It takes time to adjust to the darkness inside Hakujitu. The irony of this is that the name (pronounced Hakujitsu) means “broad daylight”. But Kouichi Nishizaka says it also means, to bring to light things that are hard to see.
He says, These items may never find buyers if I don’t offer them. Objects made by famous craftsmen will sell in any shop, so there’s little meaning for me to sell them too. I want to find things only I can sell.
He curates and exhibits like a collector. But he has the knack of non-attachment, of letting go. He admits to being easily bored. He says, I like old things because they are unique. And for every piece, there is a buyer, somewhere, who wants it.
There is variety in this prewar kura, or storehouse (the store has to move soon, for developers). There are bowls, bottles, wooden utensils, farming implements, historic ceramics, and curious pieces of metal. In a glass case, a galvanised-iron boat from Africa lists on one side. Empty picture-frames that hang on the battered zinc walls give the appearance of opening onto endless views.
Nishizaka does no online sales, and Instagram is the only place you’ll find him outside this back-lane in Torigoe. His photographs have helped gather 12,000 followers since the store opened in January.
The items he assembles speak of human labour and long service. As much as they are objects of design, they express an aesthetic of time.
Such a piece is the green rectangular enamelled steel sheet. Possibly a shelf, it is marked with two rust patches like puffs of gunsmoke, or tumbleweeds. Nishizaka bought it as junk, but immediately saw how it could light up like a peacock on a wall. You ask him for it, to take it down for you. You gamble that the aura will last after you get it home, into the hard light of your own day.