“The most important thing to learn in my life is what is genuinely the best for me,” says Riz, the owner of Aha Living.
It is always Riz’s habit to observe her customers. She would quietly enjoy watching them walking around, see how they would first give a little touch on the products before picking up any of them. She understands all the items thoroughly well because she also owns all of them herself. She has read about how the ceramic rice container can bring out the fragrance of leftover rice, but it was only after she had used it herself did she fully grasp the essence. She says, “I didn’t tell them my thoughts at the beginning, but when they came back to me to share their experience after using the product, it turned out to be exactly the same way I thought.” She can always find delight in meeting people who are sensitive like her. Some customers told her, “I was only having my usual meal or some takeaways, but serving the food on the plates I like simply made the eating experience a lot more enjoyable.” Some said these tableware made them look forward to planning a nice dinner, and hence they got to find pleasure in cooking. Riz encourages her customers not to be too careful with the tableware, and says they can use them for serving bubble waffle, curry fishballs or egg tarts. The Japanese potter who made these pottery must be fascinated to see them being used for serving Hong Kong street food.
“It is like a door. When people became aware of a small detail of their daily life, they would enter a realm to see the rest of the details.”
Riz has been constantly on the road since 2008, but it was only until 2012 that she began to explore the places outside of Asia. In the same year, she spent one full month in the Nordics. As a person who grew up in a big city, Riz was very hesitant to step onto the grass, but then her friend just encouraged her to go ahead, saying, “Grass is supposed to protect you from slipping!” Then, she finally tried rolling and sunbathing on the grass. There were only three hours of daylight every day during her trip, and she was lucky enough to see the aurora. The next day, her neighbor knocked on her door and said, “The whale is here, let’s go check it out!” This trip seems to have taught her a completely new way of human interaction.
“There was a long period of time when I used to feel mad at this place. I found this city absurd, so all I could do was to travel, to be on the road. Even when I stayed, I would spend time in my own space. Using these utensils calmed me down, they gave me an illusion that I was still on my journey. That was a desperate feeling,” Riz continues to say that the shop has inspired her a lot; not only did she have a better grasp of her sensitivity, but she also gained valuable support from her customers.
“I went to a remote area in Japan many years ago to see a waterfall. In that area, I saw a pile of vegetables in the middle of a bridge that was for sale. I later realized the elderlies in the countryside would sell their homegrown vegetables that way. All they do is to place a moneybox next to their vegetables for people to put money in there themselves. I was utterly impressed by this level of trust they have with strangers.”
There was a mug that remained unsold in the shop for three months, then a customer, whom Riz had not seen for a while came to the shop. She just picked it up and bought it. “Things sometimes happen in an unpredictable sequence. It feels to me that that mug has to belong to that person. That was why I took it to Hong Kong from another country, and that’s why no other customers took a look at the mug,” says Riz. This way of thinking reminds me of the elderlies who sell vegetables on the bridge in Japan. Her shop well represents the essence of her tiny village, where everyone is willing to be patient to wait for something that is meant for them.
Riz is not a fan of map-reading, and she likes to travel without a plan. She would start to think of a place to visit only when she gets off the plane and go wherever her instinct leads her to. Doesn’t this sound like the way our ancestors used to discover water sources? While Riz finds it tiring to do research ahead of a trip, she is definitely fine with carrying all those heavy tableware in her luggage, even to the extent that she hurt her back.
“I’ve once been to a shop in Japan that hangs a lot of ornaments on the wall. When I took a close look at it, I found out that they were there to cover up cracks on the wall. These ornaments are also like a blessing. Our culture encourages us to mend broken things and get upset when things are broken. But I now learn to accept seeing things being broken. Every broken piece is a lesson for me to learn. Looking at these heavy tableware that I carried on my back, I am reminded to treat myself better in the future.”
As a frequent traveler, how does Riz see being home and traveling?
“Home is where my heart really belongs. This is how I would describe my current home. I used to have a strong craving for traveling. It wasn’t a problem at all not to be home, but I do get homesick now when I’m on a trip. I am desperate to go home when I’m elsewhere. I believe I finally found where I belong. I really love this place, everything here was bought for a reason. This is the way I constructed my own space, this is where I would like to travel to and enjoy spending time in. I can never get tired of this place.”
Shattered plates and bowls, cups full of tea stain… Day in and day out, finally it’s the long-awaited weekend. Life is a series of trivial events that feel mundane but substantial at the same time. Your life depends on day-to-day objects that in turn also define how you live.
Aha Living is a select shop that specializes in homeware products in Hong Kong. With a notion of “home is where the journey begins”, the shop’s owner Riz gathers from her trips an eccentric collection of items that are both substantial and practical. Only taking visits by appointment, the shop ensures every customer can browse her collection in leisure and have a touch of everything to find the piece that genuinely clicks.