Ogata Paris, a gallery, a tea salon, a restaurant, a bar and also a boutique
A few steps off the bustling Le Marais streets in Paris, a small wayfinding points towards Ogata Paris. A peek inside the traditional townhouse’s entrance and you will see a beautiful slab of date kanmuri stone reminiscent of a chōzubachi, a water bowl, commonly seen at the entrances to Japanese shrines. The act of purifying one’s mind and body before entering a shrine is seemingly replicated at the entrance in Ogata Paris. Though the reality in post-Covid times seems to discourage the use of the water bowl; on the top of the stone surface sits a practical bottle of hand sanitiser.
Ogata Paris, a gallery, a tea salon, a restaurant, a bar and also a boutique is set across 800 square metres in Paris, France. Established by Japanese architect, designer and restaurateur Shinichiro Ogata in 2019, Ogata Paris is housed in a 17th century townhouse. Upon arrival, I was drawn towards the gallery space. During the day of my visit, natural light was shining through the glass brick roof, casting soft dappled shadows over the sculptures on display and highlighting the textures in the interior architecture such as the floor. The light-filled gallery space was drastically contrasted with the controlled lighting conditions in the SABŌ tea salon located in the townhouse’s basement.
The gallery space is sparsely filled with Japanese artworks. The gallery is curated by Shinichiro Ogata himself, providing a platform to showcase Japanese craft in the Western world, in Paris, in this case. The permanent art collection in the gallery is presented alongside temporary exhibitions providing a synergy between the artworks. Upon closer inspection, each artwork is carefully labelled to explain each piece, the processes to produce them, and occasionally, the significance of a piece. On the ground floor of the townhouse sits the gallery but also a small boutique. In both cases, there is a strong focus on materiality and craftsmanship. Artworks in the gallery and homewares in the boutique appear to celebrate Japanese craftsmanship in pottery, tin, lacquer, copper, brass, glass, iron, wood and bamboo. I appreciated the contrast between the artworks and the homewares, though made from the same material, the latter has the calling of bringing beauty into the daily lives of its owner. Soetsu Yanagi’s book The Beauty of Everyday Things came to my mind, where Yanagi discussed how certain pieces are constant companions in our lives, made with care and built to last to easily fit into our utilitarian needs in daily lives - they are meant to be utilised and enjoyed in a non-precious way. I love this simple concept that is rooted in the respect of the humble craftsmen that sheds beauty in our daily lives. The items sold in the boutique at Ogata Paris appear to have these described modest qualities.
Not to be repeated as it was a worthwhile experience, I visited Ogata Paris without making any reservations after plans for a day trip out of Paris fell out. Fortunately, a spot at the SABŌ tea salon was available for tea tasting. As the staff guides me to the basement tea salon, the journey starts from the light-filled gallery, slowly ascending into the dark stairwell and transporting one into a calm space. Quietly, I was shown to my seat at the end of a table made from one single piece of timber measuring approximately seven metres. This impressive table formed the island where tea tastings are held.
The entire space at Ogata Paris was dubbed by the Japan Times media’s article as an embassy for Japanese elegance in Europe. Indeed, when the tea master explained the tea selections and choice of wagashi desserts, I was immediately reminded of a tea ceremony experience in Japan but also my childhood memory of frequent visits to a Japanese couple’s home where my love for Japanese snacks developed. Through my short encounter at the SABŌ tea salon, the word omotenashi came to mind. Omotenashi is the Japanese concept of hospitality encompassing sincerity, anticipation and selflessness. Being in Paris but transported to Japan and its customs of omotenashi, is this what the Japan Times article meant?
As I was leaving the SABŌ tea room, the tea master asked if I liked whiskey. I do, I replied. The tea master went on to explain that in the very same basement in the SHUBŌ area, whiskies are served in the evenings alongside music played through an old record player. For now, the SHUBŌ as well as the RESTAURANT are saved for my next visit to Paris. With the care and attention I received during my short encounter at the SABŌ tea salon, I can only imagine that applied in the other services at Ogata Paris. Leaving Ogata Paris, I thought about the two-floor The Apartment in Graanmarkt 13 in Antwerp by Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen and wondered if there are plans for an Ogata Paris apartment, one that extends the omotenashi experience beyond a short few hours that one currently experiences in the gallery, the tea salon, the shop and the restaurant.
Find out more about Ogata Paris on its website https://ogata.com/paris/