The Word “Kamado”
Why an entire web page about the word “kamado”? You ask this of the webmaster who devoted a whole web page to the word “spatchcock”? Well, there are all sorts of statements that float around the ceramic charcoal cooker universe that “kamado” is not a real Japanese word. That it was invented in 1960, a shortened version of “mushikamado.” (We`ll get to that word later...) There are cookers named “Kamado”, Primo Kamado”, “Komodo Kamado” and “Imperial Kamado”. People refer to their ceramic charcoal cookers as “kamado-style” cookers. Yet some claim that “kamado” is a registered trademark. So we thought we`d do some nosing around the Internet to see what we could learn.
First of all, ceramic charcoal cookers almost certainly had their origins in the semi-modern Japanese rice cooker known as a mushikamado. Take a look at the following photos and we`ll bet that you probably can figure out why! (These photos come from this Japanese web site.)
We won`t try to delve any deeper into the origin of today`s ceramic charcoal cookers since this webpage is really about the word “Kamado”, but we thought with all the talk about mushikamados, that you would like to actually see one!
So, back to the word “Kamado”. First
of all, is it a registered trademark? While
some say it is a registered trademark, the word itself is used generically by
other manufacturers to indicate a type of cooker derived from the Japanese mushikamado. Is it
proper to label these other ceramic cookers as “kamado”
style cookers? A search at the United States Patent and Trademark Office
reveals no such trademark has ever been registered. (Their database contains
both live and dead or expired trademarks, going back well before 1960. Searching on “Kamado” reveals that“Imperial
Kamado” (owned by Imperial
Kamado), “Grand Kamado” (owned by Jackson Pottery, Ltd. of
However, one doesn`t have to register a trademark for a trademark to exist. Registration merely provides additional evidence of the validity of any claims. However, if a trademark is not registered, for the owner to maintain the rights to the trademark, there are several things which need to be done:
It appears that none of these things have been done, so if “Kamado” was ever claimed as a trademark, any rights to it as a trademark would appear to no longer exist. So, it should not problematic to be calling modern ceramic charcoal cookers “kamado-style” cookers. (Although we would have to agree that technically, “mushikamado-style” would be more accurate.) For those interested in more information about trademark law, we found this website to be helpful.
But what about the word “kamado” itself?
Is the word a real Japanese word?
Our first move was to ask a Japanese friend of ours who in turn, asked her parents who are in their 80`s if “kamado” was a real Japanese word. Not “mushikamado” or any other longer compound words, but simply “Kamado”. Her parents said, yes, of course it is a word. “Kamado” is, in fact, the Japanese word for “stove” or “cooking range”. The kanji character for “kamado” is 竈. In hirigana, “kamado” is written かまど. In katakana, it is written カマド. Literally, it means “place for the cauldron”. Here is a photo of a kamado which comes from the Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System (JAANUS) website:
We have paraphrased the JAANUS website to produce the following information about the Kamado:
A cooking range. It was
constructed primarily of earth or clay - although stone, tile, and brick were
also used from the mid-19th century. Fuel was inserted through stokeholes in the side, and a fire was made in the hollow
interior. Pans and cauldrons of bronze, iron or pottery were set into the
circular hole or holes for cooking. The cauldron or pan had a projecting
flange or rim which rested on the edge of the cooking hole to allow its lower
part to project into the fire below. Along with the open hearth, the kamado was one of the two basic forms of domestic cooking
appliance in use in pre-modern
is believed to have been introduced to
The late 12th century "Mount Shigi Legend Picture Scroll" shows a large non-portable single-hole kamado set directly upon the earth in use by the end of the Heian period (794-1185). By contrast, an illustration of a contemporary Buddhist monk's residence in the mid-14th century picture scroll Boki ekotoba (roll 8) shows a 2-hole kamado set upon a freestanding timber framed platform with a plastered base.
By the late
By the late Edo period (1615-1867), some households had a variety of kamado: kamado for use in a raised floor space rather than the doma; small portable kamado (this was also the commonest type in cramped urban tenements; a large one for preparing fodder for domestic animals; and often a special one for use only on festive occasions and for preparing rice cakes. The symbolic significance of the kamado was in proportion to its functional importance as a cooking appliance and adjunct of the hearth. Its tutelary spirit, kamadogami, was one of the principal household deities, revered as provider of the means to cook and feared as a potential cause of conflagration.
Until the second half of the 19th century, “kamado” could also mean kitchen. Further, it was considered the symbol of a house and the term could be used to mean "family" or "household." As a result, today there are phrases in the Japanese language that use the word “kamado,”. “Kamado wo wakeru”, which literally means "divide the stove", means to separate the family. If a family is broke, the phrase “Kamado wo yaburu” (literally "break the stove") can be used.
So, while there may be no sense of the word “kamado” in Japanese which means “barbeque”, clearly the word is a Japanese word that has existed for 17 centuries.
“Kamado” also appears in many Japanese words and phrases such as:
· Yukikamado (行竈) - A pot with a stove attached that could be carried around
· Tsukikamado (築竈) - Another word for the stove, constructed with stones, tiles, and clay.
· Karakamado (韓竈) - A set of koshiki, kanahe, and kamado that can be carried around.
· Magatamagata kamado (勾玉形竈) Literally, 'comma-jewel shaped cooking range', large ranges with polished black tops, a base, and a stokehole faced with tile. The most impressive Kamado, it had a curved or horseshoe plan with as many as eleven cooking holes.
· Kamadogami (竈神) – The tutelary deity of the hearth or cooking range, revered as provider of the means to cook and feared as a potential cause of conflagration. A mask of his features made of wood or occasionally of clay, was often affixed to a beam or to the freestanding post closest to the kamado at the rear of the earthfloored area in farmhouses in Miyagi prefecture.
· Ishikamado - steel rice cookers inserted into a stone frame.
Niwakamado (庭竃) - A new cooking range or open hearth temporarily set up in
the earth floored area of vernacular houses from the first to the third of
January as part of the New Year festivities. Reed matting was spread around
the niwakamado for guests and family members to sit
on. The term also refers to the New Year's feast itself. The custom is
believed to have been very wide spread, but was particularly prevalent in the
· Kamadodono (竃殿) - A building with a hearth or cooking stove. Often a stove may be placed in the ookashigidokoro, the place where rice is cooked. This stove, kamado, is used especially for preparing food to be offered to the gods at shrines.
Kamadono (釜殿) - A simple structure
housing cauldrons (*
· Koujinsan-no-kamado (荒神さんの竃) - In some districts, such as Saga prefecture, a large cooking range mainly used for special occasions.
· Kamado matsuri (竈祭り) - Cooker and Well Festival
· Mushikamado – rice cooker
But perhaps the most humorous evidence that “Kamado” is a real
Japanese word comes from a 1963 advertisement in the
To quote the ad, “In Japanese, Kamado means an oven, cooker, smoker or stove—even a fireplace.”