Every beginning has an end
Every end has a new beginning

Yamashokuon closed its doors on April 16, 2023 after its operation since 2016 as Yamamichi’s partner store. The decision was made to close the old location and open a new one. On April 29, We opened Yamamichi Kyoto in Gojo, Kyoto.

We will look back on the past that led to the founding of Yamashokuon, and how Yamatomichi Kyoto came together. We take you behind the scenes.

Text: Akira Natsume
Photography: Hikaru Otake, Haruo Kodera

Yamashokuon which I started with with Takeshi Azuma, a.k.a. “Denki-kun,” has come to an end. I have deep memories of Yamashokuon, and I am grateful to Denki-kun for helping me create roots in Kyoto.

I am sometimes asked why I didn’t choose Osaka over Kyoto. I thought of Kyoto because it’s beautiful nature and rich culture, but also since I began my journey in Kamakura, the ancient capital of the east, it only made sense to build in the ancient capital of the west. however, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I started in Kyoto because of Denki-kun.

It would be a bit of a stretch to tell you why we parted ways, but I believe it was because of Denki-kun’s major success in sound production work, which is his core business. It is not widely known that Denki was heavily involved in Brian Eno’s exhibition, an ambient music master artist, held in Kyoto last year. I attended, and remember being astonished by Denki-kun’s work and the atmosphere that he had created, further deepening my respect for him.

Every beginning has an end and every end has a new beginning. As we both grew, our decision to create Yamatomichi Kyoto was a turning point. Denki will continue to follow his own path as Yamashokuon in his own creative rhythm.

Yamatomichi Kyoto began when I learned that Jens Jensen, who has been involved with Yamatomichi in various ways, was building a villa in Kyoto. Jens is a person who can create his own place anywhere, and while building his villa, he was maturing his own community in Kyoto.

Within that community, he had word of a interesting piece of land that was available. I decided to take a look at the place in person, and headed there on foot after drinking at Muraya* until noon. I was impressed at first sight!

*Muraya is a hip space in the guise of an izakaya located in Demachiyanagi, Kyoto. The atmosphere they create will take you to another dimension through sake. Denki introduced me to this place, and I was so hooked that I created Yamashokuon near Muraya.

Takase River

Kamo River

Ad for our store at the local sauna.

They even have morning sauna on the weekend!

In front of the building is Gojo Mall a drinking spot, and upon further investigation, I learned that it was a former office of a yakuza gangster. It was a location that locals wouldn’t dare to set foot in. The initial impression of the space was dark and rundown. But I had a hunch that if we could light the place up, we might be able to create a sunlit, light-filled place, a atmosphere that resembles sunlight shining through a dark forest. May 2022, I signed the contract while being a little tipsy from the izakayas across the street.

I signed the contract on the spur of the moment, but couldn’t help but worry about whether the dark, rundown place would really become a sunlit space. But as the years went by, I was blessed to meet many talented people, and the sunlit space I had envisioned was born. It became a place I was truly proud of.

Opening day, April 29. A private showing was held with the friends who helped make this place a reality. I would like to share with you the amazing people behind this project and some of the words I received from our friends as we celebrated the opening with drinks.

Those who brought light to the store

Junmei Nagasaka
Representative of Hitotomori Co. He runs a design office, an inn, and a café in Nara under the slogan “Design for Life.”

The property before construction

Chie Tadokoro
Chief designer of Hitotomori Co. A reliable staff member who has supported Hitotomori since its establishment. She is also an X-ray technician.

Smartphone charging facilities and luggage valet for guests.

Yamatomichi Kyoto was built under the direction of Jens Jensen. Jens introduced me to Mr. Junmei Nagasaka of the architectural design firm Hitomori. We met in Kamakura, and after a few drinks, things began to take shape. I was also blessed to hear from Mr. Yamano, an old acquaintance of mine, who gave me his support saying, “Mr. Nagasaka would be the best choice.”

Thank you for creating this wonderful space.

