Feature Story
Hang Lung-Hakuyosha The Story of the Cleanest Clothes Unfolds over 50 Years 704
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    Hang Lung-Hakuyosha is a brand name that we frequently see inside some MTR stations, residential estates and shopping malls. But how many of you know the relationship between Hang Lung and Hang Lung-Hakuyosha – a cleaning chain that has witnessed the development of the garment cleaning industry in Hong Kong for 50 years?

    Hitting it off from the Start

    The plant of Hang Lung-Hakuyosha is situated in a building in Ma Tau Wai Road, Hung Hom. Upon the lift doors opening, a quote from the Bible, "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" attracts everyone's attention. Because of the same religious background, the Igarashi family from Japan and the Chan family from Hong Kong hit it off and started to serve in the garment cleaning industry in Hong Kong over half a century ago.


    Flipping through old photo albums, Mrs. Chan Tsenghsi recalls a moment 50 years ago and says, "Mr. Igarashi would like to cooperate with a Christian from Hong Kong and make some contributions."The Igarashi who Mrs. Chan was talking about was Mr. Kenji Igarashi, founder of Hakuyosha in Japan, and a devout Christian. Upholding a belief in serving others, he opened Hakuyosha in Japan in 1906 to provide cleaning services to the public.


    During the olden days, Mr. and Mrs. Chan Tsenghsi visited Japan very often. They always spent time with Mr. and Mrs. You Tianxiong (Mrs. You and Mrs. Chan were secondary school schoolmates), who lived in Japan, and went to church together. Once when Mr. You introduced Mr. Chan Tsenghsi to Mr. Kenji Igarashi, they hit it off right away. Mr. Takeo Igarashi, the eldest son of Mr. Kenji Igarashi, was sent to Hong Kong to work with Mr. Chan on the partnership.


    On a 50-50 shareholding basis by Hang Lung and Hakuyosha, Hang Lung-Hakuyosha was established in 1965 in Hong Kong. Hang Lung-Hakuyosha has been serving in Hong Kong for 50 years, witnessing the changes in Hong Kong through providing professional and quality cleaning services for its citizens.

    Outstanding Quality of Service

    On June 4, 1965, Hang Lung-Hakuyosha opened in Boundary Street, Kowloon and started to provide Hong Kong citizens with professional and quality cleaning services.


    Director and General Manager of Hang Lung-Hakuyosha, Kenji Yokomizo, who has been with Hakuyosha for over 30 years, says, "Our quality service includes not only cleaning techniques, but also our attitude to customers."He said that personnel from Hakuyosha in Japan would come to Hong Kong to do assessments and quality checking every year. They would also teach staff the latest skills and techniques.

    Customers Always Come First

    To provide quality services has always been the ethos of Hang Lung-Hakuyosha. "In addition to customers' requests and expectations, the best service is to help customers to keep their clothes in their original condition."Yasuhiro Kaneda, Plant Manager of Hang Lung-Hakuyosha, pays attention to the care of clothing. Although he works in the plant, the trousers he wears are always ironed with crisp creases.


    Talking about his most valuable experience over the past four years, he says, "Once there was a Japanese customer who always brought her kimono to us for cleaning. She was satisfied with our services every time. After she had gone back to Japan, she wrote us a compliment letter. We were all surprised and touched."


    Kaneda shared that although the history of dry cleaning in Japan is much longer than that in Hong Kong, the dry cleaning technique of Hang Lung-Hakuyosha has already reached the standard in Japan.

    Walk Along with Citizens

    Hang Lung-Hakuyosha has 32 shops in Hong Kong now, of which four are franchised shops. In addition, there are 17 service delivery routes. Senior Sales Manager Elaine Chan says, "Hang Lung-Hakuyosha provides diversified services. As well as dry and wet cleaning, we also provide various services such as storage, finishing, and special stain removal. Recently, we have launched Grand Fabric Care to provide special services by veteran staff in order to satisfy customers with demanding standards."Elaine adds that Hang Lung-Hakuyosha will introduce more services from Japan to fulfill Hong Kong citizens' needs.

    Witness the Development for 30 Years

    From apprentice to Assistant Plant Manager in Plant, Yeung Wingon, who has been with Hang Lung-Hakuyosha for 33 years, can be regarded as a "walking encyclopedia" in the Hong Kong cleaning industry. He thinks the improvement in machines is the biggest change, "30 years ago, the dry cleaning machines were manual, but they are all automatic and computerized now which helps reduce human error."


    Yeung also said that the 90s were the peak in terms of business. However, they were also affected by the economic downturn in 1998. "During that period, all of us including our boss had to bear a pay-cut together in order to maintain operations."Yet, Yeung expressed that all those are precious and happy memories for him.


    Yeung thinks the clothes they wash somehow reflect the changes in society. "Dry cleaning was simple in the past as materials clothes were made of and the cleaning methods were easy to handle. Nowadays, clothes contain various materials, so particular cleaning methods and special care is needed for different clothes.

    A Brief History of Hakuyosha

    In March 1906, founder of Hakuyosha Mr. Kenji Igarashi opened the first laundry shop in Nihonbashi in Tokyo with JPY300. Mr. Kenji studied dry cleaning technology while building the business. In the following year, he opened the first dry cleaning plant in Oimachi in Tokyo. He was the originator of dry cleaning in Japan. Today, Hakuyosha hires almost 1,500 staff and has over 800 shops in Hokkaido, Miyagi, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Gunma, Gifu, Shizuoka, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. It is the largest dry cleaning and laundry chain in Japan and occupies the lead position in the market.

    A Crystal Turtle Passes Friendship on to Future Generations

    An exquisite crystal turtle holds two families from Hong Kong and Japan together and passes their friendship on to generation after generation. Mr. Kenji Igarashi retired in 1942. The second generation, in the person of Mr. Takeo Igarashi, succeeded his father as chairman. In the first meeting between Mr. Takeo Igarashi and Mr. Chan Tsenghsi, Mr. Takeo gave Mr. Chan a crystal turtle as gift. Since then, the crystal turtle has become a token of friendship between the two families. In 1986, the third generation of Hakuyosha, Mr. Keiichi Igarashi, came to Hong Kong and visited Mr. Chan Tsenghsi who was sick in bed. Mr. Chan passed the crystal turtle to Mr. Keiichi and passed on the cross-generational and cross-national friendship between the two families. After 16 years, in 2002, 74-year-old Mr. Keiichi brought along the crystal turtle to visit Mrs. Chan Tsenghsi and the second chairman of Hang Lung, Ronnie C. Chan in Hong Kong. The crystal turtle has been a treasured possession of the Chan family until today.

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