Meet Takahiro Yoshino a remarkable chairmaker we met in Japan. What made him remarkable was that he is the first chirmaker  I have met (and I know a lot) who makes truly bespoke chairs that are tailored (I can’t think of a better word) to fit the user.

Now some may argue with this point. I know a lot of chairmakers that will make their standard design a few mm shorter, taller, deeper or shallower to fit a client but none that study posture, the human skeleton, and how it relates to a chair in as detailed a manner as Takahiro Yoshino.

He told us that in Japan they have for centuries studied the art or Zen of sitting. Correct posture when sitting cross legged on the floor. Chairs are new in Japan, they were introduced as a Western novelty in the early 20th C and it has only become the norm to sit in a chair in the last 40 years. This on the one hand means they have no history of chairmaking themselves to draw on but also allows them to look in a completely fresh objective way at seating. It was refreshing. The workshop was a pleasing mix of good solid production machinery and hand tools which are used particularly in the latter stages for the finished surface.

 Hand planing, Note the raking light to show imperfections. This is one of Takahiro Yoshino’s apprentices who had been there 5 years I think.

 Working the surface of a seat with gorgeous little curved planes.

 The finishing room where irushi laquer is applied, temperature and humidity control is important for the laquer to cure. Many layers are applied to build up a very beautiful surface finish.

 Some surfaces are hand planed and others finished with the chouna or adze, there was no sanding of further finishing and the textures from the tools were delightfully lively.

 These small kneeling chairs were supremely comfortable giving just the right lumbar support and encouraging excelent posture.

 In the home/showroom I also noticed  a pretty fan bird, different to the European ones and very fine.

 Much of Takahiro Yoshino’s work feels related to Nakashima’s. perhaps because that is the only Japanese style work I am well familiar with. They have a love of large wide boards from ancient trees and turn them into low tables as the centre piece of a room where everyone sits on the tatami mat floor.
This is the store of dry timber where clients can select their boards.

This is where it gets interesting for chairmakers. This chair is the fitting device. Clints take 3-4 hours for a fitting. Takahiro Yoshino first assesses the clients posture, takes some measurements and then adjusts this chair in numerous ways to get it close to where it should be. The client sits and reads, uses the computer, watches TV or whatever they do when sitting maybe for 2 hours. After this time a second assessment and adjustment is made and some more sitting and so on until it is as good as it can be. Then the measurements are all taken and turned into the final chair.

 Cormac getting lessons in the zen of sitting.

 A closer inspection of the dummy chair.

 Cormac being fitted.

There was very interesting discusion about how we all know the posture we should use and it is possible to design a chair for that perfect upright posture but inevitably many of us slouch after a time or have imperfect posture. Takahiro Yoshino feels it is possible to help the client achieve better posture through a very well designed chair. When we consider how many hours of our lives we spend sitting in chairs it is remarkable how little thought goes into them.

After the workshop visit we visited a restaurant where Takahiro Yoshino had produced all the furniture, over 300 chairs and gorgeous adzed tables. It was also a remarkable building which maintains a pleasant atmosphere without any air con or heating. On a good day there is a good view of Mt Fujibut we had dramatic clouds instead.

I have Takahiro Yoshino’s business card with his web address but not to hand so will add that to this blog post later.

Author Robin Wood

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