This building was originally an old Kyoto-style machiya (traditional townhouse), and it was pitch-dark inside. I thought that by bringing natural light into the atrium with top lights and a glass ceiling in the back of the room, we could create a beautiful space using the negative aspect of the darkness, the space is unique in its location and the atmosphere that it possesses. The collaborators (lighting, speakers, tiles, fixtures, and construction company) are people we have worked with. It was easy to communicate and bring shape to a single idea. It was a symphony of talented artists that followed our ideas while adding their own unique touches. I like that way of working, and I thought it suited Yamatomichi and the process was flawless. (Junmei Nagasaka)

I have designed kitchens before, but this was the first time I was involved in designing fixtures. I learned a lot. Natsume and Yamatomichi staff member Nakamura suggested facilities like phone charging stations and glass cup washers, and I enjoyed responding to their suggestions. (Chie Tadokoro)

A lighting design studio established by Hiroyuki Nagatomi and Chitoshi Nara in 2015. They work on lighting plans for stores and other facilities, and use their experience to design original lighting. Based in Nara, Japan.


Yamatomichi latern designed by NEW LIGHT POTTERY

We were happy to have them join us again this time, as we first asked them to do the lighting planning for our Kamakura office. I have unforgettable memories of the karaoke bar in Nara with them.

“I made two custom-made lights, a lantern for the entrance and a bracket light for the bathroom. It was the first time I had tried to make a paper lantern, so it was great to try something new.”

“When I made the lanterns, I used new materials, instead of the fabrics we usually use. I wanted to make it as light as possible, but it had to be heavy enough so that it would not be blown away by the wind. It was difficult, but I am glad we took on the challenge.” (Hiroyuki Nagatomi)

“We also did a lighting plan for the interior of the store, along with custom-made lighting. I got a feeling for what Mr. Natsume’s was looking for during our meetings. It was difficult to find a balance in the way the products were displayed to match the uniqueness of the building. I enjoyed the challenge of creating an atmosphere that I had never made.” (Mr. Chitoshi Nara)

Those who implmented functional comfort

Atelier, tuareg Yuji Okazaki
Atelier tuareg is located in Minoh City, Osaka Prefecture, and focuses on metal fabrication. They design, process, and fabricate a wide range of hardware, from products to architectural structures. They also do processing that crosses brass with copper, tin, and other special metals.

Rotating showcases made of solid aluminum

One month before the opening, we decided to change the main display stands. We wanted to create something more interactive and came up with the idea of making rotating showcases. I was impressed by Tadokoro-san of Hitomori, who quickly created a paper prototype for this purpose, and two weeks later, a prototype of a massive rotating solid aluminum showcase was completed.

It would not have been possible without Mr. Okazaki, who was very fond of Yamatomichi. When I went to see the prototype for the first time, he didn’t show any signs of interest in Yamatomichi, but the finished product was full of his love for the project. It was really cool.

“Usually for a project like this, generally people use thin metal sheets to keep the costs low. However, we used a gorgeous 8mm aluminum plate to make it look even more sturdy,”

“It is better to use a bent plate to ensure strength, but this time, I cut taps on the small end and did other complicated things to make the finished product neat. Also, since this is a display stand that customers will be touching, we designed it to be very sturdy.” (Yuji Okazaki)

listude, Manpei Tsurubayashi
In 2007, Manpei launched sonihouse (now listude) with Anna Tsurubayashi, working under the concept of “creating a rich cycle between sound, space, and the listener. Starting with the “scenery” dodecahedron speaker, which is a thoughtful reproduction of echoes in space, they attempt to make various proposals through objects, things, and sensations that begin with active “listening.”

New polyhedron coaxial omni-directional speaker

The “listude” speakers create a sound that resonates as if nestled in the beautiful space of their workshop in Nara. I was surprised to learn that the founding member of listude, Mr. Tsurubayashi’s wife Anna, was Denki’s classmate in elementary school. In many ways, I think it was fate that she joined us for this project.

“We make polyhedron speakers in Nara. Our speakers are omni-directional and have the characteristic of producing sound in all directions. A perfect speaker for what Yamatomichi was looking for. A speaker that reproduces natural sound.”

“The speakers are installed in a position where the sounds of nature can be heard in a more realistic way, hanging not too close or too far away from the ceiling, allowing for more natural reproduction of sounds such as bugs.” (Manpei Tsurubayashi)

Takeshi Azuma, a.k.a Denki-kun
Sound engineer, Yamashokuon.
Denki-kun creates sound installations, stage and musical sounds based on ideas from ultralight hiking and field recordings. In Kyoto, he was in charge of the sound for the Brian Eno exhibition, the sound for KYOTOPHONIE, and the recording director.

