MASAKO and KOHSUKE NAKAMURA Owners of Helsinki-based Japanese goods store, Common
When Masako and Kohsuke Nakamura visited Finland in 2002, the Helsinki-based designer and artist Fujiwo Ishimoto invited them to dinner at his home. It was autumn, and Ishimoto served his guests siskon¬makkarakeitto, a traditional sausage soup. The couple still remember the taste: there was something familiar about it, but fresh and new at the same time. Now, after fourteen years in Helsinki, they always cook the dish when they have friends or business partners visiting from Japan. “It was the beginning of a tradition. We inherited it from him,” Kohsuke says with a laugh.
The couple now run a small store called Common, which sells Japanese design, handicrafts and tea, and their native and adopted cultures both have a place at their table: Mingei ceramics from Okinawa sit next to vintage Arabia and Iittala tableware. In the summer Kohsuke visits the local flea market almost daily, hunting for treasures. He grabs a white Arabia jug from the 1950s or 60s: “See the glazing? It has a handmade feel, even though it’s industrially manufactured,” he says.
The couple think that Finnish and Japanese traditions are not that different when it comes to eating together. “The biggest difference is that in Japan the food is usually served from big sharing dishes, whereas in Finland everyone has their own portions,” Masako says. At the Nakamuras’ table, dinner often ends with perunaleivos, potato-based pastries that remind them of the traditional Japanese sweet wagashi. The pastry is served with green Sencha tea by Uogashi-Meicha—a blend first introduced to them as a gift from a friend, just like the sausage soup.