Tomoka Furuya is a food producer who researches the potential of Japanese native plants and develops new food products. The activities of the “Japan Botanical Lab,” which develops wood food products such as craft gin and soda syrup, will be in full swing from 2022. Their “Tomo Cola” is carried by 500 stores nationwide and is recognized as a pioneer in the craft cola boom of recent years. Until recently, Shibuya was where she had called home since her college days. She explains that being in a town with a vibe that encourages people to try new and creative things has helped to refine her own sensibilities. To sense the energy of this neighborhood, we hit the streets of Hatagaya together.
The everyday scenery of Hatagaya that fuels the spirit of endeavor
I’“m sure I’ll want to go back to Shibuya in a few years, maybe 5 or 10 years …… or even 2 years from now!” – Tomoka Furuta says this with a chuckle, about Shibuya where she had lived for a decade until this year. She is particularly enamored with the Hatagaya area, which has become increasingly vibrant in recent years.
“I was able to closely observe the process of the town’s rebirth through the opening of cafes, record stores, and other wonderful individual stores run by people slightly above my generation. I feel that the impetus to start something new came from the fact that so many people were doing just that in Hatagaya, which lowered the psychological barrier for me.”
Uninhibited individuality is constantly on display in this belt-like zone.
“I’m actually from the East part of Tokyo. I’ve managed to launch “Japan Botanical Lab” and “Tomo Cola”, but wonder how accepted I would have been back in my local area. Hatagaya is definitely a rarity in Tokyo, how all these young bootstrappers with distinct personalities can thrive there.”
We asked Furuya, who grudgingly left Shibuya Ward after finding a property she was interested in, to share some high points of the neighborhood that she noticed after moving away.
“From Hatagaya to Shibuya the neighborhoods seem to blend into each other, in a sort of belt-like zone. I live in the middle of the city right now and each area is kind of demarcated by major roads, so I really miss that spontaneous ambiance of Shibuya. And of course the palpable sense of creativity. Shibuya has a certain stimulating environment, where many business owners are trying to make a living doing what they love. Inspiration comes not just from SNS but from raw information. Epo is a shop that perfectly fits this description.”
A hair salon with a lab showcasing the potential of plants.
“Epo Hair Studio” is a hair salon that is the talk of Yoyogi Uehara. The store looks like a botanical laboratory with distillation and refining machines lying around. That checks out, as the adjoining lab manufactures shampoos and treatments for use in the salon. Plants used as ingredients are sourced directly from domestic and overseas producers, harvested in the staff’s own fields, or grown in the store’s factory.
“I heard about this awesome hair salon and treated myself to 2 head spas (ha ha). It felt so amazing, it just really calmed me down. The use of plants from other countries was also very fresh and relevant for me given that my work is focused on Japanese native flora and fauna. It’s a place where I feel inspired to develop a similar unit one day inside Japan Grass and Tree Lab.”
Chinese cuisine with flair in an authentic setting.
Furuya explains that the Hatagaya area is home to many creative stores like Epo, which serve to stimulate her senses as she walks around. We asked about her favorite restaurants, and she kindly dropped the names of some seriously stylish spots.
“Long Kou Jiu Jia is one of my absolute favorites. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve eaten there. It serves Chinese imperial cuisine, and the chef himself has the presence of emperor. There are many Chinese ingredients and medicinal drinks that you can only find here, and the jade-colored “li-men” with chlorella kneaded into the noodles is seriously tasty. I got really addicted to it, so when I moved out, I bought a whole load of frozen noodles, ha ha. Speaking of highly discerning proprietors, “Bar Nakagawa” is also a highlight.
This is an authentically styled bar with orange lighting, cherry wood countertops, Norwegian classic chairs, and stucco walls. The world view is so complete that it feels like you have stepped into a Stanley Kubrick movie! The raw information that Furuya mentioned equals the same sensibilities of these stores honed in Shibuya. Perhaps the energy pulsating through the city emanates from these spaces.”
Epo Hair Studio
1-9-15 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku
Three capacities under one roof: salon, lab, and factory. Hair products are manufactured in the store using wild medicinal herbs and herbs collected in the wild.
OKIDOKI Yoyogi Uehara
3-13-18 Nishihara, Shibuya-ku
The second shop of a popular vintage clothing store right by Yoyogi Park. Ladies’ wear is the focus, and the female staff are said to be always stylish.
Chianti Flagship Store
3-16-2 Sasazuka, Shibuya-ku
A long-established Italian diner in business for over 40 years. “It has a casual atmosphere that makes me feel at home whenever I visit, and I somehow find myself wanting to go back again and again.”
Long Kou Jiu Jia
1-3-1 Hatagaya, Shibuya-ku
Imperial cuisine is medicinal food prepared for the emperor. It is close to macrobiotic food and is low in salt and oil, so you’ll never feel bloated no matter how much you eat, according to Furuya.
3-25-5 Nishihara, Shibuya-ku
A secluded bar for grown-ups. As well as the interior design, the music is also a highlight here. The semi-private table seating is Furuya’s favorite.
Born in Tokyo, 1992. Food producer, entrepreneur. After studying architecture at the Kengo Kuma Institute at the University of Tokyo, she launched the original natural craft cola brand “Tomo Cola” , which is now carried by stores across Japan, including Seijo Ishii and Life. So far, she has developed local craft colas in five regions throughout Japan, including Kumamoto and Kochi. In 2021, she established the “Japan Botanical Lab” to collect, record, and disseminate “Delicious Veggies” native to Japan. In April 2022, the company unveiled “Forest Gin,” Japan’s first craft gin made from 100% domestic wild aromatic trees.