ARTISTS

Amita Arthur & Bond Asahi Shoten Ashihara Fujii, Yoshitoyo Fukui Hagiya, Katsuhira Hattori, Kintaro Ikeda, Seisuke G. Ikoma Kagawa, Katsuhiro Kawano, Yoshinosuke Komai, Otojiro Komai, Seibei Kuhn & Komor Kumeno, Teitaro Kuroda, Kiichi Kyoto Damascene Mitsui, Yoshio Mitsukoshi Miyamoto Shoko Murakami Toyo Nagata Namikawa, Yasuyuki Nogawa, Noboru Ogurusu Ohayo Okubo Brothers Samurai Shokai Takeda Brothers Uyeda, Kichigoro Yamanaka

Amita Co. artists: Minai, Torahiko Kanamori, Takeshi

Other artists

KOMAI, OTOJIRO 駒井音次郎 (1842-1917)

HISTORY

The Komai family worked as a sword furniture maker in Kyoto for generations. It was a father of Otojiro Komai (and a gradfather of Seibei Komai) who in 1853 originated a form of damascene (or Japaneze Zogan) used to ornament and decorate swords, guns, daggers and various types of sword furniture. With the major changes brought about by the Meiji restoration (beginning of 1868) and a Haitorei Edict (March 1876), the Japanese were no longer allowed to wear swords, so the Komai family, like many others, had to find another form of livelihood. They applied their damascene craft (inlaid work of gold and silver on iron ware) to creating objects in Western and traditional Japanese styles producing vases, purses, cigar, cigarette and card cases, jewelry boxes, coat buttons, combs, buckles, incense burners, hanging plates, lockets, brooches, charms, spoons, bracelets, cabinets and others.

Otojiro Komai

At the age of thirteen, Komai Otojiro had the opportunity to study inlay techniques with Misaki Shusuke 三崎周助, a sword-fitting artisan from Higo 肥後 (present Kumamoto). Otojiro produced sword fittings up until the 1876 Haitou-rei (廃刀令) prohibiting against wearing swords, but in 1873 he had already begun to produce decorative objects aimed at the export market.

Around 1873 Komai Otojiro started selling damascened ironwares in Kobe, a centre of foreign trade, and within a few years his chargers, plaques, cabinets, model pagodas, and vases were in such demand that he was prosperous enough to buy a large house.

Store of Otojiro Komai, Kyoto.

In 1881 Otojiro had a new house in Kyoto, but in 1885 he lost his home and property in a fire. Since then, he worked for roughly 10 years as in-house artisan for Seisuke Ikeda (池田清助). In 1894 he became independent again. Otojiro had made large art objects - Okimono (置物) before the fire, after then he started to make more practical low-price objects like cigarette cases and jewelry boxes mostly. This is due to the marketing strategy by Ikeda Seisuke, a dealer marketing Komai's works exclusively. He intended to expand the target client segment from Ultra HNWIs to affluents to enhance the revenue by employing low cost workers under the well-known Komai brand. Komai paid no salary to his workers for 25 years. Simply gave them food and clothes. After 13 to 15 years gave each worker 10 sen (5 cents) on Sundays. After 18 to 20 years it raised to 50 sen on Sundays. Four days in a month they did not work evenings, but otherwise they worked all the time and everyday. Working hours were from 7 o'clock in the moring till 12, 1 to 5 and 6 to 10 - overall 13 hours. After 25 years they are paid a salary 50 - 100 sen per day according to quality. The best men got 30 yen ($15) per month regardless of time they worked, generally working from 20 to 26 days.

Artists working in Komai's store.

Otojiro devoted himself to make higher quality pieces for national or foreign exhibition to establish the Komai brand. His works were shown at foreign exhibitions, probably starting with the Nuremberg Metalwork Exhibition of 1885, where Japan was able to show 492 pieces and won the top prize. The name of Komai seldom appears in the lists of artists for international or national exhibitions. He won prizes at national exhibition (内国勧業博覧会) in 1903, Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 and Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Liege in 1905.

