YOGORO

Chicken Spinach Curry

Chicken Spinach Curry

Curry has an interesting place in Japanese cuisine. It was introduced by the British in the late 1800s when they occupied India. Ironically, it was introduced by the white man and was considered a western style dish. Soon after it was chopped and remixed like how the Japanese do. Japanese curry became a national dish overnight and is now enjoyed globally. Take a stroll through downtown NYC and you'll run across several Japanese curry shops. Tokyo has been experiencing a curry wave by young chefs taking new approaches on the classic Japanese curry. One shop doing it correct is Yogoro in the Sendagaya section of Shibuya district. Located in an in-the-know neighborhood, you might just catch the prince charming himself Yosuke Kubozuka dining at this cool little curry shop. A quick google search will return with the green color curry that everyone seems to order. That green color curry would be the spinach curry or saag paneer for the technical cats. Unlike the traditional saag paneer, Yogoro's spinach curry offering is their take on the dish. The curry here is not quite Japanese nor is it quite Indian which is the approach many of the new curry shops in Japan are messing with. Like everywhere else in Tokyo, Sendagaya is worth the stroll through cool boutiques and coffee shops before or after grubbin' at Yogoro.

yogoro curry

YOGORO
2-20-10 Jingumae 1F
Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001

Monday thru Friday 11:30AM-4:00PM Lunch, 6:30PM-8:00PM Dinner
Saturday 11:30AM-4:00PM

 

Kayaba Coffee

Kayaba Coffee

A short ride north of the megapolis' center of central Tokyo is Yanaka of Taitō district, a shitamachi neighborhood with the old Tokyo vibes still in place. Yanaka is the opposite of Akihabara's digital blocks of the matrix. You might catch a delusional cosplaying character from Ohio in this part of town, but certainly not in Yanaka. Taitō district's planners are witnessing great interest from foreign visitors and are pursuing efforts to introduce local arts, artisans, small businesses and other attractions. Kayaba Coffee is guaranteed to be in the conversation when Yanaka is mentioned. Kayaba Coffee's building has been standing since 1916 with the kissaten (cafe) in business from 1938 until 2006 when the original owner has passed. The kissaten was revived in 2009 with the help and collabo of locals, Taito Cultural & Historical Society and SCAI The BathhouseYuko Nagayama & Associates delivered the architectural duties of refreshening the space with Japanese minimalism and midcentury feels. Just absolute-ism. It is in the fabric of the people to conduct practices without the disturbing of things that exist whether they're living things or not. The final product for the coffee shop is an unassuming old building but modern without it being some w.a.c.k. glass building by a VC with 24 successful apps. This approach is a common understanding in the "new" modern in design, business decisions and having responsibilities as members of this planet. Kayaba is a reference point for Japan's reign on having untouchable coffee shops. Find yourself with patrons ranging from young creative types decked out in Supreme and Palace to classy folks of age who have been regulars for years. Order their legendary egg sandwich (¥‎500) with a cup of coffee and act like you know. With the attention to detail you will expect local sourced ingredients which of course they deliver on. Take a stroll to SCAI The Bathhouse after you achieved one of your #lifegoals in visiting one of the coolest coffee shops in the world. 

Kayaba Coffee
6-1-29 Yanaka
Taito, Tokyo 110-0001
http://kayaba-coffee.com

Monday thru Saturday 8:00AM-11:00PM, Sunday 8:00AM-6:00PM
Morning Menu 8:00AM-11:00AM, Lunch Menu 11:30AM-2:00PM, Tea Time Menu 2:00PM

 

Rusutsu Resort, Hokkaido is Snow Country

View of Mt. Isola 

View of Mt. Isola 

The name Hokkaido roughly translates to "The Northern Sea Way". It's a poetic sounding place and without a doubt visually poetic. Hokkaido is the mecca for snowboarders and skiers as The North Shore is to surfers. The world has finally caught onto the secret guarded by language barriers with the recent onslaught of uploads to youtube and vimeo. Expect the mandatory footage of white people actin' a fool à la every snowboard/skate video filmed in Japan. Hokkaido mountains don't meet the standards of the xtreme-vertical-steeps-only-bros but you'll be snowsurfing in the deepest champagne powder on earth. Gnarlier terrains than Hokkaido? Sure. Better snow? Nah, Chill. You know all them fun-shaped powder snowboards that every brand has to have in their line up nowadays? Hokkaido is the place that fathered that style, son. If you're not up on Hokkaido, then you need to stay woke.

