Fresh talent brings new thinking to Kyoto, city of tradition
Nikkei -- Jan 18
Kyoto boasts Japan's largest concentration of traditional crafts. Despite the pall the COVID-19 pandemic has cast over the country, young entrepreneurs with unorthodox backgrounds are bringing new thinking and innovation to Japan's ancient capital.

One is 42-year-old Masataka Hosoo, who last August became president of Kyoto-based Hosoo. The company produces nishijin-ori, a traditional textile made in the Nishijin district of Kyoto that is often used in kimonos. Hosoo, who was once a musician, brought the tradition-defying spirit of punk rock to the 330-year-old family business.

About 12 years ago, Hosoo could not believe his eyes when an email from Peter Marino, a world-renowned architect, landed in his inbox. Marino, who has designed stores for luxury brands like Dior, had sent him a request to create a new type of nishijin-ori textile. The message would change his life.

While in high school, Hosoo was a fan of the English punk band Sex Pistols. He set his heart on becoming a musician and joined a record label after graduating from university. He later moved to Shanghai and launched an apparel brand that fused music and fashion. But success did not come easily to a young man who, by his own admission, did not even know the cost ratio of his inventory. When his brand folded, he returned to Japan and joined a jewelry brand management company. He intentionally stayed away from his old home. "I was afraid of the pull of the traditional industry -- that I couldn't escape it once I entered," he said.

His thinking changed after he learned about the family company's attempts to push into overseas markets. "Nishijin-ori is fighting overseas," he said. "That's punk." The company had taken part in trade shows in Paris since 2006, but without much success. When he joined the business in October 2008, Hosoo convinced management to let him work on the overseas expansion project for a year. In May 2009, a Hosoo obi -- the traditional sash worn with a kimono -- caught Marino's eye at an exhibition in New York.

Nishijin-ori, which uses dyed threads to create elegant patterns, dates back 1,200 years. The weaving technique, which makes fabric from thousands of individual threads, is among the most intricate in the world.

But Marino was looking for a modern design that "looked like molten iron," something that had never been done before. Moreover, there were no machines capable of producing the textile requested. Nishijin-ori fabric used for obis is 32 cm wide. Marino had requested a width of 150 cm. That would require a custom-built loom. Overcoming resistance within the company, Hosoo invested 20 million yen ($192,500) in the project and spent a year developing a loom with veteran craftsmen.

Hosoo's nishijin-ori were used to cover the walls and chairs of Dior's flagship store, which raised the Japanese company's profile considerably. Its customers now include such luxury brands as Louis Vuitton and high-end hotels like the Ritz Carlton.

Upon becoming president, Hosoo was determined to "expand the possibilities of nishijin-ori, so as to pass the baton that has been handed down for generations." The company's nishijin-ori were also used for the interior of Lexus' top-of-the-line sedan, the LS. Silver thread is woven into the doors' trim to evoke the image of moonlight shimmering on the ocean.

- Nikkei


Mar 08
Tokyo Metropoltan Police have arrested a 46-year-old man who is alleged to have attempted to kill a teenage girl after she requested that he do so online, reports the Mainichi Shimbun (tokyoreporter.com)
Mar 08
Police in Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, have arrested a 76-year-old woman on suspicion of killing her 83-year-old husband with a saw. (Japan Today)
Mar 08
Tokyo Metropolitan Police have arrested the president of an adult video (AV) production company over the alleged upload of illegal content to a sales site last year, reports the Asahi Shimbun. (tokyoreporter.com)
Mar 06
Two members of a criminal syndicate were shot during a fight in Isesaki City on Thursday, police said, reports Jiji Press (tokyoreporter.com)
Mar 06
Memorial services held online. Zen meditation apps. Buddhist temple-led match-making services. (Bloomberg)
Mar 06
The remains of a woman who went missing in the devastating 2011 Japan tsunami have been found and identified, police said on Friday, days before the 10th anniversary of the disaster. (aljazeera.com)
Mar 05
Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have made an online visit to Iwate, one of three northeastern prefectures hit hard by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (NHK)
Mar 04
Toko Shinoda, a Japanese avant-garde artist internationally renowned for her unique style of abstract sumi ink paintings, has died of natural causes. She was 107. (Kyodo)
Mar 04
Aichi Prefectural Police have arrested a male teacher over the alleged illicit filming of a woman in Okazaki City last month, reports Chukyo Television Broadcasting (tokyoreporter.com)
Mar 04
A woman in her 30s is believed to have committed suicide by setting herself on fire in the trunk of a vehicle in Hachioji City, police have revealed, reports Fuji News Network (tokyoreporter.com)
Mar 03
A middle school teacher in custody for allegedly abducting a girl last year has been further accused of paying another minor for sex, police have revealed, reports the Asahi Shimbun (tokyoreporter.com)
Mar 03
Shizuoka Prefectural Police have arrested four persons, including a Brazilian national, who are suspected members of a marijuana trafficking ring, reports Fuji News Network. (tokyoreporter.com)
Mar 02
More wayward souls caught up in the glitz and glamour of the illegal sea cucumber trade. (soranews24.com)
Mar 02
A group of Buddhist devotees in Japan subjected themselves to a freezing tradition known as waterfall meditation or Takigyo on February 28, 2021. (South China Morning Post)
Mar 02
Japanese police have arrested a man for fatally wounding a wild deer at a park in Nara City, western Japan. (NHK)
Feb 28
A man was arrested Sunday for allegedly killing his wife last year by pushing her off a balcony on the ninth floor of an apartment building in western Tokyo, police sources said. (Kyodo)
Feb 28
A manager of an outlet of chain restaurant Saizeriya has been accused of burglarizing another outlet, police have revealed, reports NHK (tokyoreporter.com)
Feb 28
The father of three children who were found dead in southwestern Japan has sustained serious injuries after jumping from a hotel building. (NHK)
Feb 28
Authorities are investigating a vandalism and fire at a Buddhist temple in the Little Tokyo section of downtown Los Angeles. (Japan Today)
Feb 27
A 42-year-old man was killed after he jumped from a platform and hit an oncoming train at Motomachi Station on the JR Kobe Line in Kobe on Friday. (Japan Today)