Roppongi Hills Feature
Digital book readers
Bathâ€™s Roman Spa
july/august 2008 – Volume 4, Issue 4
A look into life’s dazzling diversity
LUXURY AND THE LOST CITY 6
WHEN IN BATH … 10
SCOURGE OF THE SOUS CHEFS 12
By Julian Ryall
By Tony McNicol
By Catherine Shaw
Ancient and modern civilizations meet at Angkor Wat, with the opening of Cambodia’s first boutique hotel.
This quaint Georgian city in western England has the UK’s only natural thermal spa, a luxurious development steeped in Roman history.
Superchef Gordon Ramsay turns on his critics with a few choice words to express his feelings on the global food industry.
INSTANT HOME 14
CONVENTION BREAKER 18
EBOOKS START NEW CHAPTER 27
By Julian Ryall
By Ivan Murzikov
By Catherine Shaw
If hotels are too sterile and expensive, consider one of the increasingly popular serviced apartments in Tokyo’s prime locations.
Join us in the new BMW X6 as we test drive this mountain roads of Cherokee country.
The latest digital readers have many advantages over “real” books, but are also hindered by a few drawbacks.
ART AND CULTURE
MILAN FURNITURE SHOW 28
WHISKY: STUDENT TURNS MASTER 32
FINDING THE LIGHT 35
By Gabrielle Kennedy From one of the capitals of fine taste, here’s what may decorate the interiors of the trend conscious in the very near future.
head-turning high-performer along the winding
By Tony McNicol Incredible as it may seem, Japan can now teach the Scots a thing or two about their most famous export.
By Robert Cameron This clever couple based near Kamakura turn discarded objects into works of art sought after by collectors worldwide.
REGULARS FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK 3
ABOUT TOWN 40 Museums
CHOICE CHOICES 4 Resort living. BMW X6. Serviced apartments. Rent or buy?
SPECIAL SECTION 21 Roppongi Hills
Published by: Paradigm, Kamiyama Ambassador 209, 18-6 Kamiyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0047, Japan. Tel: (03) 5478-7941, Fax: (03) 5478-7942, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher: Vickie Paradise Green | Editor-in-Chief: Simon Farrell | Editor: David Umeda | Creative Director: Richard Grehan | Art Director: Karen Jacobi Editorial Researcher: Francesca Penazzi | Advertising Sales: Eileen Chang, Melissa Daines, Sarit Huys, Leai Kubotsuka
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changing tastes Traditions and trends take us across three continents in this issue. How starkly different cultures have adapted, adopted and complemented each other’s values and traditions in lands so different is evident in features on a renovated Roman Spa in England, a new French boutique hotel in Cambodia, and how Japanese whiskey now seriously challenges Scotch. Literature takes a leap into contemporary times, too, with a brand new chapter of digital readers. But will these eco-friendly, compact e-books ever replace our flexible and familiar paperback? For another clash of ancient and modern themes, deep into what centuries ago was Cherokee country goes the new BMW X6 driven by our roving motor reviewer on page 18. Another notable development in recent years is properties in prime locations offering serviced apartments (page 14). Tokyo has some of the finest hotels, but recent reports suggest that some are suffering a decline in bookings as companies cut back on foreign travel due to the global economic crunch. The rooms, however, could also be empty because many long- and short-term guests—tourists, businesspeople and residents—find serviced apartments cheaper, more comfortable, and better equipped for their purposes.
Rejuvenation with a new twist on old ideas is also the theme of our Art and Culture piece on page 35. A bicultural couple near Kamakura rework worn out, used-up and outmoded found objects into elegant, illuminated sculptures that decorate homes and offices here and abroad. Further inspiration in furnishing your home comes on page 28, with an inside account of the Milan Salone Internazionale del Mobile—perhaps Europe’s most influential furniture exhibition— where global designers, marketers and the media meet to decide what sells next season. Finally, an interview with straight-talking celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is always a colorful affair. The one on page 12 is no exception.
Simon Farrell Editor-in-Chief email@example.com
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long luxury stay The pleasures of resort living are closer than you think. The Terrace Hotels’ Atta Terrace Club Towers can be discovered at Onna Village, on the main island of Okinawa Prefecture, surrounded by a subtropical forest. You enter the ultimate private haven, immersed in tranquility and pampered in luxury. Each guestroom is spaciously comfortable, giving a sense of openness that makes your hotel stay pure joy, with all the “berth” service you would expect if on a luxury cruise. The “Club Slow Stay” plan offers a fulfilling hotel life, urging a stay of total leisure, never rushed. The warm welcome and friendly send off between Naha Airport and the hotel ensure a total experience. An added pleasure is the rounds of golf to be enjoyed. Okinawan home cooking and the enchanting music of the islands make for a holiday of the highest quality, where mind, body and soul are healed. www.terrace.co.jp and www.terrace.co.jp/reserve/index.php
perfect service You can encounter BMW drivers all over the world. And the fascinating lifestyle in Tokyo makes for sheer driving pleasure behind the wheel of a BMW. Since 1966, Abe BMW has been selling new and used BMWs, and providing the most reliable and convenient customer services, at a location where many international facilities—such as the Tokyo American Club, the international Nissin supermarket and several embassies, as well as international residences—are also located. Their award-winning offerings moved to the next stage with the all-new BMW X6, which comes with the new BMW car navigation system as a standard option—offering voice guidance and maps completely in English, so you can input addresses, search for golf courses or identify intersection names in English. Please feel free to ask for a test drive of the new X6, or inquire about a used car, an appraisal of your current automobile, auto leasing, financing, or BMW insurance. Tel: 03-3582-3281. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.abebmw.co.jp, or just visit their conveniently located showroom at 1-10-11 Higashiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo (5 minutes from Tokyo Tower).
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luxury, location, lifestyle Oakwood Apartments Roppongi Central offers 69 stylish serviced apartments in the heart of Roppongi, Tokyo’s famous cosmopolitan dining and international nightlife district. Enjoy smart, modern decor, including flat-screen televisions (with more than 60 satellite TV channels) and a large work desk with broadband access. You can also avail yourself of the well-equipped gym and business center on premise. Take advantage of our limited offer on studios starting from only ¥15,000 a day. * For more information and to reserve an apartment, call Oakwood Apartments Roppongi Central at 5412-6800, or visit www.oakwood.com *Rates may vary based on length of stay; restrictions may apply.
it’s still up to you Where you live can make all the difference in the world. While reliable real estate experts provide know-how when it comes especially to the fine print, no one knows what you want better than you do—whether it is to rent or buy. That’s why Kimita Real Estate Plan Co., Ltd. has a Web site on available living space that is both comprehensive and user-friendly. Most critically, they consider customer satisfaction as a definitive measurement of their own sense of fulfillment on the job. More than just a click away, Kimita Real Estate is also committed to interact personally with their customers with a “100% sincere attitude.” In addition to their “Today’s Listings” and “Recommendations,” the Web site has added a new feature on “Housing Loan,” an online mortgage service in cooperation with New City Mortgage, tapping solid relationships with Japanese banks. www.kimita.co.jp/e/ Tel: 03-5770-4649
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LUXURY By Julian Ryall
Photos courtesy Heritage Suites Hotel
State of the art meets the spectacular in time-warped Cambodia.