It was Ikeda Seisuke, a dealer marketing Komai's works, who won a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900 for a plate of gold and silver which may well have come from the Komai workshop. Presumably because Ikeda Seisuke, a owner of Ikeda partnership corporation 池田合名会社, marketed most of Komai's work exclusively, Komai became so famous worldwide.

Komai Otojiro's delicate and highly detailed work was very well received abroad, and other artisans in Kyoto began to produce similar objects, for example, Okuno (奥野), Asai (浅井) and others.

He retired in 1906 and reffered to himself Shuryou (周亮). His son Seibei 清兵衛 (1883-1970) took the name Otojiro II, continuing to work until 1912. Otojiro II continued to submit Komai works to exhibitions - St.Petersburg in 1908, Seatttle in 1909, Brussels and London in 1910 and Vienna in 1913.

Exhibition booth of Otojiro Komai at Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915.

The Komai company continued to produce metal work objects until 1941. After the war, Komai's company was reopened as a pearl dealers. Seibei Komai started to sell perl jewelry as an agent of Mikimoto Perl Store (御木本真珠店). He needed a partner to promote his works to the overseas market instead of Seisuke Ikeda and also expand the products line-up in his shop.

After World War II, Komai shop specialized in the pearl trade only and their marvelous textured inlay technique was lost forever. Komai company is selling pearls till today.

EXHIBITIONS

Participated in the following exhibitions:
1904: Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis, USA). Was awarded the Gold Medal.
1905: Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition (Portland, USA). Was awarded the Gold Medal.
1905: Liege International (Liege, Belgium). Was awarded the Diplome d'Honneur.
1908: Exhibition of Modern Trends in Art (St. Peterburg, Russia). Was awarded the Gold Medal.
1909: Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition (Seattle, USA). Was awarded the Grand Prix.
1910: Japan-British Exhibition (London, Great Britain). Was awarded the Gold Medal.
1910: Brussels International (Brussels, Belgium). Was awarded the Hors Concours ("outstanding").
1913: 45th Secession Exhibition (Wien, Austria). Was awarded the Gold Medal.
1914: Tokyo Taisho Exhibition (Tokyo, Japan).
1915: Panama-Pacific International Exposition (San Francisco, USA).
1925: International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts (Paris, France).

Louisiana (1904)
Exposition record
Tokyo Taisho (1914)
Exhibition record
(Translation)
Panama-Pacific (1915)
Exposition record
Paris (1925)
Exposition record

ADDRESS

No. 33 Furumonzen Miyoshicho, Kyoto. (1894-1928)
No. 262 Shinmonzen street, Kyoto (pearls shop, 1940s - today)

MARKS

The "dragonfly" trademark of Komai Otojiro:
日本国京都住駒井製
日本国 (Japan) 京都 (Kyoto) 住 (living) 駒井 (Komai) 製 (made by)
Nippon koku Kyoto ju Komai sei
Made by Komai from Kyoto, Japan

京都駒井信樂堂製
京都 (Kyoto) 駒井 (Komai) 信樂(Shigaraki) 堂 (store) 製 (made by)
Kyoto Komai Shigaraki do sei
Made by Komai in Kyoto store, in Shigaraki style
Komai often used a 信樂 (Shigaraki) or just 樂 (Raku) on his vases to emphesize it was done in a famous Raku ceramics style, invented in Kyoto and later massively produced in Raku town, Shaga prefecture.

大日本京都駒井製
大日本 (Greater Japan) 京都 (Kyoto) 駒井 (Komai) 製 (made by)
Dai Nihon Kyoto Komai sei
Made by Komai, Kyoto, Japan
Kanji in the center is, again, 樂 (Raku).

ADVERTISEMENTS
1894
1901
1902
1903

1903
1907
1910
1913

1915
1921
1928
1928

Business cards

Business Card #1
Business Card #2, Side A
Business Card #2, Side B

Records from old books

1906
1928
1928
1932

EXAMPLES (from the internet)

EXAMPLES (from my collection)

References:

"Sights of Old Capital", by Akiyama Aisaburo, 1919, p. 53.
"Tokyo Taisho Exhibition Catalog", Tokyo Taisho Hakurankai jusho jinmeiroku, 東京大正博覧会受賞人名錄, 1914, p. 98.