Tappei Maruyama


Tappei is a mold designer. A credited Religious Image Sculptor able to make the most exquisite representations of Buddha. A fishing lure designer… He is someone who cannot be easily defined by one singular profession. Upon asking his occupation, Tappei responds with a bashful smile, “I am not really sure to be honest… I guess I’m basically a mold designer.” As a man always in search of thrills and excitement, Tappei is constantly throwing himself head first into his work, as well as his hobbies. As a result, Tappei has been able to go beyond the creative spectrum of a typical mold designer and branch out into other fields such as fishing, outdoor sports, and food production. Tappei’s unique pride and passion can be found at the heart of all of his creations.

A Man of Strong Conviction and a Vitality like No-Other

Tappei is a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. “I’m always in search of something new and exciting, and when I find it, I commit myself to it 100%. Actually, I probably find myself getting a little too into things…I’ve been hooked on off-road motorcycle racing, surfing the waves in Bali… but after a while you find that the initial buzz fades away.” This is a familiar cycle for any adrenaline junkie.

This attitude is similarly reflected in Tappei’s work style. “I find I’m happiest when I am making something which has never been created before,” Tappei mentions. It is from this statement that you can get an insight into Tappei’s unquenchable thirst to challenge himself with new and complicated designs. This creative ambition transforms itself into one of Tappei’s biggest motivations to create the most exquisite pieces of work. Tappei talks about the time he drove eight hours one way to Kyushu, just to make sure his client was happy with the model statue he had created before making the final product. This is because when his client came face to face with the statue, he could physically see all the minute details which could not be conveyed through a mere photograph. Furthermore, Tappei does not shy away from taking on numerous projects at a time, as long as his ventures thrill and stimulate him creatively. The extent of Tappei’s vitality and conviction to give 120% to all of his endeavors is almost alarming.

Fishing Training in Pursuit of Perfection

One particular story that can’t be left out when talking about Tappei is his stint as a fisherman.

Apparently, fish commonly eat squid all across the world. Because of this, squid is regularly used as fisherman bait throughout the globe. However, given that the very first lure model was designed in the shape of a fish, there is long-standing preconception that the most effective lure should be fish-shaped. Wondering why there were no squid-shaped fishing lures, Tappei set about designing his own as an extension of his angling pastime. Receiving much praise from his fisherman friends, talk soon turned to the discussion of the commercialization of his design. Tappei thought if he were to put his creation on the market, he would want his design to be the best the world had seen. While making continuous improvements to his designs, Tappei came to the conclusion that to make the ultimate lure, he would need to broaden his knowledge of fish and discover for himself what it is fish really eat. It was with this thought that made Tappei decide to become a fisherman; an almost unbelievable career move to those around him, but a seemingly natural progression for Tappei.
“I was able to learn so much; from the different species of fish and their respective characteristics, to the natural color of squid in the wild, everything. However, what I know is nothing compared to the pros doing this for a living.” Through his experience as a fisherman, Tappei says that he was able to create the perfect fishing lure which replicates the movements of a real squid. In the business world of angling, any lure which sells 2000 units is regarded as a hit. Tappei’s design has sold more than 80,000 units to-date. Just by looking at the figures, one can fathom the sheer success of his fishing lure.

A Designer at Heart

Tappei’s father was a mold designer who crafted made-to-order products for his clients, as well working as a woodcarver projecting his artistic flair onto his own creations. Growing up in such an artistic household, he decided to dedicate himself to the arts during his university days, receiving many awards and much recognition at exhibitions. However, it was at this time that Tappei started to feel unsure about the critical nature of the art world.

At art exhibitions, critics are the ones who decide which pieces of art are commendable, while the general public look towards the judges’ critiques and from this ascertain what a “commendable” piece of work looks like. As a result, Tappei came to realize that there are many occasions when a piece of work given the judges’ seal of approval may not actually be something desirable by the general public. The creative works of designers are generally crafted for purely aesthetic purposes, with no consideration for functionality. With that in mind, Tappei thought that he could surely appeal to a large audience by combining beauty with practicality. This would be the impetus behind his career focused around the craft of mold design.

Years later, Tappei has now branched out into a multitude of professions, including the likes of Buddhist Image Sculptor, lure designer, sailboat repairman and a publisher of angling magazines. Furthermore, using his connections gained during his two years training as a fisherman, Tappei can plan unique experiences such as VIP access into the fast-paced world of the local fish market, as well as sailing the length of the nostalgic Uchikawa River in a canoe.

During his interview, Tappei shares that he is currently working on four simultaneous projects. Despite this heavy workload, he is still seeking his next thrill.
“So, have you got any new projects up your sleeve?” I ask. Another wry smile stretches across Tappei’s face. “Now, that would be telling!” he responds.

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A mold designer, a credited Religious Image Sculptor able to make the most exquisite representations of Buddha and a fishing lure designer...

Akai 218-4, Imizu, Toyama