All images ©Daisuke Shima courtesy of G Architects Studio

Suetomi, the well-established Japanese wagashi shop in Kyoto, has started a new brand of café called AoQ. The design for their take-out only café, which stands along Karasuma-dori, a busy street that leads from Kyoto Station, was undertaken by architect Ryohei Tanaka of G Architects Studio.


Given the small and modest dimensions of the space, with a mere depth of 1 meter, very little time was needed to agree on layout. But to optimize the use of space, the kitchen and seating area were cleverly positioned in a side-by-side arrangement, both directly facing the street, making the most of an easily overlooked space.  

Given the limitations on innovative spatial planning, the design efforts were channeled into the elevation and the indoor-outdoor aesthetics.

The façade colors had to comply with Kyoto’s cityscape regulations, with the only exception being natural materials. The local government approved this facade because the copper used on the walls was oxidized by soy sauce rather than painted. This treatment induced corrosion in a controlled manner, resulting in a hue ranging from reddish-brown through soy sauce treatment to a rusty patina color when treated with ammonium chloride. These treatments were vital as copper, when solely exposed to wind and rain, would have required an extended duration of 3 months to attain reddish-brown and a decade for the patina effect.

The resulting rusty greenish-blue shade bears resemblance to the Suetomi blue, a color that the company has embraced for over seven decades. In fact, Suetomi’s flagship store is located just three minutes away so the whole stand functions as a subtle signboard that points to the main store.

In a unique utilization of the café’s after-hours presence, the resting area remains partially open, covered by a mesh screen originally employed during the construction’s scaffolding phase. During the night, this configuration resembles the traditional bamboo blinds that were frequently employed by esteemed Japanese families ages ago. Moreover, it serves as a blue street lamp, enhancing the ambiance of the street.

Here is the exact location (google map) of the Suetomi AoQ Cafe Stand. They also have an Instagram account.

Its thoughtful and experimental design invites a pause on the street, while paying homage to the rich legacy of Suetomi.