Slow and Steady: Tortoise Shop
Words by Josh Leskar Photographs by Lou Mora
Fast food, fast fashion, fast world. Los Angeles creatives Taku and Keiko Shinomoto started Tortoise and Tortoise General Store to combat all that is cheap and quick, and instead focus on quality and longevity.
After more than a decade working in Japan’s corporate design industry, Taku and Keiko Shinomoto suddenly became aware of a problem in their surroundings. While humans are living longer, the objects we create are rarely able to keep pace. So when the two married in 2000, they decided to break from their shells, quit their stable full-time jobs with no future plans and embark upon a journey, determined to discover what life had in store.
After two years of traveling around Japan, meeting new people and experiencing nature, the “tortoise life” began to reveal itself to Taku and Keiko. A symbol of longevity, the tortoise takes each day simply as it comes, embodying a grounded and subsequently enriching lifestyle. Slowly, a path began to materialize before the couple until they were finally able to clear their brains and realize precisely “what we needed and wanted for ourselves.”
As it turned out, others yearned for the same.
Ever since, the Shinomotos have been operating Tortoise General Store in Los Angeles, a shop dedicated to providing products that reflect the lifestyle of its mascot, offering items of practical simplicity and beauty that are not only crafted by hand, but also with spirit—with a craftsman’s pride. Taku and Keiko applied their combined knowledge from previous careers with their personal sense of aesthetic to line the store’s shelves with housewares, kitchenware, stationery and books—all crafted with techniques honed throughout centuries of Japanese history—rather than stocking anything trendy. The Shinomotos focus on supplying items that will last for generations to come, and ones that they would want for their own home (making it difficult to choose favorites!).
Taku and Keiko also take pride in educating by offering workshops and events intended to share a piece of Japanese experience and culture with their patrons. In turn, they have immersed themselves in a strong, tight-knit community, of which they are proud to be members. When the biggest earthquake to hit Japan caused unfathomable damage on March 11, 2011, it was the local community that helped Tortoise collect donations for the relief efforts. At that moment, the Shinomotos realized that their customers—their friends—recognize them as more than a source of goods, but also as a source of “real Japan.”
Ultimately, their goal is to achieve balance, a passion they have been pursuing for the past 10 years at Tortoise General Store. In both the US and Japan, the tortoise serves as an icon for the slow and steady way of life and has, for Taku and Keiko, become a bridge to connect cultures across the Pacific—one craft at a time.
Tortoise General Store: 1208 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, California