Making of shell buttons

I believe that “the appeal of shell buttons” arises simply from the sheen and texture of the natural materials.

Takase shells, black lip shells, brown lip shells, silver lip shells, pearl oyster shells.. They have long been popular and used carefully in daily life by many people.

These days, plastic buttons, which are inexpensive and controlled easily, are commonly used.

However, Takashima continues to be committed to buttons made of shells.

Each one has a different sheen, uniquely decorates clothes, and has a distinct feel to the touch. These are charms that only genuine shell buttons have.

Australia, Tahiti, the Philippines..

Raw shells from various countries cross the seas to Nara, Japan

From tens of tons of shells

We select shells depending on the purpose of use

We hold the shells in our hands, and carve them out with a machine one by one

This is a delicate task that can only be performed by experienced craft workers


Many plastic buttons can be carved out all at once using a machine

However, shell buttons are precisely carved out one at a time

Because no two shells have the same shape, automation is not possible


A shell that has been carved out is called a “blank”

Although some countries import blank shells

At Nara, raw shells are processed

“Suriba” is the process of flattening the surface of a blank

The thickness of the button is also adjusted


Next is “mensou”

The process of creating the shape of the button

By rotating a blade, a shape is formed

After the thickness is adjusted, they are carried to a machine one by one… 


To reach the process of opening the holes


Actually, the distances between the holes vary for each factory

Resulting in unique characteristics for each factory



The “buttons” that have had their holes opened

In this state, they certainly look like buttons

The original form of freshly-made buttons

Next is the finishing process


After forming the shape, next is the finishing process

Chemicals are used to make the surface shiny

The second stage of the finishing process

Shell buttons are placed in a hexagonal “gasha” and spun around


By being spun inside a gasha with waxed husks

A shell button receives a shiny coat


The remains of carved shells are stored in the shed, and carved again, when needed

Shells are truly used until they cannot be used any more, with almost no waste

The shell button factories in Nara are surrounded by farms and rice paddies

It is a very tranquil countryside and a truly great place

The buttons that have been carefully created from shells are delivered from Nara to Tokyo

And presented to all of you from Takashima