The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon – Spontaneity through discipline

Stay

TOKYO

The silhouette of Tokyo Tower was ever so slightly visible through the sheer white curtains. As I was escorted around the newly opened hotel The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon, I naturally gravitated towards the floor-to-ceiling windows to get a better look. To locals it might be an everyday site, but to visitors like myself it’s a bit like a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Maybe that’s an overstatement, but it’s true that Tokyo Tower summons similar feelings of strength and awe. As I stood there 140m above the ground, practically eye-to-eye with the tower, I was instantly reminded that I’m in one of the biggest cities in the world: the concrete jungle, Tokyo.   Its surprisingly easy to forget where you are inside The Tokyo EDITION hotel, which feels more like a separate space of its own. There are plants, a whole 500+ jungle of them, creating an oasis-like atmosphere and bringing in some clean green oxygen. When I passed the bar, a female bartender with tattoos climbing up her arms switched seamlessly between English and Japanese as she communicated with her customers, a dapper Japanese gentlemen in a tweed jacket and two younger expats dressed to the nines.   While the public space is a fusion of modern oasis themes, the Director of Sales Wataru-san points out that they were also inspired by Buddhist temples, pointing my gaze up towards the woven wooden ceiling that serves as one example of the hotel’s more spiritual aspects. While many luxury hotels in Japan go for the Western glamour finish or opt for a very “wa” Japanese look, legendary hotelier Ian Schrager wanted his new property in Tokyo to be simple and elegant while not looking too traditional or similar to something the country has seen before. To bring his vision to life, he hired Kengo Kuma, a world-renowned architect who is famous for designing beautiful wooden structures around the world, including the national stadium for the Tokyo Olympics.   The result? The space is minimalist with a splash of flavour and fun here and there. The blue velvet seating in the Blue Room restaurant? Fun. The hotel’s signature faux fur rug draping on the lobby couch? Sexy. The glass bottles filled with lime green liquid lining the bar counter? Sexy and fun. However, just like zen and meditative disciplines such as tea ceremony, this seeming-spontaneity comes from a strong foundation and sense of control. “These rugs draped on the couch… the Edition team overseas directed us on how to place them accordingly. They would even tell us things like ‘please move it 10cm to right,’” Wataru-san tells me.   The hotel contains 206 rooms, 15 of them with terraces. My room was minimalist but boasted a spacious terrace that let me take in a gorgeous view of the city when I rolled out the hotel’s yoga mat. The crisp temperature of early March was piercing my skin, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying a terrace larger than some Japanese university students’ apartments. An endless-seeming view of the Tokyo skyline can also be enjoyed from the hotel’s new restaurant, The Jade Room and Garden Terrace, coming this spring.   Before I left, I was escorted out for a sneak peek of the garden terrace by the hotel staff. As I looked around the empty space, once again coming eye-to-eye with Tokyo Tower, I imagined people gathering there, sitting at the tables, chatting and hanging out… people from all walks of life, both local and overseas. Suddenly, the minimal and refined designs all made sense. Only once the city, the people, and the space come together is the hotel complete. That is the true message of The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon.   Words: Sara Aiko Photos: Sara Aiko   The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon- Tokyo (editionhotels.com)

FARMOON- Food and senses – a culinary journey

Spaces

KYOTO

The sunlight shined through the generous sized window, casting shadows in every corner of the beautiful rustic space, chef Masayo came up to me and gave me a warm COVID-approved hug. She passionately told me about her culinary tales, about visiting the countryside, and how her mother sometimes teaches tea ceremony upstairs. I had no intention of writing about the restaurant prior to this visit (just a casual visit), but here I was, once again captivated by the magic of Farmoon.   As soon as you push through the heavy glass door, you enter into chef Masayo’s world; aging textured walls, a sole wooden chandelier made from an Indian artifact, a collection of plates and bowls which look like they each trotted over from a different corner of the globe, everything reflects Masayo’s taste and life journey.   As a former artist, chef Masayo studied in New York. The big apple was where she really began getting interested in cooking and delved deep into the culinary world. From there her passion for cooking took her all around the world, as both a student, and as a teacher. And not long after Masayo took over the space, the former 10 year old machiya house was converted into a restaurant where guests would soon be made to feel like they are in a different realm, one that knows no borders.   To bring her vision to life, Masayo hired Teruhiro Yangihara, a renowned interior designer and a long time friend. He is best known for his cross designs and craftsmanship, through which he creates intimate spaces which are both timeless, and borderless. With Farmoon, it was mentioned that he took on Masayo’s request to create a space which she herself felt comfortable in, but also one where guest chefs from all around the world could come and enjoy cooking for pop-up events.   It’s not only the interior that makes you feel like you’re in a different world, Masayo, who has travelled the globe, brings the whole world to you through her culinary creations. By day, Farmoon is a tea salon serving teas and homemade cocontions, as well as some sweet delights which are a reflection of the season and the chef’s own creativity. But by night, things become much more exclusive; the restaurant turns into an ‘ichigen-san okotowari’ restaurant – where guests must be introduced in order to secure a seat. This ‘members only’ style restaurant is common in Japan, it ensures that their regular guests are well taken care of and that they are happy and content. It’s a trust system that builds a relationship between the restaurant and its guests.   As of 2020 (otherwise known as the year of COVID), non-members have been able to enjoy Masayo’s culinary creations as well, through a less restricted affair – pop up lunches and events. If you’re visiting Kyoto, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the restaurant’s Instagram account. Past events have included a Mexican themed brunch, a collaboration event with renowned Tokyo chefs, and even a piano concert.   In a world where traveling has become an absolute luxury, Farmoon has become a place for locals where they can escape from reality for a little while and be transported into a realm of good food, good vibes and good design.   Farmoon Kyoto: Farmoon (@farmoon_kyoto) • Instagram photos and videos   Words: Sara Aiko Photos: Sara Aiko

Nanzenji Harada- Back to basics

Spaces

KYOTO

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: https://nanzenji-harada.com/index.html