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The Japanese culture has intrigued numerous western countries for decades and in all aspects. Interestingly, the Japanese furniture makes space look ‘sparse.’ The items features a small size attributed to the Japanese floor culture.
When you enter the Japanese households today, you will notice not much difference with their ancestors’. You are likely to find no chairs, only some mats or cushions to sit or sleep on. Instead of a bed, they sleep on unique bedding known as a futon.
Generally, the Japanese lifestyle is on the floor. These people love doing almost everything while on the floor. It is the reason their furniture like beds, tables, and chairs are small in size.
The Japanese also use the furniture they require. They don’t have room for extras or unnecessary items.
Any item in a Japanese household has value. That’s why there’s not much furniture in their homes. It also explains their minimalist culture.
Because of their love and commitment to their culture, the Japanese have managed to embrace it until now. The Japanese pride in their culture has made it possible to introduce it to the outside world.
It explains why you will find furniture used centuries ago in a modern Japanese home. You will also encounter such items in a household of a person from another country or culture.
Though today’s Japanese furniture has a modern touch to accommodate the civilized lifestyle, they still look like the ancient types. Because of their simplicity and small size, they save a lot of space in a room.
As a result, most Westerners love them and have started using them in their homes.
Throughout history, new artisans evolve, passing on the skills to the upcoming generations. Today, there exist various brands of Japanese furniture. In this article, you will learn all about Japanese furniture and the available brands.
In case you live in the USA, you need not fret about where to get your Japanese furniture. Continue reading to grasp where to purchase some. But before then, let us look into how Japanese furniture emerged and evolved.
The Discovery and Development of the Japanese Furniture
Japanese furniture got discovered centuries ago by the ancient Japanese. The purpose of the handmade household items was to cater to the following;
There was no room for free furniture. Any item placed in a room had a purpose and got designed simply. Like other cultures, Japanese furniture has evolved.
The household stuff keeps on getting updated to better and more comfortable versions. But despite this, they still keep the traditional touch, focusing on the Japanese floor culture.
That’s why the furniture maintains its small size today. Here is how the units evolved based on their use;
I. Sitting and Sleeping
The act of sleeping and sitting on the floor led to the innovation of sleeping mats called tatami in the olden days. The rug got made using rice straws, making them comfortable to sit and sleep on.
Maintaining the tatami was easy. After using, the Japanese would sweep out the dirt and hang it outside to dry.
Also, it was a habit that the Japanese removed their shoes at the door before entering their homes.
The idea was to avoid soiling the mats, keeping them clean for an extended period. The mats’ edges got finished in a special way to allow them to conform to various rooms’ dimensions.
Due to their minimalist culture, Japanese houses are usually tiny. They typically divide the room using a removable temporary wall called a sliding shoji screen to create space. These screens also get used in opening up space.
When you remove a sliding shoji screen that separates space from the outside, you open it to the beautiful scenery of nature and fresh air.
As the Japanese interacted with the outside world, they copied some aspects that improved longevity and comfort.
The tatami evolved into cushions or pads. Even though they were slightly higher than the mat, the pillows and rugs still embrace the floor culture. They are also easy to clean and maintain.
In the 21st century, modern artisans have embraced the idea of seats and chairs, giving rise to short-legged chairs, sofas (read our article on What is a Kotatsu Sofa? Where to Buy one?), and tables. You will find them in different designs.
The earliest Japanese storage furniture emerged in the 18th C as wooden chests known as tansu. The cupboards came plain but consisted of some iron decoration and strapping.
Because Japan usually gets hit by natural disasters such as storms and earthquakes, the chests’ handles come installed at the sides. In that position, it was easy to remove them in case of a disaster.
Kitchen stuff got stored in chests known as mizuya. The kitchen storage chests got installed behind the sliding kitchen doors. Then another kind of chest known as Kaidan tansu got developed. It looked and functioned like a staircase.
In recent years, modern storage areas and items have gotten incorporated into traditional Japanese storage furniture. You will find drawers, cupboards, cabinets, baskets, and other items for storing things in most Japanese homes.
In ancient Japan, people used to worship around their fireplaces. As time passed by, they developed some pieces of furniture to place their worship items and accessories. The ancient Japanese used short-legged tables to place small altars and other items of prayer.
The prayer furniture led to the development of altars for Buddha, their God. Some were big and stood by themselves, while others were small altars. What constituted an altar and its size was the wealth and ability of the household.
Today, you will see some modern altars and places of prayer incorporated in the Japanese prayer furniture.
The Japanese culture embraces nature, and it gets illustrated in their furniture.
Natural wood and stone get used in making the furniture. It is the reason you will find rock gardens in most Japanese households.
The idea is to create nature’s beauty of randomness and imperfection.
Some furniture like tables comes designed with unpolished wood, exposing the wood’s grains and natural color. It also illustrates the Japanese life of simplicity.
Unlike most cultures, Japanese furniture gets designed based on certain principles—no wonder the items illustrate the Japanese belief and lifestyle so well. You will see nature and their minimalistic style in their furniture.
