Pastry and Egg chairs on the menu

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Takahiro Nishikawa among Danish design furniture in Centre Bakery.

By Kent Dahl

It is not unusual for Japanese people to call in advance and make a reservation at a restaurant. However, it is unusual that customers specify the furniture they want to sit in. Nonetheless, this is the case in the combined bakery and café, Centre Bakery, in the fashionable Ginza district in Tokyo.

Several times a week various customers make reservations to sit in a small intimate sitting of four Danish Egg Chairs manufactured by Fritz Hansen in Denmark. The chairs surrounds a small round table likewise designed by the Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. A Danish Louis Poulsen lamp provides the lighting.

»Design conscious people in Japan know about the Danish Egg Chair, but not all people have a chance to sit in them at home,«says president Takahiro Nishikawa, who owns Centre Bakery and is working on establishing a similar combined café and bakery in the heart of Paris.

In the French capital, it is quite common for people to line up in front of their favourite bakery. But even French people do not line up half an hour before the bakery shops open. Centre Bakery’s Japanese fans do. Every morning a long line of hopeful Japanese people faithfully wait to buy a loaf at the Centre Bakery. Some of them also take their breakfast in the café, which, apart from the Egg Chair, is furnished with various products from Fritz Hansen.

The story goes 68 years back, when Nishikawa’s father started a bakery in Kobe. Nishikawa Junior wanted to expand and went to France to look for the best French baker. He found Viron Café in Paris. Learning to make French “baguette”, he also started to import French wheat from Viron’s farm, when he opened two café’s using the Viron name in Tokyo about 12 years ago.

Envisioning starting a café-bakery making the best Japanese style bread, he bought a farm in the Northern Island, Hokkaido, six years ago. Apart from producing milk, butter and wheat for Centre Bakery, it is also a tourist attraction with its public spaces furnished with FritzHansen furniture.
»Japan learned its bread culture from USA, but the Japanese have made a more chewy version inspired by the consistency of Japanese rice,«explains Nishikawa, whom it is safe to call a perfectionist.

So what is the connection between Danish design furniture and a Japanese French inspired café?
»We do not have a chair culture in Japan, as we traditionally sat on tatami floor mats«, says Nishikawa and continues: » I think the Danish mid-century furniture comes closer to the traditional Japanese craftsmanship, which was prevalent before Japan was inspired by America to constantly look for new things.

“The Arne Jacobsen furniture can be used for a long time and they age with grace. I actually found my first Egg Chair in an antique shop in Japan, and I still use it at home. I have seen knock-offs and close copies of the Danish furniture, but it is not the same as the original. Just like with food ingredients, you cannot compromise,” smiles Nishikawa.

List of furniture used in Centre Bakery:
· Egg ™
· Swan ™
· RIN ™
· Minuscule ™
· KAISER idell ™
· Essay ™
· Series 7 ™
· Table Series (A223, A631)
· Little Friend ™
· Coat Tree ™

Read more here.

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Tokyo citizens queue outside the Centre Bakery, where one can also sign up to visit the cafe.