A look through History : Tanihata hits half a century

Kumiko Ramma

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 I have devoted my life
to creating Kumiko 

Wood Shavings
Nobuo Tanihata was born in 1966.
Business started in 1959
Delivery vehicle was a dream for years.
Spirit of Craftsmanship
Visitors coming from all over Japan
New Products and Challenges of new sales methods
Headquarters, new factory
Japanese traditional Kumiko products presented to Croatian Football Team at the World Cup
Received Good Design Award in 2001
Received award for Most Excellent 100 Companies in IT Management
At International Modern Furniture Exhibition in 2012
Lecturing about Kumiko

My father, Toshio Tanihata, who died at 73 in March 2006, started his training in Kumiko in 1956 when he was 23. After working at the Karinogi factory in Toyama for 5 years, he was advised to take up fine handwork so joined the Fitting Woodwork Research Centre at Urawa (Saitama).

At that time, he should have started training in Kumiko straight after finishing junior high school. However, from the time he did start in his late twenties, he devoted his life to Kumiko. After returning home to Toyama at the age of 26 in 1959, he started the Tanihata Kumiko Company. Later on he met my mother and they married.

Toshio Tanihata started business with nothing - no property, car or machines. "I carried our products by handcart or public bus, which was tiring, especially when I had to get onto crowded buses with my products. I used to sleep on wood shavings because I was too tired to move to my bed. It was warmer than I expeceted! I couldn't borrow money from banks because I was too young to be trusted." My father used to say, "Remember those who gave us our hands. I even tied you to a pillar in the factory so you couldn't go anywhere." Laughingly, my mother said, "We might have been reported for child abuse if it happened now!" Having experienced this conditioning throughout my childhood, it seemed natural for me take over my father's business in the future.

Things started to improve when, at the age of 44, my father received important recognition in the form of the Prime Minister's Award at the National Fitting Exhibition. He was the first person to receive the award in the Tohoku area, and the Tanihata name became known across Japan. Kumiko sales picked up. Our skill also developed because of demand from home owners in an area where there was a high level of home ownership. "We were too busy to follow up on all orders. And it was hard to decline requests for apprenticeships," my father said. Twenty-five craftsmen who used to work as trainees with Tanihata, now have their own businesses.

Although we have no salesperson among our twenty staff members, we have been successful in finding new customers through introductions from existing customers. Only recently have I understood my father''s spirit of craftsmanship, conveyed by his words, "As Kumiko craftsmen, we can succeed in business despite being looked down upon by architects and builders."

In the 1990s, when sales were declining, I decided to return to my hometown to take over the business. In additon to a national economic recession having struck our business, the most serious reason for the decline in sales was the fact that the younger generation was tending away from traditional Japanese style rooms towards a preference for Western style dwellings with wood flooring, curtains and sofas. While traditional style homes still existed in Hokuriu, Western style housing was already common in the Tokyo area.

In this situation, the market was favourable for developers and contractors selling houses with Western style interiors, built at a lower cost than expensive traditional Japanese homes for which there was declining demand. This led to a slump in Kumiko sales and concern about becoming bankrupt. In this difficult situation, with no sales staff, and carrying a stock of new products - room dividers suitable for westernised homes - I had to go and sell to bigger companies, including department and furniture stores, DIY and online shops and builders. I thought this was the only way to overcome the serious downturn in sales.

Travelling between Tokyo, Osaka and my hometown Toyama, and working long hours over three years, was taking a toll on my health. But I was driven by a commitment to protect my company from bankruptcy.

Thanks to those who helped us, sales improved in 2000, and in cooperation with Toyama City, new machines were installed and work areas extended. And in particular, a business connection with an online shop, Catalogue House, has continued since that time. In December 2000, we opened Rakuten Ichiba,our online shop in E commerce. Trying to increase sales was stressful. The online business got off to a slow start, but during the second year, sales of Kumiko lattices and screens giving a Western ambience, were boosted by our receiving the Good Design Award. Online marketing is now our main sales method, and resulted in our being among the recipients of the most Excellent 100 Companies in IT Management, awarded by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2007.

Customers get to know our company only through the products as seen on our web page. Differing from normal face to face sales, online marketing can cause a decline in product quality. We make every effort to gather information regarding marketing, skills development and online shopping trends. Tanihata is prepared to face new challenges, while remembering our history and upholding the spirit that we have inherited from our forebears.

Nobuo Tanihata Jan.2013

“Sharing our Spirit of Craftsmanship with the World” by Nobuo Tanihata
Released on Apr 2012

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Kumiko Design Motifs Rindo
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“Sharing our Spirit of Craftsmanship with the World” by Nobuo Tanihata

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Headquarter Office and Toyama factory 1-7-3 Akaemachi Toyama-shi Toyama 930-0816 map
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