diamond geezer

 Tuesday, July 03, 2018

One way of showcasing your country to the world is to open a cultural hub. A place to nurture a deeper understanding and appreciation of your nation in the international community, a focus of enrichment to communicate your countless charms to the rest of the world. That's what Japan have done with a trio of hubs across three continents, one in Los Angeles, one in Sao Paulo and one on Kensington High Street. Turn right out of the tube station... M&S, H&M, Japan House.
Each hub features an exhibition space, a multi-purpose space with theater facilities, a retail space, food and drink, books, online connectivity, and a cafe space. The project merges together these functions, and the activities they enable, to introduce a variety of themes, in detail and with substance: the future of tradition, the passion of popular culture, the power of advanced technology, and the diverse appeal of Japanese food. Activities are designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, including those with no previous interest in Japan.
Japan House isn't a new building, rather a beautifully-converted shop. Until recently it was a Gap, and if you go way back, the corner of Derry & Toms. What it reminded me of was a small Apple store - open plan, tables of product, white and black decor, and a sleek spiral staircase corkscrewing down the centre. It's free to enter. The doorman is unfailingly polite. The counter immediately inside the entrance sells matcha tea. You'd expect nothing less.

Beyond the caff (and the comfy chairs), the rear half of the ground floor forms the shop. It's stocked not with Hello Kitty t-shirts but a curated collection of design-led manufactured goods (or as the Japanese call it, monozukuri). Everything oozes practicality and style. Goodies include bronze sake bowls, jointed wooden hangers, plaited bamboo boxes, kitchen graters and rainbow crayons. One manufacturer has brought over a complete set of accessories made from brown paper, including shoes, purses and handbags. If money is tighter, target the tenugui - a set of colourful multipurpose cloths.

Another focus is art, the inaugural exhibitor being architect Sou Fujimoto. Upstairs, as a kind of window display, he's stuck various household objects on plinths and called it 'Architecture is Everywhere'. A handful of Pringles ("layering hills is architecture"). A skew pile of matchboxes ("separating and connecting"). An upside-down glass ashtray ("a cave turned into architecture"). An upturned kitchen scourer ("people live in nooks and crannies"). It's all appallingly pretentious and yet somehow, as serendipitous inspiration goes, rather great.

A lot more of Sou's models are in the proper gallery downstairs. Some are just sugar lumps with leaves on, or slanting multi-coloured glass bricks, or interwoven paper strips, and hardly practical. But other ideas have been worked up into potential buildings, like a spiral library or a web of rising staircases, and his tower of petal-like apartments destined for Montpelier looks amazing. Light and delicate, and uncommonly creative, you have until 5th August to peruse the assembled mini-structures.

Also downstairs is a small library where you can read up on cherry blossom, cities and historic art. On the top floor is a proper sit-down restaurant, named after its chef Shimuzu Akira. And at the back of the ground floor is a very small travel centre, with free transport maps and travel brochures, assuming your visit to Japan House has inspired you to visit the real thing. It certainly won't have put you off.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream