It was a hot Friday at the end of a long week and I was looking for my first interview of the afternoon. I was using Google maps and my tablet to find the location of a book binding company called Kyodaisha. After checking the tablet several times and having asked the subway employee at Morishita Station for additional directions, I found my way.
Kyodaisha is a typical “machi koba,” a small family-run business or a business employing only a handful of people. These small factories (often located in Tokyo’s “shitamachi” or old town section) have a reputation for excellent work, and it is said that even the American space agency, NASA, had sourced specialty parts from such small factories. At Kyodaisha I was welcomed by Mr. Toyoaki Komori, CEO and second-generation operator of the company. The name “Kyodaisha” means “brothers’ company,” and it was founded by his father, Toshio and his uncle, Etsuo in the 1960s.
While I talked with the younger Mr. Komori, the brothers worked with quiet efficiency on a job involving a product instruction manual. Nearby was a massive pile of printed sheets waiting to be made into menus. What was even more interesting was the company’s new product line–specialty notebooks.
Toyoaki is quite upbeat about this new line of products called “shuincho.” The name translates as “red stamp book,” and this type of book is used by pilgrims and tourists to collect calligraphy and red stamps at Japanese religious sites. The notebooks consist of an accordion-fold layout between front and back covers featuring Japanese-style design. These products by Kyodaisha have only been on sale for two years, but already they have been featured on TV twice. Right now there seems to be a mini-boom on this type of stamp collecting at shrines and temples, so Kyodaisha’s product stands to do well on the market.
Prices for these notebooks are reasonable, and as of summer 2017, they start at around ¥1,000. As for the future, they would like to see these products introduced to a wider audience, maybe by offering them for sale on the Internet. Notebooks are on sale at the factory, and Toyoaki can converse with you in English about what they are and how they are made, so why not drop by and choose one of these unique Japanese products as a souvenir of Tokyo. Directions to Kyodaisha are given below, and I’m sure you’ll have an easier time of finding it than I did–and remember, there are always friendly subway people to give you a helping hand.
Story and Photos by David Parmer