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October, 2021
Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design

For a day trip or weekend getaway outside of central Tokyo, an unassuming yet stellar art destination lies in Maebashi, in Japan’s Gunma Prefecture. With the newly-opened Shiroiya Hotel, and the neighbouring arts institution Arts Maebashi, there are endless creative spaces emerging within the neighborhood unique to the locale and well worth the hour-long travel from Tokyo.

Found within the unconventional site that is Shiroiya Hotel, sits the first Blue Bottle Coffee in Gunma positioned inside the man-made mound of the hotel’s second building. Accessed through the ground street-level entrance, the cavernous cafe feels almost hidden.

Designed by architect Keiji Ashizawa, the cafe features a timber, copper and orange-detailed interior that exudes a warm glow attracting visitors inside akin of a moth to a flame. ‘Shiroiya is an art destination, and art always has a story,’ explains Ashizawa. ‘So I used this story as a connection with Shiroiya.’ Inside the cafe, find a large 3-metre-wide feature painting by artist Yoshio Shirakawa titled Dragon God of Mount Akagi. 

The entire space is filled with contrasting textures. Within the concrete structure,  find smooth Moltex plaster used for the barista counter, to rough Wakayama shuri brush carpet flooring by the entrance, to a brick-laid interior floor for the remainder of the cafe — an ode to the neighbourhood’s lengthy history of brick production for architecture. Light Japanese oak is used for tables and chairs, with copper detailing found for coffee tables and the barista counter’s overhead lighting. Ashizawa notes his lighting system especially effective for counters, creating a spotlight that focusses on the barista and the beverages they create. The especially low height of Kvadrat orange textile sofa and seating was intentional by Ashizawa, who wanted to create the comfortable feel and atmosphere akin to sitting together in a park.

Focussing on the overall atmosphere of the 80m2 space, Ashizawa aimed to create a space where stories can be exchanged and where people connect and gather.

Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
Interior counter and preparation area | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
Ashizawa's interchangeable timber shelving system | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
Ashizawa's interchangeable timber shelving system | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
The stunning contrast of warm tones against the concrete structure | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
Details | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
Burnt orange and copper tones | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
Handcrafted copper details | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
Copper and timber detailing | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
Front facade at dusk | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
The iconic blue signage | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design

BLUE BOTTLE SHIROIYA
SHIROIYA HOTEL, 2-2-15 Honmachi,
Maebashi, Gunma, Japan

For more Japan destinations, click here.
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Find Ishinomaki Lab benches for outdoor seating | Blue Bottle Shiroiya, Maebashi, Gunma, Japan © Courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Design
October, 2021