[Skip Town in Hokkaido] Meet the makers of Sapporo
I’ve decided that Sapporo is a big city that feels small. There are heaps of interesting little shops near the city centre, so you can walk most places (we walked a LOT). Also, perhaps due to its relative isolation, there seems to be a really close-knit arts community. On our only free full day in Sapporo, we visited a couple of local artisans, and they were so eager to recommend their friends’ shops, cafes and galleries… but unfortunately we only had time for a few. If only we’d had a couple more days!
Anyway, let’s meet them.
Furniture Design Agra 2-1F, South 6 East 1, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Despite the sensible, grid-like streets, we managed to get lost on the way to Furniture Design Agra, proprietors of “cute life for cool people since 1995″. Our tardiness didn’t seem to matter, as we were enthusiastically greeted by owner and designer Nanae Hara, who makes up for her lack of English with animated facial expressions and gestures.
Furniture Design Agra is located by the river, in a warehouse that serves as both store and workshop. It’s quite an odd store, but in a good way. High-end furniture mixes with inexpensive paper cut-outs and even some local foods, like dried sea-weed and canned deer! When asked about her style, Nanae insists that she doesn’t really have one; that she gets bored easily and needs to try new things. Personally, I think that if Nanae’s designs are not united by style then they definitely are by attitude. There is humour in all her pieces, from the pacman-esque cushions to her signature fluffy ‘sheep’ chair, and the small rectangular cushions that come with hand-holes so that you can (she demonstrates) take a nap anywhere!
Stepping into the den-like storefront of Kasaka Koushi leather is almost like being transported back to 1930′s England. The room is lined with shelves displaying tools of the trade, vintage magazines and wooden toys, while old Hermes advertisements are framed on the walls. This husband and wife team have made an art out of hand-crafting leather satchels and bags that, while inspired by old European models, are distinctly Japanese.
On his vintage industrial sewing machine, Koji kindly demonstrates the construction of one, tiny piece of a bag in progress. You can really see how much time and effort goes into producing these products – they are just so sturdy and well-made. A bag like this is a long-term investment - they’re not cheap, but I’m sure they’d last a lifetime. I may need to start saving…
When we’d finished at Kusaka, Koji pointed us across the street (literally) to a Japanese antique store, which he says is one of his favourite places in Sapporo. Up a rickety set of stairs we went, and emerged into a room crowded with all manner of interesting objects. I didn’t know what a lot of the pieces actually were, but I don’t think that mattered too much. Everything was so beautifully arranged in a way that made you appreciate the simplest of items – glass bottles, old bolts, unidentified ceramic doodads. I wish now that I had picked up a few things, but I think at the time I was unsure how I could make these odd little objects work in my house.
I had a little trouble translating, but the name of the store is either Juuichigatsu (Japanese for November) or 11gatsu. Their equally simple/beautiful website is here. The store is located in East Odori, above Fab Cafe, which is also worth a visit thanks to an excellent magazine selection and some truly fancy coffee.
*Photography by Sean Fennessy