Japanese Design in SA: WAZA Online Store

COMPILED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES Frank Ellis

WAZA, a local online store specialising in Japanese products, was started in July 2016 by Hilda and Botha Kruger after numerous trips to Japan solidified their love for the country and the goods its produces.

“From an idea to a shop, WAZA took time to germinate,” says Botha. “Our first visit to Japan was in 2004 and we became very interested in various aspects of Japanese life and culture. We returned twice in the next 10 years, each time focusing on different regions of the country. After our third visit in 2014 we decided to channel our passion for Japan into something practical, and we started an import business to introduce South Africans to the beautifully crafted, everyday use household goods we brought back for ourselves.”

Since the online store launched, Hilda and Botha have visited Japan twice, exploring numerous regions, in an effort to expand the business and its offerings. “We want to keep it personal and deal as directly as possible,” he says.

Iki, the Japanese aesthetic ideal, is what the team loves most about Japanese design. “Iki expresses sophistication and originality in an unpretentious and unforced way,” says Botha. “Iki is often used to describe people who show traits of spontaneous and unadorned elegance. In Japanese design, everyday objects have a positive simplicity – they are refined in a way that is not ostentatious, and this can also be regarded as an embodiment of iki. For us, the best Japanese products have simple lines, are well-proportioned and subtle, and are made with care and a commitment to quality. We are very interested in the concept of monozukuri – a uniquely Japanese term which refers to the art, science and craft of creating things – and which is often rooted in an appreciation of iki.”

The brand, which continues to expand its range, is planning a collaborative Japanese-themed pop-up with Setamono Tableware and Kitchen Samurai, which follows on from pop-ups already held at Haas Collective, Skinny laMinx and Tjing Tjing restaurant. “We are expanding the wholesale and distribution side of the business, to supply Japanese household goods to other retailers,” adds Botha. “We have a longer-term project in mind to collate and publish travel tips of South Africans who have visited Japan. And, of course, we need to start planning our next visit!”

Team WAZA’s Top Picks:

Hilda: My favourite product is my 210 mm Kakuri pruning saw, also available in 240 mm, with a replaceable blade and a custom-made Japanese red oak handle and sheath. The saw was a once-off collaboration between Kakuri and a master woodworking craftsman and is indispensable in the garden. It also reminds me of the lovely hospitality we received from father and son Mutsuhiro Kato and Katsuhiro Kato, respectively President and Managing Director of Kakuri. Our newly arrived indigo dye kits are a close second – I am forever looking for more fabric and old T-shirts to dye indigo.

Botha: I love cooking on the traditional Japanese cooking stoves called shichirin. They are hand-cut from diatomaceous earth found in the Noto Peninsula of Japan, and when used with Kishu binchotan – the famous Japanese cooking charcoal from Wakayama Prefecture – makes cooking and socialising around the table a huge weekend treat. I use the 315 mm rectangular shaped version, which also reminds me of our fascinating visit to the diatomaceous earth mine of the 4th generation family business, Noto Nenshouki, to see how the stoves are made by hand.

You can shop online at wazashop.co.za.