Oigen cast iron (history, how to use, care for your cast-iron).

Oigen shop

If you’re looking for Japanese cast iron you’re likely to come across two different companies one is Iwachu and the other is Oigen. Both companies make traditional teapots, kettles and cookware. In this article I’ll focus on the family owned business that has made cast iron products for over 170 years. You’ll learn about Oigen cast iron, the history, their products and how to use and care for their teapot and kettles.

Display of Oigen cast iron kettles
Great display of Oigen and artisan kettles on display at the Oigen factory shop.

Before we get started here’s take a look at the following table to give you some background knowledge of the Oigen Foundry.

Table: Information on the Oigen Foundry

Origins
Oigen makes their cast iron products in the Prefecture of
Iwate.

Only cast-iron produced in this area can be called Nambu
Tekki.
Founded 
The company was originally named Oikawa Genjura Foundry.
And established in 1852. The foundry is owned by the Oikawa
family that also runs the Oitomi (external link) foundry nearby.
Cast-iron
foundry
and factory
shop

Horinouchi-45 Mizusawa-Ku Hadacho,
Oshu, Iwate 023-0132
Japan
Google maps
Type of
casting

Both sand casting and clay molding are used.
Iron source
Oigen make their products from iron ore sourced from
Australia which is processed in Japan to met Japanese
standards.

They also recycle products that do not pass their quality
control.
Distribution
Oigen cast iron is available worldwide. They partner with
retailers of all sizes from boutique shops to big online stores
including Amazon.

There is also a factory shop if you’re in the area.

One thing I liked when I visited the shop was the showcase of
traditional Tetsubins from local artisans.
Interior finishing
Oigen Casting Works have three types of finishes which one is
right for you?

1. uncoated interior (you’ll find uncoated interiors in
Tetsubins). Great if you want to increase your daily iron intake.

2. enameled (used in teapots) Easy to clean and nonporous.

3. Oiled (used for cookware and some kettles) Hard
polyermized oil separates food and liquids from coming into
contact with iron.
Exterior finishing
Your Oigen cast iron will have one of two exterior 
finishes:

1. Urushi (or Japanese lacquer gives a the traditional look to
Japanese teapots and kettles).

2. Oiled (common method for seasoning cast iron cookware).
ProductsOigen has a full product range that includes, teapots, kettles,
trivets, Dutch Ovens, grills wind chimes and even protective
skillet handle covers.

History and background

Do you want a cast iron teapot or kettle in made Japan? If you do, it’s hard to look past Oitomi, Iwachu and Oigen. All three companies make very good cast-iron hollowware that will last for decades with proper use.

Oigen is one of the bigger cast-iron manufacturers in Japan and been in operation since 1852. And they are located in the heart of Mizusawa, Oshu a town in the Iwate Prefecture an area famous for the manufacturer of Nambu Tekki (southern cast iron). You can learn more about the history of Nambu/Nanbu Tekki by clicking the link.

Picture of traditional houses in Mizusawa in Oshu Iwate Japan
The Oigen foundry is located in the little township of Mizusawa in Oshu Japan. An area with over 900 years of casting heritage.

Like many Japanese foundries, Oigen made traditional tetsubin kettles using clay molds. But with technological advancements, they now make most of their products using Green sand casting. Although they still make many tetsubin kettles in traditional manner by highly trained craftsmen.

Oigen has a full line of products, These include dutch ovens, grills, trivets, skillets, wind chimes and sukiyaki bowls.

Oigen cast iron on display
Oigen offers a full line of cast iron products. From traditional Tetsubins to outdoor portable grills.

How is your Oigen cast iron made

I was very lucky to look around the foundry to learn how the family-run business manufacturer their cast iron. My guide was Yutaro Ose who very kindly answered my questions and allowed me to take a few photos. Here’s what I learned.

Oigen Foundry worker pouring molten iron into a sand mold
Looks like hot work. Oigen worker is hand pouring molten iron into green sand mold. For a cast iron enthusiast this was very exciting to see.

Oigen is one of the bigger companies that makes Nanbu Tekki. However, I was very surprised by the scale of the foundry.

In every process, there are multiple checks to ensure quality. I expected the traditional method of clay molding to be very hands-on. But I didn’t expect to see the number of people needed to make sand molded cast-iron. The attention to detail was amazing.

Table of Nakago molds to Japanese Testubins
I love the rustic beauty of these Nakago molds. These molds are used to make the hollow in cast iron kettles and teapots.

Table: How is your Oigen sand molded cast iron made?

Making sand molds First sand is mixed with water to create the desired
moisture content.

Although there is a machine readout, experts can tell when
the molding sand is ready by touch. The amount of water
needed changes daily depending on humidity.
Making
ironware
Before iron is poured in the prepared molds the molten iron
is checked to see if’s reached the desired temperature.
Quality
control
When the ironware is cool enough, the sand molds are
removed and the sand remaining on the surface of the
ironware is moved and checked for imperfections.
Rust
prevention

Oigen ensures your teapot or kettle is rust resistant by
heating the ironware to extreme temperatures in a kiln.

This provides oxidized layer to the surface of the ironware.
This layer is less likely to rust.
Enameling,
Lacquer and
oiling.

The most popular method for lining cast iron teapots is
enameling. Enamel is nonporous and easy to clean. However,
cookware and some teapots and kettles are seasoned with
polymerized oil.

Lacquering is the most popular method for protecting the
exterior surface of cast iron teapot and kettles. And it gives
a very pleasing shiny appearance.

However, seasoning is the method used on the exterior of
the companies cookware range.
And the matte black finish is also becoming popular on
kettles and teapots as well.
Two Oigen foundry workers inspecting cast-iron for imperfections.
Japanese consumers demand a high level of quality. Here two Oigen foundry workers check ironware for any defects. This job is not rushed. The two works inspected every millimeter of the ironware.

