JAPANESE  ENGLISH

PEOPLE

2020.07.03
Vol.40

To Mark the Passage of "Time" Together with Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace ~To increase the attractiveness of "reverberatory furnace tourism" through the use of commercial museum and restaurant business~

Mr. Hironori Inamura

President of Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd.

Chairman of Izunokuni City Tourism Association

Mr. Hironori Inamura
PROFILE

1960: Born in May

1979: Graduated from Shizuoka Prefectural Nirayama High

School in March

1983: Graduated from a Department of Commercial Science of

Yokohama City University

Joined the family business, Narusawaya Limited

Partnership in April

1995: Became a senior partner of the aforementioned

company in September

1996: Established Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd. in July and

became president of the company

1999: Chairman of the board of directors of Nakaizu Seinen Kaigijyo

2001-2002: Chairman of Nirayama-Cho Tourism Association

2019: Appointed Chairman of Izu no Kuni City Tourism

Association since then

We marked the passage of “time” together with the reverberatory furnace. This is the catchphrase of Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd., which operates a gift shop and restaurant in the vicinity of the Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace (Izunokuni City, Shizuoka Prefecture)—one of the component parts of the “Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revoution". Roots of the company are in a sake brewery founded during the Edo period. Despite being tossed about by the rough course of history, the local people, together with others in the area, have protected the forgotten and nearly abandoned Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace from generation to generation, and have passed on the great achievements of their predecessors to the present day. Mr. Hironobu Inamura, the third president of the company, told me about the history of Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd. over the course of 100 years, and an overview of the current business of the company. He gave us a number of hints on how to utilize the “Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution” for regional development and tourism promotion.

■The Roots are in the Brewery that Used “Spring Water from the Reverberatory Furnace”

-First of all, please tell us about the current main business of Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd.

Inamura: In the Taisho era (1912-1926), our company opened a tea house in front of the entrance to the Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace and began a business serving tea and selling souvenirs to tourists. Today, we operate the “Reverberatory Furnace Commercial Museum Tannan” and the “Reverberatory Furnace Beer Restaurant Homura” in the area adjacent to the reverberatory furnace and guidance center. The commercial museum sells a wide range of souvenirs, including “Izu Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace Tea House (Iori)”—a unique brand of tea made in the factory of the company—and local products developed in connection with the reverberatory furnace. The restaurant serves grilled food cooked in smokeless roaster and the in-house brewed craft beer named “Reverberatory Beer.” We also sell our tea and craft beer directly on our website.

Photo by Kuraya Narusawaya Co., Ltd. / Reverberatory Furnace Gift Shop, Tannan

②物産館 - コピー.JPG

-I understand that the roots of your company are in the Edo period. How many presidents were there in the past prior to you, President Hironobu?

Inamura: My grandfather, Tomosaku, started the tourism business, and from there on, my father, Toru, was the second president and I am the third. However, overall, I am the sixth president if we count back from the days of the brewery.

-How did you come to start a brewery in Nirayama? What is the origin of the brewery’s history?

Inamura: Izu is well known for its source of excellent water, and Nirayama also has good spring water, which was apparently used to start brewing sake. The water used by the family for brewing was from a spring nearby the reverberatory furnace. At the time, the brewery was about a kilometer away, and the water was carried there by horse. In short, there was a water pumping station near the reverberatory furnace. When the reverberatory furnace was disposed of by the Meiji government in the Meiji era (1868-1912), the brewery purchased land in the vicinity, which is the basis of the company’s current operations.

-In other words, the reverberatory furnace has been your neighbor since a long time ago then. After that, in the Taisho era (1912-1926), you changed your business model to running a teahouse, in other words, to the tourism business, right?

Inamura: Actually, there was a major crisis during that time. In the Meiji era (1868-1912), the industrial revolution and the emergence of the modern textile industry led to the establishment of several silk factories in Nirayama. The family was also making a decent amount of sake, so in 1893 Yuichiro Inamura, grandfather of Tomosaku established the Narutaki Silk Mill and entered the silk industry. However, more than ten years later, the market price of raw silk plummeted, and not only the raw silk business, but also the brewing business went bankrupt.

 It is said that due to this, my grandfather Tomosaku had to move to Tokyo for a time when he was still in elementary school. The elementary school that he went to was located near the Yasukuni Shrine in Kudan. In those days, a cannon made of iron from the Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace was displayed in the precincts of the Yasukuni Shrine, and my grandfather would often play with it by sometimes jumping on top of it. This is a story I heard directly from my grandfather prior to his death. My mother apparently heard these stories from him as well.

-Huh. Well, I guess there was some kind of fate installed for you. After all, after such a period of adversity, they have made a remarkable comeback.

Inamura: Although the business failed, fortunately, the land next to the Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace was still available, so after that, we opened a tea shop in front of the reverberatory furnace while doing farming. In other words, the tourism business was started in the form of a side business of farming. At the teahouse, tourists are shown around the reverberatory furnace—doing a job we would call today, a volunteer guide—while serving juice and ramune (Japanese soda) cooled in the river and selling sweets and souvenirs. At the time, we acted as a form of caretaker of the reverberatory furnace, keeping and managing the keys to the gates of the reverberatory furnace in place of the village administrative office—which was the official managers of the furnace at the time.

-I see. But the Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace was probably only known to a few history buffs and aficionados in those days, right?

Inamura: Yes, I do not think there were too many customers at the time. The Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace, which began casting iron in 1857, was closed down in 1864, and in 1868, the reverberatory furnace went from being directly operated by the Shogunate to being privately owned by the Egawa Family. After that, the reverberatory furnace was forgotten by the public, and weathered with time. Nevertheless, in 1908, volunteers from Nirayama village purchased the site of the reverberatory furnace and donated it to the Army Ministry, and restoration work was carried out. As it became under the ownership of the Army Ministry, the furnace was finally completed in the following year, in 1909. Since then, the “Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace Preservation Society” (韮山反射炉保勝会) has been responsible for maintaining and preserving the furnace. From 1953, a fee was charged for tours. This is the history of conservation activities of the reverberatory furnace that has led to the present day, and I believe that our family has had a part in that.

Photo by Kuraya Narusawa Co., Ltd. / Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace, Mount Fuji, the gift shop and restaurant of Kuraya Narusawa

① 韮山反射炉と富士山 - コピー.JPG

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