Story of the Founder
Tamaki Sakamoto

Mindset behind starting up the business:

“Spiritual/Passionate Manufacturing”

Reason behind starting up the business:

“Challenge to Life”

Founder Tamaki Sakamoto was involved in the forestry industry after graduating middle school. He was transporting trees cut in the mountains. Back in those days it was all transported by using horse, but finally he bought a truck and was also helping with all sorts of hauling needs. One day, looking up in the blue skies, he thought to himself. “Is this really what I want to do?” This is when he reached out to his brother in law for some advice to ask “Do you know of anything interesting?” At the time, his brother in law, thru a colleague from the same village, had been working at busy company in Himeji city called “Taiyo Golf”

Customers from Tokyo would actually hand carry their pre-payment funds and a gift to the craftsmen to beg them to make clubs for them. It was that kind of time.

Tamaki’s brother in law thought it would be really beneficial to learn this technique and worked really hard to become a craftsman. That is when his brother in law, Tamaki came to him for advice. This is also when the two of them said “Let’s start up our own golf equipment company!!“ and thus started “Kyoei Golf Equipment Manufacturing.”

Tamaki’s brother in law would grind the heads and Tamaki would go sell them and initial funding came from Tamaki’s oldest brother.

One day, when Tamaki was on a sales trip to Nagoya area, he was asked by a client
“we want you to make something extraordinary.” He took back the request to his brother in law and had him change the shape a bit, and when he revisited the client, they were ecstatic! This client was Akagi Golf. There was also a company called Nitto Sports in Osaka. It took Tamaki 6 Months just to meet with the president of Nitto but when he finally was given the opportunity to show their iron head to him, he started to tell him “this is bad” “that is not good” and put difficult requests to Tamaki.

After making all requested modifications, they would revisit Nitto but again they would find things that needed to be changed. After several rounds, they were finally able to deliver a design that Nitto was satisfied with. Then Tamaki asked Nitto “How much would you pay for something like this?“ Nitto’s president then mentions “I feel no passion/spirit in this product!”

Tamaki’s brother in law who was responsible for the manufacturing really thought hard to try and figure out “How do I implement spirit & passion in our products?” But he also mentioned that Nitto Sports’ president taught him something important in life. He taught that one must never be self conceited and should always maintain devotion.

The genetics of “How do I implement spirit & passion in our products?” are inherited in Kyoei heads. The approach in which passion are implemented in their products may differ from one craftsman to another, but for sure, passion is inside each Kyoei head. We would not have such beautiful head unless that is true.

That is the story of how Kyoei started. Initially we used Stainless Steel. We polished stainless steel to finish our heads. Since Stainless Steel does not rust, we did not plate our heads. However, when we first saw a head made in America, we were shocked at how beautiful a finish they had. American made heads were made of Soft Carbon Steel and had plated finish. Since then, Kyoei also started to forge their heads in house and later invested in plating equipment. All of this was because of Tamaki’s goal of “Manufacturing the best head in Japan” He strongly believed that in order to produce good heads they needed to do their own forging and not just grinding. To produce good heads, they needed to do their own plating. But plating was a bit of a challenge. After the Tokyo Olympics, the golf industry experienced a big boost and came along a wave of technological innovations.

When the mass production era arrived, due to numerous limitations with forged manufacturing, we had to lean on lost-wax casting methods.

As a company that roots back to its forging capabilities, Kyoei was heavily impacted by these changes at the time, but with the assistance and technical guidance from Spalding U.S. , Kyoei was able to survive the times by contributing to the revival of the legendary Spalding Top Flite Synchro-Dyned Professional (AKA in Japan “Black Top”) model. In 1995, they were finally able to complete their in house plating facility.

This is when Kyoei became a one stop manufacturing company. Kyoei is still the only company in Japan with full forging to plating process capabilities.

The founder Tamaki Sakamoto worked in forestry after middle school and later founded Kyoei Golf. Kyoei Golf has led the industry development movement as a pioneer within the Harima region (currently known as Hyogo prefecture)

Golf is an imported sport from the western world but Tamaki was not necessarily good at English. Here’s a story. As he landed at an airport in America, there was no one to pick him up. He waited and waited… but not for long. Eventually he ran to a phone booth and started making calls stating from the first page of the phone directory!

