【Kyo-Sashimono】Interview with Mr. Shimizu

The Hakoshichi Workshop is located in the mountains north of Kyoto Prefecture. Mr. Takashi Shimizu, a Kyoto cabinetmaker, has been selected as one of the "Kyoto Master Craftsmen" and "Contemporary Master Craftsmen. His workshop is located in the mountains of Kyoto, where he spontaneously lives and works at his craft. When I heard that he has a bathtub he made himself by the riverside, I felt it is like a survivalist lifestyle. We asked Mr. Shimizu about his past and vision for the future.

Takashi Shimizu

・Born in 1953

・Kyoto Master Craftsmen

・Contemporary Master Craftsmen
・Certified as a Master of Traditional Craft in 2017.

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How did you get started in this business?

I don't really have a trigger, but I have always loved making things, and most of all, the reason why I started to crafts is because I was watching my father's work. I used to stay in the workshop all the time and watched his work. I was like a kid at the front gate (laughs).

Do you have any memories of your father from your childhood?

I still vividly remember receiving a brand-new plane (kanna) when I was in the fourth grade. It was too big for a child, but I was excited to be able to use the same thing as an adult. I still use that planer today. 


At the time, I didn't even know how to use it, so I had to ask a few craftspeople around me. I was in the workshop all the time, and since we were not a very wealthy family, my father used to make wooden airplanes and other things out of wood. 


That was one of the reasons why I started making plastic models, 1/24th scale soldiers and tanks, and I did all the painting as well. I won a Tamiya contest when I was in elementary school.

Your love of crafting things is inherited from your father! (laughs). Have you had an idea of becoming a wood joiner since you were a child?

I liked making things, and I went on to study wood crafts in high school, but my feeling at the time was that I liked making things more than anything else, rather than wanting to be a craftsman. I didn't have any particular desire to be a craftsman at the time. I had many arguments with my father at the time, because I said I would go to college to become a teacher (laugh), and I wanted a teaching license at the time.


There have been many twists and turns, but I guess there must be some meaning in the fact that I took over my father's work and am still doing it today. I think God is telling me that it is my job.

Attitudes towards work

Please tell us what important thing to you in terms of creating your works!

It is precision and originality. I have been taught many things by 11 masters including my father. I think that theories are not so important. However, I believe that "ingenuity" is the most important part of this creative job.


When I went to Kanagawa, I saw their traditional marquetry and was inspired by it to create my own work, and I keep my antenna up to get hints from various places.

Even just the appearance of this workshop shows Mr. Shimizu's "ingenuity. By the way, how long have you been using this workshop?

I think this workshop was built 5 years ago! It used to be used as a storage warehouse for Kitayama cedar, and since it didn't have a ceiling, I built it myself (laugh). I used to work in the city, but I had to use loud machines, and the noise and dust would bother people around me, so I moved into the mountains (laugh).

What is the future vision for Hakoshichi workshop?

I hope I can keep creating wooden crafts steadily. I never want to push sales, and I hope that only people who like my crafts will buy them.


In the past, there were many people who were into tea ceremony and they were particular about the materials and uses of their craft, but after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the number of such people decreased drastically. There used to be many rich people living in Ashiya, so we used to go to that area to sell our products.


Now, rather than increasing our sales, we are uploading videos on YouTube to young people who want to become wood craftspeople, so that more people can know about wooden crafts.

My father can't even use his smartphone properly, but it's amazing that he even uploads some videos. What kind of content do you mainly share?

It could be the process of making wood joinery, or answering questions received by our viewers! Currently, it is difficult to build a master apprentice relationship with young people and teach them some techniques. Therefore, we are uploading all the techniques to those who are interested in the world of woodworking, without hiding our traditional skills. We do not hide them because we believe that younger generations should steal the techniques and be creative in their own ways.

I think it is a great chance for young people be able to learn from you, Mr. Shimizu! Do you plan to continue to take on new challenges in the future as well as uploading videos?

As well as trying new things, I want to keep my own stance. I do not want to sell to customers with mass production. My father once told me, "You don’t have to run after people who left. But when they come back, you better to welcome them with open arms.” Again, I don't think it is necessary to sell your skills to many people by forcing them.


I also believe that it is enough to receive considerations that is commensurate with one's size. I think that the best moment of this job is when a customer says, "Thank you for making this craft.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us. Finally, do you have a message for young people who want to enter the craft industry in the future?

“Failure is the source of growth”

I would like to say failure is the source of growth. I want to convey that failure is the source of growth, but not success. (laugh) I believe that many failures do not directly correlate with success, but I believe that people always grow by failing lots of times.
Also, I think it is important not to think, "I want to be recognized by someone.” I think people who think that way are people who cannot be acknowledged. People who are recognized are those who believe in their own skills and continue to pursue them without selling their souls to anyone. And if you do that, I think people around you will inevitably recognize you.

After the interview

Listening to Mr. Takashi Shimizu's story, especially his words, "Failure is the source of growth," seems to symbolize his attitude that challenges and learning are very important.

I also think it is wonderful that he is willing to share his skills and knowledge with a new generation and disseminate information through YouTube.


I was encouraged by his words that valuing "growth," not "success," and sticking to one's beliefs is the true path to recognition. With his words in mind, I hope that young people involved in manufacturing and the arts will continue on their own paths.

Making Process

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