• Manufacturer of Japan’s First Dinner Set

    [From February Issue 2015]

    Noritake Co., Limited
    Noritake Co., Ltd. (Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture) is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of ceramic ware. Much of the tableware used in hotels and restaurants is manufactured by Noritake. The company is also known as a manufacturer of ornaments, such as vases, and dolls. The Noritake company name comes from the name of the place where the business was established.
    The founder MORIMURA Ichizaemon set up a trading company called Morimura-gumi (today’s Morimura Bros., Inc.) in Ginza, Tokyo and sent his younger brother, Toyo to New York to open a Morimura Brothers general store there. At first, they imported Japanese curios and various Japanese-style products, but they eventually switched to mainly dealing in ceramic ware. In order to manufacture ceramic ware to sell in the store, in 1904 Morimura established Nihon Touki Goumei, Ltd. – the predecessor of Noritake Company.
    Before that, Morimura visited the Paris Exposition of 1889 and, impressed by beautiful European porcelain, was determined to create his own. After returning to Japan, he and his business partner OKURA Magobe took up the challenge of developing European-style tableware out of local resources. After overcoming various difficulties, they managed to create Japan’s first dinner set in the company’s tenth year. The Noritake tableware they exported created a sensation. “Noritake China” became known throughout the world.
    Companies founded by Nihon Touki that have since become independent, include Oriental Pottery (today’s TOTO), NGK Insulators, Ltd., and NGK Spark Plug Co., Ltd. Morimura entrusted the management of these companies to Okura’s son, Kazuchika. The four companies are all frontrunners in their respective fields in Japan.
    There are various stages involved in the production of ceramic ware, including blending raw materials, casting, printing, firing and finishing. Having developed the necessary technology to complete each of these stages, Noritake Company’s subsidiaries have capitalized on their knowhow. For example: pigment developed for applying colored patterns is employed on electronic material used in solar batteries; kilns are also used to make materials used in the production of lithium-ion batteries; and finishing technology helped develop a grindstone business.
    Noritake Company is thus not only known for being a world-class manufacturer of tableware, but is also involved in various other industries. Since tableware was no longer their core business, the company name was changed in 1981 from Nihon Touki to Noritake Co., Limited. In 2001, a project to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary led to the creation of the Noritake Garden on the grounds of the company’s head office.
    Open to the public, the Noritake Garden has become a place for city dwellers to relax in. Besides having over 6,000 trees, it also has a museum and art gallery. In addition it can be used as a temporary shelter in the event of a disaster. When he founded his first company, Morimura made a vow to “contribute to society through business.” It appears that his spirit lives on in the Noritake Garden.
    Noritake Co., Limited
    Text: ITO Koichi[2015年2月号掲載記事]


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  • Establishments that Aim to Attract Female Customers

    [From January Issue 2015]

