Located in Ichikawamisato, the Yamanashi region boasts a 1,200-year history of paper making and is home to the Japanese paper maker Onao. Onao teamed up with industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa to create the SIWA series. Naoto Fukasawa is an industrial designer renowned for the "Wall mounted CD player" for Muji, which gained high praise domestically and overseas, and is now sold in 23 countries across the globe.
He recognised the special texture of Naoron - a hard-to-tear paper developed by Onao, and suggested designs for everyday goods using this unique material. The special texture of Naoron became apparent when the paper was creased. The name SIWA is both a play on the word ‘washi’ (traditional Japanese paper) and a word meaning, "crinkle" in Japanese. As with leather goods, these washi products are lovingly, individually crafted by dedicated artisans.
Ichikawamisato has an impressive paper making history, being the backbone of local industry and achieving the status as Japan's largest nationwide share of the Shoji paper. The Fuefuki River flows through the town of Ichikawamisato. This high-quality water is essential for paper making, and is the secret of the superior paper quality found in the SIWA range.
SIWA by Onao
TOSHU is a well-established handmade kitchen knife maker using "The Edo-Togi grind" method. Their beliefs and craftsmanship are based on an artisan's spirit. One by one, each knife is handmade by the master craftsman. Authentic high-quality sharpening techniques have been passed from generation to generation.
In the past 14 years, TOSHU has sold more than 400,000 high-quality kitchen knives in Japan using traditional manufacturing method such as ‘flame polishing and forging’. The sharpening process involves the use of four kinds of whetstones. They are polished two to three times more than ordinary knives and becomes rust resistant, which makes it difficult to split the blade.
Japanese knives and food culture are intrinsically linked. There are more than 50 types of knives for different occasions and different types of washoku (Japanese cuisine). Even in a normal family kitchen, there is a wide range of specialist knives preserved for the preparation of different dishes. Japanese kitchen knives have a worldwide reputation for excellent quality and artistic beauty.
SUKUMO by Horii
SUKUMO leather is given its unique indigo skin through a natural process. Following a 600-year-old Japanese tradition, the dye is made from the fermented leaves of the mature indigo. The dye, Sukumo, is produced in the Awa district of the Tokushima region, near Kyoto. All SUKUMO leathers are dyed in the historical city of Kyoto. They have received high praise for versatility, allowing the customer to choose between different designs and styles.
From start to finish the dyeing process of Sukumo takes one year. Currently there are only five recognised manufacturers producing Sukumo. They use a method called "Rōketsuzome" - a traditional wax-resist textile dyeing technique - and "Shiborizome" - a manual resist dyeing technique which produces patterns on fabric in Kyoto.
Drying, aging and fermentation are repeated in a 300-day cycle. Sukumo’s blue colouring is a result of the indigo plant's leaves that are picked at different stages to produce a deeper shade of blue. Each resulting shade of blue is as unique as it is a natural product. The distressed finish becomes softer and richer with age giving its look even more character over time.
Natural Aizen leather production is a step-by-step process which connects techniques handed down by multiple craftsmen. In Tokushima, Yoshiharu Toyama grows leaves at his farm in Awa. In Kyoto, leather is dyed by Naoyui Asai, a second-generation artisan practitioner of Rooketsu and Japanese batik. The leather then enters its final stages in Hyōgo, where a special finishing process is applied at the factory in Tatsuno city, and is created through collaboration with various designers and brands. Now, the finished product is entering the international market with the collaboration of international designers.
AvanWood by Storio
The AvanWood design series by Storio is made through a unique technique of bending wood. Folding a piece of natural solid wood nearly 360 degrees to achieve unseen levels of workability whilst maintaining its original strength. As a result, Storio has created a series of wood products that combine curved surfaces, durability and pliability even when carved to a thinness of 0.8mm. This produces wood designs of natural, untouched beauty. Most of the processes used to create the AvanWood range are unique handcrafts - bending, polishing, painting and assembling.
Obtaining wood suitable for bending is a difficult process. Yama farmers enter a snowy mountain in Niigata and select trees one by one, taking into account the age and durability. Storio works closely with timber suppliers and indigenous mountain people to secure the best materials, preserve the forests and keep valuable artisan techniques alive.
Established in 1946 as a subcontractor to the major glass maker Edo Kiriko, Hanashyo is now in its third generation creating original designs.
