<30> Iittala Omotesando Store & Café

1937 Paris
「イッタラ表参道ストア&カフェ」外観 Exterior of "Iittala Omotesando Store & Cafe"

To Iittala Omotesando Store & Café

The exhibition “Finnish Glass Art: Sparkle and Color in Modern Design” is currently being held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, which I introduced in the previous <29> story.

Works related to various international expositions and the Milan Triennale were exhibited.

In fact, I remembered that I had always wanted to go to Iittala Omotesando Store & Café, after I went to the exhibition Iittala – Stars of Finnish Glass, held at Bunkamura in Shibuya last year, as it is related to the Expo.

So, I decided to head out to Iittala’s cafe in Omotesando with Assistant 0, as usual.

But hot.

Even though it’s still mid-July, the maximum temperature in Tokyo is expected to be 37 degrees, which is a bit dangerous for our generation.

This ” Iittala Omotesando Store & Café “ opens at 11:00, so we aim for 5 minutes before that. The sun is already strong.

It took about 6 minutes on foot from Omotesando station. We arrived at 10:50, 10 minutes before opening.

Luckily no one was in line yet.

Exterior of “Iittala Omotesando Store & Cafe”

Exterior of “Iittala Omotesando Store & Cafe”

When did this cafe open?

I remember seeing somewhere that it was designed by Mr. Kuma Kengo (1954 – ), and I was looking forward to seeing the interior.

According to Iittala’s website, “Iittala Omotesando Store & Café will celebrate its 2nd anniversary in February 2023”, so it was probably open in February 2021.

We were in the middle of the Corona Pandemic at that time.

Furthermore, when I went back in time to the “column” of the Iittala homepage, there was an article that said, “Iittala Omotesando Store & Café will open on Friday, February 19, 2021”.

In the article, it says as follows;

A new store was born with interior design by world-famous architect Kuma Kengo. The world’s first café for Iittala is also attached, and you can experience Finnish culture in a spacious space. It reflects Iittala’s unique expertise, philosophy and innovative Nordic design dating back to 1881.

It is the first time in the world that a cafe has been established in Iittala Store.

As 11:00 approached, a line started to form behind us.

Almost all the customers seem to be women.

At 11:00, we were ushered inside.

We were told to sit at our favorite seat, so we went in and sat at a table for two along the pillar on the left.

The sun seems to be strong by the window. The sofa seats were fine, but I also felt that the table for two people could keep the distance between other customers.

The first impression is that the inside has a neat design.

Inside the Cafe

Display inside the Cafe

Display inside the Cafe

“Aalto Vase”

In the display corner along the wall, Alvar Aalto (1898-1976)’s representative work “Aalto Vase” is also displayed.

Alvar Aalto was also an architect and a furniture designer. “Stool 60” (1933) is a popular chair that is well-known as a masterpiece, and in architecture, he created masterpieces such as the “Maison Louis Carré” (designed in 1959, France), which is in harmony with nature. On the other hand, he also worked on glass design.

Originally, this “Aalto Vase” (commonly known as “Savoy”) was exhibited at the 1937 Paris Universal Exposition.

As an Expo history buff, I am deeply moved by the fact that the works exhibited at the 1937 Expo are still being sold in Tokyo and other parts of the world and used in homes.




Now, it is said that the unique organic design of this “Aalto Vase” may have been inspired by the lakes of his native Finland.

Also, there are various theories about this, and there is also a theory that it is the shape of “women’s leather pants”.

According to this theory, this design expresses the drape of the hem of a woman’s winter clothes in a cold region.

Indeed, if you imagine cutting the hem of this winter clothing on a horizontal line, if you are told that it is the design of this “Aalto Vase”, it seems to be a convincing theory.

Now, regarding this Aalto Vase, at the “Iittala – Stars of Finnish Glass” held at Bunkamura in Shibuya last year (2022), the wooden molds that were actually used in the production of Aalto Vase were also exhibited.

These unique works are created by pouring heated and melted glass into wooden molds and blowing air into them to shape them.

