Makers of Sanshu Kawara roof tiles in Aichi Prefecture have been boosting production since the March 11 disasters to meet huge demand spurred by the reconstruction drive.Sanshu Kawara is the brand of roof tiles made in the cities of Takahama, Hekinan and Handa. The tiles have been manufactured in this region, which has the right kind of clay, since the Edo Period.Businesses hope the boom will provide a reversal of fortune for the roofing industry, which has been suffering from a prolonged housing slump.But while makers have been able to ramp up production and are providing enough tiles to the disaster zone, experienced roofers are in short supply.Sales of Sanshu Kawara have significantly increased since March 11. Among the various types, a flood of orders has come in from the Tohoku and Kanto regions for Yakugawara tiles, which are shaped specially to fit irregularities.When the tiles are piled up, roofs become vulnerable to rolling quakes, and those on houses built before the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake are especially weak, industry officials say. Since the Hanshin quake, the roofing industry has adopted a new method to fix the tiles firmly to the roof.Before the March disaster, demand for Sanshu Kawara was declining owing to the slowdown in housing starts and fierce competition with lightweight tiles, according to the Aichi Prefecture Clay Roof Tiles Industrial Association, which has 28 member companies. Shipments fell to 353 million units in 2008, down 45 percent from their peak in 1997.But with the surge in demand, some manufacturers are in full swing, working even through the Golden Week and Bon holidays."We hope this demand will keep expanding our businesses," said Noboru Inoue, senior director of the association.But the shortage of skilled roofers is troubling. Tiling the ridge of a roof requires advanced skills and is a job that can't be done by less-experienced roofers. The shortage in craftsmen is a bottleneck when it comes to meeting the overwhelming flood of repair orders.The national association of roofing contractors is calling on craftsmen in other parts of Japan to help, but Inoue is worried that delays could discourage people from using classic roof tiles.Tsuruya Co., the largest clay tile manufacturer in Japan, is one of the firms cranking out tiles at full capacity. The company, based in Handa, Aichi Prefecture, has been getting orders not just from the Kanto and Tohoku regions, but also from Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures, which were hit hard by quakes after March 11.To produce small lots of a variety of Yakugawara tiles, Tsuruya strives for flexibility by using both robots and human hands.Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the company has strengthened sales of stronger "disaster-proof tiles" that are better able to withstand quakes and typhoons because they interlock. The company is running a program to donate 0.1 percent of the sales from this tile to the disaster areas through the end of September.But Tsuruya official Hiroki Nakamura expressed concern."While we appreciate the increasing demand for roof tiles, we are looking at the situation carefully as housing starts declined after the Great Hanshin Earthquake because of the uncertain economic outlook," Nakamura said.This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues in the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Aug. 8.