The Sorachi Plain is an idyllic spot halfway between Asahikawa and Sapporo on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. It’s here, surrounded by fields and trees, that Somès -- Japan’s only leather saddle maker -- is to be found. On a clear autumn day, the setup looks almost too perfect to be real: horses frolicking in a lush green paddock next to a cluster of low-slung buildings with pitched roofs.
“We wanted it to look like a training yard in Newmarket,” says company Chairman Junichi Someya. Except instead of the old buildings you’d find in the U.K.’s horse-racing capital, these are in the small rural city of Sunagawa (population 17,185) and were designed by Hokkaido architect Tatsuhiko Kuramoto. These sunny structures house Somès’ head office, factory and a shop that sells equine paraphernalia and leather goods. A carriage sits out front; inside there are horse sculptures and paintings on every surface.