The Wonder 500 in New York

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The Wonder 500™ campaign has come to New York to showcase a collection of 500 products selected from the 47 Japanese Prefectures.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 hello@nalatanalata.com to inquire about unlinked products available in-store only.

angelique



Here’s to Another…



We’re happy to be celebrating three years online! This also marks about the one year anniversary of our brick-and-mortar opening at 2 Extra Place. Thank you for the continued support! Happy Birthday, Nalata Nalata!

stevenson



Holiday Gift-Wrap Service

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One of our favorite things to do during the holidays is to wrap presents for our loved ones using the washi paper we’ve accumulated during our trips to Japan. The paper we’ve collected is all hand made and mainly from Gifu, an area that specializes in this traditional process of manufacturing paper. This year at Nalata Nalata we would like to help you add that same special touch to your presents purchased with us by offering premium gift-wrapping services using our collection of Japanese washi paper!

Ask about our specialty gift-wrapping service in person at our New York location. Keep in mind that a one-day turnaround is needed. Nice things take time! Additional charges apply:

Exceptions apply for odd shaped and extra large items. To receive gift-wrap service with online purchases, please contact us with the request.

Happy holiday prep, everyone!

angelique



Extra Place Gets a Facelift

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New York is a city full of art in all its forms. Outside of the context of traditional art venues, there is a whole realm of street art that we’re lucky to see almost every day in and around the East Village without ever having to step inside a museum. Since our store opened up at 2 Extra Place, we’ve witnessed all sorts of work go up in the neighborhood – everything from giant murals by Os Gemeos to stencil graffiti by Bansky. Our favourite project and one we’ve been looking forward to for awhile, is a series of rotating ground murals that sprawl along the concrete of Extra Place alley.

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The installations are part of a public art program by FABnyc (Fourth Arts Block). Past participating artists include Jon Burgerman, Abe Lincoln Jr., Ellis Gallagher, Sonni and Raul Ayala, to name a few. The newest mural actually went up this week! Since we literally had front row seats during the installation process and had a chance to get to know the artists, we wanted to share some photos of Extra Place’s new look.

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Extra Place is most notably recognized as the back alley where bands would loiter in between sets at CBGB – some would even call it the birthplace of the punk movement. Befitting of the legacy, artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn hand painted a series of “magic carpets” that pays homage to album covers of bands that performed at the infamous music venue during its heyday.

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The extended mural includes a square patch of orange and lilac shapes inspired by the Flamin Groovies’ album Supersnazz. It also incorporates a polka dotted carpet influenced by the colours and shapes of the Talking Heads’ cover art for their album, Remain in Light.

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There’s an element behind street art that we fully connect with. Murals and graffiti of this nature come and go, are removed, covered or layered over time. They are fleeting in nature yet can be immensely thought provoking while they last. In this circumstance the results of the alley’s latest art installation is nothing short of uplifting! It functions not only to add color and brighten up the street, but also to remind us of the incredible sounds that once echoed down Extra Place in the 70s. It stands to reason that the story of something so influential should continue to be told even after all these decades.

angelique



Grace Farms – SANAA

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Driving through Connecticut is always a pleasure, especially during the fall when the changing of the seasons is reflected in the color of the leaves. Angy and I often head outside the city this time of year, so when Grace Farms officially opened their doors to the public last week, we had the perfect excuse for a day trip to visit the newest site of the Tokyo based architectural studio, SANAA.

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Located on a former horse farm in the Northeast of New Canaan CT, the beautifully designed cultural center and the headquarters of the Grace Farms Foundation is situated on 80 acres of open rural space. The building will provide the setting for community events, art programs, a non-denominational church for the exploration of different faiths and various other activities related to the pursuit of justice. True to the building’s moniker, the “River”, the unique winding design of the interconnected canopy seamlessly mimics the rolling hills of the property while offering panoramic views of the surrounding woodlands.

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There are five main structures along the “River”… a Sanctuary that acts as an auditorium, a Library to house publications dedicated to the foundation’s initiatives, the Commons where people can meet on communal tables for fresh meals and drinks, a Pavilion for tea service and the Court, a multi purpose indoor athletic facility.

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The structures are constructed with floor to ceiling windows on both sides, so the traditional division between outdoor and indoor space is often blurred when you walk along the path of the building. What becomes apparently clear throughout every structure is the prominence of the surrounding landscape. 

