April, 2010


April 14th, 2010

Ok, we are HOME. But before we get back to business, there are still days left of Japan to cover! There was so much to think about before leaving, that I forgot that my laptop didn’t have a good photo editing program so it made it really hard to work on posts on the road. So onward to crazy spa weekend!

Since this was a working holiday, and Tokyo is quite a frenetic place, we decided to splurge on a little romantic rendezvous near Nagano. We found the Hoshinoya spa via an article in Monocle Magazine on its sister hotel in Kyoto. The main building, pictured above, was dark and designy with a copper artichoke light on top. The Kasuke restaurant is on the left.

PH Contrast lights and dark stained (or burned?) wood.

When we were brought to our room, we were served Japanese tea and cherry blossom bean pastries.

My fixed lens couldn’t properly account for all the space in our room. It was HUGE! On the bed are our yukatas, fleece jacket for night time and socks to be worn with the slippers.

John’s dream come true, a hinoki tub! Just as cool, with the flip of a switch, it fills with temperature perfect water.

On the second day, our herbs in a bucket were replaced by Shinshu apples, a regional fruit. Meant for putting in the bath, we ate them instead. They were the biggest apples I have ever seen in my life. And tasty.

We love Japan for their delineation between indoor and outdoor shoes. We used these to hobble around the grounds. You should have seen John in his yukata…at one point a hotel staffer chased us down to tell John he could get him a larger yukata, so that his hairy legs and socks wouldn’t be so visible (of course, he didn’t say it in so many words).

Yukata! At first we were the only ones walking around in these particularly noticeable checkered numbers (most Japanese chose the two piece outfit) so we weren’t even sure if they were for public consumption. Before dinner we lurked in the library sussing out the scene, and as soon as we saw others in their yukatas, we knew it was safe to wear them to dinner.

Whilst in the library, I liked how they used blocks of wood to fill out the shelf. They also had some great design books on Alvar Aalto and Makoto Koizumi. And free tea/coffee and amazing candied fries. Maybe it spoiled our appetite a bit…

Off to our crazy traditional Japanese dinner. The place looks beautiful all lit up at night. Click to see the rest!

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Number A

April 9th, 2010

We heard about a new cafe called “Number A” and were intrigued when we found out their specialty was pancakes. Of course pancakes in Tokyo rarely means breakfast, so after an attempt at 10am to get some brunch (they weren’t even open yet) we had to suck it up and wait until the middle of the afternoon to get some.

The pancakes came with butter, maple syrup, and a good helping of whipped cream. It was delicious.

After lunch we had a meeting at the +-0 showroom. The line, designed by Naoto Fukasawa, is a collection of beautiful objects that are designed “without thought” the idea that anyone can use these objects just by seeing and holding them. We’ve been fighting to bring this line to North America, and it seems that our efforts may pay off. You might even see some +-0 products at Mjolk next month!

We already have the calculator on the left but it was interesting to find out at the showroom that Naoto Fukasawa actually designed the typeface!

We visited the shopping center Omotesando Hills, designed by famous architect Tadao Ando. There are a lot of swanky shops and restaurants including a Scandinavian shop and Japanese wood craft boutique worth visiting.

We stumbled on a very out of place but beautiful shrine near Omotesando.

One thing you have to do in Tokyo is wander aimlessly through the streets. If you do, you are rewarded with really unique boutique shops. This one is near our hotel and Shibuya station, but in a really weird place. The store is Desperado (Shibuya SaKuragaoka Bldg. 1F, 4-23 Sakuragaokacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0031 Phone: work03-5459-5505) and it’s filled with women’s clothing and accessories by artists. Juli picked up a dress by Japanese collective Spoken Word Project.

There are also tons of cool culture magazines and books available, so we picked up one called Shibuya Cafe. It has all the local cafes listed, along with pages filled with photos of cafe chairs, tables, food and other randomness. We stopped in one called Pile (near Desperado) and had the lunch special (these are a good deal) and had to order some cafe lattes because of the cute pictures they draw in the foam.

We loved the nice white ceramic sugar bowl paired with a wooden spoon.

We are so behind with posting, that even though we’ll be home on Monday, we still have to cover our visit to the onsen, meeting Yukiko from Fog Linen, dinner at Oji Masanori’s house and whatever other fun stuff we get up to these next few days…

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Meeting, noodles, house partay!

April 7th, 2010

We started the new day with a visit to Wataru Kumano’s studio in Nishi-Koyama. It was nice to get away from the ridiculously busy Shibuya. Plus we stumbled across a beautiful mint condition Volkswagen van.

Wataru Kumano is an up-and-coming designer and graduate from the University of Art and Design Helsinki. He has already created a lot of buzz with his PINS chair and table (above) and Oslo coat stand.

We actually got a chance to sit and have coffee at the PINS table. The construction and finish was just beautiful and the chairs were solid yet light as a feather.

