Japan House London to Open on 22 June 2018
At long last, the news that all UK-based Japanophiles have been waiting for, as Japan House London announces it will open to the public in June this year.
As the new, London home for Japanese creativity and innovation, Japan House London will provide authentic and surprising encounters with the very best in art, design, gastronomy, innovation and technology, offering visitors a deeper appreciation of Japanese culture.
Through a wide-ranging programme, Japan House London will shine a spotlight on the Japanese 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.
Almost every aspect of Japan House London will be derived “from source” in Japan, from the interior design features, such as hand-made kawara floor tiles from Awaji Island, to the authentic retail products sold in its shop sourced from far and wide across the country. Read on to find out more about the different aspects that Japan House London (JHL) will offer to the UK and beyond from its base in Kensington, including travel information, exhibition and events, cutting-edge interior design, food, retail, books on Japan, and more.
Travel to Japan
Tourism to Japan has been booming in recent years, with UK visitor numbers exceeding 300,000 people for the first time in 2017. Interest in travel to Japan 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 JNTO offering free travel advice and leaflets.
Temporary Exhibition Gallery and Events Space
On JHL’s lower ground floor, visitors will find an exhibition gallery, events space and library, dedicated to providing an authentic encounter with Japan via a calendar of regularly changing themes.
The opening exhibition will be SOU FUJIMOTO: FUTURES OF THE FUTURE 藤本壮介 未来の未来 in collaboration with Tokyo’s TOTO GALLERY• MA. Seen for the first time in the UK, this 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 his current projects as well as his experiments for the future. On 12 June, 2018, Fujimoto will give a lecture entitled Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future at the Design Museum, followed by an ‘in conversation’ Q&A session with The Guardian’s architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright.
In addition, Fujimoto will also present Architecture is Everywhere, which explores the discovery of architecture within the forms of everyday objects and the serendipity of finding numerous possibilities for new architecture. Forthcoming exhibitions at JHL include: The Biology of Metal: Metal Working from Tsubame Sanjo (September – October 2018); Subtle: Takeo Paper Show (November – December 2018) directed by leading Japanese designer and overall Creative Director of the Japan House Project HARA Kenya; and Prototyping in Tokyo (January – February 2019).
Beauty and Attention to Detail
In creating its physical base, JHL appointed KATAYAMA Masamichi, Principal of Wonderwall and prominent Japanese interior designer, to create a space that would embody the aesthetic and notional concepts on which JHL is based.
The overall design of the space can be seen as minimalistic, however, KATAYAMA meticulously designed every corner of JHL to accommodate and reflect the diverse range of activities it will host. A magnificent spiral staircase was built in Japan, shipped to London and assembled piece by piece; now spanning three levels, it invites guests to JHL to explore and connect the different experiences on each floor of the venue.
Akira at Japan House – Robatayaki and Sushi
On JHL’s first floor, guests will be welcomed into a new restaurant created by, and bearing the name of, Japanese chef SHIMIZU Akira. The restaurant, Akira, will offer an authentic Japanese dining experience based on Chef Akira’s ‘trinity of cooking’ principles, namely 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 will be immersed in Japanese-style omotenashi hospitality from the moment they set foot inside the restaurant’s door. They will experience the theatre of cooking as chefs prepare dishes reflecting Japan’s surprisingly diverse food offering, using seasonal ingredients over roaring robata (charcoal grill) flames. Highlights of the menu include imaginative sushi specialities and chargrilled kushiyaki skewers of umami-rich wagyu beef, pork, chicken, seafood and vegetables. The Japanese staple of rice will be prepared in a donabe (clay pot), using a process of cooking that dates back to Japan’s pre-electricity days and imparts a deliciously nuanced flavour to the cooked rice.
The dining experience will be complemented by serving dishes sourced by Akira himself from artisans across Japan and drinks in fine Japanese glassware. Guests will also be able to enjoy original cocktails made using Japanese ingredients including rare sake, yuzu and shiso.
The Shop at Japan House - A Cultural Retail Experience
The Shop at Japan House will blur the concept between shop and gallery. It provides a holistic introduction to Japanese products: both the artisans and designers who make them, and the history and social context of how they developed and are used.
Upon entering JHL guests will dive into a 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 items through to large-scale manufacturing.
The Shop will present 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 different cultures of Japan, and revealing what makes it such a captivating nation.
The Ground Floor will also feature 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.
New Insights to Appreciating Books
The Library at Japan House will offer 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.
The first Japan House Library exhibition, Nature of Japan (June - August) will feature 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. The second library exhibition Mingei (September - November) will be themed around Japan’s mingei folk art movement that developed from the late 1920s.
Leading figures have welcome the news of the opening, with the Ambassador of Japan and the Mayor of London among those to share their thoughts on the welcome addition to London's world-class cultural scene.
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 said:
“Our uncompromising approach to bringing true authenticity to Japan House’s 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 reevaluate 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
“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.”
Along with Los Angeles and São Paulo, it is one of three new global locations created by the Government of Japan to offer insights into Japan that go beyond stereotypes - both old and new - and to offer deeper and more authentic explorations, often through more personal and intimate stories of the country. By consistently asking and answering the question “What is Japan?” Japan House will show a multi-faceted culture in a constant state of adaption and evolution.