Oigen Cast Iron Products

If want to see what products Oigen have available on Amazon here’s the my affiliated link. You also visit their product page here (non-affiliated link). However, I don’t think they currently ship internationally.

Oigen cast iron products in their foundry.
Straight from the foundry floor and ready for rust proofing.

Palma teapot

This Nanbu iron kettle was designed by Jasper Morrison, who is a renowned English designer. Morrison is one of the most influential designers in the world. He designed this particular teapot with both style and practicality in mind.

The lid has a simple, yet sophisticated knob. I thinks it’s a real stunner it’s a modern take on the traditional Japanese teapot, However, the Palmer teapot is not cheap and is out of my price bracket but its design is beautiful and owners can proudly display this kettle when not in use. It would look terrific in both modern and traditional kitchens. It’s available on Amazon if you want to check it out. (affiliate link).

Palma teapot and kettle
Here’s the Palma kettle in the foreground and the Oigen Palma teapot in the background.

 Oigen Maromi Arare kettle

This is a classic teapot we all know and love. With a pebbly finish on the outside it a real cutie. Yes, its available on Amazon through this link (affiliate link) it holds about a quart of water and has a very good star rating. Unlike a traditional tetsubin which is bare iron inside this teapot has a thin layer polymerized seasoning to prevent rust. Because of the lining it may be lightly cleaned. Although I recommend not cleaning it like a regular kettle to add a calcified protective layer.

Blue egg-shaped teapot 

Colored teapots are very popular in Japan. In my workplace, many of my Japanese co-workers have colorful small teapots. I’m told they are very Kawaii (cute) This blue teapot features a simple, yet modern Japanese design. This particular teapot is perfect for Sencha tea leaves, as it features a wide infuser and is enameled so it’s easy to clean. Here’s the link to Amazon (affiliate link), I guarantee this teapot will make you smile.

Sukiyaki Pan

A cast-iron pot is the perfect vessel to cook your traditional Japanese dishes. It has deep side similar to you would find on a brasier but a Sukiyaki pan is seasoned like your cast iron skillets. Like your other cast-iron cookware this pan evenly distributes heat once heated. The Japanese use style of pot a lot in the cooler months and is the go to pan for the traditional dish of Sukiyaki. Here’s the link to Amazon (affiliate link) if you want to start cooking your own Japanese dishes. This pot is suitable on both standard and IH stovetops.  

Oigen Cast Iron Use & Care 

Wondering how to use and care for your cast iron kettles, teapots, and kitchenware? Here are some tips. 

Cast Iron Kettles (Tetsubins)

These kettles are made for boiling water for tea and should be used as such. Before using your tetsubin for the first time, remove the lid. Fill the kettle with water and boil the water for approximately eight minutes. Then, discard the water. 

Oigen cast iron
Here’s a nice selection of Tetsubins.

Care Tips 

To care for your tetsubin, follow these tips: 

After useAfter using your kettle, throw out all of the water and thoroughly
dry both the inside and outside of the kettle. Turn it upside down
and allow it to dry with the lid off.
 
White spots
You’ll notice some white spots on the inside of the kettle with use.
This is mineral buildup and completely normal. Just keep using your
kettle normally
Prevent rust
Never let water sit inside the kettle after use. This will cause it to
develop rust. 
StorageStore your kettle in a dry area. Displaying your kettle is a great idea
because it will have a lot of air circulation.

Cast Iron Teapots 

A cast iron teapot is made to steep tea. It is not to be used for boiling water. Before using your teapot for the first time, remove the tea strainer. Fill the inside with water and gently wash it out with a soft sponge. Dump the water. You are now ready to use your Oigen teapot. Simply follow instructions for brewing your favorite tea. Remember teapots are to be used for brewing tea only. You must boil water in a separate kettle. 

Care Tips 

Here are some tips to help you care for your Oigen teapot. 

  • After use, gently wash the inside of the teapot and the tea strainer with a sponge. 
  • Don’t use detergents, scrubbers, or harsh chemicals to clean your teapot. It could damage the lining. 
  • Gently dry the teapot with a soft cloth after every use. Turn it upside down and store in a cool, dry place. 
After use
gently wash the inside of the teapot and the tea strainer with a soft
sponge if your teapot is enameled.
Washing tips
Don’t use detergents, scrubbers, or harsh chemicals to clean your
teapot. It could damage the lining.
Storing
Gently dry the teapot with a soft cloth after every use. Turn it
upside down and store in a cool, dry place. 

Cast Iron Kitchenware 

It’s fairly easy to keep Oigen cast-iron skillets, Dutch Ovens, and other cookware in great shape for years.

Oigen cast iron Dutch Ovens
These are some nice pots for traditional cookery. Very tempting.
Wash
Before using for the first time, simply wash the pan out with
water.
Pre-heat
To avoiding warping your cast-iron cookware, preheat your pan
on a low to medium heat.
Fry vegetables
peelings to
season your
pans

Thats’s right, when using your cast-iron pans for the first time fry
some vegetable peelings (throw them out after).

This will removing any factory oils and will season your pan.

Like with Oigen’s famous teapots, never use harsh detergents or scrubbers on cast iron pans. Also, make sure you completely dry your pan after every single use to prevent rust from forming and you can enjoy your ironware for many years.

Final thoughts

Oigen cast iron has thrived throughout the years in spite of wars, earthquakes, and other setbacks. The company flourishes thanks to the dedication and work ethic of the many local craftsmen who make Oigen’s quality ironware. Oigen products are great for any kitchenware collection. 

If you have enjoyed this article, click over to the Japanese Cast iron category page for more interesting articles. Also your welcome to share this article by clicking the social share buttons below. This really helps out our little hobby site.

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