AA IWAKURA- Hakimono creations and curation
Iwakura, Kyoto – a suburb surrounded by mountains perhaps twenty-five minutes by car outside of central Kyoto. A place not quite inconvenient, but not too convenient, either. Despite this, Iwakura has recently become an area frequented by young hip Kyotonians (a term coined by Gils Peterson) and out-of-towners who make the train or bus trip for one mission: to visit AA Sekizuka, a gallery and workshop headed by hakimono footwear craftsman Shinji Sekizuka. (You can find out more about Shinji here!)
Shinji, who designs and sells his own hakimono creations, wanted to build a gallery attached to his work space so that people would be more motivated to stop by. “You know, it’s a little intimidating for customers to visit the hakimonoworkshop just to look at my footwear. I wanted to give them variety, some other reasons to visit.” His work space is divided into two sides, the glass room where you can watch Shinji create the hakimono by hand and the open space where you can see, touch, or order a custom-made pair.
Attached to the workshop is the gallery, where he sells everything from apparel and photography to shoes and interior pieces. Shinji didn’t want to call the gallery a “store”, since he selects and curates the products personally with various artists and designers, and wanted the space to help showcase their work. The gallery usually has ten different exhibitions throughout the year.
In order to realize his design, Shinji worked directly with the architect to create AA Sekizuka. Having a big, comfortable space was Shinji’s priority, which is why he decided to open his gallery/workshop in Iwakura. Out of the city, his focus is sharper… and he can concentrate on bringing his hakimono creations to life and finding them new homes with people who will appreciate them as a part of their everyday lives.
AA IWAKURA: https://hakimonosekizuka.com/collections/岩倉aa
WORDS: Sara Aiko
FARMOON- Food and senses – a culinary journey
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
MAMA- Serving you a slice of design
Usually if one was to travel to Arashiyama, an area thirty minutes away from the city centre, it would be for the bamboo forest or the mountain scenery. For food? Maybe. For pizza? Definitely not. However, a new restaurant on the block called MAMA is set to change all that.
Why journey all the way out there for pizza, especially in Kyoto where you can find authentic and delicious Japanese food in every corner of the city? Because MAMA isn’t just about the pizza. It’s about the vibe, it’s about the design of the restaurant that’s bound to catch your eye.
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
Mitomi- Oh, You Sweet Thing
In Japan, we have this word “betsubara”, meaning “second stomach”. It’s what we use when we’re so stinkin’ full but we still have room for dessert because dessert is a good thang and turning it down will just be rude… So there it goes into our “second stomach”! It’s a word I use often to excuse my sweet tooth, because frankly I’m someone who would gladly skip a bowl of rice to indulge in some matcha ice cream.