Interview: Yamato Glue


With a history of over a hundred years, Yamato's starch paste is a classic staple today. With its iconic blue body and yellow lid, this product has actually gone through various developments and a multitude of improvements to reach the form we know of today. In this interview, we talk with Yamato to trace back to their beginnings over a 120 years ago, as well as how relevant their glues will continue to be in the future.  


"At our company, we take it to heart to design with functionality as a priority"

The interview below was conducted in Japanese, and translated to English on the right.

The interview below was conducted in Japanese, and translated to English on the right.


容器、材料、作り方の3つに分けて考えるとわかりやすいと思います。 創業当初に決めたコンセプトがあって、それは腐らず保存が効く使いやすい糊ということ。 この「ヤマト糊」を発売するきっかけは、当時保存が効かない糊が当たり前だったからなんです。 実はこの会社の創業者は炭を売る問屋だったんです。その炭を小分けで買うお客さんのため、小分け用の袋を作って小売りもしていたそうです。その袋作りに糊が必要になった。でも作り置きをした糊や量り売りの糊はすぐに腐ってしまう。それで、保存の効く糊 を作ろうと思い立ったそうです。長持ちして、品質が良くて、ローコストで使い勝手の良いもの。多くの方に使って頂けるようにと考え、それに沿って商品を開発しようと。そうやってスタートしていったんです。

Can you tell us what has changed and what hasn’t changed about Yamato Nori?

It would be easier for you to understand as we explain in three separate categories: the container, ingredients, and recipe.

The Container:
When the founder developed the first production, there was a concept that glue didn’t rot, preserved well, and was easy to use.  Yamato started because it was normal that glue was not preserved well at that time.
The founder was originally a wholesaler of charcoal.  There were customers’ needs to buy charcoals in the smaller portions, so he made small paper bags to put charcoal.  To make these bags, he needed glue, but glue that he had in bulk or that were sold by weight, rot within a short time.  And this is why the founder tried to produce glue that would last long in good quality, with low cost, and user-friendly. The founder decided to develop something useful for many people.  This is how it all started.




保存が効く糊が出来上がったのですが、120年前はモノを買いに行くときに自分で容器を持って行ったんですね。それで売場で量ってもらって、その容器に入れてもらう。そう いう販売方法が普通だったのですが、それを量り売りではなく、特定の容器に入れて発売をしたんです。そうすると、手ぶらで行っても買えて便利ですし、そのまま保存できますよね。またそのときは明治時代で、 会社がいっぱいできて、経済も発展してきてね。そういう会社ができたということは、会社員の人が糊を使う機会が増えるということですよね。伝票貼ったりね。決まった容器に入れることで、そういう人たちに特定の量をあげることができるんです。それで一気に普及していった と。保存がきくというだけじゃなく、一手間アイディアを加えたんですね。

The founder had created glue that stored well.  120 years ago, when you went out to buy something, you brought your own container.  Salespersons would weigh the amount you were buying, and put it in the container for you to bring home.  This sales method was normal.
Yamato Glue started to be sold in specific individual containers, instead of selling by weight.  This way, it was convenient that people didn’t have to bring any containers and it can be preserved as it is.  This was during Meiji period, about a century ago, companies increased rapidly, and the economy was booming.  As companies were increasing, there were more opportunities for office workers to use glue, like gluing receipts on bills.  By selling glue in specific containers, more people were buying glue in specific amounts easily, and glue sold in containers instantly spread out.  Not only glues became preserved well, but also the founder had put additional value of idea.


The material of glue containers transitioned from original glass to pottery during the WWII period, and then back to glass after the war, and finally to plastic.  The founder started with glass jar made with recycled glass to achieve a low unit price.  Tin lids were attached to keep glue in good wet condition.  Glass containers were heavy, and shipping costs were high and also easy to break.  And truck transportation became popular compare with rail, containers needed to be light weight, so plastic was focused.

