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Bringing the beauty of Japanese furniture design to global markets

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Article - March 4, 2024

A century-old company committed to quality and sustainability, ETO is out to expand the overseas reach of its skillfully-crafted products. 

FURNITURE MADE OF HINOKI WOOD

Founded back in 1920 in Okawa, Japan, ETO sells stylish, expertly-made wooden furniture – pieces that are crafted with an identifiably Japanese aesthetic and are adored by both domestic and international customers.

“Our home town has traditionally been at the very center of the Japanese furniture-making trade,” says ETO’s president, Aya Yamasaki. “We place great importance on promoting the skills and attractions of this furniture town to the world.”

Originally a lumber company, ETO transitioned into the furniture business late in the 20th century. “Our willingness to shift gears in this way is one reason why we have survived and prospered for more than 100 years,” Ms. Yamasaki declares.

The firm, which specializes in using Hinoki – a type of cypress that is native to southern Japan – draws on its past in the lumber trade to handle its wood with a degree of expertise that sets it apart. “We are able to bring out more of the beauty of the tree, creating furniture with a natural look and feel,” Ms. Yamasaki says.

ETO also makes sure to manage its raw materials sustainably. “It is very important to protect our forests,” Ms. Yamasaki notes. “We work with forestry cooperatives in the regions where we source our wood to look after the forest environment and ensure sustainable production.”

The company’s Hinoki furniture lines began with a range of children’s products designed to capitalize on the benefits of phytoncide, a substance present in high quantities in this variety of wood. “Given phytoncide’s anti-bacterial properties and relaxing effect, we felt Hinoki would be suitable for kids’ furniture,” Ms. Yamasaki explains.

ETO then went on to develop Hinoki furniture that was not aimed towards children, some of which led to penetration of the U.S. market.

ETO has had numerous experience in the lumber industry, as well as furniture manufacturing and trading products, both in Japan and overseas. With the establishment of overseas offices in China, Malaysia and Vietnam, the company is now developing a global business, including the import and export of planned products designed in-house. “Until now, we have mostly dealt with Japanese customers, but we have been actively participating in overseas exhibitions and disseminating information to overseas customers, and we now receive enquiries from customers in many different countries. Although each country has its own language, culture and furniture sizes, our desire to deliver good products to people all over the world remains the same,” says President Yamasaki. Based on the know-how that ETO has developed over its more than 100-year history, the company is now moving on to the next stage of its development, with the aim of “taking the market to Asia and then to the world”.

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