It seems that iron molds are used nowadays because the vases are sold all over the world and mass production is necessary. Therefore, the texture of the surface is different from the wooden one.

Regarding this, Mr. Kuma Kengo, who designed the “Iittala Omotesando Store & Café”, said as follows in the catalog of last year’s Iittala – Stars of Finnish Glass (P223):

The relationship between the wooden mould and the glass is also interesting. Since you’re pouring the hot glass into the mould, the wood catches fire when it makes contact with the glass, causing it to burn up. In this process, the materials of glass and wood forcefully shape each other in a kind of conversation or dialogue. If the mould was instead made of metal, the glass would not effect any change in the mould. Since metal is static, the relationship between metal and glass is unequal and one-sided, preventing a dialogue from occurring. With a wooden mould, the glass and the wood are equal in the sense that they influence one another, giving rise to a dialogue. Like a friendly relationship between two people who influence each other, the glass and wood are living organisms. (Omitted below)

Kuma Kengo also designed the lamp of this “Iittala Omotesando Store & Café”, which is also a cylindrical glass tube, and this glass tube was also produced by molding blown glass with a wooden mold.

It is said that this unique design is based on the image of a Finnish forest, and the sunlight filtering through the trees is produced.

Lights designed by Mr. Kuma Kengo and drawings by Aalto

Lights designed by Mr. Kuma Kengo and drawings by Aalto

Well, in the display, you can also check Alvar & Aino Aalto’s “Aalto Flower”.

AALTO Flower

It was designed jointly by the couple for the Finnish pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It is still sold all over the world.

There is also the “Moomin” series. This is an Arabia‘s product.

Display inside the Cafe(Moomin)

Display inside the Cafe(Moomin)

As I touched on in the previous <29> story, the history of Iittala is also the history of M&A.

Arabia is a Finnish porcelain brand owned by the Iittala Group.

Looking a little further, Wikipedia says:

…In 1987, A. Ahlstrom sells Iittala to Wärtsilä. Wärtsilä was a majority shareholder in the Nuutajärvi glassworks in Uljara. Wärtsilä merged Iittala and Nuutajärvi to form Iittala-Nutajärvi. In 1990 Iittala-Nutajärvi was acquired by Hackman. Hackman also acquired other homeware manufacturers (Arabia, Rorstrand-Gustavsberg) at the same time. In 2003 Hackman changed its name to Iittala. In 2004, it became a subsidiary of ABN AMRO Capital. Since 2007, Fiskars has owned 97% of Iittala.

It’s quite a complicated story, but anyway, this is why Arabia is under Iittala, so this shop also sells Arabia’s Moomin series.

Relax at cafe

Now let’s go back to the cafe.

This time it’s a holiday, so it seems that the menu is different from weekdays.

Since we are two people, we ordered “open sand shrimp & egg salad” and “salmon soup” as I heard from the staff that  it is a specialty of Finland.

It feels good to eat food served on Iittala tableware and glasses in a sophisticatedly designed café. Forks, knives, and spoons also bear Iittala’s name.

For dessert, we ordered “blueberry tart” and “kastehelmi pudding chocolate raspberry” and hot coffee.

With delicious food and desserts, we were able to relax in a comfortable space.

Customers were asked to leave within an hour and a half, but neither the customers around us stayed that long.

After relaxing for a while, we moved on to see the shop.

By the way, according to the flyer in the shop, this year 2023 is the 125th anniversary of Alvar Aalto’s birth, so the movie “AALTO” will be screened from October 13th this year.

Interested readers should take a look.

Well, after that, we visited the building of “Sunny Hills Japan” (a famous Taiwanese pineapple cake shop), which is famous for another Kuma Kengo’s work, and famous for its “Jigoku Gumi”, but I will introduce the story later if there is an opportunity.

* Added on August 6 (2023)
According to the information Assistant 2 got, Iittala Omotesando Cafe will be closed on August 31, 2023.
Those who are interested should visit early.