Japan House London celebrates the Asian nation’s cultural offerings

The Shop At Japan House
Japan House London has just opened its doors to the public.
(Image credit: Lee Mawdsley)

In Bernard George’s Grade II listed, Art Deco building on Kensington High Street, a new £15m cultural and retail centre trumpets Japan’s ability to craft both function and beauty. Japan House London follows outposts in Los Angeles and São Paulo, each designed under the guidance of chief creative director Kenya Hara (of Muji fame). Set up by the Government of Japan, they represent soft diplomacy at its most aspirational.

Japan House stocks items that Londoners would be hard pushed to find elsewhere. Goodies include bent cedar bento boxes, aesthetically pleasing picnic-ware made from sugar cane fibre, antique lacquered trays, and stylish nail-clippers. The plan is to have personalised narratives written up about each product, says director Michael Houlihan, director general of JHL. ‘We are as much telling stories as we are selling products.’

On the 800 sq m ground floor there is also a teaser of the exhibition below, ‘Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future’. The architect, who designed the 2013 Serpentine Pavilion, displays delicate models of his work on slim plinths, alongside blown-up photos and images on the walls.

Connecting the floors is a new spiral staircase – made in Japan and brought over in pieces – and a spherical glass lift. The basement is home to a library and event space. Like the ground floor these are both exercises in a quiet aesthetic created by Japanese firm Wonderwall, designers of Uniqlo’s London flagship. While these two floors feature white walls and glazing, Wonderwall’s design for the first-floor restaurant, Akira, is warmer, with a black slatted ceiling, a black patterned screen and wooden chairs and tables from Japan.

Inside Japan House with various different sections.

The project was created under the creative guidance of Kenya Hara.

(Image credit: Lee Mawdsley)

Pictured: rows of black chairs inside an auditorium-like space.

Japan House London includes a store, cafe and restaurant, and a cultural centre with facilities for events.

(Image credit: Lee Mawdsley)

Inside Japan House with large white desks at a reception area

The building is a celebration of Japanese culture, offering products from the country that are difficult to source elsewhere.

(Image credit: Lee Mawdsley)

The cultural centre's open plan exhibition space with individual pieces displayed on stands.

The cultural centre's opening exhibition focuses on the work of architect Sou Fujimoto.

(Image credit: Lee Mawdsley)

Pictured is the Akira restaurant which features eight two-seater wooden tables, two four seater wooden circular tables and a kitchen at work in the backdrop.

The Akira restaurant also forms part of Japan House London.

(Image credit: Lee Mawdsley)


For more information visit the Japan House website

Clare Dowdy is a London-based freelance design and architecture journalist who has written for titles including Wallpaper*, BBC, Monocle and the Financial Times. She’s the author of ‘Made In London: From Workshops to Factories’ and co-author of ‘Made in Ibiza: A Journey into the Creative Heart of the White Island’.