A ceramic travel guide
Japan is a neverending source of inspiration for us in YONOBI and the Japanese aesthetics, sense of hospitality and craftsmanship is something that will always be a big part of YONOBI’s believes and goals. We always discover new talented artists when we visit Japan – and we love to share our discoveries with you. You can see all of our Japanese artists here – and explore the carefully selected ceramics here.
But enough of that, lets begin this guide …
Tokyo, besides being the most exciting and wonderful city in the world, Tokyo is a gem in regards to ceramic hunting. But before I start this guide – let me come with a ‘little’ warning: A ceramic shopping trip in Japan will destroy any money-saving attempts.
Warning done – let’s begin!
HOW TO GET THERE?
It’s easy to travel to Tokyo, there are two airports, Narita and Haneda, and many flights. If you plan your trip well you can even get some very well-priced tickets, so you can save your money for all the ceramics you will be bringing home.
Both airports are world-class. They offer great services and some of the best on-time performances of any airport in the world. Narita International Airport is located further from central Tokyo than Haneda International Airport. Almost all international flights land at this airport. There are plenty of public transportation options to reach central Tokyo from the airport including the JR Narita Express, the Keisei Skyliner, buses, taxis, and even helicopters 😉 We took the bus and even though it was a bit of a long drive (approx. 1,5 hour drive), it’s a nice way to arrive in the city and you get to relax a bit on the way and prepare yourself for you Tokyo adventure.
Haneda International Airport is located closer to central Tokyo than Narita International Airport. Almost all domestic flights land at this airport. There are fewer transportation options from the airport to central Tokyo, some of which require transfers, but the journey is much quicker and cheaper.
Getting around Tokyo is super easy! They have an effective subway and metro system, that is easy to figure out and everything is of course on schedule all the time. Some metro lines can be quite crowded in rush hour. And also you get to experience the Japanese power-nap culture first hand 😉 The easiest way to use the metro-system is to get a PASMO card, then you can top-up along your trip and you don’t have to think about tickets etc. The card also works for busses – and even for the shops and vending machines located in station areas.
WHERE TO STAY?
Tokyo has so many areas, that it can’t be hard to figure out where you want to stay. Some of my favorite areas are Daikanyama, Ebisu, and Naka-Meguro. Normally we stayed at an Airbnb apartment in Daikanyama, but we also stayed a few nights at the very nice Claska Hotel in Meguro. The hotel is a very hip and nice designer hotel, where the 20 rooms are categorized into four different design themes. I this way you can choose the perfect room, which best fits your purpose, preference, and style. We stayed in one of the ‘Contemporary’ rooms and it was absolutely beautiful.
Daikanyama often referred to as “the Brooklyn of the Japanese capital,” is one of those places; a hidden gem where modernity and comfort combine the perfect harmony. A popular weekend destination for locals, this area’s relaxed vibe, tree-lined pedestrian-only streets, and trendy eateries make it a suburban oasis located just a 15-minute walk from the world’s busiest intersection.
Besides great shopping and cozy streets, Daikanyama also has a strong food game. Get your breakfast or afternoon tea & cake at Garden House Crafts. Your afternoon bear and dinner at the Spring Valley Brewery or grease up with a burger at Sasa Grill near Daikanyama station. End your evening at Bar Martha, a speakeasy bar located in Ebisu (very near Daikanyama), which serves delicious cocktails, beers, and whiskeys.
Tokyo is filled with small shops selling all kinds of ceramics, a lot you find in the stores are mass-produced though, and therefore missing a little of the charm and texture ceramics otherwise have. One store I do feel have a good selection is the design store and cafe Tenoha Daikanyama, their selection of ceramics and other goods is super nice – and store holds a lot of Japanese brands and artists. Defiantly worth a visit. But, the best way to find the most unique and one of kind ceramics and crafts in Tokyo is defiantly by visiting all the local flea and antique markets.
