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

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#063 MURAKAMI MELIYASU: Organic Cotton Products 【Nara】2017/08/31

Organic Cotton Products Created 100% in Nara, a Cotton District From Ancient Times


His Decision at the Cotton District
as Times Change

The Yamato plain, a heart of traffic and industry, spreads in northwest area of Nara prefecture. Yamatotakada city is a part of the plain and MURAKAMI MELIYASU exists here. The plain has little rain for a basin and great cotton areas which needs a small quantity of water. People in the plain grow rice and cotton and manufacture cotton as their second business. Producing and manufacturing cotton becomes local traditional industry in Yamatotakada city. MURAKAMI MELIYASU has worked on cotton manufacturing and wholesale since the early Meiji era (1868) as family business.

The factory was built from a part of the wooden school building. A family of four engages in the cotton business.

Yasutoshi Murakami, a representative of MURAKAMI MELIYASU, transformed the management policy 10 years ago including growing organic cotton by itself and focusing on communicating with customers through direct sales.

After the World War II, while imported reasonable cotton got into Japanese market, Japanese manufacturers promoted mechanization and competed to overseas products by their large number of products. Against the trend, MURAKAMI MELIYASU created and sold knitted clothes for men and women by a small lot. Murakami emphasizes on customer’s needs getting directly at stores, and then Murakami’s designed knitted products had great popularity. The former representative, Yasutoshi’s father, told that the factory produced a lot of goods and stocked mountains of yarn and wool in his era.

The special machine separates cotton and seeds after cropping.

Flat knitting machine for weaving texture. MURAKAMI MELIYASU holds large and small machines which are quite smaller than regular factory’s ones.

Yarn made from cotton. MURAKAMI MELIYASU uses cotton’s original color as much as possible and manufactures goods.

Weaving fabric at the right size of product makes no waste. When failing to weave fabric, he resolves it and creates again. No garbage here.

However, Japanese textile industry faced a challenge because domestic textile factories transferred to overseas and made many fast fashions. With 300 textile factories in Nara prefecture closed one after another, knitting manufacturers also decreased in Yamatotakada city. MURAKAMI MELIYASU was at a turning point at the changing period. Yasutoshi succeeded his family business, worried whether he continued the business, and made a decision at the age of 40. He finished wholesales and started developing and selling Murakami’s original products. Murakami’s manufacturing was almost by artisan’s hands and hard to increase production lots. Therefore, he tried to pursue qualities and added values to each item. Direct sales also decreased distribution costs eliminating any wholesalers. That is the new way of his manufacturing business. His trial and error begin from here.

More than 10 sewing machines in the factory. Each machine works for different purposes such as straight stitching and fabric’s edge stitching. Manufacturing one item requires different machines at each process.

Yasutoshi creates almost all of the goods. He develops new products, knits textiles and sews them.


His father’s word led him to cotton cultivation.
All manufacturing process is done in his factory.

Cotton field behind the factory. Seeding in May and blooming in August. The buds began to get swollen in end of June when this photo was taken.

“I gather cotton when it opens buds, but every bud opens with its own pace depending on amount of sunshine. I start harvesting everyday in September and finish it in December.” said Yasutoshi.

He was not sure what was necessary for manufacturing high quality products. His father, a former representative, suggested him to grow cotton as his ancestor did. The word moved him to start cotton cultivation behind the factory. Since organic cotton did not burden on the environment but was good for skin, he thought this was truly what he wanted. He decided to grow organic cotton in the field without agricultural chemicals and fertilizer. His organic cotton and factory brought about all-Nara-made products.

Organic cotton grows in the field approved by a certification authority with agricultural chemicals and fertilizer only keeping in strict standard. Murakami’s field does not produce much organic cotton. MURAKAMI MELIYASU is seeking US authorized organic cotton and creates original goods.

Swaddling textile made from Murakami’s organic cotton, Totsuki Toka Fu (meaning 10 months and 10 days, gestational duration, cloth). Since no chemical is added to the cloth during manufacturing process, it is safe to go into your baby’s mouth.

Baby shoes made from his organic cotton. Same as Totsuki Toka Fu, they come from 100% Nara materials. Each product is made carefully by artisan’s hands.

“This is a huge rewarding job,” smiles Reiko, Yasutoshi’s wife. She engages in product planning and inspection of finished products.

It seems to be hard for only a family of four to work whole process including cultivating cotton, manufacturing and selling products. All members of Murakami have, surprisingly, bright and shiny face, however. Why? The company regularly shows its products weekly at local markets in Kansai area, Nagoya, and Tokyo. “Standing at our booth, we make a positive approach to many customers. Sometimes our customers ask us about our product like a request for shorter sleeves, and repairs them at the site. Seeing direct customer’s joy motivates us,” laughs Reiko. Customer’s voice leads to ideas for new products. She brings the customer’s voice to the factory and Yasutoshi develops a prototype. In this way, MURAKAMI MELIYASU has produced a lot of items. “We are surely creating a product by communicating with customers. That’s why I am thoroughly satisfied with current job”

The customer’s voice produces three-quarter sleeve protectors. Rib stitches avoid slipping off and offer comfortable feeling without tightening.

The mask made from organic cotton is safe to put on skin for long hours. Some customers use it as a face mask after soaking the mask in the bath.

Brand-new item, a bolero. Not only wore in the cold season, it can be good to wear during a hip bath.

The early days of developing organic cotton goods, customers asked the difference between regular cotton and organic cotton at exhibitions. Since 2010, however, MURAKAMI MELIYASU felt more and more people obviously required organic cotton items. Now the company seeks better skin-touching and wear-feeling products using least nylon to manufacture textile and wants to wrap customer’s life gently by its craftmanship.


Small-Sized Company’s Efficient System
MURAKAMI MELIYASU’s Challenges

Yasutoshi is proud of his originality beyond other domestic companies, for cultivating organic cotton and manufacturing own products. Small-sized company like MURAKAMI MELIYASU, is able to establish an efficient business system and adopt the customer’s request. Rin crossing exhibition and business fair are also an important place for MURAKAMI MELIYASU. These opportunities make him reconsider what his craftmanship is.

Murakami listens to customer’s voice carefully. New item is born every day.

MURAKAMI MELIYASU deals with cotton cultivation, manufacturing, and sales by itself. Without extra costs, the company is able to sell products at reasonable price. Yasutoshi wishes to communicate and make a long-term relationship with his customers. The company is an expert of manufacturing organic cotton items which are friendly to both the environment and your skin. More people must demand MURAKAMI MELIYASU’s products in the future.

MURAKAMI MELIYASU

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