April, 2010

Japan: Show and tell

April 30th, 2010

Well we didn’t leave Japan empty handed. In our usual fashion we showed up at the airport with our suitcases over stuffed and some extra carry on luggage.

Everything is always colour coordinated! We also have that stack of books at the top left that will have to wait to be shared during another post.

One of the most exciting finds were a set of Ryuji Mitani spoons. I came to Tokyo looking for anything made by Mitani and with the help of Yumiko we found this wonderful set. He is one of the most famous contemporary artisans in all of Japan and his stuff is really hard to get your hands on since the production is so limited. We put the desert spoons to use last night when we ate a whole mini tub of ice cream.

From left: spice spoon, baby spoon, coffee spoon x2, desert spoon x2.

I wanted to find a similar tray to the one that Oji Masanori has on his website displaying his brass bottle openers. I found this beautiful tray at the Claska hotel shop by artisan Kazuhiro Yamaguchi. You can see all the little tool marks revealing that the piece was all done by hand.

On the left are our Muji finds: The most beautiful kitchen scale we’ve ever seen, a wonderful ceramic ladle holder, and black pen designed by Naoto Fukasawa. Fukasawa also designed the paper pen/glasses holder in the photo to the right. He designed the entire product range (SIWA), which we will be carrying at the store soon. The pencil/glasses case is made from the highest grade shoingami paper, it’s super strong and gets softer with use.

We found this quirky house shaped coffee scoop at Spiral.

We can’t leave out the wonderful gifts we received during our trip! We got a beautiful cherry butter case, and brass bottle opener from Oji Masanori and his family. The multi-useful textiles are from Makoto Koizumi when we visited his studio.

More great Claska buys on the left: A simple oak cutting board for cheese, and a beautiful ceramic cross by the artist ONZ. I had the shop keeper at the Claska right down her name, but I can’t seem to find the piece of paper! It’s a multi-use art piece that can be a spoon rest or paper weight.

The chopsticks on the right are like the ones we used at Oji Masanori’s home. We are excited to get our order of brass chopstick rests in so that we can put these to good use!

We found the Corona globe designed by Japan’s amazing design firm Nendo. Did you know the founder of Nendo, Oki Sato is from Toronto?

It was a pain traveling with it, but it’s the most stylish globe we’ve seen.

The two things Juli said she wanted to get when she went to Tokyo were a new purse and a new wallet. Check and check. She got her beautiful leather bag from the Petit_Ami pop-up shop. It’s a beautiful blend of canvas and buttery leather, with a hint of pink suede on the back. Plus lots of little pockets.

She also scored a super soft leather walled from Petit_Ami.

All in all, we got some nice, classic treasures from our trip!

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Untitled, Per Kristiansen

April 28th, 2010

Visit us at mjölk during the month of May to see Per Kristiansen’s photographic series, Untitled.

There is something beyond an edifying pleasure in the act of comparing, in the impulse to investigate and catalog the infinite ways any one thing can appear, its ‘mood’; its ‘feel’; as cast in the Mandelbrodian algorithms of nature. To really look closely at something, as a fly on the wall of the ceaseless changes that happen with or without our hand, is the search, however delusive, for its true form.

While you are at it, make it a date to The Junction and visit the 20+ venues who are also participating in the CONTACT Photography Festival (search Junction).

On Saturday, May 8 from 6-9pm there will be a public reception throughout the neighborhood, but we invite our loyal Kitka readers to the private reception from 9-11pm. If you would like to attend, we require you to RSVP to info[at]kitkadesigntoronto[dot]com.

We couldn’t do this alone. A warm and special thanks goes out to:

Richard Marazzi, for his design work.

The Go Lightly Jazz Band, for their great music.

Rekorderlig Berry Cider, for a great local cider.

Rekorderlig Cider, for a great local cider.

Warsteiner Beer, for supplying a fantastic beer.

Organized Crime Winery, for a champion Ontario wine.

The Junction BIA, for their support of the arts.

Last day in Tokyo

April 26th, 2010

So this is the last post of our trip to Japan (besides our show and tell)! The next day we would become time travelers, leaving Monday afternoon and arriving in Toronto late Monday afternoon 14 hours later, did we just blow your mind?! Anyway the day before we set off to find the Japanese Folk art museum. It was highly recommended to us by Yumiko from Fog Linen. We walked from our hotel and opted to take the scenic route through the neighborhoods, where we found some very beautiful modern homes.