Wherever you go, there is often music playing. Music or silence, is that the only two options? I decided to have Denki create a third option, a space where you can feel nature through sound. I asked him to create a sound installation that would simulate the natural environment of the mountains, so that even if it is sunny outside, the sound of rain can be heard inside, and even if raining outside, inside you can feel the pleasant sunny weather in the mountains.

I asked Denki-kun to help us to ensure that even if we go down separate paths, we can collaborate and create new paths. The result was a store space that, in my opinion, was the first in the world to express realistic sounds of nature. This sound installation is truly amazing, and you feel as if you were really in nature, with the sounds of birds, frogs, and water. I believe that the world needs Denki-kun’s work and he will continue to contribute beauty to the world.

“Yamatomichi is a hiking brand that helps you adventure in nature, so we used many speakers and arranged the sounds as if nature is living there, so that when you walk around the store you subconsciously feel as if you are in nature. The sound sources are arranged as if each sound has its own life. The animals react to weather changes just like we do, and I implemented that aspect as well. ”

“The sounds used are recorded during a trip to Kitayama, Kyoto, near the headwaters of the Kamo River, and are also arranged with natural sounds collected from various places around the world, including Okinawa, Shikoku, Ladakh, Nepal, and Italy. We plan to change the sound installation according to the seasons,” (Denki-kun)

Those that filled in the details

Jens Jensen
Environmental Development / English translation supervisor. Born in Denmark, Jens Jensen has lived in Japan since 2002. In Kamakura, he lives in a DIY renovated house that he has been working on for 4 years since 2013. At Yamatomichi, he supervises environmental development and English communication for offices and stores. Other work includes serving as Japan editor for the UK’s Wallpaper* magazine and writing for media outlets in Japan and abroad. You can catch him walking his beloved dog, Buddy, in the mountains of Kamakura and the beach.

Although he started out as a consultant for Yamamichi’s overseas branding, he is now a reliable colleague who directs/manages curation of the Kamakura office and Kyoto. All from finding a location to completion, while also doing some of the carpentry work. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of environment he will create next with us.

I was given the role of project manager for this project. I first approached Mr. Nagasaka of the architectural design office Hitomori because I was familiar with his work. I had seen his houses, offices, accommodations, and a very nice Chinese restaurant nearby, as well as other works he had created, and I had always hoped to work with him someday.

If I were to do a project as an individual, I would design and do the carpentry myself, but since this was a project for the Yamamichi Kyoto branch, I wanted to do something that is difficult to do as an individual, so I approached him. And it’s close to Nara, where they are based. Well, the result was quite good, wasn’t it?” (Jens Jensen)

Okada Corporation, Naoki Okada
Entered the construction industry after graduating from junior high school. After working as a steeplejack, earthworker, and demolition, he became a carpenter. In 2018, he started a landlord business with his wife, who is an architect. Next, he is looking into the rental home business. He is devoted to snowboarding in winter, and stand up paddle boarding and camping from spring to fall, while honing his skills and sensibility daily to create a space where visitors can retreat to a place rich in nature.

Fixtures around the counter under construction

Okada-san always had good vibes whenever I visited him on site. I am very happy to have found a carpenter I can trust. When I planned this interview, Nagasaka-san, who designed the building, said, “Let’s also interview Kimura-san from the construction company and Okada-san from the carpentry store, too,” which made me happy. I fully agree with Mr. Nagasaka’s opinion that the carpenters did a great job in creating such a nice space.

