I honestly don’t know how we found out about TRUCK Furniture and Bird Coffee in Osaka. We hadn’t even planned to visit Osaka on our trip to Japan – to be honest, until last week I wasn’t even sure where Osaka was – so it surely wasn’t the result of careful advance planning. But, somehow, last Saturday afternoon, we decided to venture there, and hopped on a bus in downtown Osaka toward what turned out to be the neighbourhood where TRUCK used to be. Oops. After a good cup of coffee, we gathered our spirits and headed off on the metro toward the neighbourhood where TRUCK is actually located.
Emerging from the Shimizu metro station, we walked through narrow streets at twilight, finally arriving, after about 10 minutes, in front of two minimal beige buildings separated by an alley: TRUCK on the left, Bird on the right. We were famished, and Bird looked bright and warm and inviting, so we headed in for supper.
We were greeted warmly, and shown to a table (a TRUCK-made table, as it turned out), and a kind and patient waiter brought us menus (in Japanese with a few English words thrown in helpfully) and with the help of my “point the camera at the word and I’ll translate it for you” app on my phone (a technical violation of the “please turn your phones off” guidance by the door) we translated ourselves into a pork cutlet (ポークカツレツ) for Oliver and a Turkish avocado and bacon sandwich (アボカドとベーコンのターキッシュサンド) for me, along with a glass of red wine and an orange juice.
There was jazz on the PA, and a bustle of diners filling up the place, and the vibe was relaxed and neighbourhoody, and when our food arrived we wolfed it down.
By the time we’d finished up and were back out into the Osaka night it was well-past the 7:00 p.m. closing time at neighbouring TRUCK, so we walked back to the metro and made a note to visit again if we could, if not on this trip then on the next.
As it happened, on Monday morning we were both in need of coffee and with a few hours to spend before taking the Shinkansen back to Tokyo so, after stashing our bags in a locker at the Shin-osaka station we made our way back to TRUCK and Bird for an encore.
We took a different route to a different metro station for our second visit, walking from the Morishoji metro through a mixed commercial-residential neighbourhood — the kind of “oh, my, I wouldn’t mind living here” neighbourhood you sometimes encounter — approaching TRUCK and Bird from the other direction.
We were greeted by the same waiter who had served us on Saturday night — “Welcome back!” he said, enthusiastically — and this time, for lunch, we ordered two “Bird Rice” (Birdライス) and a cup of coffee with milk, which was served in a substantial brown mug on a well-proportioned wooden platter:
We really didn’t know what “Bird Rice” was, but our waiter said it was quite popular, so we dove in blind. It turned out to be exactly what you might imagine it to be: a bed of rice topped with a ring of pumpkin, cabbage and other vegetables with a poached egg sitting in the middle to form a “nest.” I quickly passed my egg of to Oliver, not being a fan; everything else, though, was tasty in a way you wouldn’t imagine from something so simple.
After relaxing in the sunny Osaka afternoon for a bit, we paid and headed across the alley and up the stairs to TRUCK.
It’s hard to do justice to TRUCK Furniture in words, for their products — simple, beautiful, functional furniture — really must be experienced to truly understand them. They make things that don’t hit you over the head with “style” but rather things that feel, on sitting on them or at them or around them, like they have been in your life forever.
The retail space is comfortable and airy and bright and the the kind of space where you’d want to spend a lot of time. Indeed visitors appear to be encouraged to sit and read or watch or think — to get a handle on the furniture. TRUCK doesn’t make cheap furniture — tables cost thousands and chairs cost hundreds — but it seems like these would be pieces that would follow you for life; the sort of opposite of IKEA.
We wandered the aisles for 30 minutes, looking and sitting and touching, and then picked up a copy of the excellent history of the operations and the lives that begat them, TRUCK nest, the introduction to which is a good thumbnail sketch:
For years TRUCK has created simple, honest furniture in their workshop in Osaka, Japan. This book traces the nine-year journey of Tokuhiko Kise and Hiromi Karatsu, the couple behind TRUCK, as they set out to create a place of their own, where they could live and work comfortably with their large family of one daughter, five dogs and eight cats.
Together they planned and constructed a house, a store, a workshop and, with the help of their friend, celebrity chef Kentaro, a cafe called Bird, and surrounded them with individually selected trees and plants.
I’ve been reading it over the weekend, and it’s an inspiring tale and, in a sense, a call to arms to live life more intentionally.
If you happen to find yourself in Osaka, I encourage you to drop by for a meal and a visit.