Sharpening the Future of Tajika: The Hands Behind the Scissors

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.

Hi Daisuke, lets start by telling our readers how the Tajika brand got started…

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.

初代・多鹿竹二は僕のひいおじいさんです。金物卸商に勤めるかたわら、1928年頃、鋏工場を立ち上げ製造し始めました。屋号の多鹿治夫鋏製作所の治夫は じいちゃんの名前で、もう亡くなっているのですがうちの製造の基礎を築いたけど、その時代は職人さんも多くて埋もれていたので、是非出したいと思い 基本的にこれからも使っていくつもりです。


Was it very important for you to maintain this family tradition?

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.


守ることが大切だとは思っていません。この言葉のように、伝統を守ることが大切ではなく、培った技術と それをさらに進化させることが重要だと考えています。そして、その技術を使って、時代に合った必要とさ れる製品を作り、次に繋いでいきたいと考えています。


So, how do you develop new designs for scissors and shears with your father Takeo? Can you shed some insights into the design process behind the work?

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.

新しくデザインするというよりは、今まであった物、今作って使っている物をより良くする というスタンスで作っています。 実際に使っている人の話を聞いて取り入れる、使い手の目線で物作りすることが重要。 私達は、デザイナー(デザイン重視)ではなく、仕事をより快適にするための道具を作る職人なので。私達が新たな形を紙やPC上でデザインすることはありませんが 二人で相談して作りながら、全体のバランスを見て細部を調整することはよくあります。


..and the unique shapes?

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.

和服(着物)を作る時に使っていた糸切り鋏(和鋏)は日本古来の物です。それ以外の鋏は西洋で作られていた形(洋裁鋏)を日本人に合わせて作り始めた。TAjiKAは昔からある鋏 の形(西洋・日本含め)・現在も作っている形を少し変化させました。


“…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

How does a pair of Tajika scissors or shears differ from other manufacturers?

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.

2代目が作っている頃から、他社が作ら ない、作れない特徴のある鋏を作ってきたことです。例えば、曲がり鋏や特殊な鋼材の鋏など。その技術が 蓄積され、TAjiKAの製造にも活かされていると思います。また、他社が分業で生産しているのに対して、弊 社は材料さえあれば、熔接・鍛造から製品になるまで一貫生産できるので、品質も安定しますし、将来に渡 って製造を続けていくことが可能です。日本の中でも一貫生産できる工場はほとんどありません。

また、外国との違いという点では、日本と海外で作られている鋏に使用している鋼材は、C(炭素)の量が 違い、日本は炭素量がかなり多い鋼材を使っています。※Cの量は鋼材の硬さに影響してきます。


Personally, I’ve always loved the handmade quality of the Tajika scissors. They actually feel like scissors that will last forever. 

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.

なぜ機械化しないかと問われると 機械では作ることのできない細かな調整が手には可能なので、手で作っています。


And do you see it continuing into the future?

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.

もちろん続きます。安価な大量生産された鋏も沢山ありますが、大量生産では作ることのできない 技術力のいる鋏は必要とされていますし、その技術が弊社にはあると思います。 妥協せず、しっかりとした物作りをして伝えていけば、なくなることはないと信じています。


What’s it like to be working with your family?

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.

特に気にしたことはありませんが、家族といえどもずっと一緒にいるのはストレスが溜まるので. 外に出るなどして気分転換するようにしています。製造に関していえば、基本的に二人しか製造に関わって いないので、コミュニケーションがスムーズにとれますし、製品や製造方法に意見が反映させやすいです。


Lastly, any future plans you can share with us?

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.

父と二人で作っているので、あまり多くは作れませんが、一人でも多くの方に使ってもらうこと 喜んでもらうことができれば嬉しいですし、いつまでも満足せず、より良い製品を作っていくつもりです。


Written by Stevenson Aung

Stevenson Aung

August 12, 2013

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