Oyamazaki, Kyoto Prefecture. There is a company called Nagaoka Meichiku Co., Ltd in Oyamazaki, Kyoto which has overcome various difficulties. With the use of traditional skills handed down traditional techniques handed down from generation to generation, the company develops products that meet the needs of modern society as well as involving in media activity. In this interview, we spoke with Akihiro Mashimo, the president of the company.
—Could you let us know about your career since your childhood.
I was born in Kanagawa Prefecture, lived there until the age of five, and then moved to Nagaokakyo (Kyoto city), a town of bamboo. I had spent my time in Nagaokakyo from kindergarden to high school, and after graduating from high school, I took a year off. Then, I enrolled in a traditional crafts college. After 2 years of college life, I started a career at Nagaoka Meichiku Co., Ltd. Bamboo has been a symbol of my life since I was five years old, and I was very familiar with it because there were so many bamboo trees in the town. When I was little, I saw someone making baskets made out of bamboo. I had never seen such a work and it amazed me a lot!
—You have been doing the same job since the graduation from your college. Did you ever have any idea or interest to get another job?
I have never had such feelings because I was able to do what I liked and there were no quotas. But there were different things that bothered me.
―Can you tell me about the difficulties?
The number of people in the company was reduced from eight to three, and there was an accident that the company’s building was burned down.
Some people might think that such a series of hardships would cause me to consider leaving the company, but I did not. My representative at the time did not make the decision to close down the business. As for me, I thought, “I can only do this, so I will continue this. The other person also quit the job, but I decided to follow my boss because me Including him had no other choice.
After that, we analyzed the company activities in detail and introduced B-to-C business within the company. For this new project, we created catalogs, websites, and flyers. In order to survive in the future, we needed to reform the company.
―You must have had a tough experience. Is there anyone you see as a role model?
This would be Hiroshi Tanahashi from New Japan Pro-Wrestling (Japanese professional wrestler). Mr. Tanahashi devoted himself to New Japan Pro-Wrestling during the downturn in professional wrestling and successfully achieved a V-shaped recovery. I believe that pro wrestling is a great entertainment, and the craftsmanship is also same. We want people to enjoy and be pleased with our work. Our business is all about this.
—That’s so cool! Do you have a favorite word that motivate you to work hard?
”Take everything and move forward”, the word by Mr. Tanahashi. I have experienced l lots of hardships, but I thought I had to accept them. Mr. Tanahashi left the word to go further based on that premise. After hearing the word, I thought that I could only move forward. No matter what happens, keep moving forward and forward. We take one more step when we can do. I think this accumulation of efforts makes me grow up as a craftsman. The accumulation of 99 and the 100 are very different in a long-term, and we have to work even harder as we are in this industry.
―What is it that only you and only this company can do?
To be honest, I think when I compared myself with someone, they always look better. I know it’s not “the grass is always greener on the other side”, but I try not to look at other people, and respect my own way so I can’t really compare. However, our strength lies in the fact that we have been able to appear in the media, newspapers, and TV so far, and have collaborated with Adventure World for our SDGs activity as our entatainment strategy. I would like to continue to work on various modern initiatives.
—I see that you are working on a variety of initiatives. Finally, could you please let us know your plans for the future?
In the future, I would like to incorporate new things greedily. The spirit of challenge is the most important thing, and if I find any opportunity, I would like to work on it. Rather than just selling my products as usual, I want to work on it with some ideas. Bamboo is flexible, so I would like to collaborate with various things.