t used to be that people came to Siem Reap for one reason only. Granted, the spectacular temples of Angkor should be on any traveler’s must-see list, but they are no longer the only show in town. Towering, intricately carved structures that date back to the 9th century and are still partly lost in the jungles of Cambodia invariably cause jaws to drop at first sight; arriving at the new Heritage Suites Hotel has a similar impact. Only completed last year, the entire complex is state of the art—yet the designers have cleverly made visitors feel that they are stepping back into the past. That begins even before a guest reaches the property, with a chauffeur collecting visitors at the nearby international airport in either a vintage Mercedes or a convertible Morgan sports car. “The Relais Chateaux is a French organization of hotels, but they have to be special, have character and not be the same in any country you visit in the world,” said Sylvie Saris, marketing manager of Cambodia’s first boutique hotel. “They are all different, but the highest level of hospitality is a must,” she said. “All the staff here already know who you are, and will address you by your name whenever they see you.” The hotel has 20 suites—including three Royal Suites—and six deluxe rooms. Each has a slightly different decor, incorporating styles and designs from the culture of the Khmer people and further afield in Southeast Asia. All of the suites have a small walled garden with tall bamboo and stone paving, as well as an outdoor shower—an ideal way to wake up in a country that is warm all year round. The beds are vast, the ceilings high, and suites come complete with steam rooms and—strikingly—an oversized stone bath set beside the windows looking out onto the garden. Perfectly smooth and deep, it takes an age to fill; but after a long and dusty day visiting the temples, it is very therapeutic. The one thing the rooms lack is a television, which is an impressive innovation. They are available on request, but Saris said that has only happened once or twice in the last year. The pool is of salt water, has a torch burning beside it at night, and a thatched-roof bar just a few strides from the deep end. The hotel is also close to one of Siem Reap’s less well-visited temples, Wat Polanka; and the sound of the monks’ chants and music often waft over the high walls. The bar is in the colonial-style main building, and has a zinc top and constantly revolving fans overhead. The worn pillars holding up the high roof were “purchased” from a temple that was being renovated, for some sacks of rice. On the upper floor is a restaurant that serves traditional Khmer cuisine, as well as Asian and Western dishes. In this day and age of top-quality facilities for high-end travelers, luxury is the watchword and no hotel can be without a spa. The Heritage Suites Hotel spa was recently completed, and combines the latest refinements
In this day and age of topquality facilities for high-end travelers, luxury is the watchword and no hotel can be without a spa.
Left: The decor of all rooms at the Heritage Suites Hotel draws on the styles and designs of Khmer culture. Right: The high-ceilinged hotel lobby showcases contemporary works of art.
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In recent years, with the return of peace, Angkor Wat has been identified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO; and the tourists have returned to be awed.
with traditional Asian touches. The entranceway is a round gate, just before visitors enter the main courtyard strolling atop the stepping-stones across a square pool. A pagoda is set in the waters’ center, with Khmer designs decorating the pools. On each side, private rooms come with modern steam rooms, stone baths and showers. With all this at one’s fingertips, it would be tempting to spend all day within the hotel complex, but that would mean missing out on one of the most stunning creations that mankind has ever wrought. The hotel can book a series of daylong tours to the temples, or to other sites farther afield, as well as to see the sun set from a boat in Tonle Sap Lake. The temples of Angkor are spread across hundreds of square kilometers of jungle, mainly to the north of Siem Reap, and the society that thrived here between AD 802 and 1432 numbered around 1 million, when London was a mere town of 50,000 people. The stone temples were the residences of the demigod rulers; but the civilization collapsed in 1431 when the city was sacked by the Siamese (Thais), and then abandoned to the jungle.
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Rediscovered in the 1860s by the French explorer Henri Mouhot— although Cambodians deny that it was ever “lost”—the site was soon recognized as one of the world’s most important archeologically. Restoration work was carried out in the early years of the last century, although political instability was constantly in the background, and the victory of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the civil war put an end to any efforts to protect the sites, allowing the jungle to again exert its hold. In recent years, with the return of peace, Angkor Wat has been identified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO; and the tourists have returned to be awed. Noisy little three-wheeled tuk-tuks drop visitors off at the end of the causeway, from where the towers at the heart of the complex can be seen through the early morning mist. Even though there may Top left: A shower in the private walled garden is the perfect way to start the day. Top right: The hotel beds are vast and the rooms light and airy. Bottom: Designers of the hotel cleverly concealed the ultra-modern facilities behind a classical façade.
be hundreds of fellow visitors crossing the moat, it is very easy to lose the crowds within the confines of the largest religious structure in the world. Carvings on the walls tell tales of epic battles, goddesses and demons. People seeing the structure for the first time involuntarily drop their voices. A couple of kilometers to the north lies Angkor Thom, a collection of centers of worship that include Baphuon, which is undergoing extensive reconstruction work; the rather solitary—and, therefore, more peaceful—Preah Palilay, where huge trees grow out of the dislocated stonework; and Bayon, whose 54 gothic towers are engraved with 216 faces that seem to keep an eye on visitors at all times. Ta Prohm, located a ride through the jungle to the east, is the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor, which may have been why it was used in the “Laura Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001) movie with Angelina Jolie. In places, the jungle has recovered walls and roofs with the roots of towering trees; elsewhere, ruins lean at unlikely angles, and hillocks of dressed stone apparently do not belong anywhere. Being photogenic makes Ta Prohm a popular site for visitors—and where the locals hawk T-shirts, drinks and postcards to tourists. Just a short way farther to the east is Benteay Kdei, which has everything
you could want, but (fortunately) without quite so many people to share it with. If you rest for a while on one of the conveniently located pieces of masonry, you are certain to be approached by a young girl. Her name may be Tali and she may tell you that she is six years old. She will ask what country you come from, and then tell you the capital city of that country. She wants you to buy a set of postcards for $1. Her dress is grubby, but she has a pretty little smile—and it would take a hard heart not to buy her postcards. The Heritage Suites Hotel, Wat Polanka, Slokram Village, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tel. 855-63-969-100. Suites start at $345 a night, with breakfast included. www.relaischateaux.com/heritage Julian Ryall is the Daily Telegraph’s Tokyo correspondent Top: Hotel pool is slightly salted and has torches burning alongside at night. Bottom left: Each luxurious room in the hotel is different and incorporates subtle local touches. Bottom right: A long soak in the suite’s spectacular bath rejuvenates weary muscles after a a long day exploring the temples of Angkor Wat.
Ta Prohm, located a ride through the jungle to the east, is the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor, which may have been why it was used in the “Laura Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001) movie with Angelina Jolie.
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WHEN IN By Tony McNicol
Japan is blessed with several thousand hot springs, but in Britain—apart from a few cold spas such as Matlock and Buxton—there is just one natural thermal spa: Bath Spa. Roman-built Bath has been a spa town for over 2,000 years, but during the last few decades visitors have been restricted to just viewing the water.
hat all changed in 2006 with a spectacular and luxurious new spa complex—Thermae Bath Spa, close to the Roman Baths Museum, right in the center of this historic West Country city that is second-favorite behind London for U.S. tourists in England. As you might guess from its name, Bath enjoys a long association with its hot springs. The legendary founder of Bath, Prince Bladud, contracted leprosy and was banished by his father (King Lear of Shakespearean fame). He wandered the fields as a swineherd until, by chance, his pigs—by then also leprous—discovered mysterious hot springs bubbling out of a marsh. A muddy wallow quickly cured the swine of the disease. The prince followed their example and was also cured. In gratitude he founded the city of Bath and dedicated a temple to the Celtic goddess (of curses, blessings, healing and prophecy) Sul. When the Romans came to Britain, they discovered the waters and identified Sul with their own goddess Minerva. Giving Bath the name Aqua
Sulis (waters of Sul), they built a temple and baths complex. Bath’s two millennia history as a tourist town began—despite the Roman historian Tacitus’ (55-117) condemnation of the waters as “one of those luxuries that stimulate to vice.” The city’s golden age arrived during the 18th-century Georgian period. Bath was an ineffably chic holiday destination for England’s gentry (notable among them, a young lady with a literary bent, Jane Austen). The money that the wealthy visitors spent funded the city’s splendid Georgian architecture—which in 1987 gained Bath UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The Georgian visitors also used to drink the waters for health reasons. The hot springs, besides rich in sulfur and iron, are also full of algae, giving the water its green tinge and rotten egg odor. A prescription for stomach ailments could be to drink liters of the stuff! You can still sample the water (in more moderate quantities) at the Pump Rooms next to the Roman Baths. Happily, the algae is filtered out for the Thermae Bath Spa, which provides a much more palatable and contemporary experience. Among 50 spa health and beauty treatments, here you will
Visitors from the land of onsen might be in for a few surprises, though. The major difference to Japan is that everyone in the mixed baths has on swimwear.
