Happy Donabe Life! Thank you Naoko and Friends~!

Saturday night’s Donabe Book Signing Party with Naoko Moore and friends was a great success!

Thank you all who came and learned more about the donabe life and had fun!  We are now carrying Naoko’s cookbook DONABE: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking ($35) in addition to Toiro’s full line up of Donabe clay pots from Iga-Ken in store.

For inquires, or to purchase, please call us at 310-314-8448 or reach us hello@tortoiselife.com

We also have some of the donabes on our online store! :

Kamado Rice Cooker

Steamer Pot

Stew Pot

Fukkurasan Grill and Tagine Pot

Donabe life 3 Donabe life 2 Donabe life

Newsletter November issue published



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Dwell Special Issue for Design Lovers

This is our 13th holiday season and we are so happy to be selected as one of Dwell Editor’s Best of 2015 (Special Issue / Winter 2015).  Please come see us for your holiday shopping again this year!

Thank you for your support all these years and for the many more years to come.






November 15th, Sunday: Final Sweet Rose Pop-Up!

fall icecreamHere is the full menu for the FINAL Sweet Rose Pop-Up from Chef Shiho!


Ice cream:

Kuri (chestnut)

Kabocha (pumpkin)

Apple pie

Jukushi gaki (persimmon)




Matcha cone

Black sesame cone


See you all soon!

Introducing Kindai Tuna – Supporting Sustainable and Healthy Fish for the Future

Tortoise was recently asked to host a meeting with Kinki University (Kindai), K-Zo restaurant Chef Keizo and Isora Consulting Group (ICG) for the discussion and introduction of Kindai tuna – a sustainable, healthy and delicious blue fin tuna developed by aquaculture experts at Kinki University in Osaka, Japan.

“ICG, along with Kindai, will be partnering with Tortoise and Chef Keizo to share the true beauty and essence of Japanese culture through food … Tortoise has been paving the way for Japanese culture (specifically art and goods) to spread throughout the U.S. with its Venice storefront … It is only fitting that we team up with these distinguished partners to share, preserve and celebrate Japanese culture and cuisine.”

Kindai Tuna orig

The growing popularity of Japanese cuisine around the world has greatly depleted the population of tuna, particularly blue fin tuna, to the point of extinction, but Kindai Tuna is working to meet demand for delicious tuna while preserving natural resources.

Kindai Tuna orig 2


Kindai Logo



SUSTAINABILITY: Farming is the most practical solution in maintaining the sustainability of the wild Bluefin Tuna population in the world. Kindai Tuna are born in Kinki University (Japan) farms, which offer a safe and plentiful source of tuna that helps to curb over-fishing.

EXQUISITE TASTE: Kindai Tuna offers the best of both worlds (wild fish & farmed fish). Its low population-density farming method enables the university to raise them without using any drugs or hormones. Kindai Tuna receive more exercise than other farmed fish which, similar to free-range chicken, improves taste and flavor.

FOOD SAFETY: Kindai Tuna provides complete trace-ability for each fish. While organic seafood only certifies the fish diet, each Kindai Tuna has a complete history of where the fish has been and what it has been fed since birth. Additionally, there is a significantly lower chance of exposure to bacteria in comparison to other farmed tuna.

EXCLUSIVITY: No matter how much one is willing to pay, only 2-3 pieces of Kindai Tuna are imported into the US. Unlike profit-seeking companies, Kinki University is not aiming at maximizing the profitability by mass-producing these tuna.


We certainly hope that we can do more to build sustainable solutions for the planet and for future generations.  Great job, Kindai!



Hasami Porcelain Debuts at Apple Store Infinite Loop!


Japanese Craft Meets Technology!!!

Hasami Porcelain has debuted at Apple.  Yes, that Apple.

We are excited that Tortoise co-owner Taku’s designed and directed mug is now being carried at Apple’s newly redesigned retail store at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

The Cupertino store is the only location where you can purchase apple branded merchandise like t-shirts and mugs.  Customers and Apple employees have been so excited to learn about the traditional techniques and the thoughtful Japanese design aesthetic that went into the collection.”