    Horse race tracks, pachinko parlors, motorboat race tracks… all of these are places where the majority of visitors are male. Recently, these kinds of facilities are devising various schemes to increase female custom. For example, Boat Race Edogawa holds art tours to show off the facility’s art collection.
    During the tour, a guide accompanies customers around the Art Museum located in the facility. The combination of a motorboat race venue and art is surprising and SUZUKI Kenji, who is in charge of this Art Museum, talks about how the art collection increased: “About seven or eight years ago, we began decorating the dreary reserved seating area with object d’art.”
    The tour of the works scattered around the hall began in 2010. In 2012, when the collection increased and it became difficult to travel round the hall on foot, an Art Museum was established to bring the artworks together in one place. Currently, the museum houses many works, including pieces by Muttoni – known for his mechanical dolls – and FUKAHORI Riusuke – who creates three-dimensional goldfish with acrylic resin. The museum is highly regarded for its large collection of valuable modern art.
    The tour costs 1,500 yen including lunch. It’s also possible to watch races from reserved seats, which usually cost 2,000 yen. The tour does not make a profit, but Suzuki says, “A boat racetrack is a difficult place for a casual visitor to drop in on. We hope that this tour will provide a different way in for those visiting our boat racetrack.”
    The impression that this is a male dominated place with a rough atmosphere has been successfully changed, with some tour participants remarking, “Is this really a boat race track?” The art tour only takes place on boat race days and is by reservation only. Numbers are limited to ten people per day. Since the artwork can only be seen by participating in the tour, bookings are always made on holidays.
    Considered to be mostly full of male customers, pachinko parlors also hope to attract more female visitors, particularly housewives. This is because the regular pachinko crowd is on the decline. Eyecandy Co., Ltd. specializes in designing pachinko parlor restrooms and gift exchange counters for women. All the employees are women, which is unusual in the male dominated pachinko industry.
    Originally the company created pachinko hall advertisements, but came to deal in interior decor at the request of the parlors. The parlors particularly want housewives in their 50’s and 60’s to visit. However, the interior decoration, being rather gaudy, does not create a tranquil atmosphere. “Because we want to create a space for women to shine, we intentionally avoided age-appropriate designs,” says the CEO, FUKUMORI Kanae.
    Devices that appeal to the customers’ inner girl have been installed; for instance “actress mirrors” in the powder room create a flattering reflection. The designs suggested by Eyecandy Co., Ltd. were sometimes ridiculed by other competitors when the company was bidding for an interior design contract. However, its bid was successful and after the refit was complete, it was popular with female customers. Other halls have altered their interior decor to be more appealing to women after seeing this response.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2015年1月号掲載記事]




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  • Improving Smash Speed with Lightweight Rackets

    [From January Issue 2015]

    Yonex Co., Ltd
    Badminton is a sport that flourishes in various Asian countries. During his foreign travels in October, 2013, Prime Minister ABE Shinzo presented the Bruneian King with a badminton racket. The gift given at that time was a product made by Yonex Co., Ltd – a company which produces and sells sporting goods.
    At the Thomas Cup (a global men’s team badminton competition) held in May, 2014, the Japanese men’s team won for the first time. In October, the Japanese women’s team became the world’s top ranking team. Many top players use Yonex rackets.
    Yonex was founded in 1946 in Niigata Prefecture under the name Yoneyama Company. Originally they made paulownia wood floats that were used by the fishing industry. However, they withdrew from float production when the materials used to produce them changed from wood to plastic. Around 1957, taking advantage of the badminton boom, they began producing rackets. Niigata Prefecture benefits from easy access to the kind of lumber that is suitable for making rackets with.
    The company has gone through some tough times, including a fire that completely destroyed its factory and a bankruptcy crisis. However, they have diversified to become a sporting goods manufacturer that deals not only in rackets, but also in sports related items such as shoes and uniforms. The company has also concentrated its energies on product development, by developing materials from wood, aluminium, stainless steel, carbon, and more. In particular, the company is enthusiastic about making the most of the cutting edge materials of each era. In addition to badminton, the company also manufactures items related to other sports, including tennis, golf, and snowboarding.
    The development of the Yonex badminton racket reflects the history of weight reduction and the pursuit of increased smash speeds through the adoption of graphite materials. In February 2013, the company created their lightest racket yet; the “Arc Saber FB,” that weighs 73 grams. In September, the Malaysian athlete TAN Boon Heong used the “Nanoray Z-speed” when he set a smash speed record of 493 kilometers per hour initial velocity. Furthermore, the square shaped “isometric form” racket that the company developed in 1980, had a huge impact on the tennis world, which up until then had favored rackets with a round shaped head.
    The company name was changed to Yonex for overseas trading. “We removed a part of ‘Yoneyama,’ because it was difficult for foreigners to pronounce. Instead, we attached an ‘X’ to signify future possibility,” says TAKANO Yuzo of Yonex’s publicity department. This name reflects the company’s desire to create lighter and faster products in the future. Yonex has many contracts with sales agents throughout the world. The Yonex Cups for badminton and tennis are also held to make a contribution to the promotion of sport.
    Photos courtesy of Yonex Co., Ltd
    Text: ITO Koichi[2015年1月号掲載記事]

