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Passions of Artisans We ask Rin crossing participant manufacturers about their wishes regarding manufacturing.

Home > Passions of Artisans #014 Taniguchi Aoya Washi Co., Ltd.

#014 Taniguchi Aoya Washi Co., Ltd.2014/10/23

Lighting equipment with sophisticated Japanese beauty
The first three dimensional washi technique in the world

The wonderful washi in contemporary lifestyles

Inshu Washi still holds the largest productionvolume and covers 60% of the calligraphy paper market in Japan. The origin is not known, however, from the reference materials in Shosoin, we can trace it up to the Nara Period (710 to 794). In addition, the Engishiki, a book on laws and customs written during the Heian Period (794 to 1185), records that paper was presented to the court from Inshu. During the Edo Period (1603 to 1867), Inshu Washi was produced as a paper for the domain as well as the people. It was sold at the wholesaler’s guild.

Taniguchi Aoya Washi, attracting attention at being the first in the world to establish a three dimensional washi technology, also started out by manufacturing washi in the later Taisho Period (1912 to 1926) in Aoya Town in Tottori Prefecture by President Hirofumi Taniguchi’s grandfather. Thereafter, his father switched the business to being a materials wholesaler. President Taniguchi inherited the business at a tender age of 24 after resigning his job at a major insurance company when his father passed away.

President Hirofumi Taniguchi, a man of integrity with profound education, has been energetically developing the business. He is a young 48 year old still aiming to start new businesses.

“The wachi industry did go through a decline and I was not prepared to carry on the family business. I guess, however, I wanted to succeed in the business that my father left behind and I empathized with the wonderful world of washi. I knew and felt the quality since I was a child and I could not bear the thought of closing down the business. There must be some opportunity sufficient enough to fulfill the functions by following but modernizing the traditions. I decided to take a chance in washi since there is only one life to lead,” says President Taniguchi.

This is how the challenge to find washi’s place in contemporary life, the topic held by the company, began. They showed presence by targeting young females to create products full of ideas such as contemporary stationary and wrapping materials, wall paper, fusuma paper (paper used on wooden sliding doors), and screens with a modern touch.

Seamless three dimensional cubic lighting equipment

The opportunity that arose to expand the brand overseas and caught global attention was the AOYA Washi Lamp Series, a seamless three dimensional cubic lighting equipment introduced in 2005. It was made in collaboration with Toshiyuki Kita, a famous product designer. There was huge response when the series won the Special SME Director’s Award among the Good Design Awards 2005.

 

The AOYA Washi Lamp Series. The three dimensional washi is seamless and the expression is soft like a silkworm cocoon. The fiber texture of the paper mulberry is also attractive.

 

The Natural Series produces washi in a cube. They use natural motifs such as clouds and silkworm cocoons.

It was 16 years ago in 1989 when they focused on manufacturing three dimensional washi. “There were several half cubic three dimensional washi during those times. It was not difficult to create a large diameter if the center was empty. What was difficult was to make a seamless cubic shape. It was thought to be impossible as there was no end to the shape. That was when I thought this was it! (Laughter). I wanted to do something that no one ever dared to do.”

With the support from the Tottori Institute of Industrial Technology we started our R&D and by the following year we have established the basic technology. President Taniguchi’s assessment of the market needs was the deciding point in not rushing into mass production and not energetically promoting this technology and their own brand.

“At the time the technology was developed, the financial bubble had burst and we entered in a deflation state where efficiency and low cost were at a premium. While the world matured, however, the consumer interest shifted from mere function to texture. Gradually the value of seeking a rich lifestyle with the feel of washi and a relaxing lighting was growing. A new era has arrived where the creator, the connector, and the user will be sharing values and the cultural industry will be reevaluated.”

Universality that enhances unique cultures

Taniguchi Aoya Washi endeavors to appeal to the deep Japanese space with washi to the Japanese minds as well as to convey this culture to overseas countries. They are involved in new products development with innovative ideas and are pro-actively exhibiting in overseas trade shows where they have been opening new distribution routes. Their belief is founded, however, on universality such as tradition, the four seasons and co-existing with nature.

“For a new product to be on the market for a long time, it must be accepted by the culture. To do so, our company must be the axis of the washi industry and have a philosophy in manufacturing washi. We pursued a certain universality constantly using the traditional techniques and ancient beauty as an example seeking originality but not being lost in our own style. “

 

There are 12 employees. Even though we use machines,for the tiresome job of removing dirt from the fiber (photograph). The final checking is done by hand.

 

The paper machine. We manufacture high value added washi with a thorough quality control.

The philosophy of President Taniguchi can be seen in the production line. The gigantic paper machine that can shift three layers, an unusual machine even in Japan, digitalizes the manufacturing technique based on the instincts and experience of the craftsmen which controls the production and quality thoroughly. They help OEM production for major manufacturers using advance technologies but they are concentrating on various small productions with added value and not on mere mass production.

“Even today we are progressing by calculating and accumulating data based on the daily changes in the temperature, humidity and the effects it has on quality.”

Pursuing the beauty that can only be found in washi and polishing its qualities. This business attitude is being supported by designers and forerunners which lead to a product development highly acclaimed in the European and American design markets.

Challenging the fashion categories

This is a photograph of the Milano Salone 2013. In front you can see and ice candy like washi lighting called Paper Ice Cream, which was made based on a design drawing by Luca Nichetto and Ooki Sato. Photograph by Joakim Blockstrom

This April we introduced an ice candy like washi lighting called Paper Ice Cream at the Milano Salone, an international design and furniture trade fair, in collaboration with the energetic design office, nendo. Many European buyers showed interest in the product.

AOYA, a modern and sophisticated brand, is popular among the highly sensitive selection shops. It is also being used as lighting in large commercial centers.

“In the future I am thinking of developing products not only for interior designers but also in the fashion categories such as bags and hats. What taking good care of the basic quality of washi and its traditions, I would like to be the producer of new washi products that blend into our contemporary lifestyle and to transmit it to the world. I hope Rin crossing will play the role of Cool Japan and will support companies like ours that are based on local traditions to expand globally. I expect them to help realize more brands structured in the Japanese culture.”

Aya Taniguchi, the daughter of President Taniguchi and Product Director (on the right), majored in creative art at university. After working for an apparel company, she voluntarily joined Taniguchi Aoya Washi. “I grew up playing with washi. I hope to have more people in the world appreciate the beauty of Inshu Washi using new distribution and promotional routes.”

Taniguchi Aoya Washi Co., Ltd.

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