Konomi Honke is a long-established retailer that has sold Yame green tea in Yame, Fukuoka Prefecture, for around 300 years. The current building was constructed during the Edo Period. A cover was later added to the original window, imitating the style of foreign trading houses, to convert it into a “haiken-mado” (a type of window that allows light in from overhead).
From the Taishō period, when the quality of Yame tea had not yet stabilized, to the Shōwa period, Konomi Honke acted as a patron of tea farmers, using the traditional wooden viewing windows to inspect the quality of the tea leaves they brought and giving advice on improving the teaʼs quality. During this era, some tea producers would attempt to improve the color of their leaves with dye or bulk out their tea with old leaves when exporting overseas. The viewing windows allowed traders to guarantee the quality of the tea leaves by providing even levels of light, making it easier to identify inconsistencies such as these. The even light levels are achieved by covering the double sliding glass windows with wooden shades that have been dyed black, allowing even levels of light into the store from above and preventing diffused reflection of the light.
Yabeya Konomi Honke
Loose Tea / Yame, Fukuoka
This article is an excerpt from “Window Workology,” a joint research project concerning windows and the behaviors around them done in collaboration with Tokyo Institute of Technologyʼs Yoshiharu Tsukamoto Laboratory.