Japan House London Opens on 22 June 2018
• Japan House London has revitalised an Art Deco building on Kensington High Street to become a new home for Japanese creativity, invention and business
in the UK
• Spread over three floors, Japan House London offers a temporary exhibition gallery, events space, library, retail offer, and Japanese restaurant
• The Gallery space premieres SOU FUJIMOTO: FUTURES OF THE FUTURE
in collaboration with Tokyo’s TOTO GALLERY • MA, exhibiting the work of one of Japan’s greatest contemporary architects for the first time in the UK
• A retail floor entices visitors with Japanese art, design and technology ranging from homewares and accessories through to fashion and stationery
• A Japanese restaurant created by chef Shizimu Akira offers guests a truly immersive encounter with Japanese food culture – a new offering to London’s food scene
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00.01AM GMT 21 JUNE 2018, LONDON: Japan House will open to the public tomorrow on 22 June 2018. It will be a new, London home for Japanese creativity and innovation.
Japan House London provides authentic and surprising encounters with the very best in art, design, gastronomy, innovation and technology, allowing visitors a deeper appreciation of Japanese culture.
Through a wide-ranging programme, Japan House London shines a spotlight on the artisans, craftsmen, designers, performers, musicians and other creatives who are making waves in Japan and around the world – from internationally renowned individuals to emerging artists who are excelling in their field.
Some of the best creative minds in Japan are working on the project and almost every aspect of Japan House London is derived “from source” in Japan; from its interior design features, to the exhibitions and events, and authentic retail products sourced from across Japan.
For opening day, Friday 22 June, pioneering flower artist and botanical sculptor Azuma Makoto has created a version of Flower Messenger especially for the streets of London. Inspired by flower sellers during Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867), Flower Messenger will comprise a troupe of thirty flower messengers visiting Kensington’s cultural institutions, including the Design Museum, the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall and the Serpentine Gallery, on foot to meet their neighbours. Along the way they will greet passers-by and present them with flowers. The flower messengers will be carrying baskets of elaborate flower displays and wearing uniforms inspired by what was worn by Edo period flower sellers, but revamped for the 21st century in denim by clothing makers Dairec Inc, who are based in Japan’s denim and clothing manufacturing capital, Kojima in Okayama Prefecture. For the Japan House São Paulo opening Azuma Makoto had thirty flower messengers cycle around the city gifting flowers for the thirty days before opening.
Azuma Makoto will also be creating a flower installation for Japan House London’s opening. Visitors to Japan House will be able to see it from Friday 22 June until Sunday 24 June.
Tsuruoka Koji, Ambassador of Japan said:
“As one of the world’s greatest and most vibrant cities, London was the natural choice to join São Paulo and Los Angeles for Europe’s Japan House. Londoners and visitors alike will enjoy a diverse offering of retail, cuisine, exhibitions and events in a stunning venue nestled in Kensington High Street. As the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games draw the world’s attention, I hope that this ground-breaking venture will provide a new opportunity for Britons to encounter Japan, thus serving to further enhance the friendship between our two countries and peoples.”
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“The Japanese community in London makes a huge contribution, both economically and culturally, to the capital. I’m delighted that Japan House is opening in London - it is a window on Japanese culture in the lead up to what will no doubt be a spectacular Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. I hope that Londoners and visitors alike enjoy this unique slice of Japanese culture in Kensington.”
Hara Kenya, Chief Creative Director of the global Japan House project
“Our uncompromising approach to bringing true authenticity to Japan Houses around the world will offer a surprise to even the most knowledgeable guests. From already internationally renowned individuals through to emerging artists excelling in their fields, Japan House London will present the very best in what Japan has to offer.”
Katayama Masamichi, Principal of Wonderwall and prominent Japanese interior designer said:
"This project gave me great pleasure and an opportunity to relearn, revisit and revaluate Japan's aesthetics and the mindset of our people. I wanted to create a purposeful and meaningful space which can be a stage and provide a spotlight to the very broad and creative programme on offer at Japan House London."
