KINTO: Japan With a California Twist

Bringing comfort and inspiration into everyday life is KINTO’s motto. Since its 1972 debut in Hikone, a city in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture, as a wholesaler of porcelain and ceramic tableware, the Japanese brand has added to its portfolio a line of products (tableware, drinkware and interior accessories) to fit the modern lifestyle.

Tableware and Lifestyle Brand KINTO Taps Los Angeles to Host Its First Brick-and-mortar Store Pervaded by a Sense of Peace and Harmony

“Our core value is the balance between usability and aesthetics,” says Laura Takemoto, head of global communications at KINTO. “We believe in products that are easy to use daily; human movements such as holding, pouring and drinking are carefully considered in the design details. At the same time, we value simplicity and elegance, and our products are designed to integrate harmoniously with the surrounding space.”

For every object, the in-house product development team defines the concept and different elements of the design before thinking about the best persons—sometimes external Japanese designers—to transform their idea into reality. 

The beginning of 2019 marked a new step in KINTO’s path with the opening of its first store in ROW DTLA, in Los Angeles, followed by a second in Tokyo (the only two boutiques worldwide to date).

“We wanted to create physical spaces where consumers can get the full KINTO brand experience,” Laura Takemoto says. “Instead of just selling products, the idea is to share the story and values that we cherish as a brand and have people resonate with them.”

While KINTO’s designs and philosophy are rooted in Japanese sensibility and craftsmanship, the brand is also influenced by lifestyles, including the casual culture of Southern California that pervades the 1,507-square-foot L.A. boutique. Japanese interior designer Hiroshi Aihara worked within the existing industrial structure to create a welcoming and laid-back atmosphere.

“I wanted to reflect the spirit of KINTO products through the materials and subtle details in a comforting and relaxing space,” Hiroshi Aihara says.

In the store, which is also a showroom and office, natural light pours in through the large windows and the high ceiling fosters a feeling of airiness. The rough surface of the wall and floor combines with the rich solid wood of the furniture with different heights for a sense of rhythm. Hiroshi Aihara and L.A.-based botanical design studio kkot incorporated flora throughout the space, which bathes in the Southern California sun, adding a lively and fresh feel and blurring the lines between inside and out. 

“In the development of each one of our products, we value tatazumai, which is a Japanese word that means the look and manner of an object in relation to its surroundings,” explains Laura Takemoto.

“It captures an element of Japanese culture, where we often think about objects as being part of a larger scene and atmosphere. We also celebrate subtly varying expressions among different pieces as their charm and beauty. ‘Yohen’ is a Japanese term, which literally translates to ‘kiln transformation.’ Depending on the chemical composition of glaze, color may transform and products may take on variegated texture by firing in the kiln.” 

Made of glass, porcelain, stainless steel, and wood, KINTO’s creations all combine beauty and function in the simplest yet most elegant way. “We seek to continue developing products that bring comfort and add richness to people’s daily lives and evolving needs,” Laura Takemoto says.

“For example, in recent years, our product range has expanded to items such as vases that help to green urban environment and vacuum insulated tumblers. While staying true to our core values, we are always looking for ways to translate new inspirations into products and share that with the world.”


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