Building the dream

The Treehouse Masters, Japan

For this master treehouse maker and his team, it’s all about the thrill of living the rather unusual high life

“I can’t help but feel a thrilling sort of high,” says Takashi Kobayashi about his unusual career as a master treehouse maker. “I feel like I’ve managed to conduct an ad-libbing orchestra, without a score.”


His intricate craftsmanship blends seamlessly and beautifully into the local environment, and his much-sought-after designs have taken him and his team on construction projects all around the world from his native Japan.  It’s not bad for someone who admits he grew up with “no interest in the arts, and a fundamental dislike for study”. After rattling around doing odd jobs and running a flea market, it was many years before he found his calling.

“I felt like I’d found something missing in my life”

“I travelled the world and was a flea market dealer,” says Takashi. “My road to doing this started when I wanted to make a refuge for myself 25 years ago. I set up a bar, without even a sign, nestled in a Himalayan cedar tree. I had no knowledge of construction, nor any experience of carpentry. I just made it up as I went along.” Later, while travelling in Boston, he discovered a photo compilation of American master treehouse builder Peter Nelson’s creations in a bookstore café.


“I met Peter later when he came to Japan — I felt like I’d found something missing in my life,” Takashi says. “But I never set out to do it as a living. For more than 20 years I’ve had little to no separation between my work and my personal life.” Something so fun can never be considered a job, thinks Takashi. “I’ve always tried to treasure my sense of wonder,” he says.  “I love the opportunity to encounter so many different landscapes, people, and cultures.” He also likes the fact that people “tend to respond positively” when they ask him what he does for a living.

“I love the opportunity to encounter so many different landscapes”

“I get the impression that my treehouses are quite different to what people tend to imagine, so they are shocked and impressed, in a good way,” he says. “I do my best not to go over the top, and to preserve as much of the original scenery as possible. It’s great when a treehouse seems to blend into the surrounding landscape.” And he feels as if his quest for a simple, natural life is only just getting started, too. “I dream of living at an even slower pace,” he says. “I turn 60 this year, so I’m going to make a real go of it.”


Photography by Sam Barker