Q&A april 2019
The origins of Karimoku date back to 1940, when Shohei Kato took over a longstanding timber company and established a small woodworking shop in the town Kariya, Aichi. The company produced various wooden parts in the ensuing decades, developing a range of techniques before launching its own line of wooden furniture in 1960s.
Hiroshi Kato — Vice President
What does “Karimoku” mean and stand for?
Karimoku is a word made up of two Japanese words — “Kari”, short for “Kariya”, a name of the Japanese town in which the company was founded, and “Moku”, short for “Mokuzai” meaning “Wood” in Japanese. So you might say that the company name summarizes our identity. I love it because it contains my home- town and my favourite material, wood.
When and how was Karimoku founded?
My grandfather, Shohei Kato, started a small wood mill at his house in 1940. He and his staff made various objects such as wooden parts for things like sawing machines and pianos. In the 1950s, an American furniture company came looking for a supplier in Japan. My grandfather then decided to work with them in order to educate himself in making western style furniture. He felt the Japanese lifestyle had been changing towards an increasingly more westernized one quite rapidly. Karimoku also learned a lot from TPS (Toyota Production System). We’re lucky that our location is close to that of Toyota HQ. Historically, there were few woodcraft workers in our area, and TPS helped us turn amateur workers into professional ones. Karimoku has expanded steadily from learning and challenging our approach and process.
What’s the philosophy behind Karimoku?
Quality as high as possible. We would like to make wooden furniture to which customers become strong- ly attached. To make furniture from wood, we use trees that take between 50 to 100 years to grow. We always keep that in mind and are humble about what we do. We want to make furniture that last; that will be used and loved for more than a hundred years.
What do you hope to achieve through Karimoku Case Study? How will this sub- brand stand out from the rest of Karimoku and add value to the main brand?
I believe that Karimoku will acquire a new approach to furniture design as well as expand our business opportunities. The starting point of furniture-making for Karimoku Case Study as a brand is completely different from how furniture design is approached today. With this innovative approach, we’ll need to understand the ideal structure and atmosphere of each space and case before moving on with the design process.
How would you describe the philosophy behind Karimoku Case Study?
Norm Architects is soft minimal. Keiji Ashizawa is honest design. While respecting their values 100%, we will do our very best to make furniture and other wooden objects suitable for each specific case. With Karimoku Case Study we would like to show and deliver the essential value of furniture necessary for the good life.