REPORTAGE 01 DOWN FACTORY NATURAL MATERIAL

Down is a combination of the undercoating feathers 
from geese, ducks, and other waterfowl. 
It is a natural and light insulation that stores heat and has strong elasticity. 
In terms of clothing, there is no other material 
that can be compressed as tightly as down. 
Wanting to know more about down and its functionality, 
we traveled to Japan’s sole feather factory located in Mie prefecture.

Down’s fluffy characteristics exceeded our expectations. 
This is the process for drying the down and keeping only the highest quality feathers. 
Filtering the feathers through a thin atmosphere ensures stable quality of the down.
Depository for the down raw materials. Down and feather is screened. The smell of the bird is still pungent at this stage.
Processing plant. Dust removal, washing, evaporation, drying, cooling, and selection takes place.

This location gives it meaning. Secrets of the down factory. この場所だから意味がある。ダウン製毛現場の秘密。

When you wear a down jacket, you may not know where the down came out of, but you will undoubtedly come in contact with the material at one point. The down is stuffed within the nylon shell, so you are not in contact with the material directly, but a downjacket’s warmth is dependent on the quality of this material. Of course, as the item is to be worn regularly, the design becomes an important aspect as well, but the more you know about the down itself the more interesting the clothing becomes.
One of the world’s leading and Japan’s sole feather material factory can be found in Matsuzaka in Mie prefecture. Called, “Shin Umou”, this rare factory produces down through the cultivation of feathers from various waterfowl that have been raised for long periods of time. The factory is divided into two large spaces upon entering. The first is a room for storing the original down material and the second is for washing and drying the down. One thing that comes to mind when you enter is the confusion that the birds might actually be raised there. Specifically, the smell of the birds is quite present and pungent. It is an all-around reconfirmation that down indeed comes from bird feathers. The smell comes from the root of the feathers and before they are processed into down, they are quite unpolished and raw. The majority of the raw feather material however is processed in a sister factory in south Taiwan from the world’s finest plumage. Down is similar to dandelion fuzz. The stiff shaft in the center is the feather. When you mix feathers into purely soft down (without shafts), you increase the bulkiness and utility of the down item.
Average temperatures are high at the factory in southern Taiwan. Feather barbs at low temperatures open up and at high temperatures close, which is why the selection process takes place there. It is a countless number of four micron sized barbs, but when all of the feather barbs are closed, the feathers do not tangle up which makes sorting more efficient. There is a strong locational advantage at the Taiwan factory which makes the reasoning behind why the Matsuzaka factory was chosen very interesting as well.
Iseheiya is surrounded by mountains. Located east of the Oodaigahara mountain range where it rains 250 days out of the year, Iseheiya itself gets very little rain and has very low temperatures. The rain that does fall in the mountains creates an overabundance of soft underground water useable for washing and laundering. The water is a very high quality “soft water” free from minerals and impurities and has been instrumental in the washing of the down. Because of the lack of minerals in the water, the water’s surface tension is very low and the seepage force is very high. Each feather is thoroughly cleaned down to the tiniest nook even with the smallest amount of detergent. It is similar to the amount of bubbling you get when using shampoo with extremely soft water. Because this area has the complete opposite temperature to the Taiwan factory, the feather barbs open widely creating a synergy with the soft water’s seepage force, ensuring absolute thorough cleaning and dust removal. Matsuzaka’s topography features are one of the reasons why it is possible to produce extremely high quality down.
In addition to utilizing the locality of the factory, original equipment has been prepared to help ensure the quality of the down. When you think of factory equipment, the image of iron comes to mind, but the only machinery built from iron is the washing machine. The dryer and other machinery is made from wood. Only wood from Scandinavia, where the average daylight hours are minimal, is used. The trees grow slowly and the tree rings are very narrow making the wood very hard. The metal used is also very durable and elastic. It prevents static electricity making the drying process very efficient as the down does not stick to the machinery. The down flows smoothly and the base of the feathers get removed eliminating the odor. Truly light and beautiful down is produced. The North Face down is produced from this factory’s down and the outer down, the “Himalayan Parka” that Yuichiro Miura used for his Everest climb is one of those items.
The magical down drying process can be seen here. 30kg worth of down is dried in 30 minutes. One item requires 300g. That makes 100 items worth of down.
The factory in Iseheiya has an extremely dry climate and this area was used to air dry pickles and seaweed in the past.

