Kesennuma Knitting Co. specialises in hand-crafted knitwear. The company was originally set up as a project by Japanese celebrity Shigesato Itoi (1948), who is editor-in-chief of his website, Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shimbun (‘Almost’ Daily Itoi News), which presents his take on the news and background stories. He also organises events and publishes books through his website. Outside of Japan he is best known for his work on the Nintendo EarthBound games.
The year after the earthquake disaster on 11 March 2011, Shigesato Ito opened an office in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, where the earthquake caused widespread destruction. To help with the reconstruction efforts, he set up several projects, including the Kesennuma knitting project, which he launched together with Tamako Mitarai (1985). Kesennuma was originally a fishing town, but now there is very little work in the maritime sector. Yet since there is a strong tradition of knitting fisherman's sweaters, the two quickly decided to train housewives as professional knitters and to only produce very high quality knitwear. The famous knitwear designer Mariko Mikuni (1971) was appointed as the designer. The first product, the MM01 cardigan, was produced at the end of 2012. In June 2013 Kesennuma Knitting Co. was officially incorporated as a company, with Tamako Mitarai as CEO. It now employs more than 30 knitters and adds new products to its collection every year.
All of the garments are hand-knitted with self-spun wool and made to order. The mission of Kesennuma Knitting Co. is to produce knitwear that makes people happy and keeps them warm and to create sustainable employment for the local population. In 2014 the company won both the Nikkei Social Initiative Award in the Creative Category and the Earthquake Disaster Reconstruction Award in the Development Bank of Japan Women Entrepreneurs New Business Plan Competition.
Miffy with Kesennuma hand-knitted outfitTheir Miffy statue is wearing the famous MM01 cardigan. The title of their statue is Miffy with Kesennuma hand-knitted outfit. The outfit was created under the supervision of Mariko Mikuni and knitted especially for Miffy by Junko Tamura. The production team explains: ‘We wanted to protect Miffy from the winter cold, so we knitted her a cardigan. We also knitted a hat to keep her ears warm. We made the knitwear like we make all our cardigans: with just wool and buttons, so it is easy to pull on and take off.’