We also passed a university with a cool glass classroom.

Here is the front of the Japanese folk art museum, which is actually the home where Sori Yanagi grew up. His father was a collector of antique pottery and the home was later transformed into a gallery displaying pieces from Yanagi’s personal collection. It also has an amazing gift shop. The museum was beautiful and we wish we could have taken some pictures of the interior to share with you.

There was a big pot with coy fish in the front yard.

Of course we had to do some last minute shopping before we left so on our way to meet with Liza and Henry for lunch we stopped off at Spiral again and on the first floor we were surprised to discover an interesting pop-up shop (this was perplexing because not even a week before it was a shop selling lovely women’s clothing, that Juli was actually interested in having another look at).

The store was called Petit_Ami, and was filled with beautiful handmade leather purses and accessories. We’ll have to have a little show and tell in the next post to show you what Juli ended up getting!

Isn’t that a ridiculously big bag?! They were really cute and asked if we would take a photo with them. Since Juli was the one with the camera, I ended up holding the large purse. Awkward!

From what we could gather from the limited English-Japanese exchange, the women working in the shop were also the designers of the collection. They took our photo and we took theirs.

We met up with our friends Liza and Henry at Aquavit, a very fancy Scandinavian restaurant. Lucky for us their lunch prices weren’t so bad.

The interior had an interesting mix of Japanese and Scandinavian influence, just how we like it.

We also found out where all the Dansk pepper mills have gone… they’re all in Japan!

Every single table had its very own. GAH! Unbelievable.

Not only was there a pepper mill on each table, they also used Jens Quistgaard trays for bread.

The starter: our favourite – pickled herring!

And the big finale: Swedish meatballs! Just thinking about them makes us salivate.

The next day we got on a train and headed to the airport. Before we left we stopped at the market and picked up some Maisen pork sandwiches that Wataru first introduced us to (we later realized that the restaurant is mentioned in the Tokyo Wallpaper city guide, but you can buy these little boxes of them from the food halls in department stores). They are a little piece of heaven and helped us through the terrible airplane food we were about to be fed…oh I miss these!

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April 22nd, 2010

On our second last day in Tokyo we visited Roppongi Midtown. Home to some of the best design shops in Tokyo including the Muji Concept store.

Of course Muji has to carry the most psychedelic lego sets we’ve ever seen. We should have totally grabbed one!

It was nice to see the Thonet inspired chair and table by Naoto Fukasawa.

There’s a beautiful window on the second floor peering out to a park.

The beautiful Saya store. Designed by Makoto Koizumi, it has a beautiful collection of designs from Koizumi, Sori Yanagi, Rikki Watanabe and Oji Masanori.

On our way to meet Wataru and Tatsuya for dinner we found “Canadian Spirits”. It was filled with maple syrup, Karim Rashid Umbra garbage cans and dream catchers. I wonder how Scandinavians feel when they visit our shop…

Wataru and his designer friend Tatsuya Maemura invited us over to his house for some Japanese soul food. They just kept calling it Japanese pizza, but we had our suspicions.

We walked down a beautiful cherry blossom lined and lantern lit street to get to Tatsuya’s home.

Wataru and Tatsuya got right to work.

the Japanese pizza started to resemble pancakes, the batter was made from grated sticky potato and cabbage.

Then you need to fry some pork and cover the potato pancake.

Crack an egg on the side. Then comes the tricky part…

flip the pancake over the egg.

Then add some Tonkatsu sauce and mayonnaise.

Finally sprinkle some fish flakes and seaweed and serve up some kind of delicious.

There’s something really nice about cooking and eating at the same table, it keeps everyone together and makes for good conversation.  And after eating a ridiculous amount of pancakes, they brought out some noodles.

After dinner Wataru got a call from his brother who needed a hand catching a mouse, kind of a surreal request but it made for a cool photograph of Tatsuya on a vintage Honda motorcycle. Spoiler alert *** the mouse was caught.

We ended our visit with a night cap at a street bar, where you can order drinks at the window and socialize in the street.

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Dinner with Oji Masanori

April 19th, 2010

We were very excited to meet one of our favourite designers Oji Masanori (Masanori is his first name). We arrived at Honancho station and met with Masanori’s friend and distributor Takaya. We took a very short walk and up a flight of stairs to Masanori’s home where we unlaced our boots and donned a pair of comfy slippers (that he of course designed).

