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b. benten is the online shop for high quality handmade ceramics and houseware items from Japan rooted in tradition for everyday use. Our mission is to introduce Japan's master artisans to the world by offering their limited work and covering fascinating stories of craftsmanship.

Journal

artist/manufacturer info

journal

deco inspiration

chef interview

 

What is your talent? 

Maya Nakamura

 

Finding our natural talents can be difficult to do.  For me, it has been impossible. I’ve always envied people who have discovered their passions at an early age.  How in the world did they find their own paths so young and knew that they should stay in their lanes?  What is taking so long for my inner purpose be awaken?  Do I not even have one? 

About a month ago, I was walking down the street with a good friend of mine after a really good brunch in her beach neighborhood.  I’ve known her for almost 20 years but we only started to hang out recently.  She lives in a surf town called, Chigasaki, which is about 1.5 hr away from where I live in Tokyo so we are not exactly close neighbors, but we become close in recent years and we've traveled together a several times.    I was so delighted when she invited me over to her house for 2 reasons; 1. To be able to get away from the city life and be by the beach.  2. To check out Mokichi Foods Garden Café.   

 

Mokichi Foods Garden is tucked away in a residential neighborhood of Chigasaki.  They renovated one of the oldest buildings in the area at the ancient brewery and made it into a café + bakery.  You must see the wood carvings and beam ceilings because they are quite stunning.   

You can sit outside in the courtyard in the shade of big tree, but we sat inside since we were in desperate need of A/C.  It was a very hot Sunday afternoon and I hadn't slept much (long story).  We had a quattro formaggi pizza and locally grown veggies with homemade bread.  Food was simple but refined.  

img_02.jpg

This place was a hit.  It makes me happy when I discover a place like this where food and ambience are something to write home about.  It was so worth the trip.  

It truly brings me joy to discover a great place like Mokichi. 

So back to when I was walking down the street with my friend.  It was right after this brunch at Mokichi.  My friend said, “I have lived in this neighborhood for more than 10 years and I had never even heard of this place.  You got a great sense to find cool places in any city in any country.  You should turn it into your profession somehow.” 

I was flattered but didn't think much of it.   But this was definitely not the first time someone complimented on my ability to hunt good restaurants, bars and cafes.  (humble brag)  Could this be my talent?  could it become a profession?  am I crazy for taking this semi-seriously?

I am a horrible writer so I can't be a professional blogger.  But there has be another way to use my spider sense.  

img_b02.jpg

My friend told me if more than 3 people call out the same talent in you, you should pursue it.  She told me to believe in myself and find a way to turn it into a profession.  

So I've decided.  I still don't know exactly how to utilize my 'talent' yet, but I am going to casually introduce my discoveries on this journal here, and see where it takes me to.  I want to develop a really good source for places that makes you want to tell everyone about.  All the great finds in hidden alleys.  All the inspiring food presentation and beautiful table settings.   

I must say I have the eyes of a hawk,  and the curious mind of children when it comes to shops and restaurants, so this should be fun.  

This might be the beginning of something. 

Let's go.

[Shop Info]
Mokichi Foods Garden
http://www.kumazawa.jp/mokichi/foodsgarden/
13-1 Motomachi Chigasaki-shi, Kanagawa prefecture 253-0043 JAPAN

 

 

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 you consider yourself brave and adventurous.  You will get to roam around Ashrams and temples in barefoot, rediscovering the meaning of silence.   It is such a Julia Roberts moment of 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 prefer.  Starbucks.  please.   I think she needed a taste of civilization. 

 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.    

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.  

So I thought I would introduce my favorite coffee items today.  

 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 coffee person actually, yet I am drawn to these beautiful coffee items.  

So how strong is YOUR coffee brewing game?