Be thee small, thy manufacturers of Japan

Months ago I planned on writing an elaborate post about small and mid-sized businesses in Japan. But 18 months later I’ve only just returned to this post, so I’ll just share some photos and brief thoughts.

The city of Kawaguchi is just across the river from Tokyo; the city has an industrial history, so I wasn’t surprised to find a number of small factories and workshops lining the river. For various reasons, these factories make me happy – firms that make things and engage with the physical world. You can accuse me of romanticizing labor, I don’t mind. These companies are an antidote to the sterile corporate aesthetic that dominates the high-rent office districts of Tokyo, such as:

Back in Kawaguchi there’s a company, called (株)ミクロン Micron. Its product is precision spring manufacturing 精密バネ製造, from what I can tell. Location: 埼玉県川口市東領家3-25-11 (map)

The following is (probably) Masakazu submersible pump (Ltd.) Kawaguchi factory 正和水中ポンプ(株)川口エ場  (map)

And some views of the neighborhood as night falls:

See also:


  1. I was stationed at Camp Drake in Asaka, Saitama-ken in 1973-74. I started going on Saturdays to an art foundry in Kawaguchi, Okamiya Bijutsu Chuzo, (3-14-7, Motogo, Kawaguchi) to cast small plasticine sculptures I’d made in my billets. Okamiya-san didn’t have time for little stuff (they were then casting the statues of the kamikaze pilot and widowed family that now stand at the Yasukuni Shrine). So he turned me over to Nakao-san who was doing lost wax casting in a corner of the foundry, and Nakao-san was kind enough to help me sand cast a couple pieces. Unfortunately, my unit moved to Kanagawa-ken soon thereafter.

    At that time, Japan was the cheapest place in the world to cast bronze sculpture. For example, in 1972-73 in the evenings while studying Chinese at the Presidio of Monterey, I used to go to the art center at Fort Ord, where the teacher—a draftee from Washington State, sculptor Rick Lutz— had been ordered by the base commandant to make a monumental bronze drill sergeant (that was his Army job, and he was taking his time to use up his full two year obligation). Even with overseas shipping back and forth it was cheaper to have it cast in Japan than anywhere else. That sculpture is the only thing that still remains at that base.

    The drive from Asaka to Kawaguchi was also memorable for the magnificent embanked flood plains of the Arakawa, so spacious. There also was a delicious Sapporo ichiban ramen-ya as you drove into Kawaguchi.

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