Your company is very unique in that it specializes on sofa beds. Why is that?
It is often said that to really be the best at anything, you have to focus. I personally believe this is true and as a company we realized that we could be the best at manufacturing sofa beds. Traditionally Japanese homes had 6 tatami rooms, or roughly 20m2. They would be used as a living or dining room during the day and then a bedroom at night. I feel that sofa beds can offer so many options and value to any home in Japan or around the world.
Shinohara is also unique in that all your products are made in Japan. Does that really make a difference any more?
Japan has a proud history of “monozukuri” (pride in craftsmanship with the goal of pursuing perfection) but these days it also depends on the company’s priorities. At Shinohara, monozukuri is in our DNA and practiced daily in our factory. We are always looking to make improvements. We take what we made yesterday, then make it better today. I am always thinking how to make it even better tomorrow. For this reason, I have chosen not to mass produce but instead to have highly trained staff flexibly producing high-quality products with the right price.
You have many unique designs. What inspires those designs?
One of the furniture designers that I respect the most is Canada’s Judson Beaumont. His designs always made people smile while at the same time left other furniture builders confused about how he could have made his furniture. He inspired me to try to make original and magical sofa beds. I want other manufacturers to look at my sofa beds and wonder how we can make them.
You are a civil engineer by training. How does that background impact your product design?
In civil engineering it is important to be both bold and subtle at the same time. The same can be said for sofa beds. We should try to bring completely original designs to market to get consumer attention while being very detailed on the designs of the mechanisms hidden inside. Personally, even after many years of use, I would like my designs to convey a sense of purpose and comfort.
How did studying at the University of British Columbia in Canada affect your life and your strategy for your company?
When I was at UBC 25 years ago, I learned the phrase “Think Globally, Act Locally” and it had a big effect on my life. Still today, I am always thinking how I and my staff from a small Japanese town can make better sofa beds for people around the world. I also learned at UBC how important it is to respect and celebrate each person’s individuality. Today, through my sofa beds I want to help people create the best living spaces to meet their own unique lifestyles.
Overall, what sets your sofa beds apart from those of your competitors?
I don’t believe that people should have to adapt their lifestyles to meet the needs of one-size-fits-all, mass produced products. The furniture should help create the lifestyle that they want. It should also let you use your space in many different ways. Your home should feel spacious even if it is small. Shinohara offers over a 100 different styles of sofa beds. They are made-to-order so you can even specify the size and fabrics. We want to make the perfect sofa bed for our customers.