The most difficult and challenging part of the project was to be flexible in the construction and fabrication, while maintaining its strength. However, I also like aggressive designs, so we proceeded with an awareness of making it sharp and cool. (Naoki Okada)

NOTA&design, Shunsuke Kato
Born in 1984 in Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture. After working part-time at IDEE experience while a student at Kyoto Seika University, he went to London to study design. After returning to Japan, he started video production and graphic design with his current partner. After working for an advertising production company in Tokyo, he returned to his hometown of Shigaraki to engage in pottery design and production at the family business, Yamatatsu Pottery. 2015, he became independent and established “NOTA&design” to design, produce, and sell general lifestyle products centered on pottery. In July 2017, he opened “NOTA_SHOP” on the premises of his studio, selling works and antiques of Shigaraki craftsmen.https://nota-and.com/

Tiles designed specifically for Yamatomichi Kyoto

I was surprised when I visited the store and workshop of NOTA & design. The place, located at the end of a straight road deep in the mountains, was a space with overwhelmingly excellent design. Unfortunately, the tiles were installed in a slightly dim area, making it difficult to see all the beautiful colors, but when viewed in natural light, they look like rocks found in high mountains! I have a few tiles left over and would like to use them in places that see natural light.

“I do pottery production in Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture.
When I first heard about this project, I looked at the Yamatomichi website and focused the theme color blue. I used a method of re-firing the glaze, so I chose a glaze that would produce a natural evenness. When Natsume visited us, he showed us pictures of mountains and moss, which led to the tiles with a rather gaudy bright green and yellow-green splash. One of the themes of this project was that the view from afar is different from the view up close. That’s what nature is all about.” (Shunsuke Kato)

(left) Mr. Kimura (right) partner, Mr. Hayashi, Takakura Construction

Bulkura Construction, Akiko Kimura
After graduating from the architecture department, Kimura realized her lack of talent and gave up on the idea of becoming a designer. She started working for a major interior design company, where she realized the importance of the role of the construction company and at the same time found it interesting. Together with her husband, she founded Takakura Construction Co. Just looking at the drawings of respected architects and designers is bliss. She is also a mother of three elementary school children. Her motto is not to stress even if the dishes are starting to pile up.


The atrium around the entrance is filled with soft light from the skylight.

Thanks to Ms. Kimura’s humble personality, we were able to proceed very pleasantly. Like Mr. Nagasaka, I was also glad that she visited our store in Kamakura first during the consideration stage of taking on the job. We were truly able to make a masterpiece. Thank you very much.

First of all, everyone at Yamatomichi is very unique.characters Mr. Jensen, Mr. Natsume, Denki-kun, JK (Yamamichi staff member Nakamura), and many other people with strong personalities appeared one after another. When building a store, you have to think about various things, such as how to run the store and the direction of the brand, and when you want to incorporate that into the space, you have to find the right balance in terms of design and budget, depending on how you want to use the space. I did my best to accept everyone’s unique ideas with a warm welcome heart until the very end. It was a lot of work (laughs). (Akiko Kimura, Takakura Construction)

In 2017, he launched Sun Trading Japan Inc. to act as an import distributor, and in 2019, he opened “VANAVASA BEER+GALLERY,” a corner liquor store with an art gallery, in Kamakura.

Toasting at the counter of the Kyoto store

I have fond memories of visiting more than 9 breweries together in one night to inspect the beer situation in Kyoto during the stage of deciding the direction of the store. At first, we were thinking of setting up a kitchen and serving food, but there are many great restaurants in Kyoto, so we decided to keep it simple and make it a bottle store, thanks in large part to Noji’s advice. The main beers we will carry are Yorocco Beer, which has a close connection with Kamakura, and Pacific Brewing from Chigasaki.

I run a bottle store in Kamakura called “VANAVASA. I don’t think it is very common to find an outdoor store and a bottle store together, and I think this is the first time even in Kyoto. I am very happy to be able to help in such a place.
I would be happy if this beer contributes to the development of Yamatomichi Kyoto. Just as Natsume-san has loved his products and made them, this beer was made with love, so I think that people who love Yamatomichi products will love this select beer.” (Ii Norito)

We hope that the Yamatomichi Kyoto will become a place for new hikers to relax and enjoy themselves. A place where you can come after you hike, enjoy the sauna at Umeyu and toast with a beer in hand at Yamatomichi Kyoto.

Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. Tsuchiya of Hiker’s Depot who came from Tokyo for the opening day preview, Mr. Tanaka, Mr. Kimura, and Monja of Circles in Nagoya, and many others. It was an honor to be able to toast with all of you and to start the day with the biggest smile. Thank you very much! (Yamatomichi Founder, Akira Natsume)