We were welcomed by some amazing retro touches: a beautiful textural tile wall in the entrance and white and blue geometric tiles in the bathroom.

We were lucky to get permission to take some photos from around the home. Can you spot the mjolk business card?

Everything is neatly filed, managed with little drawings.

We really loved these brass hooks. We’re going to start carrying them at the store.

Before I came to Japan I was obsessing over an amazing artisan named Ryuji Mitani. I looked all over Tokyo for his work but couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked Yumiko from Fog Linen if she knew where to find any, and she took us to a small shop above a cafe that had a full set of handmade spoons by Mitani. Needless to say I bought the rest of their stock.

I took my new collection to dinner with us to share with Masanori. I was unaware of his own beautiful collection of spoons including the baby spoon by Mitani (Juli edit: they totally nerded out).

I can’t even put into words how beautiful Masanori’s chopstick rests are. This is how a set of three looks when they are put away. Nice enough to keep out on the table! We’ve already put in an order for the store, and for ourselves, as we picked up a couple of pairs of chopsticks to use at home.

We were presented with two glorious plates of sashimi.

It was so nice to see the brass knife stand it person, it was so substantial and you could really appreciate the unique quality of the brass.

The three different styles of chopstick rests. I can’t decide which is my favourite…

More plates of food starting coming out.

The asparagus with wrapped pork was a big hit.

It was so cool to see all the brass bottle openers out and ready for action.

Everyone got a chance to open up a bottle of Sapporo. (Takaya is on the left)

They all worked flawlessly. (Oji Masanori)

More wooden spoons!

I love this picture.

That is one GIANT bottle of sake! Our glasses were never empty. Sadly the bucket on the right is out of production (now being used as a toy box).

Masanori’s been holding out on us! We want the long handled broom!!

(left) Tsubomi wind chime. (right) an acrylic clock — one of Masanori’s first designs.

We couldn’t help but notice the oxidized brass knobs on all the cupboards. Inspiration?

Masanori’s son made a great drawing. I think Masanori is on the left since he is known for wearing white shirts.

Zombie attack!!!

It was so sad to leave. Thank you so much for your generous hospitality!

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Fog Linen

April 16th, 2010

Mmmmmmmmmm Donuts! It is Fika time and these donuts are making us salivate.

We didn’t know how long Meguro main street was when we first visited, so we had to return again to make it to the Claska hotel and other design shops. We stumbled across this indoor/outdoor donut cafe called “Hara Donuts”

The interior was really cute, and we love  niche shops that are very good at one thing. If this place was in Toronto there would be lines around the block.

Only 15 minutes after stuffing our faces with donuts, we decided it was lunch time and had a seat at the Claska’s beautiful cafe.

We weren’t that hungry so we ordered the minestrone soup, which wasn’t really minestrone soup at all… But still very delicious.

We also stopped at “Do” the Claska shop, which has a collection of beautiful design objects. Needless to say, we spent some money here.

We were very excited to visit the Fog Linen shop, which was a bit of a hike from the Claska hotel.

The arrangements and displays were beautiful. (We made an order for that very linen purse, btw).

We also got a chance to see all of the different linen patterns in person. Now it is even harder to make a decision, because everything is lovely.

There’s the founder and owner of Fog Linen Yumiko Sekine on the right, who would later make our night! The cat in the Polaroids is her cat!

We mentioned that there were a lot of design shops that we just couldn’t find, and not enough days left to look for them all. Yumiko offered to drive us around Tokyo and show us some of her favorite haunts and we got a chance to check off many stores from our list including the Scandinavian/Japanese hybrid Cinq design. Which we would have never found since it’s on the 5th floor of a building.

These Tokyo underground parking lots have an electronic rotating lazy susan (for your car) that feels very James Bondish.

Here’s Cho lon, a shop that we made 2 attempts at finding! But never did until Yumiko showed us.

Juli felt compelled to take a photo of this apartment complex. Yumiko later mentioned that the building is haunted by ghosts. Do you see any?

Our hunger lead us to a Korean barbecue restaurant in Yumiko’s neighborhood. We got to take our shoes off and wear slippers which is always a fun novelty for us.

Yumiko was such an amazing host for the night, we are very grateful!

Hot coals.

The food was AMAZING, it was easily the best Korean BBQ we’ve ever had! Anyone know of any good ones in Toronto? I’m feeling a craving…

Our favourite, bibm bahb!

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