LOS ANGELES – At 10 a.m. on the second floor of a shopping mall in central Hollywood on Wednesday, a brightly lit store selling about 1,200 Japanese products opened its doors for the first time to a small crowd of journalists and onlookers.
The store, selling handicrafts and earthenware and located in the same building as the Dolby Theater that hosts the Academy Awards, is the first opening for Japan House Los Angeles, established by the Japanese government to promote the country’s culture overseas.
The new facility is one of three global hubs of the Japan House project, run by the Foreign Ministry. Along with one that opened in Sao Paulo in April and another planned for London, the project aims to promote the country’s best art, cuisine, design, entertainment, fashion and technology.
In the shop, reminiscent of an art gallery or perhaps a high-end Tokyo boutique, objects of all shapes and sizes are neatly arranged on shelves and tables and showcased against a minimalist white background.
Product prices range from $3 to $3,000, according to a Japan House employee. From stylish, handcrafted kendama (a ball-and-cup wooden toy) to fine earthenware, the items have been specially curated to highlight a mix of traditional and modern Japanese design and culture.
“I think it’s beautiful. The items are breathtaking. I wish I could take one whole row of the store home,” said Debra Byrd, a local musician. “Every time I try to leave, another item catches my eye. I’ve been to Japan three times, and the store reminds me of that glorious feeling I had when I was there.”
Located inside the Hollywood & Highland Center, Japan House Los Angeles will expand next year to include a library and restaurant.
Currently, white drapes cordon off the back section of the shop where a gallery for rotating exhibits is still under construction. Scheduled to open Jan. 19, the inaugural exhibition will feature works by fashion designer Kunihiko Morinaga, who uses photosensitive fabrics in his latest collection.