A lot of our clients have mentioned that they are heading to Japan so we wanted to do a quick post about three great spots in Kyoto that we would highly recommend. There are already tons to see there, as I’m sure you know, but these are places we discovered thanks to our friend Aya Nihei, that will not disappoint. Star these locations and make a day out of it – one’s a gallery (Nichinichi), one’s a bookstore (Seikosha) and one’s a bar (Shuto Yanagino) so you have your basic ingredients for a successful day right off the bat. These images are from our last trip.
Address: 602-0875 Kyoto Kamigyo-ku Shintomi-cho 298, Japan
Nichinichi is a gallery/tea shop/guesthouse/garden in one. Tucked away on a side street with no signage, it’s not a place you stumble upon, you have to know it’s there. When you first open the sliding doors to this establishment, it’s hard to grasp what you’ve stepped foot into but once you start exploring, the place is mind blowing. The front entrance is like the foyer of a welcoming home where you can comfortably take off your shoes in exchange for slippers. Specializing in Japanese applied arts and craft housewares, the gallery also has a tearoom and a rentable guesthouse. The founders did an incredible job in embedding a calm sensibility to all their curations and interior design choices. Everything is placed with love and we can tell. Definitely take the time to enjoy some tea, which Aya describes as sawa – something like a tea lounge experience, in between a formal tea ceremony and casual tea with friends.
Address: 602-0871 Kyoto Kamigyo-ku Tawaraya-cho 437, Japan
After managing one of Japan’s most respected bookstores Keibunsha Ichijoji for over a decade, Atsushi Horibe set out to open his own bookstore with his wife in 2015. The result is a bookstore so charming it melts your heart the second you’re greeted by Horibe and his wife at the door. One Kyoto evening Aya brought us to Seikosha to introduce us to the owners and show us the location in which she’ll be having a pop-up book release for her new book in mid-August. We had such a great time exploring the shelves of books, magazines and the small collection of rare vintage photography books. We also got to meet Kitchen! A photographer who was having a launch event that evening for his book that highlights couples who work together – Kitchen calls the idea “Double Income” and of course we fell in love with the concept.
Shuto Yanagino Bar
Address: Kyoto Sanjo Sinmachi Nishi-iru, Nakagyo-ku, Japan
Although Shuto Yanagino is a restaurant and bar, it’s heavier on the bar atmosphere. It’s where to go for a classic cocktail in an ultra-minimalist setting. The owner Yaganino-san, will likely be behind the wood bar ready to offer expert recommendations for sake, natural wines and specialty cocktails. One hanging bud vase is the only décor in the front room allowing the more decorative antique glasses to shine. Glasses and bottles are hidden away from sight or stored in cabinets. There aren’t any English menus so be prepared to experiment if you can’t read Japanese.
Every year in Kyoto, come the second week of January, the streets are flooded with young men and women lugging around exceptionally tall bamboo bows and feathered arrows. It’s the day after Coming of Age Day and 20 year olds from all across Japan are on their way to Tōshiya, the 400-year-old archery competition at the Sanjūsangen-dō Temple.
When we were in Kyoto for our annual winter trip, the event took us completely off guard but we were glad to be at the right place at the right time to witness such a deep-rooted tradition. We initially intended to go to the temple to say a few prayers for the New Year amongst the 1001 life size brass statues of Bodhisattva Kannons. The statues are made of Japanese cypress with real gold leaf. Each one has different facial features and it is said that you will find the face of someone you love in at least one of them. Luck was on our side – we saw lots of familiar faces and lots of skilled archers in one go.
The Tōshiya competition brings together Kyūdō archery enthusiasts to commemorate the story of a samurai, Asaoka Heibei, who in 1606 was so skilled in archery he managed to shoot a bow and arrow the length of the temple 100 times in rapid succession and hit the target 51 times. Quite a feat considering the Sanjūsangen-dō temple is the longest wooden building in Japan.
Although the official contestants are all 20 years of age, there are older archers who do demonstrations throughout the day. It’s pretty amazing to watch the older generation go at it – so poised and skilled. We managed to get a short clip of the action. Take a look and if this amazing Japanese martial art of archery is of interest, book your next trip to Japan for the second Sunday of January!
