It’s my first time in the country, and the world I find myself in seems completely deliberate. The path of each bicycle, the cadence of each step—there’s intention. It’s not simply carrying out a chore, it’s more the fulfilment of a duty. Satisfaction, versus mere acceptance. It’s a subtle shift, and it makes a world of difference.
This ubiquitous pride in the small things is impossible to conjure unless, generation after generation, people have devoted themselves to the value of their traditions. You find proof of this devotion everywhere. From the kindness of shop owners, to the depth and quality of the products they carry. A knife, crafted in the same manner for hundreds of years, will prepare recipes that have been perfected thru repetition. Those dishes will be served on tableware formed by that same artistry, and known intimately by the individuals sitting down.
There’s a communal heritage connecting each routine to the next, creating undeniable balance. A collective harmony worthy of its process. What a feeling it must be, to be certain of the legacy you’re deepening. What a treasure to be so sure of your days.
White-gloved fingers point with reverence, precision; polished black shoes move to their position on pristine platform tile. Suit sleeves are inched back to study the hands of well-worn watches. The train should be arriving, and so of course it does.
Elegant and reliable and meticulously-designed Shinkansen trains slice thru the countryside. They’re among the swiftest in the world, yet as you sit and watch your surroundings blur past, all is silent. Stewards walk down the aisles and warmly greet their new passengers, making sure all are comfortable. Reaching the end of each train car, they turn and bow, and move to the next. These routines are performed with the same, genuine respect that’s injected in every nuance of service as you traverse Japan, and it’s infectious.
From the world-renowned bullet trains to the underground metro, the routine of travel is taken seriously. Commuters line up orderly, ride quietly, exit graciously– conduct tacitly suggested by those ushering them. Their uniforms represent their line of work, but it’s clear by the manner in which they wear them, they stand for plenty more. A heritage, a home. And as hosts of such a home, there’s cause for pride.
There’s an easiness to it all. Reliability in a trade where you aren’t used to finding it, and it frees you up a bit. To focus on a job of your own. To read a book, catch up on rest. Or simply to observe it all, and appreciate the diligence which grants you such permission.
Wednesday marked the last day of this year’s NYCxDesign Week as well as the end of our one-week long MATUREWARE by Futagami exhibition. We showcased Futagami’s new brass fixture line and the complete Futagami home goods collection. The owner of the company, Toshihiro Futagami and the designer of MATUREWARE, Yamazaki Yoshiki, flew all the way from Japan to witness the international debut of their collection at our store. It was particularly exciting for Yamazaki as it was his first time in New York. It was also a great opportunity to see people’s reaction to his other works in addition to MATUREWARE, like Onami and RetRe. New York welcomed him with open arms! In between showing our guests our favourite spots in the city, we spent a couple days setting up of the exhibition. We made it a point to install each fixture so viewers could really see how the mechanisms worked and especially to get a sense of Futagami’s signature sand-casted brass texture in action.
We’ll leave off with images of the setup and a glimpse of the opening reception but first we wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone involved with MATUREWARE for the company’s big win! On our ‘last supper’ with everyone before they had to take off to Japan, we suddenly received word that MATUREWARE had taken home the grand prize for Best Hardware of 2016 in the inaugural NYCxDESIGN Awards! The award was presented by Interior Design Magazine and ICFF and boasted a very influential list of judges. Well deserved to say the least. CONGRATULATIONS!!!
We can’t wait for our exhibition next week! We’ll be showcasing the complete Futagami collection in addition to their latest architectural hardware line, MATUREWARE. More information about the opening night where we will be unveiling the collection can be found here. In anticipation for the event, I just wanted to share some images from a recent Futagami foundry visit since it’s fresh in my memory. I am always mesmerized when owner Mr. Toshihiro Futagami gets involved in the brass casting process. It never ceases to amaze! He told us in the past how his favorite part of the making process is releasing the fully set brass out of it’s sand mold to reveal a completed object. After witnessing the tedious casting process a couple times now, I understand the joys in taking a material like brass and transforming it into a beautiful design. Just wanted to give a small glimpse into the world of Futagami and leave off with these images.