Before we look into various top Japanese furniture brands and where you can buy one if in the USA, let us look into the guidelines used in creating various Japanese furniture
Guidelines Used in Making Japanese Furniture
How Japanese furniture gets made depends on the principles guiding Japanese interior design.
The item must comply with the set rules, which illustrate the Japanese’s minimalistic and straightforward culture. All Japanese furniture consists of the following aspects;
i. Flexible and Various Uses
The focus is usually on the value of something. That is why the Japanese make their furniture for many purposes. Regarding this, the item must be able to get transformed into being used for something else.
It explains why the futon gets used for sleeping, relaxing, and sitting on.
Most furniture also comes small or short, short-legged, and consists of a folding feature to create space for another use. It is also effortless to move such furniture and use the occupied area.
The Japanese tables get used for various things like eating, studying, entertainment, or catching up with family members or friends through chatting.
ii. Illustrate Nature
It is a no-brainer; the Japanese love nature. During certain times that hold people indoors, like winter, people disconnect from the outside world.
To compensate for this, the Japanese decided to give their furniture a touch of nature. As a result, they feel connected to nature while indoors.
It is the reason you will find furniture made with natural and untreated materials like wood and stones. You get to see the building material’s natural texture and color on such items. If wood gets used, you can see the grains, the defects available, and their natural color.
Others paint pictures illustrating nature on their furniture or walls. Great examples are trees, birds, and water bodies.
It is also the reason the Japanese love placing live plants in their homes. They make pots for putting in the plants using natural materials like bamboo.
The Japanese love for nature does not make them tired of watering and taking care of indoor plants. Their commitment is on another level!
iii. Enhance Natural Light
Though there are numerous sources of light, the Japanese love using natural light, which is why they create their furniture to allow light to pass through.
The materials used in making the carpets and other furniture are transparent, such as glass and fiber.
Other furniture types like the shoji come with paper screens to allow light to pass through and enhance privacy as you cannot see through them. The love for natural light is the reason why Japanese homes contain sliding doors and sheeted windows.
Since centuries ago, the Japanese embraced simplicity. Anything they had in their homes was for a specific purpose. It is a feature illustrated in their furniture.
The Japanese furniture contains no extras or decorations. They get characterized by an uncluttered appearance. You can find some with decorations done sparingly to improve their look, but they still look simple.
The Japanese furniture is an excellent showcase of their minimalist culture. The items feature simple, minimal, or no decorations and details. Because of their love for nature, the Japanese love building their furniture using natural materials.
The furniture is never complicated and illustrates clean lines, complex joinery, and intricate engineering. To the Japanese, simplicity is cozy and aesthetic. What seems less offers more to the eye.
But what’s essential to Japanese furniture is its function.
What’s interesting is that most outside world cultures have adopted the Japanese minimalist culture. You will find most Japanese furniture in their homes. Others create things with aspects of Japanese furniture.
vi. Neutral Colors
The colors you’ll find on Japanese furniture have a connection to nature. Most materials used in making the furniture are natural, and the artisans leave the colors unaltered.
When an item gets designed from stone, you will see its gray color or the natural color of the specific stone.
Those made from wood come with brown colors of different shades based on the wood type used. When artificial colors get used on Japanese furniture, neutral palettes like off-whites, browns, blacks, and grays get used.
vii. A Touch of the Japanese Culture
Even though some Japanese furniture has gotten incorporated some modern aspects, they still portray Japanese people’s culture. If it is the tables and chairs, they come short-legged.
The futon is also foldable to allow easy conversion into a couch from a mattress.
Like the old Japanese furniture, most come made with natural materials and contain little detail.
All furniture embraces the Japanese floor culture.
viii. Embraces the Natural Imperfection
People from Japan appreciate the fact that not all things are perfect. According to them, natural imperfections are also beautiful.
An excellent example is a wood defect. Instead of hiding the damage or defect, the Japanese use such woodblocks to create their furniture and showcase the fault.
The side with the defect could appear on the upper side of the item for everyone to see. You will also see furniture made with cracked stones or materials with various natural colors. The idea is to expose the beauty of natural imperfection.
During tea ceremonies in Zen Buddhism, the Japanese used irregularly shaped and unevenly glazed teapots. The pots were handmade and highly prized by the Zen masters.
Today, furniture aspects of different cultures have gotten fused into Japanese furniture. But they still use the above principles in their making.
Experts in making Japanese furniture have emerged, and their brands are top on the market today.
For insight, the following are the top Japanese furniture brands you can find on the market today.
Top Japanese Furniture Brands
1. Tendo Mokko
Tendo Mokko is a renowned brand of Japanese quality furniture. It gets located in Japan, at a place called Tendo. Having been established in 1940, the company has gained experience and skills in making Japanese furniture of various kinds.
The maker uses ‘molded plywood’ in making its furniture and has won many customers’ hearts around the world.
The brand’s tables and chairs have won numerous awards, making them our number one on the list of top Japanese furniture brands.
