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Open KOUBA! Four days in autumn to have fun of production area at “Tsubame Sanjo Factory Festival”

Published : November 1, 2016
Production area : 燕三条 工場の祭典
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Hi, I’m Yoko from SUNCHI editorial desk.
On this “EVENT REPORT”, we step out to the craft event venues all around Japan and report its charm.
This time we went to “Tsubame Sanjo Factory Festival” held in Tsubame Sanjo area in Niigata Prefecture on October 6th to 9th.

This area is famous for the metal work since Muromachi period, 1336-1573. Despite its long history, Kouba or factories almost haven’t been open to the consumer. On this annual event these factories will be open to the public, and visitors will be able to have a conversation with the craftspeople while watching their work closely, and furthermore various craft experiences at their workshops will be available, too. It’s so special opportunity.

In this year of the fourth time, 13 farmers from the area, it’s actually famous for the quality rice production, took part in as well as 78 metal ware factories. The products infused with their affection were available at 5 shops, too. “Kouba” has a triple meaning here, that is factory, farm, and shop.


Are you ready?
———Open KOUBA!

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“Gyokusendo” is a well-established company, just having marked its 200 years, who carries on the traditional “Tsuiki” copperware created by hammering and shaping a single copper sheet. Mr.Yamada, the General Manager who lectured us was the chief executive committee of the festival. Many were listening to its history.







The only hammer sound of rhythmical clang was echoed through the quiet workplace. It was amazing that the round and beautiful shape was formed from the plain copper plate! T-shirt they were putting on was designed with pink and silver stripes, inspired by the fire and the metal ware. It was eye catching.

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Gyokusendo is the only company who owns the multicolor technique.

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During the event, the room on the 2nd floor was used for the rest area. Many visitors were walking about the Gyokusendo house and enjoying the old ambience.


“Hizukurino Uchiyama” makes “wakugi” or Japanese nails. Japanese nails are indispensable for the repair work of the old architecture such as temples, shrines, and cultural properties. The kind of nail required depends.

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This is a nail named “Kanto kugi” with a curled head. When it’s utterly fixed along with the wood grain, the head will be flattened and it won’t come to the surface. They held a wakugi workshop. The craftsperson, Mr. Uchiyama showed us how to make it.

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Hammer a heated iron rhythmically and make the head of a nail curled. He just took a few minutes to make a piece. Each piece was made with care. I will be looking in every nook and cranny to see the metal wares on my next visit to a shrine or a temple.

“Ohizumi Bussan”, having won the admiration in the world for its elaborate stainless processing technology, held the spoon workshop. They make cutlery for the Denmark Royal Warrant KAY BOJESEN.

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The participants nervously set the plate onto the machine to cut a flat plate like a spatula into a spoon shape.

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He pressed the spoon handle to make it curved. His hands’ move was quick and steady.

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After careful repetitive polishing work, it was finished to a perfect shiny spoon. The self made spoon will be delivered after engraved with their name on it. That’s so exciting!

“Hocho Kobo Tadafusa” makes various hand made kitchen knives since their establishment.

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On their factory tour, the ear phones were distributed to each visitor so that their instruction could be heard.

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They showed us each 20 procedures in order.

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It was the 2nd generation, Mr. Tadaichiro Sone who worked for the last step of applying the handle to the knife. He’s still an active worker.

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The 3rd, Mr. Tadayuki Sone was explaining about knives at the factory shop which was opened on the occasion of the last time. The shop was very busy with visitors who wanted to have knives after the factory tour. They will give any advice about knives like how to sharpen. That’s reassuring for customers.

“Kondou Seisakujo” is a blacksmith which have been making hoe by forging. Forging is a time-honored method to make the metal stronger by beating it. Blades and arms have been made by forging.

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Various hoe and spade were seated in rows. They said the shape depends on a locality and they make every hoe and spade to order. They value the local character and users’ affection to the tool.

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The factory manager, Mr. Kazutoshi Kondo is an institution on the factory with charming smile. He can’t stop talking about hoe once he started.

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At their workshop, the hoe making of one’s own was available. This couldn’t be experienced anywhere else.

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Being overwhelmed by the heavy duty machines though, the workshop was in a friendly atmosphere as Mr.Kondo and other craftspeople attentively instructed us.

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Participants, such as families, a system engineer who came by himself from a distance, people who didn’t look like doing it, shared the experience at the workshop. “I’ve joined this workshop because I thought I won’t have a chance to make a hoe by myself anymore!” Everyone looked having so much fun. It’s a rare once-in-lifetime experience.

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A welding part was made by a professional, naturally. A hoe made by one self will be a treasure of lifetime.

Many other factories were colored in the pink stripe, but we proceeded to the next area.
——— Open, KOUBA!

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