Food writer Ju­lia Busuttil Nishimura vis­its Ja­pan every year. Here, she shares some of her favourite places to eat and shop in Ky­oto and be­yond.

HOME COOK, FOOD WRITER and Ital­ian teacher, Ju­lia Busuttil Nishimura spends most of her time plan­ning, writ­ing and cook­ing at her Mel­bourne home, where she lives with her hus­band Nori and their three-year-old son, Haruki. She cre­ates beau­ti­ful dishes from sim­ple in­gre­di­ents and shares those recipes on her web­site Ostro, as well as in her cook­book of the same name, which was pub­lished in Au­gust last year. “When I’m not work­ing on new cre­ations in the kitchen or hosting cook­ing work­shops, I love to travel,” says Ju­lia. “It’s the source of in­spi­ra­tion for much of my writ­ing and com­ple­ments the work I do in the kitchen.” While Ju­lia loves to re­search and plan her trips, she also likes to al­low for a lit­tle spon­tane­ity. “Wan­der­ing around new places and fol­low­ing your nose to your next meal can be so re­ward­ing and of­ten ends up be­ing the great­est ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says. “I al­ways come back from a trip feel­ing re-en­er­gised.” Here, Ju­lia talks about her re­cent trip to Ky­oto in Ja­pan — she vis­its at least once a year with her fam­ily. “It’s where my hus­band Nori is from, and aside from be­ing an amaz­ing place to visit gen­er­ally, we want our son Haruki to have strong ties to Ja­pan as a sec­ond home. For him to be fa­mil­iar with the tra­di­tions and cus­toms and have real op­por­tu­ni­ties to speak the lan­guage is such a strong pull for us.”

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAST TRIP TO KY­OTO? Nori is from the coun­try­side in Gifu, and Ky­oto isn’t too far away, so we usu­ally make a stop off there. On this trip we were spoiled with time and had quite a leisurely stay. We spent a whole week in the beau­ti­ful city; shop­ping, eat­ing and soak­ing up the sur­rounds.

WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU DID AF­TER AR­RIV­ING? We strolled into town to visit the Nishiki Mar­kets. It’s filled with food ven­dors sell­ing any­thing from squid on a stick to matcha tea treats, plus plenty of shops. My favourite is the fa­mous knife shop, Arit­sugu, where they have been craft­ing kitchen knives since 1560. Knives can be en­graved with your name, mak­ing for the most per­fect sou­venir. We wan­dered there for hours.

WHERE DID YOU STAY? Noku Ho­tel. It’s in a great lo­ca­tion, just near the Im­pe­rial Palace and Maru­ta­machi sub­way sta­tion, which makes for easy travel around the city (al­though we walk al­most ev­ery­where). It is a charm­ing ho­tel and the rooms are large. There, we would be­gin the day with a tra­di­tional Ja­panese break­fast of rice, miso soup, pick­les and grilled fish be­fore set­ting out to wan­der the streets of Ky­oto.

WHAT WAS THE HIGH­LIGHT OF THE TRIP? Tak­ing the train to Arashiyama, a town out­side Ky­oto in the moun­tains. There we had cof­fee from Ara­bica along the river and ate matcha ice-creams and dango (sweet dumplings). A fes­ti­val hap­pened to be on that day and the streets were filled peo­ple chant­ing and per­form­ing dances. We spent a few hours walk­ing through the bam­boo for­est nearby, too — it’s truly stun­ning. I had also al­ways longed to learn the art of mak­ing wa­gashi (tra­di­tional

Ja­panese sweets) and there is no bet­ter place to learn than in Ky­oto, which is steeped in his­tory. I took a pri­vate class with ex­pert Ya­sue Miyazaki and it was out­stand­ing. The big­gest high­light though, was a din­ner at Monk. Chef Yoshi­hiro Imai has a small restau­rant along the Philoso­pher’s Path in Ky­oto. The menu is in­cred­i­bly sea­sonal and al­most every­thing is cooked us­ing the wood-fired oven, in­clud­ing some of the best pizza I’ve eaten. He col­lects fruits, veg­eta­bles and herbs from his friend’s nearby farm and all the re­main­ing pro­duce is mostly lo­cal too. From start to fin­ish, the most per­fect din­ner in a com­pletely mag­i­cal set­ting.

IS THERE ANY­WHERE ELSE YOU WOULD REC­OM­MEND VIS­IT­ING? For a week­end away, the art is­land of Naoshima is un­for­get­table. I also adore the sea­side town of Ka­makura and can never get enough of Tokyo, which can be so still even among all the chaos, and is home to some of my favourite places to eat. Next time, I’d love to visit Hokkaido, the land­scape looks en­chant­ing.

CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF YOUR TRAVEL TIPS? Travel light in Ja­pan. Of­ten trains won’t have space for large lug­gage, sim­i­larly in taxis, so it’s best to bring small lug­gage. I usu­ally pack a large bag within that suit­case to bring home all the shop­ping though. Also, plan ahead if trav­el­ling dur­ing the busy sea­son such as dur­ing cherry blos­som fes­ti­val — qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion books out months in ad­vance. > For more in­for­ma­tion about Ju­lia, visit ju­lia-ostro.com

Yayoi Kusama’s iconic Pump­kin scult­pure on the is­land of Naoshima. FAC­ING PAGE, CLOCK­WISE, FROM TOP LEFT Ju­lia, ready to ex­plore; a beach on Naoshima; the Kamo River runs through Ky­oto; Ki­tone is one of Ju­lia’s favourite shops in Ky­oto; a lo­cal tak­ing part in a fes­ti­val at Arashiyama; a Ja­panese pine tree grow­ing in a walled gar­den in Ky­oto.

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