最初は、お米のでんぷんを原材料にして作っていたんです。でも戦争中は、統制により糊の原料に米が使えなくなり、ピンチになったんですね。そこで球根のでんぷんに目をつけたんですが、従来通りの加熱処理の製法では、なかなかいい商品にできなかった。またそこで発想の転換をして、熱を加えない化学的処理で作る (冷糊法)という技術を開発したんです。昭和25年には、この製法で特許を取って、いまでも変わらず続けているやり方です。 そして戦争が終わり時を経て、1980年にオイルショックが起き、すべてのモノの価格が高くなった。 創業当初から良い物を安く提供しようと常に意識していた最中、それに並行して全く違う社会問題が起きていました。 それはアレルギーです。スギ花粉アレルギーが騒がれはじめたんですね。また、子供の食品にもアレルギーの問題が出てきた。糊は食品ではないけれど、幼稚園生などの小さな子も使います。手で糊を使って、そのまま舐めてしまったりするんですよね。その問題も視野に入れた解決として、タピオカのでんぷんに行き着きました。タピオカのでんぷんは、当時の日本人でアレルギーの発症報告がな かった(もしくは少なかった)原料だったんです。 このように、保存が効く・低単価・安心安全を基軸に、容器と原材料と製造方法が120年に及ぶ歴史の中で変化を遂げてきました。

The Ingredients:
At first, Yamato used rice starch to make its glue.  However, rice starch became very limited during the WWII period due to food rationing, then some other ingredients are needed to continue producing glue.  Yamato found starch from bulbous portions instead, but with conventional production methods, using heat treatment, didn’t work well to produce glue in good condition.  

The Recipe
A significant change in production methods was needed.  Yamato discovered a new technology to produce glue through a chemical treatment without using any heat (cold glue methods).  In 1950, Yamato obtained a patent with this method, and our process hasn’t changed since then.
Yamato had been always trying to produce glue that would last long in good quality, with low prices, and user-friendly.  After the war ended, the oil shock occurred in 1980, and all prices increased.  Additional to inflation, one social issue occurred, allergies.  There was a big fuss about pollen allergy from cedar trees, and also allergy problems with children’s food.  Glue isn’t a food product, but it’s something that small children like kindergarten pupil use with their hands, and they could even lick it.  As a solution with these issues, Yamato came to the idea of using tapioca instead of rice starch.  At the time, tapioca was an ingredient that didn’t have (or had very little) reports on allergies.
As Yamato had been producing glue that would last long in good quality, with low cost, and user-friendly, the containers, ingredients, and methods had changed throughout 120 years.

現行デザインは、初代のガラス容器をイメージしているとのことですが、この個性的なブルー と黄色の組み合わせについて他にも理由がありますか?

ヤマト糊というと、ガラスの容器とブリキの金の蓋というイメージだったので、そのイメージ をまず壊さないようにしようということが一つ。そして、実は女性の社会進出が関係しています。 黄色というのは、男性も女性も違和感なく使える中性的な色なんですよね。下のブルーだけだ と、男の子というイメージになってしまうけど、上を黄色にすることによって、中性感が出せると。あとは、お店で映える色というのも一つの理由ですね。

The current design imagines the glass container at the time of its founding, but are there any other reasons for the unique colour combination of blue and yellow?

Yamato Glue had been represented by an image of glass containers and golden tin lids.  Yamato had wanted to retain this image, and also had concerned women's social advancement.  Yellow is a neutral color, which both male and female can use without discomfort.  Blue would have an image of targeting mainly male, but by using with yellow lid, the containers were able to bring out a sense of neutrality.  In addition, those colors stand out in shops.


"A softness that fits comfortably into your hand"



1980年頃からほぼ現行の、丸みのあるデザインにしました。 手にすっぽりはまるような柔らかさは、化粧品を参考にしているんです。 あとは、糊は気密性が大事ですから、どこか一箇所合わせて閉めるとぱちっと音がして、しっかり閉じていることがわかるようになっています。また子供も大人も開けやすいように、つばをつける工夫。あとは置いた時のこの座りの良さは、安心感につながるんですよね。

What is important in this package and product?

Around 1980 Yamato changed to current roundish design.  Yamato used the tenderness of cosmetics containers, which fit comfortably into hands, as a reference.  Airtightness is also important for glue.  Yamato designed containers and lids to make a small sound, can be heard as a sign of properly closed.  Yamato designed lids with a brim for both children and adults to open easily.  Yamato also focused how well round containers sits on a flat surface, which bring a sense of stability and comfort.






