Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Takumi Ota
“Like huge Japanese lanterns, the harbors along Japan’s jagged coast sparkled at night last week with the blue fire of acetylene welding rods and the white glare of arc lights. The lights burned overtime as Japan worked to meet the greatest shipbuilding boom in its history. All 54 ways at Japan’s nine major shipyards are occupied; one ship is barely launched before a new keel is laid,” reported TIME Magazine in 1964.
Indeed, Japan used shipbuilding in the 1950s and 1960s to rebuild its industrial structure and the country dominated in the late 1980s, filling more than half of all orders worldwide. Japan has since lost its competitive edge to countries like South Korea but now, a group of artisans and designers are looking to revive shipbuilding but in an entirely different way – through furniture.
“The heritage of many of the woodworking techniques used by Japanese carpenters originates from Japanese shipwrights,” said Jin Kuramoto (previously), who recently teamed up with a group of Hiroshima-based woodworkers to create a new furniture brand, MATSUSO T.
The brand is debuting with 2 lineups; the first, designed by Kuramoto himself, is called Nadia. The collection features curved sections of wood for the back of the chair – an image reminiscent of the hull of a ship. Look underneath the chairs and tables and you’ll see frames of interlocked struts, a technique used by the old shipbuilders. In fact, Hiroshima is home to Tsuneishi, one of Japan’s larger shipbuilders. In a wonderfulphoto essay the Tokyo-based photographer Androniki Christodoulou documented the shipyard.