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Takashi Kobayashi - The Craftsman Embracing the Transient Beauty of Treehouse Construction

Taka, widely known as Koba-san, stands out as Japan's premier treehouse builder, having envisioned and built approximately 250 of these unique structures.

A treehouse at the Hoshino Risonare resort
A treehouse at the Hoshino Risonare resort is supported by metal rods | Photograph © Josh Robenstone

Taka, commonly known as Koba-san, holds the title of Japan's foremost treehouse architect. With a portfolio comprising approximately 250 treehouses, his creations vary from backyard whimsies to a significant project in response to the 2011 tsunami, and even a jungle perch offering views of Angkor Wat in Cambodia (featured in a Japanese lottery commercial). His repertoire includes treehouses designed for affluent Chinese clients and those crafted for preschools, catering to parents concerned about their children's disconnection from nature.

"“CAN YOU FEEL it swaying?” Takashi Kobayashi asks, 30 feet or so up a camphor tree growing in the cramped back lot of a shop in Tokyo. The wind theoretically shouldn’t be a factor, as we are hemmed in by buildings on all sides, but this tree, some 60 years old, has strained skyward in search of sunlight. With its canopy cresting the surrounding rooflines, its uppermost leaves catch the wind and everything below gently moves. The sensation is a bit unnerving and invokes one of the laws of treehouse building: Heights you wouldn’t think twice about in a concrete structure suddenly become imposing when you’re on a branch. [...]

[...] The treehouse he’s currently building — at the moment just a collection of foundational hinoki cypress beams supported by struts — is behind a four-story store called Biotop, in Shirokanedai, one of Tokyo’s wealthier districts, marked by its comparatively low skyline and leafy streets. The shop is a curious mixture of cutting-edge fashion and natural skin-care products, enveloped by the teeming greenery of a nursery and topped by an airy cafe. Fourteen years ago, Biotop’s owner asked Kobayashi to build a small treehouse. Now he’s returned to rebuild it on a slightly larger scale, the idea being that cafe patrons might even eat their lunch there.

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