The Beautiful Lustrous Chairs: Created by the Enthusiasm of Master Craftsmen, Skilled Artistry, and the Passage of Time

This article was originally published in the February/March 2010 issue of The ROYAL.


Treasure Hunting at the RIHGA Royal Hotel Osaka

 The concept of the Leach Bar, “a room within a hotel,” was first developed by Yanagi Soetsu, a pioneer of Mingei folk art, and Yamamoto Tamesaburo, the president of the RIHGA Royal Hotel at the time. Yamamoto had a profound understanding and admiration for Mingei folk art, and it inspired the British potter Bernard Leach and other Mingei folk artists to cooperate in the creation of the bar. The participating artists included Kawai Kanjiro, Hamada Shoji, textile designer Serizawa Keisuke, and print artist Munakata Shiko, all of whom were members of the Mingei folk art coterie and inherited a legacy from Yanagi Soetsu.

 Even without knowing the story behind the creation of this bar, one only has to sit down in one of the traditional Windsor chairs to feel the enthusiasm of these masters of Mingei folk art.

 Their unique gentle curves are created with a technique called “Mageki (wood bending),” in which the wood is steamed, secured with metal clamps, and bent by hand. The chairs were handmade by skilled craftsmen at a woodworking studio in Akita Prefecture, which was established at the end of the Meiji era, and have been preserved and passed down with some restoration and polishing since the opening of the Leach Bar.

 Whenever you visit, the chairs that have been polished by an invaluable stretch of time and the bar itself, which crystallized the skills of Mingei masters, impress you with their beautiful brown lusters.

Text by Ko Hiroki

Photography by Harry Nakanishi

This article was originally published in the February/March 2010 issue of The ROYAL.