A Japanese restaurant wants to bring its customers inside of a cave

Tokyo – The Roppongi district in Tokyo is renowned for its trend-conscious spirit. A mecca for bar-hoppers and restaurant-goers seeking new concepts, it’s also a battlefield; only the fittest venues survive. Contemporary restaurants in Japan tend to fall on extreme sides of the spectrum, from elaborate and eye-catching to simple no-frills spaces.

Aware that anything ordinary or commonplace won’t pull in many pedestrians, architect Ryoji Iedokoro carved an expressive two-storey interior for the Nikunotoriko restaurant.

Located near Tokyo’s Midtown Tower, Nikunotoriko specializes in yakiniku (grilled meat). ‘Barbecue is primal,’ said Iedokoro. ‘It’s been served ever since our ancestors began to hunt. Here, diners can return to their roots, eating game surrounded by trees or in a cave. The experience locks in customers; they can’t resist coming back.’ Iedokoro delivers both an aesthetic and a haptic experience by drawing from the natural environment.

Barbecue is primal... Nikunotoriko delivers a haptic experience drawing from the natural environment

In the ground-floor ‘cave,’ walls and ceiling are moulded with mortar – a tactile treatment that evokes primitivism and antiquity. Running down the centre, a 6.5-m-long glass table features a smoky motif, referencing bonfires. Underneath the table, gravel-like glass forms a ‘riverbed,’ while at least 1,000 glass tiles comprise the floor’s herringbone pattern, alluding to the flow of water.

Above ground, a forest awaits. Framed with greenery, an earthy landscape of OSB provides fertile ground for 126 steel pipes, or ‘trees.’ Branches act as hooks, allowing guests to plant their coats and bags, which mimic fruit and flowers, add a touch of colour to the scheme, and help to partition the space.

To further increase intimacy and privacy, tables are perched at various heights throughout the restaurant, preventing eye contact between separate groups of diners. Instead of chairs, guests sit on zabuton floor cushions around sunken kotatsu tables, creating a relaxed camp-site vibe intended to transport visitors’ minds from the city to the wilderness.


This piece was originally featured on Frame 117. You can purchase a copy here.

Location 4 Chome-5-11 Roppongi, Tokyo

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