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From Value One, Spring 2006 No. 12  

Tsubame City in Niigata Prefecture is a major metal-processing center. Its technical standards are so high that Tsubame's products are used at the Nobel Prize award dinners. On December 10 every year, the Nobel Prize award ceremony is held in Sweden. Only one manufacturer supplies metal flatware for use in the banquet that follows the ceremony. The manufacturer is Yamazaki Kinzoku Kogyo Co., Ltd., of Tsubame. When the Nobel Foundation decided in 1991 to have special metal flatware made for the Nobel Prize's 90th anniversary dinner, it selected Yamazaki as the supplier. Ever since then, Yamazaki's metal flatware has been used at every annual banquet. It was around 1915, some nine decades ago, that mass production of metal flatware began in Tsubame City. As flatware factories in Europe and Russia were converted into munitions factories to meet the growing military needs of World War I, export orders for metal flatware came to metal-processing companies in Tsubame. According to Kobayashi Industrial Company Ltd., the first firm to manufacture Western-styled metal flatware in Japan, "Metal-processing companies here who first saw metal flatware, wondered how they could make such utensils. They thought, 'We cannot make such things.' Yet, they mobilized their creativeness and inventiveness and made excellent products. Tsubame cutlers have a 'dauntless spirit' who can overcome any hardship." In the local dialect, this "dauntless spirit" is called noragi. Noragi represents the soul of Tsubame cutlers. Metal flatware are products of a precision industry. The whole process, from the choice of a high quality material (18-8 stainless steel) to the final polishing, requires very delicate sensitivity. Tsubame's metal flatware represent the crystalization of noragi and "sensitivity."
The cutting and grinding processes determine the finish of spoons and forks. Here you can find the very essence of craftsmanship.
 
The 1991 Nobel Prize dinner held at Stockholm's City Hall.
 
 
 
Finishing a single spoon or fork takes more than 30 steps of manual work.
 
 
 
The material used is 18-10 or 18-8 stainless steel.


Kyodo Tenjikan Tsubame (Tsubame Cooperative Exhibition Hall)
3633, Koike, Tsubame City, Niigata
Tel: +81-256-64-4681
Open: 9:00 to 17:00, 365 days a year
Admission free


According to the Japan Metal Flatware Industry Association (President: Masakatsu Tanaka), metal flatware shipments from Tsubame total some 12 billion a year. The sum has been declinging since a peak of about 41.5 billion was reached in 1984, the year just before the Plaza Accord. At present, many manufacturers are surviving by concentrating on high-end products. Tsubame metal flatware is exhibited and sold at Kyodo Tenjikan Tsubame (Tsubame Cooperative Exhibition Hall).
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