Hara Masaaki makes white charcoal called Kishu Binchotan in the deep forests of Wakayama Prefecture. He thinks of himself as a guardian of the ancient woods. His charcoal provides the country's top chefs with a stable, high heat source with no odor and little smoke -- an essential fuel for grilling. But now, some kilns lie abandoned. All that remains is the metallic sound of Binchotan reverberating from oak trees. Through the haze of smoke, we look at the memories of those families who've passed down their craft in the mountains.
Binchotan charcoal is pulled out of the kiln. The whole production process takes about 10 days.
Hara Masaaki (51) has learned charcoal making from his father Yukio.
Binchotan craftsmen used to travel along mountains cutting oak wood and burning it.
You can check the quality of white charcoal by simply knocking the branches together: the best Binchotan makes a high-pitched, metallic clank.