The story of 200 years
Bunshudo and Meikodo
The Kumadas and The Takahashis
200 years of two norens and two families
President of Bunshudo Inc.
The Edo Period
About 350 years ago, a lot of samurai in Mizusawa-ward, Oshu, Iwate were making writing brushes on the side. Sokichi Kumada, the founder of Bunshudo started writing brush making in 1817. This is mentioned in the research data of Bunshudo by Tokyo Shoko Research, the credit survey company of Japan. There were also many samurai making writing brushes in the neighboring Esashi-ward. Chokichi Takahashi of Meikodo was one of them in the last years of the Edo period.There is no document that shows whether the father or the grand father of Chokichi was already in the business.
The Meiji Era
In early years of the Meiji era, there were 57 writing brush craftsmen and about ten brush production and wholesaling companies which employed the craftsmen in Oshu City. With the end of Edo period, the old class system was abolished and Chokichi was no longer samurai. Writing brush production and wholesaling became his main business and he employed four craftsmen in 1888 .During the Edo period, he was selling brushes only at Oshu City and nearby area, but the business expanded to the entire Tohoku (Northern part of Japan) district and Hokkaido (The island at the North of Japan) in the Meiji era. The company was in its heyday.As pen and pencils became more common, the sales of writing brush decreased. While other craftsmen and companies close their business, Meikodo of Takahashi merged with Bunshudo of Kumada and started joint operation in the name of Bunshudo
The Taisho Era
In the Taisho era, the number of writing brush manufacturers decreased even further and there were only 12 craftsmen and 2 production and wholesaling companies left in Mizusawa-ward. Yutaka Kumada, the forth president of Bunshudo, got retired and Baikichi Takahashi became the fifth generation owner. Bunshudo started the sales of another local specialty, Nanbu-ironware, in addition to writing brushes.
The Showa Era
In the middle of the Showa era, Bunshudo made a product planning of “Hidehira-nuri” (lacquer ware) and manufactured the products under its own brand name. Hidehira-nuri became another leading product of Bunshudo together with Nanbu-ironware.
Bunshudo was now the only writing brush production and wholesaling company in the area. On the other hand, the demand for writing brushes and abacus, which used to be the main product, decreased furthermore, and office and stationery supplies and electronic calculator took its place. Then, the sales and maintenance of MFP printers and sales of office furniture became the main business. The sales of writing brushes and ironware used to be in the same craft sales department in earlier years, but now it was divided into the office equipment sales department and the craft sales department.
The Heisei Era
Now, the craft sales department also sells equipment for business such as wooden furniture, tableware and bedding besides traditional crafts. While continuing the sales of office furniture and supplies, the main business of the office equipment sales department became the distribution and maintenance of OA appliances of major manufacturers such as Canon and Konica Minolta. Bunshudo has now three retail stores. The craft shop in Kichikoji which sells traditional craft products and gift items, the stationery shop which sells office and stationery supplies at Kichikoji, and the Z-plaza shop which sells souvenirs mainly.
2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
The Earthquake occurred at 2:46 in the afternoon of March 11 in 2011 , the year Bunshudo marked the 195th year in business. The office building was damaged by the earthquake, and the tsunami and the nuclear power plant accident had a large impact on our main business area, the Sanriku Coastal Area and Fukushima Prefecture. About 50 of our customers had their office swept away, and eight of them lost their members. Everything stopped.We could hardly collect receivables. The risk of bankruptcy continued since the earthquake. The one of the reason why Bunshudo could avoid the bankruptcy was the world heritage registration of Hiraizumi area.
Bunshudo's 200th year in business
During these 200 years, Bunshudo went through several times of crisis. At the beginning of the Meiji era, when the Tokugawa Shogunate fell, and samurai class was abolished, in the Taisho era, when the most of the writing brush suppliers went bankruptcy and closed their business, right after the World War II, when our house and company building were burnt down, when the bubble economy collapsed in early 1990s, and the Great East Japan Earthquake. But each time, we did survive.
In Takahashi family, there is a saying “Sell commodities of inside outside and commodities of outside inside.” With this being our principle, we sell local crafts of Iwate Prefecture, Nanbu-ironware and Hidehira-nuri (lacquer ware) at outside of Iwate or outside Japan, and we sell office equipment and OA appliances manufactured at out side of Iwate or abroad at Iwate. And now Bunshudo marks its 200th years in business.
But the crisis we had last is not the last one. Hard times will come again. But we will get over the next crisis and our business continues to another 100th year, to the next generation.