⟨ Misc ⟩

Junko Mitani’s breakfast table

Ryuji Mitani's Works Selected by Junko

Texts and Photography / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

到三谷龍二先生家留宿,無論前一晚大家聊天聊到三更夜半,翌日早上,走到廚房時,總見到順子小姐精神奕奕地為大家做豐富早餐。看順子小姐準備早餐是一件令人心情很愉快的事,新鮮的水果泛出的果汁晶瑩玉滴如晨露,結聚在翠綠的蔬菜上,鹽巴飄落如雪花,橄欖油幽幽滑下如水墨⋯⋯每個動件都很輕盈自在。在食物準備得差不多時,她便會繞到起居室的另一端,從櫃子上堆積的三谷先生的作品裡,選取最為合用的。沙拉該選黑色漆木盤、鬆餅則是白漆碟、楓糖漿當然是小巧而設有注水口的小杯⋯⋯

Junko, Ryuji Mitani’s wife, always make sure all guests who stay over at the Mitani’s begin their day with a sumptuous breakfast, even if the night before ends really late. It is a joyous experience watching Junko preparing breakfast — the fresh fruit juice is like dew that lands on the vibrantly green vegetable leaves, flakes of salt fall like snow, while the olive oil flows like ink. Junko performs every step in a calm and confident manner; when she is almost done preparing the food, she moves to the other side of the living room to select matching tableware from the huge collection of Mitani’s works. For instance, salad is served in a black lacquer tray, pancake goes with a white lacquer plate, and, of course, a small mug with spout is used to serve maple syrup.

順子小姐約在10年前認識三谷先生的作品。「最初看到的是較深的木盆時感到很驚歎,竟然有人造出這麼厲害的東西。」順子小姐後來去看三谷先生的作品展,為自己買了一個小的木盆,本來只打算置在桌上放杯子,後來看雜誌才知道盛載沙拉也很好看——同樣一個木盆,她慢慢發掘出各種各樣的用法。

三谷先生設計的一個木盆造價數萬日元,跟不少人一樣,順子小姐也覺得三谷先生的作品價格不菲,然而想一想,為衣服大灑金錢,穿兩三年便厭倦了,一個木盆能留在身邊數十年,而且,日用品是每天都看到的東西,還是該選擇看在眼裡時會感到心情愉快的、好用的東西。

三年前順子小姐搬進三谷先生位於松本的家,家裡滿滿是三谷先生設計的器物,多使用了,便更明白每一件的特長。她對三谷先生的作品愛不惜手,然而要她說明其過人之處,她卻思考了很久。「可能是體積、線條的平衡、又或是木材的選擇⋯⋯它們都不是很貴重的工藝品,不管是重量或視覺上,都很輕盈自在。」我們討論了一陣子,還是難以下結論,究竟是甚麼元素叫它們看來比其他木工藝家造的,更為溫柔溫暖呢。記得三谷先生設計木餐具時,雖然會畫設計圖,然而收到木匠完成的樣板後,總是花長時間,用手仔細地感受作品的不足之處,再慢慢調節。眼睛看不出,文字說不明,但手會懂得。大概只有用過三谷先生的器物,就能真正明白它們的好。


Junko first encountered Mitani’s works about ten years ago. “I was totally amazed by a deep wooden tray he made.” She later went to Mitani’s exhibition and bought a small wooden tray for herself. Her original intention  was to place it on the table for collecting mugs, but a magazine article made her realise it can also be used as a salad bowl. Since then, she slowly started to discover different ways to use the bowl. A wooden tray designed by Ryuji Mitani can cost up to tens of thousand Japanese yen. Junko, like many other people, found Mitani’s works rather expensive. However, considering how people spend money on clothes that they can easily get bored of in two or three years, it makes more sense to spend money on a wooden tray that can last for tens of years. Articles of daily use are items that are to be seen everyday, so it is important to select practical items that can also bring a cheerful mood.

