On cultivating an aesthetic

SIMPLICITY AT HOME: JAPANESE RITUALS, RECIPES AND ARRANGEMENTS FOR THOUGHTFUL LIVING

SIMPLICITY AT HOME: JAPANESE RITUALS, RECIPES AND ARRANGEMENTS FOR THOUGHTFUL LIVING

By Yumiko Sekine and Jenny Wapner Photography by Nao Shimizu. (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2021, 224 pp., $27.50, hard cover)

Yumiko Sekine shares a distinct aesthetic that blends Japanese simplicity with western influences and touches. While the book has recipes, it is best read as more of a lifestyle guide that has recipes for food, organizing and ways of being.

Sekine tells the story of her style evolution through personal stories of her life and the way she designed her home and buys for her store, Fog Linen.

The book is full of personal narratives and a distinct point of view on how she comes to select certain objects, foods and ways of life to live in a way that’s filled with intention and careful curation.

In her approach for creating “a rich life and a beautiful home,” Sekine shares how-tos for making foods, arts and decor while promoting a minimalist and eco-friendly way of life. Much of what she shares is told as an anecdote from her own life, or an explanation of an aspect of Japanese culture, woven in with helpful tips and lifestyle suggestions.

Some recipes are simply described and read more as a photo-narrated, instructional DIY, such as her section on how to air-dry vegetables, or make vegetable sushi as a festive New Year’s meal. The recipes in the book are almost entirely vegetable or plant-based and inspire meals that celebrate and match the season. For example, the corn and edamame kakiage recipe and tempura recipes are perfect to eat with cold somen noodles during a hot summer.

The lifestyle recipes are a little more involved, ranging from simple recipes for making bath salts and fragranced soaps, to much more intensive arts and crafts practices such as carving your own wooden spoon and dying your own clothes. When writing about cleaning the house for the New Year, Sekine shares a simple recipe for a homemade cleaner solution using fruit peels, an easy-enough recipe that anyone can try with if looking for a simple entry point to start out.

In a world that is filled with tons of synthetic, single-use objects and decor, Sekine’s aesthetic stands out as simple, natural and eco-friendly. From the linen fabrics that she chooses when putting together a capsule wardrobe, to mending ceramics or glass with gold lacquer, known as the Japanese art of kintsugi, through this book, readers will understand and appreciate the beauty that can be found in surrounding yourself with belongings that are well-loved, carefully selected, yet still have function and purpose.

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