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03 October 2014

Kyoto, a Japanese Special

Check out Kyoto, classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO, is an opportunity to travel through time.

A mix of heritage and modernity, its numerous artisans compete creatively in order to create contemporary collections.


Kyoto, Japon, © Marie Le Fort
By Marie Le Fort

As the former imperial capital, Kyoto remains a serious contender with its unique savoir-faire. This globally reputed city prides itself on its temples straight out of a Samurai movie, weather-beaten trees, rock gardens that mirror the force of the elements and cosmic movements…and its (seasonal) cherry blossom, whose petals float in milky clusters. But beyond these contemplative ‘landscapes’, Kyoto elegantly turns itself towards modernity through contact with ceramicists, artisans, furniture-makers and goldsmiths who have expertly master their materials. An insight into this Japanese exception.

  • Sfera concept store

    A concept store spread over several floors between two historic streets, Sfera establishes itself as a boutique come to life. Enveloped in titanium and studded with leaves and cherry blossom, the façade gives you a taste of what is to come. Fitting in perfectly with bouquets arranged with unusual delicacy, traditional kitchen utensils in cypress Sawara, copper saké pitchers, grey varnished wooden cups, asymmetrical yet uncluttered ceramics and woven pots in summery blondness embody the best of Japanese savoir-faire, plus a modern twist. And the latest novelty; a line of items for dogs, christened DOnG, made from natural materials…for their wellbeing!

    17 Benzaiten-cho
    +81 (0)75 532 11 39

  • Zen Kashoin

    After a flurry of morning visits, it is time to roam the streets of Kyoto, with the hope of discovering the best tea-houses, summer pavilions and temples where you can taste local delicacies. Stop off at Zen Kashoin: merging a contemporary tearoom, boutique and gallery, this formerly traditional house arranges itself around a courtyard embellished by a zen garden. There, amongst display cabinets, walls covered in silver leaves and a wooden counter, you can enjoy a foaming Matcha green tea, whisked in a ceramic bowl decorated with abstract motifs, accompanied by a Zen Kasutera, or sponge cake, or choose an ice cream flavour; green tea, red soy bean or white sesame. You should do your weekly shopping here, seeing as the packaging is so creative.

    271-1, Takoyakushi-cho, Muromachi-dori Nijo-sagaru, Nakagyo-ku
    +81 (0)75 241 3300 271-1

  • Boutique Hyatt Regency Kyoto

    Led by visionary Ken Yokohama, managing director of the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, this boutique hotel makes time to select pieces designed by Japanese artisans. Sharp knives, woven leather bags, travel teasets whose ladles are made of kimono fabric, hand-drawn cards, stackable glass containers, fragile ceramics and sachets of natural camphor to fend off mosquitos and remove unwanted odours…in the blink of an eye, the boutique resembles one of Kyoto’s major workshops. Better than even the most expert museum!

    644-2 Sanjusangendo-mawari, Higashiyama-ku.
    +81 75 541 1234

  • Hosoo textiles

    A family business founded in 1688, Hosoo once designed embroidered motifs and textiles for the imperial family. Today, the enterprise still resides in an ancient Japanese house, secluded behind a landscape garden but orders flood in from all four corners of the globe: creations for the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, a collaboration with Wallpaper* for its Handmade collection, materials for suitcase specialists Tumi x Miharayasuhiro or Peter Marino, interior designer of Chanel stores, these looms run at top speed. Even if it means spending several hours creating a metre of exquisite fabric…

  • Nakagawa Mokkougei

    When picking up a champagne bucket or stylish stool designed by Shuji Nakagawa, you feel as if you are holding air in your hands. Despite their incomparable solidarity, these objects seem almost weightless. Sculpted from Japanese cypress wood (or jindai-sugi), following a drying process that lasts several months, they eternalise a 700-year-old tradition. No matter the season, Nakagawa Mokkougei produces objects of unrivalled sophistication, which has not gone unnoticed by champagne house Dom Pérignon who has made one of these Japanese creations their official champagne bucket.

  • Asahiyaki, pottery-house

    Based just outside Kyoto, this family-run pottery-house has used the same ovens for centuries, baking bowls, tea sets and subtly coloured vases. De facto, it is here that the Matsubayashi family have repeated the same practice for nearly 400 years. To show off the rituals of their daily life, Asahiyaki has also recently collaborated with Danish agency OeO, producing multi-coloured teapots and mugs, which remind us how Scandinavia and the Land of the Rising Sun have long shared similar aesthetic codes.

  • Kaikado, boxes of tea

    Established in 1875, the Kaikado studios produce airtight boxes of tea in copper, brass and silver, which acquire a unique patina over time like trophies. Manufactured entirely by hand, these containers boast a simple shape that is far more complex than first meets the eye: every element must fit within a tenth of a millimetre. A recent collaboration with Danish design studio OeO allowed Kaikado to modernise its lines. And export them tenfold!

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