MAMA- Serving you a slice of design
Usually if one was to travel to Arashiyama, an area thirty minutes away from the city centre, it would be for the bamboo forest or the mountain scenery. For food? Maybe. For pizza? Definitely not. However, a new restaurant on the block called MAMA is set to change all that.
Why journey all the way out there for pizza, especially in Kyoto where you can find authentic and delicious Japanese food in every corner of the city? Because MAMA isn’t just about the pizza. It’s about the vibe, it’s about the design of the restaurant that’s bound to catch your eye.
DAY inc.（Design ＆ Management） CEO Akihiko Watanabe and his team were aiming to do just that. They wanted to create a space where people of all ages could come to relax and hang out without feeling restricted. According to Watanabe: “We wanted to create a beautiful space, but we didn’t want it to be overly designed or complicated. The customers are a part of the vibe. We wanted to create a space which felt completed once the customers were in it.” In a tourist hot spot like Arashiyama, the idea was to create a place where both locals and visitors from afar felt like they were at home.
To achieve this, DAY inc.（Design ＆ Management） designed a natural and simple space that also that didn’t feel too Japanese or too European. “Even the garden doesn’t look like a typical Japanese garden. I mean, we have a giant agave plant in there”, laughs Watanabe.
When asked what they felt was most important during the design process, Watanabe mentioned that it all came back to the name “MAMA”. Since MAMA is a restaurant serving Italian cuisine, you might think the name comes from an Italian phrase. (“Mamma mia”, anyone?) However, the meaning of the name runs much deeper and ties in to the whole concept of the restaurant. The name comes from Japanese phrases such as “ari no mama” or “sono mama”. In English, these are usually translated as “the truth” or “as it is”. In Watanabe’s words: “What’s notable is that we didn’t change the space too much. Leaving the space ‘as it is’. That’s why we left the original entrance and kept the beams exposed so people can see the beautiful original structure.” Design elements like beautiful drapes made in collaboration with textile company Fabric Scape and earthy wooden light shades by Chikuni were artfully used to enhance the interior.
The concept of “natural” and “as it is” can be seen just as clearly in MAMA’s dishes. “We choose to serve pizza because it’s such a beloved comfort food, but we also felt that with pizza you can enjoy the ingredients in their most natural state without changing the flavor too much”, notes Watanabe. The pizza at MAMA playfully integrates ingredients such as Manganji peppers, eggplant, radish pickled in yuzu citrus, and shiso leaf. The pizza is the main attraction, but it’s not the only team player! MAMA also serves pasta and salad, plus a selection of grilled dishes in the evening. A lot of the ingredients are sourced locally, so guests can support local businesses while they enjoy!
By the way, the restaurant is only the start. The small boutique hotel behind the restaurant is due to open in Spring 2021, making MAMA into a place where people can also spend the night. The team wants people to experience an Arashiyama beyond the attraction of the famous bamboo forest. “There are so many ways to experience the beauty of Arashiyama”, according to MAMA’s team, but at MAMA you can finally “feel Arashiyama at it most natural state”.
Words: Sara Aiko
Photos: Sara Aiko