Utsuwa Kenshin


Utsuwa Kenshin, Tiny trove of budding ceramic artistry.

Most people lucky enough to have a single-minded passion are born that way. They make a natural decision to dedicate their lives to food, fashion or design. However, for Kenshin Sato, owner of a beautiful Japanese ceramics shop so bijou it must be the world’s smallest, the tale of becoming an expert curator in his field is one of serendipity. “When I graduated from school I had no idea what I wanted to do,” says Sato. “I was flicking through the job ads and found one that sounded promising. It was walking distance from home and I didn’t need to wear a suit. I applied, and got the job.” The then-22-year-old began working for a company that designed table settings for photo shoots. Over the next decade, he came into contact with ceramicists from all over Japan, and his vocation found him. After several years working at a ceramics shop, Sato had the knowledge and the network to set up on his own. All he needed was an affordable space in a good location. Again, fate stepped in. “There was a ceramics shop here before me and I knew the owner. I was visiting one day, and I told him: ‘I want to open my own shop.’ He replied, ‘Well, I want to move mine.’ So I took over the space, just like that.” From the beginning, Sato knew he wanted to focus on emerging talent. And with a size of just 3.5 tsubo in Japanese terms (less than 12 square metres, or 130 square feet), he only has space for the very best. Most of the artists he works with are in their twenties or thirties, producing pieces that combine timeless wabisabi (elegant simplicity) with hints of youthful rebellion. They include the playful-yet-melancholy works of Kazuhiro Katase, whose bold shapes and colours are softened with an unnerving sense of decay; Chie Kobayashi, whose ethereal white bowls look as if they might blow away in the wind; and the rugged aquamarine cups of Asato Ikeda, reminiscent of a calm ocean dangerously awakened. “I could never be a ceramics artist myself. I don’t have that sort of patience!” says Sato, in a confession of sorts from a man who at first appears serene yet self-confident. “But this is the next best thing.” Private buyers are Sato’s main customers, although he recently found himself on the radar of some of Tokyo’s most remarkable restaurants, including Den, whose chef shares Sato’s taste for classy irreverence. Sato works alone – and likes it that way – so because space is limited he often holds special exhibitions at other locations, during which he usually closes the little shop. His ambitious side wants to take the next step and move to a larger showroom. But something is holding him back. “I go back and forth,” he says. “It would be nice to show bigger pieces and more artists, but things would also be a lot more complicated.” So for now, Utsuwa Kenshin stays small. Until fate … Read More

Chatei Hatou


Slow Drip Coffee Shibuya, Chatei Hatou.

In hypermodern Tokyo, it might seem there is little time or space for the quiet rituals of the Japanese tea ceremony; its ethos of ichigo ichie – or ‘one encounter, one moment’ – sounds like a quaint echo from the past. Thankfully, at Chatei Hatou, the spirit of ichigo ichie lives on, albeit updated for our contemporary world. Today, coffee is our common fuel, and a rich cup of Hatou slow-drip is that fuel at its best. The coffee shop is located near the heart of Shibuya, Tokyo’s most chaotic and cacophonous neighbourhood. A walk through its teeming streets can leave you feeling sensually assaulted and physically exhausted. For this, a coffee at Hatou is the perfect antidote – and pick-me-up. “Hustle and bustle is what this area is known for,” says barista-manager Kazuya Terashima. “We intentionally made this a calm place – a world within a world.” The sensory experience inside Hatou is the antithesis of its external surroundings: natural wood textures, soothing classical music, beautiful ikebana flower arrangements, and the deep, wafting aroma of coffee. Many regular customers prefer to come to Hatou not with friends, but alone. They sit at the counter and watch the barista at work. Each drink is made by hand with great care – the focus is on perfection, not speed. “It takes 10 minutes, often longer, to make one cup,” Terashima explains. “But people are willing to wait.” The ritual unfolds, step by step: he picks a worn metal container containing coffee beans that have been aged for up to three years. After passing them through a grinder, he measures out precisely 25 milligrams of fine coffee powder in a cloth filter. He heats water in a copper pot, keeping the temperature a consistent 87 degrees centigrade. Then, with unerring concentration and accuracy, he drizzles the water into the filter, saturating the dry coffee until it hits critical mass and begins to trickle into a small glass pot beneath. After that he patiently adds more water – one drop at a time – until the thick black brew is ready. “This method produces a coffee that is stronger than normal, but it also brings out the sweetness of the beans,” Terashima explains. “Many people have not experienced coffee like this before.” Once ready, the drink is transferred into one of hundreds of unique porcelain cups the shop has collected over its 24 years in business, ranging from Japanese Arita to British Wedgewood to German Meissen. Terashima says he makes a mental note of which cup each customer uses, so he can give them an alternative next time, explaining: “Even if they order the same thing, I like to think each Hatou experience should be a little bit different.”