    ヨネックスのバドミントンラケットの開発はカーボン素材の採用による軽量化とスマッシュスピードの追求の歴史でもあります。2013年2月に「アークセイバーFB」が同社最軽量の73グラムを実現。9月には、マレーシアのタン・ブンホン選手が「ナノレイ Z-スピード」を使い、初速で時速493キロメートルというスマッシュスピードを記録しました。また、1980年に同社が開発した「アイソメトリック形状」の四角い形のラケットは、それまで丸型が主流だったテニス界に大きな衝撃と変化をもたらしました。

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  • 高い技術で日本の美意識を表現した紙皿

    [From Decemberber Issue 2014]

    WASARA Co., Ltd.
    With the goal of creating high quality plates and utensils that are disposable yet stylish, WASARA was created of in 2008. Because of their unique high quality designs and environmental friendliness, WASARA plates were used at an opening event of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit as soon as they were launched on the market. Since then, the plates have been prized for their ability to make any dish look appealing, and they are now even used at Michelin-starred restaurants.
    The most important feature is the way the range of 18 items – which includes plates, cups and utensils – goes so well together. Speaking about various inquiries the company receives from its customers, SHIMA Shinako, brand manager of WASARA Co., Ltd., says, “I realized the hospitality industries had been looking for disposable tableware that compliments the cuisine served on it.”
    Designs are simple but, through attention to detail, they show off food to its best advantage. Pulp is pressed into a mold that has a ridged surface giving the finished product the feel of washi (Japanese craft paper), and the plates are cut in such a way that the edge is beautifully finished. Fulfilling such specifications requires a high level of craftsmanship. To develop these unique paper plates, technical help was brought in from sources that usually have no connection to the manufacturing of paper plates; such as from factories that usually produce molds for screws used in cars.
    WASARA’s parent company, Itokei Co., Ltd., manufactures and sells containers for desserts and ice cream. In the days preceding Itokei’s 100th anniversary, management thought about what direction the company should take in the future and decided to create high-value-added products that could be passed down to future generations.
    Plates and bowls are made of bagasse – fibrous matter that remains after the juice is squeezed out of sugarcane – and also of bamboo, which is known for being a fast-growing plant. WASARA’s utensils are made of bamboo. So that they can be returned to the earth after use, they aren’t laminated. If you put them into a compost container, they can be reused as compost.
    Compared with Japan, there are more opportunities abroad for catering and parties, so in the first four years subsequent to the launch of WASARA’s products, exports exceeded domestic sales. These products are currently on sale at nearly 100 shops overseas, mostly in the West. Shima, however, analyzes the situation with a level head, saying, “There are challenges to overcome, such as the issue of distribution costs due to rising oil prices.”
    A set of six medium-sized plates costs 540 yen (including tax), not exactly reasonable compared with regular paper plates. But sales in Japan have been increasing, too. According to Shima, one of the reasons they are selling well is that more and more people actually use them and appreciate their value. The product’s strongest selling point is its eco-friendliness and its additional value of being a disposable item that incorporates a design that makes dishes look delicious.
    WASARA Co., Ltd.
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年12月号掲載記事]


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  • ワンストップ型店舗で最適な車生活を提案

    [From Decemberber Issue 2014]

