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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 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 super short version of his background. 

Graduated from an art school in Tokyo (Setsu Mode Seminar), Motomu was a graphic designer for a clothing line initially, 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 stopped working with iron ever since.  He produced a several building signs for popular music venues and art gallery spaces including Fujita Vente, and participated in Artist Table for Minami-Aoyama SPIRAL. Even though I am not too familiar with Fujita Vante or Spiral, I get the idea that he was heavily involved with the art scene and built an impressive portfolio.

Motomu was based in Tokyo until 10 years ago when he decided to move his studio to his home town in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kumage, which is on the southwest side of main Honshu island.  Most of his works are inspired by lush nature surrounding his studio.  

He has 2 types 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

"kare eda (branch)" wall hook

"kare eda (branch)" wall hook

birdnest wall lamp (from Motomu's FB pg)

birdnest wall lamp (from Motomu's FB pg)

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

compote dish

compote dish

candle holder

candle holder

bud vase

bud vase

When you think of iron, something heavy, hard, cold like factory and pipes come to your mind. But his iron looks soft, elegant and just simply beautiful.  It is because his works 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 that the way iron rusts, melts, bends has not and 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 limited quantity of Motomu's plates is 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...  use it to hold jewelries or candles... or casually throw it on top of your ottoman as an interior piece...  it will make a subtle yet bold statement in your house.  

source: @rihpark

source: @rihpark

So how would you harmonize his iron with nature?    

 

Up your coffee game

Maya Nakamura

I just returned from a fun trip to India.  Yes, it is a humble brag, and yes, I almost felt like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray and Love, as I roamed around beautiful Ashrams and temples in barefoot, rediscovering the meaning of silence.  But I am slightly glad to be back to the world where stray cows and dusty roads are not normal.   

In India, my traveling partner was in the dire need of Starbucks and started to interrogate the rickshaw driver where she can find one in the neighborhood.  Poor guy had no idea what Starbucks was, and offered to stop by at a local coffee shop instead.  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.

masala chai spices

masala chai spices

I was slightly embarrassed and horrified by my friend's desperation.  But I realized that we had been in India for 4 days at this point, and what she was craving was the taste of civilization instead of the actual flavor of Starbucks.  So as I watch my friend shout "S!"  "T!"  "A!" like a cheerleader into the driver's ears, I started to get into deep(?) thoughts about how coffee is universal yet so different in every country.  

Coffee lovers always pursue the best beans, brewing 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.

But what I have been noticing is that people are getting more and more serious about their coffee.  I'm starting to see less of the electric coffee makers and people are enjoying making coffee manually at home.   

It is no any different in Japan.  Not to mention Hario and Kalita, people are not kidding around with their coffee here.  

So I thought introduce you to some of the great items for brewing and drinking coffee.  

Coffee scoop by Mitsuhiro Konishi  $60  

Coffee scoop by Mitsuhiro Konishi  $60
 

Brass Drip Pot by Masami Mizuno $770  (MADE TO ORDER)

Brass Drip Pot by Masami Mizuno $770
 (MADE TO ORDER)

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)

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 makes you wonder how in the world people survived back in the days without air conditioning.  

Yet everyone seems to have nothing but great memories of Japanese summer because of many activities, food, sounds, scent associated with the summer that help you 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.  

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

Besides Matsuri, a visit to grandparent's house in the countryside is common summer event, and it lets everyone forget the hustle and bustle of city life.     

At night, you look up to the stars with the soothing sound of wind chime and the scent of mosquito repellent coil, as you fan yourself in a summer kimono Yukata...  

Ah, the Japanese summer...  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

5. Yukata (Summer Kimono) 

Yukata is a casual version of the kimono and is a popular way of dressing for summer festivals.  It is a robe usually made of cotton or synthetic fabic, wrapped around the body and fastened with a sash called Obi.  

 

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!