The Place of Discovery Rin Crossing

menu

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

Home > Passions of Artisans #009 Hachiman-Kasei Co., Ltd.

#009 Hachiman-Kasei Co., Ltd.2014/08/19

Colorful, stylish interior goods that expand the possibilities of plastics

Front row, second from left: President and CEO Miyoko Takagaki

Stylish plastic products made in a mountainous rural community

Hachiman-Kasei is a plastic goods manufacturer whose Sceltevie series of household items has become a hit and attracted buyers not only from around Japan but from Europe and North America as well, with fun-filled products like buckets with Scandinavian-inspired color schemes and bag hangers shaped like a pair of glasses.

This chic product lineup, which has been featured in a wide range of media, was created in abundant natural surroundings in Gujo Hachiman, an old former castle town along the Nagara River in Gifu Prefecture that is known for its pristine water.

“In manufacturing plastic goods, water is used for cooling, so we’re lucky to be located here with a plentiful supply of underground water. We only use it for cooling molds, so we don’t release contaminated industrial wastewater. In fact, fireflies swarm around our water supply canal in the summer, which shows you how clean it is. We’re proud to say that we run our operation in a manner worthy of this great location,” says managing director Katsuro Takagaki.

Managing director Katsuro Takagaki says, “My grandfather established this company in 1965. Plastics are one of the main local industries in Gifu Prefecture. Here in Gujo City the industry doesn’t have a big presence, but back then it was the era of Japan’s postwar economic growth, and I think he wanted to be involved in manufacturing.”

At first the company largely did contract work for manufacturers, who entrusted them with molds to make a wide variety of plastic parts. Under the second-generation president, Mr. Takagaki’s father, they primarily made novelty goods for major corporations such as Matsushita Electric Works (present-day Panasonic.)

“In those days we would come up with a plan from scratch, propose the idea to the client, make the mold, and then get bulk orders for hundreds of thousands of units all at once. I think my dad liked the fact that we didn’t just have to sit and wait for orders, we could give them our own suggestions and ideas.”

Handy and stylish buckets unlike
anything else around

The company reached a turning point with the sudden death of Mr. Takagaki’s father and the collapse of the Japanese asset price bubble in the early 1990s. Ironically, they had just moved into a new factory. The novelty goods market was shrinking, and according to president and CEO Miyoko Takagaki, they decided to come up with their own original products “that people would see on store shelves and say, I’ve got to have that.” The first thing they made remains their most popular item, buckets with lids.

Ms. Takagaki says, “At the time, there was no such thing as a bucket designed with anything other than practicality in mind. We figured there was a market for neater, more stylish buckets, unlike anything else that was out there, and we were determined to make the best ones around.”

 

President and CEO Miyoko Takagaki came up with the design for the Omnioutil lidded bucket. Today, a full-time in-house designer is in charge of product design.

 

The Glasses Bag Hanger can used as a tabletop stand as well.

The completed bucket worked as an interior accent as well, and was handy for storing things like kitchen utensils and children’s toys. Highly versatile and user-friendly, it could be used as a stool as well and had a hole in the handle to hold a hose in place. However, it looked out of place on the sales floors of big-box stores and home improvement centers, where it was mainly sold. It was hard to convey its value to customers under these circumstances.

Building a brand with unique appeal

To turn the situation around, in 2007 Hachiman-Kasei began building a brand with a presence in the interior goods market. The Sceltevie series has a unique appeal, combining the vivid colors and freedom of design that only plastic can offer with a satisfying texture and consistency reminiscent of leather, achieved through use of elastomer resins.

Hachiman-Kasei has a streamlined, competent workforce of 22 employees. The planning department has three people designing products, two of which are Gujo Hachiman natives. The company also has human resources with strong foreign language skills to deal with overseas clients

 

Every product that comes out of the injection molding machine is visually examined

According to Mr. Takagaki, “Elastomer resins are more difficult to shape than general-purpose resins. They’re also about three times more expensive. We worked doggedly to make repeated prototypes under tough conditions before finally finding the optimum conditions for the molds, enabling us to achieve consistent results.”

Hachiman-Kasei actively seeks to promote its products at interior goods-related trade shows. In 2011 they exhibited for the first time at France’s Maison et Objet, and numerous European buyers responded with great enthusiasm, saying “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” Since then they have received a series of bulk orders from overseas department stores, the MoMA Design Store in New York, and a famous gift store in Paris.

 

Hachiman-Kasei exhibited at the New York International Gift Fair in January 2013 and at Maison et Objet in Paris, earning orders from new customers impressed with the eye-candy colors and hip designs. In New York the company did particularly good business, forming relationships with large-scale buyers

“We felt it would be a challenge to present our products in the design capitals of the world, but I’m happy to say that Sceltevie made an extremely strong debut. With an eye on making inroads in overseas markets, we’ve changed up the sizes and packaging of our products. We also have English printed alongside Japanese on our quality labeling and so forth.”

An environment where buyers and manufacturers find it easy to approach one another

Today, there are over 100 items in the Sceltevie series, and it forms a vital part of Hachiman-Kasei’s business. The newest addition is Taku Zen, a Japanese-style placemat made of resin, but with a woven cloth-like texture that took three years to develop. The company is confident it will be a hit thanks to its scrupulous attention to quality, with a surface that looks like delicately woven fibers even when viewed under a magnifying glass.

The Taku Zen placemat simulates the texture of woven fabric

“We’re confident that no other company has developed the technology to produce things like this. Overseas competitors may be able to keep costs low, but they can’t imitate these products,” Mr. Takagaki says with pride. He says he hopes Rin Crossing will create an environment where buyers and manufacturers find it easy to approach one another.

“Both sides have their own targets in mind, and in some cases they don’t even bother approaching the other, thinking there’s no use, our needs don’t match, and so forth. It will be great if the website enables both sides to exchange information and overcome these sometimes baseless assumptions, and buyers and manufacturers can be matched up more swiftly and effectively.”

Hachiman-Kasei Co., Ltd.

To Top