Best of luck with your new store, Apple!  We are happy to be a part of it.

Click here to purchase the full line and read this about our trip to Hasami.

Also, you can find some articles as follows:


Newsletter September follow-up issue published


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Newsletter September issue published



Please click the image above to read the entire newsletter!

To subscribe our monthly newsletter, please click here to sign in.

Thank you!

Journey to Japan’s Ceramic Center – Hasami Porcelain

Back when porcelain was considered a luxury exclusive to the upper class, the town of Hasami developed ways to produce porcelain at a reasonable price for the masses – and the rest was history.  Hasami became Japan’s premier ceramic town during the country’s Edo period 400 years ago and it continues to thrive as a hub for ceramic artists and enthusiasts.

The small rural town of just 15,000 boasts several large and prominent ceramic houses that proudly work with traditional methods, as well as modern machines, to produce all types of ceramic ware for an increasingly demanding world market.

Hasami Porcelain, one of the town’s original ceramic houses named after the town of its origin, currently produces a line of porcelain ware designed by TGS’s owner Taku Shinomoto.

Recently, TGS member Emma Tsuchida, went to the town of Hasami to visit the various ceramic houses, and meet with the people who work passionately and tirelessly for this time honored craft. Here is a photo sneak peak:


Meeting with Hasami Porcelain’s Product Designer, Abe Kuntaro, at Hasami Porcelain’s original manufacturing site:Hasami 17


Modern kilns vs Ancient kilns:  Hasami 18

Anicent kilns in pottery towns are often ‘noborigamas’ or ‘climbing kilns’, named for the way they hug the steep mountainsides of rural landscapes.  Wood thrown into the kiln’s first room at the bottom of the mountain creates heat that climbs up the adjoining rooms (heat rises), and eventually filling and rising up the entire kiln.  The heat travels through each chamber, requiring less wood at each stop.  Hasami’s oldest kiln still remains intact, overlooking the town’s residents high up a lush hillside.    Hasami 13

Hasami 12

Women and men glaze and decorate pottery with a beautiful view of rice fields:Hasami 11

A young man carefully dusts and shaves off imperfections off a line of lids straight out of their molds:   Hasami 8

Casting molds are stacked up in tall columns and pressed down from both ends.  Ceramic slip enters each individual casing through a small hole that runs through all of the molds like a tunnel.

Hasami 9

The town of Hasami is green, green and even more green.  The town has beautiful vegetation, and their staggered rice fields are breathtaking – even more so in person.

Hasami 14

Right outside the factories are babbling creeks and singing birds.  The town has a rich quality of life.       Hasami 4

Hasami Porcelain’s line of ceramicware designed by Taku Shinomoto, is produced at several different kilns.  His vision for a stackable, single module set of ceramic ware with straight clean lines requires extreme precision and is extremely difficult to produce.  Clay when fired will shrink in the kiln and yet, Hasami Porcealin has developed a way to shrink them so precisely that they  still fit together as one piece when they leave the firing stage.  Hasami 15

Fired mugs await glazing:Hasami 16

Resting in good company:Hasami 10



If you have any questions, or interest in purchasing Hasami Porcelain, please click here, or email us hello@tortoiselife.com or call us at 310.314.8448 (mon-sat 10-6 sun 12-6)

Driftwood Birds Standing Tall

driftwood bird 2

driftwood bird

Newsletter August Issue published



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GOLDA Green Tea – Tasting Event on August 8th and 9th!


On August 8th and 9th, Keiko Matsuo will be at Tortoise to debut a special line of GOLDA Tea – a 100% organic green tea from Yama, Fukuoka Japan.  Keiko Matsuo is of course, the renowned holistic therapist and founder of Studio Cue, who has turned high quality hiba oil, extracted from 300 year old Aomori Hiba tree, into a line of sprays and soaps to heal and soothe those who use them.

GOLDA tea comes from the city of Yame, known for producing some of Japan’s finest competition-grade green tea (on par with cities like Kyoto), winning a total of 26 tea awards in national contests.

