New Balance, the American footwear company, has had a low-key presence in Japan since the 1980s. With 15 stores across Japan, the company shys away from the spotlight, working with equally low-key ambassadors like Ryuichi Sakamoto, rather than glitzy athletes or celebrities. But their latest concept store was an ambitious one: a project that called for the dismantling of an old kura warehouse in Kawagoe, transporting it, and — piece by piece — reconstructing it in Tokyo.
An old, 122-year old kura warehouse was identified for the project. It was located in Kawagoe, a city northwest of Tokyo that’s known for their old clay warehouses and merchant homes. The kura was dismantled, piece by piece, and relocated to Tokyo where it was reassembled by craftsmen. The project was overseen by Schemata Architects, the same firm that has been responsible for all of Blue Bottle’s Japan locations.
Conceptually, the greatest challenge was avoiding what Jo Nagasaka of Schemata Architects calls fakeness: like an old folk house displayed in a museum. Done wrong, “it would be like wearing a kimono to an award ceremony overseas even if you never wear one in everyday life,” says the architect.
However, they worked closely with local carpenters and specialists who understood traditional woodwork and joinery, making use of the original joints so they serve practical purposes throughout the structure, imbuing it with authenticity and spirit.
The new location, dubbed T-House New Balance, opened over the summer and is located in the Nihonbashi district near the Sumidagawa River (Gmap). You won’t find their typical lineup of sneakers here but instead, special collaborations and limited edition items only available at this location.
Did you enjoy this story? Become a Spoon & Tamago Member and support independent arts publishing. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about Japanese art, design and culture. Get access to our shop discounts and member-only content like quarterly features and online talks with artists and designers. Learn more!