It has been said that Miki Cityﾕs metal hardware tradition got its start when the existing blacksmithing techniques of ancient Japan were combined with those brought over from mainland Korea through Prince Kei, the son of King Seong of Baekje around the year 550. This became the foundation of the blacksmithing Miki City.
As a result of the war between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the lord of Miki Castle Bessho Nagaharu, the temples, stores and houses lining the streets, as well as all evidence of culture were burned away as the entire town itself disappeared. However, after this Hideyoshi made contributions to Miki which remain to this day. The metalworking town of Miki has been said to have gotten its start at this time with a basis in the reconstruction projects of Hideyoshi. During the reconstruction, there was an increase in blacksmiths who produced the tools essential to the carpenters who had gathered from various areas to work. This is how this metalworking tradition gained its foothold in Miki.
After completing the first stage of the townﾕs restoration, carpenters traveled from Miki to other places to find work, and the tools they brought with them soon gained a good reputation. The goods they brought with them sold quickly, and Miki’s hardware became more and more in demand. At the end of the Edo Period and into the 19th century saws, planes, chisels, and other edged tools such as kitchen knives, razors, scissors, as well as merchandise like carpenterﾕs squares and files were being produced in large quantities.
In order to further expand their growing blacksmithing business, the craftsmen could not rely solely upon sales to incoming carpenters. During the Horeki Era (1751-1764) sales brokers who bought up raw materials and dealt in finished goods came into existence. Before long these middlemen gained success and established themselves as wholesale dealers. In 1792 five brokerage firms merged to form “Sakuya”, a wholesale administrative body.
Miki hardware first expanded through shopkeepers and marketplaces in central Osaka, but dealings with the trading firm Shichiemon Sumiya (a hardware dealer to this day) in Edo (Tokyo) started in 1803, with business transactions commencing the following year. In this way direct business with Edo began, and the groundwork for distributing Miki hardware nationwide was laid.
With the arrival of the Meiji Restoration, the Miki hardware industry underwent even further transformation. From around 1881 imported western iron and steel were used, and streamlined mass production manufacturing processes became possible. As a result, the manufactures dealt directly with clients located all over the country instead of relying solely on Tokyo- and Osaka-based wholesale brokerage firms. In addition, the hardware manufacturers began branching out from carpentry tools, and production of western tools began was followed by an increase of exports to foreign countries.
After World War II, Miki hardware played in active role in the reconstruction of devastated areas. Within the reconstruction efforts many road tools were needed and as a result demand for Mikiﾕs hardware exploded.
Production was at three times the rate of the pre-war days, and the local wholesale depots and various new sales organizations developed into a business structure that became the Miki Hardware Wholesale Cooperative.
From traditional carpentry tools to the production and sales of modern metal tools and utensils, Miki has become not only the leading hardware manufacturing city in Japan, but a name recognized worldwide for its quality and craftsmanship. Providing the tools we cannot live without in our daily lives, Miki hardware will continue to make strides into the future.
(Data from Miki City Hardware Museum and Miki Industrial Cooperative, Youth Division)
Weighing 1.5 tons and made from 3,329 pieces of Miki hardware including saws, kitchen knives, knives, chisels, wide blade knives, and hand hooks, this huge sculpture is the symbol of Miki hardware.
For further information please check the “Hardware Eagle Corner” on the Miki Industrial Cooperative, Youth Division homepage.