“Moshi Moshi” he would speak in Japanese. ?? He was hung up on many calls before a person on the other end finally responded – in Japanese! Tamaki got a hold of someone who speaks Japanese. This is a show of his willingness and vitality to go and explore a brand new market. Quick thinking, courage and persistency. These are the founder’s strength in communicating.

PGA Merchandise Show – the biggest golf industry show in the world. Tamaki took a few of his heads wrapped up in a “Furoshiki” wrapper (Traditional Japanese wrapping cloth) and showed them at the PGA show. “What do you think?” Even if he could not speak the language, they can see the quality in his products. This is how he gradually made Kyoei forged irons known in the U.S.

After several years of visiting the show, he discovers “Cavity Back” irons for the first time. “ Yup, I am going to produce forged Cavity Backs” No one believed that he would be able to produce such thing. People around him said “it’s not possible” ” Don’t do it”… but Tamaki did not give up. Eventually, he succeeds in creating Japan’s first Forged Cavity Back irons. The now popular Forged Cavity Backs are a result of Tamaki’s passion. In more recent years, people would call him “Mister Forged” at the PGA show.

“Challenges of today” may be “gifts” from the future.
When time and effort are relentlessly spent in overcoming those challenges, there will be scenery never before seen by anyone else. Perhaps the my future being knows this and is possibly providing me with these challenges?

Pioneers of an industry are people who can make way for others to follow. They are also the ones to face the most challenges. But Kyoei will remain being that pioneer.
“Facing the challenges” is inherent within Kyoei’s DNA
The founder’s beliefs are still alive at Kyoei.

The founder Tamaki Sakamoto worked in forestry after middle school and later founded Kyoei Golf. Kyoei Golf has led the industry development movement as a pioneer within the Harima region (currently known as Hyogo prefecture)

The current headquarter location, Kanzaki-gun, Ichikawa-cho, Nishi Kawanabe from 1 Banchi to 6 Banchi is approx. 9900 square meter property. From Himeji you take the Bantan Expressway towards Sea of Japan. It is situated by Ichikawa between the Ichikawa Minami exit and Ichikawa Kita exits. It is a very spacious property away from residential properties. Prior to moving to this location, Kyoei Golf was located within the Nishi Kawanabe village.

Tamaki’s dream is to “Manufacture the best irons in Japan” But to be that number one iron manufacturer in Japan, it was not enough to just have a grinding department. Even though we were training and developing the best craftsmen, it was not enough. “In order to make good grinds, you need good forging. “ Tamaki decided to establish a forging department and invested in a furnace and forging machinery.

The first furnaces were not electric as they are today and temperature was manually adjusted by throwing in coke like a steam engine locomotive.
Forging machine was “Forge Ace”

We thought we had everything that we needed to make good irons heads now. But we encountered an issue. Noise. Because we were originally located within the Nishi Kawanabe village, the thundering pounding noise from the forging process was a huge issue. During the high economical growth era, the more we could forge, the more we could sell. The main method of transporting the products was by train and the freight trains would even wait for the Kyoei shipments to load up before leaving the local Amachi station. Kyoei’s forging was known as “Precision Forging.”

We wanted to continue with the forging day and night but that was not possible. The noise issue was a serious issue.

Back when Route 312 from Ichikawabashi was on the other side of the river, the road from Ichikawa City Municipal office to Asano was not necessarily a nice road. It ran beside the mountainous area with many bamboo forests and rice fields.

Tamaki had his eyes on that property. However, that property was owned by 10 or more people. There was rumor that some of them were Yakuza (Mafia) too.

He really wanted to consolidate and own that property. It is unknown how challenging and possibly scary the experiences were in negotiating to buy those properties.

There were probably many other challenges that he did not share with his family and all we can do now is wonder. Only with his strong will to “Make it happen” could he have negotiated his way in obtaining all the property that Kyoei owns today.

 

Pioneers of an industry are people who can make way for others to follow. They are also the ones to face the most challenges. But Kyoei will remain being that pioneer.
“Facing the challenges” is inherent within Kyoei’s DNA

The founder’s beliefs are still alive at Kyoei.