Examples of their great pieces of furniture are the Butterfly chair and Heron rocking chair.
Furniture from Tendo Mokko is easy to use and lasts long. Today, the company has partnered with other architects from Japan to expand and meet various customers’ needs.
As a result, the brand has incorporated materials other than natural ones in making the furniture.
Like the Tendo Mokko, it is a leading maker of Japanese furniture. The brand produces products based on its customers’ needs. As a result, the company has made high-quality Japanese furniture pieces like their Case Study line of chairs.
In its effort to produce the best and what its customers want, the brand has been open to partnerships with other experts. In the past, Karimoku collaborated with a renowned manufacturer called Bearbricks.
The duo produced limited-edition models costing a lot of money.
In 1928, the company got established. Up to date, the brand is a guru in making quality products. It knows the ropes of making Japanese furniture of different kinds using wood.
Building structures like Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples attribute to the brand’s rich experience in furniture making.
Initially, the company concentrated on making pure Japanese furniture. Because of the influence from the outside world, the brand also makes designs copied from Europe.
Their products, like the Maruni Hiroshima chairs, are cherished worldwide for their top-notch quality.
As its name suggests, the company gets based in the Hida Mountains. The west side of the company is full of forests, making the wood, its key material for building furniture, accessible.
Having been established over a century ago, the brand is rich in skills and experience in making Japanese furniture.
Because of their quality and long-lasting products, Hida Furniture has gotten the attention of the world. Customers worldwide import their furniture.
To accommodate their numerous customers’ preferences, Hida Furniture makes both pure and modern aspects-integrated furniture.
The brand’s furniture designs are unique and durable. Currently, the company has explored its potential by doing green manufacturing. It is one of the leading Japanese furniture manufacturers on the market today.
It’s a Japanese chain store founded in 1980. The company’s three core principles – material selection, process streaming, and simplified packaging, have seen it soaring the market ladder.
Muji supplies high-quality Japanese furniture at an affordable price. No wonder the company has customers all over the world.
If you do not live in Japan, you need not worry about getting Muji products. The company has over 7,000 stores around the world. The store next door could be one of them!
What’s interesting is that Muji also sells products other than furniture. You can buy things like food, clothes, and houses from this entity.
The brand was started in 1997 by two renowned architects known Hiromi Karatsu and Tokuhiko Kise. The furniture made by this company emphasizes the nature of the natural building material.
Driven by the quality and value of furniture pieces, Truck Furniture has succeeded in making top-notch Japanese furniture.
Each piece of furniture showcases its connection with nature through the exposed cracks and knots of the wood used in its making. The products are pleasing to look at and enhance the appearance of a room.
The above brands and other Japanese furniture can get found in Japan and other countries around the world. If you are living in the USA and wondering where to find your favorite piece of Japanese furniture, look in the following places;
Where to Buy Japanese Furniture in the USA
a) Japanese Furniture Stores
Like other people around the world, Americans have embraced the Japanese culture. You will find most Japanese furniture in American homes and offices because of its simplicity and space-saving features.
Suppose you stay in New York and would love some Japanese furniture for your place of work, stores like Glenwood Office Furniture will sort you out. You will enjoy the best reception, office desks, and workstation furniture with a Japanese touch.
Macy’s will ensure you get the correct Japanese item for every room in your home or office.
Other Japanese stores from New York include The Clean Bedroom, Horizon Window Treatments, and Canal Furniture.
Residents of Los Angeles, CA can find Japanese furniture of their choice from the following stores;
- Sit ‘n Sleep
- Mattress Central
- Best Los Angeles Mattress
- Mattress Central
- Mattress Pros
- Custom Comfort Mattress
Japanese furniture stores in the US are many. The above listed are among the long list. If you live near any of them, you can visit the place and order your furniture on-site. If not, you have the option of buying from the stores online.
b) Second-Hand Shops
If you are on a budget and require a particular piece of Japanese furniture, try checking inside any recycle or second-hand shops near you. The shops are usually spread out everywhere in the USA. You only need to check out for their sign.
You can also recognize such stores by the kind of products they display on their outside and inside.
c) Sales Sites
With the advancement of technology, business people have been able to create various advertising and marketing platforms. Great examples of such e-commerce platforms are;
- Best Buy
- Home Depot
As discussed above, Japanese furniture brands have taken over the furniture market worldwide. Thanks to their minimalistic characteristics and their connection with nature.
They also serve their purposes fully, as they save space. Due to the outside world’s influence, some of them have incorporated aspects of modern furniture.
Others remain unaltered. Whether made originally or with a modern touch, Japanese furniture has won many people’s hearts from different cultures. If you are a US citizen, it is not a wonder to find Japanese furniture in several American homes or offices.
As illustrated above, you can find Japanese furniture from several sources in the USA. You don’t have to go to Japan to buy some. There are millions of physical and online stores to buy from.
You have no excuse for not owning your favorite piece of Japanese furniture while living in the USA!