    Autobacs Seven Co., Ltd.
    A s well as carrying out mandatory vehicle inspections and maintenance, Autobacs Seven Co., Ltd. sell, install and change car parts. The company was originally a wholesale dealer in car parts. However, in order to get new business ideas, founder SUMINO Toshio visited the US to take a look at the distribution business there. During that visit he was bowled over when he saw one-stop shops that not only sold all kinds of car parts, but installed them and carried out repairs in the same location.
    In those days tires, oil and batteries were sold separately in specialized shops in Japan. Customers therefore had to visit several shops to buy the parts and products they wanted. Convinced that the customer-friendly one-stop business style would be welcomed in Japan, Sumino opened his first Autobacs shop in November 1974 in Daito City, Osaka Prefecture.
    Sumino came up with a striking company name to call attention to this revolutionary new business style. The first two letters in Autobacs represent the company’s philosophy, while the remaining six represent the range of products on offer. A stands for appeal, U for unique, T for tires, O for oil, B for batteries, A for accessories, C for car electronics, and S for service.
    The company name is Autobacs Seven, but the name of the store is Autobacs. “Seven” signifies the continuing search for a seventh product line. The orange corporate color stands out even at a distance and represents a pioneering spirit and Californian orange. It’s also influenced by the image of the American sunshine seared into Sumino’s eyes.
    The company’s three bestselling products are “studless tires,” “tire chains,” and “car cleaning supplies.” Studless tires are a must for safe driving in regions such as Hokkaido, Tohoku and Hokuriku where there is a great quantity of snow. There is more demand for chains for emergency use when there is heavy snow in and around large cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Car cleaning supplies sell more in early spring when the air is filled with cedar pollen and yellow dust from mainland China.
    ONODA Kenichi of the PR department stresses, “We are second to none in that we have one of the largest shop networks in Japan, a high brand recognition, a comprehensive product lineup, excellent service, and a team of professionals.” Each shop strives to be customer-friendly by displaying products according to their use and by using integrated signage.
    Autobacs attaches importance not only to its products and services, but also to customer service. In order to avoid any unpleasantness, customers are treated well and provided with satisfactory products. Staff are trained on the importance of personal grooming, smiling, eye contact, greetings, polite phrasing, and bowing. “We work hard to maintain and improve our Autobacs brand,” says Onoda.
    Autobacs Seven Co., Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年12月号掲載記事]


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  • 朱肉のいらないはんこの代名詞「シヤチハタ」

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    Shachihata Inc.
    Outside Japan, important documents such as contracts and certificates are generally signed by the relevant parties. In Japan, a seal rather than a signature is called for in such situations. A seal has the same power as signature to guarantee the authenticity of the individual or the corporation. Seals for corporations are square-shaped and for individuals, round-shaped. They are stamped on documents in red ink. For individuals, there are ready-made “stamps” in addition to made-to-order seals.
    Besides seals used for official documents, stamps that require no inkpad or cinnabar ink paste are also used. Released in 1965, Shachihata Inc.’s “X Stamper” is one such seal. In particular, the pre-inked stamp, released in 1968, is so well known that similar stamps made by other companies are also called “Shachihata.”
    Stamps requiring no inkpad or cinnabar ink paste are commonly used nowadays, but the development of the X Stamper was beset by difficulties at first. The company had been considering the idea of ink-saturated rubber stamps for years. For a stamp to be used repeatedly, it was necessary to develop a spongy rubber that the ink could seep into.
    After many failures, its developers came up with a method using salt. First, rubber is mixed together with salt. If left in hot water for one day, the salt dissolves. Once the salt dissolves into the water, countless minuscule holes are left behind. The ink is stored in these holes. The result was that the right amount of ink would flow from it when the stamp was pressed.
    Funabashi Shokai, Shachihata’s predecessor, was founded in 1925 as a manufacturer of inkpads. This company had developed a “permanent inkpad” that could be used without refilling. In those days, ink immediately evaporated from inkpads. They had to be soaked in ink every time they were to be used. The permanent inkpad was a sensation because it eliminated the need to do this.
    “Our predecessors were thinking of using the rising sun from Japan’s national flag for the logo of this permanent inkpad. However, because of trademark issues, they chose a rising sun design with a shachihoko (mythical carp with the head of a lion and the body of a fish) inside it. This is because it was a symbol of Nagoya where our predecessors came from. Because of this, the product came to be named “Permanent Inkpad with a Shachi-Flag Logo,” NIWA Makiko, a member of Shachihata’s PR Department, says, explaining the brand’s origins. In 1941, the company was renamed Shachihata (Shachi-Flag).
    Other than the X Stamper, the company has developed many unique stationery products, including a pen that doubles as a name stamp. Shachihata has gained a reputation in recent years for manufacturing unusual products like the “Kezuri Cap;” a pencil sharpener that can be mounted and used on an empty PET bottle.
    Shachihata Inc.
    Text: ITO Koichi
    * Official company name シヤチハタ (Shiyachihata) are pronounced シャチハタ (Shachihata) despite its Japanese spelling.