discover watsu, a shiatsu in water— “a unique sensation of being gently guided and massaged in the warm mineral-rich waters.” You can also try an aromatic moor mud cocoon, an Alpine hay bath or a green coffee wrap. Then, if all that has given you an appetite, the Springs Café and Restaurant is open all day. The menu features Thermae Chicken, half a chicken stuffed and served with seasonal vegetables. The architectural design of the baths is a mixture of the traditional and cutting-edge. “For a lot of people, it was very controversial putting a modern building in an old city,” says the Thermae Bath Spa’s Charlotte Hanna. But the regular square and circles of the design tactfully echo Bath’s Palladian architecture. Architect Nicholas Grimshaw has described his work as “stone cubes within a glass cube.” In deference to Bath’s architectural status, the complex is also relatively unobtrusive, almost invisible when seen from the hills above the city. Visitors from the land of onsen might be in for a few surprises, though. The major difference to Japan is that everyone in the mixed baths has on swimwear. At 36°C, the water is tepid by Japanese hot-tub standards. Another surprise is that no children under the age of 12 are allowed in; Hanna murmurs something about the
heat and health guidelines for children. (But what about the babes in arms enjoying a 40°C Japanese onsen?!) Nevertheless, it remains a fantastic opportunity to soak up Bath’s raison d’etre. If you just want a dip, you can walk in off the street—queues permitting. For a special treatment you will need to book weeks in advance. Reflecting the fact that the baths belong to the city, the spa was designed expressly not to be exclusive—unlike many members-only luxury spas elsewhere in the UK. At around ¥4,000 for a two-hour session, it is also relatively cheap (albeit pretty pricey compared to Japan). The small, cozy Cross Bath can be rented out by groups of up to 12, and provides catering for parties. One man recently rented the bath to propose to his girlfriend. One of the four-story complex’s undoubted gems is the large rooftop bath. The spa is open from 9:00 a.m. to 10 p.m., all year round (since the sun sets after 9:00 p.m. during England’s long summer evenings). So what better way to enjoy the sunset than with an open-air soak and a unique view of the Bath skyline? Tony McNicol is a freelance writer and photographer based in Tokyo.
Bottom left: Water temperature in the main Thermae Bath Spa is 36C. Top (clockwise): Bath Abbey at night; Enjoying a Georgian courtyard near Bath Abbey; The Thermae Bath Spa has a rooftop bath with sweeping views of the Georgian city.
Bombastic and foul-tempered, outspoken Gordon Ramsay swears he’s just passionate.
t’s not the fear that drives me,” insists British chef, television celebrity and entrepreneur Gordon Ramsay. “It’s the passion. I don’t read or listen to what people say about me anymore; it’s all crap anyway.” Almost as famous for his colorful language and abrasive personality as for his sublime culinary skills, Ramsay looks like he’d be more at home in a boxing ring than his kitchen, drizzling a delicate trail of virgin olive oil over lightly sautéed tiger prawns perched atop a velvety haricot bean purée. But it is this very dichotomy that helps to explain why he is still fighting the world, despite having already won 12 coveted Michelin stars, spawned a successful international business empire, and having received an OBE from the Queen. His is a rags to riches story: starting with what Ramsay describes, in a rare moment of understatement, as a “difficult” childhood dominated by an alcoholic and violent father. Disappointment followed when serious injury ended what could have been a promising career as a soccer player signed up by one of Scotland’s premier clubs at just age 15. “I latched on to the idea of catering college
because my options were limited, to say the least ... It was an accident, a complete accident,” says Ramsay, explaining his new career choice in his autobiography, Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen. He never looked back, going on to train with some of Europe’s best chefs, including Marco Pierre White, Albert Roux and Joel Robuchon, before opening his first restaurant, Aubergine, in 1993. After a highly publicized split with the backers, Ramsay famously walked out, followed by the entire staff (and notoriously the restaurant’s reservations book), to open the first restaurant that he fully owned, Royal Hospital Road. Today, the award-winning restaurant sports three Michelin stars. Ramsay was only just beginning his new career. Other restaurants followed, together with a series of books and a successful career as a television celebrity. “People vote with their feet,” retorts Ramsay, in response to criticism about his ability to manage his ever-expanding business network and still deliver good food. “I’ve only just begun. …. me; it’s so exciting.” Surprisingly, considering his opinion of food critics, Ramsay is openly starry-eyed about the Michelin Guide and its highly controversial assessment of restaurants around the world.
things at the Savoy,” says Ramsay. “He has already transformed the “It’s the ultimate accolade, the restaurant here, evolving the menu and training the staff in friendly definitive recognition,” he enthuses of the European service. We’ve started a brilliant Sunday Brunch, and Guide. “It offers a consistent guide to good eating. we’ve just employed a new amazing sommelier. There is nothing else like it. “Tokyo has always been a huge source of inspiration for me, and “Anyone can be a food critic these days, but most of them are more opening here was such an exciting prospect for me, so, yes, I was interested in pushing their girlfriend’s new clothing line, rather than disappointed not to win a star; but I am not sitting here crying with talking about the food,” he says. “I mean, some of these critics are just egg on my face,” says Ramsay firmly. “I’ll just get on with it.” vindictive and sarcastic. One a—hole even criticized my restaurant in Other chefs do that when they lose a star, he explains. Paris before it opened. How stupid is that, especially since it has been “Ducasse lost his third star twice in Monaco, and he just put so successful? his head down and got on with it, too,” Ramsay “I don’t mind constructive professional criticism,” says. “If I ever lost one, God forbid, I’d just he adds quickly. work until I get it back. “Besides, winning three Michelin stars “Of course, if I was 61 and not 41, helps you get over any anxiety, not that I would be sh—ing myself about Tokyo has always been a huge I need any ego boosting,” he laughs. everything I’m doing,” he says, But what of his failure to win a source of inspiration for me, “but I’m still young, energetic, and star in Tokyo’s first Michelin Guide and opening here was such an I love my job. launched last year? “I could run off to the south of exciting prospect for me. “A year ago we didn’t deserve a France, get myself a ….-off boat, and star in Tokyo,” he admits candidly. sit around enjoying life,” Ramsay adds. “But “Our Chef had left and other restaurants I’m not an old man and I’d hate that. This isn’t a deserved it more than we did then. job to me; it’s a passion—it is my life.” “But it’s a very different situation now. We now have Shin Maeda, an absolutely fantastic Chef who has been with me for four years Catherine Shaw is a freelance writer based in London and who previously did great in Tokyo.
