A Teary Goodbye to Hagoromo
Hagoromo Fulltouch chalk is legendary.
I first heard about Hagoromo in the hushed and solemn tones of my undergraduate mathematics professors. They said it couldn’t break. They said it’s the only truly dustless chalk. They said it glowed on the chalkboard, and that it’s impossible to prove a false theorem when using it. It’s the Rolls Royce of chalk. My undergraduate math department had a secret stash of it reserved for the most prestigious visiting speakers. At the time Hagoromo chalk was only available in Japan, and so they would regularly wait years before being able to replenish their supply.
As an undergraduate and later a young PhD student, the only chalk provided for me was Crayola. Giving a chalkboard lecture with Crayola chalk is little better than giving a lecture with your fingernails. In addition to continuous screeching from the grit and the chalk breaking every five minutes (interrupting the lecture!), your hands are immediately covered in dust. The chalk is so dim that you can only read it on a spotlessly clean blackboard, and it leaves streaks. One stick of chalk lasts for maybe an hour.
I never actually knew the name of the chalk; my undergraduate professors only referred to it as “Japanese chalk.” It took me a while to figure out what it actually was called. Shortly thereafter, I discovered a third party was selling it on Amazon and I immediately bought a big box. When I first tried Hagoromo Fulltouch chalk I was an instant convert. Hagoromo chalk writes as smoothly as butter. It shines. It’s bold, sturdy, clean, and erases well. A single stick of Hagoromo lasts for at least four lectures. Some of my colleagues were initially skeptical, but once they started using Hagoromo regularly and tried to go back to their old chalk, the difference shocked them.
Chalk is also superior to white board markers in many ways. Chalk takes up less space. You always know when your chalk is about to run out. There are no fumes, and chalkboards can be cleaned without chemicals and you can leave diagrams on a blackboard for a long time without permanent stains. Blackboard paint makes DIY blackboards easy. The primary complaint from people who say they don’t like blackboards is the shitty, dirty chalk. And Powerpoints presentations and LaTeX aren’t good alternatives for everyday lecturing because making mathematical diagrams takes way too long. I can prep a week of Calculus lectures in a half hour, but making and arranging the diagrams I’d usually draw would take hours.
I was overjoyed when I found out that Hagoromo started selling chalk on Amazon. A deep sorrow followed when I heard Hagoromo was going out of business, and indeed they closed up shop on March 15 of this year. The president, Takayasu Watanabe, wrote an essay about why they were closing, but he seemed to be unaware of its reputation in the US. It’s a shame, really, because with a tiny bit of advertising I’m sure they could establish a solid market consisting of every mathematics department in the US.
The silver lining is that Watanabe knew the value of his product. He cared for it deeply enough to keep it alive by selling some of their machinery and formula to a South Korean company called Uma-Jurishi. They have a listing for a new line of chalk called “DC Chalk Deluxe,” which is listed in a catalog and looks similar to Fulltouch.
With any luck we’ll start seeing this chalk for sale in the US. Because now that I know the value of high quality chalk, I just can’t go back.