Born in Shingu, Wakayama in 1974, Kotaro Nishibori is the fifth generation successor of Hiyoshiya, a maker of Kyo-wagasa (Kyoto-style traditional umbrella). After studying in Canada, his professional life began back in his hometown as a local government interpreter. Intrigued by the charm of the Kyo-wagasa at his wife’s family business, Hiyoshiya, he soon left his stable job to pursue a career of craftsmanship. In 2004, he was appointed to lead Hiyoshiya as its fifth generation successor. Following the credo, “Tradition is Continuing Innovation”, he focused on new products that respect the tradition of wagasa while adapting the traditional construction and techniques to new designs.
He endeavored to make Hiyoshiya a global, yet long-established, venture corporation.
In collaboration with a network of designers, artists, an architects at home and abroad, he has been active in international exhibitions since 2008. The KOTORI line of wagasa-inspired lighting decor was a focal point in developing overseas markets. MOTO, a configurable light fixture made with steel and ABS, received international acclaim in 2011, winning the iF Product Design Award. Cross-genre collaboration became a top priority, including a “Wagasa Dress” project with a bridal gown designer which appeared in the Paris Collection 2011, “Kasaan (umbrella tea house)” in collaboration with a tea master and architect, and more.
In 2012, the years of experience and networks developed at Hiyoshiya were used to establish T.C.I Laboratory (now HIYOSHIYA CRAFT-LAB), where Nishibori serves as CEO and Director, providing support to traditional craft industry clients with product development and overseas marketing. HIYOSHIYA CRAFT-LAB has helped a variety of clients on over 400 overseas projects.
In 2015, he founded the corporation, Blancs Manteaux Co., Ltd., together with like-minded French and Japanese companies and opened Atelier Blancs Manteaux, a flagship showroom space with a 180m sq space in Paris’ Le Marais District. Promoting and selling select made-in-Japan products, the space is a hub for new product collaborations with international designers.
Authored Book: “How to Sell Traditional Craftsmanship to the World: The Global Niche Strategy of a Local Company” (Gakugei Publishing)