home By Julian Ryall
More than any other city in the world, Tokyo’s skyline changes. Apartment buildings that would still have many years of service ahead of them elsewhere are torn down and replaced by newer, sleeker structures in Tokyo. The redevelopment is constant and frenetic, no matter the state of the national or global economy. Look out of any tower block in this city on any day of the week, and you’re sure to see red-and-white cranes hauling up another load of construction material. All of which is good for anyone in the market for serviced apartments, particularly at the higher end. One name that has become synonymous with the highest standards of quality in residential property, along with eye-catching architecture, is Minoru Mori, one of the few property magnates who emerged relatively unscathed when Japan’s economic bubble burst at the start of the 1990s. “When we developed Roppongi Hills, the most important thing was to build a place that met people’s needs, yet safeguards the traditions and culture of this district of Tokyo,” says Masakatsu Yamamoto, assistant manager of Mori Building Co., Ltd.’s Property Management Division. “We do not look at our business as simply supplying properties and then making money,” he says. “Our mission is to recreate Tokyo so that it can again compete with the other great cities of the world—New York, London, Paris—at a time when we face increasing competition in the region from places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and now Shanghai. “It’s not just a question of providing efficiency,” he adds. “It’s important to nurture urban culture, and that’s why we have incorporated a cinema complex, greenery, an open-air performance arena, restaurants, shops, art galleries, museums and so on.” Mori presently manages 120 buildings in Japan, which includes 14 residential units in Tokyo, most of them close to the Roppongi district, including 2,000 residential units. The properties are at around 90%
occupancy, with serviced apartments ranging from ¥331,000-1.5 million a month. While just five years ago some 60% of Mori’s residents were expatriates, a recovering economy and the retirement of the wealthy baby-boomer generation mean that more Japanese are taking to highend properties in central Tokyo. That pattern is being repeated across the city, with the market for luxury apartments expanding with the opening in March last year of Tokyo Midtown, a complex that incorporates serviced apartments managed by Oakwood Worldwide. “Compared to a hotel, fully serviced apartments provide a real home environment, with the added benefit of some hotel services,” says Thanos Lionsatos, director of Sales and Marketing in Tokyo for Oakwood Premier Tokyo Midtown. “The space provided is larger than any hotel suite. Last, but not least, the savings by staying at a serviced apartment on extended stay, in comparison to a hotel, are enormous.” Oakwood operates nine properties in Tokyo in three distinct brands—Apartments. Residences and Premier—at a range of prices and in key locations, and takes pride in providing a distinctive culture. The furnishings are fashionable and home electronics high-tech, points out Lionsatos, who has found that guests are constantly inviting friends to stay for the weekend. ”In comparison with a conventional condominium rental, fully serviced apartments tend to be the best option for corporations, who realize that their relocating executives are under enormous stress and that they will be more productive if their housing needs are completely cared for,” he says. “Can a newcomer to Tokyo adjust to a new environment, having to cope with no assistance in his conventional housing and, perhaps, face a million-odd barriers on a daily basis? Can this employee be productive?” offers Lionsatos. “A fully serviced apartment is the total solution for both the company and the executive.” Ruth Shiraishi, director of Business Development at Space Design, Inc., echoes the belief that a serviced apartment is
Main: One key advantage of a serviced apartment is that it allows residents to feel at home while offering the services of a hotel. Top right: Privacy, comfort and security are key concerns for anyone considering a serviced apartment. Bottom left: The executive who walks into a comfortable home-away-from is more productive in his work environment.
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Mori Building Co., Ltd
Top: Many of the properties available in Tokyo include access to swimming pools, roof-top gardens, golf ranges and gyms.
Business Administration Department. The most popular districts for serviced apartments are the central areas of Aoyama, Akasaka and Roppongi, where some properties provide meal services, rooftop gardens, private parties for residents and membership at a nearby fitness club. “It is an ongoing task to keep ahead of the competition, but we do believe that Mori is the only company that is able to offer the total lifestyle package,” says Yamamoto, “from workplace, through retail, restaurants, hotels and residential.” That extends to 24-hour medical facilities, with bilingual nurses, and security. Mori properties combined also have four swimming pools, the same number of gyms, a golf driving range, massage services and even private nail salons. Many residents also choose to join the prestigious Roppongi Hills Club. The next project that is nearing completion is the Akasaka Tower Residence, which will take in residents from August. An indication that, despite concerns over economic uncertainties elsewhere in the world, there is still room for growth in this property segment. “A lot of our customers are in the financial industry, but we do believe that the economic fundamentals of Japan are strong,” says Yamamoto. “Our larger and more long-term concern is the growing influence of other cities in the region. They are attracting a lot of people from Tokyo, but we want to bring them back again.”
Bottom: New properties are constantly being developed around Tokyo, each with new and improved services for residents.
Julian Ryall is the Daily Telegraph’s Tokyo correspondent.
the perfect combination of hotel-like convenience and service, with the privacy and comfort of a condominium. Space Design currently offers more than 1,300 units across Tokyo and Yokohama, with a strong emphasis on close proximity to railway stations and quake-resistant construction. “We try to remain true to our values,” says Shiraishi. “We believe in a ‘four F’ approach to our business. At every step, any guest who contacts us should enjoy fair, flexible, friendly and fast service. We bring this value into every aspect of our service, and the extremely high percentage of repeat business at Space Design seems to indicate our policy is appreciated by our guests.” The serviced apartment business has witnessed strong growth in recent years, meaning that providers are constantly looking to improve their facilities, according to Masatake Toda at Apartments 33. Quality furnishings, 24-hour bilingual front-desk services and large kitchens with state-of-the-art facilities are standard at Apartments 33 properties, while the penthouse at the Takanawa residences covers nearly 200 square meters, and includes a Jacuzzi and a large roof terrace. Ken Corporation Ltd. manages around 70 serviced apartments, ranging from ¥200,000-1.7 million a month for a three-bedroom unit in a new building in Roppongi, says Nobue Shiozawa of the
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By Ivan Murzikov all photos couresty bmw GROUP
It may not be the revolution that BMW is making it out to be, but it certainly is different! We try out BMW’s dramatic X6 in South Carolina.
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XDrive35i $52,500 (¥8.5 million) XDrive35d £44,500 (n/a in U.S, Japan) XDrive30d £42,000 (n/a in U.S., Japan) XDrive50i $63,000 (¥10.7 million)
Centuries ago, this was Cherokee country—a pioneer area where only hardened and determined men dared go. And you can see it in the landscape.
’m gazing at the rugged landscape of Ceasar’s Head State Park in America’s South Carolina as it whizzes past. And it is whizzing past pretty quickly. This is a great pity, because as we drive up the winding roads and climb ever higher, read names such as Raven Cliff Falls and peer into vast green valleys below, my senses of adventure and discovery wake up. There’s something about this place that makes me want to put on my walking boots and tackle some of the 50 miles’ worth of hiking trails in this area, or go trout fishing in one of the picturesque creeks down bellow. Sadly, this is not to be the case today. I’m here to evaluate BMW’s brand new X6, and it is demanding all my attention. Just look at it. BMW describes the X6 as a Sports Activity Coupe, a vehicle that offers the performance of a sports car, the versatility of a sports activity vehicle (BMW-speak for SUV) and the athletic profile of a big coupe. That is a tall order. BMW also says the X6 is the first of its kind, but that it expects rivals to jump on the bandwagon sooner rather than later. Be that as it may, there can be no arguing that, right now, the BMW X6 is almost unmatched in its ability to make people drop whatever they’re doing, and point and stare. It has a very macho appearance, with an aggressively sculpted front-end and rippling muscle-like bulges along the sides. But it is at the rear where BMW’s designers appear to have thrown the rulebook out the window. Up to now, all SUVs (bar SsangYong’s oddball Actyon) have had station wagon-esque rear ends, but the X6 has the elegantly sloping rear window of a large coupe. In fact, that is exactly what this car looks like—the result of a night of passion between a BMW X5 and a 6 Series coupe. Of course, buyers of an X6 will be sacrificing some degree of practicality in their quest for style, but surprisingly, not very much. That sloping rear hatch covers an impressively large luggage space; and seated in the rear, I was impressed by the overall spaciousness. But this is a strict four-seater, with the rear bench tailored exclusively for two. The rest of it is pretty much as you’d find in the X5, meaning excellent quality, and a vast array of luxury and convenience features. However, besides its jaw-dropping looks, the X6’s biggest attractions lay hidden underneath. All models are fitted with BMW’s xDrive, all-wheel drive setup as standard, but for the first time a system called Dynamic Performance Control is offered. This cleverly controls the amount of drive power going to each of the rear wheels separately. So, if the onboard computer decides that the right-rear wheel needs more power to stabilize the car under hard cornering, the Dynamic Performance Control system will do that, improving stability, steering precision and traction. It certainly
works. Driving up the winding mountain roads of South Carolina, this big vehicle’s composure is mighty impressive. The system helps to make the X6 feel light on its feet, ready to change direction, but also superbly planted. BMW says the X6 is not meant for off-roading—something most journalists at the launch figured out for themselves after seeing the low-profile, high-performance tires fitted to the vehicles. No, the X6 is not aimed at campers and people who like to traverse rough terrain from time to time, but rather for those looking to drive a fashion statement—but one that wouldn’t require a compromise in terms of status and driving enjoyment. When it comes to performance, the X6 certainly doesn’t disappoint. A number of petrol and diesel models are offered, but the highlight for me is undoubtedly the very powerful twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V8 petrol model. BMW is very proud of this engine, saying it is the first of its kind to have the turbocharger and catalytic converters placed in the V-section between the two rows of cylinders. To most buyers, this may mean nothing. They’ll be more interested to hear that it pumps out a massive 300 kW and 600 N.m of tree-uprooting torque, from only 1,750 r/min. From behind the wheel, the engine’s enormous grunt is obvious at a mere prod of the throttle pedal. BMW says this X6 model will sprint to 100 km/h in 5.4 seconds—quick enough to embarrass a good few sports cars. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h. As we left Spartanburg (home of BMW’s production facility that builds the X6), I was still trying to figure out where the X6 fits in the bigger scheme of things. Then, somehow, I was reminded of the battle of Cowpens, a turning point in the American Revolutionary War that took place right here in South Carolina—you can visit the site of the famous victory. The battle was won using a tactic called “double envelopment,” which saw Brigadier General Daniel Morgan’s men cleverly appearing to give way to the attacking British forces under Colonel Banastre Tarleton, only to start attacking from the flanks and then the rear, practically encircling the unsuspecting British. I think BMW is using double envelopment with the X6 as well. As the SUV market shifts away from traditional offerings, BMW is sending out the X6 as a “surprise attack” from left field, hoping to snare those buyers who were thinking of moving to a coupe or sports car from a rival marque. Judging by these first impressions, I think BMW will collect many of those scalps. Ivan Murzikov is a car reviewer based in Cape Town.
