September 30, 2011 3:20 PM
▲ Minami-Hakone Seminar House
Hello! I'm Miyajima of Minami-Hakone Seminar House (Sumitomo Electric Group's training facility).
I know this may sound abrupt, but have you ever heard of Kannami-cho? It's the name of a town located in the "root" part of the Izu peninsula. The name can be traced back to its location, to the south of Mt. Hakone; the mountain used to be called "Kan-rei," and "nami" means "south" in Japanese. Minami-Hakone Seminar House ("the House") is established in a health resort area.
Today, I'd like to write about simple but attractive items sold in the House.
About three years ago, we at the House heard that our neighbors had some problems enjoying their right to sunlight, due to our Japanese cypress forest to the south of the House. As a result, we decided to cut down a total of 25 tall, stately cypress trees. Cutting down the trees allowed brilliant sunlight to come into our neighbors' houses, which pleased them very much. However, there was one problem to be solved: what should be done with the felled cypress trees?
When we were at a loss what to do, the gardener who cut down the trees told us of a facility that may be able to use the cypress trees to create products. This was Create Taiyo, a vocational facility in Numazu City for mentally disabled people. As soon as we contacted the facility's director, he visited us, and the deal was done. The felled cypress trees were offered to the facility free of charge, and the gardener was kind enough to deliver the trees to the facility.
Located right near Ashitaka Parking Area of Tomei Expressway, Create Taiyo is a facility where mentally disabled people commute and work. Currently, 24 people aged 20 to 53 are engaged in producing things there every day.
I actually visited the facility and found that they worked at their own pace. Many of them like chatting. They gave me careful explanations on the skills involved in their work and showed me completed items, with shy smiles on their faces. One of them, who used a fretsaw (a saw with a thin and narrow blade used for openwork or to cut curved outlines), demonstrated his excellent skill of cutting according to a pattern. With a bright smile, he said, "I'm good with my fingers." Another staff member was famous for getting even more enthusiastic than usual whenever a guest visited the facility. When I visited the facility, he rounded off the angles with sandpaper very speedily--enough to surprise the other staff members :-). Their earnest commitment gradually began to take the shape of products. Observing their sincere consideration and intangible but excellent efforts, I could not help but praise them.
▲ Working at the facility. They're sitting on chairs they made.
▲ Packing Hinoki-no-yu into a bag
The House regularly offers more than 10 varieties of items produced by Create Taiyo. These items are displayed and sold in the area right next to the front gate of the House.
Let me introduce the House's top three selling items☆
In third place is "Magnet"!
Containing three magnets in the shape of a dog, a frog and a whale, this product is very popular. Some people say that they put the magnets on the fridge at home. According to the staff member who was using the fretsaw, when making this product, he pays careful attention to the positions of the eyes of the animals. He says that this is because "each animal has its own facial expression." This is a very impressive comment.
Placed second is "Pencil Holder"!
Featuring an adorable animal pattern and colored pencils, this item gives office workers a moment of comfort during their busy day. Since a natural tree trunk is used, the shape and the number of holes to hold pencils are different among items, enabling each of them to demonstrate its own attractiveness.
Finally, the honor of first place goes to"Hinoki-no-yu"!!
Floated in a bathtub, this product gives you the nice, subtle aroma of Japanese cypress, making you feel as if you were in a hot spring! The scent has the medicinal efficacy of healing and stabilizing one's mental state. One of the great things about the product is that they can be used many times if they are hung up and dried after being used. Furthermore, since cypress wood has antibacterial and insect-repellent efficacy, it is good to put this product in your wardrobe. Actually, Hinoki-no-yu is made from cypress wood offcuts generated in the production of other items. With "Minami-Hakone Seminar House" printed on the label, this product is the No. 1 souvenir among the House's visitors.
Now, I've remembered something impressive that happened. When we established a PC corner in the House, we asked Create Taiyo to make a table for us. They took various things into consideration, such as using their ingenuity to ensure that cables would not be visible, and cutting the timber with attention to the wood grain in order to emphasize the wood's texture. As a result, a wonderful table was successfully completed and it is now used by many people. The other day we received praise from a foreign visitor, who said, "I feel great when I check my e-mails here over coffee, enjoying a fine view of the garden." We were very happy about this comment.
By the way, it takes more than a year before felled cypress trees can be used for making products. The cypress trees delivered from the House to Create Taiyo were dried for more than half a year, and then the bark was peeled off (by staff members of Create Taiyo). Next, the trees were sawed into planks and set aside unused for several months, before they were finally used for making products. The products offered at the House are the result of such painstaking efforts. When visiting the House, please take a look at these adorable items.
◆The following items are available at Create Taiyo.
< Price List > (in yen)
|・||Soap dish||：||200||・||Pushpin made of cherry wood||：||150|
|・||Postcard||：||300||・||Business card case||：||1,000|
|・||Pot stand||：||300||・||Tissue case||：||500|
In addition, orders of custom-made picture frames and furniture made from Japanese cypress are accepted by Create Taiyo. If you live far from the facility, consultation via e-mail and delivery of the completed items are available. If you're interested, why not contact the facility?