As some may have noticed, we have an exhibition coming up that we’re very excited about! On May 11th during NYCxDesign Week, we will be showcasing the new architectural hardware collection MATUREWARE by Futagami at our Manhattan gallery. More information about the exhibition can be found here.
We just received the items from Japan in preparation for the showcase. Each piece is so beautiful, it was one thing seeing them in progress during our meetings at the Futagami foundry in Toyama, but another to actually hold the completed versions in our hands. Since we are displaying architectural hardware, we’re looking forward to actually mounting each piece so viewers can get a sense of how they look in a home or commercial setting after installation. We’re also looking forward to transforming the whole store around to accommodate the collection for that special week so expect a completely different look!
We hope you can join us during the special event, especially all the fans of the Futagami home goods collection. In the meantime, we will leave you with a few images from the MATUREWARE catalogue.
We welcome you to join us in the celebration of the international launch of MATUREWARE and the first complete Futagami home goods showcase on the evening of Wednesday May 11th, 2016, at Nalata Nalata.
MATUREWARE, an architectural hardware line by time-honored Japanese brass foundry, Futagami, is designed by Yamazaki Yoshiki and directed by Oji Masanori. The nearly fifty-piece collection features the company’s signature crude-cast texture called Ihada, throughout a range of solid brass fixtures for commercial and residential spaces. The texture produced by sand-casted molds, ages with time, eventually producing a rich patina unique to Futagami’s solid brass objects.
The collection currently offers fixtures in 5 categories: Door Handles, Switch Plates, Shelf Brackets, Latches and Name Plaques.
Launching internationally during NYCxDesign week at Nalata Nalata, the MATUREWARE collection represents a pioneering endeavor for handcrafted brass objects in the realm of architectural hardware.
• Opening Reception: May 11th, 7:00PM-9:00PM. Meet designer Yamazaki Yoshiki and owner Toshihiro Futagami. Refreshments will be provided
• Venue: Nalata Nalata, at 2 Extra Place, New York, NY, 10003
• Nearest Metro Transit: F (2nd Ave), 6 (Bleeker), BDF (Broadway Lafayette)
Note: All MATUREWARE exhibition items are available for pre-order. The Futagami collection of home goods will be available for purchase during the exhibition. The exhibition runs until May 17th.
Poster designed in collaboration with Megan Hall of Basislager Atelier.
In the Part I recap of our recent trip to Japan, we ended with a glimpse of Kyoto. Here is Part 2 for that trip, starting where we left off.
We began with an authentic tea ceremony in Kyoto at the En Tea House in the historic Higashiyama district.
I absolutely love drinking from traditional green tea cups that are shaped like bowls, without handles. The traditional Japanese teacup shape differs from that of Western cultures, making for a rare experience in that sense.
The whole ritual of a tea ceremony is magical. All the essential components and tools used during the ceremony like the tea bowl, scoop, whisk, caddy and chakin cloth, all feel like precious objects. The manner in which the tea master prepares and presents the matcha in perfect sequence is nothing short of a highly skilled performance. Of course having casual tea or an informal tea gathering, chakai as they call it in Japan, can be a ritual in itself but we highly recommend checking out a formal tea ceremony if the opportunity arises. We’re looking forward to bringing a lot more products that promote Japanese tea culture into the store in the coming months, so be on the lookout for more teaware.
The next morning we wake up at daybreak to catch the train to Gifu, where we would be meeting with Mitsuhiro Konishi. Our meeting was very brief last year and I left feeling evermore curious about the specifics of Konishi’s craft as a metal artisan who specializes in hand-hammered flatware. This skill is uncommon in our generation of craftsmen so we made it a point to check out his process during this visit.
Konishi lights up his torch and begins heating the spoon shaped metal cutouts. When the metal is red hot, he places it into a mold made out of a harder metal alloy and begins shaping the spoon with his hammer. It’s loud, but fascinating to witness the spoons come to life with each hammered facet.
Before heading back to Tokyo, Konishi shows us a few sketches of forks and points out the retirement center across the street from his workshop – a Tadao Ando designed building to our surprise. Thank you Konishi for welcoming us to your studio!