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PHOTOS PROVIDED BY MORI BUILDING CO., LTD
Roppongi Hills celebrating 5th anniversary as the pioneer in 21st-century urban living.
But what genuinely draws the crowds—as well as occupants in the efore April 23, 2003, Roppongi district was a place you went to adjacent Mori Residences and Residential Towers, and office tenants at night, for the bars and a few good eateries. Daylight hours (including global giants, such as TV Asahi studios) in the Roppongi revealed a business district wedged between youthful Shibuya and the Hills Mori Tower—are the range of over 200 restaurants and cafes touristy Tokyo Tower. The only people who stayed around for a spell (11:00-23:00), fashion and accessories boutiques and specialty were those who missed the last train, and couldn’t afford the taxi shops (11:00-21:00); an event space Arena and quiet corners in fare, which would at least double during the wee hours—reflected five distinctively styled zones. But unlike at American malls, you in the teetering (not teetotal) enjoy elevated walkways that turn and bend, revealing enticing salarymen who were holding up places to eat, and interiors that are either two fingers—not as a sign of peace surprisingly deep or invitingly wide and or victory, but to get the attention full of self-expression and intrigue. There of the cabbies. is even a picturesque avenue along one Enter building tycoon Minoru side of Roppongi Hills that boasts global Mori. Working with the brand clothes and accessory shops. community and respecting If you are taking the Shuto Expressway religious landmarks, Roppongi (Iikura and Kasumigaseki exits, 10 min), Hills was born—and the Roppongi Hills has Minato-ku’s largest adjacent neighborhoods were parking facility that is 24/7, reborn. Suffice to say that underground and away from even what was beautiful inclement weather, having space and natural, such as the for 2,762 vehicles. The rates residential pockets, came encourage leisurely visits, with more to light—a credit to the best values from five hours Mori respecting what was or more, and a ¥3,000 all-day indigenous and valued rate. If public transportation is by the long-standing preferred, the Hibiya Subway communities. Gardens, as Line (Exit 1C, 3 min) and Oedo well as outdoor artwork, Subway Line (Exit 3, 6 min) stop strategically placed bring a at Roppongi Station, so you genuine park feel to the inviting pathways can remain indoors from ticket in and around the complex. wicket to the main entrance, Yet, make no mistake about it, a startling multi-story bank of Roppongi Hills, on 27 acres (11ha), set ji Mtn. Fu d an escalators surrounded by glass. the benchmark for modern contemporary the city views of Stunning Bus No. 1 from Shibuya Station architecture that reshaped the Tokyo (Den’en’toshi, Inokashira, skyline. But all is not appearance, as Mori Saikyo, Shonan-Shinjuku, created a city within a city, offering all the Toyoko and Yamanote Lines; conveniences businesses and families crave. and Fukutoshin, Ginza and From a preschool and Hollywood Beauty Hanzomon Subway Lines) Plaza, an imported grocery outlet, to the takes you into Roppongi Hills, near the Grand Hyatt. Mori Arts Center [including the 53F Mori Art Outdoor walking options include getting off at Azabu Juban Station Museum, 10:00-22:00, every day except Tue (Exit 7, Oedo Subway Line, 9 min; Exit 4, Namboku Line, 12 min) (-17:00)] and academyhills learning facility, and nine-screen Virgin and Nogizaka Station (Exit 5, Chiyoda Subway Line, 10 min). Toho Cinemas where red carpet premieres take place. Roppongi While residents and tenants can attest to unparalleled views Hills truly defines optimum urban living—that is neither pretentious of Tokyo’s cityscape, visitors can avail themselves of the 52F nor careless—right down to the state-of-the-art earthquake-shockObservation Deck (9:00-25:00), 250m above sea level, and take in a absorption system at the base of the towers that uniquely allows for breathtaking panorama of the capital city. column-free layouts on all 53 floors.
Veritas is a modern, fashionable jewelry boutique in Japan that appeals to both foreigners (30%) and Japanese alike, and who represent a wide range of clientele.
eritas’ bedazzling, selective customized jewelry collections are the creations of respected, established trendy designers from around the world, and Veritas takes pride in exploring and engaging budding local talent as well. Veritas Roppongi Hills Boutique, one of Veritas’ newest locations (West Walk, 3F) that opened in March, is a work of art in and of itself. Major fashion magazines were all abuzz about the unique design of the shop, along with the stunning jewelry collections from around the globe—and even TV stations continue to seek out the boutique for location shooting. One of Veritas’ customized jewelry designers is Erickson Beamon— Karen Erickson and Vicky Beamon—which made its debut in 1982. Their glamorous, sensual, bold approach evolved in New York and London has celebrities wearing their creations (on and off screen), as well as major global fashion houses showcasing Erickson Beamon jewelry up and down catwalks. The sensational aura radiated by their dramatic jewelry is what makes Erickson Beamon a true trendsetter. Veritas also features the Siman Tu collection. Designer Siman Tu, ever since his company’s establishment in 1989, has been creating his characteristic luxury haute couture costume jewelry, involving choice semi-precious stones, crystal and cubic zircon—and upwards of 100 solderings for any given masterpiece—all produced in his New York atelier. His collections adorn successive Miss Universes.
Each fashion season ushers in collections at Veritas that will set you apart in terms of style and presence, whatever the occasion. Le Premiercru offers an elegant feminine approach by selected costume jewelry designers of Europe and New York. Also, the Mashka and Azuni London brands include specially designed and crafted necklaces; the latter brand has also created rings appropriate for the season. Perhaps nothing speaks more eloquently about time than a diamond, which witnessed the sky and earth before life began. The roccia collection takes the mystery and innocence of a rough diamond, and gives the precious stone a contemporary form expressing the essence of existence. These are all created and handmade by a talented Japanese designer. In addition to tapping the creativity of established and promising designers, Veritas now includes the Bon Verger—meaning “lovely orchard, fruit garden” in French—a collection signaling the debut in 2008 of Veritas’ first house brand. Veritas places a high premium on collaborative efforts with other specialty shops at the Roppongi Hills complex, to provide a variety of information and onsite events to visitors, which include residents of the nearby towers who frequent the Veritas boutique. At Veritas, the refined woman of today experiences a genuine encounter with world-class and up-and-coming custom jewelry designers, through their seasonal creations—enticing to both wearer and beholder.