Photography: Armando Rafael
For those unfamiliar with Yuichi Takemata, he is a metal artist and the owner of Sayuu, a beautiful gallery in Kanazawa. He began his career repairing antiques, mostly jewelry, and eventually found a niche in designing bespoke rings and table cutlery. These days you’ll find Takemata-san at Sayuu where you can watch him hand hammering away in a small atelier at the back of the gallery.
We initially discovered Takemata-san through his cutlery works. They called to us with their unusual surface texture, especially the Ryo series that has feather-like scratches giving them the appearance of well-loved antiques.
If you’re in the market for engagement rings or wedding bands, make your life easier and just make one stop at Sayuu. The tough part then becomes which one to choose, as each one, perched on their mini pedestals, seems more beautiful then the last.
After the inspiring visit, we explored the area by night. The old district of Kanazawa is called Higashi Chaya. During the Edo period it used to be where geisha would entertain people in teahouses, perform dances and play musical instruments. This historical area is one of three old districts designated as Japan’s cultural assets so walking through the maze of little alleys brings you right back to another time. The old teahouses have all been preserved – they are mostly two stories and were built in dark stained wood with lattice façades. Today various specialty restaurants and artisan shops such as Sayuu, occupy them – rightfully so. By looking at the wonderful establishment Takemata-san has created, Higashi Chaya is in great hands.
Thank you to Yuichi Takemata for having us and to Noriyasu Moritada for facilitating this special encounter.
Photography: Armando Rafael
Typically it takes us awhile to get a Journal recap up about our trips to Japan but this time we made it a point to post quicker than usual. This trip was incredible and we wanted to share while the feeling was fresh. Japan has a way of transforming our pace of life, one that is drastically different from our lifestyles in New York. Value systems differ, traditions are adhered to, and time seems to slow down. It’s this combination that keeps the country, at least for us, novel enough to remain curious about what it has to offer even after all these years of traveling there.
We started the trip with a visit to glass artist Kazumi Tsuji of Factory Zoomer in Kanazawa. We’ll be having a Factory Zoomer exhibition this coming May during New York design week so we wanted to discuss details and finalize our collaboration with her beforehand.
From beginning to end Tsuji-san led the way with her upbeat energy. She has a rare outgoing personality in a culture that is often reserved. We first met Tsuji-san when she came to visit our gallery in New York so it was nice that on this occasion we had the chance to meet up with her on her own turf.
As the founder of renowned glass making studio, Factory Zoomer, Tsuji-san is a busy woman. In 2010 she also became the chief director of the Seikatsu Kogei project – a movement that started in Kanazawa with the aim of getting users and creators (or viewers and artists) to think of the importance of the existence of objects in our daily lives. A concept we have always innately used to assess products we carry in our store but only now are able to grasp in words with the help of artisans such as Tsuji-san who are exploring this fairly new realm of “lifestyle crafts”. It’s a big topic to tackle but we’ll share our insights in our Journal as we go.
Tsuji-san predominantly divides her time between three spaces – her glassmaking studio, the Factory Zoomer Shop and the Factory Zoomer Gallery. She also brought us to a couple of her go-to spots outside of “work” and considering all the great places she frequents, it was clear that she knows her way around the city. Right off the bat she brought us to a super good sushi spot for lunch called Reki Reki. We all satisfied our cravings for sashimi with fresh tuna, uni, and mackerel and while we were at it couldn’t resist some afternoon sake. The sushi counter is right at the front entrance of the famous Omi-cho fish market so it really doesn’t get fresher than that!
Tsuji-san is as much of a coffee fiend as us, something we realized when she mentioned she hadn’t had her morning coffee fix yet and ushered us into her fave café, Higashide Coffee. She’s the type that feels like a longtime friend – incredibly open and within five minutes she’s telling us her life story… about her first glass mentor Narcissus Quagliata, her University days in California, about successes, setbacks, and even her early dreams of working for Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons. She says it all with a laugh, never taking herself too seriously. As one of Japan’s most acclaimed artisans, its quite amazing that she has next to no ego.
While we were there she and her staff were preparing for a textile exhibition entitled Light Years. She also displays the works of renowned artisans such as Ryuji Mitani and Masanobu Ando, her good friends that we also had the chance to visit during this trip… we’ll get around to posting about those visits in the coming weeks.
