ISSUE 39  |  Old Meets New

Japanese Style Comes to Oakland

September 26, 2012 6:30 PM

BY Shara Lotfi

Umami Mart is a brick and mortar shop in downtown Oakland specializing in Japanese kitchen, table, and bar ware. Originally an online-only venture, co-owners Yoko and Kayoko recently opened their first physical retail space with the help of Popuphood, a small business incubator that helps negotiate free rent for emerging businesses in previously vacant storefronts.

Once their retail space was secured, Yoko and Kayoko asked Anders Arhøj, a well-known art director in Copenhagen, to take the lead in designing the shop’s interior. The result is an airy, bright space where Shinto meets Scandinavian minimalism. One of the first things you see as you walk into the shop is a display of white arrows (with the exception of one red arrow) on a bare white wall. These arrows, known as hamaya, are said to ward off evil. Each hamaya was handmade by Yoko’s mother, and the beautiful white curtains in the shop windows and hanging on the exposed brick wall behind the register desk were hand-sewn by Yoko’s sister.

The center piece of the shop is undoubtedly the 8-foot-tall, freestanding shrine, designed by Anders and built by Devin Farrell and Joe Perez-Green of Manual Labor. The shrine houses a mix of decorative ceramic pieces and every day objects ranging from tea kettles to bamboo steamers. This mix of high and low is carried out throughout the shop. Dramatically lit pedestals in the back of the store showcase objects ranging from a humble pepper grinder to a hand-blown sake carafe, while simple wooden tables display knives, strainers, bottle openers, and other kitchen wares.

Umami Mart is located at 815 Broadway Street in downtown Oakland.

Photography by Erin Gleeson.

Above: The store windows face Broadway Street in downtown Oakland.

Above: Simple wooden tables flank the entryway; hamaya arrows are displayed on a white wall.

Above: A detail of the hamaya arrows, handmade by Yoko's mother.

Above: Single light bulbs illuminate the central shrine, designed by Anders Arhøj and built by local company Manual Labor. Photograph by Shara Lotfi.

Above: Japanese kitchen wares are displayed on a wooden table near the entryway.

Above: Umami Mart's 8-foot tall central shrine.

Above: Decorative ceramics ghosts, or Kitchen Talismans, designed by Anders and Louise Gaarmanns.

Above: A wooden market stall displays their House and Kitchen Ware.

Above: The store's exterior on Broadway Street.