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I was delighted to find out that one of my favorite artists, Olafur Eliasson had works displayed throughout the center including his textile piece entitled Mat for Multidimensional Prayers made of woven wool from Icelandic grey sheep. His light based work, Suspended Rain, is set to be installed in 2016 and for those unfamiliar with this particular work, it will be worth the visit just to experience this site-specific installation in person.

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As we departed this beautiful facility, I was left feeling fortunate to live close to so many great works of art, design and architecture. New Canaan is known in design circles predominantly for the architectural works of the Harvard Five. As many may already know, the infamous Glass House, designed by Philip Johnson is located only a short distance away. Perhaps it is befitting of a town that redefined the meaning of a modern home, to also reinterpret the definition of a modern cultural center.21_GraceFarms

stevenson



Spotlight on Takashi Tomii

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We’ve had a large collection of work by Takashi Tomii available in-store but have just recently made it available online. Photographing, writing product descriptions and handling each piece brought back a flood of memories of our first studio visit with this talented wood artisan.

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We wrote briefly about this encounter in our Journal here, but realized that there is so much more where that came from. We have a whole slew of images and videos we hadn’t shared from that studio tour!

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His wood shop, an abandoned kindergarten, was perched atop of a mountain just out side of Kyoto. In its idyllic woodland setting, in a district that farms green tea, Takashi’s studio was a peaceful environment fit for any wood worker.

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Since that visit, Takashi has moved to Nagaoka in Niigata prefecture, a town near Ojiya where he grew up and where his parents still live. He informs me that Steve and I would naturally love the new place, “best known for the rice, sake and too much snow!” He has kept his hands full with woodcarving and the arrival of a new baby – one of three cute children that, if you follow Takashi, every once in awhile can get a glimpse of climbing a hill or doing a handstand.

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Having the chance to watch an artisan as skilled as Takashi work in his own territory – his personal creative space – was fascinating. We understood the process better and learned about his unique approach through observing Takashi methodically chip away at solid slabs of wood with precision and concentration.

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We’re grateful to have these opportunities to follow Takashi’s career as the years go by. Until our next visit (hopefully to check out the new studio!), we are happy to relive those special moments through images and share them with fellow fans in the meantime. We’ll leave off with a couple video clips from our studio visit – one of Takashi refining a chestnut wood dish and the other of him chiseling the beginnings of a large wood bowl.


 

angelique



Studio Visit – Nicole Patel

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Recently we spent an afternoon visiting our friend and talented artist, Nicole Patel, at her home in Nyack, about an hour from New York City. We came back feeling inspired and reinvigorated from the studio tour, and not to mention, the fresh upstate air. Here we wanted to share some photos and moments from that special day.

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When Nicole’s not visiting the city, she spends her time in a beautiful Victorian home with her husband Sweetu, their son, Kavi, and their dog named Georgia. Works from various stages of Nicole’s career as an artist hang on the walls. One of Nicole’s earliest pieces featuring wide strips of raw-edged fabric hangs on a wall diagonally from a mantle on which sits sculptures and a piece from Nicole’s plaster series. The home is decorated in a style reminiscent of Nicole’s works – minimal and considered. Every object feels intentional.

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Drenched in natural sunlight is an alcove that Nicole uses as a studio to create her wall hangings. After seeing the multitude of her sketch models, we get a sense that experimentation is a large part of her process. As we chat, Nicole continuously switches out canvases, changing their orientation and adjusting the threads, perpetually trying to find balance in the work and it’s relationship to the room – a practice that seems to stem from her background in interior design.

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Nicole works with various organic materials like muslin, plaster, felt, beeswax and marble to create canvases that hang with a beautiful, tranquil presence. She wraps fine merino wool, hemp, silk and other natural threads around the canvases in grid formations.

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We love Nicole’s work because it reminds us of our fundamental human need for a peaceful living environment. Our careful attention to the products we curate for Nalata Nalata is predominantly based on the idea that the objects we bring into our homes should enhance our lives in a harmonious way – this includes everything from the kettle we place on our stovetops to the artwork we hang on our walls. As an artist, Nicole also explores this philosophy in her unique process, creating works that she says, “can hold at once quiet humility and great importance.”

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Each thread is placed with consideration and with a creative energy that flows from a very meditative process. As a result, the artwork feels calm, similar to Nicole’s nature. We’ve always felt that works that can convey their maker’s personality gives them a special quality and makes them all the more exceptional.

