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Hey, we went to Japan (again)!

Posted at 7:49 am in Travel


A few weeks ago we headed to Japan for a whirlwind trip to gather content for volume 3 of our book and to visit with friends. First stop was a day in Kyoto. It’s kind of embarrassing but we’ve been to Kyoto twice and still haven’t visited a temple or garden. I demanded that next trip we make it a priority. But this time we had another agenda – glass artist Kazumi Tsuji traveled in to say hello and to introduce us to another artist. We have an exhibition with Kazumi on May 30th.

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A cute sweets shop, and playing ball at sunset in a back street.


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As many East coasters can relate, we were desperate for a hit of spring.


John was obsessed with the potted trees. We wandered through Gion over to Pontocho to find some dinner. We ended up at a Japanese bbq joint where we grilled some amazing marbled beef. I am sparing the vegan/vegetarians from the obligatory gross raw meat photo. You all know what it looks like!

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After a wonderful stop in Tajimi to visit Masanobu Ando, we headed over to Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture. We were treated to an incredible cold soba lunch, to which we realize we have never truly had soba before. Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the place but it’s renown and the outside looks like ^^


The space is so simple and calm, just three tables. The owner, pictured, does it all.




Love the plant.


The pottery has been used for 20+ years and has a beautiful patina. It’s the kind of thing that needs special care, like hand washing, but creates such an integral experience.


The owner made the indigo textile rug draped over the Tsuitate in the front entrance. She does it as a hobby! Next door there is a nice antique shop with plenty of indigo pieces but we didn’t have time or cash (we always forget how Japan is still quite the cash society).



We stopped in for a coffee and cheese toast at the famous Cafe Marumo. The cafe is designed by the founder of the Satsuma-Mingei-Furniture movement, and it was the local hang out for philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, and other famous Japanese writers. The cafe opened in 1956 and is a part of a Ryokan (Japanese style Hotel), but you can just visit the cafe on its own.

3-3-10 Chuo, Matsumoto-city
8.00 – 18.00 (open 7 days a week)





End of the cherry blossoms, but still photo worthy I guess!


Matsumoto castle.


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We stopped in at a beautiful shop / cafe called Laboratorio. There is also an Arts & Science store on the first floor of the building.


A beautiful vintage book shop.



We stayed in Asama Onsen at a ryokan.  Usually we stay in the super mod ones, but this was our first classic ryokan experience. It actually took awhile to relax, though we desperately needed it. After a bath and dinner served in our room, we passed out at 8pm! The other plus was all of our meals were included, and since we usually stay at modern ryokans we got really used to the gastronomy Kaiseki experience which we weren’t enthusiastic about. Here the kaiseki was more approachable, still delicate and beautiful but everything just tasted delicious.


By the time we returned to Tokyo I was over carrying my camera around! We met up with Masanori Oji and Taku for izakaya.


A platter of sashimi and sea urchin. So delicious!

We’re looking forward to sharing some more photos with you this week!


Filed under: Travel | 12 comments

New works by Tomiyama Koichi and Masanobu Ando

Posted at 4:50 pm in Mjölk


I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying a nice relaxing end of the year holiday. We’ve had a busy season entertaining Christmas shoppers, moving back upstairs, unpacking into our new home, and providing the finishing arrangements for our most ambitious exhibition yet.

Although everything moved relatively smoothly for our holiday shoppers, there were a couple of parcels that didn’t make it in time for the rush. Now that they’re here, it might be for the best as it freshened up the showroom, and saved us from frantically placing new orders to re-stock our shelves.

As mentioned in the Post name, we have a new collection of goods by wood artisan Tomiyama Koichi, and ceramicist Masanobu Ando. Interestingly enough, the packages arrived together and their contents would satisfy even the pickiest coffee connoisseur.

So I present to you Mjolk’s obsessive coffee drinker collection!