Rustsu Resort is one of the go-to mountains aside from the attention heavy Niseko aka Little Australia. If you want to escape the drunk Aussie bros, Rusutsu is an excellent getaway that is only 30 minutes away. Rusutsu is almost guaranteed to have untracked pow fields and open tree runs without seeing another soul. Queueing "This Must Be the Place" at these moments would be very appropriate. In addition to the endless tree lines to slash, Salomon cooked up a natural park called Side Country Park. Those that want to take things further can hike for a more challenging backcountry experience. A scene to be had on the West Mountain side is riding through the amusement park area with a ferris wheel and roller coaster above you. Food offerings at the cafeterias trumps any chicken fingers of American resorts. Take a breather at Cafeteria Steamboat on the Mt. Isola side for a plate of katsu curry with a can of crisp Sapporo. 

Hotels in the Rusutsu area are almost non existent aside from the several b&b in the vicinity. The resort is of course marked by the tower hotel. There's a quirky kiddie monorail that transports you between the tower and the other buildings which also serve as hotels. The hotel property includes restaurants, gift shops, swimming pools, saunas, onsen, bars and like every resort in the world, an indoor amusement park! The entertainment elements of the hotel oozes of the bubble era. There's a 7-Eleven at the entrance of the tower hotel's parking lot; which gets major action throughout the night for the fine selection of Suntory and Nikka whiskey for under $6US. If anxiety starts arising from being confined to the resort area, take a walk down to "the strip" to find several izakayas lined up such as Izakaya Pirateman, Kazuchan and Rodeo Drive. Exit the North Wing (main entrance) of the hotel by either walking or taking the monorail to the last stop and buck a left from the parking lot to find the strip. Purchase a night cap on your back at 7-Eleven for the early morning to your next destination, Niseko.

Rusutsu Resort
13 Izumikawa, Rusutsu, Abuta, Hokkaido 048-1711
http://en.rusutsu.co.jp (English)

 

Naoshima

Naoshima

Naoshima is no secret to the contemporary art world and its bougie stans with Leicas hanging from their necks. The place is recognizable by that big polka dot pumpkin shot by those globetrotting #instagrammers. Naoshima is the most recognized island in the Seto Inland Sea / Setouchi Islands region. As one of the islands of the Setouchi International Art Festival, revitalised interest has flooded the island(s) in recent times. Naoshima and the surrounding fishing islands have been in decline due to the aging population and industries that went kaput with the times. With the help of Benesse Corporation, the islands are now scattered with museums, galleries and activities. The Benesse House Museum houses work by some of the most influential contemporary artists such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, Jackson Pollock, Yayoi Kusama, Jasper Johns, Nam June Paik, Andy Warhol, Richard Prince and many other OGs. Yup, on a tiny subtropical island in middle of the sea far away from the minimalist concrete galleries of Blade Runner Tokyo.

Yayoi Kusama's Red pumpkin will greet you on your arrival at Miyanoura Port

Yayoi Kusama's Red pumpkin will greet you on your arrival at Miyanoura Port

Most arrive at Naoshima on ferry through Miyanoura Port from Uno Port (¥290/US$2.40 one way, 20 minutes) in Okayama Prefecture. To reach Uno Port, you will travel on the JR Uno Line from JR Okayama Station (50 minutes) where you will most likely arrive on the Shinkansen. Majority of the trains from JR Okayama Station to Uno Station require a transfer at Chayamachi Station (there are several express trains that don't require a transfer). You'll know you're going the right way when you come across granola-backpackers on the JR Uno Line. In summary, JR Okayama Station > JR Chayamachi Station (remain onboard if express to Uno Station) > Uno Station > Uno Port > Miyanoura Port. The smart ones will run to the closest bicycle rental shop (¥500 per day) to better navigate the island. Naoshima is a great place to spend a relaxing day with a night's stay but can be experienced as a day trip with moderate rotation.