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We were excited to see a few works in progress and the variety of tools Nicole utilizes. The most fascinating being her custom thread making contraption, a device originally designed by Leonardo Da Vinci, that Nicole uses to spin one-of-a-kind cords.

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Nicole’s works of art are just as compelling from behind as they reveal her unique process. Using one continuous thread, she wraps it according to a specific pattern and intricately pins it into place with beautiful copper nails.

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After the studio tour, Nicole invites us on a stroll to the river nearby, pointing out her favorite houses in the neighborhood and a secluded dock that she frequents.

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Nyack is a stunning place. The still river and quiet streets were a reminder that serenity can exist just a short drive away from the concrete jungle. It also gave us insight into the unique lifestyle Nicole has carved out for herself, one that is perfectly in balance with its natural surroundings, much like her works.

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Special thanks to Nicole for the memorable tour.
Exclusive works by Nicole Patel are available at Nalata Nalata. Inquirer at hello@nalatanalata.com

angelique



Motifs in Japanese Design

Symbols and motifs have always been an integral part of Japanese aesthetics, both in traditional and modern designs. These symbols can be found integrated in many of the items found at Nalata Nalata through graphics, textiles and applied arts. This is a reference guide that will give you some insights into the meaning behind these motifs and hopefully give you a better appreciation of the symbolic aspects of Japanese culture.

 

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The iconic Japanese symbol is derived from the mythological goddess of the sun, Amaterasu from the Shinto religion. According to myth, the goddess founded Japan approximately 2700 years ago and all the emperors of Japan are known as “Sons of the Sun”, essentially direct descendants of the goddess herself. The design of the national flag reflects the central importance of the sun in Japanese tradition.

 

 

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Primarily a symbol of purity, the lotus is revered in Japan for its ability to rise from the dirty muddy waters to bloom into a beautiful flower. Most commonly associated with the Buddhist achievement of enlightenment, it has been used as a very popular symbol of living your life to the fullest.

 

 

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Adopted from Chinese culture, the fan has come to signify a high social status and symbolize the journey of life. The small end essentially represents birth and the blades symbolizing the many paths possible in life’s journey. Historically, Japanese people of every age, gender and demographic have carried fans with many of them beautifully painted to tell stories or convey secret messages.

 

 

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The Chrysanthemum is a symbol of endurance and rejuvenation. It was first introduced as a symbol by the Japanese Royal Family as an Imperial emblem during the Nara period. The flower is distinctly characterized by its 16 petals and is most commonly used for official Japanese Diet (government) seals. It has the distinct honor to be on the cover of the Japanese passport.

 

 

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The Daruma is a traditional Japanese wishing doll and the symbol of achievement in Japan. It is an old tradition that is practiced till this day. When you receive a daruma doll, you pick a specific goal you are determined to achieve. You draw in one of the eyes to show your commitment to the goal. Afterwards, you place the doll in a visible area as a reminder of the task at hand. When you have achieved your goal, you draw in the other eye.

 

 

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Since the Heian Period, the cherry blossom has been revered by the Japanese and closely associated with its philosophy of mono no aware. The flower’s brief blooming time and the fragility of the blossom has always been linked to an association with the transience of life and an appreciation for fleeting beauty.

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Takashi Tomii Sakura Cocktail Stirrer (available in-store only)

 

 

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In Japanese culture, butterflies carry a number of meanings but are most closely associated with the symbolism of metamorphosis and transformation. They are closely linked with recently departed spirits and consequently are represented in a number of traditional family crests.

 

 

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Cranes are most commonly used to represent longevity and good fortune. Appropriately, they are found during the Japanese New Year and during wedding ceremonies in textile prints. Cranes have also found their way to prominence in the world of origami, where in Japanese culture to fold one thousand paper cranes makes a special wish come true.

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‘Best Buds’ Paper Crane Origami sets (available in-store only)

 

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The plum flower is one of the first blossoms to open during the year and has always been closely associated with the coming of spring. Unlike the cherry blossom, the plum has a strong sweet fragrance. Since the Heian period, they have been a symbol of refinement and purity, along with a reminder of former lovers.

