Hokkaido is located in the northernmost region of Japan, being the second largest prefecture of the country where cool summers are embraced by freezing winters coming from the Pacific Ocean. With its geographical characteristics, the island is blessed with an abundance of exquisite seafood and vegetation, resulting in a large number of sushi restaurants throughout the area. Amongst many establishments is Sushi Isono, where the traditional craftsmanship of making sushi is mixed with a contemporary interior.
Designed by Jun Igarashi Architects—an architecture studio also based in Hokkaido—Sushi Isono is a cozy restaurant that takes on four different interior materials to conduct a minimal visual: grey concrete flooring, light wooden furnishes, white plaster walls, and dark metal accents. Upon entering, guests are greeted with a narrow space, only lit by a modest signage and an arched entrance that gives shy glimpses of the interior. Its narrow width is reminiscent of old restaurants across Japan. Behind it is a flood of white light, giving a strong contrast to indicate spatial territory, while maintaining a consistent flooring material and elevation. Inside, the space is divided into 3 main zones for guests: a common dining area, a private room, and a counter-seating zone.
The common dining area is decorated with two opposing paintings, depicting melancholic landscapes that can be interpreted as endless skylines running across the lands of Hokkaido. One with a light palette and another with darker hues, the artworks create mesmerising windows to re-imagined nature, complemented with a minimal deconstructed rock garden where the counter-seating zone is elevated. With instances of arched openings, the juxtaposition of forms is a strong visual feast for customers.
Taking a right turn from the entrance, a private room is tucked cozily inside all planes of light wood. The infusion of this natural material on all sides reflects an intimate experience, where there are no decorative intrusions or noisy interferences. To add a slight difference in texture, the floor has an inconsistent wood grain, marking subtle shifts in colours. Here, conversations are kept within, as well as the savours of freshness and affinity.
Coming out and taking a step up onto the last area, one is greeted with a chef-to-table experience. Behind the bar is a potted plant that is cleverly lit to mimic the language of the arches. Above, the lights become warmer and more enticing, shining directly onto the bar to correspond with each individual seats. This composition transforms the setup into a stage, where the customers are the audiences, the chef is the director, and the dishes are the performers.
Sushi Isono is a graceful encounter due to its careful attention to one’s experiential levels: from an individual to the public, from an acquaintance to another, and from one to the culinary conductor. The common denominator lies in the food itself, and the elegant minimalist interior that Jun Igarashi Architects has produced is the agent in delivering those complex degrees of experiences.