Teruhiro Yanagihara Creates Country-Inspired Interiors for New Sower Restaurant in Japan
Sower, the new Japanese restaurant on Lake Biwa, features a minimalist design and a palette of materials inspired by its surroundings
Straw, mother-of-pearl, river stones, clay. A cornucopia of natural materials sourced from the landscape defines the interiors of the new Sower Restaurant in rural Japan, overlooking the serene waters of Lake Biwa in mountainous Shiga Prefecture.
The Japanese restaurant was designed by Teruhiro Yanagihara Studio, who carefully applied the concept of ‘terroir’ to the interior, tempering the warm textures of natural materials with clean, minimalist lines and contemporary metallic accents. The design smoothly complements the culinary innovations of American chef Coleman Griffin (formerly of Tokyo’s Inua restaurant), who offers a creative and modern take on the region’s rich seasonal produce and its heritage as the birthplace of fermentation culture. Japanese.
Thus, the rugged natural landscape of Shiga is the main protagonist, from the textures of the plastered walls, the surface of the stone counters and the deep water nuances of the ceramic glazes, to the contents of the plates.
“I thought it was very important to design a restaurant that was connected to the landscape around it,” says Teruhiro Yanagihara, who has studios in Osaka and Arles, France, and is creative director and designer at 1616/Arita. Japan. “Similar to the food served at the restaurant, the space was created using earth, stones and plants from the surrounding Shiga region. We have worked closely with artisans to create the best use of these materials.
The restaurant, located in the grounds of L’Hôtel du Lac du Lac Biwa, is accessed through large assamela wood doors, with clean-lined copper handles and ceramic inserts. These lead to a bar where the walls and ceilings have been covered in textured sakan plaster by artisan Saito Arato, who has created an organic fusion of Shigaraki clay, straw and small stones from a local river , while a smooth floor of local earth and cement is awash in dark Bengala mud dye. Likewise, the bar counter contains an organic microcosm of the Shiga landscape, its smooth terrazzo-style surface showcasing a polished mix of white cement river stones and natural ceramic clay.
Renowned contemporary ceramics studio Nota & Design, based in Shiga, have designed expanses of vertical tile panels with a light milky white glaze using powdered pearl shells from Lake Biwa, placed both on the sides of the countertop and plaster walls.
Meanwhile, the bar stools feature curved oak slats expertly handcrafted by Hiroshima-based Sasimonokagu Takahashi, brass footrests and soft semi-circular seats topped with a warm gray textile from the collection. Kvadrat’s Haku designed by Yanagihara.
The angular space flows around a corner in the main restaurant area, where the earth-inspired palette, natural materials, and clean-lined aesthetic continue. Here, another large terrazzo-style countertop wraps around an open kitchen, alongside a wall of Nota-designed tiles in a deep watery hue called Biwako Blue. Meanwhile, minimalist tube lines of unglazed Shigaraki clay, also by Nota, hang on the walls, transformed into mood lighting by Nara-based New Light Pottery.
Guests also dine at circular Japanese ash tables with oxidized black legs, accompanied by oak chairs with woven rope seats by Danish brand &Tradition, reflecting the tangible connection Yanagihara saw between the landscapes of Scandinavia and Lake Biwa. .
Crisp touches of light-catching copper along parts of the walls temper natural materials, while in an intimate private dining room, an organic expanse of camphor wood forms a table centerpiece, resting on a burnt base and polished from the same wood.
Griffin cooks up a bold and imaginative visual feast, with ingredients sourced from the surrounding land and waters. Highlights of the launch include Shrimp and Yam Fritters; venison, marinated strawberries and smoked and dried tomatoes; and burnt fig wood ice cream, all served on ceramics by Nota and 2016/Arita Japan, alongside original knives made by Ryusen Hamono.
And just like the nature that surrounds it, the space will continue to evolve. “It’s like the architecture of a shrine or a teahouse,” says Yanagihara. “As the earthen walls and woodwork are exposed to wind and sunlight, their beauty will deepen over time.” §