Michael Houlihan, Director General of Japan House London said:
“London has long been a crossroads for our World’s cultures, ideas, and trade. From June, Japan will have a special place where its voice can be heard and its stories can enrich this exceptional fabric of openness and understanding.”
Cllr Gerard Hargreaves, Kensington and Chelsea Council’s Lead Member for Communities and Culture said:
“Our borough is an international borough home to many nationalities and world famous for its cultural and retail attractions. I’m delighted that it is now home to Japan House. Our connections with Japan are evident already, we have the beautiful Kyoto Gardens nearby in Holland Park, we are looking forward to the opportunities this creates to further develop close business, cultural and educational links.”
Azuma Makoto, Flower artist and botanical sculptor said:
“Through the act of delivering flowers, I want Flower Messenger to share as much joy as possible with as many people as possible to spread as much happiness as we can from Japan House London’s opening.
In São Paulo the Flower Messengers rode bicycles around the streets while distributing flowers to people, in London the Messengers will walk leisurely through the city’s streets and green spaces.
My installation at Japan House comprises ‘Welcoming Flowers’, I believe that the beautiful flowers will express the joy and gratitude of the opening and the Japanese omotenashi hospitality that Japan House will offer.”
Temporary exhibition gallery & events space
On the lower ground floor, guests to Japan House will find an exhibition gallery, events space and library, dedicated to providing an authentic encounter with Japan via a calendar of regular changing themes.
SOU FUJIMOTO: FUTURES OF THE FUTURE (22 June – 5 August 2018)
The opening exhibition is SOU FUJIMOTO: FUTURES OF THE FUTURE in collaboration with Tokyo’s TOTO GALLERY• MA. Seen for the first time in the UK, the exhibition explores the innovative works of one of Japan’s most influential contemporary architects, Fujimoto Sousuke. Linking to the London Festival of Architecture, it will present Fujimoto’s philosophical and sustainable approach to architecture, looking at current projects but also his experiments for the future.
In addition, Fujimoto also presents Architecture is Everywhere which illustrates the concept of discovering architecture within the forms of everyday objects and the serendipity of finding numerous possibilities for new architecture.
The Biology of Metal: Metal Craftsmanship in Tsubame Sanjo (September – October 2018)
Opening on 5 September will be The Biology of Metal: Metal Craftsmanship in Tsubame Sanjo; Tsubame Sanjo is an area in the northern Japanese prefecture of Niigata. It is known for the precision and skill of the craftspeople from its numerous small metalworking factories and workshops manufacturing a huge variety of products. It produces the majority of all of present-day Japan’s cutlery, its businesses have developed the ultra fine metal-polishing techniques used in the creation of Apple’s iPod and the area boasts a centuries-old ‘Living National Treasure’ copperware manufacturing tradition.
This is the only area in Japan to produce all cutting tools, numbering over 60 kinds, used in the creation of bonsai. It produces specialized knives of all shapes and sizes for all manner of uses such as for preparing squid or tuna, for opening oysters or crabs, or for cutting lettuce, onions or honeycombs. For the domestic and international market, it produces precision machine parts, pincers, scissors, chisels, kitchenware, axes, trowels, stylish outdoor camping goods and finely crafted drinking vessels for the region’s famous sake.
Following on from this will be Subtle: Takeo Paper Show (November - December 2018); and Prototyping in Tokyo (January - February 2019).
New insights to appreciating books
The Library at Japan House offers a new approach to appreciate and engage with books through bookshelf exhibitions curated by Haba Yoshitaka of BACH. A book specialist in Japan, BACH is revolutionizing the way books are displayed and curated and has helped bookstores in Japan successfully champion paper books in the digital era.
Through his original approach to presenting books Haba aims to create environments that will inspire people to pick up books they may not usually come across. ‘If people can be triggered to even open the first page, they might be surprised by what they could discover,’ explained Haba Yoshitaka.
The first Japan House Library book display will be themed around the nature of Japan (June – September), featuring original photographs by leading Japanese photographer, Suzuki Risaku. Artworks and design products will be exhibited along with photo albums, vintage books, paintings, novels, poetry and picture books. In the autumn (September - November), the library display will be themed around Japan’s mingei folk art movement that developed from the late 1920s.
