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Keiji Ashizawa is inspired by the “whiteness of tofu” for the restaurant Saga Hirakawaya

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Japanese designer Keiji Ashizawa paid homage to the food on offer when designing tofu restaurant Saga Hirakawaya, which hopes to revitalize a depopulated community in Japan.

Located in the hot spring resort of Takeo Onsen in Japan’s Saga Prefecture, the curved restaurant was designed to blend into the surrounding environment, including a historic tower gate.

Saga Hirakawaya Restaurant is located next to a historic tower gate

“Tofu, a food culture rooted in the Saga Prefecture region, is the main ingredient in this restaurant,” Ashizawa told Dezeen. “As tofu is a simple food, we chose materials with a sense of simplicity such as wood, concrete, and plaster-finished walls to bring out the texture of the materials.”

“With a background of wanting to use local materials, wood was used for the entrance, windows and soffit of the eaves to match the wood of Ariake, a furniture brand based in Saga.”

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Foot bath outside the tofu restaurant
Volcanic ash was used for plaster

The studio also used shirasu – a type of volcanic ash from Mount Sakurajima in Kyushu – as plastering material for the exterior walls of the building.

Saga Hirakawaya has a curved design forming a semi-open inner courtyard, which contains a foot bath with hot spring water that aims to encourage restaurant patrons to eat and stay out of the restaurant longer. establishment.

Wooden furniture inside Saga tofu restaurant
The wooden furniture matches the clean interior

Inside the 435 square meter restaurant, the interior matches the exterior with pale gray walls that nod to the dishes on the menu.

“As the ceiling and walls are curved, pale colors are used to extend the light beautifully into the restaurant, complemented by the use of gray colors on the walls and floors,” Ashizawa said. “It also means the whiteness of tofu.”

The ground floor of the restaurant houses a shop selling tofu products and sweets, while the first floor houses a restaurant serving onsen yudofu – a type of tofu made from hot spring water.

An open atrium connects the boutique and the restaurant, both of which have large windows.

Central counter of the Saga Hirakawaya restaurant
The ground floor houses a shop

Circular lamps made by local paper maker Nao Washi hang above the tables while wooden furniture was made by furniture brand Ariake, which manufactures in Saga prefecture.

The decision to open Saga Hirakawaya Restaurant in Takeo Onsen was made by its owner, who was born and raised in the area and wanted to help revitalize the community, which has suffered from a declining population.

Washi paper lamp on table in restaurant
Paper lamps hang above the tables

“Depopulation is inevitable in rural areas of Japan,” Ashizawa said. “But to revitalize an area, it’s important to attract people to the area through tourism.”

“The client decided to establish a restaurant serving yudofu onsen, believing that the region’s unique food culture could be an incentive to visit the area for sightseeing.”

Dining room at Saga Tofu Restaurant
A restaurant area is located on the first floor

“We deeply sympathize with the client’s hope to make the most of the wonderful location in front of the gate of the historic Takeo Onsen tower, an important cultural asset, and combine it with the region’s unique culinary culture to attract tourists from inside and outside Japan, contributing to the revitalization of the region,” he added.

Other recent projects by Ashizawa include a Blue Bottle cafe in Kobe and a mid-century modern residence in Tokyo.

The photograph is by Ben Richards.


Project credits:

Architect: Design Keiji Ashizawa
Project architect: Keiji Ashizawa, Kentaro Yamaguchi, Tsubasa Furuichi
Construction: Yamakami inc.
Furniture: Hirata/Legnatec chair
Lighting: Saito Shomei/Nao Washi