Business operator: Kobe Match Co., Ltd.
Project manager: Yasuhiro Horiuchi
In and after the Meiji period (1868–1912), “Made in Japan” matches became an important industry for Japan to obtain foreign currency. Production of matches peaked in the Taisho period (1912–1926) when they were a daily necessity and started to decline afterward as they began to be replaced by lighters. The Himeji region in Hyogo Prefecture still produces 90% of matches in Japan, taking geographical advantage of being conveniently located near the Port of Kobe for export.
A product that has drawn attention as an item that literally kindles a light in the match industry is the “hibi 10MINUTES AROMA” series matches, in which their sticks are made of incense. Developed in 2015 through collaboration with the incense industry, another local industry of Hyogo Prefecture, it is an all-in-one product. Just strike the match head against the rough side of its box, as with an ordinary match, and you can enjoy the fragrant smoke emitted from the stick for about 10 minutes. The product has gained popularity as an easy way to enjoy a quality fragrance of your choice for the day.
Stick’s strength — The most distinguished characteristic
The most important characteristic of the “hibi 10MINUTES AROMA” series is the hardness of the stick made of incense. The thin stick is very flexible not susceptible to breaking when struck. The traditional manufacturing process done mostly by hand and an original mix of incense and other materials, such as washi handmade paper, have made it possible to attain this level of strength that had been considered impossible.
Offering 10 fragrances
The product offers soft and natural single-note scents only. The five basic fragrances are lemongrass, lavender, geranium, ylang ylang and tea tree. There are also citronella for summer and yuzu (citron) for winter, along with the three traditional Japanese fragrances of Japanese cypress, sandalwood and cinnamon.
Match head colors complementing each fragrance
The composition of the match head, which has successfully eliminated the distinctive acrid smell of a lit match through a special technology, has been determined by considering a balance of the package design and the type of fragrance. Its colors have been selected to reflect the impressions of lemongrass, lavender, geranium and other available fragrances. The box’s design is also simple and stylish.
Coming with an incense mat
To become even more “all-in-one,” the product is also available with a packaged version that comes with a special carbon incense mat, eliminating the need for an additional tray or a stand. Light a stick of “hibi” and wait for the flame to settle, the fragrant smoke to rise and lay it on the mat. One package lets you enjoy the fragrance anywhere and right away.
Masafumi Sagayama, from Hyogo Prefecture, is president of Kobe Match Co., Ltd. He is responsible for development, public relations and marketing the “hibi 10MINUTES AROMA” series matches. He is currently working to set up a one-dealer-per-country system and increase the overall number of dealers. He will also lead the company’s participation in the upcoming Ambiente 2019 trade fair in Germany.
The “hibi 10MINUTES AROMA” series of matches are now available in 26 countries, giving an additional touch to people’s everyday life across the world. The product was developed by President Masafumi Sagayama of Kobe Match Co., Ltd., a match producer founded in 1929.
“We have made various efforts to increase sales of matches themselves by releasing related products and through collaboration with a large company,” says Sagayama. “As these ‘trial and error’ efforts didn’t yield the expected results, we switched our course from finding more market opportunities to counter dwindling demand to focusing more on what a match does: lighting a fire. I thought if we could keep the custom into the future, matches will survive.”
While exploring occasions when people light a fire, incense came to his mind as a promising candidate. He then contacted a manufacturer of incense, another traditional industry of Hyogo Prefecture, and a designer, and after working together for three and a half years, they came up with the final product. This new style of enjoying fragrance, originating from the passionate aspiration of the long-established match manufacturer, is now steadily spreading around the world.
Awaji Island is a major producer of incense sticks and enjoys the top share in Japan. The sticks made of incense used in the “hibi 10MINUTES AROMA” series are produced here by Daihatsu Corporation, an incense manufacturer founded in 1936. Daihatsu produces these sticks based on the traditional process combined with processes specific to the product by using an original material mix as well as scissors and custom-made cutters to cut up hard sheets of kneaded and dried “incense dough” into the same length.
Matches and incense are two of the traditional industries of Hyogo Prefecture. The match heads produced in Taishi-cho in the Himeji region, where the Ikarugadera Temple built by Shotoku Taishi (a prince in ancient Japan) is located, and match sticks made of incense produced on Awaji Island in the Seto Inland Sea make up the “hibi 10MINUTES AROMA” series matches.
Kobe Match Co., Ltd.
Kobe Match Co., Ltd. is a match manufacturer founded in 1929. Also offering match-related products under the brand “Match Design Factory,” the company released its “hibi 10MINUTES AROMA” matches in 2015. Since 2016, the company has been participating in the MAISON&OBJET trade fair held in Paris to disseminate and pass on the new style of enjoying fragrance to the world.
414 Ikaruga, Taishi-cho, Ibo-gun, Hyogo