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Takashi Tomii Mini Plum Flower Dish (available in-store only)

 

 

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In Japan, the gourd is often associated with divinity and found in many regional folk tales stemming from Taoist beliefs. Its curvaceous shape is commonly met with affection as a symbol of good luck, good health and prosperity.

 

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At the center of Japanese mythology, is the goddess of the moon, Tsukiyomi. This powerful figure in early times has made the moon a common motif in Japanese arts and crafts. Up till the mid 19th century, Japan even followed the lunar calendar. The symbolic meaning of the moon is closely tied to the act of rejuvenation.

 

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According to Japanese legend, if a Koi fish succeeded to swim upstream and climb the waterfalls at a point called Dragon Gate on the Yellow River, it would transform into a Dragon. Based on this legend, it became a symbol of aspiration and perseverance.

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Paper Koi Fish Figurine (available in-store only)

 

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The acorn is considered to be an emblem of good luck. There is a popular Japanese proverb involving the acorn (donguri)…”Donguri no seikurabe”. It literally means, “comparing the height of acorns” and refers to the notion that “they are all alike”.

 

stevenson



Memories of Japan

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Here’s a bit more of a look into our latest trip to Japan. It was jam-packed but I just wanted to share some highlights outside of our Naoshima trip. I was able to go on a few new factory tours during the first leg of the trip and then met up with some familiar faces when Angy joined me mid-trip. 

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If you read our Journal, you’ll notice that one of our favourite cities in Japan is Kanazawa and one of our favourite sites to visit is the 21st Century Art Museum. I always like to see it in different seasons. This time around the skies were clear creating beautiful light within the space designed by SANAA. 

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I checked out the Turrell room and Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool”. There was also an exhibition of craft artifacts from Kanazawa.

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My second stop in Kanazawa was to meet with our good friend Noriyasu along with his wife and son at their shop, Gloini. Noriyasu’s son has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen in my life! The kid is so friendly, just like his parents. 

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After some catching up, Noriyasu and I make plans to visit Yoshiki Tsukamoto, at his antiques shop entitled Sklo. The namesake just so happens to be the name of his brand that includes artisanal light bulbs, which we recently released on the site. 

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We love following Yoshiki’s activities because they are so varied. He’s an antiques shop owner, filament designer and a rice farmer. Needless to say, he’s a bit hard to catch but luckily Yoshiki was at his shop on this particular day to explain his design process and showoff his latest light bulb designs. 

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We learned that Yoshiki got into filament design because he wanted to create an old world look to the light bulbs that would be paired with his antique lampshades. 

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After Kanazawa I hopped on a train to the city of Seto in the Gifu district to meet with our friend Mitsuhiro Konishi. It was pouring rain that day so Konishi arrives to pick me up at the train station decked out in a full rain gear suit. The first thing he does is take my inappropriately dressed self to a nearby Family Mart and makes me buy a $5 umbrella so I wouldn’t get wet. The Japanese never lack in hospitality. After the rain settled down, we were finally ready to tackle the city and explore.

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We stopped by a couple exhibitions and went all around Seto. The town is renown for it’s pottery culture and a ceramics institute that subsidizes many of the artisans. You could see the strong ceramics history in the works of all the talented craftsmen – some just students but already had impressive works of tea wares and other beautifully shaped pottery that caught my eye. It’s always great touring exhibitions with Mitsuhiro because, trained as a sculptor he has a heightened awareness of three-dimensional space, always examining all angles of objects. Something we think shines through strongly in his mixed metal cutlery

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After playing catch up with Mitsuhiro, I board another train to a very remote destination to visit the Otani family! Husband and wife Momoko Otani and Tetsuya Otani are incredibly hospitable and planned an unforgettable time. More on this stay with the Otani’s in a separate post coming soon! 

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One thing that is important to us is gaining knowledge about the products we love, which is why we travel to Japan frequently – to get the full story first hand. We love the process and all the steps it takes to produce one product so when Hata of Hatashikkiten invited us to his factory, I was excited to see how the Border and Soji containers were made. It is such a privilege to meet the craftsmen behind the products.

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The Hatashikkiten factory, run by Hata and his wife, is in the countryside overlooking beautiful rice patties. The complex is inherited from Hata’s father, and has stayed in the family for many generations.

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Immediately as you walk into the main office building, there were rows and rows of the family’s long line of work. Hata immediately shows me the more delicate pieces the company has produced, like the urushi-lacquered canister with gold decals. 

