Riding the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima I had plenty of time to relax notice the smaller details which usually go by the wayside.
For example, the formality with which every member of the train crew interacts with passengers. As a crew member exits a car, he or she will pause and bow to the passengers before crossing the threshold. Staff in department stores do this too as they exit the hall, which really surprised me. It’s so culturally ingrained that no one acknowledges it or seems to care.
The seats were comfortable and I napped frequently, waking as we approached each station as a series of chimes gently alerted passengers to the next stop.
Arriving at Hiroshima station I was greeted by a blast of heat and humidity, slightly less heavy than it had been in notoriously humid Kyoto, thanks to the cooling effect of Hiroshima Bay. I took a bus to Peace Park and walked the last half mile to my hotel, passing taxis parked on the side of the road. The taxi drivers polished their cars while waiting for fares, lace seat covers bright white in the sun. Japanese taxis are the cleanest I have ever seen anywhere, and very much worth the expense, but after the long train ride I enjoyed my walk.
That evening I had a formal Japanese dinner with the President of Tulip Company Ltd., Mr. Kotaro Harada, and learned about my itinerary for the next two days.
The next morning I was whisked away by car outside of Hiroshima city and into the countryside where everything was lush and green. My guides for the day, Tadashi Harada (left), Kazue Hiura (right), and Toyo Kawano (middle) brought me to the Tulip factory where we had tea and I was introduced to the full scope of what Tulip had to offer.
Sewing needles and notions are only one line they make. Beyond tools for the home crafter, Tulip manufactures needles up to 20 microns thin for industrial electronics. How thin is that? Thinner than a human hair. While many of the machines I saw on the factory floor were massive and noisy, there were also rooms where craftspeople worked in quiet conditions with microscopes and white gloves.
Everyone here is a craftsperson in their own right. If a piece of equipment or machinery breaks, they make a new piece to fix the problem. If the equipment they need doesn’t exist, they create it from scratch. And some use the same sewing needles they help create.
Takashi, son of Tulip’s president, spent four years working on one piece of machinery himself. He knows how the factory works because he’s been an integral part of it. These days he’s more of a button-down office worker, but he respects everyone in the factory because they worked as a team.
A lot of polishing goes on to make these needles sharp and smooth.
These workers take pride in what they do, and it shows.
I put together a short video. Check it out to see (and hear!) more of the factory.