工房やす 岡田靖則 "Koubouyasu" Yasunori Okada
“Bring the warmth of wood into your life…”
By Yasunori Okada, Koubouyasu
In the middle of the Japanese archipelago, where the Kiso and Hida rivers meet, lies Minokamo city in the Gifu prefecture. Minokamo is one of the staging posts on the “Nakasendo”, one of the five routes of the Edo period.
From his Koubouyasu studio, inspired by this wonderful historical environment, Yasunori Okada brings the warmth of wood to us in each of his carefully created pieces.
Artisan Yasunori’s career as a woodworker is very unique. After graduating from university, he worked for a pearl company and for over 10 years he dedicated himself to a pearl oyster incubation project in Amami-Oshima, a tropical island in the Kagoshima prefecture. “I learned so much about treasuring precious life on the island and later these special experiences established my ethos of how to treasure and handle the wood I choose to use, carefully and, importantly, entirely without waste.”, Yasunori says.
After this life affirming time, he went back to his home region in the Gifu prefecture and worked for a timber processing company. Since 2012 he has set up his own workshop, “Koubouyasu” in Minokamo city which, Yasunori explains, is “a very simple town, just like a plain noodle soup!”
Yasunori’s wooden plates and bowls are beautiful, easy to match with absolutely every dish and are functional, yet very special. Whilst always maintaining the individual character and integrity of the chosen woods, he carefully and intricately works his magic to craft them into sophisticated pieces, all with finely polished faces and highly refined edges. They therefore perfectly compliment delicate ceramics, bamboo, glassware, to coordinate stylishly together on a dining table. We never tire of using these tablewares for everyday use and of course, they perfectly decorate every meal too.
“I try to make tableware which customers can enjoy at every meal time, whatever occasion and whatever is served on it. Treasuring the original Japanese elements whilst also matching with foods from all around the world, whether that’s Western, Chinese, fusion, etc., I am aiming to create aesthetically pleasing, multi-functional woodwork! To keep the beauty of the individual piece of wood whilst making it function practically is quite a challenging task, but I’m trying hard to achieve that balance of creativity meeting great function and purpose.”
Talking of which, Yasunori Okada is a real lover of food culture himself. “Actually, the idea of becoming a specialist woodworker was because I wanted to eat delicious food using my own handmade plate and bowl, it's as simple as that!”. In his Instagram post, @koubouyasu, he shares his photos of the scrumptious food that he and his family cook and enjoy using his tableware. They love preparing all sorts of cuisine; sometimes traditional Japanese dishes of freshly caught Sashimi raw fish or the simple Soba noodle…then a vibrant colorful pizza and salad… then Thai curry presented beautifully in his bowls. From complex cooked dishes to raw food, Yasunori’s woodwork embraces any kind of cuisine so well, with the additional feature of each piece being easy to maintain and keep looking fresh.
Most of Yasunori’s pieces are made using his wood turning lathe. “This type of wood turner is absolutely essential for making my bowls and plates and my well-loved chisels all fit comfortably in my hands for my hand carving finishes.” They are his precious treasured tools and an extension of him, Yasunori explains.
The main woods used by Koubouyasu are mostly Japanese traditional species, e.g. Cherry, Chestnut, Japanese Maple, Castor Aralia. “Chestnut, especially, is deeply related to Japanese life in history, being used for the foundations of traditional housing methods and also for railway sleepers for hundreds of years”, he explains.
He also uses Chinese Cork Oak from his home town Minokamo city’s local coppice. Yasunori is one of the activists striving to keep his local coppice healthy and cutting back trees to stimulate fresh growth, using the cut wood to make and repair school desks for local children, and re-planting younger trees for a sustainable future. As well as connecting to those who love his workmanship all around Japan, he understands the importance and value of the connection he has developed with his neighbours, in his local area… working for “Local production for Local consumption”.
Yasunori is always creatively exploring and developing his methods and his dyed woodwork collections are particularly exceptional; some pieces are completely naturally dyed whilst others are dual faced, one natural face, with a dyed face on the other side and these pieces are proving to be very popular.
Yasunori says “In the future I want to try to experiment with other materials, for example plant dye or mud dye to colour my pieces, alongside the natural iron and indigo dye I already use.” There’ll definitely be many new exciting pieces to look forward to…
When I asked Yasuniori for a message to Kotatsu’s customers …
When making my pieces I am always trying to visualise the people who will be enjoying their mealtimes with my tableware. If using my crafted pieces brings more joy and enjoyment to your everyday mealtimes, then that brings me huge pleasure.”
In each and every Koubouyasu plate and bowl there is so much warmth and kindness which does indeed bring great joy and warmth. His beautiful works are compelling and grab people’s hearts and we hope that you will enjoy this within your own homes, sharing with the people you love.