interview 15

“Making Japanese Kiri Boxes that match modern lifestyle”
Mr. Ryuichi Yamada, the 5th generation of Hakotou Shoten (est. 1891 / Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto )
Hakotou Shoten is lined with beautifully painted Kiri (paulownia wood) boxes. The 1st generation moved from Hiroshima, famous for its paulownia wood, to Kyoto, and the company has been in business for 130 years. Mr. Yamada, the 5th generation, makes Kiri boxes that match the daily life, rather than traditional crafts that are used only for certain purposes. He makes his products under the slogan of “adding one more touch.” We interviewed Mr. Yamada to know about Hakotou Shoten’s Kiri boxes.
About Japanese Kiri boxes
Kiri wood breathes
Kiri boxes are unique due to their ability to maintain a constant level of humidity inside. Apparently, it has been used since the Heian period to store clothes of Prince Shotoku. At that time, there were no craftsmen who made Kiri boxes, so carpenters were making them. I guess the demand increased around the Edo period. In Japan, paulownia wood has been appreciated because it swells with moisture on humid days and dries out on hot days allowing air to flow through it easily.
New Approaches
Kiri boxes for everyday
There used to be dozens of places that made Kiri boxes in the west side of the Kamo River in Kyoto, but now most of them are gone. You can’t just keep making the same thing to remain. Painters can’t enjoy painting by keep doing the same thing. A long time ago, I made a Kiri box for ichimi (Japanese spice), and I experimented while using it myself, and found that as many foods contain moisture, so dirt stands out. In the end, I decided to make a toothpick holder or a stamp case. After all, glasses, jewelry, and precious metals are more suitable for Kiri boxes. For example, when we came up with new product such as a small box, customers said, ” If the lids are designed not to be opened, it can be used for jewelry holder. ” or ” I prefer to get the lid off with one hand.” then we would consider a new structure. In this way, there will be more uses for Kiri boxes and a wider variety of box shapes.

Our values
“Don’t think, just do”
I don’t think too much in my head but move my hands. I remember in the movie “Top Gun”, there was a line says “Don’t think, just do”.

About Succession
Following the Challenge
We listen to the feedback comes from various customers and continue to improve and take on new challenges. Succession is not so much about thinking 100 years into the future as it is about the continuation of the present.
Meaning of tradition
Spare one more effort
I only know the Kiri boxes that were made by the 1st generation and the predecessors, but I believe that tradition means to challenge new things while keeping the lessons. Our approach is to make sure that we don’t settle for “we’ve gone this far,” without compromise.