April 20, 2017
The Kamenoko Tawashi is one of the most ubiquitous household cleaning tools in Japan. Invented in 1907, these durable handmade scrub brushes are used to clean pots and pans, kitchen sinks, bathtubs, floors, dirty boots, and anything else that can use a heavy-duty scrubbing.
Aside from its functionality, this iconic Japanese scrubber has a fascinating backstory: Its origin arose from a failed invention! Seizaemon Nishio originally created a doormat using hemp palm fibers. Sadly, someone had beat him to this idea – and to the patent – so his dreams of being the palm bristle doormat inventor were dashed. Fortunately, he didn’t throw out his doormat prototype. Using scraps from the failed doormat, his wife fashioned a makeshift scrubber brush to clean the house. Nishio was inspired by his wife’s ingenious hack, and thus, the Kamenoko Tawashi was born!
As for the name, kamenoko means “baby turtle,” and tawashi means “brush” in Japanese. Nishio thought his invention resembled the reptile, revered for its longevity and a symbol of good luck in Japan.