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A Place Where You Find Something Whenever You Go

八木 基之

GINZA SIX EDITORS Vol.65

I’ve always liked wandering, ever since I was a kid. In grade school, I’d always swing by here and there. I rarely went straight home. Even now, after work, I go out for drinks on the spur of the moment, step into a public bathhouse, or go and watch a movie. I’ll get off the train a stop early and wander home on foot. Then, on my way home, I’ll duck into a convenience store for no reason and stand there reading a magazine. In all these years, I haven’t changed.

GINZA SIX is a great place to wander. Its store-lined hallways are modeled on the little Ginza alleyways found off the beaten path. The halls are laid out randomly, and they curve. They’re not set along ruler-straight lines. You don’t always know exactly where everything is. But when you turn a corner, a great store suddenly appears before your eyes, and you find something you like. That’s surprisingly fun.

Covering the architect Tadao Ando eight years ago, I happened to follow him on a business trip to Italy to research an article. While we were there, he told me, “Obsessing over the functional can be bad. Why do you think people come to Venice again and again? It’s because the city itself is a labyrinth. You’re thrilled once again and make new discoveries each time you visit. That’s why the city has so many repeat visitors.” I thought that made sense. I think that’s also what makes GINZA SIX special. No matter how many times you go, you find something new. It makes you keep going back.

My first stop today is Venini on the first floor, a venerable Venetian glass brand established in 1921. I first discovered Venini on that trip to Italy with Tadao Ando, who released the Veliero lamp he designed with Venini at Salone del Mobile Milano. The architect has been involved in four collaborations with Venini so far. This store carries his fourth work in the series, Ando Cosmos.

Ando Cosmos is an object that combines cubes and spheres, “the foundational geometric elements of architecture,” as the master put it. It comes in four colors: crystal (clear), blue, green, and red. The crystal Cosmos is priced at 3,080,000 yen. The other three colors are 2,880,000 yen each (all prices listed before tax). The work has an unmistakable presence. Displayed at home, it would undoubtedly become the focal point of your interior. Only 19 of the crystal and 30 of the other colors have been created. Japan had four, but three have already sold, a testament, if any were needed, of Ando’s popularity.

Venini offers various other products, from chandeliers to flower vases, each created as one of a kind by master Venetian glassblowers. The range of colors is exquisite, and the light penetrating and reflecting off the glass is simply lovely. Venini’s color palette features more than 100 colors. I’ve been invited by a friend to see his new house, and I think I’ll bring him a small Venini vase as a housewarming gift. The Cosmos is, of course, out of my range, but the vases are reasonably priced and would make good gifts.

Next, I head up to the fifth floor. Here, everywhere I look, I see shoes and bags. As I’m wandering about, Tumi catches my eye. I’ve had a Tumi ballistic nylon suitcase for over ten years and was just thinking it was time for something new, so I went in.

19 Degree Aluminum is their collection of aluminum suitcases. As the name suggests, the diagonal ridges on the surface are at 19 degree angles. Not only are the lines beautiful, they strengthen the case, a functional design touch that’s also a Tumi trademark. The suitcases come in four colors—matte black, silver, gunmetal, and amber, the last one as a seasonal color—and in three formats—a carry-on (100,000 yen; 110,000 yen for gunmetal), a short-stay suitcase (120,000 yen), and a long-stay suitcase (135,000 yen). There’s no question they’d make good replacements for my current suitcase.

Tumi’s functionality is truly astonishing. A perfect example is the Three-Way Brief (69,000 yen), available only in Japan. I carry a computer around with me all the time these days, so a backpack is very useful. Anyone can tell at a glance it’s a Tumi business bag; the design is perfect for carrying with a jacket or suit without creating the impression of a high school student in uniform. It has plenty of pockets. I especially like the waterproof pocket, perfect for a collapsible umbrella or plastic drink bottle.

Tumi’s collapsible umbrella also catches my eye. It both opens and closes with the press of a button. It features air vents to keep the umbrella from turning inside out in gusting winds, a typical and carefully considered Tumi touch. Black collapsible umbrellas tend to be associated with typical middle-aged men, but this one breaks the mold: It’s more the accoutrement of a refined gentleman. I find myself wanting one. The umbrella in medium size is 10,000 yen, so losing it wouldn’t be trivial, but still…

Thinking to take a break, I next head to the Food Floor, the second belowground floor. Many of the restaurants and stores found here are Tokyo firsts and exclusive to GINZA SIX. Many present new formats. I wander around a bit and enter a place I find immediately appealing. That place is Café Experto, a coffee shop that takes special care with everything from bean varieties, cultivation and selection in the country of origin, to storage and brewing in Japan. I’m particularly drawn to the demeanor of Takeshi Miyazaki behind the counter. He has the aura of someone clearly capable of brewing a delicious cup of coffee.

Following Miyazaki-san’s recommendation, I choose Caturra bean coffee from Colombia’s Bellavista farm. Miyazaki-san suggests I compare two different brewing methods to see how the brewing method affects the coffee’s flavor. I have the cups brewed via hand-drip and French press. I’m entranced by Miyazaki-san’s graceful gestures as he works. The care with which he pours in the hot water vividly communicates a passion for coffee. Miyazaki-san tells me he once worked on a coffee farm in Hawaii to find out as much as he possibly could about coffee. “An important aspect of coffee beans is, in fact, how they’re transported. Almost all our beans are transported under strict temperature controls.” The obvious care that goes into a single cup helps explain the 1,500 yen price.

Now, to the taste: The hand-drip has a limpid flavor free of unpleasant notes—it almost doesn’t seem like coffee. After I take a sip, the aftertaste lingers in my nose for a long time. Highly refined is the most apt description. In contrast, the French press has a punchy flavor that fills my mouth the moment I take a sip. The coffee beans are the same, but the flavors are completely different. The profound complexities of coffee amazed me.

Finally, I wander the Food Floor looking for a Ginza souvenir. It’s hard to choose—there’s so much that I want. Still, wandering GINZA SIX is a sheer joy. Before you know it, you’ve been here for hours. It’s that kind of place.

Text:Motoyuki Yagi Photos:Takao Ota Edit:Yuka Okada

editors_yagi

八木 基之

1972年生まれ。上智大学卒業後、日之出出版に入社。その後、海外をぶらぶらした後、「東京カレンダー」の創刊に携わる。2006年より幻冬舎に入社し、「GOETHE」編集部に所属。2018年よりウェブ版のGOETHE編集長を務める。
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2018.11.28 UP