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HomeworldHeat brings hope for Tokyo's handmade umbrella maker

Heat brings hope for Tokyo's handmade umbrella maker

TOKYO — One of Tokyo’s last handmade umbrella shops has weathered many storms and is now thriving thanks to booming demand for parasols as Japanese summers get hotter, including increasingly from men.


But the business peaked in the late 1960s as cheaper rivals started flooding in from other Asian countries.

Many Japanese makers went out of business and Komiya Shoten was almost turned inside out too.

“You can buy plastic umbrellas at 500 yen (S$4.60) or 100 yen. We sold ours at 20,000 yen. We couldn’t compete.”

However, the family business has found a niche in making “luxury” umbrellas, building a slick-looking website and social media presence extolling their skills.

The business started to turn around 10 years ago and their products were officially recognised as traditional crafts by the Tokyo government in 2018.

And although volumes are small with fewer than 10 craftworkers, sales are going up, including for parasols.

“We’re experiencing hot summers, probably because of global warming and more people are using parasols to stay cool,” Mr Komiya said. 

“The number of male customers has increased significantly,” he said. AFP

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