Bunka no Michi (“Culture Street”)
As part of its social contribution events to commemorate the resumption of production at its Yokota Factory,
in 2008 Toa Koki exhibited 17 artworks made by students in the Art Club at Kashima High School on an external factory wall that faces out onto a local street and renamed the street “Bunka no Michi,” or “Culture Street.” On November 14 of that year Bunka no Michi was unveiled,
and currently 44 prints of artworks measuring 78 x 110 cm created by high school, junior high school, and elementary school students in Kashima City are on exhibit.
The artworks on exhibit are periodically changed in this “outdoor art museum” that provides enjoyment to local residents who walk past the company’s factory.
Reconstructing a Cannon
In 1977 Toa Koki received a request to reconstruct a 24-pound cannon used by the Saga Clan at the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868) from the Saga Prefectural Federation of Machine and Metalworking Industry Associations and the Saga Prefectural Museum. In September of that year, two cannons were completed.
The two cannons were installed on the grounds of Saga Municipal Nisshin Elementary School, which is thought to be the site of the Tsukiji Reverberatory Furnace of the Saga Clan, and in front of the Saga Prefectural Museum, located in Jonai, Saga City.
In 1980 Toa Koki reconstructed a 150-pound cannon, which is now kept at Saga Shinto Shrine in Saga City.
Every year the “Reverberatory Furnace Festival” is held in Saga City by the Saga Prefectural Federation of Machine and Metalworking Industry Associations to commemorate the first lighting of a Western-style reverberatory furnace in Japan by the Saga Clan, which took place on December 12, 1850.
The highlight of the festival is the commemorative firing of the 24-pound cannon reconstructed by Toa Koki in 1977.
The cannon is moved from its location at Saga Municipal Nisshin Elementary School to the edge of the moat in the Jonai section of Saga City (where Saga Castle is located). Participants light the cannon’s fuse and the air is filled with the orange glow of sparks and the rumble of the cannon’s blast.
The event provides an opportunity to think about the achievements of the pioneers in the Saga Clan who introduced Western technology to Japan at the end of the Edo Period and worked hard to catch up to the West.
Why are ship components being manufactured in Kashima City?
The Pacific War (1941-1945)
At the end of the Pacific War there was a sudden necessity to manufacture a large number of warships. As a result, the Koyagishima Shipyard of Kawanami Industries received an order from the government to increase production. At the time, Kawanami Industries was in the midst of planning to increase the number of subcontractors it worked with.
The horrors of the Pacific War were being felt in the Kashima area as well, as student mobilization and conscription was taking boys to war zones. At this same time, sake breweries in the Kashima and Hama sections of Kashima City were being converted into military evacuation centers.
In 1944 a local volunteer named Toraichi Iizuka announced his intention to establish a factory in Kashima City in order to aid the Pacific War and contribute to the development of industry, and he began seeking cooperation in this project.
Two men offered their support: Hirosuke Katsuya and local politician Toki’ichiro Aino.
A total of five men, including Town Mayor Maeyama and Hideo Koga, visited the Koyagishima Shipyard at Kawanami Industries, where Hirosuke Katsuya’s younger brother was employed.
They met the president of Kawanami Industries and explained their intention to establish a military supplies factory. The president immediately sympathized with their intentions and on the very same day requested that their new production factory include processes such as iron casting and Machining so that it could function as one of his company’s subcontractors.
Starting from a Brewery
The volunteers met and decided to set up factory and office facilities in the Izaki Sake Brewery in Kashima, which they borrowed, thus founding Toa Koki Co., Ltd. in June 1944.
On September 1, 1944 the first casting was performed in the new facility. Materials and technical guidance were provided by Kawanami Industries.
The war ended in August 1945. Technicians who learned wood modelling, casting, and machinery at naval arsenals and who worked at the military evacuation centers (sake breweries, etc.) in Hama, Kashima were employed by Toa Koki. The company received raw materials and machinery from the evacuation centers and used them to begin production of civilian consumer goods (pots, rice-cookers, etc.) as well as potbelly stoves for the Occupation Force and the National Railway, among other organizations.
Toward the Manufacture of Ship Engine Components
In May 1946 Toa Koki was referred by the Shipping Operations Association (Nagasaki branch). At the time, the Shipping Operations Association was using US ships to repatriate Japanese nationals who were left in China and Southeast Asia at the end of the war. Sakon Mori, who worked at the branch, was from the town of Ureshino in Fujitsu-gun (Saga Prefecture) and had an acquaintance among the management of Toa Koki and through this person he heard that Toa Koki had technicians who had come from navy arsenals.
Toa Koki took on the challenges of manufacturing components with highly-advanced manufacturing technologies. The tireless efforts of the technicians who had come from navy arsenals led to the creation of high-quality components that were second to none.
This marked Toa Koki’s entrance into ship engine component manufacturing. Beginning in August 1950, Toa Koki started business with major Japanese shipyards such as Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co., Ltd.’s Tamano Shipyard. This was followed from 1955 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., Hitachi Zosen Corporation, IHI Corporation, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd., and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., among others.
In January 1955 Toa Koki started doing business with the Tokyo trading company Asahi Kogyo (later known as Asahi Kikai Keiso, and still later known as Asahi Koeki). Subsequently, Asahi Kogyo acted as an agent for business activities with major Japanese shipyards. Asahi Kogyo was also instrumental in Toa Koki’s business with overseas companies. In February 1964 a contract was signed with the US company ABC, Inc. for the manufacture and export of diesel components, and in March 1970 an order and sales contract for European-bound products was entered into with the UK company River Plate Shipping after a visit to Europe by Managing Director Kataoka (Asahi) and Toa Koki’s Managing Director (at the time) Ishii. Business dealings with Asahi ended with the bankruptcy of that company in February 1978, and as a result Toa Koki began dealing directly with overseas companies, a practice it still adheres to today.
An Outstanding Workforce
Since 1950 our workforce of technicians has come mainly from Saga but includes people from other regions as well (Kyushu University, Kyushu Institute of Technology, Saga University, Yamaguchi University, Miyazaki University, National Institute of Technology Sasebo College, Kurume National College of Technology, and others). We also have continuously hired outstanding technicians who have graduated from Saga Prefectural Shiota Technical High School, Saga Prefectural Kashima Jitsugyo High School, Saga Prefectural Saga Agricultural High School, Saga Prefectural Tara High School, and Saga Prefectural Saga Technical High School. These workers are the source of Toa Koki’s superior quality.
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