A Pivotal Moment in Zojirushi History: The Hanagumo Electric Rice Warmer

The royal blue Hanagumo rice cooker with a flower design around it and stainless trimming over a black reflective surface and a black background

Zojirushi’s long history of innovating dates back to our founding in Japan in 1918 with the manufacturing of glass-lined vacuum bottles – a breakthrough technology at the time. From that point forward, we were dedicated to creating new products and home appliances that make life more comfortable and convenient. And as Zo fans of today know, our approach to rice cooking is no exception.

The Evolution of Rice Warmth: A Historical Perspective Pre-Zojirushi

Before the advent of Zojirushi’s innovative solutions, warm rice was a luxury, often a challenge to keep fresh unless freshly cooked. People traditionally relied on “ohitsu” or straw baskets, and in the sweltering summer heat, a bamboo container called “meshi-ikaki” was essential to preserve the rice without spoilage.

The revolutionary Zojirushi elephant jar, however, changed everything. It addressed the common struggle of keeping rice warm, especially for families where late working hours were the norm. This breakthrough marked a significant shift in Japanese household convenience, setting the stage for the iconic Hanagumo Electric Rice Warmer.

Rice in a wooden container with lid called ohitsu

Introducing Hanagumo: the world’s first electric rice warmer

After years of working to perfect how rice is warmed and cooled through the thoughtful design of odor-eliminating vacuum-insulated rice jars, Zojirushi turned its attention to how electricity could make extended rice warming possible, without sacrificing taste. And thus, the world’s first electric rice warmer was invented.

The Hanagumo electric rice warmer hit the market in 1970, revolutionary for its ability to keep rice to 68°C to prevent the spread of bacteria. Its name, meaning flower cloud, and floral pattern quickly became recognizable across Japan – a symbol of life in “danchi” apartment buildings, where dining rooms and kitchens are integrated.

Powering a movement in history

The Zojirushi rice warmer’s popularity boomed throughout the mid 1970s, as industrialization and urbanization made dual-income households a societal mainstay. With more married couples headed to work, technology that could deliver added convenience and reduce household chores were in high demand, and the electric rice warmer joined the ranks of vacuums, washing machines, and refrigerators as home appliances making a new way of life possible.

By making at-home food preparation easier and less time consuming for working families, the rice warmer found itself at the center of a pivotal time in history. The UN declared 1975 the International Women’s Year, and the decade that followed represented a global movement for gender equality. During this period, women across the globe pursued opportunities for academic, social and career advancement outside the home, fueled by innovation that empowered then to use their time more freely than ever before.

Thus, home appliances like the Hanagumo Electric Rice Warmer that reduced the burden of domestic labor remained in high demand during this period, and ultimately inspired Zojirushi’s next great innovation: the electric rice cooker.

Rice in traditional Japanese bowls

Becoming Japan’s leading electric kitchen appliance manufacturer

Looking back at this pivotal chapter in our history, the Hanagumo marks an important milestone. It was the debut and popularity of this groundbreaking rice warmer that earned Zojirushi its place as one of Japan’s leading electric kitchen appliance manufacturers – a position we are proud to maintain today.

Where is the Hanagumo today?

Zojirushi will never stop innovating when it comes to rice cooking, with a lineup of electric rice cookers and warmers that takes inspiration from our very first model. Does your family have a vintage Hanagumo, or a story to share about your first Zojirushi rice warmer? Share with us on social media and help us celebrate where our journey began #ZojirushiHistory

From Then to Now: Celebrating Zojirushi’s Innovative Carafe Designs

Take a stroll down memory lane with us today, all the way back to where Zojirushi’s innovation in thermal carafes began. Thermal carafes—or “Pots” as they are affectionately known in Japan— weren’t just vessels for pouring drinks; they were statements of ingenuity and style that have left a lasting impression. Let’s peek into how these carafes have shaped our warm sips and cool refreshments through the years.

Three vintage carafes lined up in red, green, and white with a package box on the right.

The Clock Pot: Timing Your Brew to Perfection – 1983

Remember the Clock Pot? Launched in 1983, this industry-first carafe with a built-in digital clock was the talk of the town. Using integrated circuit technology (also known as the microchip), we saw the rise of digital clocks that were both durable and affordable and could be incorporated right into the thermal carafes. The Clock Pot had three display options in the digital clock: month/date, hour/minute, and seconds. This stylish carafe met the era’s love for digital with gusto. Available in red, green, and white, it was a chic addition to any space. This kind of clever thinking continues to inspire Zojirushi’s designs today—blending practicality with a touch of fun.

Vintage catalog page in Japanese with a large yellow carafe pouring into instant noodles
The Ramen Pot: Keeping It Hot – 1985

The Ramen Pot had unparalleled heat retention power among 1-liter carafes of its time. This allowed instant foods such as cup noodles to be enjoyed quickly and without hassle. Additionally, this carafe featured a vacuum glass liner, which provides premium heat retention to the carafe’s contents – and this technology is still utilized today in our carafes.

Back then, the ramen pot was lightweight and thus easy to carry. The body of the pot was made of resin, and it was 170g lighter than the standard 1-liter pots of the time. The stable flask-shaped form and pop coloring gave it a casual feel and a very fresh appearance.

Naturally, the heat quality, paired with its small footprint, made it convenient for use in public offices and for coffee. This pot became indispensable for students studying for entrance exams, professionals working late, and those working hard into the night.

In the pursuit of the highest heat retention, Zojirushi developed a new high-neck medium bottle with a smaller mouth and a much longer neck. It exhibited excellent heat retention that exceeded conventional 1-liter carafes in the 80s. Today, this same dedication to maintaining the temperature of your hot foods and chilling your cold drinks persists in our products.

