From January 27th to February 28th, 2017 at Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim there is an exhibition that celebrates contemporary Japanese architecture, design and culture. “Japan Unlayered is designed to be a sensory experience that invites one to experience Japanese culture through touch, taste, sight, sound and smell”.

It is open daily, with complimentary admission to explore and experience. The exhibition installations are located throughout the hotel, and an exhibition tour map is available to navigate you through it all. However a few of their events required a reservation to confirm attendance.

One such was the “MUJI” Pop-up store that during the initial launch required a reservation. And I wasn’t one of the first folks to hold a spot 48 hours in advance. I don’t believe in the need to make a reservation to shop and spend my money. Especially as this popular Japanese clothing and household department store is set to make its debut in the Lower mainland, within Metrotown mall, this summer.

However today, coming well after the surge of its popularity had subsided, I was able to walk into this once guarded entrance with ease. With five days left of the exhibition, there was no line, the tight space wasn’t as cramped, and therefore I was invited to freely enter and explore.

The first half of the make shift room had household items like kitchen containers, acrylic storage solutions, cleaning products like mops and dustpans, wall mounted CD players, bean bag seats, and organic cotton shirts with matching socks.

The second half was a cubicle of shelves stocked with supplies. Items like writing implements, study stationary, plastic storage solutions, and calculators. There were also bottles of household cleaners and some edible treats. Yuzu and citrus hard candy, matcha tea chews, and bags of white cotton candy folded like sheets.

Although getting a closer look at each proved difficult. It was still a cramped space, and despite their being only a handful of people, my shopping experience was hampered by having to peer over shoulders and in between bodies. I knew I wasn’t looking to spend anything, so easily walked away.

Plus I much rather the “Beams” pop up shop within the Fairmont’s cafe, “Giovane”. Its wares decorated the shelves that ran up the cafe’s edge and wrapped into the hotel’s gift shop, leading right into the hotel’s lobby. Like “MUJI”, they too sold clothing and housewares. But the pieces from the “BEAMS” collection were more ornate fashion and household pieces, whereas “MUJI” sought simplicity in their designs.

I liked the monochrome and whimsy of their mugs stamped with one of the symbols from one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, paper lanterns in stripes and checkers, folding fans, white and blue dish ware, and embroidered baseball jackets with dragons and volcanos. I eyed the latter, but couldn’t reconsider at $999 for the coat.

The rest of the exhibit came at no cost, or any temptation to spend.

A 2017 Acura NSX sat by the main entrance of the hotel.

The floating tea house was an art piece that used a helium filled balloon to drape a traditional tea ceremony setting.

There were traditional silk kimonos dancing over the bar.

Walls of coloured photographs strung together like a mosaic.

Black and white stills hung with detailed captions.

And architecture miniatures with their original sketches and precise details.

And what is a cultural exploration of Japan without considering its cuisine. On top of all the shopping and displays you can enjoy some traditional Japanese food at the “Fairmont Pacific Rim’s “Lobby Lounge”.

I didn’t have the time or the foresight to make a reservation for the “Gozen”, a specialty plate and the collaboration of two highly acclaimed chefs; one the head chef with two Michelin stars restaurants. Had I, I would have gotten four individual plates, served as a single presentation, paired with roasted green tea. But this is only available Monday to Friday from 11am to 1:45pm, with a reservation necessary.

Instead I was able to walk in and enjoy the “tea and wagashi” option for $9.45 after tax. It too had a pot of Houjicha (roasted green tea), but is served with a Japanese confectionary instead.

The Japanese roasted green tea was served in a unique clay tea pot with hollow handle. It was poured for me table side, offering a full cup and a bit. I found it a very strong brew, yet delicate, something to sip and savour with unlimited time. It was a nice beverage to enjoy at my window side seat, within their all white and marble patterned salon, with the acoustics of a live musician preforming.

The delicacy of the tea matched the Wagashi of the day. “Wagashi” means Japanese sweet. Judging by what I have seen online, the one bite varies from day to day. Today’s offering was “evergreen”, green tea paste with the texture of playdoh, topped with three red beans and filled with a yellow bean paste. It was smooth and just sweet enough to be considered dessert, but not enough to distract from the body of the tea. Like the tea, it too was best enjoyed a morsel at a time, to savour and allow the flavour to sit on your tongue and develop.


For those interested in experiencing some of this yourself, I suggest doing so soon, as the Japan Un Layered exhibition and experience has but three days left (from the date of this posting)

January 27 – February 28, 2017
Daily, 11am – 7pm
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Waterfront Road, Vancouver BC