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From Value One, Autumn 2005 No. 10  

Kawaguchi City in Saitama Prefecture is a long-established foundry town. As the sand and clay that make up the riverbed of the Arakawa River in central Saitama Prefecture were found to be suitable for making sand molds for casting, the manufacture of

Molten iron is transferred and then poured into a sand mold.

 
cooking kilns and pans for use by Edo townsmen flourished here during the Edo period (1603-1867). A century ago, in 1905, the Kawaguchi Foundry Association already existed and the industry kept on developing, gradually shifting its main products from consumer goods to machine parts. By the 1960s, more than 600 foundries were operating in the city. Today, Kawaguchi is around the ninth-biggest casting city in Japan, and approximately 150 companies produce around 12,000 tonnes of castings per year.

While their main products are parts for automobile engines, printing presses and machine tools, which all demand a high level of precision and durability, they also manufacture wheels for railway cars and cast-iron pipes.
While Kawaguchi is well known for its foundries, it is also famous for "begoma," a traditional Japanese spinning toy. Begoma are cast tops. Until the 1950s or 1960s, children spinning begoma were often found in towns, especially in the back alleys of Tokyo, but foundries producing begoma gradually went out of business. Today, Japan's only existing begoma manufacturer, Nissan Foundry Co., Ltd., operates in Kawaguchi. However, interest in begoma has increased over the last few years and inquiries are increasing from major toy manufacturers and children's clubs across the country.


Castings are made from pig iron, scrap iron and coke.

Melting at a temperature of about 1,300°C helps get rid of impurities and gas, and also makes sparks fly.

Nine kinds of begoma, including "pecha" and "chudaka," are manufactured today, the same varieties as in olden times. They sell for ¥100 to ¥200 each.

Child novices are taught until they learn to spin begoma by themselves. Once a child becomes sure of his skill, he will challenge someone else to a "fight."
Secretariat of Kawaguchi Begoma Club
Tel: +81-48-225-2876

In Kawaguchi City, the Kawaguchi Begoma Club was launched in 2001. It holds a begoma class on the first Saturday of every month for children in the area. In a begoma match, to knock out your opponent's begoma , you have to work on your top in some special way, such as by shaving it to make it sharp or making it heavy. At the club's class, "old-timers" who used to be begoma enthusiasts reveal "secrets" such as these to the children. Begoma tournaments are held regularly, and the first national championship will take place on November 6.

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