The once ubiquitous promotional tool snuffed out like a… What do you call those stick thingies again?

There was a time when walking into just about any place of business such as a restaurant or hotel, you’d be greeted by a bowl full of little paper folders containing a row, or rows, of flammable tipped sticks. Useful for pretty much all your fire-based needs, these matchbooks were once a great way for companies to add a little subtle advertising into your life.

▼ They were also great plot devices in movies

But it just dawned on me that I probably haven’t seen a matchbook in well over a decade at least. They just seemed to vanish so subtly over time that it largely went unnoticed. In fact, the only reason it came to my attention was a recent tweet by Japanese match producer Nittosha.

▼ “The books of matches that we’ve made for about 49 years will be discontinued at the end of the orders received in June. And with that, the light for making matchbooks will be extinguished from Japan… Thank you for using them at various shops as cheap, easy to carry ways for reliable advertising. It feels pretty lonely…”


— 株式会社日東社【公式】 (@nittosha) May 23, 2022

At first it may sound like Nittosha is being overly melodramatic, but their passion for matches might make more sense in historical context. In the latter half of the 19th century, just as Japan’s Meiji Restoration was gaining momentum and various cultural imports were entering the country, matches became a huge business. Production facilities were set up mostly in Hyogo Prefecture, where Nittosha was also founded in 1923.

By the first half of the 20th century, Japan had grown into one of the biggest exporter of …continue reading