I was really looking forward to circling back to Tokyo where we’d be making more studio visits, the first with designer Oji Masanori.
We’ve met with Oji on multiple occasions in Japan and New York when we hosted the Yukari and Kumu exhibitions. He has been incredibly gracious to open up his home and studio in the past, each time giving us a deeper understanding of his design process. The visit was a tremendous pleasure this time around because we had the chance to see Oji’s new studio and more importantly, to meet his wife, first son and adorable newborn baby boy, Isshin. His meaningful name translates to “one heart”.
I was especially curious to see how Oji lived with his own designs, giving me new perspectives on how his works could be integrated into the home and office, like his very handy Sojirushi brooms for an outdoor space. It’s always great to chat with Oji and get the inside scoop on all his projects, especially over COEDO beers.
Rina Ono graciously invited us into her home as well. She and her husband Tadanori even prepared a home cooked meal for our visit. It was really awesome eating from the Cara wooden dinnerware line in particular. Didn’t know Rina was such an amazing cook too!
She also gave us a sneak peek into her latest designs, standing bamboo storage baskets. What struck me the most however was how blonde the finish of the bamboo weave appeared. I had a thought that they would be a nice addition to our white-on-white bathroom in Brooklyn. Thank you for the incredible hospitality Rina and Tadanori!
Later that evening, we caught up with Daisuke and Kenichi of 10¹² Terra in Chiba.
We discovered many changes at the 10¹² Terra studio since our last visit. They showed us new products including a glass pendant in development. It was very exciting to realize that the design studio was beginning to expand into new product categories, especially the realm of lighting fixtures. Always a pleasure meeting with these two emerging designers and seeing their new creations!
Sometimes memories become a bit of a blur when you’ve been living out of a suitcase for days, jumping cities and hopping from one train to the next. The morning of Day 11, with it’s 4am call time, was one of those hazy moments. It didn’t help that we had a 4 hour road trip to Nagano ahead of us to visit the glass blowers, Studio Prepa. Matt snoozed in the back of the tiny sedan while Taku and I traded off at the wheel. It took me a while to adjust to driving on the right side of the road (and car), so it was quite the adventure to say the least.
Studio Prepa’s workspace is in a beautiful airy building that they constructed themselves beside their home on the mountainside of Nagano. The workspace is enormous! It’s able to house all their glass blowing equipment, shaping tools, dyeing solutions and prototypes.
We met Mizuho and Katsuhisa of Studio Prepa a few years ago but this was our first visit to their workshop. We’ve always been fond of their blown glass pieces, so to be able to get a glimpse of their renowned techniques was a very precious experience.
Watching the husband and wife duo working together in perfect harmony was very special as we’ve always had an affinity for couples that work together, for obvious reasons. Synchronized in all their movements, they have to ensure there is no lag time when working with the hot glass. Timing is key. Sharing is also key! Something I realized when they began trading off tools in order to demonstrate how to make a lotus bowl.
Nagano was also the site of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. It’s a place of great disappointment for most Canadian hockey fans like myself, as our men’s hockey team failed to win a medal. The road trip up to Nagano was a little bittersweet in that sense but once we got to Studio Prepa’s studio, it was all smiles and warmth from this talented husband and wife team. Thank you to Katsuhisa and Mizuho for making a big space for Nagano in my once bitter heart.
Back in Tokyo, we were invited for dinner at Yakumo Saryo on Matt’s last night in Japan. We thought it was the perfect place to end off his journey. Although we don’t have a photo of Matt because he was behind the camera most of the time capturing images for our upcoming publication, he was a huge part of this trip. It was awesome having him as my wingman!
