Tomokazu Furui, a woodworker and nature lover, creates beautiful tableware and furniture at his studio called “Tsukinowa.” His studio is located in the small town of Kyotanba in Kyoto prefecture, a town surrounded by mountains.
The name of his studio “Tsukinowa” is comes from the term “tsukinowa guma,” meaning "Asiatic Black Bear" (guma or kuma means bear in Japanese), also known as a moon bear. This nature lover’s childhood dream was to become a wild animal ranger, researcher or wildlife veterinarian. His first career was as a biological researcher of wild animals. He researched mainly wild deer and moon bears.
As a researcher, he worked in various mountains throughout Japan. Tomokazu said he loves nature and always has the idea of living a country lifestyle. As he is also into making objects, it naturally occurred to him to become a woodworker.He undertook a vocational education program in woodworking for two years. This program was held in Japan’s mountainous region in Hida Takayama, where people enjoy skiing in winter and trekking during summer. After two years' training, he got a job for a furniture company as a furniture upholsterer in Tokyo.
While he was making wide range of furniture - from tables to dish racks - his idea of a perfect life was working with wood and living in nature. He always planned to settle down in a town surrounded by mountains.
Kyotanba is located in the middle of Kyoto prefecture and more than 80% of the region is forest. Rice fields cover the remainder. Tomokazu moved to this rural town with his wife Saya, who used to be an interior coordinator in Tokyo. “Tsukinowa” studio is located between a mountain and a rice field.
When we visited the studio in the afternoon in November, beautiful sunshine was shining into his studio, while a wood stove took away the chill of the outside air.
There were many tools like planes and augers, cutting machines and various pieces of timber in the studio. He said that when he carves a piece of wood, he normally works where windows or doorways admit light during the day, as he needs natural light to see the grain of the wood.
Tomokazu creates a variety of woodwork products, from chopsticks to dish racks, in this studio. He is familiar with a wide range of timbers, knowing the nature and unique beauty of each type of wood. While he mainly uses cherry, walnut and chestnut, he chooses the type of timber to suit the item he is creating.
He said that choosing the right timber and the right quality is quite important especially for creating wooden dishes. This is because wooden dishes are thin, because they are used to serve warm meals, and because they are washed and dried constantly. The wooden dishes must be strong under all circumstances. Each different kind of wood has its own features, colors, weight and hardness, as well as its own strength and tendency to warp.
Tomokazu does not use mill ends from furniture materials when he create tableware. Instead, he carefully chooses the right materials and the right part of the tree. Not only for the strength of the product, but also for the look of the final item. He uses the best part of the piece of wood by looking at the natural grain and imagining how it will appear when cut and carved.
The benefits of high quality, handcrafted woodwork will become clear when you start using these products. Inferior wood items can be warped or broken due to high temperatures, while Tomokazu Furui's superior products are much less susceptible. The small details of handcrafted work make a huge difference.
Tomokazu and his wife Saya both worked in the same furniture company in Tokyo. They now have a plan to establish a gallery space next to the studio. He said that they also want to produce more made-to-order furniture in future.
The name of his studio "Tukinowa" also contains the word “wa,” which means harmony or ring in Japanese. That reflects his idea of harmonious living and working with nature.
Tomokazu puts an immense amount of effort and care into producing each hand carved wooden product because he wants people to enjoy them for a long time.