Niwaki is a new outlet for Japan’s most innovative tools
New London store Niwaki sells exquisitely crafted Japanese gardening tools and workwear
The Chiltern Street shop is the brainchild of Jake Hobson, a pioneer of Japanese pruning styles in the United Kingdom, and it has already garnered a devoted following through its Dorset, UK, outlet; Kagurazaka, Tokyo store; and popular online shop.
The brand will no doubt find an equally, if not more, enthusiastic audience at its London storefront with its collection of novel and practical products imported from Japan. These include three-legged tripod ladders (which allow gardeners to get much closer to the hedge for pruning than a four-legged model), steel bonsai branch cutters, and ‘Kenzan’ pin-prick holders for ikebana flower displays.
The products are so exquisitely crafted they are practically works of art in themselves, which makes the gallery-like interiors of Niwaki particularly fitting. The space has been fitted by Jones Neville architects with quarter-sawn Douglas fir and earthy-hued felt display cases that complement the minimalist elegance of the products inside.
And while garden enthusiasts will be in retail paradise at Niwaki, the store offers a wide enough range of products that those without a green thumb will also enjoy it. Fashion connoisseurs will likely lust after the denim workwear ensembles, while chefs can admire the remarkable collection of flawlessly crafted knives.
Almost all of the objects at Niwaki are made in small batches by artisan craftsmen, often with generations’ worth of experience. Speaking about the small business he works with, Hobson says, ‘What I most like about working with Japanese blacksmiths and factories is learning about the family.
‘Most businesses are family run, often with two or sometimes three generations working together. Our GR Pro range of Secateurs with yellow grips are made in Yamagata by the Kudo family, run by one son, along with his brother and both parents.’
Hobson continues, ‘There are three crucial elements to any tool: good material (high-quality carbon steel), good design (usually as simple as possible), and good craftsmanship (passed down generation to generation).
‘[The Japanese tools] don’t stint on any of these: they look and feel good, they do the job they’re meant to do, and they last a long time, holding a sharp edge and rewarding the user with years, decades, and even lifetimes of pleasure.’ §