Craftswoman behind Black Barc and 340: An Interview with Mizuki Tsurutaka


What is Black Barc and 340?  How did they both come about?

Black Barc is a jewelry brand started in 2010 in Los Angeles.  340 is a brass home goods and accessory brand started in 2014 in Los Angeles.


How did you become a craftsman?  What is it like to be a Japanese craftsman in LA?

I learned jewelry making by working with a fine jeweler in Los Angeles. To be a Japanese craftsman in LA is very inspiring and fun. I used to take Japanese crafts and traditional techniques for granted when I lived there, since they were all around me, and now that I am seeing things from outside of Japan I feel that they are very unique.

What is your studio life like?  How do you balance the two brands? 

My studio life is very simple. I wake up in the morning and get a cup of coffee and go to my studio and start making things.  I usually go home by 8pm.   I balance the two brands by dividing the day.


What is your design philosophy and what inspires your craft?

My design philosophy is composed and inspired by long loved universal techniques and designs – as well as finding new ways of developing and passing on techniques to future generations. I hope that the products I make by pursuing this philosophy will produce products that can be used by all people, regardless of nationality, race, gender, and age — making their everyday lives more satisfying.


Newsletter March Issue Published



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Kunisaki Seven Keeps Tradition Alive for its 7 Farmers

kunisaki 3

Kunisaki Peninsula’s Usa region was designated as one of Japan’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) for their regional production of shittoui in 2014 — a material that for hundreds of years has been used for high quality tatami mats dating back to Japan’s Edo period (18th c).

kunisaki 7

Shittoui is time consuming to produce for the simple fact that each blade of grass must be planted and harvested by hand – without the use of any machines.

kunisaki 8

When the grass is harvested, the reeds are gathered and bundled for the next stage of production.  A cross section of the reed viewed from above reveals a unique triangular shape.  Typically, grass reeds have a circular shape.  Shittoui’s unique triangular shape creates another unique challenge for farmers as it cannot be fed through a machine weaver.  Each reed must be hand woven strand by strand.  In the last few decades, a majority of Japan’s tatami mats have been produced with synthetic fiber and by machines. However shittoui tatami mats are 100% hand grown, 100% hand woven, and completely natural.

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The number of farmers that still produce shittoui today are just 7.  Hence the name of its modern line ‘Kunisaki Seven’.  To give you an idea of the intense labor behind each piece, we learned that each of the seven farms can only weave up to 2 tatami mats per day.


Each piece is unique and comes with a handwritten tag with the weaver’s name.  Truly, a “farm to store” product!


If  interested in seeing our line of Kunisaki Seven pieces for the home, please visit us Monday through Saturday, 10 – 6 or Sunday 12 – 6, or call us with any questions: 310-314-8448.


Coaster $32

Trivet $62

Placemat $46

Bottle Holder $80



Details for the items on Newsletter Feb. Issue

Denim Tie by Prospective Flow

Prospective Flow is a team of Japanese and based in Los Angeles.

  • Selvedge Denim, 58″Length x



Akane vase

Akane Matsuura is an glass artist from Nagano prefecture. We have been carrying her products since we opened in 2003!!

  • Green Large appr. 6.5 in x 6 in $354
  • Green Medium appr. 5 in x 5.5 in $266
  • Blue Large appr. 6 in x 6 in $354
  • Blue Medium appr. 5 in x 5 in $266


Each one is made by mouth blown. The shape comes in vary. Here is example of two small size vase.


Water Splash Ring holder

These beautiful glass ring holder is made in Shimane prefecture, west side of Japan.
Each one is slightly different in size since they are all hand made.

  • appr. 1.75 in x 2 in $120


PLUIE Hair Acc. 

PLUIE is a hair jewelry brand established in 2013 by Yuya Takahashi, an LA-based hair stylist.

Embodying the concept “Pluie ressenti par surrealism”, meaning “rain felt by surrealism”.  All barrettes are inspired by nature.

Made in USA. Underside clip imported from France.

  • Feather Silver plated              Length : 5 inches / 12.5cm $120
  • Feather Gold plated                Length : 5 inches / 12.5 cm $120
  • Starfish Silver plated              Length : 3.75 inches / 9.5cm $120
  • Starfish Gold plated                Length : 3.75 inches / 9.5cm $120
  • Antler Silver plated                Length : 3.75 inches / 9.5cm $114
  • Antler Gold plated                  Length : 3.75 inches / 9.5cm $114

feather_silverfeather_gold  fether_model seashell  starfish_modelantlerantler_model


Golda Pyramid Soap

 Hand made with the finest ingredients.

Saponifired oils of coconut,palm,olive and safflower, vegetable glycerine, water, sodium hydroxide, jojoba oil, avocado oil, hiba wood rose oil, geranium oil, mica,sorbitol, sorbitan oleate.

available at online store

  • Gold Pyramid Soap $18

Golda_pyramid copy

CDG Monocle Perfume 

  • CDG Perfume Monocle: Hinoki $120

This fragrance was first launched by Comme des Garcons in 2008, created in honor of th emen’s lifestyle magazine Monocle. It is presented as a fragrance which brings aromas of Hinoki (Japanese cypress), and is inspired with Japanese hot spring baths and the woods.

50ml  1.7 fl.oz

  • CDG Perfume Monocle ; Sugi $120

This light, energizing fragrance is inspired by Sugi (Japanese cedar) which is a popular ornamental plant in Japan.

Also a unisex scent.

50ml 1.7 fl.oz


Newsletter February Issue Published



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RHYTHM Japan – Featured Tortoise Handcraftman


Pinch $122  (Available in black and brown.  Black is shown)


Pouch $255 (Available in blue, green, brown.  Blue is shown)



Roll – Large $358 (Available in brown)

roll s

Roll – Small $122 (Available in black, green, brown.  Green is shown)


Bundle $78 (Available in dark brown and light brown.  Dark brown is shown)


Canvas $150 (Available in green and tan.  Green is shown)

Newsletter January Issue Published



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Newsletter December Issue Published


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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

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



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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 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.