Where do you live and why do you choose to live there?
Although I have homes in New York and in Tokyo, I like to think I live in the present moment. It’s certainly where I choose to live rather than being attached to some place. You could say that means there’s very low maintenance.
Do you have a local haunt? A cafe or bar? Somewhere you go for comfort food or just a chat with the proprietor?
The last time I checked there were over 60,000 restaurants in Tokyo. But for me, I always seem to return to my favorites. My happiest meal is at Matsukan, a sushi restaurant in Tokyo’s Azabu Juban. I’ve been going there for almost 25 years. One never knows who you’ll find enjoying some of the best sushi in Tokyo, from rock stars to baseball players and staff from the local embassies. Chef and owner, Ken Matsunaga, and his wife Kyoko are dear friends. Ken-san recently purchased one of my husband’s paintings and it hangs in the place of honor at the end of the sushi counter.
Do you have a favorite store (for food, clothes, etc.) and what kind of clothes/accessories/interior goods etc. do you like to shop for?
We have a weekend home in Nikko in Tochigi prefecture. There are some antique tansu chests and a Carl Hansen table and chairs, but the rest of the furniture, including the sofas and beds, is all from Muji. Two white sofas are the focus of the house and I like being able to throw the slipcovers in the washing machine. I also fill in things like basic T-shirts and inner wear from Muji. For splurges I go to the Issey Miyake boutique, or visit my friend Reiko Sudo’s shop Nuno in Roppongi, which specializes in exquisite textiles and I always treat myself to one Nuno item each season.
What is your favorite pastime and where do you like to pursue it?
I like to both eat and cook. I like really simple food that’s well prepared and my idea of heaven is driving through Galicia in Spain or the Noto Peninsula in Japan eating fresh seafood and enjoying the breathtaking scenery both places. When in Tokyo my husband Kaz and I love trolling through the old Tsukiji outer market and going home with a bag full of oysters and tuna sashimi to enjoy over a bottle of chilled wine. We’ve befriended many fish mongers and they save special treats for us like percebes (barnacles) from Kochi or tuna scrape from a prize tuna. I also have two photography projects I’ve been working on for many years. Right now I’m revisiting one of them and hope to share it via japonica soon. I consider myself one of the world’s most avid “toi-reh-ologists” (I made that word up, which is the Japanese for toiletologist) and I’ll show you some of my favorite rest rooms in Japan.
What do you like to do on a nice day?
Take a walk in nature, preferably with a friend.
On a day with perfect weather where would you choose to go for a walk and why?
My favorite daily walk in Tokyo is from my apartment in Roppongi through Arisugawa Park in Hiroo stopping at National Azabu supermarket, then a stop to chat with my favorite florist and home through Roppongi Hills for some people-watching.
What is your favorite Japanese food?
My favorite Japanese food is sushi. I suppose it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s also partly how I met my husband. He asked me out on a date and since he was Japanese and probably knew the best sushi bars in New York, I gladly accepted and asked to have sushi.
Where would you go for a special meal?
I never need to think of where I want to go for a special meal. Tempura Matsu in Arashiyama outside of Kyoto is possibly my favorite restaurant in the world. We were introduced to Toshio Matsuno the owner and chef, years ago and we’ve watched him deepen his craft. We often book the last available time for either lunch or dinner and linger over dessert so we can chat and catch up with Chef Toshio-san, his mother and effervescent sister, Mariko, who manages the restaurant. The acclaimed chef David Bouley considers Chef Toshio to be one of the most talented chefs in Japan.
Do you have a favorite onsen, ryokan, resort in Japan?
Right now I’m a big fan of the onsen at the Kanaya Hotel at Lake Chuzenji. The outdoor bath is definitely one of my happy places. My favorite onsen ryokan is Kayotei in Yamanaka Onsen mainly in the fall because of its beauty and the incredibly warm hospitality. Last time I was there we had a room with a private bath and it was the greatest luxury. They take guests on tours to meet local artisans and it makes the trip a special treat.
What is a favorite thing you bought recently in Japan?
Almost everything I’ve purchased recently in Japan has come to me through Amazon because of the pandemic. But now that we can travel around more I was thrilled to be able to attend the annual Mashiko Pottery Fair in May. We visited my must go-to spot the Kanoya Gallery and purchased a work by Hiroshima-based potter Masaki Dejima that really touches my heart. It seems to emit its own light. All of Dejima-san’s pottery touches me deeply.
How long have you lived in Japan and what brought you here?
As I mentioned, I met my husband in New York. He was working as an assistant director on films and I was hired as the New York crew to work on the Kadokawa film “Ningen no Shomei” (“Proof of the Man”). Even though I don’t believe in it, I can say it was love at first sight when I showed up for work the first day. Kaz often says it was the same for him. After we finished the film Kaz invited me to visit him in Japan. I wasn’t particularly interested in Japan but followed my heart. That was 45 years ago, so I guess it was a good decision.
What film or book about Japan would you recommend?
I wrote and directed my first film in Japan. It’s called “TOKYO POP” and tells the story of what it means to be a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan through the eyes of a young American woman who comes to Tokyo to become a rock star. Many of the Japanese actors have gone on to become rather well known. It showed at the Cannes Film Festival, opened in major cities all over the world and then the distributor went bankrupt. So the film was never released on DVD or for streaming. Jane Fonda has a fund to restore films made by women and she’s just committed to the restoration of “TOKYO POP”. So it will now be released in theaters and on DVD very soon. I hope it will show in both Japan and the US some time next year.
What would you take to a friend overseas as a gift?
I always bring food items as gifts when I travel overseas. I have many friends who love to cook and they are thrilled to get home-made shichimi togarashi, a mix of ground red pepper, black sesame seeds and other spices that I buy as freshly made as possible. Most of what you get abroad has been sitting around for a long time. We were in Kyoto recently and visited a store called Ochanoko Saisai where I found the most addictive rice topping called Kyo-rayu Furikake. It has sesame seeds, hot peppers galore and garlic. I’ll certainly be ordering bags for my next trip. I also bring KitKat in flavors that you can’t get abroad like Cherry Blossom, Green Tea and Wasabi. KitKat means “sure to win” in Japanese, so I bring it as good luck for friends.
What do you like about living in Japan?
The best thing about living in Japan is Japanese people. They are very kind hearted and while they may be notoriously cautious about crossing the street against a red light, they often have few reservations about silly things and unorthodox behavior. I love silly. Good examples are the incredibly funny television commercials and the wonderful fashions for pets.