By Kumi Matsumaru / Japan News Staff WritterYou may find it difficult to locate the gallery. There’s no sign, and even if you’re in the right spot, you can’t see what it’s like inside because the curtains are drawn tight, as if shutting out the world.
Once you’re in, however, you’ll find a bright space with a cozy atmosphere, filled with the warmth of old, austere or rustic items and objects carefully arranged. With white plastered walls, old wooden boards and shelves with a touch of ironwork, the two-story gallery Mon is a pleasantly secluded space with unity and serenity.
Located in Taito Ward, Tokyo, Mon is open only on Mondays, as that’s the day that owner Takanobu Okamoto takes off from his hair salon Okamoto Biyoushitsu, which he runs in the back of the first floor.
Okamoto opened the place as a hair salon in 2016, though he hoped to run something other than a conventional salon where multiple employees take care of each customer as music plays in the background. Without worrying about engaging in mindless conversation for the sake of good relations — also common at hair salons — Okamoto serves one customer at a time and does everything himself, from shampooing to haircuts.
Initially he just enjoyed decorating the hair salon with old items he collected. “I like buying and collecting old items a lot ... As my collection grew, however, I wondered what I should do with them,” Okamoto said. “Then I thought, ‘If I have a space for showing and selling them, I’ll be able to keep on collecting them.’”
His collection consists of a variety of items, including a cabinet, a small statue, a bowl and a toy. They come from periods ranging from the Jomon period (ca 10,000 B.C.-ca 300 B.C.) to the Showa era (1926-89).
Their places of origin also differ. Some are from France and China, while others are from the sea. “I have no criteria for the things I collect, though they tend to be made of wood, earth or iron,” Okamoto said.
“But I can say I always choose things that are pure or honest. I don’t like superficial items, things that look good on the surface,” said Okamoto, serving tea in a rusty cup from China. He also offers Japanese sweets on what looks like a fragment of something from the Jomon period that was converted into a plate, on a small Japanese table from the Meiji era (1868-1912) in a chashitsu — a room built and used exclusively for the tea ceremony — that he created on the second floor.
He usually offers the chashitsu to hair salon customers so they can take “a small moment” with tea and sweets before having their hair cut downstairs.
Okamoto says he feels appreciation for what he does when people want to buy the items he’s collected and pay for them. “I even appreciate the moment when people ponder an item I collected, thinking about whether they should buy it on their budget.”