In Harmony with the Seasons: Toshikoshi Soba

text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
The tradition of eating soba on the last day of the year – Dec 31, also called omisoka – has been around in Japan since the mid-18th century, or the mid-Edo era. This came to be known as toshikoshi soba, or year-crossing soba. Eating soba right before the new year is meant to symbolize cutting off or puting an end to all bad events that happened within the year, hence the choice of soba, as it can be easily cut by chopsticks. On the other hand, the fact that it is long and thin is meant to symbolize longevity and a sustained prosperity for the family.
 In addition, the soba plant also embodies resilience and sturdiness as it survives even in cold climates and recovers quickly from damage by wind and rain with just a little sunlight, plus, it is known to be good for cleansing the blood and lowering blood pressure, hence it is said that eating soba helps to clean the body from the inside to welcome the new year.
There is another interesting saying that goldsmiths in the Edo era would, on the last day of the year, use a ball made from
soba flour to gather all the gold dust that had gathered within the year off the tatami mat, and this association between soba and wealth accumulation made toshikoshi soba popular.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

WAttention Photo Contest: Best of 2015 (3)

We kicked off our WAttention Photo Contests on Google+ this past April, and with so many great submissions, we thought we’d round up the year by posting our favorites.

Our final contest this year featured fabulous shots of Shinjuku, Yokocho (Japanese Drinking Alleys), and Japanese Winter. From bright neon lights to soft white snow, these pictures below caught our attention, especially the winning photo at the end!

The snow monkeys of Nagano in the winter
“The snow monkeys of Nagano in the winter” by Heath Smith

 

"Cocoon and Lasers" by Masayuki Yamashita
“Cocoon and Lasers” by Masayuki Yamashita

 

"Light rain in an alley in Chiyoda Ward" by Leon Wu
“Light rain in an alley in Chiyoda Ward” by Leon Wu

 

"Tokyo Metropolitan Government" by Hiroshi Sata
“Tokyo Metropolitan Government” by Hiroshi Sata

 

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“Winter: Interesting symmetrical trees at Shinjuku Gyoen” by Rachel Fay

 

"Nature is higher than human beings" by Masayuki Yamashita
“Nature is higher than human beings” by Masayuki Yamashita

 

"Yakitori Alley" by Heath Smith
“Yakitori Alley” by Heath Smith

 

"Japanese Winter Scenery, Ueno Tosho-gu" by Hiroshi Sata
“Japanese Winter Scenery, Ueno Tosho-gu” by Hiroshi Sata

And the winning photo is…

"Shinjuku O-Guard: After shooting the Sompo Japan Building, only to look back!" by Masayuki Yamashita
“Shinjuku O-Guard: After shooting the Sompo Japan Building, only to look back!” by Masayuki Yamashita

This shot impressed for capturing Shinjuku’s phenomenal night scenery colored with flashy neon lights.

Looking forward to seeing your best photos in our next contest starting on Jan. 1, 2016. Check our website, Facebook, and Google+ pages for more details!

WAttention Photo Contest: Best of 2015 (2)

We kicked off our WAttention Photo Contests on Google+ this past April, and with so many great submissions, we thought we’d round up the year by posting our favorites.

Moving on to Fall, we were more than pleased with the wonderful photos posted of Tokyo Must-Buy Omiyage, Shibuya, and Autumn Colors. Again, don’t miss the winning shot, featured at the end!

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“Momiji”, Jojakuko-ji Temple in Kyoto, Nov. 2014, by Cheryl Lim

 

"A Portrait of Hachiko" by Rochelle Dumlao
“A Portrait of Hachiko” by Rochelle Dumlao

 

"Fall, Ryoan-ji Kyoto, late Nov.-Dec. 2014" by Stephen Wee
“Fall, Ryoan-ji Kyoto, late Nov.-Dec. 2014” by Stephen Wee

 

"Koya Splendor" on Mount Koya, fall 2009, by Marc Sorbe
“Koya Splendor” on Mount Koya, fall 2009, by Marc Sorbe

 

"Tokyo Omiyage, Asakusa" by 利姆歐失
“Tokyo Omiyage, Asakusa” by 利姆歐失

 

"Mt. Kona autumn, Nov. 2009" by Marc Sorbe
“Mt. Koya autumn, Nov. 2009” by Marc Sorbe

And the winning photo is…

"Seconds before the crowds start filling the Shibuya Scramble intersection" by Krimmer Rine
“Seconds before the crowds start filling the Shibuya Scramble intersection” by Krimmer Rine

This photo impressed for capturing the anticipation of Tokyoites and tourists heading into the Shibuya Scramble intersection.