Yakumo Saryo combines a restaurant, tea salon and store, a lifestyle vision of renowned designer and owner Shinichiro Ogata. We were honored to have dinner there, especially since we will be carrying the Simplicity collection of home goods in the near future. The dining experience was imbued with Ogata’s philosophy of bringing a traditional Japanese culture to a modern audience. He is involved in all aspects of Yakumo Saryo, from architecture to the preparation of the menu. With a focus on Kaiseki cuisine, the dishes are prepared with the freshest seasonal ingredients. The ingredients rotate monthly and the restaurant’s seasonal food guide is available on their site. We were thrilled to find out that the ingredient for the month of March was an Amadai Tilefish. The fish was treated with so much care, the chef even made sure to present it to us before it was cooked. I have to say, the food was amazing but eating off of well-considered cutlery and dinnerware added even more to the experience… just as much as something like a fine wine would in Western dining.
The next morning I needed coffee to jumpstart the last couple days of the trip. I’ve always wanted to check out Connel Coffee designed by Nendo. It’s located in the Sogetsu Kaikan building designed by architect Kenzo Tange in the 70s. On top of all that, the building also houses a rock garden designed by Isamu Noguchi. A haven for design enthusiasts, to say the least!
If you’ve shopped our products and read their first-person introductions, you’ll quickly realize that we’re big fans of double meanings. Which is why I was really drawn to the mugs of Connel Coffee, each with their own unique hand formed ceramic handles. The café’s name is a play on the Japanese word for “knead”, a nod to Nendo’s namesake, which actually means “clay”.
After caffeinating, I dropped by the Kiso Lifetsyle Labo offices to say hi to Takanori, check out their latest products and run over our designs. We are in the midst of developing a new line of hinoki wood objects for the bathroom with the company and can’t wait to unveil it! Stay tuned for more design process Journal entries as we move forward with this collection.
I couldn’t have ended the trip on a better note than at a confectionery store, specifically, Higashiya – the confectionery store of all confectionery stores, designed by none other than Shinichiro Ogata. True to Ogata’s design philosophy, he has taken an incredibly old Japanese convention and brought it to a modern time where today’s patrons can enjoy and understand the true pleasures of age-old traditions in their contemporary lifestyles. The art of wagashi in this case.
There are a couple locations. Higashiya Ginza is incredible although this time I went to the Aoyama district location, Higashiya Man. This location charmed the pants off me. It is tiny and even has a window that you can poke your head into to see their famous one-bite wagashi being made daily. If you can’t make it to the physical store, you can drool over the book by Shinichiro Ogata that documents the evolution of Higashiya with beautiful images.
Check out Part I here and stay tuned for more from our adventures in Japan as we update our Journal in the coming month.
Our annual cycle of trips to Japan begins around this time of year. This time it kicked off to a great start with some special new projects we have in the works, namely a publication set to launch next year. So for the first part of the trip, our friend and photographer Matthew Johnson was my right hand man. This meant a ton of back-to-back visits with craftsmen, designers, manufacturers and a lot of beautiful images from those visits. Basically each day played out in a different city. Without further ado, let’s begin with day 1… out of 18!
On our first morning in Tokyo, we walked around the historic Asakusa district on our way to Ryo Kashiwazaki’s Hender Scheme headquarters to check out his latest in leather products. His collection grows every time we visit, adding new home good items and new styles to his signature Manual Industrial footwear line.
We also got a chance to see the progress of his showroom on the main floor coming along nicely. Ryo added a beautiful rotating wood lined door to the front of his building. The frame is made of wood with a facade constructed from plexiglass panes. He pointed out the small leather swatches that act as washers to secure the frame of the door. With this addition of leather ‘hardware’, Ryo just proved that leather also has a place in architecture.
The following day we take off to another prefecture, first landing in Kanazawa to meet our friend Noriyasu. You may remember him from previous trips as one half of Gloini, a specialty antiques home goods store that he runs with his wife. A wonderful, well-curated store. Noriyasu always has the best recommendations so of course we let him lead the charge through one of our favorite Japanese cities.
Matt takes in the sights and captures beautiful photographs of the town – ‘yukitsuri’ trees, the old samurai district, Kanazawa Castle and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. We’ll be sharing more from his lens in the coming months. Stay tuned for his awesome photos!
Meanwhile, I paid a visit to Momentum Orii. This is a manufacturer best known in the region for their metal finishes applied onto municipal monuments and statues. The owner, Koji Orii, was kind enough to take me on a tour of the factory and demonstrate some of the unique patinas the company is renowned for achieving.
