Sunday, April 7, 2013

Seiko - A Living Treasure

Dear Seiko,

Arigato gozaimasu!  First and foremost, thank you so much for doing what you do, particularly with mechanical watches.  I realize that this might not be a huge money maker for you versus the quartz watches you produce, but yet you still make them!

Yes, you make some superlative pieces like the Grand Seikos -
Courtesy of Seiko
And in the recent past you made some wonderful watches that were closer in reach of the rest of us mere mortals - and ps - I LOVE THIS WATCH!!!!!!
When I think about Seiko, I think back to when I lived in Japan in the early 90s.  My neighbor, Obara-San was one of the last in his family to make hand-woven objects.  Every morning I'd go out for a run through town (right about the time when it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk).  Every morning I'd run past his workshop, smile and shout "ohayo gozaimasu!"  And he would look at me like I was from Mars!  We never exchanged a word!  After a year, I'd had enough and I composed a note (very carefully translated in to Japanese by my boss) saying that I wanted to thank him for being my neighbor and presented him with a case of beer and the note.) And a funny thing happened - he started to "holla' back"!  When I'd go running past on my daily morning run he'd wave, and get this - he'd smile!  Obara-san (granted this was 20 years ago) was what is referred to as the "neighborhood master".  That means that the entire neighborhood depended upon him to organize the "Mikoshi" - the portable shrine that is used during the Spring Matsuri - the big festival - complete with a parade of all of the neighborhoods of the city carrying one of these unbelievably heavy objects through the streets of the city.  And there I was watching the parade of the various mikoshis going down the main street and I was grabbed - I looked and realized that one of the pair of hands belonged to Obara-san's son.  And I looked up and around, and there was Obara-san smiling and nodding at me.  And then the next thing I knew I was helping to carry the mikoshi!  I know that this sounds a bit silly, but it truly felt that on some level I had been accepted by my small community.  In many ways, I will always feel that this was the moment that I knew where I belonged.

Japan at that time was at once historic, futuristic, bizarre and familiar.  A country with such a deep, rich culture.  A country that celebrates and venerates its artisans - naming a handful "Living Treasures"!
"Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties"
As a very proud American, I am in awe of that.  A country that would take the pains to try and ensure that the master craftsman who constructed a bell for a temple, the woman who taught young women to play the  koto... a culture is only as strong as the individuals who come together to form a community, a city, a prefecture, a country - a nation.

So Seiko, as a BIG fan, here is my only request - please don't lose contact with the past - keep making your wonderful mechanical watches - and please, if possible, keep making beautiful watches like the one pictured above - something affordable - something that keeps you connected to your roots.  We love your innovation Seiko - but don't forget - you are a "Living Treasure" and that means ALL of the people, make a beautiful mechanical watch for all of us!

1 comment:

  1. ..and please supply your Grand Seiko watches to your export markets - we want them, Please ?