Plant-In City

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Wow. Awesome. Go see this in NYC.

Plant-in City is a collaboration between architects, designers, and technologists who are building new ways of interacting with nature. Our 21st century sculptural terrariums combine modular architecture, basic laws of physics, embedded technologies, and mobile computing to construct a “Plant City” where the aesthetic meets the pragmatic.

Each frame is made with cedar wood and copper piping, with digital sensors and integrated lighting controlled by smartphone app. The plants live in an artful structure that’s nearly self-sustaining. After all, plants improve our quality of life and nurture us on an everyday basis; we think it’s only fair to nurture them in return.

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My Year In Cities: 2012

A yearly activity I love to do to wrap up one year and head into the next.

London, England*
Geneva, Switzerland
Davos, Switzerland
New York, NY*
Long Beach, CA
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Los Angeles, CA*
Myokonos, Greece
Dubai, UAE*
Mudsandam Peninsula, Oman
Doha, Qatar
Seattle, WA
Paris, France
Denver, CO
San Francisco, CA*
Palo Alto, CA
Beijing, China
Tianjin, China
Matsumoto, Japan
Sapporo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan*
Nova Scotia, Canada
Portland, Maine
Boston, MA
Toronto, Canada
New Haven, CT
Turks and Caicos Islands
Palm Springs, CA
San Diego, CA

Related: 2011 Year in Cities and 2009 Year in Cities. Still can’t figure out what happened to 2010.

McBess Coffee Table

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Designer Lars Amhoff of The Substain sent this awesome piece over.

The tabletop is made from a massive piece of acorn wood, crafted out of a full plank. The wood is finished smoothly and coated with a clear protective coating, to protect the wood and art against fluids and scratches. Topped off by a hand-screen-printed piece of art, done by McBess. Held is the table by four heavy duty legs, hand bent and welded from rough steel. Finished with a clear coating to prevent rust. The legs are bolted into the wood by 2 thick 8mm screws. They can be taken on and off for transport and shipping. The size of the table is 90x55x45cm, which is the size of a coffeetable. “

Solitaire.exe

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These are totally fun. Via BB

A simple piece of software got us through the dark ages of computing before the Internet allowed us to waste company time more effectively. Now you can reconnect with this old friend on the other side of the computer screen. Solitaire.exe is a physical pixel-for-pixel recreation of the popular computer card game included in the Windows 98 operating system.

They were made in an edition of 500 for The Cooper-Hewitt, now sold out.

The original Microsoft Solitaire card faces were designed by Susan Kare for Windows 3.0 in 1990. The beach scene card back was designed by Leslie Kooy. The original developer of the game itself (called Sol.exe) is Wes Cherry. Used with permission from Microsoft.

Where The Road Ends

Where The Road Ends is a documentary in development on by one of my high school friends, Zeb Smith. Growing up, I had always heard stories of his fathers adventures but never had a chance to see anything first hand. It seems after decades of watching his father on the front lines, it was time for Zeb to step up and help support his mission of documenting and protecting the natural world. Admirable and inspiring, but he needs our help.

Watch the trailer above to learn more about what Zeb and his father are doing to protect one of the last truly wild, natural and diverse places in the world.

In southeastern Panama, the world’s longest road comes to an abrupt halt as it crashes up against North America’s last untouched tropical rainforest. As industrialists, land barons, and drug cartels battle to raze the last hundred miles to Columbia, the jungle and all of its inhabitants are treated as collateral damage as the road is pushed on through. Since those without a voice cannot speak, and those without an audience cannot be heard, we must travel beyond that road and inside that jungle to learn the voices of the indigenous tribes and species within.

Check it out and do your best to support the project- with 27 days to go, they’re $2,615 towards the $43,000 goal.

I Still Love New York

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I’m back in the office after nearly a week in the dark. I’ve been speechless, moved, and inspired watching New Yorkers come together to help each other the past few days. Do whatever you can to pitch in. Support local businesses, restaurants, artists. Eat out, tip big, and check on your neighbors.

Big fan of this one: I Still Love NY. 100% of the profit from these Sebastian Errazuriz shirts go to Hurricane Sandy relief programs.

Swifty Scooters

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Fun! Scooters are not just for kids.

Swifty Scooters’ aim is simply to produce the best, folding adult kick scooters in the world. Through the power of design innovation and British engineering Swifty Scooters demonstrates a 21st century relevance to urban mobility.

In celebration of its first anniversary, Swifty Scooters will unveil its autumn / winter colour collection and announce further collaborations with The Conran Shop and Paul Smith. Swifty Scooters was founded in Manchester by husband and wife team Jason and Camilla Iftakhar who met whilst studying at the Royal College of Art.

Tobira Onsen Myojinkan

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Nestled away above Matusumoto city in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan, Tobira Onsen Myojinkan, or Myojinkan for short is one of the most unique Ryokan experiences I’ve had in Japan.

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Sitting high up in the “Alps of Japan” as many call them, the Nagano mountains provide a cooler climate for summer Onsen visits, and gorgeous scenery out of every window on the entire property– not to mention one of the most gorgeous settings and views for an bath I’ve ever seen.

