Nanzenji Harada- Back to basics



This wee new restaurant in Nanzenji, Kyoto popped up on my radar earlier this year, ”oooooo pretty”, I thought. Alas, COVID happened and dining at a restaurant became an afterthought. 6 months later, the restaurant popped back on to my radar so I decided to pay it a visit for some work research. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect since their Instagram page has no photos, their website has limited information, and none of my friends had ever visited the place. On top of that, even just to book a reservation I had to ask a trusted contact because their phone line was no longer in use, but this only made me more curious about the place. This, and also looking at their few  photos on their website, the restaurant looked very pretty. My gut trusted that it’s “immaculate and sensitive design” translated to ”good food”.   So 6 months later, here I was at Harada-san’s small and mysterious restaurant that sits between two major temples in Kyoto – Nanzenji and Ginkakuji. Harada-san greeted us at the front door, a gentleman with a bow-tie, very friendly. Harada-san had been a chef for over 20 years, trained in French and Vietnamese cooking, and had just recently moved to Kyoto from Shizuoka to open his restaurant. At this point, I still didn’t know what kind of food I was going to be eating.   I went in with a very empty stomach just in case this lunch was going to be a feast. ”Please don’t think of this place as a restaurant, please think of it as some sort of experimental dining”, he said. ”Oh great”, I thought, ”I’m not even going to get to eat”. Luckily what he meant by ”experiment” was that he had created a dining experience that takes everything “back to basics” – creating dishes only using dashi (stock made from kelp and bonito).   No soy sauce, salt, pepper, mirin – nothing. I was happy that we were going to be dining on actual food but skeptical that a course meal created only with dashi was really going to hit the spot. But that’s exactly what he did – he hit the spot many times with nearly 20 dishes made only from dashi.   From seasonal vegetables to the Oyakodon finale, everything was beautifully cultivated and surprisingly full of taste. Kyoto people are known to favour lightly flavoured food, so having Kyoto blood running through me, I was very used to enjoying my food in its natural state. For those who like a little bit more kick or spice, Harada-san also provides salt and sansho pepper on the side.   I intentionally didn’t include any food photos because just like Harada-san, I wanted to remain a little mysterious so you can be surprised when you dine at his restaurant. Instead, I wanted to show you the beautiful space that initially drew me in which was designed by the architectural firm, Drawers.   This is a restaurant I recommend if you like to taste the goodness and delicacy of natural ingredients. People who like going back to basics. If you like copious amounts of flavour (no judgement at all), this is not the place for you. I’ll make sure to add a ramen restaurant next time for my friends who love a whole lot of flavour and kick.   Words: Sara Aiko Photos: Sara Aiko   Nanzenji Harada:

Takimoto Mikiya Exhibition-Chaos 2020



This is going to be a rather short and quick post, but I wanted to make sure I got this up here before the exhibition ended. Yesterday, finally, we got to visit the annual Kyotographie exhibition. Well when I say visit, we managed to visit ONE of the many amazing photography exhibitions held under the Kyotographie umbrella courtesy of Lucielle Reyboz and Yusuke Nakanishi.   The couple mentioned to me last week that every year putting on what is the biggest photography exhibition in Japan is a challenge but this year because of the pandemic, it was an exceptionally hard (and a nightmare-ish) year… as any events/gig organizer could imagine. Usually the event is held in spring but this year it was the first year it was held in autumn. I love autumn so no complaints from me. We could imagine it would have been a nightmare to reschedule everything, one would just give up but the city is so grateful they didn’t. Thank you for brining beauty to Kyoto when we all needed it.   Of course, most of their exhibitions are thought provoking and fascinating but one that particularly caught my eye was the one held by commercial photographer Takimoto Mikiya. As well as being an active commercial photographer with a lot of his work being published in famous magazines, Takimoto still manages to find time to work on his personal work.   This time his work is titled ‘Chaos 2020’ and the theme is ‘snow’ which works perfectly with the exhibition location Myoman-ji,  as the temple is known for its beautiful snow garden in winter. The photos are all taken from a birds eye view. Some of his work reminded me of an old ink painting and some of his other work felt a bit more futuristic and ‘cosmic’.  Conclusion: I loved all of his work.   If you are located in Kyoto or Japan I definitely recommend you find the time to visit. The exhibition ends this Sunday (October 18th). For more information visit  Kyotographie  WORDS: Sara Aiko PHOTOS: Sara Aiko