Awaiting me at the exit of the Shizuoka train station, Takuya welcomes me with a slight bow of the head and a firm handshake. He was able to pick me out of a crowd of more than fifty people getting off the Shinkansen (bullet train), so immediately I felt a bit out of place, as if everyone knew I was not from there. His first question was whether I had eaten, which I later learned is a common courtesy bestowed upon your guests in Japan. I usually only have coffee for breakfast, but nonetheless the gesture made me feel very welcomed.
Shortly afterwards, we proceed to drive approximately 30mins outside the city center to visit the Saito Wood production factory. Located in a painted green warehouse, I am greeted by a small entourage, amongst them Noboru Saito, Takuya’s uncle and the factory manager. I was expecting a much larger operation considering their presence in Japanese society, but obviously what lacks in size was more than compensated in an efficient enterprise. Touring the factory was a real delight, as Takuya would later explain to me that his grandfather built many of the first plywood presses at the inception of the company. They have since modernized their machinery, but what remains is a dedication to the highest quality of molded plywood products in Japan.
Along the way back to Shizuoka, we take a slight detour to view Mt. Fuji from its southwestern perspective before I am afforded the opportunity to meet Takuya’s parents and the rest of the Saito Wood staff in their offices and showroom. The community aspect surrounding the brand was evident throughout my visit, and a big reason why I felt each and every product produced is crafted with such attention and care. I am honored to be able to call Takuya and his family my friends, and I hope you enjoy our interview illustrating the three generations of the Saito Wood brand.
The interview was conducted in English and Japanese. Both languages are published so as to not lose any meaning in translation for native readers.