We view the recent declining trend of tatami shops as a business opportunity.
Tatami shops, traditionally engaged in handicraft manufacture, have been forced to cut back on energy and labor, partly because few people are willing to seek work in tatami manufacturing. Tokai Kiki Kogyou Co., Ltd. has established itself as a leading manufacturer of tatami mat manufacturing machines by proposing that traditional tatami shops replace their craftsmen with fully automatic tatami mat manufacturing machines.
Skilled tatami craftsmen usually measure in rin units (0.3 mm), and the finetuning of tight or loose tatami mat stitching relies on a sense of craftsmanship. Our company has succeeded in the blending that sense of craftsmanship with computer control.
Under our motto of "Providing Safety and Security", we have devoted our energies to providing maintenance and follow-up services. Though some tatami mat craftsmen did not initially recognize the merit of our machines, we have gradually gained a reputation as a maker of superior tatami mat manufacturing machines.
We have created a new market by forming the Healthy Tatami Shop Association.
Due to the growing popularity of Western-style houses, demand for tatami mats has been decreasing. We changed our concept regarding our relation with tatami shops from one of "buyer and seller of tatami mat manufacturing machines" to "business partners working together to revitalize the tatami mat industry." We established a national network called the "Healthy Tatami Shop Association" which now enjoys a membership of some 900 shops. By
developing PR activities to increase public awareness of the merits of tatami mats, and by holding seminars to re-energize tatami shops, we have endeavored to foster "residential environment coordinators," encouraging tatami shops to acquire ISO certification and create safe and comfortable residential environments through tatami mats.
As part of the Association's activities, unique tatami mats have been created: "denim tatami mats" and "washable tatami mats." The former features the use of denim instead of straw, and changes a room from Japanese style to western style. The latter, because it is washable, is suitable for healthcare and welfare facilities.
We are also energetically developing new products in collaboration with academia. Our research findings show that tatami mats absorb the volatile organic compounds (VOC) that are to blame for "sick house syndrome" and help purify ambient air. Straw-drying technology has also been further developed and applied to various fields, e.g., sterilizing and drying machine for bedding, beds and wheelchairs used in hospitals and other institutions, and vegetable drying machines to dry ingredients for instant food products.