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In 1611, Toshinaga Maeda, (feudal lord, head of the highly influential Kaga clan) brought seven metal molding artisans to Takaoka City. This eventually led to the city’s national fame for excellence in all aspects of metalworking, including coloring, polishing, engraving, hammering, as well as molding.
Koji Orii’s grandfather established a metal coloring foundry in 1950. Using traditional techniques refined in Takaoka over many generations, the foundry speeds up and enhances the metal tarnishing processes that occur naturally during exposure to the elements.
As a child in the 1970s, the foundry was Orii's playground. Day after day, he would observe his father and grandfather working diligently and unconsciously absorb their specialist techniques. Orii always assumed he would work there himself one day, but after graduation he moved to Tokyo to work at the Japanese technology giant, Epson (one of the world's largest manufacturers of computer printers, information and imaging related equipment). Originally a systems engineer, Orii became a salesman, then gained experience setting up in-house LAN systems for big companies.
Life in the capital was fun and all was going well until the day he met his uncle! Orii said that he wanted to follow in his uncle's footsteps and become a successful Tokyo businessman. His uncle’s reply was swift and harsh. He said that Orii should go home and succeed his father, as failing to do so would result in the death of the foundry. Despite enjoying a very successful career in Tokyo, Orii listened to his uncle and decided, at 26, to go back to Takaoka.
His timing couldn’t have been worse as orders for the specialist items the foundry manufactured had almost dried up. Using its unique coloring techniques, the foundry had always created exquisite metal items for use in traditional tea ceremony practice, as well as flower vases, incense burners and made-to-order Buddha statues. Though the market for those kinds of goods had been shrinking for some time, the final nail in the coffin was the bursting of the 1980s economic bubble.
Orii soon realized that he had to find a new direction for the factory to simply survive. Eventually deciding that the best way forward was to create products that appeal to young people and fit with modern lifestyles, Orii began experimenting with the ancient Takaoka coloring techniques. Through the time-honored process of trial and error, he used fermented vegetables, vinegar and other organic compounds, adding heat at various stages. To give his colors an original edge, he also experimented with modern chemical cocktails.
His massive efforts eventually paid off. Under the name 'Momentum Factory Orii' his products are attracting attention both in Japan and abroad, which has led to Orii being awarded a plethora of prizes for his creativity and innovative techniques. Along with superb items for interior home and office spaces, the foundry also manufacturers fabulous internal finishing materials for the construction industry. Many of his techniques are a closely guarded secret with Orii himself being the only artisan able to achieve Momentum Factory Orii's trademark exquisite finishes. Each item is handmade and an absolutely unique piece of art.