Over a millennium ago, starting in the 12th century, the art of Japanese woodworking was significantly shaped and influenced, drawing considerable inspiration from the wooden architectural forms of ancient China. This traditional craft, characterized by the use of intricate joinery techniques, impressively fabricates wooden structures without the reliance on nails, screws, glue, or modern electric machinery.


Photo: https://leonacreo.com/japanese-joinery-the-art-of-wood/

The unique technique of not using nails not only simplifies the repair process but also empowers the joints to adapt and resist seismic forces while preserving their structural integrity. The enduring relevance of these techniques is evidenced by their continued application in today's practice of constructing wooden infrastructure, crafting furniture, and various wood products.

Let us explore five of the wooden furniture designers and their features:

Designers in Focus

1. Keiji Ashizawa

Photo: Indesignlive

Keiji Ashizawa is one of Japan’s leading architects. He established his Tokyo-based architectural and design studio – "Keiji Ashizawa Design" in 2005 that leads a team of 18 with projects across architecture, furniture, products, and landscape design, from luxury residences to DIY furniture design.

His designs all start with context and material, he loves to choose the right collaborators to utilize their qualities to create all-encompassing spaces that allows the element of reduction to shine, Keiji’s designs usually hold a figurative lightness and simplicity led by an emphasis on harmonized details.


Photo: Keiji Design: Hiroo Residence 2022

Keiji Ashizawa Design: https://www.keijidesign.com/


2. Motomi Kawakami

Photo: JDP

Motomi Kawakami’s creation are full of humanity where his design works are specialized in household goods, furniture and spaces that shape the environment around us.

In his design work, he has belief in the refinement of aesthetic sensibility and practical understanding emerges from repeated experience as a consumer and aim to create designs that embody a truly rich and comfortable life in a natural way.

He has adapted an innovative technique to strengthen the naturally soft cedar wood and crafted the Kisaragi furniture collection exclusively for Hida Sangyo that showcasing the originality and elegance in every piece.

Photo Source: HIDA - Kisaragi Collection

Motomi Kawakami Studio: http://www.motomi-kawakami.jp/en/index.html

3. Wataru Kumano

Photo Source: T Japan


Wataru Kumano established his own design studio ‘Kumano’ in 2011, that works on interior, furniture, product design and project management. One of his well-known collection is "MAS". "MAS" is not merely a collection of conifer wood furniture, but rather a collection the explores the possibilities of utilizing conifer wood in furniture design.

What makes "MAS" collection special is that Wataru’s team surpasses the limitation of softness and lightness of the coniferous trees (which often deemed unsuitable for furniture due to the requirement for durability) through the application of Karimoku’s advanced technology and innovative structural designs, to skillfully showcasing the unique characteristics of the material.

Photo Source: Wataru Kumano Studio

Wataru Kumano Studio: https://watarukumano.jp/


4. Ibuki Kaiyama

Photo Source: https://news.merumo.ne.jp/article/genre/7303503

Ibuki Kaiyama is a wood furniture designer and co-founder of Atelier Hi. He is captivated by the potential of tree branches as a material, the art pieces that Ibuki created are characterized by free-form furniture design that truly shows that inherent beauty of wood.


Photo Source: Ibuki Kaiyama Instagram

Ibuki Kaiyama Design & Art Atelier-hi: https://www.atelier-hi.com


5. Hisae Igarashi


Photo Source: Lemnos

In 1993, Hisae Igarashi founded Igarashi Design Studio, which primarily specializes in space design for commercial establishments and nursery schools. The studio also engages in three-dimensional design of furniture, products, and playground equipment, while continuously pushing the boundaries of progressive design in various scopes such as clothing, food, living, working, and childcare.

One of the notable projects undertaken by Hisae's team is "AGITA", where they skilfully utilized locally sourced timber from the Tohoku region. In collaboration with Akita Wood Works, renowned for their expertise in three-dimensional curved wood techniques, they created a series of furniture pieces designed to reduce weight and provide comfortable seating.


Photo Source: Hisae Igarashi Design Studio


Hisae Igarashi Design Studio: https://www.igarashidesign.jp/en/


Mokuomo deeply admire the passion, creativity, and craftsmanship of all designers who breathe life into wood, crafting masterpieces that truly capture the enduring beauty and versatility of this natural material.


Cover photo: https://hidasangyo.com/en/products/series/seoto/