Terasu x The Mercer Hotel

By Georgia Merritt | June 17th 2024

It was an honor for Chowa to launch our first design object, in collaboration with The Mercer Hotel. It felt apt to host the event at The Mercer, on account of its quintessential New York City atmosphere, embodying the western, metropolitan side of the Chowa ethos: providing Chowa the space to create harmony with the traditional elements of the Terasu project which hark from Japan’s past, from the object’s materials, to the ethos of its craft.

To express the feeling within the project, Serious Construction designed and created an installation/interior which completely transformed the suite into a world of Terasu. Terasu’s various reference-points span across eras and traditions, and this was felt harmoniously throughout the space thanks to Yudai Kanayama’s touch: incorporating more historic motifs of Japanese interiors with contemporary materials,as well as The Mercer’s pre-existing architecture: with some of its Christian Liaigre elements of select furniture and lighting kept in the space. 

 Upon arrival, guests were greeted by a Terasu lamp, hung on an original 19th century Meiji traditional stand: a visual symbol that bridges the longstanding history of Japanese craftsmanship with the modern utility and aesthetic of the Terasu lamp. Within the space inside, other Japanese elements exhibited the ‘blending of worlds’ of the project, with Subject sourcing antique pieces, and Ikebana practitioner Suiryu Shida created two arrangements for the space.

After entering guests were led into the main space through its noren: a traditional fabric divider, typically with the emblem of the business name or trademark of the entrance it marks. For this event, Serious Construction dyed the noren with kakishibu, the dye from fermented persimmons also used in one of Terasu’s finishes. The hue from the dye brought a warmth to the space, and in a way brought Terasu ‘home’, through implementing traditions connected to Fukuyama.


At the end of the suite, sat the Serious Construction fabricated vitrine which displayed a Terasu lamp in exploded view, mimicking the floating appearance of the design’s rendering with all of its packaging and publication. Under the lamps glass vitrine was its base: a large metal box of rugged appearance: with a strong figure in the metal, and a large essentialist shape that was reminiscent of minimalist sculpture.

Meanwhile across the room, there was a stepped wooden and lead display, where a variety of objects dwelled: from kiri-items of the Meiji era, to our own recently crafted boxes, the display evoked parts of the informational text above which led the guests through the craft, factory, and ideas that developed the Terasu project.

 The traditional elements of the space continued, in this instance displaying Terasu at floor level: on a kumbuk timber tatami area. Subject’s late Edo period cushions from Kyoto took residence on the tatami, as well as on a low seat by Serious Construction. Sitting on the floor connotes humility, but originally tatami flooring was a privilege: though they are now found in most Japanese homes. It was a grounded, yet distinguished display of the Japanese domestic environment, that had its own feeling separate to the rest of the space which was to be interacted with whilst standing, at eye-level.

The multi-level environment was exemplary of Terasu’s ability to sit comfortably in any space: displaying it in a subtle variety of contexts within the world of The Mercer Hotel, and Serious Construction. 

A meeting of tradition and contemporary thought, Terasu's launch installation was a meaningful experience for Chowa, the artisans of Akebono Kougei, Serious Construction and The Mercer Hotel: where harmony and alignment were felt between each element. 

Founder Ray Suzuki and Yudai Kanayama of Serious Construction both delivered speeches to the guests that highlighted the project’s celebration of the artisans, as well as the generations before them who passed down the craft. Yudai Kanayama similarly made it a point to thank and give credit to every team member involved in not only the construction of the Terasu space, but every space: noting that it is the industrial workers, from laborer, to electrician, that truly create the value of things.

Ray Suzuki sat in seiza when addressing the guests: a historic Japanese way of sitting, the formal position symbolizes humility and respect. Through this he conveyed his own, deep respect towards the nameless and faceless craftspeople that Chowa sees as “the true protagonists of the story”. The true heart of the Terasu project, and of Chowa, is the preservation and celebration of craft and everyone involved: for this reason both speeches were very meaningful to the team in communicating the story behind Terasu.

Chowa’s parting gift to the guests were Terasu etched, archival kiribako. Within each of these small boxes is a large and rich history… Crafted 35 years prior in the late 1980s, these boxes were made by Akebono Kougei owner Mayumi Kuwada’s own father. The team came across these boxes during their last visit to the workshop: wondering how there could have been a significant amount of such beautiful kiribako left over. 

During the time they were made, retailers had significant power over craftspeople: if an insert didn’t fit exactly, the retailers could return the handcrafted boxes as defective, even if the fault was due to their own error. Thousands of boxes were returned to the factory over time, and eventually they took up too much space, some were even burnt to make room.

The antique boxes show the high-level of skill that they were made with, so long ago, with each box having an exceptionally beautiful patina as well as technical finish. It felt right to use these relics of the practice at the Terasu launch, which marks a significant milestone for the kiri-bako community. 


It was the first iteration of a collaborative installation partnership with Serious Construction, where worlds are built surrounding crafted design: with more installation projects to follow that we can’t wait to share with you.

Photography by Miki Takashima, Duke Winn and Han Alexander,