Making a difference with jewelry: Muramatsu Makoto

This week’s topic is dear to my heart, because I truly admire unique jewelry. So far I had looked at jewelry from a foreign perspective, but this time I am very happy to get a better understanding of the actual historical background of jewelry in Japan by interviewing a local jewelry designer Muramatsu Makoto. He has his own jewelry brand:
m2Design ( Muramatsu san was born in Tokyo, graduated from Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art gem fine art technical school, worked as chief designer for 10 years and founded in 2004 M2Design. Muramatsu san takes part in exhibitions and since 2008 has set up his own gallery with breathtaking view of Mt. Fuji and Kofu city.
For the first time the interview was conducted in Japanese and then translated into English from my side (my apology in advance in case of any mistakes).

Sibylle Ito: So far in Japan I saw most foreign brand jewelry. How come that foreign brands have become so popular?

Muramatsu Makoto: For a long time a large number of Japanese liked foreign brands. I believe, this is most likely based on the difference of the history and culture of Japan compared to the West. You know, unlike the West, Japan has become much later a developed nation. Looking at the history of European fashion, Japan at the same time did not have a similar advanced level. Most likely still many Japanese yearn for European fashion. The same thoughts can be applied then for jewelry.
I think European design is surpassing the Japanese, but recently in various fields Japanese design got global recognition and approval. Furthermore Japanese people have become interested in local brands and the number followers has started to increase.

SI: Abroad personalized, one of a kind jewelry has a marvelous image. So far in Japan I did not hear about a desire of having very unique jewelry. Why is it different?

MM: I have the same image. For foreigners instead of putting importance on a brand, it becomes more important to have the feeling of “only I have this” or then “because it is me, it suits to me..”. Based on higher self-confidence it seems that many foreigners have this different approach. Contrary then looking at the historical background of Japan, Japanese tend to follow fashion fads more easily, or if people in their surrounding posses something, especially then the feeling that they need the same too is quite common.
In my opinion Japanese women don’t like to have any conflicts with their acquaintances, based on a strong desire for having a peaceful environment. Therefore having similar products as everyone else, probably gives Japanese women a piece of mind. However recently independent women are on the rise, consequently the joy of possessing something that “only they have” becomes more common.

SI: Is there a history of unique jewelry in Japan?

MM: In Japan traditional jewelry was made of crystals, agate, pearls, lapis lazuli. In the Meiji period (1868-1912) in Yamanashi prefecture a lot of crystals had been mined, but the available natural resources were limited and only few other gems could be found. Furthermore, because Japan is an island country distribution and access to gems was limited. Only in recent few decades truly unusual gems became available.

SI: In my opinion until marriage Japanese men are under much pressure from women to buy jewelry. Is this really true?

MM: The Japanese history of fashion, especially in the case of jewelry, its historical origin is recent. Consequently numerous people have no idea about jewelry. In the case if a woman desires to receive jewelry, quite often for the man he simply perceives the wish for jewelry as a highly priced luxury. Therefore Japanese men feel a lot of pressure if a woman desires jewelry.
To present to a woman an engagement ring the typical rule known is that it should be the worth of three monthly salaries…but this was based on a public marketing strategy of the diamond industry. In the past many Japanese men had obediently followed this rule.

SI: In Japan my image is that only a few unusual products exist. How come that you wanted to create something like jewelry?

MM: Since I was I child I always was interested in work that included creating something. At 17 I was aiming at becoming an interior designer, but then I encountered the “jewelry street” in Koufu (Yamanashi prefecture). I realized that a gem is something that was created in the ground for thousands or ten thousand years to become a beautiful crystal. It seemed to me that a gem is similar to a flower that can provide beauty, while at the same time ease our pain. I have chosen this job, because it gives me an opportunity to transform this slowly created gem – received as present from the earth – into jewelry. That is why I had to choose this profession. I have started with my own business 6 years ago, because I wanted to make sure that I can create my own design allowing a new sparkling life to a gem.
It is my dream to provide jewelry for people that can allow them to sense “dream”, “energy” and “tranquility”, first mainly of course in Japan, but hopefully sooner or later worldwide.

Muramatsu san, thank you so much for taking time to explain more about gems and its unique Japanese history. For sure you have changed my few on gems as I see them now as well slowly grown flowers from the deep ground.

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)

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