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  • 「枡」の新しい役割を探して

    [From October Issue 2014]

    Masukoubou Masuya
    “Sake comes in a one ‘shou’ bottle.” “Boil two ‘gou’ of rice.” ‘Shou’ and ‘gou’ are both units for measuring volume. These units are measured in a special container made from Japanese cypress called a “masu.” Japan used to use shou and gou for measuring units, but nowadays liters and kilograms are mostly used. Masu are used more often as cups for drinking sake, rather than as measuring utensils. And even this (way of using them) isn’t very common.
    OHASHI Hiroyuki, the third generation director of Ohashi Ryoki (Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture), is trying to find new uses for his masu. Masu have been familiar objects to Ohashi since childhood, but upon graduating from college, he joined IBM and his life took a completely different course. However, when he went home at the age of 27 to announce his engagement to his parents, they asked him to take over the family business. Two years later he quit his job and took over the business, initially with little enthusiasm.
    He changed his mind when he took a look at their accounts. “The sales figures were about half of what I’d heard from my parents when I was in junior high school. I was so alarmed that I made the round of our customers across Japan.” In four years, sales rose back up to 80% of what they once were. Yet, around the same time, he started feeling that his sales efforts weren’t making much difference anymore. “I began to understand that if we continued to sell cheap we couldn’t expand.” That was the second time warning bells went off.
    So he began to wonder if he could create something new by improving his masu. At the same time, he tried to satisfy all of his customer’s requests. He soon secured a large order. It was a huge opportunity, but the quantity was such that he failed to handle it properly and ended up delivering a large amount of defective products. “That was a huge failure. Since then, I’ve decided never to take on any work we can’t deal with.” Adopting a policy of selling only quality handmade products, he managed to create different models of masu by producing a variety of prototypes.
    To sell these items, in 2005 he opened the factory store “Masukoubou Masuya” on his factory site. By offering unusual products – storage cases for knickknacks with synthetic marble lids, triangular sake cups, different-sized masu for easily measuring ingredients for bagels or buns with a bean-jam filling – more people took an interest in masu itself and the sales of traditional masu also increased.
    Ohashi is enthusiastic about overseas marketing. In order to do this, rather than advocate that they are used in the same way as they are in Japan, he intends to suggest different uses of masu to suit different lifestyles. “Should we market masu with additional features or create something entirely new? It’s hard work to come up with ideas, but I wouldn’t be happy if our products were only used for a short time.” At a trade fair in New York, he showcased them as containers for seasonings, including sugar, and also as utensils for measuring ounces.
    Masu have been used for 1,300 years since the Nara era (8th century). Ohashi describes the appeal: “Its story has been cultivated by its long history. It’s possible to sense the smell and warmth of Japanese cypress. It also has a complete, simple beauty.” His newly purposed masu have inherited those characteristics.
    Masukoubou Masuya
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年10月号掲載記事]


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  • 紙のように薄い老眼鏡

    [From October Issue 2014]

