August 22, 2012


by Kayoko Akabori

Photos by Erin Gleeson

We did it! With the loving support from our friends, family, and community, Yoko and I have opened Umami Mart, a retail shop in Oakland, CA, specializing in kitchen + barware from Japan.

The idea for starting a brick-and-mortar shop really derived from necessity. We had been running our online shop for nearly two years, and the inventory was eating up Yoko’s apartment, ie her life. I’d walk into her place and there were boxes everywhere, packaging products, human-size rolls of bubble wrap — the entire online shop resided in every nook and cranny of her apartment. She was about to lose it (Skylar style). It was time for some breathing room.

Window decals and all signage by Cindy Liu

Our kamon (family crest) was by Anders Arhøj. The sprout images symbolizes growth and bright future.

Umami Mart is open Tuesday to Sunday. Decals by Cindy Liu

All brand identity by Anders Arhøj

Windows look out to Broadway

Gallery wall. Most images designed by Anders Arhøj. Prints coming soon for purchase!

One day, in early spring, Yoko emailed me, “Why don’t we open a SHOP???” From there, it was full-speed ahead. We started talking to people we know in the business for feedback and suggestions. Then, we got in touch with Alfonso of popuphood — a program to help revitalize neighborhoods by granting prospective retailers six months rent-free.

We could not refuse.

Anders Arhøj, a well-regarded art director in Copenhagen who runs his own firm (when he’s not out skankin’ for Umami Mart), was planning on coming into town to “relax in Berkeley” for a month. Yoko and I asked him if he would be interested in taking the lead in designing the interiors of the shop. He said yes!

We created this space on a shoe-string budget of $10k, using mostly birch plywood. Photo by Johnny Lopes

As the head designer of this project, Anders put all of his knowledge and keen eye into helping us build the space that best fit Umami Mart’s sensibilities, and product line. Anders lived in Japan for a year, and his time there was influential in his career and design aesthetics.

For Umami Mart, he envisioned a bright space where Shinto meets Scandinavian minimalism. He designed all the furniture, logos, graphics — everything.

Yoko and Johnny built those tables!

Upon entrance to the shop, there is a display of arrows on the white wall. There are 38 white arrows, and one red.

Hamaya are arrows that are said to ward off evil. Each hamaya handmade by Yoko’s mama, Kazuko Hayama.

All the white noren (curtains) in the shop windows, and on the brick wall above the register desk are hand-sewn by Yoko’s sister, Kaoru Kumano. 

Like in Japan, we put up the noren in the door every morning, as a sign that we are open.  The bow you see above is an extremely intricate agemaki knot. 

Our good friends Devin Farrell (who made the Hashi set) and architect Joe Perez-Green are extremely talented woodworkers who have recently started a company called Manual Labor. We were so lucky that they agreed to build the centerpiece of the shop.


Huge 8 foot shelf designed by Anders as a “shrine”. Built by Manual Labor (

Devin and Joe also built this massive desk for us, which is against the brick wall in the middle of the shop.

This is where Yoko and I blog, gossip, eat, and make transactions every day. The noren (curtain) is by Kaoru Kumano

The front is full of  fun, visual stimulation a la Skankynavia. Japan Food Map!

Design by Anders Arhøj. Decals by Cindy Liu

Market stall made by Washi and Johnny. Pedestals on the left by another woodworker friend of ours, Koa Stephens


Plywood blocks for descriptions of our products

Anders foraged through thrift shops all around town for vintage frames for this wall. People ask if these are on sale every day. Soon, they will be!

Anders brought his GHOSTS, a collaborative project by himself and Louise Gaarmanns. These are wildly popular in Denmark right now and are flying off the shelves of shops and museums.

The Ghosts, or “Kitchen Talisman” are decorative ceramic pieces hand-thrown, then glazed.

Shinto-themed accents can be found throughout the shop

Wild weeds foraged by Keisuke and Johnny.

At our shop, we’d like to be known for our hospitality and service. Let us wrap your gifts!

Me and Yoko in our Umami Mart uniforms

Here’s a sweet montage by Anders, starting three weeks out!

