The U Store: Daikanyama Plate
Sandblasting seems like a purely industrial skill, yet behind the technical jargon and equipment lies a very creative and profitable craft at heart.
Propelling very fine bits of material at high pressure, sandblasting is a method of cleaning or etching a surface. In the hands of a skilled artisan, this same technique is used in various avenues—from removing loose paint and rust in car repair shops, to sculpting and etching patterns into glasses and porcelain. Art here is amazingly versatile—both practical and imaginative.
Although Arita porcelain has an increased translucency as compared to other kinds of porcelain, all beautiful successes are first borne out of hard work. Stone is first clashed and ground to make clay. Firing at 1250 to 1300 degrees, porcelain has a harder texture than pottery. While the procedure roughens the surface of porcelain, the greater degree of translucency and clearer whiteness is enhanced in the sand-blasted area, creating the wispy gossamer-like effect on each face.
Out of the severe conditions of sandblasting springs forth a sereneness and tranquility of each Daikanyama plate, reflective of the calm and peace endemic to the Japanese culture.
Hi Mr Kihara, please introduce yourself, and how did you establish Kihara Inc?
My maternal family owned a trading company for Arita ware. After the war, my father established an Arita ware trading company called Kihara Store. As my father was a lieutenant, with no experience for business, he had a difficult time managing the company. I was born in 1952, and graduated from the department of Machining, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Ritumeikan University in 1975, when my father finally turned the Arita ware trading company into a corporation and moved to Aritayaki Danchi, the wholesale industrial area, where it continues up to the present day. After graduation, I started working for Kihara Inc. and became president in 2004. I was engaged in design and received instruction from product designer Mr Masahiro Mori.
In 2000, we were unsuccessful in expanding our global business to Europe, the Middle East and China. However, in 2012, we got to know Mr Edwin and Mr Otani and with their help, were finally able to develop our global business.
Ahead of other companies, we started to expand our business into the interior-related market and built a new business model from 2000. I am also concurrently the director of Hizen ceramics business and industry cooperative.
Arita is known as a birthplace of the Japanese porcelain, how did the industry begin?
When Hideyoshi Toyotomi dispatched troops to Korea in the 1500s, he came back to Japan with a Korean ceramist. The ceramist discovered clay for porcelain at Arita by accident and made the first porcelain in Japan in 1616. Later, due to an internal disturbance in China, the Chinese were not able to produce their porcelain which they exported to Europe via the Silk Road. In place of them, Arita ware was produced and exported to Europe, leading to its huge development.
What is the appeal of Aritayaki? I thought that everybody knew the Aritayaki in Japan. How did it become so popular? Was it through education or marketing?
The biggest factors for its popularity are the cultures of Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement and food. These cultures have a close relation to pottery as well as porcelain and are naturally rooted in our daily lives.
Read more in N˚5: Arrival.