Conflicts & War

The iconic chair that changed the image of Hiroshima

By Edurne Morillo

Hiroshima, Japan, Aug 5 (EFE).- It is impossible to think of Hiroshima without recalling the horror of the atomic bomb, but some local companies like Maruni are working to change that legacy to associate the western Japanese city with design and craftsmanship.

Founded in 1928, Maruni played an important role during World War II, a role the company tried to leave behind years later by producing the emblematic “Hiroshima” chair, a classic of industrial design that seeks to highlight the city in which it originated.

“Our founder coined the concept of the ‘industrialization of craftsmanship’. We seek a balance between mechanization and maintaining the art of the craftsmen, so we respect the work by hand and try to differentiate ourselves from other companies,” Takeshi Yamanaka, current president of the company, explains to EFE.

Despite its beginnings in building temples and shrines, in the 30s Maruni was designated as an ammunition factory to support the Japanese efforts during the war, an obligation that was forced on many Japanese companies.

“Toward the end of the war, even the tail fins and fuel tanks of fighter planes were made of wood, which shows how harsh the conflict was,” says Yamanaka, who explains that since most of the men were on the battlefield, it was the women who worked in the factories.

FROM HIROSHIMA TO THE WORLD

In 2008, designer Naoto Fukasawa created what would become the most emblematic chair for the company, known as “Hiroshima”, which, thanks to its simple design and comfort, has become an example of industrial design and has been taken to homes, offices, hotels and restaurants all over the world.

This luxurious chair – which costs between 800 (882 US dollars) and 1,500 euros depending on the finish – occupies the cafeteria at Apple headquarters, while it was also the seat chosen for the G7 leaders’ meeting held in May in Hiroshima.

“When we named the chair, some people were worried that the name Hiroshima might evoke a negative image of the war’s tragic past, but now I feel that no other name could be as good as this one,” adds Yamanaka.

According to its president, Maruni faces the same problems as the rest of the world’s furniture makers: trying to maintain high quality standards in an industry that is highly competitive with large companies that mass-produce at tight production costs.

“Thanks to the name of the chair, however, there has been an increase in the number of young people from all over Japan who want to come to this prefecture eager to learn the craft,” says Yamanaka, who also wants to incorporate more female artisans in this process, as he believes their work is usually “more meticulous.”

The United States launched the first nuclear attack on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and three days later dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, leading to Japan’s capitulation on August 15 and ending World War II.

“Nothing would make me happier than to see the name of Hiroshima, a city of peace, recognized around the world with this chair. If someone, somewhere, using this chair, would think of Hiroshima and peace, we would be very happy,” Yamanaka concludes. EFE

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