The Yame tea that is grown for GOLDA is harvested on a plantation 450 meters above sea level — the highest point of Fukuoka prefecture.  The guiding philosophy behind its farming is the health of the soil — with the belief that the health of the soil directly affects the health of the tea and thus the people who drink it.

The plantation uses a traditional Japanese natural fertilizer called ‘abura-kasu’ which is made only from oily vegetable dregs.  By using this natural fertilizer, the plants grow to emit phytoncides, an organic compound that naturally repels pests.  The plants grow up healthier, stronger, with a sweeter taste and smell.

In 2006, Yame tea for GOLDA was the first Japanese tea to pass the European Commission’s extremely stringent maximum pesticide residue level legislation.  The farm was also certified organic by Fukuoka’s government in 1998.

For all these reasons, the green tea produced for GOLDA is of exceptional quality that produces an intensely vibrant color in each cup.  Another sign of its quality is how delicious its used and unused tea leaves taste as food!  Thus the GOLDA event on August 8th and 9th will be from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm with a special tea and rice ball tasting.  GOLDA tea will be sold in packs of 10 for $22, and the tasting is on us!

Please come by to try and take home tea that will be healthy for you and your whole family.



TGS Summer Reading List


trts books

We have books for your summer reading list to keep you busy and having fun! From embroidery to woodblock to patchwork, these books can be your visual guides and inspiration.

Clockwise from the top left:

‘Using Old Fabric’ by Yamanaka Tomiko ($32) A visual guidebook on the many ways to use vintage fabrics for the modern day.  Yamanaka Tomiko was born in 1954, and began her career as a thrift shop owner, later becoming a fashion designer sewing her own designs under her own label.  The book contains mostly women’s fashion, but is also instructive on how to enjoy, obtain and work with old fabrics — with ideas on interior design and accessories.

‘Boro Book’ ($88) Boro is the Japanese art of patching rags and sewing simple running stitches.  Its origins are in Northern Japan where the cold harsh climate made textiles hard to grow, and therefore extremely precious.  Farmers in this region could not let torn clothing or rags go to waste (especially during the cold winters) so families began to patchwork, starting the art of ‘boro’.  Boro clothing could be worn longer, and would ultimately, be warmer to wear.  Vintage boro today is highly sought after, and the boro style and the look of ‘wearable history’ is appearing more in today’s fashion.  This ‘Boro Book’ has both Japanese and English explanations of the art form as well as pictures of vintage boro to inspire anyone interested in learning more.

‘Woodblock Print Mountain Man’ by Umetaro Azechi ($34) A wordless picture book by Umetaro Azechi’s featuring his woodblock prints.  Azechi was born in 1902 to poor farmers, and then struggled for years to become a successful artist.  He grew to prominence in the 1960’s, and his work is being rediscovered by a worldwide audience in recent years.  Azechi’s big passion besides woodblock was mountaineering, and he was an avid mountaineer towards the end of his life.  This book captures the 2 things he loved most: art and nature.  His art is beautifully rustic, primitive in feeling, and and highly emotional.

‘Samiro Yunoki Style Archives’ by Samiro Yunoki ($48) Samiro Yunoki was born in 1922, born to a family of painters, and is well known in Japan for his ‘katazome’ work.  ‘Katazome’ is a Japanese method for dying fabric with stencils.  Yunoki was inspired by other influential artists like Keisuke Serizawa, who is most well known for his stencil artwork for ‘Serizawa calendars’ — stencil printed calendars widely distributed in America as well as Japan post-WWII.  ‘Samiro Yunoki Style Archives’ is a collection of photographs of Samiro’s work as well as images of Samiro himself, crafting in his studio.

‘Tsugaru Koginzashi Techniques’ ($62) A book on the traditional Japanese needlepoint ‘koginzashi’. Originally, ‘koginzashi’ started in the Edo period amongst the peasant classes when farmers were forbidden to wear padded clothing – even during the harsh winters.  Women and wives of these farmers began needlepointing to make clothing more durable and warmer to wear, by applying their needlepoint primarily on the shoulders, elbows, waist and lower sleeves.  Beautiful and functional design always pass the test of time!