FLEA AND ANTIQUE MARKETS IN TOKYO
When traveling in Japan, always remember to check for local markets. It is still, in my opinion, the most unique and satisfying way to find Japanese ceramics, woodwork, kimonos, etc. Even though we didn’t make it by this time, one of my Tokyo favorite markets is still the ‘Ôedo Antique Market, you can read about it in my first Tokyo guide here. This time though we made it to the ‘Heiwajima Antique fair’. It is the oldest (since 1978) and most famous antique fair in Japan. Normally there are over 280 dealers from all over the country, so be prepared to spend some hours looking around the stalls filled with antique ceramics, kimonos, teapots, maps, paintings, toys and much much more. The Antique Fair is held 5 times a year in March, May, June, September, and December.
If you’re shopping for Japanese pottery, ceramics, knives or any type of kitchenware while in Tokyo you have to visit the famous Kappabashi Street also known as Kitchen Town in Taito district. The place seems like a never-ending strip of kitchenware shops – here you can find everything from pots and pans to plastic food and tableware. The ceramics you will find here is mostly mass-production, but they are still beautiful and with a little searching at the different shops you can find some gems. But if you only have to visit one shop, then make your way to ‘SOI’. SOI has a beautiful mix of antique furniture, decor and of course beautiful and delicate ceramics. You also find a beautiful café on the location.
Another tip is the ‘Tsukiji market’. Besides visiting the market for the fishing market and some really fresh and delicious sushi – which I also highly recommend, the outer market is worth visiting for its ceramic shops. You will find a lot of ceramics that are very similar to the ones on Kappabashi Street, but between the masses, there are some really lovely shops with a beautiful selection of ceramics and kitchen goods. The last tip for Tokyo is the large shopping centers. Don’t be fooled – the shopping centers are a great place for finding ceramics. The variety of artists both international and Japanese is wide and the prices are fair.
DESIGN STORES TO VISIT
Tokyo is maybe my favorite ‘design-store-city’, the range of beautiful stores that sells carefully handpicked interior objects in this city are endless. None the less I tried to narrow it down to some of my favorites, and of course, Ceramics are to be found in each and single one of them.
- This Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Discovered this store during my stay in Tokyo, and it’s now a must-visit for my next trip there. The store is mix of carefully selected ceramics, woodwork, textiles, jewelry, children’s clothing wear, Japanese plants and more. It was at this store that I first discovered the beautiful work of Megumi Tsukazaki, which is now a permanent artist in the YONOBI family. And when you’re tired of all the shopping (like that can ever happen … ) This Tokyo also serves coffee and tea.
- SyuRo, Ueno, Asakusa
The Japanese brand SyuRo has long been on my list, and since I first introduced to their brand, visiting their Tokyo store been high on my wishlist.
Their atelier is located very close to the “kitchen street”, and the area is generally an interesting area to walk around in. It’s filled with classic typesetters, canning factories, cloth wholesalers hardware stores, and small family-run craft factories. And you can even be lucky enough to find small artisans and their art-studios around the streets. The mix is a true pleasure to walk around in.
SyuRo is beside an exceptionally beautiful store and atelier – a store that has an opinion and a mission, which I truly love. They believe that the world of today has forgotten their “monozukuri” (traditional crafts) in favor of “cheap mass production”, causing some artisans to leave their traditional skills against their will. SyuRo works for retaining the treasures of the Japanese artisans, why SyuRo decided to offer a place for artisans to make use of their craft by familiarizing themselves with new materials and picking up ideas on unusual household goods. The result is an updated and modern take on traditional crafts made in Japan, you can find ceramics, leather goods, brass cans, clothing and much more. All things made to perfection and with a strong sense of detail.
- Proto, Ueno, Asakusa
On the first floor of a somewhat anonymous building behind a beautiful bright blue steel door, you find Proto – a little hidden ceramic gem. Proto sells a beautifully curated ceramics – lot Japanese but also from foreign artists. Besides ceramics, the store also sells other beautiful crafts, jewelry, woodwork and more. The store is simple and minimalistic in its display – almost creating a museum-like feel to it. A good place to find something unique craft to bring home.
