Kurumi no Ki (くるみの木）is actually a tiny cluster of cafe and zakka (see knick-knacks) shops in Nara. It was set up 26 years ago by then housewife, Yukiko Ishimura at a time when pretty cafes and zakka goods were practically unheard of (I would have been just a baby at that time), and now shops like hers are found all over Japan. The place has earned a steady cult following over the years. The queue starts even before the doors are open.
Yukiko wanted to sell only quality food and well-made products. Every leafy piece of vegetable and woven straw basket found in her shop are the result of countless visits to the local farmers and artisans and personally used by her to check for quality before they go on the plates and shelves. The concept is the antithesis of our buy-and-throw world today. Eat well, buy something well made, and let it stand the test of time in your home.
You can see it in the little compound that she owns. The trees that I loved the most (and where I killed rows of film on) have grown tall with a life of their own. The hand-made benches we sat on have been polished smooth by the many years of sun, rain and snow. I'm a big fan of the kind of unpainted furniture in her shops left in its raw wooden form, they age so well. The milk I had with my yummy fruit cake came packed in a little glass bottle with tiny red letters printed on the surface, saying that it's from a local cow farm. B and I stayed for a long time, and were still talking about it hours after we left.
The place had somehow worked its own magic, I'm dying to go back again.