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



The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon – Spontaneity through discipline




The silhouette of Tokyo Tower was ever so slightly visible through the sheer white curtains. As I was escorted around 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 we call 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 striking 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 sexy 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




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

Coffee Ceremony- Coffee and zen at a temple in Kyoto




My love for coffee and matcha is pretty equal, that’s why I created a ‘caffeine’ category which covers both of my loves.


Just the other day I took part in a ‘Coffee Ceremony’ produced by Weekenders Coffee and the Sfera store. As you have probably guessed, ‘The Coffee ceremony’ is a take on the traditional tea ceremony.


Tea Ceremonies are an important part of Kyoto culture. Its not just about the matcha but the tea ceremony as a whole heavily influenced the ‘minimal’ aesthetics Japan is so famous for. In fact a lot of modern day designers practices tea ceremonies….including my interior designer husband.


Just like a traditional tea ceremony, the coffee ceremony is held at beautiful locations around Kyoto including temples, a riverside restaurant in Kibune and even at a shop selling ceramics. This time the ceremony was held in an actual teahouse in Ryosoku-in temple.


For future events, follow their Instagram page



Words: Sara Aiko

Photos: Sara Aiko