[From October Issue 2010]
Marutake Sangyo Co., Ltd.
In Japan, the number of “rekijo,” women who take an interest in the military commanders from the age of civil wars and know a lot about history, is on the rise. Castles and museums are receiving more visitors and history books are selling well. The “Japanese Traditional Armor” exhibition held in January 2010 in Tokyo, attracted 65,000 visitors. The armor and helmets exhibited were precise replicas of those worn by military commanders 500 years ago in the Sengoku Jidai, the age of civil wars.
The company that made them was Marutake Sangyo Co., Ltd., established in 1958 in Satsumasendai City, Kagoshima Prefecture. They initially made bamboo fishing rods. “One day, my father, the founder of the company, TANOUE Shinobu, sold a piece of armor he had repaired for pleasure for quite a high price. After that, he decided to accept orders to repair and make copies of armor and helmets. He also started making replicas,” says representative director TANOUE Kenichi says.
Before long, the company started to receive orders for armor and helmets for actors to wear in historical TV dramas and movies. They also started receiving inquiries from history museums around Japan. Real armor and helmets are rarely exhibited, and even when they are, the exhibitions tend to be short and the items cannot be touched. This opened the door for a replica armor business.
The company conducted years of research, sometimes dismantling armor and helmets to learn how they felt and how to make them. In the factory, the iron sheets are cut one by one with metal scissors. Then the sheets are bent and welded to make the parts, which are put together to make the basic structure. From painting and weaving to finishing, 50 craftsmen are involved in the numerous phases of the process.
The craftsmen’s finished products are delivered to individuals, companies and public facilities, or rented out to local festivals. On Children’s Day, traditionally a holiday where people pray for the growth of boys, armor is displayed at home. Recently, Marutake Sangyo is receiving many orders to make small pieces of armor and helmets that can be worn by children.
NISHIDA Toshiyuki, one of Japan’s leading actors, plays the role of a ghost of a warrior killed in battle in the movie “Suteki na Kanashibari” (Once in a Blue Moon), which will be released in the autumn of 2011. Marutake Sangyo made special armor that would be good for NISHIDA, who was suffering a pain in his lower back. Kenichi says, “Nishida was very happy with the light and easy-to-move armor.”
Kenichi is always keen to take on new challenges. In 1990, he opened a tourist facility called “Sengoku Mura” in Satsumasendai City and, since then, has opened a company branch office in Tokyo. In 2006, he started “Armor Wedding,” which lets the groom appear in armor in front of the guests at his wedding reception, an effect that is well received. “Now, I want to do business making T-shirts and accessories with designs of armor and helmets,” he says.
Text：Southern Publishing Co., Ltd.
Photos: TOMIOKA Miwa