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Hata then brings me to meet every craftsmen involved in the process, including his wife. Each craftsman is specialized in a particular process, and the lumberyard is full of locally sourced wood.

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The lumber is cut into small disks. To put it simply, the shapes are roughed out, turned, left to dry completely to avoid warping and then urushi-lacquered. Hata’s wife does the finishing work including applying the pastel lacquer on all the Tiered Border canisters by hand as the final step.  

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After the tour, our friends Taku and Yamazaki take me to the city of Takaoka to visit Mr. Futagami, yet again, but this time to get a behind the scenes look at how the “kuro-mura” blackened brass finish on some of the Futagami pieces is achieved. 

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The kuro-mura process involves several layers of urushi. Essentially it is applied by hand with a torch held to the piece in order to achieve striations and a textured application. Kuro-mura is a delicate process so not a lot of factories in Japan, let alone the world, can produce such a finish. 

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Finally we end the day talking about MATUREWARE – Futagami’s answer to fine architectural hardware. We discuss the direction of the brand and each object in detail – discussing names, dimensions, appropriate sizing and shapes. We have some exciting news we’ll be announcing about the launch of MATUREWARE in the coming months, so stay tuned!

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The next day I make a pit stop in Osaka to cross something off my architectural bucket list – The Church of Light, by Tadao Ando. It’s an operational church for the surrounding community so there are small time slots throughout the week where you can view the site.

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The church consists of two prayer rooms both predominantly lit with natural light. The first room has wood floors and tall concrete walls centered by a timber cross. The second room is a dark concrete space, framed by a cutout of a cross. The entire space is dimly lit accentuating the powerful beam of light. It’s a stunning image right when you go in. There was no sermon at the time but the church is so nice, you can easily sit there for hours just staring into space.

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Since I was in Osaka, I rushed to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum on the other side of town – mainly to see the namesake of our neighbour on Extra Place, Momofuku Ko!

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Back in Tokyo, we make it a priority to visit KUMU. Our friend Noriko Konuma recently opened up her shop in an old building inherited from her parents with the help of Oji Masanori and friends.

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The shop has a ton of beautiful nooks and corners. The main level is the shop floor and the second level is an open space for exhibitions and meetings. 

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The best part was seeing the behind the scenes areas like KUMU’s basement used for storage, and other gems like the vintage kimono Noriko found while clearing the space. It belonged to her family for many generations, now proudly on display. 

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We loved the shop’s logo, designed by Oji Masanori, and the official KUMU seal along with Noriko’s careful attention to detail with wrapping our purchases and welcoming us into her little haven. We needed to properly congratulate Noriko and climbed to her stunning rooftop with some brews for a toast. If you’re in Tokyo, head to her shop. It’s in a great district of Tokyo and experiencing KUMU alone, is well worth the visit.

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Our last days in Tokyo we hit up some old favourites like Tonkatsu Maisen for pork cutlets, and finally got to try the infamous Ometesando Koffee. It definitely lived up to its reputation.

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We also got a chance to hang out with Ryo and Yuma of Hender Scheme and check out their new company headquarters. Got a bit lost on the way until I recognized Ryo’s preferred mode of transportation! 

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The new Hender Scheme headquarters is beautiful and full of the latest creations from Ryo’s signature footwear line to new product sketches.

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It’s always a great time with these two – they are total foodies and always up for some random wandering. After checking out the brand new Hender Scheme base and its view of the Tokyo Tower, Ryo and Yuma bring us to their favourite okonomiyaki restaurant where you cook up everything yourself on a giant hot plate. We loved it so much they brought us back on two separate occasions.

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And for what’s starting to become an annual tradition, we head to the famous Senso-ji temple in the Asakusa district to get our fortunes read. Angy and I both get “good” fortunes. 

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They are pretty basic – summarized predictions on small pieces of paper, but since we’re pretty superstitious, we obviously do not take them with a grain of salt. With promises of a good year ahead, we were ecstatic and ready to head back to New York, holding onto some awesome memories of Japan and good fortunes folded in our wallets.

More behind the scenes looks from our trips to Japan below:

– Journey to Japan, Part 1
– Journey to Japan, Part 2
– Traces of Japan

stevenson



Naoshima – The “Art Island”

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We recently got back from Japan and have been trying to adjust to the time difference for a good two weeks but I guess after a certain extent you can no longer use jet lag as an excuse for things like staying up all night to binge watch shows and waking up at noon. Point being – our internal clocks are finally back on track and we’re excited to share some snippets from our latest trip to the land of the rising sun.

