A Businessman Who can Use a Handplane in Japan–Unbelievable!

When I arrived at the exhibition hall in Chiba two days ago I learned this show used to be three times the current size as recently as five years ago. So how big is it?

It is not quite as big as the National Hardware show in Vegas each year (which used to be much bigger when it was in Chicago). In many ways, a woodworking/DIY trade show is a trade show the world around…they are all shrinking.

I asked for the reasons and the popularity of pre-fab houses was at the top of the list. Also, IKEA is hugely popular here–young Japanese families can buy an entire room of furniture for the cost of ONE high-end plane or chisel set. Lastly, it appears the people here don’t have much time for anything but work and family. Sound familiar?

I am having fun demonstrating the Jointmaker Pro and I would say there is a profound appreciation for the accuracy and the clean cuts. Don’t get me wrong, we are not on our third order book, or second…you get the idea, but the reactions are genuine and many can’t believe how easy it is to do accurate work. The soulfulness of the process (very little noise) is greatly appreciated. Lots of gasps and smiles.

My demo unit is set for my height which is radically different from most here. We rigged a step stool and now I can coax just about anyone to try the JMP. The reactions on peoples faces is worth the trip. I am trying my best to be a good Yankee ambassador and we are having fun. Here’s an amusing story…

I stopped by an educational booth and made my very first pair of chopsticks with hand planes. Elapsed time was maybe two minutes. The booth attendant asked me my occupation and I replied “business executive”. This created quite the stir because they have never seen such a “confident” business executive use hand tools.  They really struggled with this and through an interpreter I explained that I used to be a woodworker. This knowledge put everyone in the booth at ease and there were many smiles and sighs of relief.  Afterword I invited them all over to the Jointmaker booth and this was the highlight of the day for me and I would like to think for this group as well.

Even in Japan, businessmen are presumed to be incompetent…


My cell phone does not work here but the camera does. Here are a few (crude) tradeshow pics from the Land of the Rising Sun…

Trade shows all look the same. Not as many pony tails here however…

This lady could not cut dowel with her hand strength. She was so excited when I showed her how to use the clamps. She must have made a half-dozen passes, each drawing a big smile from the onlookers.

This creature caught my eye–it is made entirely of woodworking tools.Wingspan is close to 10 feet! The feathers are hand saw blades, the legs are auger bits and the face and face feathers are all knives. If this thing ever fell over on a cow…instant hamburger.

2 comments on this post:

  1. Hi John, I hope Saturday went well when the public was let into the hall.

    I met you on Friday, myself and my friend Neil came by, I’m the guy Manfred says he “knows” even though I’d never met him before.

    Best of luck with sales in Japan, you have on very incredible tool there.

    Stuart Ablett

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