This Tranquil Japanese Café Provides the Perfect Match of Books and Coffee

Located in Kobe, in Japan’s Hyougo Prefecture, is this independent coffee connoisseur’s dream, Café with Books HoCoTo. Once a candle shop, a young ex-librarian found the space and wanted to create the perfect match of books and coffee, and approached design firm Taitai Studio to have it converted into a relaxed and friendly space.

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Taitai Studio specialises in interior renovation of cafés and residential properties. And when its lead architect Hidekazu Wakabayashi discovered that a proportion of the interior was usable, he made the executive decision to reuse what he could. Revolving the design around a new bookshelf, Hidekazu organised the tables, logos, signs, ceiling and floor colours, and the lighting.

The space is at last the perfect place to take your favourite book, or else choose one from the collection, enjoy your coffee and catch up with the community.

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We sat for coffee with Hidekazu to find out more.

THE PLUS: What informed your design for the café?
Hidekazu Wakabayashi:
I was thinking about the history of Japanese cafés, which started about 130 years ago. I was conscious that this small café is a little open to the community and anyone can stay and is a place to absorb knowledge and cultural exchange. I would like to design this space as an alternative space to residence space and work place for the area’s inhabitants.

TP: What is the atmosphere like in the café?
HW:
The café is one in which people come to read, quietly chat, listen to music, and drink coffee. It’s a bit old fashioned in a way. I wanted to help keep the atmosphere calm.

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TP: What is your favourite aspect of the design?
HW:
I like that it presents a contrast between old and new, bright and dark.

TP: Why did you ask artists, rather than construction workers, to make the necessary installations?
HW:
We needed to leave a good part of the existing interior and combine newly installed parts as well. In japan, there are many examples of designers who respect existing interiors and repair them. I asked Mr Hirose Guy, a modelling artist, to install various aspects. Instead of mural paintings and sculptures, he created a way of arranging the exposed iron piping, decorating the cross section of the opening by cutting the walls, and gateways that become signs when folded.

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TP: What’s the neighbourhood like?
HW:
The café is located on the first floor of a 4 story apartment. It is the second store from the right of 4 shops in the first floor. The right side of the café is an Italian restaurant, and the left side is a Japanese creative restaurant. As there are several universities in the neighbourhood, young people gather. It is also adjacent to an old elegant residential area.

TP: Are you a coffee-drinker? Will you go to this café for your coffee?
HW:
I often drink coffee. But this café is more than 700 kilometres away from my usual work place. So not often. But I do like the coffee there.

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TP: What kind of books does the café have?
HW:
Various kinds. The host, who has worked at public libraries for 18 years, selected 700 books which are familiar and interesting to guests. Travel books are especially popular. There are also cookery books, reviews, short stories, art books, and so on.

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Your Kind of Library
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Photo Credit: Hisashi Okamoto

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