Tzukuri is the name of my first company, and also my second. It is a project that has consumed the entirety of my adult life, starting from the age of nineteen. It is a journey that has taken me to meteoric highs and lows in the blackest of abysses. It is something akin to having a child, I've never been able to let it go. I have a belief that names shape and influence our destinies in ways that we cannot comprehend. This is the story behind the name.
I am often asked where the name Tzukuri
comes from. One of our Japanese suppliers from Fukui Prefecture once commented in accented English: “It looks Japanese, but I have no clue what it is. What does it mean?”
Although I’ve fed a few to confess my sins, the name is a work of pure fiction, a make-believe word — a combination of English letters never before found in that specific order. Although conjured from the aether, it wasn’t done without some careful consideration, a hint of inspiration and a disguised dose of vanity. Here is the origin story for the name Tzukuri,
not necessarily in chronological order.
The story begins with the quest to create Unlosable Glasses
, and as many entrepreneurial quests do, it began as a naive conversation of ‘What if?’ This inquisitive conversation lead to many more, in which my friend Michael and I tried to uncover whether our imaginings were in the realms of possibility. On the advice of almost every optometrist we had spoken with in Australia, we travelled 5,000 miles to Fukui, Japan.
It was a city bounded by forested mountains and the Sea of Japan on the other. It was here that we were told we would discover the finest eyewear on earth. If anyone in the world could help us, it would be the craftspeople with decades’ diligence in the art, science and magic of eyewear leadership.
Although they weren’t able to help us as we had hoped, and the foretold unsurpassable quality they possessed was only a half-truth
— the Japanese language, design sensibility and obsession with detail ignited energy within
I made many trips over the course of six months, but I can still recall my first arrival
. It was a week or two before Christmas, when the early winter snow had just started to fall. A gentle swirl of ice-white dust blowing around the narrow streets. The fragrance of coldness lingered in the air, a ghost of winter chill. The land was dim and flat, blanketed white, tinged with a sense of loss.
Although more than two thousand years old, sadly most of Fukui is bland, blockish and modern due to its history of destruction. The city was an important military target during WWII and has been rebuilt twice; once after the Allied bombing of 1945 and again after a severe earthquake in 1948. Given its resurrection and repeated reincarnation, the city’s official symbol is fittingly, a flaming orange phoenix
The factory owner, Toshikazu Sagami, was already waiting for me as I stepped out of the airport shuttle. Japanese punctuality is very real. He greeted me with an umbrella to shield
me from the snow. He was a thin man of medium height, bald, perhaps late forties, wore a thick black coat and some interestingly shaped dark grey anodized titanium glasses. He was a warm, smiling man speaking nearly perfect English.
He walked me into the lobby of the company’s newly renovated facility, a non-descript grey building with dark painted corrugated iron outer walls. The company name in English was in black, in a bold sans serif font on the outside. The entrance opened to some stairs to the right which had a sign with Chinese originated characters or Kanji 会議室 (meeting rooms), and painted double doors with frosted glass ahead which had 工場 (factory) in decal lettering to their left.
Sagami-san beckoned me to follow him into the factory area and recounted the history of eyewear manufacturing in Fukui. It was pioneered by a local man, Masunaga Goemon, in 1905. In an effort to diversify the economy and reduce reliance from agriculture, which was hampered by severe snows, Goemon risked his own capital to bring craftspeople from all over the country to establish the eyewear manufacturing industry in this barren place.