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2019年6月 8日 (土)

Suzuki Shokai (Lessons in Mottainai-shugi)


I came across an interesting Japanese article the other day "Kintaro Suzuki  Age 91  Flat Tire Repair".

Someday in the distant future I hope to have time to translate it, as it deserves a wider audience.  A man in his nineties is interviewed and reminises about his long career and how times, and bicycles, have changed over the years.

The article was written seven years ago, back in 2012.  I located Mr Suzuki's bicycle shop online (Suzuki Shokai = 鈴木商会)and there were photos of him and his daughter taken last year in 2018.  I thought to myself, "I gotta meet this guy whose been repairing flat tires for over 80 years, surely I can lean quite a bit." and made a trip out to visit his shop.  His daughter, who now runs the shop, greeted me and sadly informed me that her father passed away in June last year (2018) at 97.  I was crushed to say the least.  However, his daughter graciously shared photos of the shop, stories of Mr. Suzuki and allowed me to take photos. 

Mr. Suzuki's workbench 



Loyal fans know that I think of hand tools as "temporary body parts", as, when in use, they are extensions of the body used to turn a screw, hold a nut, cut a thread, etc.  The User is the force and control behind the tool, thus the tool is simply an extension of the body.  Loyal fans will also note that I believe, to some degree, through repeated use over time, these temporary body extensions gradually become a part of us, and in turn, a part of us is transferred to them.
(see article entitled "Do things have souls?")

Much to my delight, as I completely expected, everywhere I looked, there was evidence of mottainai shugi (practically a religion based on a deep belief that it is shameful and a sin to waste things, and things must be repaired over and over until it can no longer be repaired to fulfill its original purpose, and even then, instead of tossing it out, show respect and gratitude by repurposing it, ie giving it a new life).   A picture is worth a thousand words so let me share just a few simple to understand examples.

1. Old rubber inner tubes cut up and used as large rubber bands to bundle spokes according to various sizes/lengths)

2. Old spokes fashioned by hand into clip-rings to hold same size nuts/washers.



3. Assorted tins, glass jars and other containers used to store small parts or serve as tool holders.



4. Old tubes used as non-slip grips or to serve as a cushions to protect tools when laid or dropped on the floor.



5. Make it last.  A very old wooden flat tire repair box patched up and still in use. 


6. Bicycle repair stand made from bicycle parts.
    Note the four legs are simply two handlebars!


Remove the bicycle seat, turn the bicycle upside down and repair stand post fits into the bicycle seat tube.
See photo of repair stand in use here.


Mottainai-shugi is one of the reasons I began restoring vintage Japanese bicycles.  I could not believe that people would throw away something that, with a little elbow grease, could still be used.

Suzuki Shokai is located just a 3 minute walk from Nishinippori train station. 
Yanaka 3-24-2
Taito-ku, Tokyo



Special thanks to Mr. Suzuki's daughter for her time and allowing me to take and share photos.
May your beloved father rest in peace.

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Please forgive me if it is not correct English.
You found a good article.
I read it interestingly.
I am impressed only with deep Mr.金太郎 words.
I am only taught by you on this your blog.
I honor your attitude.

I am very happy to hear you enjoyed the article.  I too was deeply impressed with Mr. Kintaro Suzuki's words of wisdom. I wish I could have met Mr Suzuki Kintaro and have the opportunity to learn from him.
But, sadly, that was not to be.
I am confident, that someday in the distant future, I shall have the honor of meeting him in a better place.



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