Former president Koichi Fujiki


Former president Koichi Fujiki

Our collections is always changing.
Enlivening the craftsmanship is our way of passing on tradition.

A SHOZUTSU tea caddy that shows the high polishing skill of the craftsman.

What I realized through managing the company as the 6th generation head of DENSHIRO.

Fujiki Denshiro Shoten Co., Ltd. was founded in 1851, and I am the 6th generation president of the company. cherry bark ware was begun as a side business of low-ranking samurai, and our company was founded as a cherry bark ware wholesaler. It was in 1976 when we started making our own cherry bark ware and in that same year, our 5th generation president established the Kumosawa Factory. Since then, we have been making our own original collections and have asked other craftsman to make products for us. Currently, the total number of craftsmen in our industry is approximately 50. It was said that there were more than 200 craftsmen when cherry bark ware was started. But I believe the total number is dramatically declining. cherry bark ware is only made in Kakunodate, so the total sales and number of people involved are fewer than in other traditional craft industries.

After I graduated from university, I started working at a department store. I then entered the Fujiki Denshiro Shoten in 1989. Because I had experience in working at the department store, I believed that department stores had the biggest sales channels and I visited many of them for business. This effort led us to our highest ever sales in 2005. However, at the same time, I started to feel a sense of stagnation in the domestic market. And I started to think about the importance of creating new collections and exploring new markets, including overseas markets. In 2005, we introduced our new collection, the “Tsubo Tsubo” series. We painted tea caddies in red and black, then attached details from the Tsubo Tsubo pattern (a tea ceremony related pattern) and flower petals made from limpet shells. This series had a good reception, but we weren’t able to reach beyond the usual markets for folk craft. When I thought about people’s current lifestyles, I thought that it might not have been a good match…

It is an important job to ask our staff about the reactions of our customers.
DENSHIRO team members come from Tokyo to Akita every month for more detailed communication.

Meeting the designer. Taking a new step forward.

In 2008, the Lehman Shock incident occurred and it affected our company as well. We were working hard to create new collections through a trial and error process, but we weren’t working with a designer, nor were we really focusing on contemporary creations. We are also craftsmen. We may not make cherry bark ware by ourselves, but we do understand the crafting techniques and couldn’t break away from a craftsman’s perspective. When I started to feel that I was reaching my limit, I met a designer, Mr. Kaichiro Yamada, at the interior lifestyle exhibition in 2009. We hit it off right away. I felt that he was a passionate and hardworking person. So we decided to work together.

I asked Mr. Yamada for a tea caddy design and told him, “I would like to make a contemporary tea caddy, one which doesn’t only use cherry bark”. I wanted to make a tea caddy that would fit in the lifestyle of an apartment in the city. The design he came up with was the “Wazutsu”. When I first saw the design, I instinctively felt that it was a good design. But I was also worried that it would be technically difficult. It was logically possible to make. However, when I thought about the crafting techniques of cherry bark ware, I wondered whether it would be possible to make it. The main characteristic of cherry bark ware tea caddies is their high airtightness that is obtained by making the outer and inner cylinders from one wooden mold. So if we did not slice an outer cylinder into pieces and just attached different materials to it instead, wouldn’t it no longer be cherry bark ware. It would be able to be made by anyone. It was important to execute the design in a way that still cut the outer cylinder into several pieces which could then be shuffled to make one new cylinder that would show the unique cherry bark ware crafting technique, “Katamono”.

“WAZUTSU” that can fit into our everyday lives. It also has a high airtightness.
Mr. Kaichiro YAMADA also designs our booth at the Maison and Objet.

Creating new collections, advancing overseas. Adapting cherry bark ware to preserve it

We value the concepts of “tradition” and “handing down”. What we think of as “tradition” is preserving the industry of cherry bark ware. We do this by changing our collections and sales strategies to suit the needs of each era. This way of thinking is exemplified by our WAZUTSU collection. This is a new collection with a modern twist, but it follows the traditional techniques of cherry bark ware. So even if our authentic and traditional collections became no longer popular, we would still have the modern WAZUTSU, and our craftsman would continue to be able to work. This is what we think of as “handing down”. We do not wish to make the same designs of tea caddies for the next 100 years. I think that this would be impossible, no matter how good the collection was. That is something we need to keep changing. What we should not change is the craftsmanship technique. This is something that only cherry bark ware can do.

Since 2009, we have been exhibiting our products at an international exhibition called “Maison and Objet” in Paris, France. Through that exhibition, we are now selling our collections to Christian Dior in Paris and making collaboration collections with the well-established silverware company, “Christofle”. Thankfully, the amount of overseas development is increasing in my company. I especially feel that people in Europe have a culture that can understand the value of cherry bark ware. The cherry bark ware industry can be found only in Kakunodate, not anywhere else in Japan or in the world. We will continue to put effort into reaching our aim of making our brand a global standard. To achieve this goal, we will need to upgrade our collections and make an environment to train future generations. DENSHIRO alone will not be able to sustain this industry. We are willing to work together and learn together with other cherry bark ware companies to preserve our industry. I just hope to be a bit ahead of the pack.

Some pieces from the collaborative collection between DENSHIRO and Christofle.

Koichi Fujiki

Creating contemporary collections, and advancing into overseas markets – this is all to enliven craftsmanship.
DENSHIRO is moving forward to pass on the traditions to the next generation.

Koichi Fujiki

Former president

Koichi Fujiki

Born in Kakunodate-machi, Senboku city, Akita in 1962. After graduating from the School of Business Administration in Meiji University, he worked at the Seibu department store. In 1989, he entered Fujiki Denshiro Shoten Co., Ltd. Became the 6th generation president of the company in 2001. Died in 9 September 2015.