    Nishimura Precision Co., Ltd.
    As the name suggests, Paper Glass are quite literally paper thin reading glasses. They can be folded flat to a thickness of two millimeters. If you open them out, the lenses tilt downward to help you read the text before you. The temple arms that fit over the ear curve gently round to match the shape of the head. These portable and beautifully designed reading glasses were created in 2012 and won a special award at the Good Design Awards in 2013.
    SAITO Rikito, PR staff member for the sales company Nishimura Precision Co., Ltd. cries out delightedly, “Until then, we were taking two to three months to produce a batch of 100 pairs. Since the award, this has risen to 6,000 a month.” From this it’s possible to deduce that a lot of people were waiting expectantly for them.
    Paper Glass are made by Nishimura Co., Ltd. in Sabae City, Fukui Prefecture. Sabae City produces 90% of Japan’s eyeglasses and has a 20% share of the world market for eyeglasses. Nishimura was once a manufacturer of screws and hinges for eyeglasses. However, in the beginning of the nineties, they started losing work to China. Because of this, in addition to manufacturing glasses, they began taking metalworking contracts to make the best use of the technology they’d developed as a manufacturer of other metal parts.
    At the start of the millennium, they received a tricky commission to produce robust reading glasses which are easy to carry and stylish. Through trial and error, they came up with a way to fix the hinges on the frame at a diagonal angle. With all the requirements met and the hinges installed at this angle, the lenses naturally tilted forwards when worn. This is ideal for reading and for peering over the lens to view objects further away. It dispenses with the need to constantly put on and take off your glasses. The company has patented this technology.
    Nishimura had never produced a complete pair of eyeglasses itself. The company launched its own brand when another company in Sabae City taught them the basic knowhow required to produce a pair of spectacles. In order to develop new sales channels, the decision was made to sell the glasses on the company’s own website.
    The advantage of online sales is that user feedback directly reaches the company. Taking these opinions into consideration, minor changes are occasionally made. For example, the frame width has been adjusted. Although all Paper Glass were designed as one-size-fits-all models for both men and women, some female users commented, “They are so wide that they fall off.” In answer to those complaints, the models were redesigned to fit women’s faces.
    “Elderly ladies in particular have told us that ‘you’ve made reading glasses that I can finally use outside my home.’ Some say they didn’t even feel like going out because they didn’t want to wear reading glasses in front of others,” says Saito.
    If all you want is to be able to see, it’s even possible to buy glasses at 100-yen shops. Paper Glass provides extensive customer service: different strength lenses for each glass are available and repairs are basically free. Paper Glass spectacles have completely revamped the image of reading glasses.
    Paper Glass
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年10月号掲載記事]


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  • わけあって安い商品で人気

    [From October Issue 2014]

    Mujirushi Ryohin
    Dried shiitake mushrooms that taste no different even though they’re cracked; recycled memo pads that aren’t pure white but are good enough to use; u-shaped pasta made from spaghetti that has been discarded to create uniform strands; clothing and small items made of purposely un-dyed material that utilizes the cloth’s natural hue. These are all products “Mujirushi Ryohin” planned and developed soon after the company was founded.
    Mujirushi Ryohin was conceived in 1980 with the catchphrase “There’s a Reason It’s Cheap.” Before that, shops were crammed with products that had unnecessary features, had too much decoration and had excessive packaging. Mujirushi Ryohin focused on producing goods stripped of such wasteful excess. Its product line is comprised of such things as clothing, household goods, and food.
    Each Mujirushi Ryohin product needs a good reason to come into being. This reason is outlined on packaging, wrapping paper and price tags. At first, the company was a private brand owned by Seiyu, but in 1989, as Ryohin Keikaku Co.,Ltd., it became an independent enterprise. It’s grown into a global brand that now has 269 stores in Japan, supplies another 116 stores and operates a total of 255 stores outside the country. It operates overseas under the name of MUJI.
    The idea of “no branding, but quality products” is contained within the name Mujirushi Ryohin. For product planning and development, the company therefore places importance on “creating things that are really necessary in everyday life, made in the most functional form.” In order to achieve this, the company strives to source different materials, to cut down on production time and to simplify packaging.
    A characteristic of Mujirushi Ryohin is that customers’ opinions gathered in shops, by phone, by email and on the Internet are taken into account when it comes to product development and the quality of service given. For example, the “Body Fitting Sofa” was developed in answer to those who had commented that “I wish I could buy a sofa, but it would take up too much space in my room, so I’d rather have a big cushion that I could comfortably sink my body into.” It was a big hit and more than 60,000 were sold in the first year and a half.
    Ryohin Keikaku has a number of rules about “things Mujirushi Ryohin shouldn’t do.” These include: “No brand name on products;” “Only sell things designed for Mujirushi Ryohin;” “No use of strong colors on products” and “Never hire celebrities for ads.” This is so employees never forget the essence of what Mujirushi Ryohin is about.
    Inspired by Mujirushi Ryohin, other companies launched successive products with a similar aim. Most have vanished, however. They didn’t last because the attitude to production of these imitation products was based on vague notions. Mujirushi means no brand. But you could say that “Mujirushi” itself is now recognized as a reliable brand.
    Ryohin Keikaku CO., Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi/文:伊藤公一