Edo Kiriko (Japanese Cut Glass) dates back to 1834 in the Edo period. In the first generation, Kumakura Shigeru was a skilful craftsman and mainly worked producing products for export. The pattern of Edo Kiriko is used by combining familiar traditional Japanese patterns such as Yahata, Chrysanthemum, hemp leaf patterns amongst others found in traditional Japanese kimonos.
Hanashyo create their own range as well as supply designs for Edo Kiriko. Additionally, they focus on the education of their master artisan skills, opening Edo Kiriko workshops at Terakoya (private educational institution) and actively working on nurturing the next generation.
Hanashyo's artisans continue to value traditional designs while creating their own unique patterns. Each glass is crafted with 256 small cuts in the shape of rice grains made by an experienced craftsman.
Their wine glasses, which featured a ‘Kome Tsunagi’ (rice chain) pattern, were selected to be presented as gifts at the G8 Summit in Lake Toyako in 2008 displaying the high quality of Japanese craftsmanship.
Maruyoshi Kosaka was founded in the Kiso area of Nagano in 1945. The Kiso region has a long and proud lacquer tradition, which in recent years has seen a decline due to an assumption that lacquerware is difficult to use and care for. Yasuto Kosaka, a traditional craftsman, dedicated himself to challenge this widely-held belief.
Succeeding his father 40 years ago, Yasuto Kosaka, who is the second-generation of the family, had been making low tables with lacquer coating by “roiro nuri”, a painting technique which gives a smooth and rich polish to the surface similar to that of a mirror. In 1994 at his atelier, he succeeded in combining glassware and urushi lacquer. Combining the warmth and fascination of urushi lacquer with the cool transparency of glass liberated the lacquerware from its traditional image.
Most of these pieces have the lacquer applied on the outer side, so that the inner side, which comes into contact with food or drink, is simply glass. The difference in durability means that these pieces can be used with metallic cutlery. All designs are hand painted by the artisan – each individual line and color represents the interplay of warmth and coolness, blending innovation with a classic feel to deliver a free style of tableware.
Aiwa was established in 1967 manufacturing original jewellery working with gold and platinum. They combine different sizes and shapes with delicate cut surfaces to create a beautiful range of necklaces, bracelets and earrings. The unique cutting techniques, such as Kiriko cutting (Japanese crystal glass cutting) applied by skilled craftsmen creates a bright shine to each piece similar to diamonds.
Aiwa balance traditional techniques with modern design – always striving to create bespoke designs for their customers.
Sayado Wadagama by Toko
Toko is a contemporary art gallery for Mashiko pottery, established in 1974. The original brand “Wadagama” creates unique modern style of Mashiko products. Mashiko is a small town located in the southeastern part of the Tochigi region just two hours north of Tokyo and well-known for its pottery called mashikoyaki. There are over 300 kilns located all over the town. The origin of Mashiko pottery can be traced back to as early as 1853, but was made famous by master craftsman Shoji Hamada.
Shoji Hamada, designated a “Living National Treasure” in 1955 and one of the main founders of the “Mingei” art movement in Japan, was the principle reviver of Mashikoyaki. Although a traditional craft, Mashikoyaki was developed through Hamada’s experiences in the UK and through his interactions with renowned designers including Charles Eames, Bernard Leach and Eric Gill.
Mashiko wares were shipped and sold in Edo (now Tokyo) and developed into a production site of pots and other daily-use items, mainly used as kitchenware.
Their popularity began to slowly decline around the 1900 due to changes in people’s lifestyle. However, when the Great Kanto Earthquake hit the area in 1923, many kitchen wares were broken, and demand increased suddenly reviving Mashiko pottery.
Mashiko is rich in silicate and iron, which makes it easy to shape and fire-resistant. It has both beauty and practicality for daily necessities. Sayado Wadagama by Toko pottery continues to keep the tradition of hand crafted Mashiko ceramics alive.
These colourful objects look like real Japanese cakes called “Wagashi”. However, they are in fact “Otedama” (Beanbags), a traditional Japanese children's toy which originated in the ninth century. Otedama is a game played with fabric beanbags, sewn by grandmothers from silk kimono scraps. The new style of Otedama ‘Watedama Wokashi’ was developed using delicate and advanced sewing processing technology required for the material, which has a beautiful gloss and a delicate silk like surface.
Watedama was created for use, not only as a children’s toy, but as an object with aesthetic beauty used as a decoration in the home. It makes something new out of something old, which can be handed down from generation to generation.
The brand was created by design company Cement Produce Design – a design agency established in 1999.