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b. benten is the online shop for authentic wabi sabi ceramics and housewares items from Japan for everyday use.  We expose Japan's master artisans by covering numerous potters and ceramic topics, and offer worldwide shipping for rare handcrafted items.   

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Harmonize Iron with Nature

Maya Nakamura

I recently discovered and fell in love with the iron tableware by Motomu Oyama.  His tableware collection got the perfect balance of the rustic elegance of Wabi-Sabi and modern industrial style.     

Here is a quick background of Motomu. 

Graduated from an art school in Tokyo (Setsu Mode Seminar), he was a graphic designer for a clothing line first, and did various illustrations for CD covers, posters and ads.  His obsession with iron started when he did a project involving 3D metal work.  He was so mesmerized by the beauty of iron and what he can express with it that he has not been able to stop working with iron ever since.  He produced a several building signs for famous music venues and art gallery spaces including Fujita Vente.  Don't worry, I have no idea what Fujita Vante is either.  You just kind of get the idea that he was heavily involved with the Tokyo art scene and built an impressive portfolio.  

So Motomu was based in Tokyo until 10 years ago, but he decided to move his studio to his hometown in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kumage, which is on the southwest side of main Honshu island.  It is far far away from Tokyo...   

Many people get sick of fast-paced, expensive city style, as you get mature and established.  I'd assume the same happen to him.   

So i think he made the right move.  Now he is in the middle of nowhere.  And his works were starting to get inspired by the lush nature surrounding his studio.  

He currently has 2 themes of metal work called "Object Work Hobo" and "26".  

"Object Work Hobo" focuses on the subject that contribute to nature and living creatures like trees and butterflies.  

butterfly wall hooks

birdnest wall lamp (from Motomu's FB pg)

birdnest wall lamp (from Motomu's FB pg)

"26" is the other collection for minimal and abstract objects.  For those who didn't do well in chemistry (including myself), 26 is the atomic number of iron.   

compote dish

compote dish

candle holder

candle holder

bud vase

bud vase

When you think of iron, you think of something heavy, hard, cold like factory and pipes.  But his iron looks soft, elegant and just simply beautiful, and it is because they are inspired by nature.  Living in the wild allows him to create metal pieces connected to nature.   

Motomu's work continues to evolve, as he experiments with the material for a deeper understanding of the properties of iron.   He says since the way iron rusts, melts, bends will never change, so he needs to have a flexible mind to change his perception for the material, in order to achieve what he envisions.   

At b. benten online shop, a very few works of Motomu are available:  

The plates are called Tsuki-utsushi (the literal translation is Moon Projection) and come in 3 different sizes.  SHOP

Whether you simply serve tea or coffee on it...  hold jewelries or candles... or casually throw it on top of your ottoman as an accent piece...  it will make a subtle yet bold statement of nature in your home.  

source: @rihpark

source: @rihpark

So how would you harmonize your iron items with nature?    

 

Up your coffee game

Maya Nakamura

I just returned from India.  It. was. mind. blowing.  I highly recommend anyone to go check out India if are brave and adventurous enough.  I roamed around the beautiful Ashrams and temples in barefoot, rediscovering the meaning of silence.   Total Julia Roberts moment from Eat Pray and Love.  

While I was thoroughly enjoying my spiritual moments in India, my traveling partner was on a mission to find Starbucks towards the end of the trip.   Even though Starbucks exist In South India, it is mainly for tourists, and the locals enjoy their filter coffee and masala chai, which I'd much preferred.   i think she needed a taste of civilization.  starbucks.  please.   

masala chai spices

masala chai spices

Coffee lovers are everywhere in the world, and they always seem to have their favorite beans, equipment/accessories, and brewing methods.  Some say McDonald's got great coffee.  Some swear by the coffee picked out of animal's poop (I believe it is called civet or Kopi Luwak?).  No judgement.  We all have preference, yes?

But what I have noticed is that people are much more serious about their coffee these days.    

I've noticed that people here in Japan take their coffee very very serious..  Not to mention Hario and Kalita, people are not kidding around with their coffee equipment too.  

So today, I thought I would introduce you to my favorite coffee items.  

Coffee scoop by Mitsuhiro Konishi  $60  

Coffee scoop by Mitsuhiro Konishi  $60
 

Ceramic Coffee Pot + Dripper Set by Takeshi Omura (MADE TO ORDER)

Ceramic Coffee Pot + Dripper Set by Takeshi Omura
(MADE TO ORDER)

Metal coffee dripper by Dai Inagaki  $200 (MADE TO ORDER)

Metal coffee dripper by Dai Inagaki  $200
(MADE TO ORDER)

I am not much of a coffee lover (I prefer tea), yet I want to own these beautiful items, because they are just aethestically pleasing and very functional.  

So how strong is YOUR coffee brewing game? 

  

Summer Special

Maya Nakamura

It's August.  It is hot.  It is humid.  Mosquitoes everywhere.  Summer in Japan can be a real pain.  It always makes me wonder how in the world people back in the days survived without air conditioning.  

And honestly, everyone in Japan seems to love summer and there are many sounds, scent, food, traditions that make you happy that it's summer, and forget your weariness from the heat.  

Everyone's favorite summer event is hands down, Matsuri, the local festivals packed with food stalls and festival games.  They are normally sponsored by shrines and temples, revelers amid a lively atmosphere of Japanese drums and flutes and the seductive smell of grilled corn basted with a soy sauce glaze. this scent always always gets me.  

Dancing and stunning fireworks are part of the festivals, too.  

Besides Matsuri, everyone usually has grandparents or some relatives who live in a countryside, so taking a trip to visit them is a common thing to do.  It lets everyone forget the hustle and bustle of city life.  And kids usually make sweet memories... like local boys have their first love with city girls and stuff.  kinda like Totoro if you know what I mean.  ha.   

At night after taking a bath at onsen (hotspring), you look up to the stars with the soothing sound of wind chime and the scent of mosquito repellent coil, and you are fanning yourself in Yukata...  ahhh this is the moment the japanese summer is awesome.  

As the years pass, even the sticky weather, obnoxiously loud sound of cicada, and the scent of repelling incense smoke all become nostalgic like Miyazaki films. 

b. benten has selected the following 5 essential summer items to celebrate the summer.  All available at the online shop:

1.  Hand fan "UCHIWA" and "SENSU" 

A traditional fan is used to create a breeze to keep cool in hot weather.  Uchiwa is a non-folding fan with a handle and Sensu is the folding version.  Both are made of Japanese paper or cloth fixed to the handle and spines normally made of bamboo (sometimes sandalwood).

 

2.  Wind chime "FURIN"

One of the best summer symbols in Japan.   It is traditionally hung from the eaves of a house during the summer.  Most are made of glass and when the wind blows, a gentle chime will ring and the sound you hear in the humid summer brings you coolness.  

3. Mosquito coil  (repelling incense)  

A mosquito repelling incense, typically made from a dried paste of pyrethrum powder. It is usually shaped into a spiral.  It used to be a must-have item in every household before the repellent sprays and electric versions were invented.  Learn more about mosquito coil >> click here

4. Beer and Edamame

There is nothing better than thirst-quenching cold beer on hot summer evenings, and one of the best snacks to go with beer is edamame.  Edamame has become popular appetizer all over the world through out the year, but some people don't know is the fresh edamame is only available during the summer, and it tastes so much better than the frozen ones.   

bamboo basket

bamboo basket

How about enjoying a hot summer day Japanese style, by drinking a glass of beer and feeling the cooling breeze from your hand-held fan, while listening to the sound of your wind chime? 

 

 Hope everyone is having a fun and safe summer!