Text description provided by the architects. Building use: monaka & tea A takeaway-only shop, based on the concept of “good things from Japan,” that suggests a modern way of enjoying tea and monaka (Japanese sweets consisting of wafers filled with sweet bean paste), which are deeply rooted in Japanese culture. The monaka are filled with the chef’s choice of seasonal ingredients for an image of beautiful bite-sized “fruits” that delight the eye and the taste buds, and the tea is made from carefully selected leaves that can be paired with each monaka and is poured each time from the pot, in a style allowing customers to carry it around like coffee.
The store was designed with the sales floor and the kitchen behind it occupying the first floor of a three-story building. The sales floor offers about five types of small monaka each day, suggesting a box that attractively displays the monaka so that the customer’s gaze is firstly drawn to the beauty of each one. The floor, walls and ceiling all use black mortar, and the screen leading to the kitchen in the back and the register counter provide a counterpoint through their use of copper sheeting. Copper was chosen for its use in tea utensils, and also because it acquires depth over time, and so it carries the hope that it will settle into this place, along with the store.
The large counter beside the register and the wall-mounted shelves with many small drawers are antiques selected for this store to fit its image, and instead of simply matching the sense of the materials, we produced a subtle new combination with furniture made of Japanese horse chestnut. Another point in common with tea utensils is that even though each item does not try to stand out within the small space but defers to the product, which is the star of the show after all, a look at the supporting cast reveals that they have also been specially chosen to create this space.
In addition, by deliberately having a low ceiling, we have created a compactness like that of a tea house, with the aim of giving customers a sense of space that differs from outside during the short time (a few minutes) while they select and wait for their takeaway products. The façade has an opening with only a curtain and no screens. This affords the store the meaning of a particular space, a place focused on the products yet still open to everyone. As a matter of fact, after the store opens, small children from the neighborhood sometimes come by, holding a few coins to buy monaka. The store embodies the owner’s desire for many people of all ages and walks of life to enjoy carefully selected delicacies in a refined space.