For the future of Edo tortoiseshell
The core of traditional tortoiseshell techniques
dating from the Edo period lies in pasting pieces of the shell together.
This process makes absolutely no use of chemicals;
it is performed only with water, heat, and pressure.
Strips are pasted together using the glue constituents contained in the shell.
There are individual difference between different shells,
and handling also varies depending on the temperature, humidity,
and other environmental factors.
For these reasons, the quality of the finished product is
said to depend on the knowledge and experience of the artisan.
Edo tortoiseshell technique is being carried on today by Ishikawa Bekko Seisakusho,
which was founded way back in 1802. Kotaro Ishikawa, its seventh head,
was formerly employed in a trading firm.
Although he helped out in the family business
while watching and imitating his father work beginning in grade school,
he had no desire to succeed to the business.
There was no change whatsoever in this feeling of his,
even though he was struck all over again by the excellence
and quality of tortoiseshell as he travelled back
and forth between Germany and Japan in his work.
A change in Ishikawa’s feelings was occasioned by the difficulties faced
by the family business after the collapse of Japan’s economic bubble.
Consulted by his family, he suggested a shift from wholesaling,
which had been the form of the business until then, to retailing,
and became involved in opening Edo Bekkoya,
a street-side store in the Kameido district of Tokyo.
He took leave from his job with the intention of helping out
for just one year, but found himself completely captivated by tortoiseshell.
He commented: “If you carefully make a good product,
value in the form of price will naturally follow. I sensed the possibilities of this line of work,
where there are no fixed prices and the price fluctuates
depending on the manner and delivery of expression.”
The dedicated look in Ishikawa’s eyes is fired by a vision extending
to the future of Japan’s tortoiseshell culture.
International transactions in the tortoiseshell turtle,
a species of marine turtle that provides the material for the tortoiseshell industry,
is prohibited under the 1993 Washington Convention.
As such, production using tortoiseshell would normally come to an end
once the existing supply of tortoiseshells procured in the past was exhausted.
In this connection,
Ishikawa Bekko Seisakusho has been promoting
research on the cultivation of tortoiseshell turtles
together with concerned parties,
beginning from the days when his father headed the business.
“I want to build a scheme that will revitalize the tortoiseshell industry,”
He is continuing to move forward to further ensure the industry’s future.
Ishikawa Bekko Seisakusho LLC
4-22-5 Taihei, Sumida Ward, Tokyo 130-0012, Japan
2-36-10 Kameido, Koto Ward, Tokyo 136-0071, Japan
Hours: 10:00 – 19:00
Closed on Tuesdays