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Let's Make Great Products

I've known processional chair makers since I was a child. I remember watching the chair makers hold nails in their mouths and take them out to pound them with magnet hammers. I was born and raised in Fujioka in town of Tochigi, which is now renamed as Hirunuma. The town was full of furniture makers, and many of them were quite successful. When they came home for the New Year's and summer holidays, I heard about their lucrative businesses and episodes of making pieces for embassies, hotels, and government offices. Those stories brought the craft of chair making to life for me.

It's been 60 years since I entered the furniture industry, and the world has changed so much in that time. I spent my first six years learning the trade as an apprentice to a master craftsman in the place that is called Nishi-Shinbashi, Tokyo, now. It was the Tokyo depicted in the recent hit movie "Always Sanchome no Yuhi," an era of electric trams and public baths, when construction on Tokyo Tower was just starting. Tokyo is a much different place now, and so is the furniture business, with major changes in materials, designs, and how we do our work. Sixty years ago, we used straw, grass, flax, and palm fronds as chair fillers. As the years passed, better materials and technologies emerged, such as rubberized hair , foam rubber, urethane foam, and air tackers. New designs were coming out practically every year, ever slimmer, lighter, simpler, and more modern. Japanese craftsmen learned from the high-quality classic chairs imported from Europe and America during this time, and it was these lessons, I believe, that laid the foundation for the chair-making industry in Japan. Today, our industry is in a tough position, facing stiff competition in price, quality, and tight delivery deadlines with low-cost Chinese and Southeast Asian importers. Faced with these conditions, I believe now is the time for us to focus on the craftsmanship that defines Japanese furniture making: enhancing and sustaining our rigorous technical certification process, and sincerely ask customers around the world to know that we possess the finest technical skills. We want to see our technicians' products still in use 50 or 60 years from now, passed down from parent to their children and from children to grandchildren. That goes for our business and commercial-use chairs as well. A good piece of furniture can serve a household for a lifetime, retaining its shape and beauty and offer an opportunity to learning the importance of continuing to use the same item for children.

The foundation of success for us chair makers lies in looking at quality products, sitting in them, and cultivating an innate sense for what makes them good. Some of these may come from natural talents, but I believe it's essential for the new generation of craftsmen who will carry our industry forward to constantly seek out and experience the highest standards of making and doing things, leaning what makes a product great.

President & Founder Kisaku Iobe