Kaikado was established in 1875, shortly after Japan opened its doors to the rest of the world. With civilization came the import of tinplate from England. Tin was used for the plating of steel, and was considered a fashionable foreign-made item.
In the Edo era, canisters made from tin were a commonplace means of storage for tea, as were jars made from china or earthenware. It was the company’s founder, Kiyosuke, who first designed the tin tea caddy and made it into a commercially available item.
His aim was to provide a well-designed, functional tea caddy capable of storing the type of tea leaves commonly sold by dealers. Showing sympathy for local traditions, Kaikado designed a product that would leave a lasting impression on the discerning Kyoto locals. A great many orders were received from tea dealers and hardware merchants alike. The tea caddies were tailor made to the requirements and needs of each and every store. In a time before the invention of the refrigerator, air tightness was key to maintaining the flavour and quality of freshly picked leaves for a period of one year. Kaikado’s tea caddies were a blessing in disguise to tea dealers, in particular in terms of their functionality. Before long, there was an increase in the number of stores supplying the tea caddies, in Kyoto and throughout Western Japan. A manufacturing process that involves anywhere between 130 to 140 steps, the hand-made tea caddies have virtually remained true to the designs established by Kaikado’s founding generation. The die and mold used in the early years of the company is still in use today, whilst some shapes of tea caddy used 130 years ago are still in production today.