Kaikado was established by Master Kiyosuke Kaikado in Kyoto in 1875 during a time of economic, political and cultural expansion. In the 1850’s Japan was coming out of an isolationist time period. With newly opened trade with the West, Japan began importing foreign commodities and artistic inspirations from other countries. Tin, an English import was then a highly demanded European commodity; it was the material used for the original tea caddies designed by Master Kiyosuke, Kaikado’s founder. This early tin caddy eventually replaced the earthenware jars that were commonplace at the time. The innovative caddy's ability to preserve tea leaves in its air-tight container gave Kaikado a crucial position in the local market, and it was this development that allowed the small workshop to become the main canisters purveyor to the community of merchants, tea dealers and private home owners.
Masters Otokichi and Hikojiro stewarded the family-owned workshop from 1916 through the Second World War. Following the war, Japan saw a period of economic growth and the advent of mass-produced, inexpensive tea caddies. In response to changes in the marketplace, Kaikado’s fourth generation, Master Souchi explored other materials and introduced copper tea caddies. The fifth generation, Master Seiji, contributed to the workshops’ development by introducing smaller canisters to a society that was becoming more and more mobile. Seiji also designed the first tea caddy made of brass.
In its sixth generation, Takahiro Yaji has contributed the most to the expansion of his family's workshops by initiating international collaborations, special exhibition projects and introducing to the world, the beautifully crafted collection, and the cultural legacy that he inherited from his family’s lineage of craftsmen. Takahiro Kaikado has widened the awareness of the Kaikado’s canisters as he also developed new design objects involving international artists, other master-craftsmen or materials. For instance, Takahiro initiated the first private label collections commercialized through tea brands, lifestyle companies and museum shops.
A tea caddy manufacturing process involves anywhere between 130 to 140 steps. Since the family-owned workshop’s inception 140 years ago, the Kaikado Masters have transmitted their craftsmanship legacy one generation to the next, keeping their collections relevant by adapting to their time, introducing new sizes, new materials or new designs. The iconic Kaikado Chazutsu (the standard Kaikado Tea Canister) involves a 130-step fabrication process. Its timeless design has made this signature product one that has never lost the appreciation of a growing clientele that has become international.
Each time a Kaikado tea caddy is handled, it develops a unique patina specific to the brass, tin or copper materials. The canister grows value and appreciation as it gains this oxidization sheen. A 100-year old tea caddy with opaque patina holds the soul and memories of a family; it is passed onto the next generation as a family heirloom. Regarded as beautifully crafted objects and efficient conservation containers, the Kaikado caddies are sought after as long lasting family heirlooms and used to store a wide a variety of cereals, grains, spices, tea or coffee. They continue to preserve the perfume and the flavor of goods in private homes, restaurant kitchens, and tea shops across the world.