‘The book of Koginzashi’ ($29) Another book based on the traditional Japanese needlepoint called ‘Koginzashi’.  The book comes with a variety of stencil patterns as well as ideas on where to apply needlepoint design on clothing.  More modern application of the ‘koginzashi’ needlepoint is shown to inspire its use in your everyday clothing.

Third Sunday Market – July 19th!

Third Sunday Market is Back!

After a month hiatus we are happy to announce Third Sunday Market is back! The market will feature local Japanese craftsmen and women and artists from the LA area.  We encourage you to come to our open market to mingle with friendly people and see some crafts you might not see otherwise.

The market is from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm on our outdoor patio.  We will be featuring 3 vendors this month.

Artisan College




Newsletter July issue published



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Setoware: Long Live Tradition

Setoware is so highly renowned in Japan that many people who use the word ‘setomono’ or ‘setoware‘ in conversation believe they’re actually saying, ‘ceramics’.  A testament to how pervasive setoware in Japan is – seto is simply synonymous with good, solid, ceramic ware.

One of the six ancient kilns of Japan, and the first kiln in Japan to produce ceramic ware with a glaze, Setoware, takes its name from the city of its founding.  A beautiful, transparent, high gloss still defines setoware to this day with its trademark yellow-green glaze.

Recently, Tortoise manager and buyer, Herbert Johnson visited Seto-shi (city of Seto) to bring pieces of setoware back to Tortoise. The 8th generation craftsman Mizuno Hanjiro currently heads Seto’s kiln, and he showed us how he continues to produce the traditional setoware that made it the standard of Japanese ceramics since feudal Japan.

Below are photos from Herbert’s journey as well as images of the setoware we are now carrying thanks to this visit.


The Seto kiln resides at the end of this long and green road up a hill.



The main Seto building lies at the end of the road.



The Seto kiln is a ‘noborigama’ or ‘climbing kiln’, named for the way they hug the steep mountainsides of rural Japan.  The incline gives ‘climbing kilns’ added efficiency. Wood thrown into the kiln’s first room at the bottom of the mountain creates heat that climbs up to the adjoining room (because heat rises), and so forth until it fills and rises up the entire kiln. The heat travels through each chamber, requiring less wood at each step. This kind of ingenuity has kept these ancient kilns running for hundreds of years.



Seto’s glazing room with glaze filled pots.IMG_1358_1024


Many pieces await glazing and firing.   IMG_1362_1024


The bowl on the left, once fired, will become a beautiful brown color while the bowl on the right will become a beautiful green.                                                             IMG_1377_1024

Each room in the ‘climbing kiln’ is large enough for a person to stand.IMG_2507_1024

From ancient Japan to modern Venice, CA, bowls, plates, and cups in a variety of sizes are now available at TGS. Come and see them alongside one of their elders: a vintage serving plate from 1800 .                                           thumb_IMG_5071_1024-2



Gentle Skill and Spirit: Behind the making of a Higo Mari (Mari Ball)

Threaded, handmade mari-balls are a favorite item for many TGS customers.

These photos sent to us from Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan (where our mari balls are made) not only show us the lengthy crafting process, but warmly expresses the gentle skill and spirit that goes into each carefully made, unique piece.


(Image 1: The core of the mari ball is rice chaff.  Rice chaff is the ‘husk’ surrounding the rice – the part of rice usually thrown away)


 (Image 2: After the rice chaff is wrapped tightly with fabric material, a base layer of yarn is wound tightly around the core)


(Image 3:  Every mari ball is made entirely by hand.  The group of women who make our mari balls are on average 60+ years old and always excited to send us their latest creations)


(Image 4: Mari balls draw your attention with their incredibly intricate designs.  The threads is cotton and dyed mainly with vegetable extracts.  Patterns are often symmetrical, geometric and based upon nature)


