Here in the very south of the southern hemisphere, there is a name synonymous with style, elegance and poise. A name that is well known in Melbourne for their love of a good story well told, and a certain AFL football team with a feline moniker.
I first met Barbara Hermon, the uber sophisticate and one half of Melbourne homeware and furnishings institution, Hermon & Hermon, in store for a coffee and left 3 hours later having been introduced to everyone who walked through the door as though we were all a member of her large extended family. Which is exactly how the team at H & H operate – as one giant family.
As we sat in the coffee shop attached to her epynomous store (husband John is the ‘other’ Hermon) I learned from Barbara about her beginnings in retail right back to 1967 with her first store ‘Barbi May’ in Highton, Geelong. Enraptured with her tales of the ‘old school’ training she received, I would then meet Barbara every few months for coffee and learn a little more about the places she travelled and the family heritage that has helped shaped her aesthetic.
So of course, being the well heeled traveller that she is, I asked Barbara to share with us her guide to the best of Japan after learning that not only did she spend some years of her childhood there, but that it is also one of her favourite travel destinations with her equally stylish husband John. Here we share Barbara Hermon’s very own travel guide to Japan with you…
Sagano Bamboo Forest
In the Arashimaya district in western Kyoto—get there early so you can meander through and hear the rustle of the bamboo leaves.
This shrine in Kyoto is 230 odd metres above sea level and is an absolute must see but get there early morning no later than 7.30am so you can beat all the tourists! The vermilion gates are dedicated to Inari, the Shinto God of rice.
Chichu Art Museum
Designed by the amazing Tadao Ando and built entirely under-ground to ensure that the building did not affect the beautiful scenery of the Naoshima island. The gallery houses an incredible collection including Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell, the natural light seeping through the building illuminating the exhibits is mesmerizing.
Cenotaph Memorial at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Built in 1952 holding the names of all the 140,000 people who perished when the atom bomb was dropped on the city in 1945 – the arch represents a shelter for the souls of the victims. I first visited as a child in 1955, just one year after the museum was built and clearly remember so much—this place should be visited by all.
An indigo dyeing workshop that has been in operation for three generations, the selection of beautiful clothing to purchase is amazing, the website does not do the place justice.
If you are a shibori lover then this is a great spot to shop. The simple shibori technique tradition that has been carried through generations is now a reflective assimilative beauty of modernism
Having started in the 80’s with ‘no brand quality goods’ from stationery, clothing and household goods. I am a ‘serial’ muji collector having first discovered the brand in London in 1992—their first international store.
Classic monochromatic multi-layered pieces mainly in black with touches of red and the occasional soft tones.
DINE and DRINK
Dinner at this Kyoto resort is a must. Contemporary Japanese cuisine by master chef Ichiro Kubota recently awarded a Michelin star. Fascinating to watch the buckwheat soba noodles being made at the counter whilst you dine on sublimely presented, delicious courses or experience a traditional tea ceremony on the floating tea room overlooking the river.
It’s hard to go past morning tea at Laduree. Located on the first floor of Mitsukoshi department store overlooking Ginza, there is an outstanding view of the main intersection of Tokyo. Oh and the tea and macaroons are also divine.
Kaboku Tea Room
The Ippodo tea company opened in 1717 to supply the royal household with the finest of teas, the house has gone on to open Kaboku tea room where you can prepare your own tea using a kyushi tea pot, each tea is served with japanese wagashi confections.
Simply the best in Tokyo—great location, efficient concierge service and beautiful modern rooms. The art installations throughout the hotel are quite spectacular including my favorite, the lying dragon by Keisen Hama. A bamboo sculpture representing the Chinese zodiac lying over the universe warding off evil spirits and offering protection.
Designed by Tadao Ando with four distinct styles of guest rooms—the museum, the oval, the park and the beach. You’ll need at least a two night stay to take in all the galleries and the other spectacular installations on the island.
A luxurious retreat set by the Ooi river accessible by private boat with 25 stylish, traditional Japanese designed rooms all with futon style beds. The surrounding beautifully manicured gardens add immense serenity.