Makoto Fukada | Seyseysha Design And Build

On our research trip to Japan last year, we were honoured to meet Makoto Fukada – founder and Master Carpenter at Seyseysha.

Specialising in traditional Japanese style houses, he takes projects from design right through to build stage, his mastery of carpentry honed over 30 years. We sat down with Makoto over sweet red bean soup and ice cream in one of Tokyo’s famous tea houses.

JWA: What is the building you’re most proud of constructing and why?

MF: The building I’m most proud of is ‘Kamogawa House’ in Chiba. The house is comfortable not just for family who live there, but also for their pets. My clients and I shared the thought that a house should not simply be built for humans. I’m very proud I could complete it with them. You can read more in a case study here on our website.

Kamogawa House, Chiba | Design And Build By Makoto Fukada, Seyseysha

JWA: What is your secret for making great woodwork / joinery?

MF: The most important thing is thinking how the wood feels. Ancient Japanese people believed in ‘animism‘ – the attribution of a living soul to plants and inanimate objects, including wood. They made items in relation to food, clothing and housing not just for humans but for something invisible and spiritual. I keep this in mind and make works so that the wood itself would be happy and comfortable. I respect the woods’ thought and sensitivity.

JWA: What is the most complex and difficult form of woodwork you have undertaken?

MF: The most complex and difficult form is the structure of ‘Chofu House‘, a project of mine.

This is a two-story house built in Chofu City, Tokyo, designed with respect to the image of a traditional old Japanese house. All timber is made from domestically produced cedar, red pine and chestnut. The through pillars used 12 cedar 6 inch squares. The log beam that supports the space between the third and fourth floors of the second floor is ‘Akamatsu Iwate‘ (red pine from Iwate prefecture). The walls are all old-fashioned earthen walls of bamboo ‘Komai‘ – a traditional Japanese way of making a clay wall where the bamboo foundation of the wall is braided in a lattice. The interior is finished with an intermediate coating. The exterior is a ‘Tosa‘ (polished plaster) finish.

Making The Bamboo ‘Komai’ Interior Wall Of Chofu House | Ready To Be Finished With Clay
Structural Plans For Chofu House | Makoto’s Most Challenging Project To Date

You can read the full case study with pictures here

JWA: Describe your favourite tool in your workshop – what it is, it’s history and why you love it so much.

MF: My favourite tool is ‘Mame-ganna‘. Mame means small in Japanese. This plane has a single edge. A craftsman made it when I trained in ‘sashimono*’ I use it for big pieces of wood as well as small woodwork. I’m particular about detail even about big architecture. I feel this plane seems to be my finger. I can touch the surface of wood clearly with it.

A ‘Mame-Ganna’ Plane | Makoto’s Favourite Workshop Tool

JWA Note: *Sashimono definition: named after putting two wooden pieces together without using nails. Using a delicate technique called “hozo”, a hidden notch and groove lock the two wooden pieces together.

JWA: What type of wood do you love to make things with and why?

MF: Every type of wood has a good point, so it’s a difficult question. If I had to choose, I prefer Japanese cypress and chestnut. The surface of Japanese cypress is like delicate skin. The face of chestnut wood under wind and weather increases it’s charm as the days go by. I like it!

JWA: Which wooden structure (building or temple) in Japan would you highly recommend UK visitors to see?

MF: Regarding which temple, I recommend Horyuji Temple in Nara. As for other buildings, most private houses built before World War II are valuable to see. You can easily see these at Nihon Minka-en (Japan Open-air Folk House Museum) in Kanagawa and Meiji Mura in Aichi. I especially like the ‘House of Ogai Mori and Soseki Natsume’ and “Koda Rohan House” at Meiji Mura.*

JWA Note: *See our Places To Visit section for these inclusions.

House of Ogai Mori and Soseki Natsume, Meijimura | Makoto’s Essential Itinerary Tip

JWA: What (or who) inspired you to have a career in woodwork?

MF: A magazine triggered my woodwork career. I saw a chest made by ‘Hayakawa Kennosuke’ in this magazine. I noticed that poetical sentiment could exist in woodwork.

The Photo That Inspired Makoto To Start A Career In Woodwork | “Shitsunai” (Interiors Magazine) April Issue 1988

Then, I decided to be a carpenter because I wanted to build a house similar to the one I had lived when I was a child. It was a wooden house built in the 1930’s. I loved it. It’s gone, but it’s still in my heart.

Makoto’s Childhood Home | “It’s gone, but it’s still in my heart”, Makoto Fukada

JWA: Which person do you admire in modern/contemporary Japanese woodwork?

MF: I admire my teacher, Mr. Yamada Kahei. He is 77 years olds. He is a craftsman of “Edo Sashimono” and makes tools for traditional tea ceremony in Tokyo. He is a third-generation craftsman. He performs his work with wholehearted, close attention.

Tea Ceremony Box | By Yamada Kahei, Makoto’s Teacher

JWA: Which person do you respect most in traditional Japanese woodwork?

MF: I respect the late Mr. Nishioka Tsunekazu (1908 – 1995) the most. He was a master builder of Horyuji Temple.

JWA NOTE: Read more about Nishioka Tsunekazu in his JWA Masters Profile.

More Information

Makoto’s JWA ‘Featured Maker’ Profile | Makoto is also a Contributor at the JWA

Address: 2-3-3-606 Nagayama, Tama-shi, Tokyo, Japan 206-0025


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