L’Estasi—Tastes of Tradition With traditional and contemporary fixtures, furniture, fittings and décor imported from Italy, L’Estasi—meaning “perfect bliss”—offers discerning patrons an authentic atmosphere to match our genuine Italian cuisine.
u misura”—Italian for “custom-made”—means our guests can request special orders using our wide selection of domestic and international seasonal ingredients, and different preparation methods. At lunchtime, light pours through the large windows; and in the evenings, a sense of luxury and calm pervades among the soft cream and beige tones. L’Estasi has an 82-seat restaurant, five private dining rooms for that special family gathering or business meeting; and our 100-square meter open dining terrace can cater to weddings and other large events.
• Parma ham and Lombardia salami • Three types of meat-filled pasta with herb butter and porcini mushrooms • Selection of genuine Italian-style pizzas baked in a wood-fired kiln with ingredients including seven types of cheese, oregano, garlic, basil, ricotta, salami and tomatoes • Main courses such as grilled pork tenderloin, oven-roasted lamb, beef tenderloin, fresh seafood and poultry cooked in white wine with herbs • Fresh seasonal vegetables prepared as sautéed spinach, bell peppers or cauliflowers; broccoli au gratin, and carrot with cinnamon and raisins
You are welcome to try these L’Estasi specialties: • Asparagus gratin with poached egg, black truffles and bread stick • Buffalo Mozzarella from Naples • Carpaccio of today’s fresh fish
• Dessert favorites include tiramisu, panna cotta flavored with cardamom, and fresh fruit sorbet • We have more than 5,000 fine wines to choose from
ebooks START NEW chapter By Catherine Shaw
Digital readers can save space, weight, time and rainforests.
love books; instead of first buying the week’s groceries from National Azabu supermarket in Hiroo, I usually head straight upstairs to tempt myself with reliable classics, glossy coffee-table books, inspiring design tomes, and a novel or two—and usually arrive home having forgotten to buy milk and bread. Next best for me is gadgets; and the latest digital readers combine both very well, with obvious benefits—they save paper, are lighter to carry (ideal for travel), take less space, and offer many titles. Here are my favorite models: The most elegant is Sony’s Reader (www.sonystyle.com), with sleek leather cover and 6-in display screen. E Ink Technology means the text looks like an authentic printed page, and is readable in direct sunlight, or at 180° angles without significant degradation. Text is also adjustable. The Reader holds up to 160 eBooks, and a rechargeable battery provides around 7,500 continuous page turns on a single charge. To download books, you connect the Reader to a PC via a USB cable and select from Sony eBook Store’s 20,000 electronic book titles. It is also compatible with Adobe PDF documents, Word documents and other text file formats, so is ideal for reading documents on the go. The downside? Ordering titles from the online store is limited to U.S.-address holders only. There is a headphone jack, but no built-in speaker. PDF files have to be adjusted to fit to the screen. Non-U.S. citizens usually turn to the iLiad Reader (www.iliadreader.co.uk), which, although slightly less stylish-looking than the Sony Reader, has an excellent quality touch-sensitive 8-in screen. Mobipocket, the eBook supplier, offers more than
50,000 titles, while older rights-free books are available free from other providers. RSS feeds deliver the day’s news. Other useful features include built-in stereo speakers, annotating and drawing capability, and an intuitive scrolling page-turn mechanism. Boost internal memory with a Compact Flash mass storage device format, SD/MMC card and USB cable. A universal car charger is available separately. To arrange delivery to Japan, access the Web site to inquire about special ordering instructions. Another strong contender, but again limited to the U.S.-based user, is Amazon.com’s Kindle (www.amazon.com). Despite its retro plastic look, it is comfortable to hold (designed for either left- or right-handed manipulation) and features builtin Wireless capability providing instant access to download books without a USB connection. It holds about 200 books, newspapers, magazines and a dictionary. Pages are turned using a thin silver bar to the left of a 6-in screen, like flicking a page. Downloading books from Amazon.com is quick and easy, text size is changeable, and battery life is impressive. A scroll wheel and QWERTY keyboard are handy features. Kindle uses EVDO, a high-speed data network much like that employed by mobile telephones, so you don’t have to hunt for Wi-Fi hotspots. An SD card slot allows storage of thousands more books and documents. A nice touch is the free wireless access to Wikipedia. Although Amazon.com does not sell the Kindle outside the United States, some travelers make purchases via their PC and simply download it to their Kindle while on the road. Digital books may be a growing market; the International Digital Publishing Forum reports sales rose from $6 million in 2002 to around $33 million in 2007. But until someone comes up with a truly global digital reader that allows the freedom to download competitively priced books from any source and features reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, predictions of the death of printed books appear highly overrated. Catherine Shaw is a freelance writer based in Tokyo.
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furniture By Gabrielle Kennedy
It’s more than money and marketing when the world’s leading designers meet.
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At this year’s Salone del Mobile Internazionale in Milan, the buzz is on Londonbased whiz kid Moritz Waldemeyer. His inventive approach to design has landed him prestigious projects for Swarovski, Italian lighting firm Flos and fashion designer Hussein Chalayan. But tonight he’s forgotten his invitation.
nd as much as having your work favorably reviewed, this week in Milan is also about being seen, clinking glasses and breaking bread with the influential names that can make and break careers. Waldemeyer scours the security line of PR girls. It’s the opening at Established & Sons, which in the design world always means the most glamorous and hotly awaited party of the season. CEO Alasdhair Willis is the founder of Wallpaper magazine, handsome husband of Stella McCartney and, during events like this one, is adored for throwing big, old-school parties. “I just have to catch the eye of the right one,” Waldemeyer says. At this year’s Salone, his “Lolita” chandelier that accepts and flashes text messages is hanging in the Swarovski Crystal Palace. He has also designed an LED brooch for Flos, which flashes readable letters in the air. Waldemeyer catches the eye of the PR girl and pulls a face. She flashes a smile, screams for the awaiting crowd to move aside and beckons him forward. “Thanks,” he whispers. Inside, the young designer likes what he sees, and picks Paul Cocksedge’s “Pole Light,” a piece of bent fiber optic that is lit from below, as his favorite. All the designs on exhibition are characterized by that same wit and glamor for which Established & Sons has shot to star status—every piece continues to reinvigorate British design and adds significantly to the topic that dominates the industry: is design art? There are the big names: “Aqua Table” by Zaha Hadir; “Chankley,” a series of absurdist storage units by Maarten Baas; and “Stack” by Shay Alkalay, an odd assortment of mismatched drawers. But it’s the “Surface Table,” a streamlined table with a fine top and elegant joinery, that attracts the most attention. Like a well-bred racehorse, the piece has a black velvety finish that glistens and thin legs that curve into the top,
Waldemeyer has the drinks and moves to the center of the room. Producers, journalists and other designers pounce. His skill, to wrap high technology inside beautiful design, is what the industry wants right now. So this week for him is about seeking out those producers who will give him the most freedom and opportunity, who, in turn, want to secure the best designers for their own visions. “Mainly we come to discover what people from all over the world think about our work,” says Hiroshi Yoneya from Tonerico. “We have heard a lot of comments, both good and bad, and we take that home and try to use it.” Tonerico was one of the most exquisitely subdued successes this year in Milan. Yoneya, along with creative partners Ken Kimizuka and Yumi Masuko, filled an entrance alley with a long series of draped white and transparent veils in an installation titled, “Snow.” Entering, one has to push aside drape after drape—the movement causes the pieces to flap against each other before calm again descends. Inside, the subdued room is bare but for two suspended copper teardrop chairs. “A drop is a small volume of liquid,” explains Yoneya. The pieces are mesmerizing—just two chairs; but as people enter the space, they stand, transfixed on the beauty the works emanate. What distinguishes the Salone del Mobile Internazionale in Milan from other design weeks is that it’s an arena where the highbrow meet the mass market, and everyone consequently benefits. The world’s top designers present the conceptual, the experimental,
Opposite page: Left: Teardrop chairs by Japanese designers Tonerico. Above inset: Marcel Wanders’ shower chandelier for Swarovski Crystal.
