NEWS

New and old stories about Japanese Crafts. 

OFF TO JAPAN

Hello, and こんにちは!

We will be headed to Japan for the second part of November to visit family and friends. While we are there, we will spend time meeting some of the artists on our site in the Kyoto and Tokyo regions. And of course, we will also be looking for new ideas and new artisans to present.

While we are in Japan, we ask for your patience if you would like to order any of the items on our site.

Ria & Pete

Imagining the Fantastical

 ©Oscar Oiwa

©Oscar Oiwa

Recently we had the great fortune to see a presentation and talk with Japanese-Brazilian artist Oscar Oiwa who was discussing his new book, The Creation of the World, in a great NYC setting with an herb-filled rooftop garden.

 

Oscar’s art is varied and stunning. Most recently he created a fantastical world called Oiwa Island 2 inside a large, inflatable dome at the Setouchi Art Triennial in Japan, which is held every three years on a dozen islands in the Seto Inland Sea (Setonaikai), the sea which separates Honshu and Shikoku.

Much of Oiwa’s work could be said to fall somewhere in the pantheon of magical realism with hints of a darker edge. This probably makes sense as he was born in Brazil to Japanese immigrant parents. He moved to Tokyo after graduating from University in Sao Paolo and then to New York City in 2002 where he currently resides. He has said he chose to embrace new countries in order to expand his work (and life) as an artist.

The Creation of the World compiles Oscar’s work from the last decade or so and is an amazing journey to experience, full of poignant social commentary. In his opening, he talks about the creation of the world (or a world) in artistic terms. The allegory could go either way in my opinion — the creation of art reflecting the evolution of the human spirit. He talks about a blank canvas, an empty world — the creation of a first dot. The dot started everything. Subsequent dots created a line, a form and things grew from there. It’s an apt allusion and in Oscar’s amazingly talented hands, the evolution is mesmerizing.

We strongly encourage you to explore Oscar’s works and to see them in person if you have the chance. His works are currently displaying at 21st Century of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa city, Ishikawa.

 During the 2016 Setouchi Triennale, two of Oscar’s works will be on view at Ogijima and Shodoshima. Both works are large-scale installations that allow the audience to walk into the art.  ©Oscar Oiwa

During the 2016 Setouchi Triennale, two of Oscar’s works will be on view at Ogijima and Shodoshima. Both works are large-scale installations that allow the audience to walk into the art.  ©Oscar Oiwa

Saying Goodbye to Summer With a Sip

 Ozaemon from Toki city, Gifu great balance of umami and acidity

Ozaemon from Toki city, Gifu great balance of umami and acidity

September signals the waning of summer and the inevitable change in seasons. It’s a profound time for all who love summer. In NYC, the days remain warm and mostly sunny. It’s a nice transition to what will follow. September is also a time when sake brewers everywhere debut their newest offerings. And for past five years, it’s also a time to welcome in a new batch of sake to New York City by a bevy a sake brewers who come to our fair city and show their latest wares at the NY Sake Expo. We happily accepted the task of checking out the Expo (as we have done the past few years) and enjoyed talking to many of the representatives and brewers from sakaguras all over Japan as well as some in the U.S. Please join us in recognizing and enjoying the magic that is sake...

 Kakeya from Unnan city, Shimane. Full of Umami, sooooo good!

Kakeya from Unnan city, Shimane. Full of Umami, sooooo good!

 Shochu maker Kyoya from Miyazaki, introducing Heihachiro. It goes well with fatty food, such as Tuna Tartar so well!

Shochu maker Kyoya from Miyazaki, introducing Heihachiro. It goes well with fatty food, such as Tuna Tartar so well!

SakeExpo_JapanSuite - 1 (5).jpg

We love... "japanese packaging" part 1

We adore Japanese packages. We'd like to share Part one of our packaging study.

 Plum tea package by Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten. Their business dates back to 1716, supplying special Goyohin to Tokugawa government. 中川政七商店

Plum tea package by Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten. Their business dates back to 1716, supplying special Goyohin to Tokugawa government. 中川政七商店

 Individual Plum wine carton comes with a pretty sleeve. "Ume-iro Shizuku" from Kozaki Shuzo Nabedana, in Narita, also has 320 years of history. 鍋店

Individual Plum wine carton comes with a pretty sleeve. "Ume-iro Shizuku" from Kozaki Shuzo Nabedana, in Narita, also has 320 years of history. 鍋店

 Gorgeous emboss work on outer pack for Incense ...by Shoyeido Incense Co, Kyoto. 松栄堂

Gorgeous emboss work on outer pack for Incense ...by Shoyeido Incense Co, Kyoto. 松栄堂

 Individual mini Yokan in 3 flavor packs are in a cute little fabric bag! ...by one of the most well known Wagashi store, Toraya. とらや

Individual mini Yokan in 3 flavor packs are in a cute little fabric bag! ...by one of the most well known Wagashi store, Toraya. とらや

Namazake: A Fresh and Lively Early Sign of Spring in a Glass

 Shichi-hon-Yari Namazake in  Edo Kiriko  glass, by Kamata Kiriko, with typical  Girls' Day(Hinamatsuri)  sweets, Hina-Arare. 