The different patinas are created through a combination of surface treatments like heat and acid corrosion. Depending on the base metal, each alloy produces a different result, giving each piece a one of a kind appearance. We are just beginning to understand the process but needless to say, we feel there is a lot of opportunities to explore these finishes within the realm of product design and we are incredibly happy to begin a working partnership with Momentum Orii. Can’t wait to see our latest designs “finished”!
The following day, Noriyasu also accompanies me to Ono city to visit our mutual friend, Daisuke Tajika, at the Tajika scissor studio. It’s been about two years since our last visit, so it’s refreshing to visit a family that works so closely together.
On this particular occasion, we take an in-depth tour, gaining more and more insights about their evolving company and checking out their latest scissor designs. We are planning an exhibition with the Tajika family in October, so you’ll be able to see their entire collection of specialty scissors very soon at our gallery, including a special pair they are making just for Nalata Nalata.
What struck me most on this visit was learning how Daisuke’s father had actually constructed most of the machines that they use to make their specialty shears. It’s amazing to think that he not only makes their product line by hand, but also the machines to make the products by hand! Like an Edison reincarnate, creating one of a kind gadgets and tools in order to achieve the perfect shapes and blades in metal.
Onwards to Niigata prefecture to visit Takashi Tomii – a much-anticipated visit considering how memorable our last visit was to his former studio. Takashi recently moved to Nagaoka. He has been corresponding with Angy and I over the past couple years, updating us with developments of his new works. It was one thing to hear stories of his life long distance and another to witness them in person. His three kids greeted us as we visit his new studio and home – too cute! We still remember the day Takashi announced the birth of his youngest baby to us and can’t believe how big she has grown since.
His family prepares a light snack for us before we depart and we get a chance to use a deep red urushi lacquered version of the Kikuchichi spoon, designed for eating yogurt. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Takashi drinks from a familiar item, the Jicon Facet Rock Cup designed by Oji Masanori.
Our next visit was a big one as it always is at the Futagami headquarters! With our involvement with their latest architectural hardware collection, MATUREWARE, set to release internationally on May 11th during NYCxDesign week at our gallery, we had a lot to discuss. To ease into the big meeting, we arrive the night before and catch up over some Japanese whiskeys at what is quickly becoming our favorite spot in Takaoka city, “PM Bar 7:30″.
Morning comes and Taku (a very familiar face in our Journal) brings us to the Syouryu metal workshop before heading to Futagami. While we visit them there’s a film crew present and they end up interviewing me on Japanese T.V.
Eventually everyone gathers at Mr. Futagami’s namesake foundry, including Yamazaki Yoshiki, the designer of MATUREWARE to show us the newest additions to their architectural hardware line. An example of a shelf bracket is pictured above.
I was thrilled to receive a special gift for our company from Mr. Futagami, a name plaque with our official hand-written logo. It also provides a nice example of the embossed and debossed customizable name plaques that are available from the new MATUREWARE collection.
After we discuss the upcoming MATUREWARE exhibition at Nalata Nalata, we take a break for lunch at Says Farm located in the Himi woodlands. Says Farm is at once a winery, restaurant and cottage where you can stay over night. The property is so inspirational we will post a separate Journal entry specifically for this visit in the near future.
After our visit we make our way to Kyoto and check in to The Moyashi House – a beautiful townhouse where we had been invited to stay during our time in Kyoto. Incredible place to say the least. More on the Kyoto Moyashi House and Part II of our trip coming soon!
I first learned about dry brushing a few years ago at an onsen in Beppu and Oita, Japan. When I noticed women brushing their bodies in methodical motions prior to jumping into the hot springs, I was curious and bought my first palm fiber dry brush. In a nutshell, dry brushing helps to improve the quality of skin by stimulating blood circulation and lymph drainage. Lymph is fluid that circulates around the body releasing toxins through lymph nodes located at specific points in every human body. Basically, lymph drainage is waste removal for your tissues – like a sewer system or a garbage disposal for your body and when the system runs efficiently, so do you. You look better, feel better and feel completely re-energized!
