Living in My Suitcase: Bettina Campolucci Bordi in Mashiko, Japan

Living in My Suitcase: Bettina Campolucci Bordi in Mashiko, Japan

This article appears in Volume 29: The Taste

as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of Japan.
As a chef, I’m drawn in by its reputation for hospitality. It’s in
Mashiko, a sleepy town in Tochigi Prefecture best known for its
ceramics, soba and antiques, that I find my spiritual second

Leaving behind the buzzing lights of Tokyo,
I traverse the waving grasses of Japan’s lush, green countryside to
reach Mashiko. My gracious hosts, Alice and Tenshi, greet me at the
Mashed San house, a beautifully crafted, traditional-style retreat
deep among the trees. It’s here that I am to stay and help prepare
a bountiful, locally sourced feast as part of Hijisai (the Earth
Art Festival).

First, however, I am led to the courtyard of the Yamamoto
Hachiman Shrine, where the visual artist and musician Takagi
Masakatsu performs a live piano solo. As I sway to his e ortless
melodies, I’m struck by the unexpected harmony between his
contemporary compositions and the ancient forest around us.

The next day in the kitchen, I again experience this sensation
of modernity meeting nature. The new generation here is armoured
with kindness and is leading a revolutionary movement to bring
organic farming practices and local fare back to the fore – an
unusual mission in Japan, where “perfection” is typically the

I find life and soul in each carefully sourced ingredient
harvested from the Yamazaki Organic Farm, situated just beyond the
house. Its assiduous farmer explains how the recent rains have
influenced his yield, before we rest our weary feet, boil a pot of
tea over the open fire and discuss our mutual love for natural
produce. All the while I curate tomorrow’s menu in my mind.

The dinner takes place at pejite, once a traditional kura
(storehouse) that was used to keep rice and is now a shop selling
antique furniture and artisan-made ceramics, which act as our
serving platters come evening. Yamaimo, a Japanese mountain yam,
and kabocha pumpkin feature heavily throughout the menu. Being able
to utilise traditionally grown ingredients and add my own spin is
something of which I’ll never tire.

The feast is made possible by helping hands united by an
appreciation for thoughtfully produced food. It’s magical how
things can come together so beautifully, our bite-sized morsels
echoing the love that Mashiko’s residents have for their town.

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