[From August Issue 2010]
MORITA Inc. deals mainly in Buddhist images. The original company, established in 1968, sold carved wooden ornaments called “engimono” (good luck charms). However, their popularity soon waned and while the company tried to find its next product line, Representative Director MORITA Shigeru, who took over the company from his grandfather, noticed the popularity of Buddhist images.
“First, we were providing hand-carved Buddha images to shrines and temples. But when we started a mail-order business for our customers about eight years ago, we sold 5,000 items in three months. I myself became interested in Buddhist imagery, also finding them attractive,” recalls Morita. His company then started the “Butsuzou World” original brand two years ago to further develop and sell their items to the general public.
Presently, their main product is the “Real Butsuzou” line of lifelike reproductions of Buddhist images that have been designated as Japanese natural treasures, including Ashura (the aggressive guardians), Senju-Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy with a thousand arms) and Miroku Bosatsu (The Buddha of the Future). Each realistic, miniature copy measures 20 ~ 50 cm in height. And while they are all made with identical silicon molds to ensure excellent detail, they all turn out to be slightly different from one other. The finishing touches are then done by professional craftsmen. Finally, the color and gold leaf is also manually applied.
For instance, Ashura (63,000 yen) is supposed to be a “very detailed copy of the existing image,” featuring peeling gold leaf to resemble the original 1,300-year old artwork. When “The National Treasure ASHURA and Masterpieces of Kohfukuji” attracted more than 900,000 people in Tokyo, MORITA Inc.’s “Real Butsuzou” brand instantly attracted a lot of media attention. Last year they sold 1,700 copies of the Ashura figure alone.
Morita, who continues to actively attend department store events across the country, says that “men and women of younger generations look upon Buddha images as fine art, and share new information with me. Most of our customers seem to buy them as interior decorations without much religious motivation. Our product is also popular among people who demand high quality when they buy things such as a camera or a watch.”
Although Butsuzou World has grown in popularity because of the boom in Buddha images, Morita hopes that its popularity won’t end there. “Through Buddha images, I want to share with the world our beautiful, traditional Japanese culture and spirituality, that we should be proud of. We have to keep on and hand it down to the next generation,” he says.
MORITA Inc. has a gallery at its main office in Higashi-matsuyama, Saitama Prefecture, a retail shop in Tokyo’s Akihabara area, as well as also exhibiting and selling items in various department stores in the Tokyo area. “I want to make Butsuzou World grow into a more stable brand and then open a satellite store in Tokyo within three years. After that, we are thinking about expanding into Europe,” he alludes.