Category: Ask a Fellow Traveler

Three Things about My Denmark

Tell me your favorite thing about this country, and why:
Hygge! Pronounced like “Hyew-guh.” It’s a noun.

Hygge-issimo

Hygge-issimo

This is something only a Scandinavian culture could conceive of, and it informs a lot about the Danish people. What it basically means, and there’s not a direct translation into English, is a feeling of coziness, calm and good feelings among friends. Why hyyge? Winters are long, dark, and cold!

Atelier Tobias Jacobsen. Photo by Hiromitsu Morimoto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hetgacom/

Atelier Tobias Jacobsen. Photo by Hiromitsu Morimoto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hetgacom/

I see hygge in the architecture and interior design thinking in Denmark. I used to think Danish design was all about slick sterile surfaces, but it definitely is not!

Detail of PK22 Chair, Wicker and Steel. Photo by Jonas Forth: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jforth/

Detail of PK22 Chair, Wicker and Steel. Photo by Jonas Forth: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jforth/

I think it’s about that reassuring feeling of good stuff, stuff you want to share with people. Much of classic Danish furniture was designed with wood surfaces, teak in particular, and I think it’s an essential material for that furniture.

Arne Jacobsen Table, Teak Laminate. Photo by Hiromitsu Morimoto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hetgacom/

Arne Jacobsen Table, Teak Laminate. Photo by Hiromitsu Morimoto: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hetgacom/

You see this in the food too, which for years was kind of bad-mouthed as clunky and old-fashioned (it’s not) but it’s really about this communal experience. It’s not all cheese, butter, fish and foraged food, it’s more like, here’s something we can share, and life is good when you can share things. Here’s to that!

Tell me a few things about Denmark that a lot of travelers miss, and that you think a visitor shouldn’t miss:
Copenhagen’s Illums Bolighus:

Illums Bolighus (after Lee Freidlander.) Photo by Thomas Ackermann: https://www.flickr.com/photos/angermann/

Illums Bolighus (after Lee Freidlander.) Photo by Thomas Ackermann: https://www.flickr.com/photos/angermann/

If you are an interior design nerd (with space on your credit card – airline miles!) this is a must visit! Four floors of thoughtful, iconic, inspiring, silly, outrageous and purchasable interior things (hygge anyone?) It feels like a museum in a sense, because of the care and thoughtfulness put into the display, the architecture of the building and the rarity of some of the items up for sale.

Illums Bolighus Exterior, Holidays. Photo by Suzanne Nillson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/

Illums Bolighus Exterior, Holidays. Photo by Suzanne Nillson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/

It’s right in the middle of central Copenhagen, easy to get to.
Smørrebrød:

Smørrebrød. Photo by CycloneBill: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclonebill/

Smørrebrød. Photo by CycloneBill: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclonebill/

Ask any Dane what their comfort food is, this is the answer, Denmark’s famous open-faced sandwiches. In many many ways they are Danish Tacos, in the Mexico City sense of a taco: a pure perfect bite where the taste of the main ingredient is an exclamation point (or whisper) and everything else is in support of it. Salmon – cold cured, smoked, fried, raw – is usually the major protein, and most of the bread is delicious Scandinavian Dark Rye. Everyone you will meet will have a very definite idea of where the best place to have Smørrebrød is, just ask!
The views inside and around the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art:

 Alexander Calder Sculpture, Louisiana Museum Cafe, Denmark. Photo by Sven Lindner https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenlindner/

Alexander Calder Sculpture, Louisiana Museum Cafe, Denmark. Photo by Sven Lindner https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenlindner/

It’s a short train ride away from downtown Copenhagen, and a short walk through a suburb. I remember very vividly seeing the best Gerhard Richter retrospective exhibit I’d ever (and will ever) see there. What really caught me off guard though was how incredible the building and its grounds are. I remember I found a small room there, with a view overlooking the Öresund strait into Sweden. The most incredible museum I’ve ever had the experience of being inside of and looking out of.

 

Three Things about My Japan

Lei Ann Shiramizu is one of my most stylish, funny and witty friends. She is the co-proprietor of Momo, a store that’s elegant and vibrant at the same time, which is hard to do! She also loves travel to Japan, so I wanted to ask her:

Tell me your favorite things about Japan and why:

Being Japanese-American and born and raised in Hawaii, Japan is familiar and foreign at the same time. Different cities have such different characteristics, different personalities. True anywhere. But there’s commonalities: clean, polite, accessible and orderly. I feel safe and can enjoy the experience without worrying about my well-being.

Tell me three things about Japan that you think a visitor shouldn’t miss, and why:

  1.  Rent a bike in Kyoto
    Photo: Peter Birkinshaw/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/binaryape/

    Kyoto by Bike | Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/binaryape/ Peter Birkinshaw

    Kyoto is flat, it’s a very very bike friendly city, it’s also a casual practical biker scene. In the USA, people tend to ride bikes for exercise, not for simple transportation. Cycling is also a great way to get from temple to temple. Finally, you can ride along the river and see it at the right pace.

  2. Drink and eat at a Fukuoka City Yatai
    Fukuoka City Yatai/Photo: Melanie_Ko/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/14541393@N03/)

    Fukuoka City Yatai | Photo: Melanie_Ko/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/14541393@N03/)

    Yatai (loosely similar to a food stall or truck, but more like an open-air restaurant) are awesome. They are cheap too. But the top reason is you get to share the camaraderie of the people next to you. On my last trip, with my 80-year-old parents, we drank sake with a Japanese man who loved Hawaiian culture. So my mom sang Tiny Bubbles along with Japanese strangers!

  3.  Visit Mount Kōya
    Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00/

    A temple on Mount Koya | Photo: Akuppa John Wigham (https://www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00/)

    Mount Kōya (高野山) is a sacred mountain top. It’s considered the birthplace of Shinto Buddhism. It’s a sacred place! Getting there from Kyoto, be prepared for trains, planes and automobiles! When we got there, we were served the most amazing vegetarian meal you will ever enjoy, even if you’re not vegetarian. Be sure to partake of goma-tofu, the only place you will find this delicious black sesame tofu. There is also a graveyard at the temple. We walked through it at sunset. We heard the temple gong. It is something I will never forget. We stayed at a Shinto monastery. You have to wake up early and take part in morning prayers with the monks (and other guests.) Mandatory!

And 4,  Hiroshima

Hiroshima Peace Lanterns / Photo: Riley Roxx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rileyroxx/)

Hiroshima Peace Lanterns | Photo: Riley Roxx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rileyroxx/)

Hiroshima is beautiful and hopeful. The way I feel about Hiroshima is the way I feel about a person who had cancer, but then got healthy again. It’s a phoenix rising from the ashes. You shouldn’t feel guilty about Hiroshima, just go.

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