Shichi-hon-Yari Namazake in Edo Kiriko glass, by Kamata Kiriko, with typical Girls' Day(Hinamatsuri) sweets, Hina-Arare. 

As we head into March and spring is getting closer, one of our favorite parts of the end of the winter road is here — namazake, which is the early spring sake that, like it’s fleeting cousin sakura (cherry blossoms), is best enjoyed fresh and savored while it is here. Namazake appears just after the sake brewing season ends, which happily is now.

Most sake is pasteurized twice to halt the work of the enzymes, stabilizing the brew for a long shelf life. Namazake forgoes the sterilization in favor of fresh, spring tastes. Once opened, namazake should be refrigerated and is optimal for two weeks or so. If unopened, you are good for around six months for optimal flavor.

 Shichihon-Yari in Edo Kiriko glass bt  Horiguchi Kiriko

Shichihon-Yari in Edo Kiriko glass bt Horiguchi Kiriko

So, on the last weekend of February, we knew it was time to head to one of our favorite places for sake, Sakaya, in the East Village of New York (a fine neighborhood and one with a decided Japanese presence among many eclectic influences). Sakaya is NY’s first and only shop totally dedicated to the elixir. Owners Rick and Hiroko are always welcoming and full of helpful advice.

We partook in a tasting of Shichi Hon Yari from the Tomita Shuzo brewery in Shiga Prefecture. It is a wonderful melange of fresh tastes, drier than your typical namazake in a really nice way — a good mix of earthy, grassy fruitiness. Yes, we bought some and are enjoying a small glass as this is writing. There are many great namazakes offered this time of year, so we encourage you to check out this year’s batch while it’s here and fresh.

500 Wonders of Japan

 The Wonder 500 exhibition in New York city. Until Feb 9

The Wonder 500 exhibition in New York city. Until Feb 9

We just visited a great exhibition of Japanese crafts, The Wonder 500 in New York. The selection includes some of our own artisans, Horiguchi Kiriko, Atsushi Ogata, and coming soon, Kamata Kiriko.

They are unique, fun and useful items we encourage you to check out before the show ends on February 9th. The Wonder 500 is a project designed to promote and discover local Japanese products that are not well-known outside of Japan

 We tried delicious yokan chilled in a bubble.

We tried delicious yokan chilled in a bubble.

 Tea store from 1 or 8 in Brooklyn is serving amazing tea from Kyushu.

Tea store from 1 or 8 in Brooklyn is serving amazing tea from Kyushu.

 

A total of 500 products from all 47 Japanese prefectures were selected by 30 expert producers and public voting.

The selections were evaluated in the three categories of Tourism, Craftsmanship, and Food, based on the following criterion: Innovative items created with a certain concept or passion, combined with traditional values supporting unique Japanese craftsmanship and good service.

Each and every one of these 500 items express the values nurtured in the Japanese since ancient times (impermanence and permanence, respect for nature and one’s ancestors, craftsmanship, concept, excellent design, wisdom, etc.).

Through the 500 items, we hope to communicate warmth and wonder, and if it inspires even one person to visit Japan, to buy a Japanese product, or eat some Japanese food, we will have accomplished our goal. 

 Yokan is packaged in a balloon that we pierce open to enjoy! Oishii!

Yokan is packaged in a balloon that we pierce open to enjoy! Oishii!

 Beautiful Guinomi from our friend Kamata Kiriko 

Beautiful Guinomi from our friend Kamata Kiriko 

 from Horiguchi Kiriko

from Horiguchi Kiriko

Setsubun. Let's throw beans!

 Setsubun New York style in Motion Plate by  Kihachi Studio

Setsubun New York style in Motion Plate by Kihachi Studio

Today (Feb. 3) is setsubun in Japan. It symbolizes the day prior to the traditional start of the the lunar new year. Think of it like a New Year’s eve — before risshun, the beginning of spring from the old lunar calendar. It’s a time when the fresh new year is welcomed in and ceremonies are performed to chase away evil from the previous year and keep it away from the new one. A special setsubun ritual to cleanse evil spirits away is called mame-maki, which can be translated into bean scattering or throwing. Typically, soybeans are used.