Beauty & attention to detail
Japan House London appointed Katayama Masamichi, Principal of Wonderwall and prominent Japanese interior designer, to create a space that would embody the aesthetic and notional concepts that Japan House is based on.
Katayama's spatial concept is based on the tokonoma, an empty, raised alcove in a Japanese home where guests can admire displays of art such as a hanging scroll (kakemono) or seasonal flowers (ikebana). The centre of attention is not the design, but rather what occurs in that space. Katayama's intention is for Japan House to be a tokonoma in London for the authentic presentation of Japanese aesthetics.
His meticulous design for the ground floor and lower floor is a conscious reflection of the emptiness of the tokonoma, which allows Japan House to become a focal point for the diverse range of activities that it hosts.
The Shop at Japan House - a cultural retail experience
The Shop at Japan House blurs the concept between shop and gallery. It introduces Japanese products: the artisans and designers who make them, and the history and social context of how they developed and are used.
Upon entering Japan House guests dive into the cultural retail experience that encompasses the entire ground floor. At the core of the curation is the highly regarded monozukuri philosophy - literally meaning the art of making things - it is a pursuit rooted in Japan’s history; a commitment to produce excellent products and constantly improve the system of production - from one-of-a-kind handmade craft through to large-scale manufacturing.
The Shop presents a carefully edited inventory of Japanese products ranging from crafts and design goods through to cutting-edge technology, including high-quality stationery such as washi, Japanese paper; kitchen and tableware made by skilled Japanese artisans; accessories; bathwear and beauty products; architecture-related goods to compliment the opening exhibition; and a book collection curated by BACH. Each product has a story to tell, introducing the cultures of Japan, and what makes it such a captivating nation.
The Ground Floor also features The Stand, a drinks and snack bar serving take-away Nel Drip coffee, authentic Japanese teas and Japanese and Japan-inspired snacks. Nel Drip coffee is made using the pour-over method, filtered through a nel brewer; ‘nel’ being short for a flannel, cloth filter. The flannel filter brews a smooth, rich, less acidic coffee. Japan House looks forward to introducing this particular style to London.
Travel to Japan
Tourism to Japan has been booming with UK visitor numbers surpassing 300,000 for the first time in 2017. Interest in travel to the country is forecast to grow even more over the coming years with Japan set to host the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. The Ground Floor will have a travel information area staffed by the Japan National Tourism Organization offering free travel advice and a range of inspiring books about travel in Japan.
Akira at Japan House – robatayaki & sushi
On the first floor, is a new restaurant created by, and bearing the name of, Japanese chef Shimizu Akira. The restaurant, Akira, offers an authentic Japanese dining experience based on Chef Akira’s trinity of cooking principles – food, tableware and presentation. Akira, who is no stranger to the London gastronomic circuit, having opened some of the UK’s most highly regarded Japanese restaurants, has big ambitions for the restaurant and is striving to create “an innovative Japanese restaurant like no other ever-before-seen in London”.
Guests are immersed in Japanese-style omotenashi hospitality and experience the theatre of cooking as chefs prepare dishes reflecting Japan’s surprisingly diverse food offer, using seasonal ingredients over roaring robata (charcoal grill) flames. Highlights of the menu include imaginative sushi specialities and chargrilled kushiyaki skewers made from umami-rich wagyu beef, pork, chicken, seafood and vegetables. The Japanese staple of rice is prepared in a donabe, clay pot, a process of cooking, which dates back to pre-electricity days and gives the rice a deliciously nuanced flavour. The dining experience is complemented by serving dishes Akira has sourced from artisans across Japan and drinks in fine Japanese glassware. Guests can also enjoy original cocktails made using Japanese ingredients including sake, shochu, yuzu and shiso.
In the restaurant, the Japan House London interior designer, Katayama Masamichi has incorporated his interpretation of a specifically Japanese sense of place and home - the concept of the doma. The doma is a space that sits between indoors and outdoors in a Japanese house and has various purposes. Part kitchen, it is also a social space where family, friends and neighbours gather together.
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