Lights out on Nittosha matchbooks prompts nostalgia in Japan

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LifeStyle


Matches are additional than just matches at century-outdated Nittosha.

The little but happy producer is tucked away in the sleepy Japanese metropolis of Himeji, popular for minor other than an ancient castle, gourmand seawater eels and the matches.

Nittosha, which employs 130 individuals, is a testomony to the hard work and commitment at tiny and medium-dimension businesses that are the backbones of large economies, which includes the U.S. and Japan.

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The matches are also a tale of a loved ones, the firstborn Onishi sons, who have inherited the business, in accordance with this nation’s custom, now for four generations.

Nittosha Co. speaks of an era when quaint, vibrant “book matches” served as fashionable yet delicate commercials, given out cost-free at bars, places to eat and resorts.

That period has extensive absent, as disposable lighters turned prevalent and the selection of people who smoke dwindled. Advertising and marketing has grow to be digital.

But when the firm just lately declared it would stop using orders for matchbooks at the conclusion of June, the news drew an outpouring of emotions, in particular on Japanese social media.

Jun Onishi (L) the fifth-era firstborn, the great good grandson of the founder and the present main executive’s son, and Kenji Kobayashi, who heads a Nittosha manufacturing unit, converse with every single other at the Nittosha plant. (AP Photograph/Yuri Kageyama)

Some men and women stated they affiliated lights e-book matches with cool scenes in flicks, when some others shared photographs of their matchbook collections.

“I was really shocked by the response,” Kenji Kobayashi, who heads the manufacturing unit, informed The Linked Press.

Kobayashi, who has in no way smoked, thinks matches provide the very same function as postcards, as visible mementos of journey.

“The major reason for matchbooks was marketing. And so if individuals are not using tobacco, it is not quite successful advertising,” he claimed.

Nittosha nonetheless helps make matches. The picket sticks with flammable recommendations go into packing containers. Some are exported to the U.S.

Matchbooks — the sort Nittosha is discontinuing — have matches with stems designed of tough-to-burn up paper, caught with each other comb-like at the bottom. They are encased in a paper protect, a lot like a e-book, with a strip for hanging.

They are less difficult to have all-around than a box of matches and, to aficionados, considerably more fashionable. And they were being free.

Nittosha matchbox, Nittosha manufacturing, Nittosha Onishi Matches appear one soon after the other, generated on an assembly line at a Nittosha manufacturing unit in Himeji, Japan. (AP Photograph/Yuri Kageyama)

In current yrs, manufacturing of e book matches fell to a lot less than 1% of Nittosha’s overall generation.

In its factory, devices hum and clank on a few floors, earning containers, paper coverings and matches. 1 equipment has a giant rotating brush to paint a specific chemical to make the rough surface for placing the matches to mild them.

At each and every phase, men and women busily sort matches by hand, as box soon after box streams by. Some are stacking the boxes as they occur, 1 soon after the soon after, then placing them into larger cartons.

Matches are everywhere.

Himeji has dominated match creation in Japan. It’s shut to Kobe port, and the city’s moderately dry climate is excellent for match-generating.

Now, Nittosha is one particular of a handful of match makers left in Japan, accounting for about 70% of full output, in accordance to the business.

Takahiro Ono has an considerable match selection and thinks matches really should reside on endlessly. He states using them ought to be seen as a ritual, a little bit like a prayer, that reminds folks to cope with hearth diligently and handle it with regard.

“Lighting a match is extra hard to do than turning a swap,” he explained, noting the scent of hanging a match and the curling smoke as it burns.

Nittosha matchbox, Nittosha manufacturing, Nittosha Onishi A employee puts jointly matchbooks as they are created on an assembly line at a Nittosha factory. (AP Photograph/Yuri Kageyama)

“And there are issues a single ought to do to clean up up after a fire is extinguished.”

Matches are continue to made use of at the Buddhist altars in Japanese homes, to mild incense and candles, at barbecues, fireplaces and campfires.

Nittosha continue to has a lot more than 1,000 consumers. It also would make other merchandise used for marketing and advertising these kinds of as miniature packets of tissue paper, identified as “pocket tissue” in Japan, that are handed out for free on street corners and at merchants, substantially like matchbooks in the past.

Even that apply is providing way to on the internet marketing and advertising, as a labor lack makes it costly to shell out individuals to hand out pocket tissues.

Nittosha has expanded into producing independently wrapped disposable moist towels and wet tissue packets. It faces level of competition from even larger rivals with this sort of products and solutions, but such shifts are desired to tackle an unsure upcoming, reported Jun Onishi, the fifth-era firstborn — excellent, good grandson of Nittosha’s founder and the recent main executive’s son.

It is unclear what the subsequent strike item could be.

“As extended as we just continue to be a company that will get contracted out for generation, our income are normally at possibility. That was the way it was with matchbooks, then pocket tissues. And so perhaps places to eat will one working day prevent applying moist tissues, far too,” Onishi explained.

Now a senior govt at the company, he quit using tobacco when he began doing the job at a tennis college, which turned a Nittosha team enterprise immediately after the web page of a shuttered match manufacturing facility was turned into a tennis courtroom.

Escalating up an Onishi firstborn was a large obligation.

“People told me I normally appeared as while I was trying to conceal from that,” he reported.

He named his firstborn son the Japanese phrase for “light.” He is 3 years outdated.

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