ヤマト糊は基本的に大きくは変わっていないんです。シンプルな形、原料も現時点で問題がない。でも使ってくださる方の幅が広くなってきました。というのは、我々の時代は、糊は大体小学校に入った頃から使い始めていたんですが、その次の世代の人たちは幼稚園で初めて糊を使う。そして今は保育園から使うんですよね。そのときに、実はこの糊は接着剤としてだけでなく、知育用具としても使われてるんです。指先で糊を塗ると、その糊を塗る対象物の違いが触覚でわかる。ボール紙、画用紙、フェルトと様々な素材に塗る、その時それぞれの触覚が違いますよね。その触覚の違いが、脳にはいい刺激になると。他にスティック糊とか手を汚さないものもありますけど、あえてこの糊を使うのはそのためなんです。 もう一つは、お年寄りが増えて、趣味の世界でちぎり絵や貼り絵などをされる方に使っていただいています。その方々が重要視なさるのは、使いよさ・乾く時間・操作性でした。紙の貼り直しなどができて、綺麗に仕上がるもの。持続力が必要になる緻密な作業なので、糊を使っているときに、何かいい効果が得られないかと。そこで、和紙用の糊にはゆずの香りをつけ、アロマセラピー効果をもたらすものにしました。これも五感を刺激する使い方になっているかもしれないですね。

With the rise in digital, the way we use paper has changed. Have any changes occurred for Yamato Glue as well?

Nothing has fundamentally changed about Yamato Glue.  The form is simple, and there are no issues with the ingredients recently.  On the other hand, the range of people who use glue has widened.  I started using glue in an elementary school.  Now glue is used in kindergartens and even in nursery schools.  Starch paste is not only used as adhesive purpose, but also as an intellectual educational tool.  When you put starch paste with your fingers on variety of materials such as corrugated boards and cardboards, you can feel the different textures.  Touch and feel these textural differences are apparently good stimulation for the brain.  This is the reason why younger agers are intended to use starch paste, even though glue sticks anything and hands get muck.
Increase numbers of elderly population who do collages as a hobby using starch paste has also widen the range of starch paste users.  Important factors for these elderly people are user-friendly, drying speed, and operational performance, like its ability to reattach paper, whilst giving a clean finish.  Collage work with starch paste is an elaborate process where durability is essential, it was wondered whether a good effect could be obtained.  Yamato added the scent of yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) to the glue made for washi paper and resulted in a product with an aromatherapeutic effect.  This also may stimulate five senses.
To vary with the times , Yamato visits many retail stores and users to hear their comments.  Yamato also attend actual exhibitions to observe people’s reactions when they test our starch paste.


「糊だ、これで何か作ろう」と思うような、 使いやすさ、



やっぱり、「機能美」が見てわかるもの。シンプルということですね。当社も、機能優先の デザインを心がけています。機能優先でいくと、Simple is the best みたいなことになります。 それは販売をする対象もあると思います。先ほども話しましたが、子供たちが一番最初に出会う接着剤が糊なんですね。その時に、難しい操作をしないと開けられないとか、もし口に入っ たら危険だと安心して使えない。子供が一目見て、「糊だ、これで何か作ろう」と思うような、 使いやすさ、開けやすさ。それを追求していくと、やっぱりシンプルなものになる。 そして、シンプルでいながらそこから何かを発信しているもの。それがいいデザインなんじゃ ないかなと思います。

Finally, what do you think is good packaging?

Good packaging is something which you can see definitely “functional beauty”.  Something simple.  Yamato prioritizes designs with “functional beauty”, which leads Yamato to something like “simple is the best”.  It is needed to consider who purchase starch paste and how they use.  As mentioned above, the very first adhesive children use is starch paste.  If it is difficult to open the lids or dangerous when children accidentally took a lick, starch paste can’t be used comfortably.  It should be at-a-glance easy to use and easy to open so that children would think “let’s make something with this.”  It becomes something very simple in quest to “functional beauty”.  Simple, but communicating something with users would be a good design.

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