When I first held a pair of Tajika scissors, I knew they embodied the level of artistry and craft I looked for in all our curated products. The hammered texture, the raw finish and the elegant curves of the forged steel were all aspects that left me in awe of their work. I’ve always seen pictures of their iconic shears, but only in person could I really appreciate some of the more subtle details that made Tajika such a trusted brand.
This discovery came near the end of my buying trip in Japan, so my relationship with the Tajika family originated with a series of poorly translated emails that were labeled urgent. Naturally, every message I sent went unanswered. I decided it was best to seek the family out personally while I was still in the country and the opportunity still presented itself. Arriving at Ono in the late afternoon, I had many difficulties navigating the small town and even resorted to ringing doorbells asking for help. With a simple façade and a sliding glass door entrance to a warehouse building (not to mention no signage!), I would finally arrive unannounced to the headquarters of the Tajika factory. So began my first encounter with Daisuke and the start of bringing the beautiful Tajika scissors to Brooklyn.
The interview was conducted in English and Japanese. Both languages are published so as to not lose anything in the translation for native readers.
DT: Our founder, Takeji Tajika was my great grandfather. He established the factory and began to manufacture scissors in 1928 while he was employed at a metalware wholesaling company. Our brand namesake and signature products are attributed to my grandfather Haruo Tajika. He was responsible for the basic nature of our manufacturing processes we use to create scissors till this day. Craftsmen of that age with those skill sets are rare these days, so I absolutely want to continue offering that level of craft into the future.
DT: Tajika lives by the following words… “Our tradition is the continuation of innovation.”
Our objective is not necessarily protecting a tradition, instead what we think is important is cultivating our art form and allowing it to evolve over time. In accordance with these words, we always think about producing goods that meet the needs of the times and are relevant to what will happen in the future.
DT: Rather than design things anew, we produce from a stance of improving items that already exist. We listen to the feedback of people who are actually using our scissors, as it’s important to design things from the point of view of people who will be using them. However, we’re not designers in the sense of people who emphasize design as an abstract concept. We prefer to think of ourselves as craftsmen who create tools that help people work. Accordingly, we don’t design using paper or PCs. My father and I usually consult each other as we work and often fine-tune the details of what we’re working on with a view towards the overall balance of the piece.
DT: Traditional Japanese-style scissors are typically used for cutting thread in the making of clothes, including kimonos. Having said that, Tajika was founded on manufacturing scissors to provide the Japanese people with the sort of everyday scissors that were more common in western countries. That is why our scissors characteristically have both western and Japanese elements. Moreover, that aesthetic has changed very little throughout our history.
“…scissors produced by the power of human craftsmanship, which can’t be mass-produced, will always be needed and that sort of craft is what our brand has to offer” – Daisuke Tajika
DT: From the company’s inception, we have been making a variety of very specialized scissors that other companies don’t normally make… with unique features that they don’t offer such as curved blades and blades made from special steels. We’ve accumulated many special techniques and skills over time that I believe are fully realized in all our Tajika products. In contrast, most companies produce their products by division of labor. At our firm, we integrate the production from the raw material stage right through the forging and welding process, and right up to the final product. This way, we can ensure the highest quality and consistency at every manufacturing stage and it also makes it possible for us to continue this mode of production into the future. In Japan, there are almost no other factories capable of such integrated production.
As for what distinguishes our scissors from those imported from abroad, the amount of carbon in the steel is usually the biggest difference. The steel used in Japan for such products contain quite a lot of carbon, which affects the hardness of the steel and durability.
DT: When I’m asked why we don’t mechanize our processes, I always explain how when manufacturing by hand it’s possible to finely tune the work in a way that a machine can’t do. So we choose to continue crafting our products by hand.
DT: Of course it will continue. There are lots of cheap, mass-produced scissors out there, but scissors produced by the power of human craftsmanship, which can’t be mass-produced, will always be needed and that sort of craftsmanship is what our firm has to offer. If we don’t compromise quality and hand down our exacting form of craftsmanship, I don’t believe it will disappear.
DT: I don’t particularly mind it, but when you’re around your family all the time it can get stressful, so I just go outside to freshen up my mood. In regards to manufacturing, since there are only two people involved in production, communication is smoother. It’s easy to make sure our ideas about products and production methods are reflected in our work.
DT: As the company is just my father and I, we don’t produce a great quantity. But if more people can use our products and are happy with them, I will be happy. Our intention is to never be satisfied and continue making better and better products.
Backstory Credits: Photos by Yutaka Kohno and Stevenson Aung, Words by Stevenson Aung, Translation by Greg Lekich, Special Thanks to Noriyasu