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I took this picture above hiking through the deep and cool forests that surround the Ryokan. The tall pines and moss made for such a peaceful place to reflect.

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One unique attribute of Myojinkan is the variety of Onsen experiences you can experience during your stay. Some rooms have a private Onsen, but it wouldn’t be right if you didn’t visit the numerous different bath types throughout the property. My favorite bath by far was the unusual Standing Bath pictured throughout this article in a couple of different images. This bath allows you to stand submerged in hot healing water and view the landscape out of an almost postcard-like windowframe. From this vantage point you could hear the rushing water of the river below, smell the forest which was almost close enough to touch, and fully relax. Total bliss.

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Another beautiful shot of the standing bath, with its clear as glass water. Piping hot.

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The property shares boundaries with Japanese National Forest land– which I made sure to hike in and around. This forest-as-a-neighbor creates even cleaner water and air surrounding the property. Pictured above is the fully outdoor bath, great for star or moon gazing.

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Out of every window beautiful colors!

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A small figurine I found walking through the woods behind the Ryokan.

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Another bath, this time an indoor modern onsen.

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The living room inside a standard guest room.  Good for a cup of tea, or hours reading a book.

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Like other traditional Japanese Ryokan’s, you sleep on a simple futon over tatami mats.  My favorite! However if you prefer a Western style bed, they offer that as well.

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Cherry Blossom season right up against the cedar baths. Magical.

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How about that view during dinner?

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A picture I took of the rushing water under the Ryokan. It was so clean and clear. No wonder the baths felt so cleansing.

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Owned by the Saito family for generations, this 45 room Royokan did one thing better than any Ryokan I have ever visited, and it’s an important one: The food was stunning. Generally, a ryokan’s food is simply traditional Japanese Kaiseki served in your room. While this is always delicious, after a meal or two it starts to feel a bit repetitive. Myojinkan however boasts three different kitchens serving Kaiseki, Modern Japanese and an Organic Macrobiotic French. All are served in their own incredible spaces (rather than in your own room), by master chefs Mr. Masahiro Tanabe (Executive Chef of the French Macrobiotic Cuisine) and Mr. Manabu Kanda (Japanese Cuisine, Modern and Kaiseki).

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Taking food photos was a lot more difficult given the darker setting of the restaurants, but I did my best where I could below.

The Kaiseki style meal started with a small glass of wild grape wine– no doubt from a local farm only miles (or less) from Myojinkan. Appetizers followed, a jellied seasonal vegetable concoction with young corn, lotus root, green soybeans, small onions, tomatoes, prawn, graded pumpkin and egg yolk. An interesting and light star to what turned out to be a total feast. (Pictured below)

Other assorted seasonal appetizers included an eel sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves, amber egg, corned bean curd, asparagus, octopus and pot steamed cold egg custard with boiled sweet potato and lemon sauce.

For soup, I enjoyed a delicate mix of sea eel, been curd, mitsuba, Japanese citrus and plum pulp from an umeboshi plum. On my menu, I scribbled the words ‘what an inspiration‘, as I had never tasted or tried anything like this in my life.

Raw fish was served, Shinsu salmon, carp with yam, prawn and squid.

That evenings grilled dish was salted and grilled sweet fish (caught in the river just below the property), followed by a seasonal vegetable stew of mushrooms including winter melon, taro stemp, gumbo, small potato, zucchini and local green onions.  Sweet fish is so popular they actually even offer bait, tackle and rods to guests if you are up for the sport of catching your own dinner!

As with every Kaiseki meal, we ended with rice, miso soup and japanese pickles. The rice was incredible– and included sixteen kinds of grain!

Desert (with hardly any room left in my stomach) was tofu tube cake and rice flour dumplings, insides included bean jam and pieces of fruit.

What follows are a selection of some of my favorite dishes from each meal I experienced  over three nights at Myojinkan.

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Uni Ikura in broth from the Modern Japanese menu.

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Delicious!

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Tastes of different local flavors at Modern Japanese.

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Flash fried river crab over local corn.

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Most Ryokan’s kick you out during the lunch hour, telling you to basically ‘go fend for yourself‘ at lunch time.  Because Myojinkan is 30 minutes from Matsumoto city, and there are literally no possible places to walk to, they offer a basic soba or udon lunch set if you decide to stay in for the day.

It’s worth staying in for the day, I promise.

This local Nagano soba was one of the most delicious cold soba lunches I’ve ever had.

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Fresh cooked squash, mushrooms, baby corn.

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Local wasabi, daikon and scallion (every cold soba lovers perfect compliment).

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Fresh daikon radish cut, grilled and served with fresh lemon.

Finally, when you visit Myojinkan, be sure to spend an afternoon in Matsumoto and visit Matsumoto Castle, some of the local Apple or Grape farms, and try the local Nagano grown soba noodles. I fell in love with the local artisan cuisine here and can’t wait to visit again.

Myojinkan is 2.5 hours by train from Tokyo. It’s best to arrange transportation directly with the front desk at the Ryokan. They run a daily shuttle service to and from Matsumoto station or surrounding airports.

It’s easy to book Myojinkan through our friends at The Ryokan Collection. Tell them we sent you and enjoy!

 

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