When Junko moved into Mitani’s home in Matsumoto three years ago, the place was filled with Mitani’s creations, so Junko had the natural opportunity to use and appreciate the of each item. Despite her passion for Mitani’s designs, Junko actually needed considerable time  to put into words the distinguishing qualities of Mitani’s works. “It could be the balance between size and shape, or the type of wood used in his designs. They are surely not extravagant arts and crafts, but rather light in weight and sleek in appearance.” We discussed for quite some time without coming to a conclusion that explains what makes Mitani’s works exceptionally gentle and warm. Even though Mitani sketches each of his tableware designs, he still spends a long amount of time to physically touch and feel every inch of the prototype to make necessary adjustments. There are certain details that cannot be visually seen or verbally communicated, so literally touching and using is the only way to appreciate the essence of Mitani tableware.

黑漆圓形木盆

「開始時覺得它很大,而且以往多用陶瓷,很少用黑色的器物。實際使用後,才發現它令所有食物看來都很好吃呢。光線投下去時看來很溫暖好看。平常我多用來放沙拉或是有醬汁的意大利麵。」

Black lacquer round wooden tray
“I found it too big at the beginning. Also, in the past, I usually went for ceramic ware and rarely used black tableware. However, I later realised that food looks more delicious when served in black bowls due to the warm light reflection. I often use it to serve salad or pasta with sauce.”

白漆圓形木碟
「我最喜歡白漆系列了。初時以為很難用,後來發覺它放上甚麼食物都很好看。跟白色的陶瓷不同,它的白不會過度硬朗,與食物的色彩對比不會太強烈,很柔和的感覺。大的面積,為食物擺盤留白,視覺上就輕鬆舒暢多了。而且白漆用久會慢慢變得更白,色彩變化又帶來另一種趣味。我通常用它來放沒醬汁的意大利麵,又或是早餐的鬆餅。」

White lacquer round wooden plate
“The white lacquerware series is my favourite. At first, I thought it might be tricky to use, but I soon realised it actually goes well with any type of food. The white colour is not as blunt as that on white pottery, so the contrast with the colour of food is more subtle and harmonic. The size is big enough to leave white space when plating, which makes it visually soothing. Further, white lacquerware gets whiter and whiter as it gets used, and it’s very interesting to observe the subtle change of colour. I often use it to serve pasta without sauce or breakfast pancakes.”

黑漆四方碟及鬆餅刀
「這個四方碟是造法是邊擦拭邊上漆的,所以不會有很厚重的感覺,色澤平衡很好。我常用來作分菜碟,有時也放漬物、和菓子,或充滿蛋糕碟等。

「我搬進來後,早餐時常做鬆餅,三谷先生便設計了這把鬆餅刀。他很久以前便造木叉子了,吃鬆餅時也會用,可是卻沒有木刀,只能用金屬刀,感覺很不調和。另外,金屬刀敲在木碟上的感覺不好,木刀則溫和多了。」

Black lacquer square plate and pancake knife
“The lacquer coating is simultaneously applied to the square plate and wiped off, so the colour is nicely spread and doesn’t  feel too thick. I usually use it to place hold cooking ingredients, or to serve small items such as pickles, wagashi or even cake.
“After I moved in, we often had homemade pancake breakfast, which led Mitani to design this pancake knife. In the past, Mitani’s collection included wooden forks and plates, which we would use to eat pancakes. However, there was no pancake knife, so we had to use a metal knife, which gave off a discordant feeling. Further, metal knives generate a discomfort sound when struck on wooden plates, whereas wooden knives are much gentler.”

牛油盒
「這牛油盒放在桌子上完全沒有突兀的感覺。木材能好好地吸收牛油,使木材的質感不會因為時間而降低。說起來,我一次都沒有洗過這牛油盒呢,但它看來完全不會噁心,實在很神奇呢。」

Butter box
“It doesn’t feel awkward at all to have the butter box on the table. Grease from the butter helps to keep the wood nicely polished like new. I just realised I’ve never washed this butter box, but to my surprise, it doesn’t look dirty at all.”