Last summer, I discovered a solution to my smelly bath mat problem, which has been a life changer for me! Japan is notorious for its hot, humid, and muggy summers. As a mother of two small children, I would often have them shower two or three times a day, which left not much time for my bath mat to dry before the second or third showers, and the humidity only helped my bath mats to have an unpleasant smell, no matter how many times I washed it.
Then, I came across a totally revolutionary bath mat made purely of soil. Yes, soil, and it’s the brand’s name. The Soil bath mats are made purely from Keisodo, or diatomaceous earth, which has millions of microscopic holes that soak up the water and deodorizes simultaneously.
The Keisodo of the Soil bath mats are taken from Akita Prefecture and Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan, and the color of the Keisodo are slightly different according to the region. For example, the pink color is made from Keisodo from Ishikawa Prefecture, the white color is made from Keisodo from Akita Prefecture, and the green is a mixture of the two different Keisodo. There are five colors to choose from, white, balck, pink, blue, and green, all a very earthly, warm color.
Keidodo is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. So when you stand on a Soil bath mat, you are stepping on ancient earth.
The sensation you get when you step on the Soil bath mat is one you’ve never felt with a traditional bath mat. The Soil bath mat sticks to your feet, sucking the moisture instantaneously. After a hot bath or shower, it feels amazing to step on to the cool bath mat.
The footprints on the mat will disappear naturally in about 10-15 minutes.
After about 3 months of continuous use, the Soil bath mats lose a bit of their moisture absorbing power. Here is a video made by Mr. John Lee, a Korean distributor for Soil. All you need is sand paper and polish in one direction, and viola, the Soil bath mat will be as good as new.
The Soil bath mats are hand made one by one by Sacan, traditional plasterer craftsmen. This is because Soil was born as a new business division of a traditional plasterer company, ISURUGI, Co. Ltd. They started as a business in 1917, but their history goes back a long time as the “Isurugi-ya” family, who had been practicing plasterers patronized by the lords of Toyama Castle for generations. They have been handling many materials for producing a wide range of plasterwork, including Keisodo, colored clay, earth, and sand.
As Japanese houses became westernized and more houses started to use cheaper and faster materials for walls, the plasterer industry saw a deep decline in their business. This also lead to the waning of the skills and craftsmanship that was inherited carefully through generations. The late Hanhichi Isurugi, the founder and “master of trowel” as they called him, saw this decline and established an in-house training school for plasterers. To this day, the school still trains many new recruits, fostering many Sacan professionals. With many skilled craftsman on board, they have been involved in many national projects such as the Osaka World Exhibition, Kanazawa Castle, and new buildings including Universal Studios Japan.
The Isurugi family is constantly evolving while keeping and nurturing traditional skills passed down by their ancestors. Their philosophy is to utilize both the traditional techniques as well as the modern day cutting-edge techniques to create a whole new product we have never seen before, leading to the birth of the Soil bath mats as well as The Sacan Project, which allows Sacan craftsmen to exhibit their skills as art within a set frame.
As you can see, the Soil bath mats is not your regular bath mat. Not only are you stepping on ancient earth, but you are also setting foot on the passion, skills, and techniques of the Sacan craftsmen that have been passed down for generations.
Soil Distributors in Tokyo:
http://soil-isurugi.jp/shoplist/index.html (sorry, Japanese only)
Here are the names of some major distributors:
KONCENT Shibuya Bunkamura
IDEA Seventh Sense Stores (Yurakucho, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Shinagawa, Marunouchi, etc.)