Catch our third and final installment for the year next time, featuring Shinjuku, Yokocho (Japanese Drinking Alleys), and Japanese Winter.

Nishimura leather iPad cover design 2

Nishimura with iPad
Combining traditional craft with modern vision, Nishimura has created this intricately designed iPad cover that transports you into a different dimension with an illumination of vivid and powerful motifs when backlit by the iPad screen. These covers come in three sizes to use for you iPad, iPad mini or iPad air and can be ordered in navy blue, red or beige. Chose your favorite out of the three different designs and add a unique Japanese taste to your iPhone!

Nishimura iPad leather cover design 2

$322.00

for iPad

$276.00

for iPad mini

$303.00

for iPad air

See other Nishimura Yuzen-Chokoku products: http://wattention.com/articles/nishimura-yuzen-chokoku-craft

Let’s Talk Subculture Vol. 10 Subculture Events

[WAttention X FIELDS Research Institute] 
Explore the fascinating world of Japan’s subcultures with insights from the inside

On a subculture journey with CoFesta’s Ambassadors

Fancy attending the AnimeJapan exposition next March and playing a part in promoting Japanese visual media such as animation, games, manga and film? You can, by applying to become a CoFesta Ambassador.

CoFesta, or  the Japan International Contents Festival, is an ongoing project aimed at promoting Japanese games, animation, manga, characters, broadcast, music and film. CoFesta Ambassadors are foreigners mostly living in Japan that are fans of such genres who participate in related events and help to promote an appreciation of such visual media. Currently, a total of around 200 ambassadors from a total of 40 countries and regions living in Japan are active as CoFesta Ambassadors.

As long as you are a foreigner studying in Japan and are over 18 years old, all you need is a love for Japanese subcultures to become an Ambassador! Even if you are currently living abroad, you can subscribe to become an overseas CoFesta Ambassador and might be invited to Japan as a representative of overseas CoFesta Ambassadors! Apply here.

CoFesta(http://www.cofesta.go.jp/)CoFesta

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WAttention received feedback from these CoFesta Ambassadors regarding their visits to 6 different events that showcased the newest and hottest subculture and technology contents of 2015. We bring you the highlights of these events as seen through their eyes.

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  1. 25th TOKYO GAME SHOW 2015
    September 17 – 20

As one of the world’s biggest game shows, TOKYO GAME SHOW has come to host many new gaming announcements throughout the years that have excited dedicated gamers throughout the world, especially fans of Japanese games.

(http://expo.nikkeibp.co.jp/tgs/2015/en/)

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“I was especially impressed by Sony’s VR gaming device Playstation VR. It made me feel like I was actually inside a video game world!” – Steven Konatra (Indonesia, 23 years old, studies Game Graphic and Character at Tokyo Communication Arts College)

“It was great to see so many contents at the indie games corner, and I think it is really good that game and anime schools are here to recruit new talents!” – Gianluca Abad (Philippines, 21 years old, studies International Liberal studies at Waseda University)

 

  1. 4th KYOTO INTERNATIONAL MANGA ANIME FAIR 2015
    September 19 – 20

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The KYOTO INTERNATIONAL MANGA ANIME FAIR, fondly known as Kyomafu, is the biggest exhibition related to manga and anime in the Kansai area. Being held in Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto, collaborations between manga or anime producers and traditional Japanese crafts can be spotted here as well. With volunteer guides that can assist foreign visitors in English, Chinese and Korean, this event is easy to enjoy even without any knowledge of the Japanese language!

(http://kyomaf.jp/en/)

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CoFesta Ambassadors were present at this event.

