It was love at first glance!
I first encountered Sakiori in August of 2009. I visited a special needs education high school for a workshop organized by my former company. This school catered to students with disabilities, offering a curriculum of woodcraft, gardening, horticulture, and handicraft. I was especially impressed with their beautiful and minute Sakiori work, a weaving method that uses torn fabric remnants.
This is when I first heard that the traditional Sakiori weaving technique was being handed down locally. After that first encounter, I would see Sakiori items sold at Michino-eki (highway rest areas), product exhibitions and fairs. What is more, I thought that the Sakiori products made by the special needs education high school students were amazing, and of much better quality than any other products sold in the city. While I was impressed with the students’ high level, I remembered the words of a teacher saying that even if students mastered the techniques and skills, they may never be able to get jobs after they graduate.
A place of employment that harnesses the skills of people with disabilities.
It would be MOTTAINAI, a shame to let this technology GO TO WASTE! With that in mind, I told my company president that I wanted create a business with Sakiori weaving. I established a Sakiori wholesale distribution business in July of 2010 with subsidies from the Morioka City Emergency Job Creation Program. We started with a staff of four members, among them, two were graduates of the special needs education high school.
We had to prepare looms, as well as look for fabrics that would be used as material… So, I came up with the idea to use the Morioka Sansa Dance Yukatas (a traditional summer cotton kimono), used during Iwate’s famous traditional summer festival. At the Sansa Odori Festival, various company employees and organization members wear yukatas and participate in the parade. So, we collected old yukatas that had been worn countless times during the festival, and made pouches, and pen cases that we later sold. We primarily targeted young people, but we also designed products for a wide range of customers. The parade’s glamorous Sansa yukatas are filled with beautiful colors, and the finished products are pop and colorful. This series, “Sansa Sakiori,” is gradually being recognized as a popular Morioka souvenir. We also accept people with disabilities for trainings from special needs education schools and facilities who wish to work in Sakiori weaving. Staff members with disabilities sakiori weaving at the workshop. They work meticulously, but they mostly enjoy their work, because they take pride in it.
- he staffs with disabilities making Sakiori in the factory. Their work is very neat and more than anything, having fun to work as they love Sakiori
- Taking the people with disabilities who want to make the Sakiori as a job for the training, as well as from the support schools and the facilities
Establishing Saccora Japan
Sansa Sakiori was progressing steadily. However, all that changed when the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. Business performance decreased due to the impact of the disaster, and maintaining the business became impossible. However, in spite of the earthquake, and with no electricity, my staff showed up at the workshop the next morning. Worried, I could not abandon them. It was important for me, to somehow secure a place where they could work. That is when I decided to start my own business. Saccora Japan Inc. was established in September of 2011.
Saccora comes from the cheering phrase, “Saccora Choiwayasse,” shouted during the Sansa dance. In other words, “Happiness will come if you hail it.” I also wished for happiness to come to the Tohoku area and Japan after the severe damage incurred during the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Becoming an equal business partner
Meanwhile, I asked a major mail-order company to retail our product. Accordingly, we needed to set up a stable production system. Thus, we received approval from the Support for continuation of employment Office supporting employment of people with disabilities, and hired additional staff with disabilities. We also joined forces with local facilities for disabled people, and Sakiori clubs in order to meet to the growing demand.
Dealing with major companies was more difficult than I had anticipated. We struggled to keep up with delivery dates: we went from reluctantly accepting large orders to flatly refusing orders because of our lack of experience. Nevertheless, I was confident that we could succeed by learning the ‘business ropes’ while managing orders from major companies. From the moment I decided to make Sakiori a business, I was determined to win purely on the quality of the product, rather than through the filter of assistance for disabled people. But I soon realized that I was quite naive, and needed to “step up to the plate”.
In connection with this company, we had the chance to grow our company by collaborating with fashion brands that adopted our products as official goods at famous music festivals. And for this I am truly grateful.
MOTTAINAI Concept: Giving products a new value
Saccora Japan has two Sakiori weaving brands and one project that is currently in progress.
The first one, Sansa Sakiori, was created when I started the business. The second one is the recently launched SACCORA. We have four lines, each of which offers a unique Sakiori weave design. The project, Sakkora Project, creates sakiori weaves from remnants that are entrusted to us by manufacturers that we then return to them as new fabrics with added value.
The Sakiori weave, born in an era when cotton was precious, is woven together with a sense of “mottainai” (to reuse and recycle the old) and a deep love for all things. Long forgotten fabrics, people with disabilities with nowhere to harness their skills, and a meticulously handed down traditional Tohoku craft, all of which are MOTTAINAI if we allow them go to waste! Through Sakiori weaving, I want to shine a light on this so that we can use the products and allow the workforce to thrive in society. I firmly believe that we have the potential to make this happen.