture.

Nambu ironware is generally associated with teapots, however, effects pedals made using the traditional craft from Iwate Prefecture are gaining attention overseas.

An effects pedal cover made using the ironware, characterized by its simplicity and richness, creates deeper and more varied sounds, according to a producer.

Effects pedals are used to modify and manipulate sound produced by a guitar using electric signals. A guitar is connected to an effects pedal, which is then connected to an amplifier, and a musician can operate the pedal using their foot to create different sounds. Aluminum alloy and other metals are commonly used to make the coverings for the pedals.

Keijiro Fukushima, 36, of Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, makes Nambu ironware effects pedals. Originally from Yokohama, he began building effects pedals when he was in a band. He thought the materials used to make an effects pedal would affect its sound quality, so he tested it using different hardware. He then came up with the idea of using Nambu ironware after seeing it on TV.

After visiting a long-established Nambu ironware factory in Oshu and speaking to them about his idea, they agreed to work with him. In 2019, Fukushima moved to the city and started creating Nambu ironware effects pedals while getting advice from the craftsmen at the factory. He applied a coat of black paint used for iron kettles and launched the effects pedals under the name “Arare” in 2020.

Expanding sales channels

Fukushima advertises his products on social media under the brand KGR Harmony, catching the attention of Lollar Pickups, a U.S.-based company that makes pickups, a component of an electric guitar.

In October, KGR Harmony and Lollar Pickups launched their jointly produced Nambu ironware effects pedals for $350 each, and all 100 pedals sold out on the first day they went on sale.

The Nambu ironware effects pedal weighs about 650 grams, about double the weight of an average pedal.

“The effects pedal can produce strong, heavy sounds that match its substantial weight,” Fukushima said.

To expand his sales channels in the United States, Fukushima plans to showcase his effects pedals at The NAMM Show, a trade show for the music and sound industry, that will be held in Los Angeles in January 2024. A joint project with another company has already been decided.

“Japanese traditions and culture are highly appreciated worldwide,” Fukushima said. “I want to be confident as I promote my products.”