Many will be familiar with Sugatsune‘s premium brand ‘Zweil’, which is an expression of the company’s relentless pursuit of engineering excellence. But many of Sugatsune’s other products also carry the word LAMP, something Western customers often ask about. Sitting beside the Sugatsune company name, the LAMP brand reveals something of the complexities of Japan’s culture.
Sugatsune is a family-owned company with it’s early history in engineering – an early photograph shows them grouped around a motorcycle they are proudly maintaining. As the company grew into manufacturing, the focus moved initially on to furniture hardware, where it supplied Western-influenced fittings to the Japanese market.
In the post war years Japan’s priority was to rebuild its economy. This was for obvious practical reasons and also because of the belief that hard work and common purpose would restore the nation’s sense of self. Possibly as a result of living on a geologically exciting island, the Japanese really pull together when catastrophe strikes.
Sugatsune took the task seriously and decided to affix a symbol that embodied the spirit of the times to all of its products. The chosen symbol was a traditional oil burning hand lamp – a light that would lead the nation out of adversity. The symbol has become rather like a Kitemark, something that is looked for in Japan as an assurance of quality.
It is beginning to be recognised in Europe as synonymous both with Sugatsune and with excellent design. British company Marks & Spencer has a similar vestigial brand: “St Michael”, which is now used as a quality guarantee on many of its products.
The marker “LAMP” on a Sugatsune product is thus a seal of approval from the Sugatsune family – an indication that this product conforms to its values, is good for the client, the company, and for Japan.