What Anime and Japanese Traditional Culture Collaboration Holds for the Future.
Hiyoshiya is a company that specialises in wagasa: traditional Japanese oil-paper umbrellas. It has previously collaborated with Kadokawa at the Kyomaf (Kyoto Manga and Anime Fair) and it’s in the forefront of many attempts to combine anime and traditional culture. The Otaku and the traditional Japanese crafts industries share a lot of things in common but they don’t seem to cooperate very often. However, with the 2020 Olympic Games coming to Tokyo, these two aspects of the country had to finally acknowledge each other.
Manga.Tokyo visited Hiyoshiya’s store and atelier for an exclusive interview and photo report. They have been energetically aiming to combine anime and traditional Japanese culture for a long time and we wanted to know more their work, the difficulties they face, and their future plans.
What are ‘wagasa’?
Wagasa are traditional Japanese oil-paper umbrellas that have been around for over a millennium. The shaft and ribs are mostly made from bamboo, and the canopy is made from waterproof paper treated with special oils.
(Left) Mr Hirayama: He works in a new department. He specialises in planning, product development, and in crossovers with building materials and traditional crafts.
(Center) Ms Lu: A designer from Taiwan. She was responsible for the designs of the umbrellas and wall scrolls displayed at their Kyoto Manga and Anime Fair booth.
(Right) Mr Miyawaki: Gained an interest in traditional Japanese crafts after quitting his job and studying overseas.
Every collaboration gains praise- what got them to do anime collaborations in the first place?
Your collaborations with Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla: Resurgence) and Bungou Stay Dogs have received high praise. Also, your unique space at Kyomaf caught quite a lot of attention. The combination of traditional Japanese crafts and Japanese animation is something that is not seen very often, so it is very impressive. How did you get the opportunity to make this collaboration in the first place?
Miyawaki: It started around the time of last year’s Kyomaf. Kadokawa and Kyoto City wanted to promote anime to a wider audience and we were asked if we could do some kind of collaboration.
Anime is well-known, but we thought about starting off with cheapish things to aim at young people. We developed from there and were told that they wanted something that could attract people of all age groups. For example, there are some Ultraman neckties out there that at first glance look completely normal and could even be worn to work. However, the person wearing it knows that there is actually an Ultraman design on the back! So we wanted to convert that feeling of goods aimed at children into something that adults could also enjoy.
As we work in the industry of Japanese crafts, we deal with Kyoto City’s Traditional Industry department, who run Kyomaf. It was through that connection that we were able to collaborate with Kadokawa and were able to participate in their exhibition last year. It seemed that it got some praise, so we were able to participate again this year.
How did you feel when you first heard about a possible anime collaboration?
Hirayama: We get requests for novelty OEM items now and again. When this topic was brought up, I thought about why that was and it got us all talking together.
Miyawaki: There was a company that made children’s toys near where I used to work. If they are made well, then that means there are people who are interested in them even now. There’s no real competition, so I thought it was nice because of how peaceful it is. It’s only the beginning of the anime collaborations, so it seems that we can make something interesting. I also thought it would be great if we could create some new work.
So, after making a lot of suggestions, there was a person who happened to pick one up. They said that we should start off by printing onto coffee mugs and then releasing more things from there (laughs). The traditional crafts industry can make things that can’t be made anywhere else and therefore create a whole new market. That way the fans can see something they have never seen before. Wouldn’t that make everybody happy?
So, that was the project that started it all. After Kyomaf, you also participated in the 2016 Animate Girls Festival. How does it feel to make a Traditional Craft x Anime collaboration?
Hirayama: What we are doing can differ from both traditional crafts and anime industries, so people are surprised by our ideas. I think that’s pretty interesting. Some things may just seem normal to us in the traditional crafts industry, but they seem very fresh and interesting to others.
Miyawaki: In the anime industry, they already have characters and illustrations, and it seems there are many hurdles when it comes to making those into goods. That also goes for the Bungou Stray Dogs hanging scrolls that we made. For example, making changes like changing a character’s hair color from silver to brown. It’s something that we were told by the people in the industry would be problematic. However, when it came to the wall scrolls, the person in charge told us they liked it and allowed us to do it. That was lucky for us. (laughs)