I was born in 1959 in Shinjuku, Tokyo. My father’s father was a dealer in kimono fabrics and ran a store at home, and even now I can remember the appearance of him spreading out brightly colored fabrics for customers and negotiating. My mother’s father was a master carpenter who worked with Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in a rural area in Toyama, and I have memories from summer vacation of playing in his carpentry workshop, which smelled of new wood. I feel as though coming in contact with fabric design and the creation of things at a carpenter’s in my childhood was a personal experience linked to my own current interest in design and space composition for office creation.
Primary School Era
The house where I was born was in the vicinity of Waseda University. As a result, in my primary school student days, when my cousin 10 years older than I was admitted into the Department of Architecture at Waseda University, it was decided that a separate cabin would be erected in our garden as a lodging house.
I was still a primary school student, yet while watching by my cousin’s image as he drew diagrams and created models, I quite naturally came to have an interest in architecture and design. With architecture there is also the engineering aspect that makes use of advanced construction methods and structural techniques, however conversely I had an interest in the human aspect of the connection between people and space brought about by construction, and while it is a department of science and engineering, I felt the attraction of the aspects of study with the most contact with people. I believe that my interest in the environments and spaces that surround people was born at this time.
Middle School / High School Era
After graduating from primary school and progressing through middle school, I entered into the Waseda University Senior High School. Waseda University also includes an affiliated high school, and has an Okuma Scholarship which is exempt from all tuition fees. I felt that I wanted to be chosen as this scholarship student and lighten the burden on my parents, so for each examination period I made a scrupulous schedule for studying, always maintaining my results as top of the class, and received exemption from all three years of high school tuition. It is not that I have any particular talent myself, but rather because I would plan from roughly a month in advance, and would implement that, and by cultivating a focused studying method over a 30 day period that produced results, I obtained the scholarship that was my objective. This may sound far-fetched, but the consulting for office creation that I carry out now is also implemented in range of roughly 30 days. Perhaps the exam study schedule that I cultivated in my high school days has become useful.
University / Graduate School Era
Receiving a recommendation from the affiliated high school, I entered into the Department of Architecture at Waseda University that had been my dream, and resultantly I also received tuition exemption through my scholarship for the four years of University. And thanks to the scholarship, in my first year at University I took part in a European architectural tour around countries in the vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea, and was blessed with the chance for an overseas tour for the first time in my life. I was enchanted by the unique expression possessed by Gaudí ‘s architecture in Spain, where organic forms and functionality coexisted; in France I was overwhelmed by the power of the ornamental arts spread throughout the Palace of Versailles; and at the Milan cathedral in Italy and St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, I was struck with admiration for the scale of these huge construction projects, impossible to implement without religious passion. In Greece, I visited the Parthenon, and in this monument of ancient construction, praised by Le Corbusier, a modern master of construction, in “When The Cathedrals Were White”, even now I felt a sense of universal beauty exceeding the era reminiscent of “When The Cathedrals Were White”. In Egypt I visited the Great Pyramid of Giza, thought to belong to King Khufu. Mysteriously, something like a rainbow-colored aura surrounding my body is visible in a photo taken while at the pyramid entrance. Certainly in the pyramids, which possess a structure that could be called mysterious, there exists something that makes one sense a wisdom exceeding that of human intellect.
This architectural tour afforded me an experience to grasp architecture and design from an even broader viewpoint of the history of civilization. Even in current office environments I am able to perceive the results of work environments that have advanced within the history of humankind. I believe that I like to approach offices from the broad viewpoints of the historical backdrop, the ecology of the people who work there, and the corporate culture, and the origin of this may be in my experience from this time.
After graduating from University, I entered the Waseda University Graduate School, and acquired my master’s degree. While I was enrolled I was involved in the design development for Honjo High School for the Waseda University Senior High School, and gained my first opportunity to come in contact with practical design. Furthermore, just before completing of graduate school, when I applied to be a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship Student, I had the good fortune to be chosen as a scholarship student, and thanks to a recommendation from my former teacher Nobuo Hozumi, I was able to study abroad at the Rice University School of Architecture Graduate School in Texas, America. With my very first study abroad experience I had a great many experiences in addition to school life, but what left an impression on me was that the Rotarian family who were my study abroad host family was the embodiment of the ideal work-life balance. This family has presently moved to the west coast and nowadays is living enjoyably while running a family farm. What I aim for in my office creation is “a coexistence of working and happiness”, yet even now I remember my impression from that time as an illustration of that.
