Born in 1974 in Wakayama prefecture to an English teacher father, Kotaro Nishibori had very little contact with Japanese traditional handicrafts when growing up. Up until he met his wife at the age of 23 never had he imagined in his wildest dreams that one day he would become the president of a hundred year old company making Japanese traditional umbrellas. The seemingly parallel worlds of the modern and the traditional overlapped when Nishibori took a journey to Canada and lived there for two years. Through his interaction with other people from across the globe, Nishibori came to realize his lack of knowledge on the traditional aspects of the Japanese culture. This discovery raised his interest towards his own culture and triggered changes in Nishibori that would later have an unexpected impact on his life.
Upon his return from Canada, Nishibori started his job as a government worker and one day without knowing so, he had a life changing encounter when he visited his then girlfriend, current wife Junkofs house. Located in Kyoto, across from the Hokyo temple, the business of Japanese traditional umbrella had run in Junkofs family for more than a century. However, given the changes in contemporary lifestyle and the decreased demand for traditional rituals, Hiyoshiyafs fourth generation, which was Junkofs parents, did not expect the business to survive beyond their generation. When Nishibori came along, it was like a beacon of light in the dismal future of Hiyoshiya. Nishibori spent several years commuting five hours every weekend from Wakayama to Kyoto in order to learn the authentic techniques of umbrella making from his parents-in-law.
Nishibori believes deeply in preserving traditions. Once he became the fifth president of Hiyoshiya, he knew that some changes needed to be made and different approaches taken in operating the business. Therefore, Nishibori has come up with a design that incorporates modern functionality in daily life while preserving the quality of traditional handicrafts- Kotori, a lighting installation that makes use of bamboo and Japanese washi paper with a hint of modern chic that allows it to fit easily in contemporary interior decoration. His ingenious design was applauded by several design competitions and event organizers in presenting him prestigious awards and inviting him out to numerous exhibitions all over the world. Currently, Nishibori has also attempted in developing a series of Japanese styled Western umbrellas- Sinaru.
gTo respect and preserve tradition is more necessary today than ever beforec Bringing old traditions and materials into the lives of the next generation is what we can do and that is the challenge that inspires me and others of my generationh.