Chie Nakagawa’s grandma lived in a granny flat the family called the inkyo beya, the retirement room. Nakagawa says visiting her was like going into a special place full of precious things.
That was in rural Chiba. After Chie grew up she worked in publishing in Tokyo. She followed her interest in crafts, visited exhibitions, and opened a small store near the Sumida River, first at Kuramae then Komagata. She called it In-kyo.
She curated simple and elegant things from across the country, from craftspeople she got to know. She learned how things were made and staged events – last year she did one every month – including exhibitions, cooking demonstrations, workshops and live guitar.
In-kyo held its closing event last weekend, after three-and-a-half years at Komagata. Nakagawa is moving to Fukushima to live with her new husband. She will open another In-kyo in the town of Miharu on April 15. It’s a tourist spot named after the three blossoms – plum, peach, cherry. She will offer a similar selection there.
Ceramics, metalware, fabrics, lacquer, furnishings. Functional things you might want filling your own retirement room. The selection at In-kyo has a gentle feel, but there is an underlying clarity to Nakagawa’s choices. And indeed, you need an edge, to curate a small shop effectively. Nakagawa laughs and says, Yes. My eye is masculine isn’t it. That’s what I’ve been told.
On a shelf in front of a bust by Hideki Maekawa there are playful items like Ko Soda’s top-selling, orb-like leather purse. But, Nakagawa says, I only look for playfulness in certain things. Not in dishes.
Of all her exhibitions, she says the lacquerware by Tomoyoshi Miyashita stands out. Wooden bowls and other utensils with a satin sheen and archetypically Japanese colours. I learned a lot, she says. It’s a high-end product I wasn’t sure would be understood, but it went well.
On the second last day, a pair of dishes made in ancient Korean celadon style catches your eye. By a potter named Kazunori Hori, they are not so expensive, a few thousand yen each. You buy one. On the closing day you buy the other.
Nakagawa chides you.
Mark-san, don’t you have too much stuff?
Ha! That’s all very well for her to say. Nakagawa with her irresistible eye is like the Mari Kondo of cluttering your life beautifully.
Some Coffee to Finnish
Yuji Shono lives in Tokushima on the island of Shikoku, where he blends and roasts coffee. In-kyo has carried his brand, Aalto, for many years. On In-kyo’s last day he came to the store to make it. His blend is fruity with refreshing bitterness. His sense of humour could be like that too. His business name comes from the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto. Because Shono likes Aalto’s furniture. And, he says, Finns per head are the world’s number one coffee drinkers.