The coat stand is made of solid birch and aluminum. We are hoping to sell this in the mjölk shop.

We had recently read about a Soba noodle shop in Meguro designed by architect firm Issho so we were happy to stumble across it. We kind of assumed from the edgy facade that the people who owned the noodle shop were really young and hip, but the noodle shop was pleasantly closer to a Mom and Pop operation.

The interior was made from birch wood and concrete.

The ceiling had an interesting wave detail.

Chicken and noodles.

Tempura and noodles.

We also came across a beautiful home near the noodle shop.

Wataru met up with us later and brought us to a Tokyo house party! The idea of renting a house and splitting rent with a few people isn’t common in Japan, and for that reason there aren’t many house parties around so we were very lucky to be invited to one.

We decided to bring some maple candies but everyone popped them in their mouths like a piece of Sushi and I’m sure the sugar was a bit much for the more subtle Japanese palate.

On the left is Wataru. The right dressed in a celebration robe is Yoshi, and this party was his Sayanora party.

The most complacent cat that ever walked the earth. Named “Maybe”, she was passed around from guest to guest where she contentedly hung out like a baby in its mother’s arms. Totally the opposite of Isha’s annoyed meow if you even look at her like you’re going to pick her up.

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Let the epic eating begin.

April 6th, 2010

We met up with an old friend for dinner. I first met Liza while in Stockholm about three or four years ago and then she came to visit in Toronto to do an interview for English teaching in Japan. I have been meaning to visit since.

Liza and Henry brought us to a terrific seafood restaurant, Kaikaya (make a reservation!). Thankfully they just ordered some sort of 10 course meal deal that we all shared.

Henry had to grate the wasabi.

Fall off the bone tuna.

Not the last time we will encounter fish heads for consumption.

A steaming pile of mushrooms.

Cherry Blossom ice cream.

Carnage. And this series of photos was even missing a plate.

It’s not an evening out without a drink and a view of the Tokyo skyline.

And of course some crazy fun time photos. I need to buy myself one of these machines, because it’s the only way to get a photogenic picture out of me.

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Meetings, cherry blossoms and malt whiskey.

April 3rd, 2010

Our first appointment on our trip was at Makoto Koizumi’s studio, located about 40 minutes outside of Shibuya. We already carry a few of Koizumi’s designs including a set of enamel cooking pots, and a wooden Daruma Otoshi. We wanted to visit and see the rest of his designs first hand.

The studio’s hallway is clad with cedar and you had to stoop to walk through it.

We were served tea on fabric coasters made from antique Japanese denim.

We also had to take our shoes off when we entered the studio, but there were two pairs of leather slippers waiting for us.

Chairs, table and wooden objects on the table all designed by Koizumi. He also has a collection of ceramic antique lights like the one pictured – it’s on a pulley system so you can bring it closer to the table if needed.

We really loved this set of wooden chopstick rests. All the little pieces fit into the container in clever ways.

We left the studio and walked along the boulevard lined with cherry blossoms as far as the eye could see.

Juli purchased an antique Kimono type shirt for only 8 bucks! We joked and said that it was probably XL and too big for everyone there so the price was drastically reduced.

Our next meeting was at the Maruni showroom.

We got to see and sit on the brand new Naoto Fukasawa dining chair, which will be available for purchase very soon!

We also got to see a new product from Nendo. A magnetic shoehorn.

We made an order for the Hiroshima sofa and credenza a while back and it should be arriving about the same time as our arrival back to Toronto.

We got a recommendation to go to a Japanese malt bar near Omote-sando station.

All the tables were live edge walnut and the chairs were very Nakashima inspired.

Rare beef.

Mushroom and crab salad.

Simmered seafood.

Crab in butter rice.

And of course, garlic frites.

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Tokyo a go go!

April 1st, 2010

It’s taken us a few days to acclimatize to the change in time. Our flight was good (I watched like 5 movies and am now a fan of Glee), and it was super easy getting to Shibuya station from the airport. Hindsvik recommended the Shibuya Granbell Hotel which turned out to be a perfect choice, being so close to Shibuya station, as well as in the centre of everything. Plus the neighborhood has a lot of cute places to eat, though finding an English menu, or one that isn’t purely in Japanese script is nearly impossible, making eating a bit of a stressful endeavor. Bonus: our little neck of the woods has a lovely bunch of cherry blossom trees around, which they light up with spotlights at night.

We got the Juli sightings out of the way pretty quickly at Loft.

Never gets old…

Shibuya Scramble 1.

Shibuya Scramble 2.

All dolled up.

On our first full day we wandered around the streets of Shibuya (noisy!), met my friend Liza for lunch at Frames, and then wandered around the Daikanyama neighborhood looking for a couple of shops that we didn’t find until we stopped looking. In the photos above, just a couple of cool spaces, the one on the left being for rent (what a nice shop that would be!).

This post is basically to tell you all that we made it safe and sound and the next post has a few design treats!

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