When we mentioned that the first Factory Zoomer piece we acquired for our personal collection was a small glass bowl with tiny polka dots on it’s surface, Tsuji-san immediately packed up a nice little set of similar pieces for us as a gift. To this day the bowl is still one of our favourites for small snacks like dried fruits, so we were so happy to finally add to our collection. We’ll definitely have pieces from this series during the exhibition in May.
We’ve always liked how intimate the shop feels. Sometimes someone is even there to serve you coffee from a small counter. You can then sit back and enjoy it at a small table near the front of the store and feel right at home. We thought the sink Tsuji-san made for the bathroom also added to the intimate atmosphere. When something as commonplace as a bathroom sink is custom handmade, it feels like a lot of affection went into the environment’s creation.
Afterwards, we drove to the next location, the Factory Zoomer glass atelier. It was glass blowing demonstration time. I especially liked seeing Tsuji-san in this setting where she was totally in her element. She looked so comfortable and took command, all the while remaining in control when blowing glass fresh out of 1200 degree furnace temperatures.
Tsuji-san along with her small group of skilled, seasoned staff creates all the pieces by hand. They are well trained in a variety of glass making techniques to accomplish different forms and surface treatments.
After the demonstration we all went to a small building beside the workshop that acted as an office and library. There she explained that her brand is called Factory Zoomer because an ex boyfriend had shortened her first name, Kazumi, to ‘Zoom’ since she was always speedy and on the go.
Near the end of the studio tour while the crew was chatting with Tsuji-san and her staff was working away, I stole a moment for myself to take in the stunning view that surrounds the studio. It overlooks a grape vineyard and by night the gnarled branches look straight out of a surreal Van Gogh painting. In that moment I realized that as much as we try, it’s nearly impossible to grasp the full scope of an artists’ works and thoughts as an outsider looking in. Even after witnessing an artisan like Tsuji-san’s complete operations in person, I felt like her life’s work was so vast and ever changing that it would take years of research and interviews with her to understand the full context. The closest connection we have is maybe to simply own a piece of hers in our homes. In that way something like a cup, bowl or plate slowly becomes a part of our own lives, and eventually gains in beauty. This thought is to some extent the meaning of Seikatsu Kogei – as much as an object may appeal to us as a beautiful work of art, the intent of an artist such as Tsuji-san is for it to be used and appreciated as a functional household object.
One thing’s for sure, for individuals as accomplished as Tsuji-san, it will take more than one studio visit to understand the breadth of her work as a glass artist. Consider this as just the beginning. We’ve only skimmed the surface.
After the enlightening tour we had to take it down a notch in intensity with a good ol’ meal and chatter. Tsuji-san brings us through a labyrinth of narrow twisting streets. We finally arrive at a soba restaurant called Kyomi Kai.
A couple operates the place so of course Steve and I instantly like it. It’s just the two of them – the husband makes seasonal dishes from homemade soba flour while the wife works the front end with the best hospitality we’ve ever seen! The couple was so kind and each dish highlighted a special seasonal ingredient alongside unusual soba preparations.
That’s it! That was our unforgettable day with Tsuji-san. It was made even more memorable because of the awesome people we got to share it with. We actually rolled to Japan this time as a bigger team with the accompaniment of Armando Rafael, one of our talented photographers, and Aya Nihei, one of our talented contributors! You’ll be seeing a lot more of them in our upcoming Journal entries.
If you’re in New York in May, come meet Tsuji-san at our exhibition, she is such a brilliant force.
Special thanks to Kazumi Tsuji and her team for their time.
Photography: Armando Rafael
It’s been 2 years since we opened up our store at 2 Extra Place in New York! When we opened our doors, our objective was to connect clients with makers through storytelling in the hopes of promoting mindful living. We’re so happy to still have the opportunity to do so everyday. We have many people to thank for helping us along the way – the list is far too long so we just wanted to take the time to say to everyone who has supported us over the years…
Even after years of growing plants hydroponically (without soil), I still find it to be fascinating. 10¹² Terra has made it into a beautiful art with their products that highlight the evolution of plant life, particularly the Hydro Terrarium that allows you to observe the roots of a succulent grow under water. Daisuke and Kenichi, the designers behind 10¹² Terra, have taught me so much about keeping succulents alive over the years. Since the Vision Glasses and Hydro Terrariums make great gifts, we get a lot of questions around this time of year so I thought it was about time we shared some tips and tricks. Although these instructions may look extensive, remember that it’s only a guide. There’s no formal process so don’t be put off. At the end the day I ask myself, does the plant look happy? If the answer is yes then everything’s gonna be alright… (listening to this while you plant helps too).
