Bags of rice and bottled condiments are displayed on simple plywood units inside this former Tokyo greengrocers that has been converted into a tiny rice shop, cafe and a home for the proprietor (+ slideshow).
The Okomeya rice shop and cafe is located within an old timber-framed building in the Tokyo district of Shinagawa-ku. The 16.5-square-metre space has two open sides lined with plywood units that face onto the shopping street, while a home for the owner is located at the back.
Schemata Architects was commissioned to design the space by Owan, a developer that has also opened a coffee shop and cafe on the same street. According to the architects, the shops sits on what was once a prosperous retail street full of independent stores, but has recently gone into decline.
"The street is increasingly filled with closed shutters," said the architects. "If no measure is taken against the declining condition, it would eventually become a so-called 'shutter street' and the shopping street would disappear."
The architects renovated the old timber-framed building previously occupied by a greengrocers, inserting plywood units and sanding down the existing columns and surfaces until they matched the colour of the new fittings.
"As a result the overall space gained the refreshed appearance, in which the old and new parts are almost undistinguishable," said the architects. "The shop looks very modest and does not stand out by itself, but we expect to raise people's expectation by continuously renovating more shops this way to enhance the entire street."
A wooden counter runs around the closed sides of the shop, providing a surface for weighing rice and a serving counter for a small kitchen.
Onigiri – rice balls often wrapped with nori – are served through a hatch bordering the street. A canvas covering can be pulled down when the cafe is closed.
The open storefront means that other local shop owners can keep an eye on the business if the owners need to run the occasional errand.
"Mutually supporting relationships with the neighbouring shops is the key to sustaining this small shop," explained the architects.
"Such 'small help' between shops is crucial in maintaining small-sized businesses on local shopping streets."
Photography is by Kenta Hasegawa.
Architect: Jo Nagasaka／Schemata Architects
Project team: Toshihisa Aida／Schemata Architects