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Date : December 13 - 14, 2010

Video Report: Gunma Press Tour (December 13-14, 2010)

post date : 2013.08.23

■Gunma Press Tour (December 13-14, 2010)~Potential of Gunma’s Inherited Manufacturing Gene~





~Takasaki Daruma, Blowing off the Recession~
Daimonya(Takasaki City)
Mr. Sumikazu Nakata, President of the Daimonya
Currently, Takasaki City has 55 Daruma manufacturers, who are our union members. It is hard to tell the exact annual production but I suppose we produce some 900,000 dolls each year. As you may know, the key industry of Gunma prefecture used to be sericulture, silk production. Generally speaking, it was silkworms that influenced the shape of the Takasaki Daruma, which resembles a cocoon.
If you draw in one of its eyes, the Daruma doll grants your request - otherwise its other eye will not be drawn. Here, you can see people write down their wish. “Bumper cocoons” or “Safety of the family” were popular wishes among us. In other words, it means to be able to harvest plenty of cocoons.
Deputy Governor Akio Shigehara, Gunma prefecture
Each cocoon is made of a single thread, as you know. The silk-thread manufacturer spins threads together. Then the textile worker weaves the thread. All three processes go on in here. That is the distinctive characteristic of Gunma prefecture, which is unlike any other part of Japan. By all means, we have to hand down our silk industry as a part of Japanese culture to the next generation. Probably it is already difficult to continue as an industry but rather as a culture. Nevertheless, even without support from the central government, we think it is the duty of the Gunma prefectural government to preserve this culture.
~Revival of “Gunma Silk” ~
Milanorib Ltd(Kiryu city)
President Harumi Sasaguchi
We have invented the technique of dyeing the cocoon itself before the process of spinning it. By spinning this colored cocoon, we succeeded in producing a new kind of raw silk, with which we make the color we want by mixing different cocoons. This item is an example of using this technique. Japan produces only 300t of cocoons annually, nowadays. Of that 300t, Gunma prefecture produces 60% of the silk cocoons and 80% of the raw silk, and the rate has remained quite high. With the current movement to preserve the silk industry’s culture, eight years have passed since we started a special contract with them to purchase the whole amount of cocoons they produced throughout the year, thus guaranteeing them a steady income. 
~Sweep the World with Ribbed Fabric~
Matsui Knitting Crafts Mfg., Ltd.,(Kiryu City)
President Tomoji Matsui
This old knitting machine was made in the 1960s. Now this type of machine barely exists in Japan, apart from tens of machines you can see still working here in Kiryu city.
Managing Director Toshio Matsui
One day, a designer and buyer from the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), visited us to start a deal. Since then, we have been receiving a huge amount of orders. Then, we established our own brand. If it can be a big seller at a museum in New York, we thought it should be the same in Japanese museums. So, we started dealing with museums in Japan, and retailers such as the Conran Shop. Our product can also be found in Chinzan-so, duty free shops in Haneda and Narita Airports and a five-star hotel at Yufuin. Our product, as you can see, ribbed knitting itself is a one-of-a-kind technique. It cannot be copied by others. This knitting technique and original coloration is gaining a high reputation in Japan. At this moment, sales of our own brand exceed sales of the original equipment manufacturer.
President Tomoji Matsui 
 Previously, we talked about museums selling our products but our product is not an art itself. Shall I say it is among the arts and crafts. Our concept is quite similar to that of the Bauhaus movement in Germany. Combining arts and crafts, that is the product we are aiming to develop.
Deputy Governor Akio Shigehara, Gunma prefecture
 As I mentioned earlier, even though the key industry of Gunma used to be the silk industry, from silkworms to textiles, the production centers have now shifted to China, Taiwan and Korea from Japan. But still, there are a few enthusiastic entrepreneurs you might have visited already, inventing special products and activating the industry from the bottom up. 
~The Only Mass Producer of Ukuleles in Japan~
Mitsuba Gakki Co. Ltd., (Maebashi City)
President Shigeru Osawa
Our company has been producing ukuleles for 50 years. Once we heavily exported to the USA. Lately, we are mainly supplying them to the domestic market. Around 1978, the demand declined and most of the domestic ukulele makers closed down during that period. After a while, in the 90s, the ukulele boom came back to Japan. Historically, the ukulele was just an accompaniment of Hawaiian music. However, it is now gaining popularity as an instrument itself and it sells steadily. 
Apart from manufacturing, they also teach ukulele at local schools.
Deputy Governor Akio Shigehara, Gunma prefecture
Around the 1920s, an airplane manufacturer was located in Gunma prefecture. This was Nakajima Airplanes, which manufactured fighter jets such as the Zero and Hayabusa. After the Second World War, Nakajima Airplanes was broken up and became the foundation of the modern Japanese car industry now.
~Local Production of Sustainable Energy for Local Consumption~
Ministry of the Environment “Challenge 25% Community Development Project”(Kiryu City)
Visiting Professor Shuji Matsumura, Department of Mechanical System Engineering, Gunma University
Major brands of electric cars are very expensive due to the cost of batteries right now. So it cannot be the car for everyone and contribute to the reduction of CO2. Our feeling is that there is much room for improvement.
Professor Kenji Amagai, Graduate school of engineering,Gunma University
The aim is to make a remarkably low-priced electric car. Long journeys may still require an ordinary car but there are potential markets for this kind of small EV for limited use such as commuting and grocery shopping nearby. Our target is the niche market. For the coming century, it is important to provide a car that fits the town and to build infrastructure which makes use of the features of the town. The future ideal is a shift towards the localization of car manufacturing. To sum up, the future of manufacturing is by local industry, for local people. 
Hideo Kaneko, Planning Division, Kiryu City 
Effective use of a small hydroelectric plant in a mountainous area; the small hydroelectric plant generates power and charges storage batteries. Then the Watarase Keikoku railway carries the charged batteries to a power station located in the city center, when they are used for charging electric cars and electric assisted-bicycles. We inaugurated this project as “Local Production of Sustainable Energy for Local Consumption.” 
Professor Kenji Amagai, Graduate school of engineering,Gunma University
We are not certain that if this will flourish as a brand new industry but we are aiming for that at least. We persuade local enterprises into collaboration for making electric cars for the local community, to differentiate from major car manufacture. We hope to achieve that.

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