Museum Kretek Kudus

Museum Kretek Kudus

What’s that smell?

More on Jepara

Permeating the air in Indonesia, you may have caught the whiff of a sweet spicy aroma proceeded by a crackling sound, the hallmarks of the onomatopoetic named kretek, clove cigarettes, ubiquitously smoked all over the country.

Travelfish says:
Roll them up by hand. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
Roll them up by hand. Photo: Sally Arnold

Local businessman Nitisemito began producing the product commercially along with a huge marketing campaign, the popularity of kreteks spread throughout the country which lead him to become the wealthiest Javanese businessman in pre-independence Indonesia, at one time employing more than 15,000 workers at his Kudus factory. Other businesses followed suite and Kudus became known as the centre of kretek production in Indonesia.

You may notice a large sign as you enter the town “Kudus Kota Kretek”—“Kudus, Kretek City”. Today large multinationals have overtaken the smaller factories, but three larger companies still operate in Kudus today: Djarum (who are the major stakeholder in Indonesia’s BCA Bank), Nojorono (famous for “waterproof cigarets”, popular with fishermen) and Sukun. Although most production uses machinery, some kretek are still rolled by hand.

Not much has changed... Photo by: Sally Arnold.
Not much has changed... Photo: Sally Arnold

If you are passing through Kudus, it’s worth a quick stop at the small Kretek Museum. Information is labelled in English and Indonesian, and helpful English-speaking staff offer a short tour. The museum covers the history and production of the product from its beginnings with photographs of early factories, dioramas and machinery displayed. Interesting are side products like “tobacco sauce” to make your food taste like cigarettes. One exhibition showcases marketing from the past, mostly logos on crockery, juxtaposed with contemporary marketing, T-shirts, caps, etc. We were drawn to the large (but dusty) collection of ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 300 words.)

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Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

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