THE BEAUTY OF KOTOSHINA   As a creative director, I work with many exciting creatives and brands based primarily in Kyoto. One of the brands I work with is Kotoshina- a luxury organic skincare brand from Kyoto.   The brand worked with an organic green tea plantation in Uji, Kyoto, and an organic cosmetics maker in France to create a new skincare line in 2012. The name Kotoshina represents the dignity and merchandise of the ancient capital of Kyoto. I’m very particular (or fussy) about which brands to work for. I was already a fan of their philosophy, but after using the products for a couple of weeks and seeing visible changes in my skin, I wanted to work with them to share the brand with the right people.    All KOTOSHINA products are made with organic green tea from the Uji region of Kyoto. Green tea leaves are rich in catechins and vitamin C. The skincare is made from green tea leaves and oil from tea seeds. My favorite is the face oil I use for my face and hair. The products are used at luxury hotels in Kyoto, such as the Park Hyatt Kyoto and Four Seasons Kyoto.    For this photo shoot, we wanted to capture the elegance and Kyoto essence of the brand. The aim was to exude Kyoto’s spirit but not force the ‘KYOTO’ ness too much. The branding and packaging are very simple, so we wanted to add a little more ‘edginess’ to give the brand more presence and visibility.    The branding is still a work in progress, and we are yet to work on their global website, but looking forward to introducing the brand to the world.    Kotoshina: https://www.instagram.com/kotoshina/ Words: Sara Aiko Photos: Sara Aiko

MARUFUKURO- When architecture meets Mario


Of all the Japanese companies known throughout the world, video gaming pioneer Nintendo is one of the most beloved. Despite its technology-driven reputation, Nintendo was actually founded back in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi to produce hanafuda, a type of card used for traditional Japanese games. From 1933 to 1959, these cards were produced in a quiet neighborhood near Kyoto Station at a building that served as the company headquarters, factory, and Yamauchi family home. Though the company expanded to larger offices, this former headquarters remained as a private Yamauchi family property. After finding international acclaim in the 1980’s with the NES system and classic video games such as Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros., the company continued to innovate… and Nintendo enthusiasts came from all over the globe to marvel at the former headquarters building, imagining how a bunch of craftsmen painting Japanese playing cards eventually became a video gaming empire.   Over sixty years since the headquarters was shuttered, Nintendo fans who wanted to explore the inside of the building can now rejoice! In the spring of 2022, the former headquarters was transformed and given new life as a beautiful boutique hotel named Marufukuro, after the Marufuku Nintendo Co. brand used to sell the company’s playing cards in the early 1900’s. The hotel is run by Tokyo-based renovation company Plan Do See and boasts eighteen guest rooms (seven of which are suites) ranging in size from 33sqm to 79sqm. While keeping the vintage architecture that preserves an early period in Nintendo history, the hotel has also received a 21st century makeover by world-renowned designer Tadao Ando, “the king of concrete”.

TAKAOKA TOYAMA – Setting fire to my creativity, soul and tastebuds


Before journeying to Toyama, I had dinner with my friends at a small restaurant in Kyoto. As we sipped the night away with warm sake at a round table occupied with mostly foodies and chefs, I mentioned my upcoming travels. Without missing a beat, the food enthusiasts exclaimed, “Toyama! Great, great food! You’ll love it.”   My trip was going to take me to a city called Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture. Takaoka is located by the sea, and is blessed with nutrient-rich fresh water and scrumptious seafood. Since I went in November, the air was already chilly and the winds were howling from all directions. Winter was upon us. For locals, this meant preparing for “buri-okoshi”, nature’s signal that yellowtail fish are approaching. When winter air pressure patterns form and roaring thunder brings snow along with it, it is believed that yellowtail will come into the harbor. I didn’t even mind every time it rained during my two-day visit, imagining a family of yellowtail dancing and skipping through the waves into Toyama Bay.   My stay in Takaoka was curated by the Toyama West Tourism Promotion Association “Mizu to Takumi” (“Water and Artisans”) . This group curates high-end experiences for visitors which focus on spirituality, cuisine, and craftsmanship. Though I went to Takaoka with seafood on my mind, I found during my time there that fresh and delicious seafood is just one small piece to the puzzle of what makes the cuisine in Takaoka so divine. The cuisine in Takaoka, in turn, is just one small element of what makes Toyama such an interesting place to visit.   According to Mizu to Takumi, Toyama is the land of artisanal crafts and is home to the largest number of people employed in Japan’s manufacturing industry. I spent one night and two days in Takaoka, and though the days were jam-packed with things to see, experience, and eat… I felt that I only scratched the surface. The good thing is, Takaoka is so accessible from Kyoto that I’m already looking forward to exploring more of the area on my next trip. Until then, check out some of the highlights from Takaoka which set fire to my creativity, soul and tastebuds!