The newly launched Japan Food Town in Singapore seeks to promote Japanese culture and food through a unique culinary experience.
An authentic Japanese experience outside of Japan may sound like a challenge, but the newly opened Japan Food Town in Singapore’s Wisma Atria Shopping Centre aims to offer just that.
Spanning 20,075 square feet, the food hall features 16 food establishments (12 have opened, with the remaining four to be ready by end July). Each tenant offers a different specialty in a bid to introduce the public to a diverse range of Japanese cuisines. One thing they have in common, however, is that each one – be it a mom-and-pop set up or an established brand – is well known back in Japan, and is venturing outside the country for the very first time
The interior of Japan Food Town has been designed by bring out ‘MA’ or a modern Japanese sense of space. As lead designer for the project, Takashi Miyazato, a senior designer at Aoyama Nomura Design (A.N.D.) explains, this meant creating a layout that was “very spacious, and not overly cluttered.” He elaborates, “We used distinctive design features to separate or partition the space, but in a very natural manner.”
At a quick glance, Japan Food Town might appear not unlike a standard Japanese food hall, but a closer inspection reveals great attention to detail, unique cultural references, and features that underscore the skills of Japanese craftsmen.
“We wanted to make sure that the space encompassed not just traditional but also modern Japanese design. We didn’t want to design the space to look like a specific street in Japan, or take on an old ‘edo period’ look. We also wanted to make the space a place of discovery, with small hints of learning about Japanese cuisine and culture placed sporadically throughout the space in the form of traditional elements, tools or ingredients,” says Miyazato.
Window displays featuring artistic arrangements of kitchen tools can be found along the main public areas between food outlets. Sakan craft is also on display for the very first time outside of Japan. The craftsmen were flown in to Singapore for one month to create texture on the concrete walls of Japan Food Town to mimic natural materials such as stone and copper.
A public area lies in the heart of the space and encourages customers and families to gather and take a breather. A large installation made of washi paper hangs over this space, and is meant to symbolise rising steam from a stove, with the latter represented by a deep red ‘gate’ in cement that has been handpainted by the Sakan craftsmen.
Says Miyazato, “These are some examples of how we have implemented interesting and unique Japanese elements into the overall design, but in a manner that becomes more of a discovery than being too obvious.”
Miyazato’s team was involved in the creation of each outlet’s storefront. Beyond that, however, the individual tenants were left to design their own spaces, using their own appointed Japanese designers, artists and craftsmen. “We did not provide any guidelines to the tenants. This was so they had the freedom to reflect their unique stories and branding through their own interior designs,” Miyazato explains.
Amongst several dining outlets with notable design features, Machida-Shoten, an eatery specialising in ramen noodles, has enlisted Japanese comic/graphic artist Yu Suda to create a 6-metre-long tongue-in-cheek wall mural depicting the various seasons in Japan, and the journey that the owners have taken from Japan to Singapore.
Japan Food Town is supported by the Japan Association of Overseas Promotion for Food & Restaurants (JAOF), enabling tenants to procure more than half of their ingredients directly from Japan, fresh, in some cases on a daily basis. Through this channel, customers will also have the opportunity to experience unique foods such as Matsuzaka Beef and Kinme-Rice.
Singapore is the first country to launch a Japan Food Town, and plans are in play to open it in other major cities around the world.
Aoyama Nomura Design (A.N.D.)