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As some may notice, our trips to Japan are happening more and more frequently but usually one of us stays behind to manage the home front. Rarely do Steve and I have the chance to travel together so when we do, we try to make the most of it by incorporating a few days for pure rest and relaxation. We wanted to make it easy on ourselves this time around and decided on a trip to Naoshima Island.

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To get there you have to board a ferry off the port of Uno city about six hours southwest of Tokyo. The ferry ride is short and once you’re on the island some of the most prominent works of contemporary art like the “Red Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama quickly greet you.

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Naoshima is a great getaway destination since every activity is low-key. “Laidback” is in the island air; everything’s within bike-able distance, the streets are desolate and planning activities in advance isn’t really necessary, unless you plan on staying at the impressive Benesse House complex designed by Tadao Ando. In which case, book far, far in advance. That we clearly did not do. Instead, we found a cozy last minute Japanese style ryokan in the Honmura district and took each of the three days we were there, as they came… writing postcards, eating and drinking olive soda in between looking at art.

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Set against Mother Nature’s backdrop, Naoshima is renown for having a dense collection of galleries and installations by contemporary artists and designers like Walter De Maria, Lee Ufan and James Turell. A couple of these works can be found at the labyrinth-like Chichu Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando or the Benesse House Museum, but there are other attractions that are just as magnificent, like the ‘Art House Project’ in the old castle district of Honmura.

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The Art House project is a group of abandoned traditional houses that were restored into art installations. Tatsuo Miyajima’s “Sea of Time ’98″ was enchanting. The 200-year-old house was transformed into an installation with LED timers that rest in a shallow pool of water. Each timer was set at a different pace by a resident of the island. A quiet and calm atmosphere envelops the space making it the perfect place for contemplation.

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The Haisha House used to be the home and office of a dentist, now completely re-imagined by artist Shinto Ohtake. Using an eclectic mix of materials and objects, the house expresses the attempt of recalling a dream from a small memory.

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Of the seven houses, the Go’o Jinja, a restored Edo period shrine by Hiroshi Sugimoto was a personal favourite. With its glass staircase that connects to an underground tunnel, it was a beautiful reflection on the boundaries between heaven and earth. It was also so interesting to see Sugimoto’s works outside of photography.

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Many of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s works were found throughout the island, some in the Benesse House complex and others as site-specific work propped up on the side of a cliff! If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be the one thing you’d have with you? Considering the amount of time Steve can spend staring at one of them, I think his answer would be, a Sugimoto photograph. More specifically one from his time-lapse “Seascapes” series.

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Beyond the art sites, the village itself had its own charms. We loved the narrow streets of Honmura and all the tiny cafés hidden within dark-stained wood paneled homes. Some of which were decorated in cotton cord illustrations.

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One out of the three days was spent on neighboring island, Teshima. It was about twenty minutes from Naoshima on a rickety boat. Once you land on Teshima there’s the option to rent a motorized bicycle to climb steep hills to the art sites. One of them being Teshima’s art museum, designed by SANAA co-founder, Ryue Nishizawa. As required at many of the art sites, we swap our shoes for cushy slippers and spend the next hour silent, in a white concrete dome staring at the structure and the one piece of artwork it holds, the Matrix by sculptor Rei Naito. Little droplets of water trickle around the space slowly, yet there is something powerful in their movement. 

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There were so many other great pit stops in addition to the domed museum. We stopped to shoot some hoops at the “No One Wins” installation and also saw “Les Archives du Coeur” by Christian Boltanski. The latter was housed in a small building with an ocean view. We listened to people’s heartbeats from all around the world from their permanent database and tried to make distinctions.

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On our way back to catch the last ferry, we managed to sneak in one last art site. Along with changing our perception of the colour red, the Yokoo House, by Yuko Nagayama also changed our perception of our “couple photos” and it was thereafter that we decided to invest in a selfie stick.

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Thinking back on our trip to Naoshima, I realize how extremely valuable it was. When art and nature are in complete harmony, it can bring you to a place of peace and introspection. As much as it was a physically relaxing trip, it was also one that found us rejuvenated mentally. Naoshima is a magical place.

angelique