Takami Kawai | Suikoushya International Craft School
We had the privilege to meet Takami Kawai in Kyoto this Summer and drop in to the acclaimed Japanese woodwork course he runs for international students. Along with teaching commitments, Takami is a Maker and runs a design and construction practice specialising in traditional Japanese homes.
With all course dates for 2020 sold out, here’s your opportunity to learn more about Takami Kawai (TK) and Suikoushya International Craft School.
JWA: Wow, your courses are fully booked for all of 2020, congratulations! Why do you think so many outside of Japan are interested in learning about Japanese woodwork?
TK: Today, people can easily get a variety of things (Japanese woodwork items), but it’s very difficult to know how they’re made. People are attracted to that.
JWA: You’re running short courses overseas, such as Singapore this January, which country or countries do you plan to bring Suikoushya next in 2020?
JWA Note: At the time of publishing this post it looks like there are still places on a 3-day course “Shokunin by Suikoushya” in Singapore, more information here.
TK: In 2020 we’ve scheduled Singapore, USA and UK. We’re also co-ordinating with Colombia, Mexico and Canada.
JWA: As you’re fully booked, are there other options for our readers to get tuition with you in 2020? Perhaps the one-day workshops you run via Airbnb?
TK: You can gain experience at a one-day workshop here in Kyoto or our overseas workshops only. However, be warned, many people are on the waiting list!
JWA: You and your apprentice Dylan work really well together, how did you meet?
TK: He and I are both carpenter graduates. I felt the need to share this wonderful woodworking with the next generation and I was looking for young people interested in woodworking in Japan.
JWA: What mindset and skills do you need to in order to learn Japanese woodcraft?
TK: The most important thing is whether you enjoy it. Your skills are always acquired through practice.
JWA: What is your vision for Suikoushya International Craft School in 10 years time?
TK: By 2029, I want the next generation, not just me, to share the fun of woodworking with people around the world. Firstly, I’m considering moving my school overseas from 2021. Schools are then held for one year in each country. In this way, we can create a chance to share wonderful woodworking in many countries. In addition, we can use that skill to build the architecture needed for that country. By doing so, we believe we can share Japanese woodworking more happily.
JWA: Which person do you admire in modern/contemporary Japanese woodwork?
TK: Tatsuaki Kuroda
JWA Note: Tatsuaki Kuroda (黒田辰秋, Kuroda Tatsuaki) (1904-1982) was a Japanese woodworker and lacquerware artist. He was nominated a ‘Living National Treasure‘ in 1970. Learn more about Tasuaki Kuroda here.
JWA: Which person do you respect most in traditional Japanese woodwork?
TK: Tsunekazu Nishioka
JWA Note: Tsunekazu Nishioka (西岡常, Nishioka Tsunekazu) (1908-1995) was a highly respected miyadaiku (宮大工); temple and shrine carpenter and the Tōryō (棟梁, master carpenter) of Japanese Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine buildings. Interested to learn more about Tsunekazu Nishioka? Read his JWA Masters Profile and we recommended reading his book listed here.
JWA: What is your secret tip or technique for making great woodwork / joinery?
TK: To make a lot. Physically moving the body leads to the technique. Thinking with your head is meaningless unless you move your body. And… to enjoy it!
JWA: Describe your favourite tool in your workshop – what it is, it’s history and why you love it so much.
TK: It’s my hand. My hand is the most direct tool. It has been with me all my life and has made a lot of things. It’s the most important and favourite tool to express my sensitivity as a tangible thing.
JWA: What type of wood do you love the most to make things with and why?
TK: Japanese cypress, cedar and pine. It’s easy to get in Japan and has a track record of maintaining architecture for over 1300 years.
JWA: Given your background in architecture, which wooden structure (building or temple ) in Japan would you highly recommend UK visitors to see?
TK: Hōryū-ji Temple, Nara
JWA Note: Hōryū-ji (法隆寺) is a Buddhist temple that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples, in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Its full name is Hōryū Gakumonji (法隆学問寺) or Learning Temple of the Flourishing Law. The complex serves as both a seminary and monastery. Read more about Hōryū-ji in our Places To Visit section.
JWA: What’s your favourite Japanese item made of wood and why?
TK: Mizuya – a traditional cupboard made of cypress. Why? Because various techniques and designs are incorporated into a very small space.
JWA: Thanks Takami, we’ll make sure we keep our readers posted about your next available courses. We really hope we can help you organise Suikoushya’s inaugural UK workshop!