Japanese-style Interior Design

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 12 Comments |

A bit of a chance encounter after work today saw me with my first photography job doing some shots for a small Japanese interior decoration store. It was literally a walk-in and shoot for charity sketch! So here are some photos of the gorgeous hand-made Japanese furniture.


I was wandering around outside with my Olympus PEN E-P1, attempting to get some shots with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens (all of the shots in this post are taken with this lens) before daylight faded when I heard the barking of a nearby pooch. Curious, I tottered closer in search. Just as I arrived at the source of the noise, I was suddenly ushered into the store I found myself standing in front of by a friendly Japanese woman…


Stepping inside, my eyes were flooded with red and orange light. The shop turned out to be full of expensive, decorative Japanese lamps, pictures and woodwork. It was no bigger than the standard Japanese living room; to the left of me was a small table with a backdrop of Western-style curtains and bossa-nova music and to the right of me a mixture of hellish black and red lamps and curious wooden ornaments.


Showing me one of the feather-light, firey Japanese paper lamp tops, the owners, an older married couple, claim to make everything by hand! The store, simply named ‘Okazaki Interior’ also contains Western-style curtains and ornaments made by another interior-design specialist who is a friend of the older couple, as well as a charming mixed-breed dog named ‘Sharu’. Certainly a mishmash of styles under one tiny roof!


The detail is exquisite and they tell me the wood is yakusugi, all the way from that stunning island that I visited last year, Yakushima. Video of that here.


I am sat down and given some cool canned coffee before the questions begin…

What’s your name? Where do you come from? Why do you like Japan? What’s your favourite Japanese food?

There was once a time when I resented such treatment, feeling somewhat mocked and irritated that most every Japanese person would ask me the same thing, but now, in my oh-so infinite wisdom, I have come to realise that such questions amount to no more than a friendly ice-breaker. It’s the Japanese way of getting to know you and in my opinion far more interesting than asking about the weather (/britishculture).


I had the PEN in my hands and an unusually quiet dog scampering around, so I took the opportunity while chatting to try and overcome my fear of using the camera in front of people. Snap snap snap. Dogs are not easy to capture, especially without a full-on hefty DSLR with nippy autofocus, but with a little trial and error, I am able to capture some shots. Bless the bright f/1.7 pancake lens.


The four people in the store quickly become enamoured with the beautiful images of pet dog Sharu being stored on the camera and, before I know it, they are taking me to a back room to print them out. One thing leads to another and I offer to shoot some pictures of the products in the store for them – my first photography job!


30 minutes of playful shooting and printing later, our blossoming friendship is sealed and I’m invited out to dinner at a sushi restaurant they mention has been on television. The food lives up to expectations and we enjoy small talk over a delicious meal, including fish and daikon (below), chawanmushi and, of course, a row of sushi!


My Japanese is now at the stage where I can more or less comfortably exist in conversation with Japanese people. My hosts announce to me that they don’t feel any sort of foreigner-barrier (for lack of a better term) and are quite relaxed talking to me and around me. The conversation shifts from pleasantries to everyday conversation about life, love and oyaji-gags (cheesy jokes). Of course, there is always the possibility that they were being polite and just complementing me out of custom, but judging by the fact that they were having conversations among themselves as well as with me, I felt as though I was just having dinner with friends rather than being treated as a special guest.


A kinen-shashin (commemorative picture) later and we were on our way back to the store to say goodbye. I promised to call in again sometime soon to hand over the photograph and catch up with them.

All-in-all, one of those wonderfully surprising days that remind me of the things I love about Japan.


Gakuranman Giveaway contest results to be posted on Sunday – will make video draw at the weekend!

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