Amita Co. artists: Minai, Torahiko Kanamori, Takeshi

Yamazaki Shoten [山崎商店] (1893 ~ 1990)

Kamekichi Yamazaki in 1918
(1870 ~ 1944)

Kamekichi Yamazaki (山崎龜吉) was born on January 3, 1870 in the suburbs of Tokyo. The Yamazaki's first name, Kamekichi, can be written in Japanese as 龜吉 or 亀吉. Both variants are equivalent as 亀 kanji is the simplified form of 龜. At young age Kamekichi was employed in the store run by his uncle, Shimizu. In 1893 he opened his own store, also named Shimizu Shoten, in Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho, Tokyo. This workshop manufactured and sold works of art and ornamental accessories made of precious metals. Yamazaki was highly interested in exporting his products. He visited South China, Malay and India in 1900 and considered opening market in those countries. In 1909, on a commission from the Department of Finance he travelled to Manchuria for the inspection of the sources of wealth there. In 1910 Kamekichi travels to England to participate at the Japan-British Exhibition in London.
At the Tokyo Industrial Exposition held in Tokyo, Yamazaki exhibited "precious metal products" and "accessories, headdresses, cosmetics, hairdressing products, etc." In the "precious metal products" category Yamazaki won the second prize and in the "accessories" category he was awarded the Gold Medal.
In 1915, during his visit in America he participates in the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco. After returning to Japan Yamazaki becomes the President of the Association of the Makers of Precious Metal Articles in Tokyo. At this point the Yamazaki Shoten products are sold not only in Japan, but also in Manchuria, Choson (today Korea), Taiwan and Karafuto (South Sakhalin).

Advertisement of the Citizen pocket watch.
Yamazaki Shoten.
November 20, 1923.

Alongside jewelry and watch chains, Yamazaki was also interested in watchmaking. In 1911, after the Japan-British Exhibition, he travelled to Switzerland. He inspected pocket watch manufacturing and in 1915 learned about the state of mass production of pocket watches in the United States. In 1918 Yamazaki established the Shokosha Watch Research Institute.
In 1920, Shimizu Shoten moved its sales office from Bakuro-cho, Nihonbashi-ku to 2-14 Dori, Nihonbashi-ku and changed its name to Yamazaki Shoten. The number of workers at Shokosha at this point exceeded 200, and the company was at its peak. Yamazaki company became famous for its clock and precious metals business, and began handling diamonds, which had just started coming in to Japan.
Around this time, however, the focus of Kamekichi Yamazaki's activities shifted from the management of jewelry and watch manufacturing companies to the political arena. In June 1922, Yamazaki was elected as a member of the Tokyo City Council, and in September 1925 he was elected to the House of Peers as a large taxpayer of Tokyo Prefecture. The following year, he began to play an active role as a member of the House of Peers and served from September 29 of the same year to September 28 of 1932.

Flagship mechanical pencils "Hoshiesu", manufactured and sold by Yamazaki Shoten.
Credit: Shinichiro Inoue.

Yamazaki business was severely damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake. In 1925, Shokosha was affected by poor business and was about to dismiss 36 employees, but a strike broke out in the factory. Even after that, the business situation did not improve, and in October 1926, three-fourths of the company's stock was sold to Yasuda Bank. However, there was no prospect of a recovery in performance, and at the end of September 1927, Kamekichi Yamazaki decided to close the Shokosha factory and dismiss all 120 of his employees. Shokosha has been bought by Yosaburo Nakajima, who turned it into the famous Citizen Watch Company.
In 1930, Yamazaki Shoten became a subsidiary of Tanaka Shoten (which later on became the Tanaka Kikinzoku corporation). The famous store continued to operate under the name of Ginza Yamazaki for many years after World War II. However, Kamekichi Yamazaki died before the war ended. He passed away on July 14, 1944.
In 1964 the company manufactured commemorative medals for the Tokyo Olympic Games, and in 1989 a genuine diamond tiara worth more than 300 million yen was manufactured. This tiara was specially offered to brides in Japan to wear on their wedding day along with a set of matching earrings.
In 1990 Yamazaki Shoten was renamed to Tanaka Kikinzoku Jewelry. Today it is the Ginza Tanaka flagship store.

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