It was a gorgeous sunny day in 2019 and Golden Week was about to end when we took a trip to Okayama to visit Makoto-san and his team from The Superior Labor Leather & Co at Nap Village.
We caught a local train from Okayama station to Fukuwatari. The train ride and 20 minute drive to Nap Village took us through the beautifully serene country landscape of Okayama. Lush green plantations and forests, small winding roads alongside a flowing river.
On this lush green mountainside you will find Nap Village, the home of the TSL Store & Lab. This site used to be a local school which Makoto-san re-purposed into Nap Village, a way to give back to the community and the perfect place for his team to settle in.
Upon arriving we were very warmly welcomed by Makoto-san, the creative behind The Superior Labor brand. The first structure you see is the cafe and restaurant with big open windows to inviting the outside to come in.
On the right side near the gate is the store, our first stop. You walk in and are greeted by a large wooden table right in the middle of the room, surrounded by the many beautifully handcrafted items on display. It was warm and inviting.
There was a sale event at the time, what great timing I thought! I happily browsed and the patina on the leather items were wonderful to see!
Perched up high is the factory and lab. Rustic and rural it is just the type of building you would see in a mountainside, blending in with its surroundings. While inside is where beautiful everyday products are meticulously handcrafted.
Inside, we saw a creative space filled with quality raw materials and machines that stitch every edge and stamp every leather.
After the tour we went back into the store for some retail therapy and a chat with Makoto-san. My son enjoyed personalising his Engineer Pouch #03 in Sky Blue with the various stamps available. I too enjoyed stamping all of them onto our Japan stamp book. All the while talking about how I became a fan of the brand and of course I gushed and talked none stop!
A special gift from Makoto-san, my son received his very own personalised leather pin, which he wore everyday since then until we got home to Sydney.
We had to get to Kyoto that evening and so our magical visit had come to an end. Our memory bank has gotten full and as we made our way back to Fukuwatari station, we knew repeat visits will become a staple.
As the sun set over the horizon we understood why Makoto-san moved to this part of the world.