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From Value One, Summer 2015 No. 49  

Craftspeople in Sumida City work efficiently even in the limited space of their workshops (Hamano Products)

The Edokko No. 1 is a deep-sea research vehicle jointly developed by small backstreet workshops and universities. The vehicle attracted public attention when it succeeded in photographing deep-sea fishes in the Sea of Japan at a depth of around 7,800 meters in November 2013. The workshop partner in the project, Hamano Products Co., Ltd., is engaged in a wide range of operations—such as precision machining and pressing of sheet metal—and from design to development and assembly according to customer demands. "The most advanced research laboratories are concentrated in Tokyo, so there is no reason that we should not rely on their intelligence," says President Keiichi Hamano, who is committed to projects that combine the craftsman skills of the Shitamachi area with the research of universities. Sumida City—where Tokyo Skytree is located—is second only to Ota City in Tokyo in its number of backstreet workshops. Since the Edo Period (1603–1867), the area has been a center of craftsmanship, and even today it boasts many workshops, some processing metals while others producing textile or leather products. The number of workshops is now only a third of its peak level, but the technicians working in them are proud of their vital roles in supporting the craftsmanship of Japan with their dazzling skills and products.

Ultima Co., Ltd. is a developer of adjustable metal grips for stainless steel wire rods. It developed an original metal grip that automatically locks when a wire is inserted, and can be easily adjusted by manipulating the attached pin. These grips have been applied to various products, including suspensions for hanging art or lights, wires to keep birds away, and products for greening walls. "We would like to prove that even small businesses can contribute to the world as long as they have ideas and technical skills," Ultima President Takayuki Aoshika says.

Yoshizumi Press Inc. is a company adept at die making and precision pressing. President Iwao Yoshizumi reflects on the past: "To survive, we had to concentrate on precision machining that our competitors could not do." The company conducts machining on various parts for mobile phones and stationery goods, and company strives for high-precision machining to the hundredth of a millimeter. Recently, the company teamed up with designers to produce and commercialize stainless steel wall hooks excelling in aesthetic quality.

People tend to think of backstreet workshops as subcontractors of large companies. However, by proposing innovative ideas and polishing their skills, they can create new business models. The small workshops of Sumida City prove this is possible.
Sumida City Gymnasium also uses Ultima-made greening wires


Wall hooks developed by Yoshizumi Press in collaboration with a designer


High precision to a hundredth of a millimeter is required (Yoshizumi Press)


President Hamano riding the electric vehicle Hokusai-III


The completion of Tokyo Skytree has raised interest in Sumida City. The city government is using this opportunity to emphasize traditional craftsmanship. Takahide Gunji, director of Sumida City's Industrial Economy Section, admits that the true reason for hosting Tokyo Skytree was to revitalize the city's industry. The plan is to spotlight Sumida City's craftsmanship since the completion of Tokyo Skytree has caused many visitors from Japan and abroad to come to the city. "Genuine technical strength reinforced with tradition can be competitive in the world," Gunji says.
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