Kohchosai Kosuga, a creator of bamboo crafts was founded in 1898 and carries on the spirit of its founder who worked as the official painter of the 11th Tokugawa feudal lord of Kishu province Kenryu Ko. Cutlery, interior goods and bags made out of bamboo are the key products of the company.
The company’s store is located on the first floor of the Royal Park Hotel in Kyoto. When you enter the store, chopsticks, lunch boxes, tea whisks and other sundries are lined up. If you go farther, flower baskets, bamboo bags and more fashionable items are in store. The crafts decorating the store walls surround customers with the special qualities of bamboo.
Tatsuyuki Kosuga, Managing Director of the company, succeeded the family business ten years ago. At the time, the financials of the company were in poor condition, and Kosuga felt that it was his vocation to preserve the over 100-year heritage of his family business. He also had a conviction that bamboo could still remain in the hearts of Japanese people through new approaches catered towards current society.
The bamboo cutlery series “Minotake” in collaboration with designer Makoto Koizumi emerged five years ago and continues to be popular. The series targets those who want to own something that reflects their true values and makes them feel comfortable, and not something that was influenced by the plethora of advertising surrounding us. The collection highlights the refined natural curves characteristic to bamboo.
Around the same time as the launch of the Minotake series, Kosuga was in search of a new brand concept that would represent the feelings of the artisans and the teachings of the predecessors. He reevaluated the target customer groups in order to create the right types of products to market.
The company also lines up a collection of wallets and phone cases which fuse the work of leather artisans from Italy and bamboo weaves created in Japan. The project began when Kosuga visited the artisans in Italy and showed them the bamboo weaves. The artisans were instantly charmed by the bamboo and asked to use it to create new products. Both bamboo and leather change appearances through use, and the unique lineup brings together the best of both worlds.
Recently, the company has started doing business with a select shop in Taiwan. At the shop, flowers are arranged in the bamboo baskets created by Kohchosai Kosuga and bring out the beauty of the furniture designed by Hans Wegner which decorates the interior.
“The one thing that remains the same is our mission to expand the possibilities of bamboo and elevate its value,” said Kosuga. Bamboo has been prevalent in Japan since the Jomon period, and it is the company’s calling to take on this mission.
Kosuga adds that he is fascinated by the words of Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo, who said, “To become international, you must be national.”