After delving deeper into dry brushing, I realized that this ancient tradition played a central role in Japanese bath rituals and skin care. With it’s long history, there were already a ton of dry brushes available on the market in Japan although mostly with only subtle variations and design innovation. Discovering Suvé, was a breath of fresh air! The company is located in Kumano where a long tradition of brush making exists. The finest natural squirrel, goat and badger hair is selected and hand cut into precise shapes ideal for specific parts of the body. Paired with handcrafted walnut wood handles, each brush represents the highest quality of brush making techniques that date back to the Edo period, around 300 years ago.
Suvé’s latest collection offers an entire brushing care system – everything from short and long body brushes to nose, facial and lymph drainage brushes. Plus beautiful caddies, trays and soap dishes as companion accessories.
If you’re unfamiliar with this method of skincare, I highly recommend giving it a try. I usually direct people towards this comprehensive video as an intro on how to use brushes for the ‘body’ specifically, and the following diagrams illustrate basic techniques of how to use the ‘face’, ‘nose’ and ‘lymph drainage’ brushes by Suvé. Keep in mind that although the Face and Nose Cleansing Brushes can be used dry, they can also get wet for gentle exfoliation on the face by dropping cleanser into the white china Suvé Soap Dish to form a foamy lather with the brushes.
With summer around the corner, skin brushing is a great way to remove dead skin cells for smoother texture in general in addition to improving lymphatic circulation. Give it a try to see the benefits.
Note that Suvé Body Brushes are available in both hard and soft. The soft brushes are made from goat hair while the hard is made from badger hair, which is naturally coarser and often found in premium shaving brushes. Suvé Face Cleansing brushes can be used with soap cleansers. The full Suvé brush and accessories collection is available at Nalata Nalata. Inquire at email@example.com for brushes that are not yet available online.
Images courtesy of Suvé.
The Wonder 500™ campaign has come to New York to showcase a collection of 500 products selected from the 47 Japanese Prefectures.
Run by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the purpose of the exhibition is to discover and promote a curated collection of some of the finest goods originating from Japan to a global market, pertaining to the categories of craftsmanship, food and travel.
There were many wonderful new finds that we discovered at the exhibition, especially the items in the food and drink category that we remember fondly from our trips but never get a chance to see outside of Japan. Seeing the food items in this context amongst craft products really gives you a sense that Japanese values and sensibilities run across many aspects of the culture. There is a common thread that connects all 500 products to make them distinctly Japanese and this is something that is profoundly noticeable when the work of many manufacturers and designers are gathered in one setting – telling the story of a culture’s values and traditions through tangible objects.
The Wonder 500™ association stated it best but to paraphrase, some of the common values held by the Japanese include the preservation of culture, harmony with nature, a minimal aesthetic and a high regard of the relationship between student and teacher, otherwise known as Shu Ha Ri. These are just a few of the wonderfully unique concepts that the products we love have also been rooted in. Working closely with our manufacturers over the years, we’ve found that the approach to a design is just as important as the final product.
The exhibition runs free to the public until February 9th at 4 West 43rd Street, New York, at the Exhibition Hall, 11:00am to 7:00pm. Try to catch it if you get a chance. If you can’t make it, stop by the store because we carry many of these products.
Below is a list of some of the items we carry that made it on The Wonder 500™ list in the homewares category.
– Suvé Brushing Skincare
– Kujira Whale Knife
– Kami Glass
– Akarino-Tane Chiisaki Hanaire Mini Vase
– Kayariki Mosquito Coil Incense holder
– Haze Rosoku Candles
– Sunao Dinner Knife
– Do no Yakan Azmaya Copper Kettle
– 15.0% Ice Cream Scoop
– Kyoto Zabuton Cushions
– Karmi Wooden Tea Canister
– SyuRo Copper, Tin, Brass Boxes
– Urushi Lacquered Containers
– BON Kutsuwa Bon Kishiage Wood Trays
– Kime Tape Measure
– Iga Mono Kamado-san Rice Cooker Donabe
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about unlinked products available in-store only.