Work Gloves

Protecting your hands from hazards

Himeji, the land of Kuroda Kanbee, an outstanding 16th-century samurai strategist who never lost a battle in the age of warring provincial lords, boasts Himeji Castle -- Japan’s first UNESCO-designated World Heritage site as well as one of Japan’s national treasures -- which is a popular destination for tourists and history lovers from overseas and Japan. In addition to this beautiful internationally renowned castle nicknamed the White Heron Castle, it is worth remembering that the region of Himeji and its adjacent Seiban is a land of a variety of indigenous industries that have been cherished and nursed by history and tradition and that have engaged in day-and-night endeavors to capture the hearts and needs of a fast-changing world. Among these industries is the making of work gloves that are now indispensable to and used in daily lives as well as manufacturing and other various industrial works.

From farmers’ moonlighting to corporatization

It was in the present Shikitocho area of Himeji City and the Shikatacho area of Kakogawa City that the work glove industry of Hyogo Prefecture began in the mid-1910s in the wake of the development of the sock industry. At its start, farm folks made work gloves as a moonlighting endeavor. Yet with the coming of a business boom during World War I, the production of work gloves grew into corporatization.

With production expanding to adjacent areas, the prefecture’s western region came to gain recognition as a main production region of work gloves. They were first used for protection against the cold. As Japan grew to be an industrial nation, they grew to be a must for on-site works to protect hands against wounds as well as hazards.

After World War II began, Japanese business activities came to witness state-controlled economy and the work glove industry was no exception. The Hyogo Prefectural Meriyasu Industry Association was in charge of delivering original yarn and controlling product sales through its glove department. When decontrol was realized in 1950, work glove makers formed the Hyogo Prefectural Glove Industry Association.

However, free competition hit the new association. It fell into a nominal entity as a result of business slumps, without sufficient capabilities to overcome the difficulty. Finally in 1964, the industry successfully launched, with approval from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (presently the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), the Hyogo Prefectural Work Glove Industry Association.

It today addresses the development of high-value added products by providing designs that fit their respective uses and adopting new materials.

It also works to promote the effective use of finite natural resources by commercializing pelletized yarn, making use of used PET bottles.

Developing together with the sock industry

Back in 1886, a resident of the then Shikata Town of Innami County (currently Kakogawa City) brought back home hand-operated type hosiery knitting machines from Shanghai, China. It heralded the introduction of sock manufacturing in the Harima region. However, the new trade in the western part of Hyogo Prefecture lagged behind Osaka that had seen the industry’s advanced development. Manufacturers in the Harima region were affiliated with wholesalers of Osaka for their own development.

At the start, sock manufacturing was a side business for farmers. But toward the end of the Meiji era when the national government went ahead with running the tobacco industry, the sock industry attracted an inflow of tobacco growers’ fund and the Harima region came to grow as a solid base of sock manufacturing.

It was around the mid-1920s that hosiery knitting machines were improved to produce gloves. A new industry arose.

For a sound material-cycle society

In recent years, the process of manufacturing work gloves has been keeping pace with the current establishment of a sound material-cycle society. Material recycling is the term used when reusable objects are produced from waste materials like when we collect used PET bottles and convert them into recycled polyester. When work gloves and work clothes made of recycled polyester are worn out, they can be collected and converted into refuse-derived fuel to produce recycled polyester. This we call thermal recycling. Ashes from thermal recycling are again used for material recycling after being reprocessed into base course materials, etc. for road construction. In this way, a sound material-recycle society aims at decreasing the amount of waste and CO2 emissions and thus conserving the consumption of natural resources and reducing the environmental load.