In Yoshino, Nara Prefecture, there stands a forest that has been protected for centuries. Blessed by this humid environment, Yoshino cedar, which features a straight and fine grain, provided a useful building material for castles and temples, as well as material for brewing casks and tubs. The forest of Yoshino, where thick and beautiful cedar trees grow over long periods of 80 to 100 years, has provided a foundation for the industries supporting people’s livelihoods, as well as an emotional stronghold for those who have continued to protect the land.

Tubs are created by the stave crafter who makes the material (the wooden boards called staves) and a cooper who uses the staves to complete the tub or barrel. The stave crafter discerns the wood’s individuality, scrapes it by hand to bring out the life in its expression, and hands the staves to the cooper who performs the next process. The tub is constructed by combining the staves to form the sidewalls, then circling these with hoops.

We wondered whether we, a Japanese furniture maker, could reinterpret tubs to create furniture that melds with daily life. In terms of design, we created the iconic tub form by fitting the upper and lower parts with the mitre joints to create a seamless look. Mitering the beveled staves and perfectly fitting the upper and lower parts is a process that requires extremely high precision and mastery. As a tub is not the perfect circles it appears to be at a glance, after fitting the lid, we plane each one by hand to carefully adjust the fit portions. Through repeated trial production of the fastening process, we completed a product that has a sense of oneness.

Creating furniture using cedar, a coniferous tree that covers much of the land of Japan, has provided us with a new perspective. The warm texture and the lightness of cedar create a pleasant interval in a space.