Kokusai Kako

Completed in a matter of minutes, each stage of the moulding process unfolds with clockwork precision. Starting in granular form, the raw material is measured and pre-heated to make round cakes, then placed in a metal mould to be pressed into shape. Once the three-dimensional form emerges, excess material is swiftly removed and the cooling phase begins, resulting in the colour shifting to a darker hue. By this stage the mould has been replenished and not long afterwards, the batch of melamine wares are ready to be moved on to the finishing station.

Founded in 1949, Kokusai Kako has been manufacturing melamine tableware in Japan’s Nara prefecture for the past six decades. In the early days, products were made with manual screw presses using simple metal moulds, created from hand-carved wooden masters. While technology and automation have evolved significantly since that time, one of the first moulding machines still takes pride of place at the factory and headquarters in Gose. This heritage has provided the foundation for the development of high-precision compression moulding techniques and an expansive lineup of around 3000 products.

Central to the Kokusai Kako lineup is the Marukei brand, which has become synonymous with the company’s commitment to the design, development and manufacture of tableware for professional use. An emphasis is placed on function and durability, with each product made to meet the demands of day to day use in school and staff cafeterias, hotels, hospitals and other settings. The assortment of dishes, designed for everything from ramen to reheatable meals and buffets, combine the uniformity of mould-based production with an eye for detail. This includes conveying a sense of warmth, similiar to hand-crafted items, through the use of techniques that create unique textures, slightly uneven surfaces and other tactile features.

“Tableware is essential for serving food, but it also has the power to enhance its taste, aroma and presentation. For this reason, we’re also very particular about forms, colours, patterns and other parts of the design,” explains Masaaki Kosugi from Kokusai Kako’s planning division. “As the famous saying [attributed to twentieth-century artist and gourmet Rosanjin Kitaoji] goes, dishes are the kimonos of good food.”

This philosophy comes to the fore with the Mellina brand, which was launched in 1980. Drawing on expertise gained from the development of Marukei, the brand sought to bring professional quality tableware into homes throughout Japan. Building on the straightforward concept of simple, functional design with a natural sense of warmth, the early collections included tableware and cutlery, along with pitchers and storage containers. Gentle curves, rich colours and a ceramic-like feel resulted in homewares with an enduring appeal. The brand has continued to evolve over the years, pairing fresh designs with a selection of time-honoured classics.

Passing on what has never existed until now. Building on this motto, Kokusai Kako continues to develop original products, while also working in collaboration with various partners. This pursuit requires not only a deep understanding of today’s food culture and way of life, but the essential needs of industry professionals and home cooks alike.

by Ben Davis