Creating objects of dazzling natural beauty, Japanese artisans have captured the world's attention with their stunning skill. From perfectly imperfect earthy pottery, and subtle noh masks that change expression with a slight tip of the head, to the world's sharpest, strongest swords, they blend art and craft with an almost spiritual dedication.
Many of these highly valued skills have been handed down through the centuries through apprenticeship cycles of imitation, mastery, innovation, and teaching to deliver us with inspiring works of art that enrich the lives of others.
Such is the case with the exquisite furniture created by Toshio Tokunaga. "Here at Tokunaga Furniture, we believe that trees are elusive life-forms, beings of many expressions," he told Spoon and Tamago, an online magazine and retailer.
"Just as soon as you think you've understood them, they reveal a completely new side to themselves, one that had hitherto been completely hidden."
In order to discover the wood's natural essence, he foregoes the use of sandpaper altogether. "Sandpaper rubs away the natural pattern of the wood, leaving behind a smoothness that is artificial and which obscures the tree's innate characteristics," says the craftsman.
Instead, he uses only traditional Japanese handmade wood planes crafted by a master blacksmith, created with the same traditional sword-making technique of applying softer, less brittle metal to a hard, sharp, but more brittle, blade.
This rigorous process reflects some traditional Japanese values: attention to detail, looking for a spiritual essence in things, and letting the result flow from the process, rather than trying to coerce a preconceived outcome.
Author of Japanese Business: Rules of Engagement