Top left: Coffee trough – hand carved from a single block of chestnut wood, it is incredible to see in person ($150).

Top right: Star coffee dripper – the perfect dripper for “pour over” style coffee ($80).

Bottom right: Coffee scoop. The scoop is made from chestnut and the handle is made from aluminum that Koich-san reclaims and hammers into shape ($65).

It’s not hard to believe that we own the set already, so in case you didn’t know what a coffee trough was or a dripper here is how we use our coffee gear:


Here’s our coffee scoop which started it’s life as the pale chestnut in the above photo. The coffee stains the wood a nice walnut colour over time.


This jar was a collaboration between glass artist Kazumi Tsuji (who we represent in the store) and wood artisan Ryuji Mitani.


After the coffee beans are ground, they are transferred to the coffee trough.


This allows the grounds to be added to the dripper neatly. A little tip to keep the paper filter attached to the ends of the dripper and to prevent the paper from breaking is to wet the paper before you add the grounds. This removes the paper taste and warms your mug up for you – always remember to remove the water before making your coffee.





We received a handful of these tiny beautiful milk pitchers by Mr. Ando ($50). I’m so sorry we have already sold out of the Masanobu Ando mug!


A silver glazed ceramic platter by Masanobu Ando ($140) with a specially made wood spreader by Tomiyama Koichi ($38).


Our dining table, chairs, and a nice little coffee break.


Finally a new addition is this hand tooled Japanese walnut tray made by Tomiyama Koichi ($340). The depth is created by gouging the tray with a chisel, the edges are softened but retain their square shape.

Glasses above by Tsuji Kazumi available for $85.

Please note that these works are limited and unique so they might not be added to the Mjolk web shop,  please contact us for availability.

Filed under: Mjölk | 11 comments

Photos from Junction Design Crawl 2012

Posted at 2:52 pm in Mjölk,The Junction


Last night was the 2nd Junction Design Crawl, and it was such a nice surprise to see so many familiar faces. Thank you to everyone who came out to explore the Junction and all of its unique businesses.

Our event was the tardy launch of Mjolk book volume 1. We had a bunch of special goodies on hand from Iceland and Hokkaido for people to buy as well as highlighting the makers and designers featured in our first volume.


The wrapwrap by Naoto Yoshida, the wood business card case by Masakage Tanno, and a very special hand carved Ainu bear from Hokkaido.

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Kami cups, Pia Wallen and Iris Hantverk.


An Iba Takahito stool was on hand with our book – bookmarked to the page with an article on him.


This Ainu bear is perhaps the nicest one we have come across, it was kind of heart wrenching to see it go, but we know it went to a good home!


Something we were specifically excited about: all of the small Icelandic goodies we imported.


Opal and Topas candies, as well as Icelandic hot dog mustard.


Very cool wild herbs.


One of my favorite things in the world is show and tell. We thought it would be neat to display some things from our own personal collection, items we’ve picked up during our travels that continue to inspire us.

Many of the works are by artists we admire, or items that lead us to carrying a specific artist in our store.



Some wood spoons by Ryuji Mitani, and ceramic spoons by Nathalie Lahdenmaki.

On the left a plastic box, cherry wood cooking shovel, and box of air by Masanobu Ando.


A mix of objects including a copper Tapio Wirkkala bowl, Lisa Larsson fox, hand carved wood fox from Asahikawa, Japanese lacquer coated kin tea light holders by CKR.



We were so busy that we didn’t really have much of an opportunity to visit all of the shops in the neighborhood! This is just a sampling, but I’m sure there will be a lot of photos on the Design Crawl blog shortly, so stay tuned.

Mason’s beautiful cup light installation and harpist in the train platform across the street.




Russet & Empire and Phillipa C‘s picture booth.




Articulations front window – there was more inside but it was too busy to get a quick peek (same for Opticianado). Sadly never made it over to Narwhal or Telephone Booth Gallery. Hopefully their exhibits will be up for a little bit longer!

