A letter from Master Aramaki
And an insight into the situation at the wooden workshops
The past few months, we’ve spent a great deal of time publishing our interviews made at the last wooden workshops of Japan this summer. Aramaki and Matsuzaki’s interviews are already live and Nidome’s interview is almost ready too. Following our encounter, and consistently with the subject we’ve discussed in those interviews, Master Aramaki sent a letter to all his partners presenting the situation at his workshop. Here is a free translation of this letter.
As we published multiple times the past years, in a resource limited 21st century world, in a country which sees its population diminishing year after year, craftsmanship is suffering.
Our craftsmen are preparing for further struggle to come: Wood shortage, labor shortage, aging population, etc.: We’ve already mentioned those subjects in past blog articles.
This has also been discussed in detail in our videos published recently on YouTube.
Thank you very much for your continuous support.
The Aramaki Budo Workshop has had 20 wonderful years since the third generation (Master Aramaki Yasuo) took over. During those 20 years, prices have been stable despite the changing situation.
Attached you will find a document about the status of South Kyushu forests and wood supply by professor Taka, a Kyushu academic who works on the subject.
The document shows that 20 years ago, broad leaved trees represented 21.4% of the total log (wood) production with 8,423 m3. At the time, conifers were representing 78.6% with 30,970 m3 produced annually.
Today, broad leaved trees represent 1.3% with only 2,347 m3 against 98.7% and 176,879 m3 for conifers.
Conifers are not suited for wooden weapon manufacture, and broad leaved tree production has decreased by 3 quarter.
In addition to this, the log size (width) has decreased significantly, and there is now a though bid competition on the wood market.
As you may know, limiting tree trimming of broad leaved trees as a countermeasure against global warming is one of the main reasons causing this situation.
As the number of trimmed trees diminishes, most sawmills companies have closed, which resulted in a diminution of the production of tools used at the sawmills, hence resulted in a price raise of the tools.
As a manufacturing company, and to prepare the future, we have to stockpile tools while they are still reasonably priced.
In addition, the price for emery paper, and other polishing tools have also significantly increased.
To ensure the future, we are conducting research on new material for both, our tools and as raw material for our products. We are also concerned by the lack of successors in the industry, and need to address the issue.
We need your cooperation and understanding with this situation, and therefore humbly request to accept the new prices attached to this letter, starting January 2018.
With kind regards
The Aramaki Workshop
We were truly happy when we received this letter, and this is why we wanted to share it with you.
It was about time they raised their prices. Alike master Aramaki, Master Matsuzaki confirmed in his interview that he hasn’t risen his prices for 20 years, and master Nidome mentioned that Miyakonojo (the region) and especially the wood industry has the lowest hourly salary rate of all Japan. All proportion conserved, the salary of those craftsmen is about half the average income in western Europe or North America. Don’t you think that’s a crazy number for craftsmen of this level who spent their whole life polishing their art? Well. We do.
All craftsmen did mention that they were already discussing a potential price raise in the next few years, but we are quite confident in the fact our discussion, the fact Seido is the first partner to ever recommend them to raise their prices and the fact our interviews published on YouTube raised awareness of the situation in Japan, greatly helped them move forward with this idea.
This is where we feel useful, because we helped change the mentality, evolve, and move forward by addressing issues endangering their future.
We are at both your service and our partner artisan’s service, and we’re happy to see that we are doing good on both sides.