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Edo Bekko
(Tortoiseshell Products)

10 Edo Bekko (Tortoiseshell Products)
Main Areas of Manufacture
Bunkyo Ward, Taito Ward, Sumida Ward
Designation/Certification Dates
February 4th, 1982 (Tokyo Certification)
Traditional Technologies and Techniques
  1. The surface of tortoiseshell used to make Edo Bekko products is prepared by hand. Smoothing is conducted utilizing tools such as rasps, knives and files.
  2. Tortoiseshell pieces are joined together using joint plates, metal plates, pincers and presses, etc. They fuse together with the application of heat.
  3. Product shaping is done using wire saws, knives, files and scouring rushes, etc.
Traditionally Used Raw Materials
The shell of the Hawksbill Turtle.
History and Characteristics

The history of working with tortoiseshell is extremely long. Among the treasures of Todai-ji Temple's Shoso-in treasure house (built around the year 756), artifacts such as staffs and Biwa (Japanese lutes) have been identified as having tortoiseshell decorations. Edo Bekko started to be produced at around the time the Shogunate was established in the city of Edo (modern Tokyo). Shell working techniques were at that time very simple to the extent that tortoiseshell tended to be used as is. During the Genroku Era in Edo (1688-1704), techniques for fusing tortoiseshell pieces together arrived in the city, and this made it possible for more complex products to be produced.

For Edo Bekko, of the many different species of turtle, Hawksbill shell has been traditionally used; it being an appropriate species for producing both fashion accessories and ornaments due to the quality of the shell. At 50 to 60 years of age, Hawksbill specimens living near the equator grow to some 180 cm long and weigh around 200 kg. Talking about the shell (the carapace) of the Hawksbill, it always offers an area comprised of 13 black sections (scutes). The transparent area of the carapace other than these scutes only amounts to approximately 10% of the total. Thus, such material is very much prized.

The Hawksbill Turtle is now a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (The Washington Convention). Thus, there are fears regarding being able to obtain good quality, natural Hawksbill shell. However, these days there are hopes with regard to the production of Hawksbill Turtle shell from turtles grown in captivity in equatorial countries such as Indonesia and Cuba.

With respect to the manufacture of Edo Bekko products, the process commences with decisions concerning the taking of base material from a carapace, the shape of a product and its position within a scute. Two or three similar pieces are cut and fused together through a combination of water and heat. It is years of experience and a craftsman's mastery in controlling the moistening, temperature and pressure on materials which decide whether or not the fusing of pieces together is successful. After this process is completed, tortoiseshell is smoothed down using files and scouring rushes.

Accessories made from natural tortoiseshell such as necklaces, broaches and eye-glass frames, are loved by many people due to their deep sense of gloss and nice texture.

Contact Details
Manufacturing Area
Cooperative Name
Tokyo Bekko (Tortoiseshell) Cooperative Association
Address2-27-7 Higashinihonbashi, Chuo Ward, Tokyo 103-0004 (408, Tokyo Soshou Kaikan)
Telephone No.03 (5607) 0888
Manufacturing Area
Cooperative Name
Tokyo Bekko Crafts Industry Association
Address3-22-8 Yanaka, Taito Ward, Tokyo 110-0001
Telephone No.03 (3828) 9870
Manufacturing Area
Cooperative Name
Higashi-Nihon Bekko Industrial Association
Address2-27-7 Higashinihonbashi, Chuo Ward, Tokyo 103-0004 (408, Tokyo Soshou Kaikan)
Telephone No.03 (5607) 0888
Manufacturing Area
Cooperative Name
Tokyo Soshohin Cooperative Association Group 4
Address3-21-2 Asakusabashi, Taito Ward, Tokyo 111-0053
Telephone No.03 (3862) 4741
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