interior design firm, yagyug douguten, has turned a former teahouse into ‘the stone confectionery shop’ in the picturesque japanese city of nara. the store is an art project by contemporary artist, EAT&ART TARO, and program director, yoshinari nishio, and it’s unlike any typical retail space. instead of using money, customers must bring a stone that’s filled with special memories, which they can then exchange for gem-shaped sweets.
images by natsumi kinugasa
1,300 years ago, nara was established as japan’s first capital. nowadays, it’s known for it’s rich culture and historical art and architecture. the foundation stones of temples and kamiishi (holy stones where gods are believed to reside) of shrines from centirues ago still remain today. inspired by this, EAT&ART TARO envisioned a shop where people can buy gem-like sweets with their own memories. ‘to understand nara is to trace back the memories of stones. the memories of the stones are literally the migration of the stones. the stones that came from somewhere in the distant past are histories, memories, and values that you can find in nara,’ says the artist.
with EAT&ART TARO’s passion in mind, yagyug douguten converted a teahouse situated on the historical approach to kasugataisha shrine into the stone confectionery shop. the store housed the art project for just ten days in december 2020. inside, 88 wooden disks made from various types of locally-sourced or reused timber were lined up, supported by a traditional ‘kumiki’ framework. each wooden disk served as a plate for exhibiting the stones customers brought to the shop, and when they sat on the chairs in between, the disks could also be used as a table to ‘eat the stone-like sweets while being surrounded by real stones,’ says the architect.
the zashiki — or tatami room — was where customers could exchange the stones they brought through the different-sized holes. TARO was behind one of these holes to listen to the stories and special memories the stones represented.
‘we want customers to serve their stones on their favorite wood and cherish them. they can also appreciate various stones that are brought with memories, take pictures while eating stones, and give a little chuckle with a customer sitting at the next table,’ comments yagyug douguten. ‘we want them to start conversations through the stones. we aim to have customers ‘eventually see the wooden disks as dessert plates and stones as sweets.”
‘to see stones as sweets’ is a metaphor for TARO’s idea of tracing back the memories of stones to encounter nara’s histories and values. it also aims to offer connotations of hope that a seemingly ordinary object might conceal special charms inside.
type: confectionery store
location: 160 kasuganocho, nara, japan
architect: yagyug douguten
artist: EAT&ART TARO
program director: yoshinari nishio
production coordinator: sakiko nishio, mayumi yoshida, rina sakurai
graphic design: azusa kawaji
floor area: 103.10 sqm (1,109.76 sqft)
completion: december 2020
opening dates: 11/12/2020〜20/12/2020
photography: natsumi kinugasa / nara city art project executive committee
edited by: lynne myers | designboom