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what will only ever be a prototype, and the formidably expensive limited editions, while around the corner the world’s biggest furniture companies are exhibiting their more commercially viable collections. “This is not very commercial,” says Yoneya of his suspended copper chair. “We don’t come to Milan to be hustlers, but prefer to just show our ideas outside the commercial world.” Other designers revel in being able to outperform the competition in both spheres. Marcel Wanders, owner of Dutch design firm Moooi and one of the original bad boys from Droog Design, is the most prolific designer in Milan—and one of the few who can stay cutting-edge with fantastically avante garde presentations, while still enjoying considerable commercial success. “I have so much here this year that I haven’t even been able to see much else,” he says. Wanders’ most significant showing was “Aqua Jewels” at the Swarovski Crystal Palace, a mosaic of Bisazza glass tiles and Swarovski crystals that form an image of a proud lion rearing up. In front are three glowing chandeliers that are functioning showers. It’s quintessential Wanders: a juxtaposition between decadent and sexy, but with refined and delicate detailing that lets off a vulnerability. “There are three pillars to a person,” he explains. “The rational, the emotional and the visual; and good design must take care of all three.” It would be impossible to see every exhibition in Milan this week. The crowds are huge, designers, journalists and the visiting public file in and out of hundreds of galleries, boutiques and industrial spaces that are converted into showrooms for the event. There are maps and guides, but most people choose word-of-mouth to decide their
course. On almost every street corner, strangers or just a familiar face from last night’s party talk about what they just saw and what was worth it. Even though a lot of the most talked about pieces at the event are not destined for commercial success, money and marketing matter enormously. Inside the bar at the Bulgari Hotel on the final evening is where last chance meet ups and serious discussions take place. The terrace is packed with all the faces who have dominated the week. Name cards are flying, and it isn't always clear who is buying the drinks. The son of the Finnish president says he is there looking for interesting creative companies to advertise on his new e-zine. A Milanese architect is looking for a product designer with whom to collaborate on an upcoming project. Waldemeyer considers the week a success. His earlier collaboration with Chalayan had already gotten people talking—it was he who made Chalayan’s clothes light up and unravel on cue. Milan, for him, was good timing, good PR and great fun. “I love coming here,” he says. “I love seeing what people are doing, sharing ideas and going home with tips. It’s an event every designer has to attend.” Gabrielle Kennedy is a freelance writer based in Amsterdam. Top: Tonerico’s Yumi Masuko, Hiroshi Yoneya and Ken Kimizuka Top inset: Marcel Wanders’ Bisazza tile wall and shower chandelier for Swarovski Crystal. Above inset: Moritz Waldemeyer’s LED brooch for FLOS.
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Scotland’s distillers must have been left spluttering into their glasses. At the World Whiskies Awards earlier this year, Yoichi 20 Years Old took the coveted prize for “World’s Best Single Malt.” One judge described the ¥19,992 whisky as “a malteser of a whisky, with big peaty flavors at the heart, but wrapped in a layer of sweet fruit.”
apanese distillers beat the Scots at their own game. This may be news, perhaps, to those who only associate Japanese whisky with huge supermarket jugs of sweetish something, though local whisky buffs will be less surprised. As Japanese whisky blogger Chris Bunting lovingly details on his site, Nonjatta, single malt has a long and fascinating history in Japan. In 1919, the “father of Japanese whisky,” Masataka Taketsuru, journeyed to Scotland to learn the secrets of the Scotch spirit. On his return (complete with copious notes and Scottish wife), he was instrumental in founding both Nikka and Suntory distilleries—still Japan’s leading single-malt producers. I met Bunting at Zoetrope in Shinjuku, one of the best stocked of Tokyo’s countless whisky bars. Zoetrope offers no less than 350 whiskies, of which 250 are Japanese brands. Manager Atsushi Horigami pulled out the bar’s oldest, a bottle of 1960s Nikka Rare Old Whisky (“almost no malt—not that nice”). Another unusual whisky was the Suntory Special Mysterious Whisky 12 Year Old—produced in conjunction with the Japan Mystery Writers Association. The bar also has Japanese grappa, vodka and rum. As Bunting puts it, Tokyo is a “single-malt drinker’s heaven” and the whisky scene is thriving. Well marked on any imbiber’s calendar is the annual Whisky Live at Tokyo Big Sight, in Odaiba, along the Waterfront. The 4,000 attendees at this year’s event got a taste of whiskies from around the world—and a chance to attend whisky master-classes by Scotch and Japanese whiskey distillers. There was even a Noh play (classic drama form preceding Kabuki) about whisky, involving a Highlands distiller, the barley god Bakuryu and a magic barrel of whisky. As the Japanese good stuff goes from strength to strength, could whisky’s moment have finally arrived here? Japan has seen successive booms in wine, beer and—most recently—shochu (alcoholic beverage most commonly distilled from barley, sweet potato or rice). “The shochu boom has made some very discerning customers,” muses Bunting over a glass of Nikka’s (and now the world’s) finest. “Who knows, they might get bored of shochu and try Japanese whisky.”
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By Tony McNicol
Dave Broom is the editor of Whisky Magazine in Japan
IS JAPAN ON THE CUSP OF A WHISKY BOOM?
Japan is regarded in whisky terms as one of the mature markets; and in common with most of these, sales have suffered in recent years. The good news is that in the past four years we’ve seen a remarkable uptake of single malt whisky (both imported Scotch and domestic) by a new generation of drinkers who are either coming to whisky after tiring of shochu, or adding it to their chosen drinks. What’s even better is that these new 20-something drinkers include so many women. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE JAPANESE SINGLE MALT, COMPARED TO SCOTCH?
In terms of production, the techniques are very similar; but whereas most Scotch whiskies have a nutty, cereal “malty” note, Japanese distillers make whiskies which are exceptionally pure in flavor and aroma. The Japanese climate has its own part to play in how the whisky matures, and then there’s the occasional use of Japanese oak [casks]. A distilling friend, Mas Minabe of Suntory, described Japanese whisky as having a “transparency”; and I know what he means: a clarity and precision of flavors. HOW IS JAPANESE WHISKY SEEN IN SCOTLAND?
Apart from the distilling industry and a few malt maniacs, very few people had tasted Japanese whisky until recently. I suppose
most people thought it an inferior copy—which it isn’t! Now Japanese brands are more widely available and people are amazed at their quality. Japan’s success at the recent World Whiskies Awards raised a few eyebrows, but it’s also encouraged people to try Japanese whisky. When they do, they see why the awards went east! ARE SCOTCH DISTILLERS WORRIED ABOUT COMPETITION FROM JAPAN?
No. Scotch distillers are equally obsessive about quality, so there’s no chance of them letting that slip. In addition, Japanese whisky is different; it has its own characteristics. And don’t forget there are currently 90 single-malt distilleries working in Scotland: there are seven in Japan. ANY JAPAN WHISKY-RELATED ANECDOTES YOU WOULD CARE TO SHARE?
I’m in Japan three or four times every year, and absolutely love it. As for whisky tales, there are many—and some hazier than others. A recent trip saw me doing an impromptu whisky and sushi tasting at 6:30 a.m. at Tsukiji Market. Then there’s the fact that, as I wear a kilt on official duties, I look to most people like a hairy schoolgirl. Oh, and I wouldn’t recommend drinking cask-strength Scotch in an onsen! That way madness lies ...
