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.
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.
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.