Returning to our Toyota/Lexus micro-theme, Andrew Miles takes a detailed look a the art of craftsmanship.
Takumi is not a job description, nor a role you can apply for. Takumi is a state of mind, a calling, an undeniable load and bearing on your whole existence. Takumi is not for those faint of heart.
Artisans by their very nature have dedication, but those who work in and around Lexus take those to unchartered levels. But with technology advancing at ever greater speed, the hand crafted arts are swiftly losing out. Automation, artificial intelligence and computer progress are threatening livelihoods. Lexus look at things differently. Of the seven thousand people, along with hundreds of robots who create the cars at Lexus’ Tahara factory in Aichi, Takumi number less than twenty.
One method to determine your Takumi mettle is the folding of paper. Make up an origami cat in less than ninety seconds with your non-dominant hand. I can struggle with a light switch with my left hand. The sensory level these masters have achieved is almost superhuman. Taste and smell are perhaps the only senses not utilised to the utmost degree.
Whilst Ole Henry gave the world the production line, it took the Japanese to not only refine but to try and obliterate any kind of fault, problem or defect in the whole process. No mean feat but to compare reasonably equipped factories in say the US, UK and Japan from the 1970s onwards would be an unfair fight. Look how many ’80s and ’90s Japanese cars are still trundling around today without much trouble.
As we now lurch into the 31st year of Lexus car production and their portfolio grows ever larger, the Takumi are not only revered but have been awarded film star status by their employers, with a film specially made to help us mere mortals understand a little of their craft. The West’s barometer is ten thousand hours to become skilled in your profession. 60,000 hours is the Takumi standard.
This equates to eight hours per day, 250 days per year, for thirty years and is not one but two films. The first one indeed lasts for that exact time, which for those with little else to do is a soupçon short of seven years. The film by Netflix documentary fellow, Clay Jeter is looped ad-infinitum in order to run for that time. Don’t expect big box office takings.
The more real-world film lasts but one of those little hours, revealing the worlds of carpentry, Michelin starred cuisine, paper cutting and of course the building of a Lexus. It is compelling viewing. In our time restricted lives where everything is needed and expected instantly, the time invested in such a skill is becoming obsolescent. To empty the mind of everything but the task in hand (literally) requires strength of mind. All of which is hugely diverting from today’s manufacturing process, but arguably more necessary than ever.
Luckily, for those with a sense of calm, philosophy and understanding, Lexus Takumi display their unbending quest to achieve perfection. Any fool can argue the merits of styling or power plant – to be able to critique workmanship without fail by human sense borders on magical. No doubt someone will attempt to recreate the Takumi’s art in software form; an artisanal app in a state of the art factory but meanwhile, as purveyors of proficiency, as slaves to the sublime, as creatures craving human interaction as technology attempts to takeover, we should treasure the Takumi.
The delicacy taken over the bodywork is almost maternal, or in this silver screened instance, perhaps paternal. To feel for microscopic flaws, to reveal paint imperfections, caressed with white gloved care. To listen to engine revolutions, aiming to detect irregularities that no microphone could determine. To have the ability to not only see but feel and explain a nought point three millimetre gap in a panel and have the authority to rectify them are skills that I suspect none of the readership will ever posses.
Whilst you may not appreciate the vehicles that Lexus are producing, it would be a cold heart that sees nothing of this dedication which this film portrays in a most balanced way.
Watch it here www.takumi-craft.com if only to observe devotion in everyday lives.