WHISKY WEB SITES
Shot Bar Zoetrope Gaia Bldg. 3F 7-10-14 Nishi-Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku 160-0023 03 3363 0162
Nonjatta (whisky blog) www. nonjatta.blogspot.com/ Whisky Magazine www.whiskymag.com/
Nikka Blenders Bar Nikka Whisky Headquarters Bldg. B1 5-4-31 Minami-Aoyama Minato-ku 107-0062 03 3498 3338
WHISKY EVENTS Whisky Live Japan www.whiskylive.com/japan/ (next Tokyo event, early 2009)
Left: 1940 Nikka whisky Above: Zoetrope bar in Shinjuku Top right: Zoetrope Manager Atsushi Horigami holds vintage Nikka whisky.
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photos by Robert Cameron
Found objects have inspired artists for generations—witness Marcel Duchamp’s famous (notorious at the time) ceramic urinal, a 1917 piece he called “Fountain”; and Pablo Picasso’s witty sight gags, such as “Toro,” a figure of a bull made out of a bicycle seat for the face and handlebars for the horns. The Dadaists, Surrealists and Conceptual Art movements all embraced found objects as key components of their aesthetic.
hoichi and Colleen Sakurai’s artwork fits neatly into this tradition. With a keen eye for beauty lurking in outmoded, used-up and worn out objects, the artists, based in Hayama, near Kamakura rework found objects— rusted tools, parts of buildings, appliance pieces and other items no longer used and destined for the trash heap—and incorporate them into elegant, illuminated sculptures. “These are more than just artifacts,” Shoichi says. “They have a beauty all their own that comes from their design having evolved over the years, and from the objects being handled thousands of times.” Sometimes it takes a second or third look, and a gestalt shift in the viewer’s mind, to make the leap between an object’s former role as, say, a mallet head and its new incarnation as a lamp. The artists provide the object with a new function, as an elegant component of a work of art. Another distinctive feature of their work is Colleen’s techniques for manipulating traditional Japanese washi paper. Many of the sculptures incorporate pleated and stressed paper, which Colleen
creates by alternately soaking and squeezing the paper, a process that can take many hours. The time and effort are worth it—it looks hot, almost molten when lit from within, as many of their pieces are. She also stains the washi with coffee, tea and saffron, and uses lacquer to draw whorls and simple pictures, designs that recall traditional Japanese and Western folk art. This, and a subtle interior or backlighting, can
Top: “Sifter,” rice sifter with washi and beaten tin. Right: “Tori Mado,” washi on rice measuring box.
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transform, for example, an ordinary masu ricemeasuring box into a work of delicate beauty. An especially striking piece is “Kobiki,” a wall hanging consisting of a huge old Japanese-style wood saw pierced by a ragged hole, whose sides fold open to reveal glowing, illuminated washi. The washi glows like molten metal, as if the saw is recalling its birth in the forge. Another piece, “Furui” (Sifter), is a round sifter box with a lock faceplate and key from a kura, traditional warehouse, artfully arranged on it. A backing of washi, lit with a warm light, gives it an ethereal air, like it’s glowing hot and you’re staring into an inferno. Another work, “Wa,” (Peace) is made from a 300-year-old piece of rusted samurai armor, with an elegantly drawn kanji, the character for “Peace,” cut out of the chest plate. A key consideration for the Sakurais is the Japanese
aesthetic concept of wabisabi, in which the beauty of an object derives from, or is enhanced by, some flaw in it, or by a patina of age. The aesthetic celebrates the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete, and promotes acceptance of the transience of all things. In their workshop and the art that fills their home, the concept is clearly on display. “These old farm implements are all naturally flawed, simply from being old and manipulated by many hands over the years,” Shoichi says. “But they were about to be tossed out; and all this functional beauty, this hard-won patina of age, would have been lost. By incorporating them into a work of art, we can give them new life, as well as show off their innate, ‘found’ beauty.” Function—especially an object’s history of long, hard, honest use, and the signs of wear from working hands—is integral to their artistic vision.
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“People are so obsessed with the new,” Shoichi says. “Things don’t get a chance to get worn like this anymore,” he muses, as he runs his hand along a tabletop he was making out of a door, whose slats were almost worn through by generations of busy hands opening and closing it. Living in the Hayama area is a definite advantage for a found-object artist. The area is full of historical structures, many of them protected heritage buildings; and, on the rare occasion when one is knocked down, Shoichi, who has an extensive network of connections in the area, hears about it—and goes off in search of found treasures. The art world has taken notice of the Sakurais’ work. In the last few years they have had exhibitions in Tokyo, Los Angeles and London, and have sold to art collectors all over the world. Last year Shoichi was commissioned by the Japanese unit of Italian “lifestyle” company De'Longhi to create two large sculptures for their showroom/restaurant to illustrate their dedication to recycling, using their recycled appliances. One sculpture, a chandelier, is a replica of a large scrap metalseparating magnet with nuggets of shredded metal, formerly parts of De'Longhi appliances, hanging from it. The well-received pieces led to an exclusive line of jewelry, made from pieces cut from De'Longhi power blenders; heating and rough tools give them a sheen similar to platinum. That project finished, the Sakurais are returning to their roots with sculpting found objects and backlit washi. “It’s just so evocative and beautiful,” Colleen says. “We’ll always be doing light.” Robert Cameron is a freelance photojournalist based in Tokyo.
Top: “Kaminari” (lightning) Above left: “Wa” (peace) Above: “Sifter box and Washi” Right: “Ember”
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By David Umeda
Cities Interaction & Exchange Office,Tottori City Hall, 116 Shotokucho,Tottori Prefecture Tel. 0857-20-3154. Fax 0857-21-1594. Special Exhibition April 26, 2008 - Jan 3, 2009 Tottori City is noted for its incredible sand dunes. On exhibit are replicas of 11 monuments, including the Taj Mahal (India) and the Great Wall (China). The sand structures are the creations of eight sculptors from Japan and overseas. The city is organizing the exhibition housed in the 1,500-square-meter museum. The sand dunes extend 16km, east to west, and 2km, north to south. You can enjoy unique beauty here, such as 47m-high Umanose, which means “horseback”; Fumon, the picturesque patterns formed by the wind; and Suribachi, the area that is like a sandy mortar (used by Japanese with a pestle to crush sesame seeds, for example). Jinpukaku Mansion is a beautiful French Renaissance-style mansion built as an accommodation for the Emperor Taisho, before he ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne (1912-26), to rest when he visited the San’in region in 1907. Behind the mansion the ruins of Tottori castle stands. Tottori is also famous for its plentiful hot springs. One can be found even in the heart of the city. Added to the ryokan inns providing natural thermal baths, there are several public baths that do not require reservation. Hakuto Beach is a favorite spot in summer, where you can enjoy beautiful sunsets throughout the year. This is the site of old fable, Inaba no Shiro Usagi (White hare of Inaba). The story is recorded in Kojiki, Japan’s oldest history book. David Umeda is Senior Editor of Paradigm. 40 / Kaleidoscope
Opening Hours Every day, 9:00-21:00 (admission up to 30 min before closing). Admission (groups of 20 or more) High school students and younger, ¥200 (¥180). For everybody else, ¥300 (¥280). Disabled persons (after providing a disability certificate), free. Access Facing the Sea of Japan, Shimane Prefecture to the south and Hyogo Prefecture to the north. By air—From Haneda Airport, Tokyo, to Tottori Airport (1 hr, 10 min) By train—(fastest) Shinkansen Nozomi to Shin-Osaka Station (2 hr, 36 min), to Tottori Station (2 hr, 30 min). By bus (Camel)—From Shinagawa to Hamamatsucho (15 min), to Tottori Station (overnight, 11 hr, 15 min).