Families use a handful or cup of roasted soybeans and either toss them about the house or sometimes at a family member dressed as a demon — shouting "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!", which means roughly, out with the evil and in with good fortune. They also open the windows and throw the beans outside. Another part of this tradition is to eat the same number of beans as your age to bring you good fortune in the coming year. Sometimes, an extra bean is added to increase this good fortune.

We wish you the best and most-rewarding year ahead...!

Happy New Year! from Japan Suite

 Illustration by Tatsumi Natsuko

Illustration by Tatsumi Natsuko

Wishing you all joyous and rewarding 2016!
Happy New Year from Japan Suite

明けましておめでとうございます。
2016年もどうぞよろしくお願いいたします。

Goldfish Salvation

 close up of "Kingyo Sukui (The Ark)"  ©Japan Suite Inc

close up of "Kingyo Sukui (The Ark)"  ©Japan Suite Inc

 ©Japan Suite Inc

©Japan Suite Inc

  close up of "Kingyo Sukui (The Ark)" ©Japan Suite Iinc

close up of "Kingyo Sukui (The Ark)" ©Japan Suite Iinc

This weekend, we went to see the incredible work of Japanese artist Riusuke Fukahori and his new exhibition “Goldfish Salvation” at the Joshua Liner gallery here in NYC. If you can, we strongly encourage you to go and see his amazing work, which is on display through Dec. 19.

Seeing his goldfish, looking so 3D and life-like, suspended in clear acrylic in various rustic containers, the first thought was, did he imprison real fish? The answer was no, but my eyes had a hard time believing it. Looking at them from many angles, it was hard to figure out how he managed to make them look so real. We later learned how he does it, but understanding Fukahori’s process and meticulous method of working makes it all the more impressive.

 "Kingho sake - yuzu" ©Japan Suite Inc

"Kingho sake - yuzu" ©Japan Suite Inc

Fukahori’s story and his inspiration for “Goldfish Salvation” is both a comment on his own salvation as an artist and a sobering warning for humanity. He says when he was at a very low point in his life, wondering about continuing his path as an artist, he happened to glance at the goldfish that had been there everyday for seven years in his apartment, and he was struck by it’s beauty as it swam in the dirty tank. “Why has it taken me so long to see this beauty and insanity? The goldfish has everything, thus it's beautiful,” Fukahori said. “I then began to paint goldfish and now, I am still painting them.”

 "Tsuzuki" ©Japan Suite Inc

"Tsuzuki" ©Japan Suite Inc

Looking at his beautiful images of goldfish in natural surroundings, seemingly swimming in unison through pristine waters, you begin to understand the allegory. We prefer to let Fukahori explain it:  

“In the aquarium, similar to human society, there is a story of birth and death. As long as they live, these goldfish will continue to soil the fish tank, and if not changed, the water will only get tainted leading to death for all the goldfish. This is quite true for the human species as well… The goldfish that I paint are not really goldfish, but representations of people. I feel as though the fish tank is only foretelling what would happen to the earth in the future. We as human beings are the main source polluting our own air we breathe.”

watch the making of incredible artworks. Learn more at his official site

  "Kingyo Sukui (The Ark)" ©Japan Suite Iinc

"Kingyo Sukui (The Ark)" ©Japan Suite Iinc

   ©Japan Suite Inc

 ©Japan Suite Inc

Fall preview from Japan Suite

 Motion plate by Kihachi

Motion plate by Kihachi

We hope you had a wonderful summer. 

At Japan Suite, we are busy preparing for Fall products. And we would like you to preview a few of them today!

We are planning to introduce some unique glass jewelry pieces by Harrys as well as traditional lacquerware from Kihachi in Ishikawa. And from Kyoto, we are going to showcase bamboo dinnerware by Takano Chikko.

We are excited about these artists and will let you know as soon they are ready on our site.

 Bonbon necklace (silver) by Harrys

Bonbon necklace (silver) by Harrys

Modern Geisha

Thom Browne’s Spring 2016 Men’s RTW shown in Paris is something we want to share. His love for Japanese tradition, culture and artisanship can be found throughout the show. Check out the meticulous craftsmanship in these looks. Images curtesy of STYLE.com

Kiriko Day — Another Reason to Celebrate in Early July

Kiriko glasses are a fantastic accompaniment for chilled sake and food in Summer. July 5th is Kiriko day in Japan to celebrate the history of this style glass making, distinguished by designs cut into the glass.

