By 2002, cafes had sprung up across Japan, each taking hints from the other while trying to create the most original space. Eyes remained fixated on Ichiro Katami and Uichi Yamamoto, who were planning their 3rd project together. This time they were involving more people; fashion retailer JUN Group and graphic design company positron.

Katami and Yamamoto’s style continued to evolve, but their philosophy was solid. They believed that good design was necessary, but should not be overpowering. Design should be responsible for solving the little problems that make people slightly uncomfortable. Design should cause you to inhabit the space, making you come back and, even after the 10th visit, should make you say “I like this place.” During December of 2002, montoak opened its doors to much anticipation.
Located in Harajuku, the 3-story building boasts floor to ceiling windows and glamorous interiors with black leather seating. Much like their previous designs, details are calculated and deliberate. There is no sign or menu outside, giving the café a snobbish and arrogant feel. Upon entering you are greeted with a “Hello,” a shocking deviation for the traditional and ultra-polite welcoming.
Seating by the windows is bright and casual, while the inner depths of the café are dark and romantic. The 3rd floor is the most glamorous of all, but at night there is a cover charge.

At a time when Harajuku – known for its rockabilly dancers and cosplay teenagers – was fighting for its identity, Katami and Yamamoto successfully identified the needs of group of individuals, and filled that gap using an appropriate, and perhaps necessary, design.

images courtesy of kata inc & heads-west