100+ Years Old Businesses Series – Foundry and Metal Work

Shinto shrines in Japan can date back to over 2000 years ago, along with the development of Buddhism temples. This sets the foundation for industries including constructions, metal work, foundry, material manufacturing and more to be developed early on in Japan's history. Many of companies in the related industries have been adapted to modernized technologies with advanced equipment. Thus, they transformed to general manufacturing suppliers for other industries like Ito Ironworks Co., Ltd. Still, many others like Kotabe Foundry kept its religion related core business like making temple bells.

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Both companies were founded over 800 years in Japan. Kotabe Foundry is operated by 37th successor of the family business. It is located in Sakuragawa, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan on the foot of famous Tsukuba mountain, where are sands and clay for the molds. The local materials provide a natural ideal site for foundry business. In Japan there are only 7 foundries
producing hanging bells for temples. Kotabe Foundry is the only one in the Kanto Region.

(photo credit to Kotabe official website)

Similar to Kotabe, Ito Tekko has a long history and actually is the oldest metalwork company in the world. Founded in 1189, it is located in Tsuruoka city, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. The business started by a caster serving local business mainly developed to temple bell manufacturing. After Mid-Meiji Era, the business got involved in manufacturing weavers and brewing presses. After the war, it developed into two main pillars of casting manufacturing and machining until after 800 years, the owner decided to withdraw from foundry industry to manufacturing of parts such as electromagnetic flowmeter for measuring flow rate of water supply and sewage, welded butterfly valve, construction machine and so on. Thus, the business is transformed and developed with new life.

It is interesting to see two coming from a similar origin develop into different directions and both landed well in their own ways of survival. Unchanged determination and hard-working are surely behind the businesses to make them long life, like the heart of worship those temple bells serve.

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