September 2011

September 30, 2011 3:20 PM

From the Foot of Mt. Fuji...

Minami-Hakone Seminar House

▲ 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.

▲ Working at the facility. They're sitting on chairs they made.

Packing Hinoki-no-yu into a bag

▲ 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☆

The House's top three selling items

▲ 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.

A table made by Create Taiyo in the House's PC corner

▲ A table made by Create Taiyo in the House's PC corner

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)

Hinoki-no-yu200 Pencil holder300
Key hanger400 Magnet300
Soap dish200 Pushpin made of cherry wood150
Postcard300 Business card case1,000
Pot stand300 Tissue case500
Tissue paper case and rack -- new products

▲ Tissue paper case and rack -- new products

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?

September 12, 2011 11:50 AM

Hands-on Manufacturing Class for Junior High School Students

Beigoma (traditional Japanese spinning tops)

▲ Beigoma (traditional Japanese spinning tops)

Hello, I am Takaishi, of the HR & Administration Group, Itami Works.

Every summer vacation, Itami Works holds a hands-on manufacturing class for junior high school students, under the title “Beigoma Championship,” in order to promote interest in manufacturing among children, who will play leading roles in the future. At this year’s third annual event, 20 students from Itami Municipal Itamikita Junior High School participated.

In the Beigoma Championship, participating students are divided into several teams, each of which will create a beigoma (traditional Japanese spinning top) out of paper in small, medium and large sizes, matchsticks and toothpicks. Respective teams compete with one another to see whose beigoma can spin the longest. The greatest objective of the class is to provide individual students with opportunities to consider, through trial and error, how they can prolong the beigoma’s rotation time, which can easily interest junior high school students. Accordingly, the competition results don’t matter much.

In this year’s class, students were grouped into four teams. Each team’s members had one hour in which to work together to create a beigoma that they believed to be the best. Through such manufacturing processes, the class was intended to impart upon students the joy of creating something, the importance of improvement, the significance of analyzing results and devising countermeasures, the spirit of competing as a team, and the knack of collaboration. If participating students were able to learn these matters in any way, we would be extremely happy as the organizers of the class.

We are planning to continue this hands-on manufacturing class next year and onward, while adding further improvements.

Hands-on Manufacturing Class1
Hands-on Manufacturing Class2