Dedicated Japanese furniture enthusiast in Copenhagen

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Noritsugu Oda in a Swan chair during his recent visit to Copenhagen.

In early December 2014, a dedicated fan of Danish furniture design paid a visit to Copenhagen. Japanese professor Noritsugu Oda was in town to attend the great auction of furniture by world-renowned Danish furniture designer Hans J. Wegner – and maybe take the opportunity to acquire a few rarities.

Mr. Oda is namely the owner of the world’s largest private collection of chairs with over 1,300 items, at least half of which are Danish. In addition to collecting chairs and other classic design furniture, 68-year-old Mr. Oda is also a diligent design researcher and intermediary, and he has written several books on Danish furniture design – most recently a book about Wegner to a Taiwanese audience.

Danishfurniture.dk met him for a chat about Danish furniture design in general and his chair collection in particular.

– Where does your passion for Danish furniture derive from?

“As younger, I worked in an interior shop, which sold furniture of leading European furniture designers such as Aalto and Le Corbusier. In general, the Japanese were then most interested in Italian design, but it struck me that when it especially came to chairs, there was no one who came alongside the Danish designers. Danish chairs were both beautiful and comfortable, so I had to seek out the environment that could produce such furniture. ”

“Together with a colleague, I traveled to Denmark in 1982. Before leaving home, we had read all available literature on Danish furniture design and had photographed the illustrations, and in this way we built up a primitive database with more than 700 images of Danish furniture. With this baggage, we during two weeks visited a number of Danish furniture manufacturers and also the furniture fair in Herning. Many thought that we came to copy, but the database convinced them that our intentions were real, and we made good contacts with companies such as Fritz Hansen, Carl Hansen & Son, Johannes Hansen, Getama and Rud. Rasmussen. We also met furniture designers as Finn Juhl, Hans J. Wegner and Grete Jalk. This was the start of my collection, which from the start should contain only 100 chairs – but it soon became apparent that it was impossible for me to stop collecting.”

– How is your furniture collection used today – and who has access to it?

“It is used for both exhibition and research. I have a small gallery which is open to all, and here I show different exhibitions of furniture from my collection. In addition, I hold courses for design students – called the Oda School – where they are taught design history. At the same time, I prepare a comprehensive cataloging of the collection, so it can be used even if I am not present. It is important for me to emphasize that the collection will never be complete – there is always a possibility of new contributions.”
– What plans do you have regarding the future of the furniture collection?

“None of my children want to continue it, so I must, of course, consider what should happen, and I’m honestly a little nervous about the future. I would prefer that the collection remains in Japan, and I know that in the Asahakiwa area, where my collection is housed, forces are working to establish a design museum, but I’m not sure if this will be the right set-up. It is most important that the collection retains its soul, and that any new owner will commit himself to both expand the collection continuously and to ensure that it can be used for further research. Therefore, I will not exclude any options in advance. ”

Noritsugu Oda’s chair collection – aka The Oda Collection – is located in the city of Asahikawa on the northern island of Hokkaido, which is already home to a large part of Japan’s furniture industry. Read more at www.asahikawa-kagu.or.jp