The Art of Japanese Lifestyle

The word “cibone” (pronounced sih-BONAY) is a Japanese construct combining two concepts that coalesce into a single idea. The “ci” represents an abbreviation of the word city and “bone” represents the structures holding the city together.

It is just one part of a collective called 50 Norman in Greenpoint, melding together several businesses in a shared space that includes artist exhibitions, Japanese-made home products, a small grocery, a café and a more formal restaurant.

Opening last fall, the collective has the look of an expansive loft space, with designated areas for various activities, whether shopping, eating or viewing art.

Upon entering, Cibone is at the front of the space and has a dedicated area featuring an artist and their work, which rotates on a regular basis. During my visit, pieces by Ryota Akiyama were on display as well as available for purchase. The exhibition, titled “Cracks and Shrinks,” blurs the line between craft and industrial design. Mr. Akiyama’s pieces are fascinating to look at as they appear to be hard material but are actually expanded styrofoam that is fired and then coated in various types of paint.

To the immediate left is Dashi Okume, a small grocery area specializing in ready-made dashi powder blends. There is also a variety of other Japanese food items in beautiful packaging, making them appealing to the eye—even if one can’t read Japanese or understand the ingredients!

Stepping behind the exhibition area, Cibone continues with retail products (with a focus on artist and designer creations) displayed almost as art objects themselves. With a reverence for the wares that engender a quiet respect, each item is accompanied by a small placard describing the object, the specific prefecture of Japan where the object is produced and any relevant historical information about it. This changes shopping into a slower, thoughtful and educational experience, such as learning that there are only 50 hand forgers left in Japan when looking at the beautiful artisanal cooking knives.

These beautiful little gongs are made by LinNe which specializes in the use of Sahari. Sahari is a metal alloy comprised of copper and tin used in ancient Shosoin treasures and these gongs are made by hand in Kyoto to give a clear and pleasant reverberation.

Along the side of the retail area is a small café serving traditional Japanese buckwheat soba noodle-based meals and drinks.

At the very back is a stylish, low-lit dining room that looks like a perfect place for an intimate meal in a special environment. This is House, Tokyo chef Yuji Tani’s Brooklyn outpost which offers a luxurious nine course tasting menu.

The all-inclusive nature of 50 Norman makes it a real neighborhood gathering spot, a hub of activity for the locals and visitors alike. As potential additional businesses join in this summer, it’s a beautiful destination place for both day and evening. And as exhibitions change at Cibone—a place to return on a regular basis. The warm, friendly, inviting staff members will make you truly feel as if you are experiencing the hospitality of Japan.