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#068 KODO Co., Ltd.:Japanese paper (Washi) products 【Kyoto】2018/1/30

Exploiting new possibilities of Japanese Paper (Washi) while keeping traditions. This is Kyoto’s real “monozukuri.”

Reliable Japanese paper products
made by careful work of craftsmen

Kyoto has many historical places and cultures in Japan. KODO Co., Ltd. has been a manufacturer of Japanese paper products for over 70 years, located in Fushimi, Kyoto. Its founder is KODO Hyoemon who was born in 1883 in Fukui prefecture. He experienced several jobs such as a teacher and a lime manufacturer and as he lived through the war he thought that he wanted to do a business related to the peace.” That was why he started a job handling paper in Fushimi.

Product finish is excellent in great detail. You can feel the skill and pride of craftsmen from these autograph boards(Japanese shikishi) made by hand.

The workshops are separated based on production stages. There are many rooms for each purpose like storing semi-finished products.

This is a big warehouse storing several hundreds of products to prevent stockout.

When the company was established, they made base paper from waste paper and then produced Japanese paper products made from the base paper. However, they came to specialize in making Japanese paper products in response to changing times. Now they are making standard products such as autograph boards and calligraphy paper as well as Japanese paper books such as “goshuin-cho(a book designed to hold red stamps given to visitors to shrines/temples)” which is becoming popular among young women. The motto of the 3rd CEO, KODO Motoko is “producing things making people happy, and peace.” She grew up seeing the workshops and has valued “wa” of “hei’wa’(peace)” and “‘wa’shi(Japanese paper).” She is pursuing the possibilities of Japanese paper with her another motto, “making by hand, carefully and wholeheartedly.”

The CEO, KODO Motoko has a global perspective with experience of studying abroad.

Goshuin-cho made of Kyo-yuzen(dyeing technique of Kyoto) patterned Japanese paper.

Creases in paper stay well even after several processes.

The production process from base paper to autograph boards can be divided into 3 parts. The first part is called “goshi (paper joining),” and front and back paper are sticked together to core paper in this process. These pressure-bonded paper are cut into various sizes depending on each purpose and then the edges of paper are taped with a colored tape, which is called “heri-maki(taping edges).” Each process requires special care and excellent skills, so requires constant care too. It takes about 10 days to make one autograph board. They say they can tape edges of about 30,000 boards per day. “Strength of the KODO is that we succeed to the culture of monozukuri(manufacturing) in Kyoto. We therefore basically make products by hand. We will be very happy if people think the KODO’s products are excellent as a whole and some details, which people tend to overlook.” said Ms. Kodo.

The machine taping edges of paper. When they handle sensitive autograph paper with it, one person stands in front of input port of paper and another stands at opposite side, receives the paper, and cuts the remaining tape by hand. This cutting requires artisan skills.

Putting a piece of paper one by one while checking whether everything is fine.

After confirming the paper is taped well, the remaining parts of the gold tape are cut quickly.

They use moderately hard and flexible razor blades as a result of trial and error.

Piling up tens of pieces of paper, and lowering the razor quickly and smoothly from up to down.

It takes less than 1 second for a craftsman to cut them by its experienced senses.

It seems easy, but cutting the edges beautifully requires artisans skills.

Contributing to the succession of the culture of Japanese paper productions
by exploiting new possibilities and developing craftsmen

The CEO, KODO Motoko was wondering, “what can I do as the 3rd CEO?” and “I should do something” after she succeeded CEO. At that time, her encounter with a product designer, AZUMI shin, who had already succeeded in the world at the end of 2011, led to a new movement. She exchanged emails with him living in London for one year and decided to produce a new product to exploit a new possibility of Japanese paper. “Japanese paper product loved by people in the world and fitting with the current life styles.” This is the concept of a new brand named “Kami-mon.” With two more designers introduced by Mr. Azumi, they produced 6 new items such as “Square Mobile” made of Japanese paper, a paper dish for fruits called “Bicorne,” and an interior box called “kadoco.” And these products made their debut at “Maison&Objet Paris,” which was one of the world’s best fairs of interior and design held in Paris. No sooner had they exhibited products, they took many interviews with both domestic and foreign reporters and have been still receiving contact from abroad.

Ms. Kodo was embarrassed of the name of the brand “Kami-mon” at first, because her name “Kodo” can also be read as “kami-mon” in Japanese.

“I try to exploit the new possibilities of not only Japanese paper products but also young employees working in the KODO. I think the most important thing of the life is what you value and how you live. I believe that my mission to make my company a place to develop respectable members of society. Business is important and supports our livelihoods. However, I think development of human resources is more important because I believe that it leads to develop people who will support Japan and the world in the future. I hope my company is a place to learn the most important things as a person,” said Ms. Kodo. “For most of young people, Japanese paper reminds of only calligraphy paper. I will learn skills from the seniors and want to produce a nice variety of Japanese paper products in the future,” a new employee, who graduated from Kyoto University of Art and Design last year, talked his dreams and ambitions with passion.

He entered the KODO to do monozukuri with Japanese paper. This is a process of making autograph boards of Eto(Chinese astrological calendar) for the next year.

Expressing the KODO’s passion to an employee who was an exchange student from Korea, written in both Japanese and Korean.

Looking forward to the day that people say
“Japanese paper reminds of the KODO”

The KODO actively collaborates with other companies with the same mind. For example, “Kami-mon” started collaborating with goshuin-cho of “TAKEZASADO” which is a craftsman studio of woodblock print in Kyoto famous for woodblock printing by hand and “Karancolon Kyoto” and “Nippon CHACHACHA” from Kyoto Souvenir Co., Ltd. That results in a new goshuin-cho named “Kami-mon-SOUVENIR made in KYOTO - Honma-mon.” “Collaborations can give us a new stimuli,and we can see things from a different perspective. I am looking for a good encounter in Rin crossing and will try to learn and reflect various opinions to our monozukuri,” said Ms. Kodo.

Goshuin-cho made with the Kyoto souvenir Co., Ltd. has vivid colors. The original designs of the Kyoto souvenir are especially popular among women.

It is currently in the finalization phase to make autograph boards of Eto of the next year, the Year of the Dog.

Various materials are stored to respond to any orders.

“I think I inherited my passion for monozukuri and development of human resources as well as for business from my grandfather and father. However, I take it as my optimistic philosophy of life too. Or maybe it was incorporated into my DNA,” said Ms. Kodo laughing. She is getting many orders for custom-made products that no one other than the KODO can make. They are exploiting the new possibilities of Japanese paper with “Kami-mon” while making products in good faith and passion as craftmen. We are looking forward to their future development.

By making the gradation of the white part (for writing a title) on the front cover, Yuzen paper(the colored Japanese paper of the front cover) and the white part go well together.

KODO Co., Ltd.

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