The Hydroponics How-To Guide
1. Find a cactus or succulent that will fit the chosen hydro terrarium size. We get ours locally in New York at this magical place near our store. Take the cactus or succulent plant out of the pot and completely wash away the soil attached to the roots with water. If the main plant or the roots are damaged, bacteria might invade and the plant might rot. Wash the plant gently, so as not to damage it.
2. After the soil is washed away, first cleanly cut away the roots that had been growing in the soil, leaving around a half inch of root attached to the base. This way, new roots that are suited for hydroponics will grow from the cut ends. Use sharp plant shears. The plant will grow without a problem without its roots being cut, but it will be more stable with hydroponic roots. Depending on the season and the type of plant, it might take time for the hydroponic roots to develop, but if the cut ends are kept submerged in water, the roots will grow smoothly.
3. Once the roots are cut, allow the cut ends to dry completely. This is dependent on the season but should take generally 1-2 days.
5. Put water in the lower part of the container, and try to regulate the water level to keep the cut ends submerged as detailed in step 2. (If the main part of the plant is kept submerged in water, it will rot. It is best to submerge the cut ends only partially.
6. Use tap water. The chlorine in tap water serves to sterilize many types of saprophytic bacteria, including the mildew that grows in water, and makes it more difficult for diseases to develop.
7. How often to change the water depends on the plant. Generally, once the plant is hydroponically stable, the water may be kept without being changed for long periods of time due to the plant’s natural self-purification abilities, but until the plant stabilizes, it is best to change the water frequently.
[ While the roots are still short and the plant is not yet hydroponically stable]
– Try to change the water whenever it becomes dirty.
[Once the roots are grown and the plant has become stable hydroponically]
– As the water level drops or evaporates, it’s alright simply to top off the water without changing it so that the roots remain submerged. However, the plant will grow best and be the most stable if the water is changed completely about once a month.
8. To gauge the proper water level, try to keep the water at about where the roots were cut. Even if the water is changed infrequently, the plant’s growth will be healthy.
10. If mildew grows on the root or plant during hydroponic growth, gently wash it off with tap water and wipe it off with a cotton swab or tissue sprayed with an alcohol-based antibacterial solution made from natural ingredients, such as those made for use in the kitchen. Antibacterial agents for plants are also available, but alcohol-based solutions with natural ingredients are safer.
Also if you add silicic acid or charcoal to the bottom of the water, it will inhibit the propogation of mildew and bacteria through its water-purifying capabilities, and you will have to change the water less frequently.
11. A substance similar to white algae might grow on the surface of the root, but these are merely “root hairs” – tiny hairlike roots that grow on the surface of the roots. They are important, as they increase the surface area of the roots and allow them to take in more water and nourishment. As the roots grow thicker, the root hairs will decrease in number, so even if their appearance is a bit worrying, be patient. Root hairs will come off easily if washed with water, but this will not cause the plant to wither, so relax.
Hope that helps you get started with hydroponics. Good luck, and happy planting!
The 10¹² Terra collection can be found here.
Our home in Brooklyn was recently featured in the December issue of Nice Things magazine, a Japanese lifestyle publication that is quickly becoming a favourite. Opening our home up was a new experience. People always ask us what our place is like and although we speak about it, we rarely reveal anything in photos. The number one question we get is “Does your home look like the store”? I used to think it was more eclectic than the store, but as time goes on the answer is slowly becoming a firm “Yes”.
This was a fun feature because we had the pleasure of being interviewed by Aya Nihei and photographed by Yuki Matsumura, who have both become close to us over the years. Aya actually works with us on a daily basis so having them over was like any other afternoon with good friends. The only difference this time is that we got a chance to showcase some of our ‘nice things’. For me that includes my signed first edition Patti Smith books that I’ve collected from Mast Books. Steve’s pick was a series of sculptures I’ve made him throughout our relationship. Together we’ve added furniture, objects and artwork to all the corners of our home, slowly transforming them into spaces we love – owning a home goods store has helped in that regard! There are so many things by designers and artists we’ve integrated into our home that we carry in the store or have been gifted. They serve as constant reminders of the awesome people we get to work with and I think it’s safe to say that those are the things we treasure the most.
