For more than 130 years, Kaikado has been producing hand-made Japanese tea caddies designed to last for generations. Last week we visited Kaikado’s shop in Kyoto, where Takahiro Yagi, the 6th generation of tea caddy makers, showed us the wonders of “Chazutsu” and told us about the company’s amazing history.
Taka learned the craft at a very young age by watching his grandfather and father work at the shop. It was Kisoyuke, the first generation of Kaikado, that invented this product back in 1875 using a new material — tin plate — brought to Japan when it open its borders. Kaikado’s double-wall airtight seal helped maintain the flavor and freshness of tea leaves for a long period, which made it an instant success with dealers and merchants, in turn popularizing tea throughout the country. Today, Kaikado stays true to its origins and hand-made process of over 130 steps, and even still, produces some of Kisoyuke’s original designs.
Over time, the following generations introduced new designs and materials like brass and copper, but Kaikado’s spirit has been left untouched. One of the most notable characteristics of Chazutsu is its graceful aging; the changing tone of its exterior. Each of the materials has a subtle change of color at a different pace, copper is the quickest to show at 2 or 3 months, followed by brass that can take between 1 or 3 years, while Tin can take as long as 5 years. Since Kaikado’s tea caddies are made to last more than 100 years, their color can change quite dramatically, but as a fine wine, it becomes even more appreciated with age.
About 10 years ago, Taka became formally involved in Kaikado, continuing the long tradition of handmade tea caddies and creating new designs that retain their identity while appealing to a global market. Chazutsus are great to store all kinds of food, and some of the more recent products vary in length and diameter to accommodate specific food like pasta, or even create accessories to store and prepare coffee. Taka has also collaborated with other traditional crafts and companies of Kyoto, creating bags and other accessories for Kaikado’s tea caddies that also help in positioning Kyoto as a city of craftsmen.
As many traditional crafts in Japan, Chazutsu are high quality green products that have been kept relevant in Japanese consumers for over a century. Today, Kaikado has gained recognition from international design press like Wallpaper, and their products are presented in important design events like Salone del Mobile in Milan and Maison & Objet in Paris. Their designs are entering new markets and marking a new era for the company and Japanese tea caddies.