The tales of Steve Jobs & Japan #03: Yukio Shakunaga, Steve Jobs' Favorite Porcelain Artist

It is well-known that Steve Jobs is a Japanophile.
It is also well-known that Steve Jobs admired great artists and craftsmen.

Among the many artists he loved was Yukio Shakunaga, a porcelain artist based in Toyama prefecture, Japan.
Jobs found the work of Shakunaga while he was having a vacation in Kyoto.

Shakunaga's atelier is in Toyama prefecture, 330Km (or 200 mi) away from Kyoto but he was having a week long exhibition in a gallery in Kyoto.
"Etchu Seto-yaki" is the kind of porcelain Shakunaga makes; Etchu is the old name of Toyama prefecture and "Seto-yaki" is the kind of porcelain he makes.

Jobs just walked in the exhibition with his wife, Laurene Powell; he liked Shakunaga's work so much and bought several Japanese tea cups and flower vases. More over, he visited the exhibition three times during the one-week exhibition.

It was still in mid-'90s. Steve Jobs still worked for NeXT, Inc. and Shakunaga had no idea who Steve Jobs was but was impressed by two things: Jobs' searching eyes and deep interest into his works.

After Steve Jobs has passed, Shakunaga's daughter, Yo Shakunaga, has posted an anecdote by an author, Shizuka Kanaki:

Yo's blog: Steve Jobs and Etchu Seto-yaki

According to that story, Shakunaga's niece was there to help the exhibition and she was the only person who recognized Steve Jobs.
She was explaining to Shakunaga that "having Steve Jobs visit the exhibition is like having John Lennon purchase a tea cup there. And uncle, you've even talked with Steve Jobs for so long. That is so amazing!"

According to that blog post, sometime, speaking and hearing didn't work for Jobs and Shakunaga, so they relied on pens and papers. But Jobs kept asking so many questions.
And most of Jobs' questions were about the clay used in Shakunaga's work.

Shakunaga explained to Jobs that he used "Hakudo (White Clay)." Jobs was so curious about this "White Clay" that he almost visited Toyama. But then, he reallized it will take three hours just to get there and gave up.
Although most porcelain artists buys clay, Shakunaga starts his work by digging his own clay. Kanaki believes that sort of craftsmanship may have impressed Steve Jobs.
And Jobs' strong interest impressed Shakunaga.

The correspondence between the two continued even after the exhibition.

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年02月11日 | Permalink

The tales of Steve Jobs & Japan #02: casual friendship with Sony

It is well-known that Steve Jobs is a Japanophile.
It is also well-known that Steve Jobs was a big fan of Sony.

In the book, "Insanely Simple" by Ken Segall, the godfather of "iMac" disclosed how Steve Jobs wanted to name that product "MacMan" mimicking "Walkman."

Akio Morita, the co-founder of Sony was not featured in the 'Think different.' ad campaign but he has always been a hero for Steve Jobs.
I remember Jobs giving condolence on his passing.

Steve Jobs giving condole sense to Morita at iMac DV introduction/Click to watch video

Steve Jobs and Akio Morita

While Jobs adored Morita, Morita also adored Steve Jobs.
"There are actually two American youngsters Morita was particularly fond of and took good care of: One was Michael Jackson, and the other was Steve Jobs" recalls Kunitake Ando, the ex-president of Sony, Inc. According to him, Morita, often invited them to Sony and gave them personal tours.

Because of this close relationship between Jobs and Morita, Apple and Sony was in a special relationship all along the way. The two companies had been very close even during Steve Jobs' absence. The two companies have worked closely on some projects. For example, Apple's QuickTime team had helped Sony develop their ATRAC audio file format. And ex-QuickTime architect directed some of Sony's Cybershot digital camera projects.

The relationship between Apple and Sony became even stronger when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and it continued on, perhaps, until iPod became such a huge success and Howard Stringer took control of SONY.

Mac-compatible VAIO

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年02月05日 | Permalink

The tales of Steve Jobs & Japan #01: Mr.Floppy disk

It is well-known that Steve Jobs was a Zen Buddhist and a Japanophile.
Although he was a well-known vegetarian, Sushi always had been the exception.
According to a tweet by Masayoshi Son, the head of SoftBank groups, the best meal Steve Jobs had in his life was a Sushi dinner in Kyoto.

Despite the massive number of books about Steve Jobs published in English, there are still many tales of him which isn't known to the western world.

I once wrote some of them on
"Steve Jobs and Japan."

But here on my blog, I would like to give a deeper cut into some of those stories.

First in the series of all, I would like to write the tale of Mr. Floppy disk: the friendshop between Steve Jobs and Yasuyuki Hirose, an ex-engineer of floppy disk drive at ALPS Electronics.

I interviewed him for a book I supervised (+I also have written 70% of the articles on it).
The book is called "The Legacy of Steve Jobs" and it is only available in Japanese:

スティーブ・ジョブズは何を遺したのか (日経BPパソコンベストムック)

Steve & Yasu

Hirose brought a picture of him with Steve Jobs. On the back of the picture, it reads "At Rod Holts' house. June, 1977." Hirose was 32 years-old when 24 years-old Steve Jobs approached him and asked to make a floppy disk drive for Apple II.
"She is not in the picture, but Barbara Jasinski was sitting right next to me. At the time, Steve was dating her." recalls Hirose.
All Apple executive team called him "Yasu" and were so warm and friendly to him. They often invited him to home party, etc. And the picture Hirose brought was taken during on of those ocasions. Rod Holt once invited Hirose to his Yacht named "Apple I" and served a beer named after himself.

Hirose says "many people say Steve Jobs is a short-tempered charisma, but he was always kind and even shy to me." Hirose once asked Jobs, if he could give a lecture to factory workers at ALPS and Jobs warmly accepted it.
One of the factory workers asked Jobs what the 'fifth generation computer' is.
'Fifth-generation computer' was an initiative by Japanese government to create Japan-made super computers.
Steve Jobs explained "the fifth generation computers are like super-cars while personal computers are like bicycle."
Jobs also frankly asked many questions to ALPS employees. He was especially interested in their automated factory.
"Steve was particularly interested in manufacturing processes. In 1983, he made a tour of automated factory in Furukawa and asked many questions. Later, he invited me to his new factory in Fremont, California; it was then, that I realized what Steve had always wanted to do." recalls Hirose.

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2014年02月03日 | Permalink





















「Interplanetary good vibe zone」というボードだ。



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投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2013年12月08日 | Permalink

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投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2013年12月03日 | Permalink