On what kind of house is easiest to live in
"I don’t really think about things like ‘is it comfortable?’ ‘How big is it?’ ‘What’s the fridge like?’ I think about whether or not the space will give me energy and encouragement."
On how his home makes him genki
"The process of designing the house is what gives me energy. The house I live in right now is an old apartment that I bought and remodeled. I thought about a lot of things at that time. I made a tiny little office with tatami mats, and I’ve found that I can write and concentrate well in that space. But it’s not that I’m permanently satisfied with it. The thing about a house is that you can re-do it over and over, and each time is a chance to reflect on yourself."
On the future of urban planning
"From here on out, I don’t think cities are going to change from top-down planning done by architects or officials. I think they’re going to change as a result of people designing their own homes, making small choices about their entryway or their kitchen faucet or their lighting. It becomes a process of imagining your life, not trying to make things look cool."
On the best way to use MUJI products
"I have MUJI stuff in my home, but I couldn’t handle all MUJI. I’m 54 years old. I have certain things that I like. MUJI is good for filling in the spaces between those more distinctive objects. We’re not out on the market waving our hand in the air like some other brands – we’re a much quieter brand. The fact that the products don’t have a strong personality is what makes them able to fit in anywhere."
On MUJI’s line of prefab houses
"Like the company’s other products, the houses can become the background for anyone’s life. We put out a book of photographs of people living in MUJI houses. Their creativity in terms of how they were using the space went way beyond what I could have imagined. I think the universality of the design brings out the individuality of each person."
Winifred Bird is a freelance journalist whose work focuses on nature and environmental issues. She has written for the Japan Times, Ode magazine, Mother Earth News, and Yale Environment 360, among other publications. For the past five years Winifred has lived in Japan, where she has learned to appreciate minimalism. When she's not writing, she enjoys gardening, cooking, and checking out old Japanese temples and shrines.