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  • 常に新規事業に挑戦する社風

    [From September Issue 2014]

    Sewing machine, typewriter, facsimile, printer and online karaoke system: all of these products make our lives convenient and comfortable. Brother Industries, Ltd., in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture has produced all of these items. Founded in 1908 as Yasui Sewing Machine Co., the company repaired imported sewing machines.
    Before he died, YASUI Kanekichi, the founder of the company, stated in his will to Masayoshi, the eldest son of his ten children, that “you should cooperate with your brothers.” Masayoshi took the opportunity to change the company name to “Yasui Brothers Sewing Machine Co.” and joined forces with his brothers to complete a domestically-made sewing machine. Since then they have used the brand name “Brother.” Brother was later used in their company name, too.
    Brother Industries’ defining characteristic is its corporate culture of being up for a challenge and unafraid to fail. For instance, in 1986 the company put the TAKERU, a vending machine for PC software on the market, but in the end the product failed. However, using the technology acquired through developing the machine, an online karaoke system was developed. The system is now known by the name of JOYSOUND and has become one of the top brands in the karaoke business.
    Brother Industries has not stuck to one product, but has changed the focus of its business along with the times. For instance, the PRIVIO NEO series was developed using a revolutionary method to create a combination printer-copier-scanner-fax machine that anybody would want to own. Its most unique feature is that to slim down the product, the A4 size printout comes out the front vertically, not horizontally. However, printing vertically made the paper curl. In order to prevent this, the developers put tiny vertical waves in the paper. And that’s how they came up with such an innovative product.
    Brother Industries does more than develop original products. The company has used its resources to support victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake in the Tohoku region. For example, company employees started up an initiative to make sandbags – which are indispensable for growing seaweed. At first, volunteers got together and made 200 sandbags using their sewing machines both at work and at home, then sent them to Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture.
    The response from the fishermen was that they wanted more. So, 150 additional sandbags were sent. This became an annual activity and, in 2013, 850 sandbags were made. This year, 1,000 sandbags are to be sent. The company canteen has been serving up dishes made using the seaweed as an ingredient for a limited period. The business that started out with sewing machines has ended up bringing together staff and the people of Tohoku in a collective effort that has borne fruit.
    Brother Industries, Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年9月号掲載記事]

    ブラザー工業は一つの商品にこだわらず、時代に合わせて主力事業を変えてきました。例えば複合機、PRIVIO NEOシリーズは、従来とはまったく異なる方法で、誰もが欲しくなる複合機を目指して開発。最大の特徴は、奥行を短くするために、印刷されたA4サイズの紙を手前に、縦向きでなく横向きに取り出せるようにしたことです。けれど、横向きだと紙がカールします。そこで、開発者は紙に小さな縦波をつける工夫でこれを防止。これまでの常識を覆す製品を完成しました。

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