Down jacket made from the finest quality down. 極上のダウンを詰め込んだ、ダウンジャケット。

HIMALAYAN PARKA HIMALAYAN PARKA
The Himalayan Parka was created with the 8000m peak and minus 40ºC Himalayan environment in mind. Utilizing the WINDSTOPPER® shell and KO-DENSHI PRO DOWN, it is the pinnacle of down jackets. The lining is water-resistant PERTEX® and can be worn even over wet outerwear.
no.: ND91302
price: ¥75,000
size: XS, S, M, L, XL
weight: 1170g
color: Hannoh Blue,
Valencia Orange, Black
function:
•Pac System
•Water Repellent Zippers
•Pocketable
•Static Care
BALTRO LIGHT JACKET BALTRO LIGHT JACKET
2012 light version and recreation of a high-functioning jacket created in the 90s for polar expeditions. WINDSTOPPER® shell and KO-DENSHI DOWN was added to the original polar region model specific characteristics of the jacket. This jacket is suited for Aurora viewing in Scandinavia or Alaskan snow hikes.
no.: ND91201
price: ¥52,000
size: XS, S, M, L, XL
weight: 950g
color: Snorkel Blue,
Night Green, Mango Orange,
Yellow Fennel2, Black
function:
•Pac System
•Water Repellent Zippers
•Windproof
•Pocketable
•Static Care
MCMURDO PARKA MCMURDO PARKA
The McMurdo Parka was created by America’s South Pole Aurora observation corp. This absolute warmth retaining American jacket is a famous model sold in the 90’s from child sizes up to XXL. Current model utilizes KO-DENSHI DOWN, light CEBONNER nylon and HyVent breathable-waterproof materials.
no.: ND91310
price: ¥55,000
size: XS, S, M, L, XL
weight: 1820g
color: Gouache Red,
Yellow Fennel, Basin Blue,
Classic Khaki, Urban Navy, Black
function:
•Pac System
•Waterproof

