The company’s base is just what you would imagine a workshop in the backstreets of an unpretentious area of Tokyo to look like. Jostling for space with the myriad of lathes and presses is an old microwave that is apparently invaluable to the development process. This workshop provides crucial support to the cutting edge of Japan’s manufacturing industry. It produces spring contact probes, which are used to test circuit boards. They require micron-level precision.

 

It had not been possible to produce them within Japan, but Kiyota decided to try developing them, because he had misgivings about the future of Japanese manufacturing industry. This president of a backstreet workshop found time to worry about national policy. When he first succeeded, he was met with ridicule and scorn from university professors and engineers at large corporations, who were reluctant to acknowledge the accuracy and reliability of his product. Undeterred, he continued to send out free samples, eventually winning the trust of a range of companies.

 

His family’s fortunes in Shakotan declined as the herring catch fell, so he moved to Tokyo after graduating from elementary school, and found employment at a workshop making bicycle parts. Since it was a live-in job, his dream of becoming a factory worker began with babysitting for the owner. At the age of 17, he became deputy manager of a munitions factory. Once, he became angry with an absurd order given by the non-commissioned officer supervising the factory, to which the officer responded by drawing his sword. Nevertheless, he did not flinch, demonstrating his stalwart backbone.

 

The cornerstone of his moral code is something he was taught by his grandmother, who was among the settlers who developed Hokkaido at the end of the 19th century: “Don’t be daunted when you’re standing on a precipice; understand the situation and give your all for society.” This hi-tech engineer in his small, unassuming workshop cherishes the flashes of inspiration that come to him late at night. Perhaps he will be up late mulling something over again tonight.

Shigeo Kiyota

Born in the village of Irika in 1927. Founded his own company in Tokyo’s Kita City in 1963. Established Kiyota Manufacturing Company in 1967. The only people in the world to have succeeded in manufacturing a Kelvin Probe for testing silicon wafers are Fell of the UK and Mr. Kiyota. Among his many accolades are a prize for excellence in the 1st Monodzukuri (Manufacturing) Nippon Grand Awards in 2005 and the 30th Invention Award. In 2006, he was awarded the Medal with Yellow Ribbon. Last year, he wrote “Guchoku ni Masaru Tensai Nashi! (Nothing Beats Stubborn Honesty!)” (Kodansha).

Cooperation: Jun Nagai of the Kita City RINRI Hojinkai, Tokyo

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)