Until next year……


Filed under: Mjölk,The Junction | 1 comment

Ando Masanobu Opening party

Posted at 10:25 pm in General,Mjölk


Now as promised, some photos of the opening night of Ando Masanobu’s first solo show in North America: “Kita Wou Omou Utsuwa”.


Our black library was emptied out to show off the collection of white ceramics. These was the section of multiples people could actually take off the shelf to take home with them.



The exterior banner.



A collection of coffee cups, and coffee drippers, some of the most popular items of the evening.


One of the special things we did for the exhibition to keep to the nordic theme was make glögg.


It made the whole place smell amazing. Thanks to Lauren who put it together for us!


Ando-san’s ceramics (a part of our personal collection) make perfect serving dishes for the almonds and raisins to add to the glögg.


Box of Air sculptures. Flowers by Coriander Girl.


During the early evening local artist Tomori Nagamoto brought over some tea ceremony tools so Mr. Ando could perform a traditional tea ceremony for the opening of the exhibition. We were invited to be the guests for the first two cups.


The tea ceremony itself is a beautiful ritual. in the beginning Mr. Ando serves the guests some sugar.


He then cleans the drinking vessel with hot water and discards this water in a bowl, and wipes the cup with a clean cloth.



The green tea is added and whisked together with the hot water. The cup is carefully inspected before handing the cup over to the guest.



After we finished our tea, Mr. Ando invited other guests to take part in the ceremony.


Whisking the green tea.









A big thank you to Takeya Daisuke, my brother Frank, and Lauren for helping put together the exhibition.

Thanks again to Coriander Girl for providing our flowers, and Easton’s for putting together our delicious spread of charcuterie.

Thank you to all of the people that came out to visit the exhibition Thursday night and came the next day on Friday for the public opening.

Last and most importantly, thank you to Ando Masanobu for traveling all the way to Toronto to attend the exhibition, and for allowing us to share his beautiful works with our customers.

Filed under: General,Mjölk | 2 comments

Ando Masanobu opening

Posted at 3:43 pm in General,Mjölk



On Wednesday we drove to the airport with artist (and translator for the week) Takeya Daisuke to pick up Mr. Ando. The next day we emptied the first half of the store and carried in a huge 4″ thick Douglas Fir slab bench we had SMASH make for the exhibition. The bench is inspired by the long wood planks we saw at Ando Masanobu’s studio that he uses to display his work.


We really love the display bench, it might have to stick around after the exhibition. It just displays ceramics so nicely.


Let’s take you through some of the objects featured:


From left: a large colander, medium colander, and a soap dish.


The special art piece made for the exhibition is “a box of air”. Inspired by the volume within the Japanese bedroom, it allows the user to recreate this sacred space by placing a small stone or flower in the middle of the square.


A unique glazed bowl.


A ceramic pitcher inspired by antique enamelware.


Magnesium, copper, and bronze coated ovenware makes these pieces appear as if they are rusted cast iron.


A dinner plate, soup bowl, and renge soup spoon.


Two ceramic coffee drippers, for pour over coffee.


A cream pitcher and milk pitcher


Renge soup spoons, so beautiful.


A single stem ceramic wall vase.


The front riser features the set of flower dishes and a silver coated ceramic dish.

There are some works still available, so if you live in Toronto please visit us while the exhibition is still running over the next week. We’ll have some photos of the opening party with Mr. Ando in the next day or two, so stay tuned!

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Masanobu Ando solo exhibition at Mjölk

Posted at 9:00 pm in Mjölk

Join us next Thursday for a solo exhibition of Japanese ceramicist Masanobu Ando

“Kita wo omou utsuwa”

A study of crockery and its relationship to everyday life in the north.

Masanobu Ando will be here at the store for the opening reception Thursday night between 7 – 10pm. We’ll be serving Glögg, and a selection of cheese and charcuterie.

We hope to see you there!


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