Wooden Weapon Workshop Horinouchi closing
The end of a golden age
For a decade, Seido has been deeply involved in assisting/counseling its partner craftsmen to help them going through this difficult time.
Today, it is with heavy sadness in our hearts that we have to publicly announce that we failed at providing enough support to the Horinouchi workshop, to the point that the workshop is closing mid-September 2019.
Let's start with a quick translation of the letter we received from the workshop in early August 2019.
The letter from master craftsman Horinouchi Osamu
We are contacting you today to announce the closing of our company.
We have been in the Budo wooden weapons business since 1956 [TN: the founder started his craft in 1923], and have decided to close the company in September 2019.
This decision was taken for several reasons. Bad economic conditions, the significant drop in timber quality, and also because of the impossibility to find qualified craftsmen to carry on the craft.
Orders will be processed until September 9th and the company will definitely close its doors on September 20th, 2019.
Thank you very much for your understanding and for your continued support.
August, first year of the Reiwa eraHorinouchi Noboru Seisakujo
Aging population & Bad business practices
Japan's number one problem is its aging population. It strikes every day, everywhere.
From a total workforce of about 20 craftsmen a few years ago, some already retired, the majority will retire in September, and only 3 of them will continue at the Aramaki workshop.
The Budo equipment industry’s number one problem is the structure of its logistic. For decades, middlemen, merchants like us but with a different approach and ethics, have been applying pressure on craftsmen to stop them from raising their prices. (More on this topic in our interview with master craftsman Nidome Yoshiaki, available on our Youtube channel)
If the Horinouchi workshop closes today, it is also because of this absurd policy. Maintaining prices too low prevented the craftsmen from acquiring higher quality wood on the one hand, and from paying themselves correctly on the other hand.
This resulted in a drop in quality, which itself resulted in diminishing the craftsmen pride. This also resulted in the impossibility to motivate the younger generation to work in this field. No pride, no money, who would like to carry on the tradition under those conditions?
So what now ?
The Horinouchi workshop had a unique expertise and was the only workshop manufacturing some very specific weapons for tens of thousands of Koryu practitioners around the globe.
Because the Horinouchi workshop never really worked closely with the other three, the main challenge is to transfer the knowledge from one workshop to the others, with very little help from the Horinouchi workshop itself.
Fortunately, Seido has been documenting precisely dozens of weapons and thanks to our own private collection, we should be able to have almost all of the Horinouchi original products manufactured at the Aramaki workshop.
But prices will increase. A lot.
The first and very logical reason is that Horinouchi had all its machines set up for its own production. For another workshop to make such arrangements would take years, maybe decades, so the least produced items will be entirely handmade, which will result in a price increase of 50 to 200%, depending on the items.
The second and very good reason is that if we want the Aramaki workshop to survive, they absolutely need to increase their prices.
Production times might also increase quite a bit but we don't know yet. No one knows at this point and we will display the new timings as soon as we know them.
The truth is, the Horinouchi workshop represented about half the production capacity of all the industry. Its sudden disappearance will shake the Budo equipment world as well as practitioners themselves, for quite a while. Being the only company that has been working with all 4 workshops simultaneously for years, and because we have a passion for wooden weapons, there is no doubt that Seido will have an important role to play in this process. We will work tirelessly with all the remaining craftsmen to stabilize the situation and help them find solutions for the future.
--- Current Situation for Ordering Online ---
We will progressively switch all our products from the Horinouchi workshop to the Aramaki workshop. We will update their prices and pictures as soon as humanly possible.
It may take a few months until we sort out everything with the craftsmen though.
Until the end of August, you can order any product made by the Horinouchi workshop. From September 1st, we will start suspending orders for some products for which we do not have yet a solution.
If you have any specific request, feel free to contact us via our contact form and we will get back to you asap.
This is World Heritage!! It should be preserved.
Probably, yes, as we’re taking care of this right now. But it will take some time, and it will be more expensive than it currently is because it will be entirely handmade.
Is Shindo Yoshin Ryu bokken will be made by Aramaki shop going forward?
So sad to hear this :(