Tokuhiko Kise is a maker in the truest sense. His life and work merges and overlaps with indistinct lines between his highly sought-after furniture, the books they produce, and the buildings that he and his wife designed where their family lives and works together in in Osaka.
TRUCK FURNITURE was founded in 1997 by Tokuhiko and his wife, Hiromi Karatsu. Since day one, they have done things their own way, making things they want to use that follow their own style, regardless of fashion, trend, or consequence. Their work has paid off, garnering a global following for their unique and charming pieces that while are timeless, feel like they already have a history and distinct character. The furniture that they create is all crafted by hand with the intention of being used over a long period of time while getting better with age. Some of the pieces on display in their showroom have been there since the early days and have developed unique patinas and marks over the years. They don’t attempt to hide or cover them, as their appearance is actually something that they encourage — the pair believes that if a drink leaves a stain on a piece of furniture, the stain adds history and character to that piece. There is a truth in that which Tok likes, because for him, furniture is simply a tool that you use in daily life.
Tokuhiko, or ‘Tok’, as he prefers to be called, developed a love of cycling and the outdoors from an early age when he went exploring the nearby mountains of Osaka as a boy on his bike. He would go armed with coffee, cookies, and a camping stove ready for when he found the perfect location to take a break on a long ride.
It was an advertisement in an outdoor magazine that he read that led him to study furniture making in the alpine region of Nagano soon after finishing high school. He would often return home for the weekends, preferring the warmer atmosphere and friendly people of Osaka, the place in which he would eventually start his own company.
TRUCK had already been going for twelve years when they decided to take the huge step to build their own place in the residential district of Shinmori. Bringing everything together in a single creative hub, Tok and Hiromi designed their store, workshop, home, and their very popular café, all from the ground up using sketches that they drew in one of their first notebooks almost twenty years earlier. They wanted the environment to reflect their tastes and values, and saw the endeavor as building their nest, a community around the place that they would call home. From personally designing everything including the buildings themselves and their windows to planting the enormous trees around the space, they managed to create a place that feels as if it has already been there for a lifetime. The entire space is a true embodiment of what Truck is, and a warmth and sense of familiarity can be found in all that they do.
From the rooftop of the store you can see the same mountains that Tok has enjoyed exploring since his childhood — Mino in the north and Mt. Ikoma in the east — and still rides familiar trails. He attacks climbs and descents at a ferocious pace that mimics the same level of passion that he pours into his work. When not in the mountains and instead navigating the city, he usually avoids busy roads, preferring quieter routes that would be otherwise impossible with a car. If the weather is good, he will usually cycle out somewhere for lunch, exploring the city and finding new places on small roads or pathways that run along the many rivers that go through Osaka.
His collection of bikes has grown over the years, filling his garage space with a unique collection that includes vintage motocross bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, touring bikes, and a few more utilitarian bikes for his family — some hang from the ceiling, others are in stands. His daughter’s first bike and Hiromi’s mamachari (a simple bike with a basket at the front) were designed by himself together with a Japanese frame builder. He talks fondly about the joy in the experience of his daughter riding a bike for the first time.
For Tok, the type of bike is not very important. Simply riding to local shops is exciting enough to make him do wheelies or, much to the embarrassment of his daughter, ride down steps on the family bike. He explains that just using a different mode of transport completely changes your perspective of a city, and that cycling has always been something that leaves him feeling happy and energetic.
Tokuhiko and his wife Hiromi have created something very special in this city by trusting in their own feelings about what is right and pursuing ideas until they are completely satisfied with the result, no matter how long it takes. Similar to Rapha, TRUCK furniture is not sold through any other stores. For them, the whole experience is very important, and the only way that they can ensure that everything is right is to do it all by themselves, in the same place where they live, eat, and work creating their furniture.
This story first appeared on rapha.cc
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