Japan House: A View of Contemporary Japan in the Heart of São Paulo

If you’re walking through Paulista Avenue towards Brigadeiro Luís Antonio Avenue, your attention will definitely be caught up by the eccentric house with number 52. To build the Japan House, 2.000 meters of hinoki wood had to cross the sea from Kiso’s valley to São Paulo to create the first unit of the building in the world; two others are about to be opened in Los Angeles and London. With a modern architecture and disruptive concept conceived by the architect Kengo Kuma, the Japan House is an initiative from the Japanese government to spread, around the world, the culture of the country in the 21st century - without forgetting their millenary roots.  

The visitor arrives at the building through the sotodoma - the outside courtyard open to the street. Then, it is welcomed by the polite receptionist that guides the visitor to the multipurpose hall, a space that can be used for lectures and exhibitions, such as “Eternal Ephemeral”, the expo by Kengo Kuma on display. The first floor is the biggest of the building: beyond the multipurpose hall, there’s also a store of delicate Japanese decoration items; a library with books in English, Portuguese and Japanese; and a cafe serving sweets and teas with the country’s most popular ingredients.

The multiple options at the cafe store make it hard for the visitor to choose the best one, but the Matcha Special Cake is the most-likely winner. The eccentricity of mascarpone, chocolate’s ganache and matcha chiffon all together makes the sweet a light and rich experience. 

Photo by Helena Peixoto

Going up through the elevator or the wooden stairs, the visitor finds a small first floor with rooms for interactive workshops or seminars. From 22nd of August to the 27th, one of the rooms hosted the multisensorial exhibition about the history of lamen called “The Originator”, sponsored by Nissin Food. The company distributed free samples of the classic lamen to those who were watching the animated video about the creation of one of the most famous Japanese foods.

Still on the first floor, a store of printed fabrics presents the culture of the furoshiki, which original idea was born 1300 years ago during the Nara period in Japan. These fabrics were made for multiple uses, such as wrap presents and bags. Now, furoshikis are used for headbands, scarfs, handbags and cover for books and laptops!

The last floor is an 150m² area destined for more extensive exhibitions, like “Subtitles in Paper”, an expo about the delicacy of paper organized by the designer Kenya Hara that will be displayed till September 10th. The Japan House São Paulo restaurant shares the floor with the exhibition space. With 70 seats and a view to Paulista Avenue, the restaurant explores the authentic flavors of the Japanese cuisine by the hands and guidance of the awarded Japanese-Brazilian chef Jun Sakamoto.

For Angela Hirata, Japan House São Paulo’s executive director, the number 52 of Paulista Avenue “is as a present from Japan to Brazil, based on respect for the historic links built by the Nikkei Brazilian Community. Contemporary Japanese culture is a generating force of new things that inspire the world and Japan House São Paulo will be the best way of conveying this.”