INAX's Spirit of Craftsmanship - How it All Began
The founder of INAX was born to a family of potters in Tokoname, a renowned pottery town in central Japan. The history of Tokoname-ware dates back to the 12th century when plates and bowls for ordinary daily life were being produced. In time, Tokoname became a producer of all kinds of household ceramic goods including large pots and jars. In the mid 18th century, the pottery town started producing small teapots, the simple flair of which was valued by the intellectuals of the time. Gradually, Tokoname-ware became known as works of art, and it was during such time that Choza Ina I, a potter ancestor of the founder of INAX, was born.
A century or so later, Choza Ina IV was blessed with the birth of his eldest son, Hatsunojo, who later becomes the father of Chozaburo Ina, the founder of INAX. Hatsunojo and Chozaburo lived through the Industrial Revolution of the Meiji era. In the time of rapid changes and industrialization, they applied their innovative minds and realized many new, creative ideas to support the development of modern lifestyles. Examples of their achievements include obtaining a patent for an outdoor urinal and developing earthenware pipes, which they exhibited at the St. Louis Expo and won a Bronze prize.
Recognizing their excellent ceramic products manufacturing skills, the Imperial Hotel invited Hatsunojo and Chozaburo as technical advisors to the hotel's own brick manufacturing factory, specifically set up to produce the yellow scratch face bricks to adorn the walls of the second main building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The father and son brought their abilities into full play and produced 2.5 million scratch face bricks, 1.5 million hollow bricks, and tens of thousands of ornamental terracotta tiles during 1918 to 1921, successfully mass producing the bricks and tiles in high quality required of construction materials, while ensuring the attractiveness of each piece with the exact texture and color which Wright desired. Upon completion, the second main building of the Imperial Hotel received international acclaim for its exquisite beauty and became known as a prestigious landmark designed by Wright.
The concept of using tiles to cover building walls was still very new in Japan at the time. However, in creating the bricks and tiles for the Imperial Hotel, Hatsunojo and Chozaburo passionately believed that the attractive features of each and every piece combined create atmospheric spaces. Since then, use of tiles to adorn the exterior walls of buildings became increasingly popular, and various different forms of tiles were produced, decorating Japan's cities and cityscapes.
Ceramic tiles that are used for walls and floors are produced by forming and firing clay, which is a product of soil and water. The design of tiles can only be perfected by pursuing the right amount of water and the most suitable temperature for firing to bring out the utmost power of the soil.
The spirit of INAX's craftsmanship started with the passion for producing each and every small tile in perfection to achieve the desired outcome of the designers and clients. And it continues to live within us today, as we continue the quest to produce ever more attractive ceramic products, just as our forefathers did.
- The second main building of the Imperial Hotel built by Frank Lloyd Wright was demolished in 1967, due to deterioration of the facilities.However, the entrance area of the hotel has been rebuilt at The Museum Meiji-mura in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, and the decorative tiles are also preserved in the INAX MUSEUMS.
- The Imperial Hotel Brick Manufacturing Factory was closed upon completion of the production of tiles, but the employees of the factory were hired by Hatsunojo Ina and his son Chozaburo to join Ina Seito-jo, the factory they operated at the time. This strengthened the skills of the factory's tile manufacturing capability. In 1924, Ina Seito-jo, which took the form of a silent partnership structure, was dissolved and restructured as a joint-stock company, Ina Seito Co, Ltd. (later renamed to INAX Corporation).