A unique design element at the new prototype Tokyo Central Specialty Market, in Yorba Linda, Calif.
Gardena, Calif.-based Marukai Corp., which now operates seven stores under the Tokyo Central banner, embarked on this project with a clear mission: to create a new experience for locals that celebrates the fusion of Californian-Japanese culture in the heart of Orange County’s Yorba Linda.
The vision for Tokyo Central was for it to become the area’s go-to destination for high-quality Japanese food and specialty items at affordable prices, and, perhaps more importantly, to connect with the community in a meaningful way, by offering an authentic Japanese cultural and intergenerational experience through more unique offerings like Japanese calligraphy classes, a special-events space, a ramen bar, cooking classes, a food court and sushi counter, and a sake/beer bar.
The ultimate goal of Little Diversified Architectural Consultingwas clear: to design a new fusion market that remained true to the brand’s heritage and cultural mission, while adding a Californian spin placing customers first.
The international architecture and design firm’s core inspiration arose from the traditional, vibrant outdoor markets of Japan. The prototype design’s wayfinding and interior signage banners pay homage to these markets in particular. Dual layers comprising a transparent and textured washi fabric are reminiscent of the streets of Tokyo. The signage also incorporates bilingual text, in both English and Japanese, to signify a fusion of cultures and, pragmatically, to help guide the American shopper in an otherwise foreign environment.
The unexpected placement of a refurbished 1964 Daihatsu "Midget" 250cc delivery truck in the middle of the store provides a signature moment of surprise and delight. It also invokes the notion that the products are being delivered fresh from Japan. The café/dining area design was based on horigotatsu: a traditional Japanese seating style where the table is positioned low to the ground and has a recessed floor beneath. This element is symbolic of yet another opportunity for customers to physically experience Japanese culture.
The resulting prototype design allows Tokyo Central to “transcend the transaction”; to accurately reflect the metaphorical exchange between grocer, neighbor and culture; and to create a unique community experience.
A focus on Zen and joy and a commitment to craftsmanship, combined with fresh aesthetics and thoughtful merchandising, create an environment that aims to entertain, excite and educate. Customers now clearly identify Tokyo Central Specialty Market as a local, authentic, community-centered brand focused on bringing people together. Since its opening in August 2018, the 35,570-square-foot prototype has seen increased sales, an increased number of customers, and a more varied shopper demographic.
Check out the photo gallery below.
The store's striking exterior welcomes customers
Bilingual customer lanes display names of Tokyo wards
Localized graphics celebrate the area around Yorba Linda, Calif.
A Daihutsu "Midget" delivery truck dominates the store floor
Customers take part in a sake and beer tasting
Traditional horigotatsu seating enables store visitors to experience Japanese-style dining
The store also offers flexible event space
A capacious produce department is one of the location's draws