From the Nara period to the early Showa period, there existed a method of serving meals called meimei-zen. Rice, soup, and vegetables placed in bowls or plates would be distributed to each person’s zen (a tray with legs meant for a single person). For the Japanese, who would often sleep in the same room they used for living and dining in the daytime, the lightweight, four-legged structure of the zen was well-adapted to the Japanese way of life.
Also, as indicated by their name and tray-like shapes, the zen was closely related to the tea ceremony. Amongst the tea ceremony utensils, there exist beautiful sake cups called sakazuki-dai. Aside from their beauty as sake cups, the cups also have graceful, refined Japanese forms. The tea master Sen no Rikyū also produced a sakazuki-dai design. With gentle curves and slight slopes perched elegantly over an elevated base, the cup is a wonderful work of balance and harmony.
We believe that, beyond producing new designs, it is also important to take beautiful, existing Japanese forms and reconsider them for harmonious existence with modern spaces. To transform the shape and form of beautiful sake cups into furniture, we took inspiration from the creation of a traditional craft deeply rooted in Japanese life—the wooden buckets known as oke, made from the wood of coniferous trees such as hinoki cypress, sawara cypress, and Japanese cedar. Oke has a gentle texture and warmth not found in hardwood counterparts.
Thanks to our discovery of a craftsman who makes oke with high-quality cuts of Yoshino cedar, we could adapt his techniques to the creation of the Zen. The timber’s outer surface is hand-processed to produce a material called honmasa. Such straight-grained material is sometimes used in construction, but no machine-sawed cedar material exists with such straight grains and such a beautiful white color. We were able to produce the beautiful wood surfaces and straight grains of this Japanese furniture through many discussions with craftsmen.