If possible do yourself the favor of making a reservation for dinner, and enjoy all the small and delicious dishes, which (of course) is served on carefully selected handmade ceramics that complement each dish they serve. It is a wonderful experience – truly unique and satisfying in every way.
- Cibone, Aoyama
This store is one of my favorites in Tokyo. We ended up using several hours here, just walking around the shelves and falling madly in love with the range of ceramics, glassware, clothing, flowers, books, furniture and much much more!
The ceramics here include the cool mugs from Echo Park Pottery and one of my favorite Japanese artists Yoshinori Takemura colorful ceramic universe. Definitely a store that should be on every design-lovers-list.
- Doinel, Aoyama
It was one happy surprise when we stumbled upon this gem of a store in the narrow and small streets in the Aoyama area. Doinel is a shop that sells interior goods and grocery, under the concept of dealing with the simple, genuine product found between craft and mass production. Their collection of tableware was especially beautiful and presented wonderfully in the store, with big tables with a full dinnerware set-up.
- Over the Counter, Aoyama
Under a stair in a pretty anonymous building, you find “Over the Counter”, one of eight ‘Arts and Science’ stores created by Sonya Park – a Tokyo-based Stylist-turned-retailer. This store is a must-visit in Aoyama, never have I experienced a concept store taking it to this level.
When you enter the store – you’re met with a beautiful vintage counter, where delicate and very beautiful objects of design and crafts are presented in the class montres. And that’s it. So if you like to see or buy something, the ever-so service-minded staff (well, we are in Japan) will then carefully present you with the objects. It’s a truly unique and wonderful experience.
- Spiral Market, Aoyama
Located inside the Spiral Building, which is designed by Fumihiko Maki, you find this great store filled with the perfect mix of Stationary, leather goods, homeware, greetings cards, and other accessories. They actually have a whole station only for gift wrapping, where you can find the perfect wrapping combo. Their range of ceramics and glass are also worth mentioning – a bit more ‘classic’, then some of the other places we visited, but still very beautiful.
- AELU, Nishihara, Shibuya-ku
One of my favorite experiences during our stays in Tokyo is visiting AELU. AELU [is a ceramic gallery and restaurant. The owner Tomohiro Maruaka, has impeccable taste and you feel this in any possible way – from the room itself to the ceramic displayed and of course the natural wines and food you get served in the restaurant. It’s Japanese perfection all the way.
- Tsutaya, T-site Daikanyama
‘Tsutaya’ is still one of the best bookstores I have ever visited. It’s located in the very cool T-site buildings by Klein Dytham Architecture, where the exterior comprises hundreds of interlocking T-shapes that subtly reference the logo of Tsutaya’s logo. Inside you can find books about everything – and I mean everything. I especially got lost in the design section, where whole aisles are just about shop-interior, crafts, ceramics, Japanese retail wrapping and much much more.
When you’re done dreaming your self away in the books, take a walk around the other shops found in the T-site area. Hungry? go for a bite at Ivy Place or walk across the street for a coffee at the newly opened Saturdays Surf, a very cool and beautiful designed retail and coffee shop.
- Casica, Shinkiba Koto-ku,Tokyo
You take the metro to the end of its line, and walk through an industrial area – and feel like you might be lost, and then you find it – an amazing old rusty building with a large neon sign CASICA on. And ones you come inside you are in a fantastic space filled with vintage furniture, beautiful crafts, plants, art, and other design objects. Besides the store, the large building holds studios, a café, and an exhibition space. So each time you go, you will decover something new and exciting.
- Cibi, Taito-ku, Tokyo
“Cibi” is Japanese for “little one”, and even though the café is not so little anymore – it is still a must-visit gem. Besides having perfect crafted coffee, a delicious menu that uses seasonal fresh ingredients that mix Japanese delicacy and Western colors – Cibi also has a small store selling Japanese ceramics, glassware, paperware and much more. We found the most beautiful drinking glasses and a lovely paper-mobile.