White charcoal portable barbecues, insanely sharp knives, ceramic ginger graters — we’ve got you covered.
July 28th, 2017
It’s a sad day when you want to visit Japan but can’t find sale flights that match up with your annual leave dates. Or you can’t find sale flights at all. Or even if you could find sale flights, it’s just not gonna happen.
Luckily, Sydney is one Australian city that’s bursting with Japanese culture. You just have to know where to look to fill your life with Japanese-style ceramics, stationery, fabrics, furniture, kitchen sponges… From our Sydney Indesign 2017 media partner Concrete Playground, here are ten of the best spots to get you started.
Let’s start with the obvious. MUJI. The name comes from Mujirushi Ryōhin, translated as ‘no brand quality goods’. Founded in Japan in 1980 as “an antithesis to the habits of consumer society at the time”, MUJI first opened in Australia in 2015. And rejoice the people did. No longer do Australians have to travel overseas to marvel at their clever designs, sustainable ethos and beautiful solutions for small homes. On that — somehow being called the ‘Japanese Ikea’ doesn’t quite do MUJI justice. Even if simply for the fact that it is a pleasure to enter, and linger, in the store. If you haven’t got there yet, treat yourself. You’ll likely be greeted by the scent of diffused bergamot, a minimal celtic violin soundtrack, and cascades of linen — and likely to leave with a beautiful object you never knew you wanted (ceramic ginger grater, we’re looking at you).
Level 1, The Galeries, 500 George Street, Sydney
Is the reason you don’t have the cash for Japan flights right now that you’ve decided to enter the adult world of real cookware, and buy yourself an actually sharp knife? Congratulations. This is the place for you. Arm yourself with one of their beautiful knives and your tomato-squashing-not-slicing days are over. But what we really want is a konro — one of their portable, traditional Japanese charcoal barbecue. They sell an assortment of binchotan, or white charcoal, to fill the konro. Chefs say cooking over binchotan coals adds a uniquely delicious flavour to meats and vegetables. Binchotan afficionados say it also deodorises your cupboards and whitens your teeth, but that’s another story. If there’s something to upstage a Weber, it’s gotta be one of these.
105-107 Percival Road, Stanmore
Up one flight of stairs from MUJI lies one of the best bookshops in Sydney, and not just because of its impressive range of Japanese titles. From the in-house Black Star Pastry cafe to the dazzling range of books across just about every topic, in English, Japanese and many other languages, this is an excellent place to spend an hour — or a whole afternoon. Tip: subscribe to their mailing list for regular giveaways, as well as discount offers on their books.
Level 2, The Galeries, 500 George Street, Sydney
Design lovers will know the name Naoto Fukasawa. A Japanese industrial design heavyweight, his creations and thinking have influenced creatives and companies alike, including Apple (take a look at his famous toaster. Now take a look at your Macbook charger. Just saying). You can find some of the products he’s collaborated on in Sydney fine furniture store SeeHoSu. They’re the distributor of Japanese furniture brand Maruni, which works with designers including Fukasawa, Jasper Morrison, and other Japanese talents. Their range of beautiful, understated furniture is sure to inspire you — it’s worth a visit just to look.
Shop 1, 137-141 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
Chrysanthemum porcelain plates. Cedar chopsticks. Japanese forest flower soap. The kind of wind chimes that fill you with light and zen clarity, rather than the desire to do something unkind to your neighbour whose balcony they hang from. Need we say more? This shop is for household items what SeeHoSu is for furniture. Their philosophy is that tools and equipment used daily should be minimal, practical and beautiful, referenced in the Japanese conceptual term yo-no-bi or “beauty through use”. In case you or someone you love has the occasion to benefit from a gift registry, they offer this too.
22 Queen Street, Woollahra
THE JAPAN FOUNDATION
OK, so it’s not really a shop. But have you visited The Japan Foundation’s library? Settled into new digs in Sydney’s Central Park, the Japanese government’s cultural organisation in Sydney is no stuffy office building. Their public library has beautiful views, comfortable chairs and free wifi, not to mention the swathes of interesting Japanese books and reading material on offer (in English and Japanese).
The Japan Foundation also organises the annual Japanese Film Festival, visiting this year Sydney from November 17-27, as well as art exhibitions and other cultural happenings throughout the year. If you’re thirsty for more, check out their Japanese language courses on offer. Term Four starts on October 10.
Level 4, Central Park, 28 Broadway, Chippendale
Got time to kill in the CBD? Head along George Street and you’ll be rewarded — more than 200,000 products at $2.80 each await. Not quite the same philosophy as MUJI, but for another equally authentic Japanese shopping experience (stationery, anyone?) you can’t quite pass up a trip to Daiso. The shower curtains are really quite nice, too.
Regent Place Lot 1, 501 George Street, Sydney
A favourite pit-stop on the way home for many Japan-lovers working in the CBD, step in the doorway of this unassuming grocery store and marvel at the choices before you! Whether it’s basics like kewpie mayonnaise, or more specialist ingredients like shio-kōji (umami rice malt seasoning), Maruyu has the Japanese groceries you never knew you needed. Staff even offer to source that hard-or-impossible-to-find product you’re searching for and order it in. Shoppers are even occasionally rewarded with a free green-tea ice cream or tote bag for spending over a certain, typically modest, amount.
537-539 Kent Street, Sydney
CERAMIC STUDIO EN
If you have visited Japan, you’ll know their pottery and ceramics are something else. Sitting at a tiny bar in Shinjuku, order sake and you’ll likely be offered a tray of uniquely beautiful ceramic cups. Choose the one that most appeals to you, say kampaii, refill and repeat. Back in Australia, there’s no reason to let this little pleasure slide. Ceramic Studio En fires and sells handcrafted Japanese pottery right in Artarmon. You can even make something yourself. Whether it’s your very own porcelain sake set, or a Sunday ceramics class, they’ve got you sorted.
28 Elizabeth Street, Artarmon
A warehouse full of Japanese treasures? Yes please. From delicate vintage kimono and textiles to heavyweight chests, painted lacquer folding screens, the soaring ceilings of this warehouse are (just) big enough to hold it all. Edo Arts caters for both indoor and outdoor spaces. And there’s something for every budget — but be warned, if you’re lucky enough to spy one of the Japanese step chests that sometimes come in, you might start wondering how much is justifiably spent on one piece of furniture. Ever ceramics fans, we also love the unique pottery pieces on display, whether it’s a tiny, beautifully glazed vase, or an intricately painted sake bottle. Owner Paul spends three months each year hunting down the finest Japanese wares he can find — he even offers to keep an eye out for you on his travels if there’s something special you’re looking for.
321 Mona Vale Road, Terrey Hills
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