[From July Issue 2013]
The Hokuriku region is located on the island of Honshu, facing the Sea of Japan; there they have an old saying: “You can forget your lunch, but never forget your umbrella.” In Hokuriku the weather is changeable and it is not unusual for it to suddenly start raining when up until that moment the weather had been fine. That is why it is important to always keep an umbrella handy when travelling in the Hokuriku region.
For this reason, Fukui Prefecture in Hokuriku was home to many companies that manufactured umbrellas. Parts such as the frame, cloth and handle are separately manufactured by different companies and then assembled to make a complete umbrella. Fukui Yougasa Inc. is a major umbrella manufacturer in Fukui; the finished product is made by gathering together all the components, inspecting, cutting and sewing the cloth, assembling the parts, putting on the finishing touches and completing a final inspection.
However, because of a steady influx of cheaper umbrellas from foreign companies, the number of local companies gradually fell, and now Fukui Yougasa is the only company remaining in the region. The president, HASHIMOTO Hajime says, “If we cease to exist, the umbrella industry will disappear from Fukui Prefecture, so I decided to create an umbrella users want.” So, Hashimoto developed two products: “umbrellas that don’t get wet” and “difficult to lose umbrellas.”
The umbrella that doesn’t get wet is made so that it stays dry when it’s folded up and when it touches the body. Therefore, to make the cloth that covers the umbrella frame, a special material called “super high-density polyester thread weaved by a special method” was jointly developed with a local textile company. Just like big lotus leaf, this material repels rainwater.
Therefore, even when raindrops fall on the umbrella, with just one shake, moisture flies off and the umbrella returns to its original dry state in a matter of seconds. This umbrella was named the “Nurenza,” a play on the word “nurenai” which means “doesn’t get wet.” At 30,450 yen, the Nurenza is quite expensive for an umbrella. However, they are so popular that, after an order is placed, it takes about two to three months for the umbrella to arrive.
“Difficult to lose umbrellas” alludes to the fact that umbrellas are often forgotten on street corners and in trains. Hashimoto thought, “The reason why umbrellas are forgotten is because of a problem with the way the handle is shaped.” So rather than having a handle made to be gripped, he designed a cowhide belt loop that would fit snugly into the hand. Its advantage is that the handle can be hung from the arm.
Not only does this handle make it harder to lose, but also it is easier for people who are physically challenged – the elderly and people with a weaker grip – to use. It is a sort of universal design. Hashimoto, who hopes that umbrellas with this kind of handle will become popular, says, “Any product that makes it easier for those who have physical difficulties to use, is sure to catch on.” Of course, this handle can also be used with the Nurenza.
Text: ITO Koichi