Truck Furniture, Osaka, Japan

Interview with Tokuhiko Kise of Japanese Furniture Company TRUCK

About TRUCK Furniture

TRUCK Furniture was founded in Osaka by designers Tokuhiko Kise and Hiromi Karatsu back in 1997. Their design ethos is to make furniture that they want for themselves, regardless of fashion or trend, with items taking on a simplistic but handcrafted style.

The company takes great pride in using natural materials such as wood and leather, but they also mix in steel where it sees fit, creating furniture that has a distinct charm and character.

Photography: Mark Robinson

Introduction

Tokuhiko Kise, the owner and founder of TRUCK Furniture is a creative that we’ve known for many years now. We originally met him in London a few years back and we’ve continued our connection through this website by selling a full selection of publications from the workshop in our shop.

In 2016 we ventured to Osaka to document the TRUCK workshop in more detail and to reunite with Tok once again. The workshop itself is on the lower ground to the left, everything here is made by hand by a team of dedicated woodworkers, and above is where they are able to show off all the work that they make and sell a selection of a lifestyle items to compliment.

A thing that struck me was the connection between all the different buildings and the activities that take place inside. It’s a creative hub of sorts and is very inspiring to see as not only do the workshop, cafe and showroom reside in this area, his family also live in the house behind and is a place that houses leather making craftsman Atelier Shirokumasha and his wife’s workshop that specialises in illustration.

Here’s a selection of photos from our visit to the showroom and workshop, but we highly reccomend you visit for yourself and get sucked in to this world that Tokuhiko Kise has created for everyone to enjoy. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Address: 6-8-48 Shinmori, Asahi-ku, Osaka, 535-0022, Japan

Inside the main TRUCK showroom. Here they present the furniture for people to look at and use.
Inside the main TRUCK showroom. Here they present the furniture for people to look at and use.
Tableware inside the TRUCK showroom.Furniture and planting inside the TRUCK showroom.
A look at the lower floor showroom at TRUCK Furniture in Osaka, Japan.
Truck Furniture wooden lamps other lifestyle products inside their store.
A look inside the upper floor showroom at TRUCK Furniture in Osaka, Japan.
Swivel Chair by TRUCK FurnitureLamp Hand turned a the TRUCK Workshop.
Today is a Good Day at the TRUCK Workshop
Corduroy and Harris Tweed Sofa by TRUCK Furniture
Planting inside the TRUCK showroom.Handmade stools using both metal and wood.
Front cover of the TRUCK Publication framed and placed on the showroom walls.
A selection of tableware and interior products.Chairs and tables all made by TRUCK Furniture.
TRUCK Nest book available at OEN Shop.
Sofas and beds handmade in Osaka, JapanThey also sell a selection of pottery and ceramics.
A view of Osaka from the top floor of the showroom.
Owner of TRUCK, Tokuhiko Kise.Tok walking back to the ground floor of the TRUCK showroom.
Owner of TRUCK Furniture Tokuhiko Kise at his showroom in Osaka, Japan.
Inside the ground floor workshop of TRUCK Furniture.
Inside the ground floor workshop of TRUCK Furniture.
Truck's craftsmen workshop on the construction of the furniture.Overlooking the production process of their furniture.
A handmade chair being produced inside the studio.
Craftsmen at work inside the workshop of TRUCK Furniture.
Craftsmen at work inside the workshop of TRUCK Furniture.
Aprons inside the workshop of TRUCK Furniture.
Different varnishes that they use and apply to the furniture.
Different varnishes that they use and apply to the furniture.
Craftsman inside the workshop building frames.
Three young craftsman inside the TRUCK workshop.
Three young craftsman inside the TRUCK workshop.
Leather workshop Atelier Shirokumasha at the back of the TRUCK property.
Leather workshop Atelier Shirokumasha at the back of the TRUCK property.
Another look inside Atelier Shirokumasha.
Atelier Shirokumasha sign.Tok's dogs inside his house.
Atelier Shirokumasha's interior.
The entrance to Bird Coffee, here you can relax. Stools handmade for Bird Coffee by TRUCK Furniture.
The entrance to Bird Coffee, here you can relax and grab a bite to eat.
Inside Bird Coffee, heating the hot water for their specialist coffee.
Inside Bird CoffeeA guitar and stuffed bear head inside Bird Coffee.
A Menu on the wall of the coffee shop/restaurant in Osaka, Japan.

1. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

I’m Tokuhiko Kise. I run a furniture company in Osaka, Japan. It’s all designed by me and handmade by my staff in our workshop. It’s sold in our store which is just upstairs from the workshop.

2. What was the original concept behind TRUCK Furniture, also how did you become a woodworker in the first place?

I’ve never really thought of it in terms of a concept, but I suppose you could say it’s making the things that I want to use.

When I was 18 and had finished high school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. By chance I saw an article for a woodworking school in a magazine and decided to go along. I’d always liked making things and the idea of working with my hands appealed to me.

3. Just out of interest what is your typical daily routine, can you give us a basic run through from morning to evening?

I wake up at around six or seven o’clock. We have a lot of pets – seven cats and five dogs – so the first thing I do is look after them. Clean their toilets, feed them and change their water. I usually have breakfast with my wife Hiromi and my daughter Hina. Nothing fancy, just a cup of coffee and a slice of toast.

I don’t really have a work routine. My studio, workshop, store and our cafe, Bird, are all located at the same site as my house and I spend my day going back and forth between them all, drawing designs, looking over the furniture as it’s made, or checking on things at the store.

In the evening I swim for a kilometre, have dinner, sometimes at home, sometimes at Bird or another restaurant. I usually read before bed. There’s a massive stack of books on my side chest waiting to be read.

4. We know it soon became apparent after starting TRUCK Furniture that Bird Coffee would be a nice compliment to the workshop/showroom. What was your thinking behind this and how do you think it adds to the overall customer experience?

My motivation was pretty simple. I just wanted to make a place for our customers to sit and rest. I also wanted a place where I could go to drink coffee or wine myself.

5. Do you ever gather information on your products from how customers use them? Such as the function of a piece of furniture, or a particular style of furniture?

I sometimes see our pieces of furniture in magazines and can read how people are using them. I’m glad to see that people who bought furniture from us use and live happily with them. I myself am one of the users, our strictest customer.

6. To us TRUCK feels quite personal, we often see imagery of your home, workshop, your many pets, and general everyday scenarios that you are involved in. Do you feel part of your success has been down to the fact that people can see how genuine the individuals behind TRUCK and Bird are, that your products have lots of love and integrity behind them?

Yes, I think so. With us, what you see is what you get. If you look at our store and look at our house you’ll see they look pretty much the same. We actually use the stuff we make every day. And pictures of us and our dogs, that’s actually what our lives look like. It’s not an image, it’s just us, and I think people can see that.

7. Although you own two small companies in terms of physical size, they are appreciated across the globe by a great number of creatives. How did you make this transition and do you ever reflect on the idea of your work being enjoyed in other countries far away from Osaka?

Actually we didn’t do anything deliberate to push TRUCK furniture overseas. I guess some people came to our shop or saw our furniture in Japanese magazines and the word slowly spread. Just like in Japan, we haven’t done any advertising but I’m more than happy to talk to people from magazines and websites about what we do so we’ve gradually gotten a bit of exposure overseas. Of course, I’m very happy about it. It’s always great to find out that people like the things you make.