Three carafes in red, blue, and white
The Elephant Pot: Small Pot, Big Personality – 1982

The “Elephant” Pot was a charmer in its day. Tailored for tabletop use at the time of its release, the mainstream air pot was this “elephant style” air pot with a low spout. In 1982, Zojirushi newly developed this popular 1-liter size with increased production in red, blue, and white options. Fast forward to now, and Zojirushi’s products continue to bring that personal touch to your daily routines, offering a variety of choices to fit your unique style.

Our Enduring Craftsmanship

Zojirushi’s commitment to quality has been unwavering. The robust stainless-steel carafes of yesteryears set the stage for the resilient and stylish products we create today. We’re still all about marrying durability with designs you’ll love showing off. Every Zojirushi product is a nod to our past, blending timeless innovation and current trends. Those funky carafes of the past? They’ve evolved into today’s sleek lineup, but the essence remains the same: to make your daily life a little easier and a lot more delightful.

As we reminisce about these iconic thermal carafes, we celebrate the inventive spirit that’s been part of Zojirushi’s DNA from the get-go. Whether it’s the first sip of coffee in the morning or a comforting cup of tea at night, our carafes have been there, and we’re excited to see where they’ll go next.

Got a vintage Zojirushi carafe or a story to share? We’d love to see it and hear it! Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and let’s keep making memories, one cup at a time. #ZojirushiHistory

From the Zojirushi Vault: The Pelican Pot

Chrome carafe in the center of a black background with a white light in a diagonal line in the back
Hello Zo family! Are you ready to delve into a bit of history, infused with the charm of our vintage water pots? Let’s travel back to the late 1940s when Zojirushi introduced a marvel of innovation to Japanese dining tables: the Pelican Pot.

This wasn’t just any thermal carafe; it marked our foray into vacuum-insulated technology in the post-WWII era, offering a symbol of comfort and luxury with every pour. Join us in this nostalgic journey to when the Pelican Pot became an integral part of our heritage.

Meet the “Magic Jar”

Chrome carafe with a vintage cup on a marble surface in a kitchen

The “mahobin or vacuum flask, also known as the “magic jar” in Japan, is a key household item with its roots deeply embedded in Osaka. Osaka first domestically produced the mahobin around 1912, leveraging the region’s expertise in glass and lightbulb production, originating from European innovations.

These flasks were initially largely exported, particularly to Southeast Asia, because of the high demand from European colonists. This export boom led to the development of brand identity in Japan, with Zojirushi emerging as a notable player. Founded in 1918 by the Ishikawa brothers, Zojirushi began as a bottle workshop. It later evolved into a mahobin wholesaler, and introduced the iconic elephant mark as their trademark.

Luxury Turned Everyday Comfort with Insulated CarafesSomeone is pouring from the chrome carafe into small vintage cups

In post-war Japan, people considered vacuum bottles and insulated carafes a luxury. But Zojirushi, driven by Shigeyuki Ichikawa’s visionary approach, transitioned this luxury into a daily comfort. By 1948, our innovative tabletop pot, designed for the Western dining experience, found its place in countless homes. Known for its unique shape, we called it the “Pelican Pot.”

Top view of a chrome carafe has the upper lid open allowing to see the actual lid.

Its popularity soared, making it a bestseller by 1956. These products, along with the introduction of designs like the floral print flask, cemented Zojirushi’s position as a market leader. The company also ventured into other product lines, notably transitioning to stainless steel vacuum flasks and developing the cook-and-keep-warm rice cooker, marking its evolution into a comprehensive manufacturer of everyday goods. This was a testament to our commitment to blending practicality with luxury, using materials like stainless steel for durability and quality.

Celebrating Our Roots: From Glass Lined Pots to Thermal Carafes

Jumping ahead to 1988, our 70th anniversary, we celebrated by reviving the iconic Pelican Pot, integrating a touch of history into modern dining experiences. Those interested in our legacy can visit our headquarters in Osaka, Japan. Here, you’ll discover a range of innovations, from glass-lined pots that preserve flavor to advanced thermal carafes. We even showcase the Mahobin, the water bottle that supported an Olympic victory – a testament to our technological advancements.

Zojirushi Today

Pelican pot on a kitchen counter with a plan to the right and wooden kitchen utensils and two vintage cups with a flower design on the left.

Since the days of the “Pelican Pot”, Zojirushi has continued to innovate, leveraging its vacuum technology in various fields, including space exploration and sports. The company’s mahobin technology has been adapted for extreme conditions, such as withstanding high speeds in space and maintaining temperature for Olympic athletes.

In fact, in 2004, Zojirushi’s stainless-steel bottle was used by the long-distance runner Mizuki Noguchi, during the race she took home gold. Carrying the drinking water that hydrated her during her run, this bottle was a work of craft that kept the liquid temperature at 10° C (50° F). The bottle committed to its job perfectly, enough for Noguchi herself to say, “This bottle saved me.”

These advancements not only demonstrate Zojirushi’s commitment to innovation but also underscore the global impact and versatility of the mahobin, as it continues to be a beloved and essential item in households and industries worldwide. The technology has evolved into today’s coffee pots, water boilers, kettles, and glass lined vacuum carafes.

Do you have cherished memories of the Pelican Pot during family gatherings? Or stories of how Zojirushi’s range, from the traditional water pot to the modern stainless-steel pot, has been a part of your life’s moments?

Share these memories with us by tagging Zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Your stories are not just cherished but are a vital part of our history too. #Zojirushi #ZoFan