Down jacket made from the finest quality down. 食べて美味しい鳥は、羽毛もこの上なく良質。

Waterfowl, not land birds, are used in the making of down. As waterfowl spend a majority of time in the water, they have developed temperature regulating features. Through grooming of the feathers with their naturally secreted tail gland oil, the birds can coat and preserve their feathers even in the water. This is where the dilemma comes in as to either pluck the feathers from live birds or gather the down raw materials as a byproduct from food processing plants. What was interesting was the discussion that birds that produced delicious meat also produced high quality down. Currently, goose, duck, and Muscovy down are the more popular. Ducks raised to 90 days and geese raised to more than 20 weeks produce the best down, but in recent years in China, down raw materials produced from immature waterfowl is becoming more and more common. As the plumage is underdeveloped, the quality of the down is low and disconnected. The heat retaining quality is low and the birds themselves are of course not delicious. This is why it is important to take care when buying raw materials and to only use mature plumage. With high quality down and appropriate care, you can use the same down for over 100 years.
It is however very important to recycle the down when the amount of gatherable high quality down is limited. Recycle awareness started a few decades in Europe before it did in Japan. Down jacket and down filled futon recycling has started to occur more and more though. On some jackets, on the materials tag, you may see “other materials.” Those other materials can include immature feathers, dust, or crash feathers. But, older down items are generally comprised of higher quality down, so if we can start to reduce the amount of “other materials” used, we will have more longer lasting items.
A new special feeling and warmth can be experienced from just learning a bit more about what our jackets are made of.
The down stuck to the factory worker’s arm during the drying process left a lasting impression. It takes 2 to 3 years of experience minimum to understand the subtleties and dexterity needed for this operation.
Electron micrograph photograph of the feathers after washing an 洗浄除塵後の羽毛の電子顕微鏡写真
Comparison of 1g  of raw material capacity. 1g当たりの異素材体積比較
The upper left picture is down. Depending on the raw material, the volume of 1g varies greatly.
ALPINE NUPTSE JACKET ALPINE NUPTSE JACKET
Inner down that exhibits the most effective qualities for severe winter climbing. Constructed with 7 denier flexible and light PERTEX® and 900 fill down.
no.: ND91304
price: ¥42,500
size: S, M, L, XL, XXL, WM, WL
weight: 285g
color: Drummer Blue, Mango Orange,
Urban Navy, Deep Purple, Night Green, Black
* XXL, WM, WL→[Drummer Blue], [Black] only.
BELAYER PARKA BELAYER PARKA
WINDSTOPPER® lining protects the KO-DENSHI PRO DOWN. Maximized heat insulation manufacturing process.
no.: ND91301
price: ¥52,000
size: XS, S, M, L, XL
weight: 820g
color: Hannoh Blue, Acid Yellow,
Black,TNF Red
ALPINE NUPTSE PULL ALPINE NUPTSE PULL
Pullover type of the Alpine Nuptse Jacket. Basic functionality is the same. With a shorter zipper and one inner pocket, this pull over is lighter weight.
no.: ND91303
price: ¥31,800
size: S, M, L, XL
weight: 180g
color: Black
PRODOWN ACONCAGUA JACKET PRODOWN ACONCAGUA JACKET
Light flexible PERTEX® Quantum and KO-DENSHI DOWN. Warm “heat capsule print” with infrared absorption heat storage. Great for winter climbing or skiing.
no.: ND91307
price: ¥31,000
size: S, M, L, XL
weight: 295g
color: Drummer Blue, Mango Orange, Night Green, Urban Navy,
Tuolumne Brown, Black×Red
LIGHT HEAT JACKET LIGHT HEAT JACKET
KO-DENSHI ultralight inner down. Regulated ven-tilation and soft fabric nylon. Stored easily in limited bag space.
no.: ND18174
price: ¥23,000
size: S, M, L, XL, XXL
weight: 195g
color: Basin Blue, Salsa Red,
Night Green, Urban
Navy, Graphite Gray2, Black2
NUPTSE JACKET NUPTSE JACKET
Classic Nuptse Jacket with a full volume feel. KO-DENSHI DOWN and water-resistant hood within the collar.
no.: ND91308
price: ¥39,000
size: S, M, L, XL
weight: 415g
color: Snorkel Blue, Yellow Fennel,
Mango Orange, Night Green,
Gouache Red, Black

KOUDENSHI PRO DOWN

KOUDENSHI

900 Fill Power

PERTEX® QUANTUM

PERTEX® QUANTUM 100

HyVent

CEBONNER

Polartec Thermal Pro

Greendown

The North Face Summit

Pac System

Water Resistant

Waterproof

Water Repellent Zippers

Pocketable

Static Care

WINDSTOPPER® Insulated Shell

Stuff Sack

光電子PRO DOWN
High quality down from Mie prefecture mixed with far-infrared effect KODENSHI DOWN. Highly water repellent that remains undamaged and unimpaired even when wet. Comfortable heat insulation stability when dry.
PERTEX QUANTUM
Silk like flexible shell both highly wind resistant and ultralight, crafted from superfine fibers, made to protect the finest down.
WINDSTOPPER
Allows perspiration to penetrate but retains heat. This GORE-TEX® WINDSTOPPER® will keep out the strongest of blizzard winds.
Highly water-resistant controlling down loft.
GREENDOWN
A recycle project to recover and purify the down in older down items for re-use.
Reduces the amount of carbon dioxide produced from the incineration of down feathers.
900フィルパワー
900 fill power can trap 900 cubic inches of air in 1 gram of down. This is a very high power down. Anything 550 fill power and above is considered good quality down.