You can pick up Nice Things magazine online here or locally in New York at Kinokuniya bookstore. This particular issue is full of familiar products and faces from our Journal. We were so excited to see a feature on our friend Noriko Konuma’s store in Tokyo, Kumu!
In a quiet temple district of Kyoto, dotted with Buddhist temples, stands the Kyoto Moyashi House. Its unassuming façade is like most kyōmachiya (traditional Kyoto style townhouses) but take a closer look and you’re in for a surprise.
The house was erected in the late 1800s. The original owner, Mr. Ishii built the house as a residence and a workspace for the fermentation of koji, a culture made from soybeans primarily used to make sake amongst other Japanese food staples like miso and soy sauce. Recently, Fonz, the homeowners, with the help of their friend, architect Mr. Shigenori Uoya, had the idea to renovate and design the house to transform it into a multi-purpose meeting grounds for events, workshops and the best part, for lodging. Yes, you can actually stay in this 120-year-old house and feel like you’ve been transported back into time. Given the opportunity, we did just that!
We were excited to hear about how Kyoto Moyashi House arranged for the architect and homeowners to welcome us upon first arrival to give us the lay of the land and explain the history of the house. We found out that when they were planning the project, their main purpose was to keep the integrity of the old house while making it modernized and functional for today. They remained true to their initial approach and completed the project in June 2015. The results are truly special.
Mr. Uoya (pictured above) has had experience working on around sixty other projects, but revealed that this house was one of the more challenging ones because he had the responsibility to not only keep the history of the house but also that of the area. The area Shimogyō-ku was once full of old wooden machiya style townhouses but they are slowly going extinct since many owners can’t deal with the high costs associated to the maintenance and renovation of decrepit folk dwellings, and instead invest in the development of modern condos or offices.
As we toured the house, Mr. Uoya explained that he kept with the original infrastructure and opted to mix in modern elements. Evidence of this exists all throughout. A beautiful mix of old and new occur in such details as earthen walls that combine with concrete floors or authentic wood beams that seamlessly blend into glass doors. He also pointed out the many details they decided to keep including old steel implements and wood vessels used to produce koji.
Our favourite part of the Kyoto Moyashi House is actually the centrally located open-air garden. Accessible from all the main ground-floor rooms through sliding glass doors, the garden provides nice airflow and natural light, as intended by the architect.
From the back of the house, you can see the foundations of the home and the narrow lot of land it occupies. Machiya were both a place of business and residence for their owners so they often had narrow facades that would act as storefronts accessible from the street. The homes then expanded deep into the back to make room for living quarters and workshop areas. Outdoor spaces were incorporated in the form of small courtyard gardens. The houses were everything the owner needed to build a life and family in a time when Kyoto witnessed increased economic growth near the end of the Edo period.
Although Kyoto is a city steeped in tradition, the long-established spheres of culture often feel inaccessible – only for the elite, the ones in the know. Private teahouses and clubs exist and invitation only is still criterion for entry. Not to say that we’re not one for a good speakeasy but it’s refreshing to know that places that aim to preserve tradition are opening their doors to foreign admirers to experience Japan’s intrinsic concepts of living firsthand. The machiya provides an old-world charm that is hardly ever available outside of museums or special tours. The fact that you can actually stay in a place that provides an intimate encounter to artisan crafts, architecture and materials is noteworthy in itself. We highly recommend the Kyoto Moyashi House. If not for an extended stay, at least for one night to enjoy the hinoki cypress wood bathtub!
The above image is of Tadao Ando giving directions during the construction of one of his most iconic structures, Ibaraki Kasugaoka, otherwise known as Church of the Light. The photo is part of a collection of behind the scenes images that documents the building’s construction starting from the groundwork to the finished product. Since Church of the Light is one of my favorite buildings, it was a privilege to see these records first hand during a special occasion at their archives a few years ago.
I was reminded of these images recently because in many ways I feel like I’m witnessing the arrival of another Tadao Ando masterpiece, this time right in my own city with the soon to be completed residential building on 152 Elizabeth Street – the first official Tadao Ando building in New York.