Grab a map of the island from the Naoshima visitor center to get an overview. 

The main points of interest are of course dotted by the Benesse House boys. If you're trekking on bicycles with your squad, you'll travel along the coastal road going south/southeast. Relax, there's only one obvious road with some brolic hills; you can't get lost. Your first destination will be Chichu Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando. Chichu Art Museum beautifully stands with the environment reaffirming the relationship effort of nature and people. Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria are on permanent display at the museum. The architecture by Tadao Ando is in line with his other masterpieces and utilize light to design the space in which changes the experience of your visit.

After running through Chichu Art Museum, you will come across Lee Ufan Museum followed by Benesse House Museum. Lee Ufan is one of the figures of the Mono-ha movement in the 1960's. Minimalism and rhythmic organic movements can be experienced at the Lee Ufan Museum. A short ride away is the center of Naoshima, Benesse House Museum. Benesse House Museum is the center of where the islands' art initiative started. With the concept of "coexistence of nature, art and architecture", the museum/hotel coexists with the island's natural offerings. If you're ballin' like that, this is where you want to spend the night. The Benesse House Museum is designed by Tadao Ando as well along with Chichu Art Museum and Lee Ufan Museum. The Benesse House Museum is where you can view artworks of Keith Haring, Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Nam June Paik, Frank Stella, Jean Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama and countless other notable artists and visionaries. A very H.A.M. lineup indeed. In addition to the indoor exhibitions, artists have created site specific works along the seashore and forest next to the museum. The most notable outdoor installation being Yayoi Kusama's yellow polka-dot pumpkin. Naoshima's contemporary art experience can't be duplicated or matched by any other effort. Quote us on that.

Pedal onto Honmura

Pedal onto Honmura

You can stroll on to the rest of the island by going further east to Honmura. Honmura is more quiet compared to the busier port of Miyanoura. Architect god-body Tadao Ando has a museum in Honmura, Ando Museum. The space is created within an existing 100-year-old traditional wooden house with viewings of Ando's work and Naoshima's history. Also scattered around Honmura is the Art House Project. Artists utilize existing houses in this sleepy fishing village and create them into works of art. The transformation of these historic structures are interwoven with respect for the past and community. The project houses are easily missed if you're not looking for them. These community projects are scattered across the other Seto Insland Islands as well. This unique experience of progressing the arts through deep efforts of finding the solution to the coexistence of new and old is as Japanese as it gets.

Yado Seven Beach

Yado Seven Beach

There are plenty of guesthouses for those that don't have the finances on deck to stay at Benesse House. Yado Seven Beach is a friendly guesthouse with the chillest vibes. The location is a very short walk from Miyanoura Port. More importantly, the only 7-Eleven and convenience store aka bodega on the island is also a very short walk away. More accommodations can be found on this list.

Sansou Murata Yufuin

Sansou Murata

Sansou Murata makes you question all the things you've considered to be of beauty in the past. When you're backpacking without an agenda on the other side of the world you come across miracles like this. Life just happens that way. Murata is a complex of an ultra fine ryokan, Sansou Murata; craft/artisan shop, a restaurant, a chocolatier, a cafe/bar, crack roll cakes from B-speak, a museum and Fusho-an, the most sensory stimulating soba restaurant on the planet. Basically every aspect of life can be enjoyed at the Murata empire. Murata is located in Yufuin of Oita prefecture, one of the popular onsen regions in Japan. People throw around the term "zen" loosely, but being in the presence of true attention to detail that works in harmony with nature all comes together in this surreal getaway. As with most efforts in Japan, Murata's offerings are of course locally sourced from the surrounding mountains and forests of Yufuin. Murata attracts international tourists who appreciate the serenity of an onsen ryokan to fans of the design firm Simplicity who delivered an amazing identity system and interior design. Murata is a true fantasy for Monocle fans and the like.


Sansou Murata
1264-2 Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufu, Oita
http://www.sansou-murata.com/e/index.html (English)
http://www.sansou-murata.com