Keisuke Akabori
Anders Arhøj
Mike Brandeberry
Nicole Buffet
Martha Chong
Jay Dion + Rie Hirai
Devin Farrell
Sarah Filley
Erin Gleeson
Tamara Hathcock
Kazuko Hayama
James Kirkpatrick
DM Kishi
Mike Kross
Kaoru Kumano
Norma Listman
Cindy Liu
Johnny Lopes
Joe Perez-Green
Koa Stephens
Tyler Vogel
Shinichi Washino

And thank you to all our loyal readers who have kept us going since 2007. We would not have made it this far without your encouragement and support! We can’t wait to see you all at the shop.

Come visit soon! 

Sign by Cindy Liu

815 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94607
T: 510.575.9152
Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 12pm – 5pm 


  • Maja
    Posted August 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Your new place looks amazing! Congrats on opening. I will make the trip across the bridge to check it out soon :)

  • yoko
    Posted August 22, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Remember when we were on BLOGGER?!!!

  • Kayoko
    Posted August 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    And the site was shaggy carpet bathtub green.

    I loved that green!

  • Kiwa
    Posted August 22, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Amazing, amazing, amazing!!!! Omedetou and wish I could visit!

  • Posted August 23, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Congratulations, Kayoko! So proud you’ve taken a dream and a blog and made a physical business out of it! I’ll stop by tbe store next time I’m in the Bay!

  • Sonja
    Posted August 23, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Amazing!! So happy for you!!!

  • Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:28 am

    So nice!
    What are your floors? Did you guys do them?
    Congrats on the opening!

  • Kayoko
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Thanks so much everyone! We really couldn’t have made it this far without your support.
    Kiwa+Jason, come visit the Bay soon!
    Sonja, we miss you! Please write!
    CR, yes, we painted the floors! They were gross linoleum painted black.


  • Analisa
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I am so bummed that we moved to New York before the store opened! Congrats, it looks perfect.
    -Analisa (Eric Schmidt’s lady friend)

  • Kyoko Hirano
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Dear Kayoko,

    Congratulations! The store looks great, and I am so impressed. I am so happy for you.

    Kyoko (back and forth between NY and Tokyo)

  • T
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Hope you don’t mind; had to give a plug to Daily Candy to check your UmamiMart store/site. They need to see how fantabulous you are!!!

  • Wormy
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Like that you somehow squeezed in a Breaking Bad reference.

  • Kayoko
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    @Analisa: Hope you are enjoying NYC!
    @Kyoko-san: So great to hear from you!!! I will be in touch the next time I am in NYC.

    @Wormy: The show is just getting so crazy. And not a Skylar in sight these days.

8 Trackbacks


  • By Buy our honey at Umami Mart! | East Bay Urban Bees on September 5, 2012 at 3:34 am

    […] by our friends Kayoko and Yoko, this beautiful bricks-and-morter shop in downtown Oakland is the expansion of their online store selling Japanese kitchen and barware. […]

  • By Umami Mart 発見 | もっとサンフランシスコ on September 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    […] あぁやっぱりミュージアムっぽい。お店のコンセプトやオープンまでの道のりなど詳しいストーリーはこちらでどうぞ。Old Oaklandと呼ばれるこのエリアの活性化を目指し、新規のビジネスに6カ月無料で店舗スペースを提供するPopuphoodの活動も興味深いです。 […]

  • […] seeing what Kayoko and Yoko, together with their friends, have done with Umami Mart, conjuring up a beautiful, solid, real-life store and realising their dreams is wonderful and […]

  • By HAPPY NEW YEAR! « Umami Mart on December 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    […] and a Japanese whisky tasting with Suntory for Father’s Day. Then holy cow, we opened a shop in Oakland! Designed by the talented Dane Anders Arhøj! It has been a wonderful five-months in our space and […]

  • […] surprising. Anders, a Danish designer who writes the Skankynavia column for UM and was crucial in designing the Umami Mart shop in Oakland, was visiting London and wanted to meet up! Of course I had to, […]

  • […] like the SFMOMA-designed Fire Station 1, Dropbox’s sleek SF Headquarters and Oakland’s Umami Mart designed by Danish artist Anders […]

  • […] Can you believe we have been open in Old Oakland for three whole years???!?!?! From bare walls to Skankynavian chic, Yoko and I are so proud and happy to have been able to share our passion for food and drink […]

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