Exploring the details of Anno
When Maako Anno introduces Anno, the eatery she founded with her husband Yuto Yamazaki in 2019, she often tells a story about a window. During their search for a new location for Yamazaki’s design studio, Alloy, the couple came across a two-storey building not far from Torigoe Shrine. With the ground floor perfect for an office, they ascended a narrow staircase to discover a space with light streaming in through a large window. This scene proved to be a turning point for Anno, who began dreaming of the eatery she’d like to bring to life.
Two years after opening its doors, the eatery has established itself as a fixture in the Asakusabashi-Kuramae area. On any given night the couple can be found behind the counter: Anno cooks while Yamazaki, a product and interior designer by day, prepares drinks and serves customers. The eatery’s appeal is a sum of the intangibles, and it’s these little things that make a meal memorable: the warm hospitality; the time invested in elevating home-style dishes; the shared sense of community among friends new and old.
All of this unfolds within a space where Yamazaki and Anno’s attention to detail can be felt throughout. Curious to hear the story behind the design of the interior and its evolution since, we visited the space after hours to hear from the founders themselves.
Setting foot inside Anno, the first thing that strikes you is the predominantly grey interior. The colour stretches from floor to ceiling, creating an atmosphere that feels both modern and classic, neutral yet filled with character. The palette arose from the material itself. “The method of applying plaster by hand creates unevenness, so I wanted to use that to add a sense of warmth,” says Yamazaki. Grey proved the perfect colour, combining a cool tone with the warmth of the handiwork.
In a space that feels balanced and cohesive, washi paper, dyed with fermented persimmon juice, provides a point of contrast. Meticulously applied to the main counter and tabletops, among other surfaces, the paper has an enticing natural texture, seemingly inviting you to run your hands along its surface.
This atmosphere is complemented by a minimal approach to lighting that sees the interior bathed in a gentle golden glow. “The use of LED lighting is now widespread, but I felt it was too artificial, so I opted for warm, old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs instead,” explains Yamazaki.
Within an interior with a nod to design references as varied as Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese teahouses, the inspiration behind the arched window, one of Anno’s symbols, can be found in a Kyoto temple. “There’s a viewing window at Ginkakuji that frames the scenery, making the garden outside appear like a picture. I wanted to incorporate that feeling into this space, so when you look from the counter, the people eating in the adjacent Japanese-style room appear like a picture. And when you’re in that room, you can view the lively atmosphere at the counter,” says Yamazaki. “It’s not quite a moving photo, but it’s a truly wonderful sight to see people eating and chatting with one another,” adds Anno.
The curves of the window frame were also applied to doors and other openings throughout the interior, adding a soft touch to the minimal spaces. Signs, handles and even the aluminium cutlery, another element Yamazaki chose to design rather than purchase, incorporate gentle curves that add to the sense of harmony.
Coated in golden-brown washi, the main counter functions not only as Anno’s centrepiece, but a place of exchange. Striking the right balance between comfort and intimacy, with both the adjacent kitchen and between diners, was a source of much discussion. They eventually settled on a generous width of 80 centimetres, allowing for dishes to be presented and shared with ease.
As the eatery has evolved it has come to attract members of the local design community. Perhaps not surprisingly, the tableware can often spark conversations along the counter. In addition to Anno originals and other Alloy designs, meals are served with a selection of pieces from nearby shops and brands such as Syuro (Torigoe), Kimura Glass (Yushima), Hakujitsu (Asakusabashi), Luft and more.
From the use of colour and light to the subtleties of curves and communication, Yamazaki and Anno have crafted their own canvas for casual dining. Their detail-oriented approach extends from the interior to the menu itself, pairing nourishing dishes with wine and sake. Yamazaki often feels like he’s in a living, breathing showroom of his vision and ideas as a designer, developed in close collaboration with his wife. For Anno, her namesake eatery feels equally personal. “Anno is like my child. Its growth is connected to my personal growth; if I go somewhere, I feel anxious and worried about it. I feel as though we are growing together.”
Text by Ben Davis
Photo by Daisuke Hashihara