Every day we pass by the construction site on the corner of Elizabeth and Kenmare on our way to work and get to slowly watch it rise. We saw the demolishing, the concrete being laid and now the framework is gradually coming up. It feels like the scenes from these archival images of Church of the Light from the 1980s are coming to life, only this time we get to see these scenes right before our very own eyes. It definitely seems like a pivotal moment in NYC’s architectural landscape, maybe comparable to how Osaka residents felt when Church of the Light was being constructed. Anyway, enjoy these rare images!
The Tajika Exhibition of scissors and shears is still going on for a couple more days but it’s been such a great show we wanted to give an early recap of the event this time around. In case something catches your eye, you still have a couple days to check out the exhibition in person or inquire over email. Takedown begins Friday evening (October 28th) and our gallery will go back to regular inventory starting Saturday morning.
On opening day Daisuke Tajika spent the afternoon helping us set up the show. Just a few moments before opening our doors for the evening, we dimmed the lights and Daisuke added last minute touches to the displays, which included over 80 pairs of scissors and shears! As the only items lit up, the scissors looked incredible in the recessed display shelves with light bouncing off the blades.
Once we opened, guests went straight for the sample scissors. We set up demo stations to give everyone a chance to try the scissors out for themselves. It’s one thing to read about what makes Tajika scissors special but another to actually feel them in your hands – the weight and tension, the sound as the blades perfectly snip through leather, paper or branches. It’s a wonderful sensation.
We couldn’t have been more excited to have Burrow cater the event. We’re huge fans of this Brooklyn based pastry café. Aside from the scissors of course, pastry chef Ayako Kurokawa’s scissor inspired, “super pointy” pies were another highlight of the night. So much so that Ayako’s assistant, Phoebe, couldn’t hold on to them for longer than a half hour. If you didn’t get a chance to try their pies at our show, check them out at their charming little café in DUMBO, or check out Ayako’s awesome instagram account here.
Daisuke also brought with him displays that showcased the work in progress of certain models of scissors. The displays depict various manufacturing stages, including assembly, forging and molding. Personally I liked the work in progress display of the Herb Shears that showed about 15 steps of the making process. Some of their more complex shears like their Kevlar scissors take up to 200 steps.
Another special addition was actually an item that belongs to Daisuke’s father, Takeo Tajika. Brought with him all the way from Ono City. The hammer is one of Takeo Tajika’s favorite tool that he uses everyday when working on the production of their collection. A self-made tool, the handle has been used for around five years. His fingers naturally create the grooves in the wood through continued usage. When the handle is completely split, he replaces it but continues to use the steel head that has been in his possession for decades.
The ‘Scissor Blade Inspection Machine’ was another interesting device. It is used to detect distortion in the blades alignment by the use of light that refracts against the scissors. Just one of the many machines invented by Takeo Tajika to solve their company’s various production issues ensuring the highest quality end result.
Opening night was a success! The next morning Daisuke came by to say his goodbyes and give each pair of scissors one last polishing. Seeing him care for the blades so carefully made me realize how truly dedicated he is to his craft.
We also took this opportunity to have him re-explain the scissor machine his dad invented. To be honest we still don’t understand how to use the machine very well! I’d imagine it takes many years of training for the eye to detect the ideal blade alignment.
The portrait above is of Daisuke Tajika. As one would expect, he has a heavy responsibility moving forward as the next in line to manage his family’s business. Although it’s a big task, after spending the week with Daisuke and getting to know him, everything about his heart, mind and creative spirit, has us confident that the next evolution of the Tajika studio is in good hands. We will miss him and cannot wait to meet again later in the year for another update.
Special thanks to Jacob and Ari for their help in the installation setup. To our friend Stefan Ayon for capturing photos during the opening reception and for being ‘on point’ with his scissor puns. Thank you also to the Tajika family’s friend, Noriyasu, for his wonderful translations the whole night. To Matthew Puntigam of Dandy Farmer for preparing the green touches and to Matthew Johnson for providing the black and white behind the scenes images that lined the walls of our gallery. Again a huge thanks goes out to Pablo Luis for the music and Ayako Kurokawa of Burrow for the pastries.
The Tajika scissors and shears collection will be available for a limited time after the exhibition and a selection will be made available online in a few weeks.