For some reason it’s not an easy decision to make. My mind is still with all the people that have lost everything in Tohoku, but I think that “the show must go on” and that it’s time to resume the normal course of this blog as much as possible. Of course, not everything will go back to normal and I won’t pretend that nothing has happened. I’ve had a hard time thinking about anything else for the past two weeks, and that’s the thing, this blog is the perfect tool for me (and for you ?) to start moving on without forgetting anything.
And soon, it will be time for Japan to rebuild. As you know, its economy has been badly hurt and we all can help with this, just by doing obvious things like buying Japanese brands as much as possible – a thing most of us already do for cars and electronics without really thinking about it – and of course, visit the country, sooner than later, we can even assume that flights to Japan will most likely be cheaper in the near future.
This is with that goal in mind that my blog gets its original goal back: showing you the wonders of the Seto Inland Sea area, hoping that your next trip to Japan has a few stops there.
So today, I’m going to resume talking about the Setouchi International Art Festival with a quite peculiar piece of art as it is a building and also a restaurant called Shima Kitchen (島キッチン). It was designed by Ryo Abe, it is set to be permanent and is located in Karato on Teshima.
Let’s start detailing it with the restaurant. The keyword here is local. The entire staff was hired from people living on the island. And, although I’m sure very few of them needed to learn anything about cooking (if you’ve already eaten homemade Japanese cuisine, you know what I’m implying here), they nonetheless received some training by some famous Tokyo chefs (whose names I forget) who came to Teshima for the occasion shortly before the Festival started, just to make sure their cooking gets even better than it already was.
What about the food then? Well, every dish is prepared with items and produces coming from the island, fish that was caught by the island fishermen (most likely those who invited me to take part in their Matsuri on the same morning) and vegetables and rice grown and harvested on the island. Actually, let me remind you that Teshima means “island of abundance” a well-deserved name when you see all the rich fields all over it.
Of course, and despite the Onigiri that we had eaten a couple of hours earlier there was no way in the world we would have skipped having lunch there. Actually, a few days before leaving for Japan, we had seen on NHK World a show talking about some aspects of the Setouchi International Art Festival and heavily featuring Shima Kitchen. The host of the show are a grilled fish with some Tempura vegetables that seemed delicious and that made us really look forward to this visit. “Unfortunately”, because we arrived there in the middle of the afternoon (3PM), they had sold out all of their fish, and our only option was Japanese curry. I have to admit that I’m not a huge Japanese curry fan, and yet, this one was delicious, miles away from the one that can be found in some chain restaurants (yes, junk food exists in Japan too, sadly).
Anyhow, if you ever go to Teshima (and it would be a very bad idea to not go if you’re ever in the area, visiting Naoshima for example), I can only advise you to have lunch at Shima Kitchen. Unless I’m really mistaken, the restaurant should now be a permanent fixture on the island and we can assume it will be economically viable now that Teshima hosts several permanent art places such as Teshima Museum or Archives du Cœur, especially because if I’m not wrong, it may be the only restaurant in that part of the island. A fine example of ways to revive the island in my opinion.
During the Festival, a series of concerts and other cultural events were held there too. Let’s hope this trends continues during tourist season. I’ll give you more info as soon as I have any.
I also need to tell you a little bit about the building itself. Unfortunately, I wish I knew more about architecture so that I could give you actual details and information. The only thing I can tell you is that Ryo Abe beautifully managed to turn this old building into a contemporary one that still keeps its traditional feel. And what can I say about the terrace/canopy except that it’s simply stunning. The prize it won last Fall (Emerging Architecture Awards 2010) is definitely deserved!
And to my great shame, I didn’t really take any picture from the outside of the building, but you can check this awesome page to get a better understanding.
To conclude, Shima Kitchen was one of those places that made the Festival this unique and almost magical moment in time and in the area. Luckily, as it is also one of the pieces that survived the 2010 edition of the Festival, you still have the opportunity to visit and enjoy it, so once again, if you ever go to the area, make sure you include it in your itinerary.