(Image 5: Mari balls, when they first began, were originally made for children.  Children would roll mari balls as play or kick them in a kickball type game.  Once the rubber ball was invented the mari ball transitioned into more of a decorative item.  For centuries, until now, the mari ball has been considered a highly valued and cherished gift — symbolizing deep friendship, loyalty and good luck wishes.  Since the balls are filled with the craftsman’s gentle spirit and skill, mari balls are believed to bestow happiness.  The brilliant color and threads are symbolic of well wishes for a brilliant (and happy) life)  



(Image 6: Around 300 yards of sewing thread is used for a hand-sized mari ball.  All of which is placed smoothly and consistently to ensure perfect roundness of the ball when it is finished)



If interested in purchasing, or seeing a mari ball in person, please visit our store in Venice, or order one over the phone by calling us at 310-314-8448.


Traditional Crafts for a Modern Audience – KYOTO LIVE!

In many ways Takahiro Yagi and Tsuji Toru are the future of Japanese craftsmanship.

Kyoto live


(Left to Right: Takahiro Yagi and Toru Tsuji)

Takahiro Yagi is a 6th generation tea caddy maker.  Tsuji Toru is a 2nd generation copper wire weaver.  Both men spent years mastering their respective crafts, learning from their fathers and following strict traditions.

Their tools are time tested and handed down from older generations.  They follow techniques hundreds of years old.  But their focus now for the future is considerably different from their predecessors.

Yagi and Toru are bringing storied Japanese craftsmanship to the world, learning from other cultures along the way and – in a word – diversifying.

When Yagi and Toru first met 8 years ago, they were at different points in their careers.  Yagi was already well known, and Toru was a brand new face.  It took 3 years, but when they met again at a design show in Milan, they finally started talking.

“Craftsmen in Japan don’t have relationships with each other, even when they share the same craft.  A kimono maker in one area of Kyoto may never know other kimono makers in the same area.  The size of their business, their ways and aims may all be different, so it causes them to fight at times.  This [Yagi and Toru’s] relationship is unique.”

While abroad, both men realized they shared the same roots and passions for their craft, as well as a similar vision for the future – a future that led them beyond Japan, making their work accessible to the world.  Their vision went beyond just their businesses.  They wanted to support craftsmanship in Japan as a whole.

“We want to tell the truth about the ‘craftsmen world’.  Everybody believes that the craftsmen is dying, but actually it is growing every year.  If you do it the right way, you can make money and you can grow.  The first thing you have to do is – you have to make beautiful quality things.  But the second important thing is, you have to seep into a culture and talk about it the right way.” 

Hence, Kyoto Live.  Yagi and Toru are visiting Venice Beach from June 21st to June 24th to talk about their craft, discuss the nuances of being a traditional craftsmen in a modern world, and show people the future of tea caddies and copper utensils.  According to Yagi, the future of tea caddies include sleek copper trays, tall coffee pitchers and glowing metal caddies for candles with delicate flame extinguishers.  The future of copper utensils are woven baskets, wire grills for roasting nuts and making toast and shadow casting lamp shades.

It wasn’t an easy decision for these craftsmen to venture in new directions, but when they discussed their plans with other craftsmen from different parts of the world, they received advice that set them on their current path.

“I showed the canister to Olivier Krug (6th generation of the Krug champagne house) and explained that the key to our canisters was the airtight seal.  I asked if he thought it was okay to move away from the canister – to try something different.  And he told me, ‘Ask the 1st generation that question for your answer’.  He told me to think about the 1st generation — and what they made, who they made it for, and how much it cost for them to make.  Once I understood the root of what the 1st generation made, I would have an answer for my question.  And as my father told me later, if I ended up being wrong, let’s just go back to the caddy.”

Kyoto Live is a live talk and demonstration in the hopes that returning customers and people who are perhaps seeing their products for the first time, can be a part of the changing and growing future of their business.

Please come to Tortoise from June 21st to June 24th, from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm, to take advantage of this rare opportunity to engage with these craftsmen bringing tradition into the modern world.


