TRADITIONAL CRAFTSMAKER

Traditional Craft men & women in Taito city

Kanban Chokoku (signboard engraving)

Mr. Yasuyuki Sakai

Mr. Yasuyuki Sakai is a signboard engraver and is the third generation owner of the Fukuzendo Sakai Kanban Shop.
He currently runs the Fukusendo Sakai Kanban Shop with his son, Mr. Tomoo.

The history of kanban chokoku is very old and can be dated back to when Buddhism was introduced to Japan during the Asuka period (550-710). It is said that it originated from the culture of hengaku in temples. (Hengaku are landscape pictures that are hung above doors and inside rooms)
It is said that these signboard engravings last a long time, some still existing from the end of the Muromachi period (1333-1573). During the Edo period (1603-1868), it became a popular advertising device due to the increase of shops, which eventually garnered attention and spread throughout Japan.
They are currently used as signboards for temples and shops, and as name plates to commemorate a comedian headliner. They are also popular to celebrate store openings, weddings, and new years.

Mr. Sakai says that a lot has changed since he became a craftsman 60 years ago.
Mr. Sakai became a craftsman several years before the first Tokyo Olympics, but plastic and neon signs began to appear one after another after the Olympics so shops stopped using wooden signboards resulting in many signboard artisans switching jobs.

Mr. Sakai also wanted to give up and change with the times so he told his father, “Although I haven’t carved anything yet, it is impossible to make anything new”.
However, the world calmed down after the bubble, and the good quality of the wooden signboard was renewed, so he is glad that he continued doing signboard engraving.

The most impressive thing Mr. Sakai has done thus far is that he created two very large 4m × 80cm billboards in 1990. It was a huge job, so it was deeply moving when it was finished.

In addition, he also had a huge job of creating 50 store signs for the Yanaka Ginza shopping district.

“Every shop has a different industry and there are also Western-style signboards so it was fun to do something different than my usual work. When it comes to kanban chokoku, it is often thought that is is only a Japanese-style signboard, but I can make various signs according to the customer’s order,” says Mr. Sakai.

Fukuzendo Sakai Kanban Shop

Address: 3-4-1 Matsugaya, Taito-ku