Edo Kiriko was popularized in the mid-19th century by Kagaya Kyubei. It is said that Commodore Perry was very impressed by the intricate cuts on the gift glasses he received. Since then, the technique has been developed and today, artisans enjoy the liberty of designing new and contemporary versions of Kiriko, adding to the evolving legacy.

 Guinomi Kai by  Horiguchi Kiriko 

Guinomi Kai by Horiguchi Kiriko 

 Guinomi, Hane and Tabane by  Horiguchi Kiriko 

Guinomi, Hane and Tabane by Horiguchi Kiriko 

Matcha Storms New York!

JapanSuiteMatcha1.jpg

We recently introduced a Matcha story in Bon Appetit magazine on our Japan Suite Facebook site. It seems now that nealy everyone is talking about the wonders of Matcha mania as evidenced by this Huffington Post article — and also discovering where to go to enjoy it here in New York City

Matcha bar in Brooklyn has been enjoying a lot of pub in the media lately, and newer Matcha cafes are popping up every month. We Manhattaners can also enjoy great authentic Matcha at places like Ippodo and at a new tea room opened by Satoko Souheki Mori in the great Japanese furniture store, Miya Shoji

Matcha is a powdered green tea, so we are literally drinking the whole green tea leaves that contain health-giving antioxidants, and “anti-aging” catechins as well as providing Matcha’s “relaxing effect” due to the L-Theanine contained in the leaves.

Matcha does have caffeine, but it releases its effect slowly over time not like coffee that and other caffeinated drinks that hit you very quickly. So, we enjoy the calm alertness all day long with one or two cups of Matcha a day. 

I have been taking Tea Ceremony classes, learning how to serve and enjoy Matcha properly in a more ceremonial manner, which is certainly different from grabbing Matcha latte at a cafe. However wherever you get your Matcha fix on, the core spirit of it is simply to enjoy the tea.

Now, if your neighborhood doesn’t have a Matcha cafe, can you make a cup of Matcha at home? Of course. We now offer Matcha whisks and scoops at our store. We particularly love the 100 tine whisk that makes creating the finest foam easy - even for a beginner. The subtle combination of the bitter taste with slight sweetness is sure to satisfy and make you happy.
Please let us know if you have any questions, we would love to share information about making and enjoying a great cup of Matcha…!

Infographics curtesy of © Epic Matcha 

Williamsburg for Grown-Ups

 beautiful presentation of Squid ink croquette at 1 or 8

beautiful presentation of Squid ink croquette at 1 or 8

We have been exploring Japanese eateries in New York city for some time, and finally started to break into Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It’s quite shocking to learn how sophisticated those Japanese restaurants there are! Here are a few of our finds and also more to explore.

 Zenkichi

Zenkichi

Zenkichi
This dimly lit triplex with semi private intimate booths offer fairly expensive and exquisite version of Izakaya small plates. We had delightful Omakase that we cannot recommend enough, with amazing variety of sake served by an attentive and enthusiastic server. We’d love to come back soon!
77 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 388-8985

 1 or 8

1 or 8

1 or 8
Unconventional takes on Japanese fare is served in a spacious and modern space. Kitchen menu were so pleasing to the eye and the taste give you full of surprises! But don’t miss the traditional sushi that never disappoint you.
66 S 2nd St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
(718) 384-2152

 

 

Other place to recommend is Salt and Charcoal, ex Aburiya Kinnosuke chef started. We have too many choices and don’t care the hike!

Eba Kimono show by Mitsuko Ogura

  © Naoko Honma   

© Naoko Honma 

Mitsuko Ogura, whose Tenugui works Japan Suite will present in a few weeks, just showcased these beautiful Kimono and Yukata in Nezu, Tokyo. Here are a few photos from the show. We hope to be there next summer! 

 © Naoko Honma 

© Naoko Honma 

  © Naoko Honma   

© Naoko Honma 

  © Naoko Honma   

© Naoko Honma 

  © Naoko Honma   

© Naoko Honma 

  © Naoko Honma   

© Naoko Honma 

  © Naoko Honma   

© Naoko Honma 

  © Naoko Honma   

© Naoko Honma 

 Geta Hanao, hand-made throngs, were sold at the gallery

Geta Hanao, hand-made throngs, were sold at the gallery

 Eba Kimono displayed. All photos ©Yasuhiko Sunahara

Eba Kimono displayed. All photos ©Yasuhiko Sunahara