You vaguely think you’ve seen something like this before — a small, cool shop full of arty objects, clothes and pottery. But step in and you will see that DASK is special, from its carefully curated wares to its ever-changing music and enigmatic proprietor. Tucked away in a retro arcade in vibrant Sangenjaya, this shop-cum-gallery is a reminder of the rewards that await the curious wanderer in Tokyo’s urban sprawl.
Sangenjaya, just two train stops and a world away from Shibuya, is a crossover between old Tokyo – featuring one of the capital’s two surviving tram lines − and the city’s contemporary urban spirit. Amazingly, it has avoided the invasion of tourists, Shibuya rabble and wannabe hipsters.
Traditional tofu shops, sake sellers and kimono stores coexist with quirky cafes, innovative galleries and organic health food outlets. Amid the earthy chic, in a small, covered shopping alley off the main drag, is a row of shops including a little French bistro, a specialty honey store, a quaint-looking café, shops selling old records and rare books, a cosy bar – and DASK.
We visited on a cold winter’s day two weeks after DASK opened its doors, lured by the central display of exquisite wooden bowls, ceramics and other intriguing objects. Around the central table are shelves of mingei-style pottery, handmade jewelry, colorful woven blankets, clocks and racks of jackets and other clothes.
DASK opened its doors at new year. For Seigo Sato, the owner, it was symbolic timing for his breakout from corporate life, after 25 years in the rag trade representing American fashion brands and working for big companies. He says he always dreamed of having his own place, a gallery and shop for “beautiful things” that would bridge traditional and contemporary Japan as well as other cultures. “I want to show unique things that other places don’t have,” he tells us.
His big passions are skateboarding, music and fashion – oh and throw in art, washi paper lamps, tatami and other traditional and contemporary craft and art forms, he says. In his new venture, he can bring it all together – and is already well on the way.
Among the items on display is a beautifully crafted, polished wooden skateboard, “tough guy” leather jackets, and locally-sourced ceramic and wooden objects by Japanese and foreign artisans including woodturners Shoji Morinaga and Ian Hayden.
The business is a dream come true but has also been a labor of love. Sato sources his wares from around Japan and journeys to artisans’ workshops and fairs to maintain his perpetual hunt for beautiful and unusual objects.
All the while, he has been singlehandedly renovating the small, two-storey building. He leads us up the narrow stairs to show off his handiwork, including pre-renovation photos of the once-dilapidated ramshackle wooden structure. By March, he hopes, the second floor will feature washi paper lamps, tatami and a small gallery space.
So what’s in the name? He initially wanted to call his new venture DUSK, he says, but that was already in use. DASK has a similar ring, though actually, it doesn’t really mean anything – “it’s just easy to remember,” he notes with a smile.
Setting up the business on his own was a big step, Sato says. He is broke and works around the clock, but loves what he’s doing. “I have kids and have to think about them, but I know things will work out.” Somehow, you can believe him.
Sangenjaya, Setagaya 4-2-12, Setagaya-ku, TOKYO
Tel – +81-3 6413-5104