Nigata Files Catalog

Nigata Files Catalog
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Catalogue of Wataoka’s Nigata Files
Kyoko Nakamura
The Nigata district in Hiroshima prefecture is one of the leading towns in manufacturing files in Japan.  For Wataoka Co., Ltd., one of the manufacturers there, we produced the general catalogue of Nigata Files.


Traditional industry to survive today
The double-edged file is the main product of Wataoka with a century-long history.  Maintaining the method conveyed in the Nigata district from the past, the file is produced carefully by confirming each cut.  It requires high quality material, finely honed craftsmanship, and takes much time and effort to make a double-edged file.  Like other traditional industries, the file manufacturers are faced with the problems of “lack of successors,” “lack of high quality material,” and “declining demand.”  Further, with the rise of Chinese manufacturers in the market, Japanese file manufacturers are in a difficult situation.
While maintaining the technique carried over through generations, Kumiko Wataoka, the president of the company, undertakes the responsibilities of product development to respond to recent trends in craft and hobby works as well as sales promotion so that the traditional industry will not become extinct.


What should be done now
It is a recent trend that designers collaborate with people in traditional industries to develop new products to fit to modern lifestyles.  Initially, Wataoka asked us to design “nail files” for consumers.  She wanted to make Nigata Files widely known, and to spread the technique that the local people are proud of.  As soon as we began basic designing, we suspended our work.
We found that we did not have enough time to develop new products considering that craftsmen were aging, and the stock of the hard-to-obtain raw material was scarce.  We decided to give light on the existing Nigata Files of the company rather than initiating a new project.  Despite knowing the necessity of a catalogue, Wataoka had not been able to produce one.  Therefore, we changed our policy from developing a nail file to producing a Wataoka Nigata Files Catalogue to introduce all the product lines and to promote sales of the products.


Catalogue but not the list of products
In the process of compiling the catalogue, Wataoka had a long time to look at her products.  She reaffirmed that the act of sharpening a knife is an act of loving tools and that it is the base of Japanese culture.  She felt more strongly that emotional richness and culture to care for tools should be maintained and carried on.
Files are tools to keep other tools in good condition.  They tend to be hidden behind tools and instruments.  Unless the manufacturers intentionally advertise, files will not draw people’s attention.  For the sake of people and craftsmen who have retired from the industry, we must make Nigata Files known broadly.
In order to show the charm of files in the catalogue, there are photos of them taken in quiet settings.  In addition to the products, the cultural aspect of files is given in the “history of the Nigata Files,” and the “technique and quality of the double-edge files by Wataoka – the process of producing contemporary files” is explained.  For the sake of convenience of users, the products are indexed according to their use, to help them select the right file for their needs from among the many available.

Accumulation for the future and the role of designers
It is unavoidable to see things and skills fading out.  But when we look back upon the past, we realize that even if things and skills are lost, they still remain in people’s memories and are stored in records, and that we are benefited from our past.  The role of designers is not only to update traditional industries but to convey lost things and skills to future generations.  This can be part of the functions of communication designers.
With strong sympathy to Kumiko Wataoka, and to support the movement initiated in Hiroshima, firms involved in photography and printing for the catalogue gave us generous help.  We designed the catalogue with a fee, but what we gained through this project is much larger than the amount of the fee.

Kyoko Nakamura, GK Design Soken Hiroshima