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Developing Japanese craftsmanship through the ‘original sofa’

KOKOROISHI KOUGEI Co. Ltd.

Takuo Kokoroishi

From mass production to order-made

“I want to hear customers saying ‘I can’t use any other product’ and that’s my motivation for improving our technique.” That’s what the 2nd generation president Mr. Kokoroishi tells us as he looks back at the history of the company. Although KOKOROISHI Co., Ltd. is not the most well-known company, they have a high reputation in the industry. 95% of their products are sofas and they also make bed frames and side tables. They have their headquarters, factory, and showroom in Fukuyama city. In 2015, they also opened a store specializing in leather sofas in Tokyo. It seems as if they smooth sailed into success but they did hit some bumps along the road. “During the bubble economy in the 80s, the sofa and side table set was the biggest seller, but after the bubble burst, affordable furniture started to flow into the Japanese market. It was difficult for us to stand a chance when people were accepting of affordable low-quality products and we were even considering expanding into the Chinese market. However, we racked our brains in order to come up with solutions that will allow us to survive in the Japanese market alone.” Mr. Kokoroishi did not incorporate mass-producing methods because he wanted to enjoy the process of production as a team. “My father would repeatedly say ‘It is my job to develop trusting relationships and to ensure that the staff can work at peace.’ To accomplish this I thought I needed to make ‘a sofa that realizes the desires of the customers.’ This motivated me to hone my skills and make the products more attractive to customers. With much persuasion, I was able to convince the team to change our mass production method to a custom-made style around the year 2000.”

The original brand ‘KOKOROISHI’

Mr. Kokoroishi grew up next to the factory and he was exposed to luxurious sofas from Europe and high-quality leather. “My parents probably didn’t intend to educate me this way but as a result of having the opportunities to feel and look at these products, I became more inclined to focus on the quality level.”  After getting soul-crushed amidst the mass-production competition, our team united to improve the quality of products with the motto: ‘Durable and timeless.’ In 2007, Mr. Kokoroishi became the president and in 2011, he launched their original brand ‘KOKOROISHI’. Nowadays, there is a demand for sofas that are durable with a design that is practical as well. It should also reflect people’s lifestyles and it seems that the made-to-order style ‘KOKOROISHI’ adapted was a natural and necessary path to take.

Details that look twenty years ahead

“Making a sofa is all about the accumulation of details,” says Mr. Kokoroishi. “The process of making a sofa is complicated. You use 30 different materials and if you include minor steps it amounts to 40 steps in total to make a sofa. It is crucial to go about each step with precision and care. For example, it makes a difference in the impression you get from the sofa depending on the cutting direction and the position of the sewing line in the leather. Also, the durability varies depending on the type and density of the wood you use for the frame. The angle of the backrest and the combination of the stuffing in the cushion is also an important factor for the comfort level.” He gave us an example, “It’s hard to make the stitching along the cushions of the backrest straight since soft material like leather is used and the level of craftsmanship becomes apparent. Due to the soft material, the shape and the silhouette of the sofa can deform over time. You have to take this deformation of over 20 years into account to produce a quality sofa. So, we continue to fix old sofas that we made to come up with solutions.” This is how a quality sofa is created from a proud Japanese craftsman.

Sofas create a ‘gathering space’

60% of the products KOKOROISHI produces are for other makers and 40% are their original products. They are slowly increasing the production of their original products.

“We are making products for hundreds of makers all over Japan. One advantage of this is that the makers all have different requirements so, we pick up new techniques along the way. So it’s possible for us to create better sofas by incorporating these techniques. Also, customers are exposed to more and more high-quality sofas so the bar is high. Craftsmen hone their skills by trying to meet this high bar for quality sofas and improve their techniques. That’s how we gain experience,” says Mr. Kokoroishi. They don’t settle. By constantly adjusting their values, they avoid getting stuck in a rut. That’s probably why they are gaining recognition in the industry.

In the end, we asked, “Why sofas out of all the furniture?” “I simply like sofas. If a sofa is comfortable you spend more time on it and family members gather around it. You can create memories from a good sofa,” says Mr. Kokoroishi. “The thoughts you put into a sofa, are the thoughts you have for the people who use it.” You can tell the words of Mr. Kokoroishi are coming from a kind and warm heart.

KOKOROISHI KOUGEI Co. Ltd. × ANCHOR HOTEL

The sofa at the ANCHOR BAR and the order-made sofa made especially for the penthouse are products of KOKOROISHI Co., Ltd. High-quality wood and urethane are used so the material density is high, giving the premium sofa a hefty weight. ‘Placing a high-quality sofa gives a space that classy touch.’ You have to look at it with your own eyes to fully appreciate the quality so we highly recommend that you come and swing by!

KOKOROISHI KOUGEI Co. Ltd.

4-5-20,Yanaizucho, Fukuyama-city, Hiroshima, 729-0144, JAPAN / TEL. 084-933-3335

KOKOROISHI KOUGEI Co., Ltd is a sofa factory that manufactures and sells sofas in addition to sofa upholstery repair in its own factory at Yanaizucho, Fukuyama city, In 2011, they started their own brand “KOKOROISHI”, and they opened a direct-sales store in front of Gingu,Tokyo in 2015. Furthermore, they started the bag project in 2016 that utilizes sofa manufacturing skills.

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