Okinawa Tourism Information:[Part1of2]CreatingaWarmandWelcomingWorldwithSolidMaterialsatLittaiMetalWorks

[Part 1 of 2] Creating a Warm and Welcoming World with Solid Materials at Littai Metal Works

post : 2018.12.23 06:00

One of the things that I learned for the first time since relocating to Okinawa is that there are people here that easily accomplish what we would often find professionals to do in mainland Japan. For example, just regular folks that one day, decide to turn their fields into rice paddies, or those who take on DIY projects that are pretty challenging, to say the least. There are so many people like that here in Okinawa, and that surprised me greatly.

Also what amazed me was the network of people who work independently or in small groups in their specialized fields. There are so many people in the world of Yachimun pottery, glassworks, woodworks, and other fields, where experts and creators are very active. For example, I know of a craftsman who makes old-fashioned cooking knives from metals used for car or agricultural machinery suspensions, and also a person who produces sea salt in a hut they built themselves, and another who invented a small incinerator that can generate electricity.

Kenji Nakachi is another one of those “regular folk” who happens to do extraordinary things. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but I’ve always enjoyed drawing,” he says with a smile. He uses metals, a very masculine type of material, to create order-made kitchen fixtures that are best described as works of functional beauty. His work is highly acclaimed among those in the creative line of work in Okinawa.

His daily work mainly consists of making metal-made products by special order for shops, offices, and private homes. His work is popular for their simplicity and timelessness, and they’re easy to maintain and they create a very functional space for the users.

Take for example a private home being constructed in Yanbaru, in the northern region of the island. Kenji’s younger brother, Masaki designed this home through his own Littai Space Works. The new home is awaiting for a family from outside of Okinawa to move in shortly.

The photo shows True Blue, a pet salon/hotel in the forests of Motobu Town known for their warm hospitality and great trimming skills. The shop/home was also designed by Masaki, and the kitchen and living room are nicely finished by the two brothers. The Nakachi brothers keep the structure and interior simple, but brings out the colors and warmth of the people who live there, drawing out the uniqueness that they can touch and feel.

After graduating from high school, Kenji, who said he enjoyed drawing since he was a child, went on to a very unique school in Tokyo called TSA and studied modern art. Later, as he gained experience in working at different jobs, he felt the difficulties of balancing his job and creating. His desire to have his own metal workshop to create his pieces grew over time, and he chose to pursue his own path.

“Looking back on the ten years after starting my own business, I think I’m slowly getting closer to what I wanted,” says Kenji. “When I first began independently, I wasn’t able to really ‘create’ what I had in mind. But in the last few years, I’ve been able to really get into it, creating pieces.”

In the studio and in the office next to it, there are numerous creations and prototypes “on display” like collections in a scrapbook. Kenji says he likes working with iron the best. The passing of time reflects on ironwork, with their expressions gradually changing over the years. That’s the allure of iron, he says. The mechanical, inorganic appearance of the raw material shows a natural side at the same time. That unbalance may be what attracts him to iron.

The work shown above is placed in his office. It gives an impression of fragility with its appearance, like it’s about to crumble and fall. Kenji says he sets on his work through drawing the plan over a number of times, examines ways to make it, and resolves various challenges through creating prototypes.

The art piece above are airplanes that seem to be soaring up and descending on the wall of his studio. Looking at this work gives me the feeling that the airplanes are like living things. The gentle curves are reminiscent of plants, like vines that grow embracing trees, and the piece also reminded me of arthropods.

Above shows a prototype for lampshades that he made ten years ago, for the interior fixtures for a shop. Although extremely simple looking, the balance of the diameter and height, and the angles from the top to bottom, are perfect. “I want to enjoy creating things by going back and forth between industrial products and art creations,” says Kenji, who obviously has ideas and inspirations that are soft and agile, and at the opposite end of the materials that he works with.

◎In Part 2 of this article, I’ll be introducing his products available for purchase!


Littai Metal Works
Address: 1-5-26 Akamichi, Ginowan City, Okinawa
Telephone: 098-893-8218
Business Hours: 9:00-18:00
Closed: Sundays

Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda