Preserving the History of Nagasaki Tortoiseshell with Unique Techniques: 'bekkoanryu'
Preserving the History of Nagasaki Tortoiseshell with Unique Techniques: 'bekkoanryu'
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Tortoiseshell crafts, made skillfully from turtle shells, claws, and plastrons, have a history of over 300 years. In Nagasaki, these crafts have been thriving since ancient times due to the abundance of raw materials, and in 2017, 'Nagasaki Tortoiseshell' was designated as a traditional craft of the country. One of the companies preserving this history and technology is 'bekkoanryu'.
This time we have interviewed Shinji Fujiwara and Yoshimi Fujiwara of the company to talk about the manufacturing methods, charm, and challenges faced by tortoiseshell crafts.
Shinji Fujiwara

Born on September 27, 1962
After graduating from industrial high school, he joined a construction company and obtained Class 1 certification in Civil Engineering Works Execution Management.
He joined his current job in 2006.

Yoshimi Fujiwara

Born on August 25, 1968.
After graduating from a junior college, she worked as a kindergarten teacher. After marriage, she worked part-time and also helped with the family business.
She formally joined her current job in 2009.

Only 3 Companies Handle Both Manufacturing & Selling Tortoiseshell Products

Can you tell us about your company first?
Yoshimi Bekkoanryu was founded by my father, Tatsuo Yasuda, in 1969. My father was always full of different ideas, constantly taking on challenges and bringing a fresh perspective to the tortoiseshell industry.

However, he never tried to patent even his own invented techniques. It seems his mindset was, "In Nagasaki, it's important to develop tortoiseshell, so it's not good to monopolize it." He used to say, "As long as tortoiseshell products spread, Nagasaki's tourism industry will also thrive. That's all I need."

While we used to only manufacture tortoiseshell products almost 100% of the time, we have recently started selling them online as well, and we are thinking the proportion of sales will gradually increase in the future. Also, we have a joint booth with several companies at Nagasaki Airport, where we sell our products.

We have products with designs that haven't changed since my father's time, but we also remake and sell products in contemporary designs.

Shinji, when did you start getting involved in manufacturing?
Shinji I started 18 years ago, helping with the manufacturing of tortoiseshell products. My father-in-law was more about 'learning by watching' style instead of teaching from scratch, and we often got into arguments, to the point where people around us were surprised. I was worried about whether I could keep up with him because he was a strict person.

Yoshimi My father was kind to others, but he was tough on the family. He was strict with both of us.

Shinji I also have a mind to stick to my own ideas, so I've often spoken up.

At that time, the products were selling well, so we just had to produce a lot. My father-in-law thought "cheap and fast," but I thought "cheap but careful, as fast as possible."

With my father-in-law's method, we could finish 100 products in 3~4 days, but with my method, it took a week to make 100 products. We often had arguments because of our different ways of thinking.

Yoshimi Now that it's difficult for my father to work anymore, we continue to manufacture as the core of our team.
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