Event Photos:

Toru’s copper wire nets and baskets: A person in London looked at this gingko toaster and said it would be perfect for nuts.  I want people to be free to use it their way.  This tempura net can be a fruit basket.  This grill for mochi is for toast.  In Japan we use it one way, but in other parts of the world, it can be use differently.

tsuji 8


Toru’s copper wire lampshades: I wanted to create a world wide product.  I’m always thinking to the future.  Traditional techniques are important, but I’m not looking at the past.

tsuji 6


Yagi’s copper candle holders:  Why do we have extinguishers?  Blowing out candles in Japan is not very nice.  Candles are typically used on butsudans (alters) and candles are blown out by hand.  This is a much more elegant way to extinguish a flame.

Kaikado 9


Yagi explaining the tea caddy and the evolution of its design: The key to our canister is the airtight seal.  As long as that is our focus, we cannot move away from the canister.  So we took the lid off the caddy and flipped the lid. Now we have a bowl.  Widen it, we make it into a tray.  Make it taller, and it is a pitcher.  

kaikado 8


Toru demonstrating the copper weaving technique it took him 6 years to master: Happiness is seeing with my eyes, feeling with my hands, feeling the ground underneath my feet.  Real life is made up of things we can feel.  I am interested in things that are real, which is why I want to go into the world to see with my own eyes and feel with my own hands.  I don’t want to see the world on a screen.  

tsuji 5


Toru’s handmade sesame seed toaster: The mesh is very fine on the sesame seed toaster.  Just place 20 cm away from a gas fire and shake.

kaikado 7


Yagi’s grandfather’s tools and canisters from WWII: To craftsmen, tools are our mirrors.  My grandfather lived during WWII and he was told to give up his tools and materials [to be used for weapons].  He gave up half and kept the rest.  He continued to make caddies in secret.  The front of his store was a pharmacy, but in the back of the house he made caddies.  He was eventually arrested.  My grandfather’s hammer is the hammer on the left.  This was the hammer I used when I was first learning how to make caddies.   When I eventually learned how to make caddies on my own, I bought myself the hammer on the right.  And that was the first time I realized the difference between the two.  The hammer on the left is my grandfather and it’s much smaller after years of use.  It motivates me to work harder with my own tools.

Kaikado 6


Toru’s copper and steel tofu scooper and ladle: We weave the chrysanthemum pattern because we want you to see the pattern that’s cast by its shadow.  One of our company’s main concept is to focus on small side kitchen tools.  They are just as important as main tools.  Like supporting characters in a play – if they are not as strong as the main character, then the total production is not good.  The tofu scooper will never be a main utensil – even in a Japanese kitchen.  But we want you to use this and get pleasure out of it – just as much as the tools you use all the time.  Our company’s second important concept is to create beautifully designed items with an emphasis on nature.  The bamboo handle on this ladle is able to absorb heat – and in fact many Japanese tools use wood for this reason.  In Japanese Shinto philosophy, there are many gods everywhere especially in nature.  The soul of the nature used lives on in the tools that we craft because these tools are meant to last a very long time.

tsuji 9


Yagi and Toru meet one on one with newcomers and returning patrons.

Event 2


For all Kaikado purchases during this event, you can receive a special gift from Yagi-san: an engraved tea scooper in a metal of your choosing.  Please stop by!


kaikado 10


Black S/N is Here!

IMG_1517 (1)


S/N is a multi-functional brass ware line designed by our store’s owner Taku Shinomoto.

It is produced in partnership with Nousaku Metal Works.

Nousaku was founded in 1609 by Toshinaga Maeda, lord of the Kaga Clan, Takaoka City (Toyama Prefecture).  In 1916 NOUSAKU began manufacturing Buddhist altar fittings, tea sets and flower vases. Despite the deceptively simple appearance of some of these items, the manufacturing process often requires multiple steps. Nousaku uses advanced casting techniques and has and refined finishing methods that can only be done by master craftsmen. Today Nousaku is run by the 4th generation Nousaku family.

If you are interested in S/N or other Nousaku pieces, please visit us at the store or call us with questions at 310-314-8448.




Newsletter June issue published



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