Employment, Studying Abroad Again
After returning home, I found employment in the design department of a certain general contractor. The work that I was mainly in charge of was planning and design for redevelopment projects, design development for factories, residential design, design competitions, and so on. In my 5th year after entering the company, as I was slowly coming to yearn for life in America again, a study abroad system was suddenly launched. I applied through the program, which was 2 years being transferred to the office of the world-famous architect César Pelli, well-known even in Japan for his works such as the Fukuoka Sea Hawk Hotel, the NTT Shinjuku Head Office Building, and the National Museum of Art, and luckily I was accepted, and was able to go to America once again. At César Pelli’s office I was primarily allowed to take part in the design of a performing arts center in Ohio. César insisted that “the architecture is more important than the architect, the city is more important than the architecture, and the existence of people is the most important of all”. I also follow in César’s steps, and when consulting for office creation I place the most importance on the existence of people.
When two years had passed since going to America, and I was approaching the time to return home, I applied to a master’s program at the Harvard University Graduate School which I had long-since been interested in, and I succeeded in being admitted with the help of a recommendation from César Pelli, who at that time was the dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University. I also received an extension of my study abroad period through a special arrangement with my company, and at the Harvard University Department of Architecture Graduate School, commonly known as the GSD, I acquired my master’s in design. At the GSD, I studied things such as the design of urban development; in those days in America as a whole, interest was growing in urban development that fosters communities, and we discussed as a central theme the promotion of the concept of going from urban development that favors the economy and a scale where cars are the key players, to urban development in a scope accessible for people to walk, where people are the key players. These days, based on this way of thinking, I perceive offices as communities, and I advocate the creation of offices that promote interaction between people.
Six months after finishing my study abroad and returning home, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in a project for the Saitama Super Arena International Competition. On that occasion, my best memory is being able to work with Renzo Piano, the world-famous architect who designed the Kansai International Airport. The office of Renzo Piano in Geneva, which I visited many times, is a construction of glass and wood built on a green hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and this office, which is superbly integrated with the surrounding nature, is certainly an ideal workplace which draws forth the maximum creativity of its workers. This experience allowed me to recognize once again the importance of adopting themes of nature and ecology in office environments.
Change of Occupation and DOUMA Establishment
In 2000, I transferred to Midas, a design office specializing in the field of office interior. This was because looking back at my life up until then, I felt the value of work that dealt with the important theme of the environments of working people. From when I first entered the company, I had the conviction that consulting was needed in this field. The act of designing begins from confirming the client’s requests, however in the case of offices, it is important to understand the requests of all of the company employees, who are the users who work there, and not just the client, which means the employer. Furthermore, the ways people work were also changing rapidly due to market changes and the advancement of IT, and office environments were also trying to transition appropriately with this. In this kind of situation, consulting for the purpose of specifically discovering ideal office conditions is indispensible for office creation. However at the time that I first entered Midas, when you said office interior design, the general perception was of being absorbed in reception design, and choosing office furniture and finishing materials. And yet at the same time, I also felt that in a market economy still sluggish since the lost decade of the 90s, recognition was growing of the issue that the ways people work has to be changed, and accordingly opportunities where the reconsideration of the office environment was also necessary were gradually being realized. And so in 2010, ten years after entering Midas, I began a company called DOUMA, which specializes in carrying out office consulting. Since establishment we have done a variety of workplace strategy matters, leading to where we are today.
When looking back at my life so far in order to write this profile, and perusing its relevance to the workplace strategy that I am currently doing, I have been captured by the idea that everything is connected. Consulting is a job where the consultant’s empirical knowledge is central. As I make maximum use of all that I have cultivated through my experiences thus far, I would like to continue in future to carry out office creation that invigorates companies by making employees feel better.