The UH03, Japan's first ever hydraulic excavator is made entirely with Japanese technology and is displayed outside the East Building of HCM's Tsuchiura Works. It was purchased by Nakashima Komuten in the 1960s and later donated to HCM. Seiichi Kawahara, who worked as an operator at the company for 38 years and operated the UH03 back in the day said "The chain on the UH03 often broke. It was really hard to retrieve it from the cold river with my bare hands every time."
Seiichi Kawahara, the operator, at the time
Starting with the UH03, Nakashima Komuten has purchased over 100 Hitachi products. When asked the reason for buying the UH03, Nakashima replied, "As far as comfort and performance are concerned, it's not that different from other companies' products. But I bought it because the sales rep came directly from HCM and not from a dealer. Since then, our hydraulic excavators have all been Hitachi products." The HCM sales representative who finalized the deal with Nakashima Komuten developed such a close relationship with the President that he would play catch with the President's son while waiting for him to come home.
Norio Nakashima, President
The Tono area where Nakashima Komuten's head office is located has some of the hardest ground in the country. In fact, construction machinery manufacturers other than HCM sometimes carry out demonstrations there. "We had a backhoe excavator once and the instant the bucket hit the ground, the iron plate curled up. So, before we got a new machine, one of our people went directly to HCM's Tsuchiura Works and had a meeting with the people there. Magic marker in one hand, he told them, "Do this and this and this" and explained how they should reinforce the machine. Two or three years later HCM brought out that exact machine." (President Nakashima) In collaboration with Nakashima Komuten, HCM introduced repeated improvements and reinforcements and now many of the specifications are standard for HCM products.
The EX400H currently in operation at the company's gravel plant have been digging the hard Tono ground for many years. "If a machine can dig the ground in Tono, it can dig the ground anywhere. Nowadays, however, production of construction-related machines is basically discontinued after 5 years with maintenance terminated after 7 years. The manufacturers have their own reasons, but it's no good for the users who use their machines for 20 or 30 years." (President Nakashima) Nakashima Komuten's policy is to use all its equipment, not just construction machines, with care, for as long as it lasts.
ZW180 currently operating at the gravel plant
Nakashima Komuten started out doing mainly civil engineering work and 40 years ago, embarked on the construction business. It all began when the mayor of Kashimo Village (as it was then) where timber production was the local industry came to consult with the company about spreading the appeal of Kashimo timber all over the country. "As we'd never done any house-building before, the first house we built was my own and we did it by gathering people from different places and learning by imitating. Our employees are now very skilled and able to build excellent houses." (President Nakashima)
Nakashima Komuten only undertakes construction on condition that Kashimo wood is used as the building material. Kashimo cypress (commonly known as Tono cypress) is fragrant and richly colored, while Japanese cedar is soft and easy to work with. Both are held in high repute inside and outside Japan. Besides the timber, the company gets earth and stones for the plaster walls from Hirukawa, a famous stone producing area which, like Kashimo, was merged into the city of Nakatsugawa. "We were born and raised here. Our stance is: you get the building materials, carpenters and plasterers here and take them anywhere in Japan, even to the big cities, but please request anything else from somewhere else." (President Nakashima)
Nakashima Komuten aims to build a self-sufficient community. Apart from construction, the company actively supports Kashimo by running the Farmers Market which sells local foods and crafts, and holding town-wide events. Thanks in part to this, there has been an increase in I-turn migration from the cities to the country in recent years. "The company has been featured in various media and more people know our name now." (President Nakashima) There are plans to open a maglev station in Nakatsugawa in 2027.
Processing materials consistently in-house
Nakashima Komuten is steadily gaining a nationwide reputation for its attention to materials, skills and proficiency. Nowadays it receives continuous requests for design, construction and repair work not only of residential homes, but of shrines and temples all over the country, including national treasures such as Eihoji Temple in Tajimi. The construction of shrines and temples requires thick, good quality timber, providing the perfect opportunity to advertise Kashimo timber. As the timber's reputation grows, the company receives inquiries from famous architects as well as from countries like Australia and Brazil.
Requests for joint research and development also come pouring in from universities and other educational institutions. In fact, the company is currently in the process of accepting overseas students studying on Meister programs at Japanese universities and giving them help and guidance with their research.
President Nakashima is quite harsh in his assessment of the new students, new employees and other young workers. "They have all graduated from universities, but we have to start training them from scratch. But that's OK. If they come to us, we train them to be professionals. For some, it takes 5 years and for others up to 10 years to be fully independent" said Nakashima. The company's reputation is apparent not only in the requests it receives for work, but in the form of job applications too.
The main hall of Choonzan Taikyu Temple designed and constructed by Nakashima Komuten
Nakashima Komuten's website carry the message, "We live on earth. We live in nature. We live in Kashimo." "It's important for us to consider what we can do to help our planet survive. That's why we continue to make things that last a long time." (President Nakashima) Things that are made from natural materials, like wooden houses, reputedly deteriorate more slowly over time than chemical products or metals. In fact, there are many wooden shrines and temples that were built hundreds of years ago. They are resilient to natural disasters. Not a single wooden house in Osaka Prefecture, where the company is located, was destroyed by the earthquake that struck northern Osaka Prefecture in 2018.
"The same goes for construction machinery. It must be made to last a long time. It's no good trying to get customers to replace their machines after a short period of time. You have to think on a global scale and not just concentrate on making a profit." President Nakashima's expectations of HCM are also of a global scale. "HCM must do more research, make good products at its factories worldwide and sell construction machines unrivaled by other manufacturers all over the world. The bigger the company, the greater its influence on society. When it comes to hydraulic excavators in particular, HCM boasts an overwhelming share of both the domestic and global markets, so it should lead the country bearing the sign 'Hitachi Construction Machinery of Japan'." (President Nakashima)
President Nakashima says he wakes up at 4am every morning and works 365 days a year, from New Year's Day morning until New Year's Eve night, wearing the same uniform as his employees. His mobile phone number is handwritten on his business card so that he can be contacted directly at any time 24 hours a day. "As long as I am alive, I will keep on working. I've got another 25 years to go till I reach 100." (President Nakashima) He will go on promoting Kashimo timber around the world with all the power of a construction machine.
ZX200 to renovate Kiso River
Rich nature surrounding the head office
|Engine rated power (PS/rpm)||280/2,000|
|Feature||EX400H-1 was designed by fully reviewing UH16's structure and hydraulic system. Large production volume and low fuel consumption were achieved by introducing a high power engine, high pressure/large capacity pumps and E-P control system. Model EX400H-1, equipped with a reinforced Boom/Arm as well as track guards, launched before other competitors.|
The EX400H is still in operation at its gravel plant. Its bucket and arm are reinforced to dig the hard ground in the Tono area.
|■Business:||Custom-built housing, housing renovations, construction of shrines and temples, design and construction of commercial buildings, maintenance and repair of cultural properties and traditional architecture, construction of public buildings, design and execution of civil engineering works, paving and landscaping, production and sale of gravel, ready-mixed concrete and concrete blocks, production, repair and sale of construction machinery, forest cultivation, production and sale of diamond tools, store management, collection and transportation of industrial waste, production and sale of recycled products, non-life insurance agency business, real estate transaction business, and general freight shipping business|
|■Representatives:||Norio Nakashima, President|
|■Address:||1005 Kashimo, Nakatsugawa City, Gifu|