Artist Interview with Kazunori Koutsuka, Mokkobo Gen(part2 English)


I conducted an interview with Kazunori Koutsuka, who has been making wooden kitchen utensils and furniture at a workshop in Shioyamachi, Tochigi prefecture. I visited his workshop and talked with him and other three young staffs.

Koutsuka san used to play football when he was in high school, but he decided to become a wood worker after graduation. He started to learn woodworks as a temporary staff first, and worked as a wood worker and devoted himself to improving his skills at three different companies for ten years. He began his own business when he was 30.

Many of the wood workers buying lumber but Koutsuka san goes to Aizu area to see the logs directly and buying logs and he gives directions to a lumbermill. Koutsuka san said that he does those direction works to use up the materials efficiently. “Time is money” he also said. “It is important to think about “efficiency” and we can take more time to make our products.”

Craftwork is not an easy job. They learn much from experience. For example, Koutsuka san learned how to see a tree from senior people in forest industry with a lot of experience and knowledge.

However, until producing a wooden product, there so many people, time and process are needed. Roughly speaking, cutting down trees from the mountain first, and strip the bark off from a log, and then timber-conversion allocation is efficiently executed at a lumbermill and dry them until deliver. Even dry method is different in terms of kind, such as artificially drying and natural drying lumber. So, before a wood worker make his/ her works, many process passed as above.

In the case of woodwork, you cannot make the material (tree) itself. Or you cannot always find wood of his liking. That means, you need to keep a certain quantity of wood. So Koutsuka san works efficiently according tot his operation plan.

They work start from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Koutsuka san said, “especially, you should concentrate and work hard in the morning time”. Is it about “The early bird catches the worm”? After 4:30, workshop will be open for other young staffs. They can study or make something that they want to.

Koutsuka san showed me how to make a flower petal shape coaster.
Cut roughly with a jig saw machine first.

It will be removed the bottom and side roughly.

Then, it will be polished using the machine.

Before polishing (left) and after polishing (right)

Carve into the surface of the edge with u-shaped carving knife at a steady pace.

And it will be polished by hand at the finishing process.

Becomes a wood product, there are many processes should be done with many people’s thoughts and feelings as mentioned earlier. I think that there is something fascinating about handmade products. When you touch it or use it, it’ll gives you some impression and make your life more comfortable. They put their heart into making the items. I hope you could find a special one for you from Mokkobo Gen.

Member of Mokkobo Gen
From the left; Umito Kuramochi, Kazunori Koutsuka (Representative), Shuhei Kuroko and Satoshi Sekiya