EYEVAN × KYOTO interview 03
“If traditional roofing tiles were bad, I would have stopped already”
Asada Tile Factory 3rd generation, Mr. Masahisa Asada (founded in 1911 / Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City)
Most of the objects around us are now made by machine, same for eyeglasses, some of them are cheaply made by machine, assembled by parts like a plastic toy. Asada Tile Factory still makes each tile by hand, preferring not to mechanize the tile making process. The process isn’t easy to imagine. We interviewed Mr. Masahisa Asada, the 3rd generation of the company, about the tiles and why he makes them by hand.
About Japanese roofing tile
Traditional tiles make the most sense for Japanese buildings
Founded in 1911, it was the newest tile company in Kyoto. When I took over the business, there were 10 Kyo-gawara tile makers, but now we are the last tile maker in Kyoto. If roofing tiles were bad, I would have stopped already but tiles make the most sense for Japanese buildings. The reason why people are shifting away from traditional tiles is, after all, the budget is too high. New roofing materials cost about half to one-third less than traditional roofing tiles. The budget is high, but as an initial investment, the tiles are the only thing that doesn’t have to be retouched until the building is gone. But for the housing manufacturers, it would reduce the number of their future work. I believe that once people start to realize this point, they will return to the tiles. Until then, I think we have to be patient. When you construct a building, you need to invest your money into the base, pillar, and roof, and everything else can be replaced or redone if you don’t like it. But these three can’t be easily replaced even if you get bored with them.
About Shoki the plague-queller
Shoki the plague-queller is a legendary hero
The “Shoki” is a decorative tile installed on the roof which is a legendary hero in China who has been believed to exorcised demons and cured diseases, as well as to drive away the god of plague and get rid of an evil spirit. In Japan, it was first installed on roofs in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) to get rid of evil spirits and evil luck. Asada Tile Factory is the only Kyo-gawara factory that makes”Shoki” today.
Handwork and Mechanization
We are still here because there are certain things that can’t be mechanized.
We are the only place that makes everything by hand. My father who was the previous generation once said to me, “it would be better if there was at least one handmade tile company,” and I think he was right. Roof tiles are being mechanized rapidly, and even while we are sleeping, they can be made as much as they want. So why are we still here? Because there are things that can’t be done by machines. For example, the mold could cost 10 million or millions of yen and if the required volume was small the mold would not be necessary. Sometimes it’s cheaper to make them by hand.
Things that are not negotiable
I want to create something that makes people happy
Afterall, I want to create something that makes people happy. Probably people think tiles are too expensive and don’t fit to their budget, but I have started showing the process so that they can understand the value not only the price. So, I think that makes it a little easier.
Good things will stay
I have a feeling that if it’s good enough, it will remain as a tradition. So, I would like to create something that can remain as a tradition.