Do You Know How to Listen to Wood?


Not good tellers but good listeners

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would you choose? It may sound stupid but is a very common question in Japan. People are asking each other like, if you could only eat it for the rest of your life, would it be curry or ramen? Anyway, it’s an easy question for me. “Stand by Me” is it, but today’s article is not about the movie itself but about the phrase in the original story by Stephen King. The phrase has since been a compass in my life, though I don’t remember it word by word. He wrote like: good stories disappear due to a lack of good listeners not tellers.

Save good stories from going to the graves

Have you ever discovered in a conversation a new side of even a long-standing friend? Surprised at his/her story you never imagined to listen to from him/her? Every time I’ve experienced such a moment, I get uneasy, wondering if I might not have been a good listener. All the people have their own good stories, and it’s listeners’ responsibility to draw them out. What I’m scared of about this issue is we can never recognize our mistakes, though the responsibility is huge. If there’re no good listeners, people just hold their tongue and carry good stories together to their graves.

Our factory staff is putting glue in the screw holes of a table top.

Good listeners to wood

As it may sound a little cheesy, it is often said that our craftspeople have to listen to the voice of wood especially when joining wood pieces together. A good example is the production of solid wood table top boards. Most of them consist of multiple wood pieces, and our craftspeople carefully decide the alignment of them. First, I thought it was for design (for the beautiful combination of grain patterns), but later learned it was for more than that. Our craftspeople closely observe wood pieces (earnestly listen to the voice of wood pieces) and finely adjusted the alignment of them so that top boards get beautiful, stable, and sturdy. In Stephen King’s phrase, good furniture appears due to good listeners (good communication with wood).


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.