 

  1. 16th CEATEC JAPAN 2015 (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies)
    October 7 – 10

CEATEC JAPAN was held for the 15th time this year. From major Japanese companies as NEC and Hitachi to small individual companies and research teams of universities, a total of more than 350 exhibitors gathered here to bring the world’s newest and hottest technology at one spot. What kind of new gadgets and inventions have the Japanese exhibitors in store for us?

(http://www.ceatec.com/en/)

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“I was really amazed by a robot created by the research team of Keio University. This robot can grab a piece of potato chips without breaking it!” – Carlos Cesar Cortes (Mexico, 35 years old, studies mechanical engineering at Keio University)

“A computer at Hitachi’s booth was able to put on screen what someone writes in the air, incredible!” – Zheng Lin Chia (Malaysia, 23 years old, studies  Japanese at KCP International Japanese Language School)

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  1. 8th DIGITAL CONTENT EXPO 2015
    October 22 – 25

The Digital Content Expo is an annual event held at Tokyo’s Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. With new technology products and experiments for digital contents as video-games and anime, walking around in the showroom here gives you a good impression of where modern technology is heading.

(https://www.dcexpo.jp/en/)

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“I was most impressed by The Planet of Hakoniwa. It makes a 3D scan of someone and projects this person in a virtual miniature garden with flashy neon lights and beams. Really cool!” Reem Mostafa (Egypt, 21, studies Japanese language at Cairo University)

“I thought that the Doodle Zoo – a sketchbook that makes animals you draw come to life on a screen – is a great device to stimulate the creativity of children!” Edgar Santiago Pelaez Mazariegos (Mexico, 31 years old, studies Asia-Pacific studies at Waseda University)

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  1. 28th Tokyo International Film Festival
    October 22 – 31

With TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills as the main venue, the Tokyo International Film Festival was held for the 28th time this year. Not only Japanese but also a great number of foreign movies were presented at the show. Famous directors and actors from all over the world could be spotted at the red carpet opening ceremony, which showed just how international this film festival is.

http://2015.tiff-jp.net/en/

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“It was my first time to attend an event of this scale, and the amount of foreign celebrities really surprised me. The first thing I’m going to do when I get home is tweet that I saw the girls of Perfume!” – Linnah Tan (Singapore, 20 years old, studies Japanese at National University of Singapore)

“My friend from junior high-school plays the main female roll of “Snap”, a movie that will be shown at this festival. I really look forward to seeing her on the big screen” – Manassavee Issarathamrong (Thailand, 21 years old, studies Japanese at Chulalongkorn University)

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  1. 50th Inter BEE 2015
    November 18 – 20

At Inter BEE (International Broadcast Equipment Exhibition)  2015, a total of 996 exhibitors showcased the newest broadcasting, audio and lightning equipment, together giving a general impression of where the world of broadcasting is evolving.

http://www.inter-bee.com/en/

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“I was impressed by the evolution of camera drones. They used to be easily blown away by the wind, but some models exhibited at the event were built so that they catch as little wind as possible. Even if you push them away, they automatically return to their original location” – Edgar Santiago Pelaez Mazariegos (Mexico, 31 years old, studies Asia-Pacific studies at Waseda University)

“I used to edit videos for work. Back then, we used to edit images with Photoshop, which we then inserted into a video editing program. But a video editing software program showcased at the exhibition was developed so that you can edit both images and videos at the same time!” – Sansan Chen (Australia, 36 years old)

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This article was written with the assistance of Fields Research Institute, which conducts research in entertainment.

Restaurant Review: Harukiya Ramen

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Cravings for ramen

Last night, I just couldn’t fall asleep. As soon as I tried to close my eyes, a bowl of Harukiya’s ramen appeared in my mind. That’s just how much I love this ramen shop in Ogikubo.

Harukiya has been around since 1948, and is renowned for being one of the most traditional “Tokyo ramen” shops out there.

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Harukiya’s menu is very simple. It consists of ramen, chashu ramen, and won-ton ramen, all with the same noodles and soy-based soup that is made out of niboshi (dried sardine), broth and vegetables.

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True, this soup may not be as thick and strong as today’s most popular type of ramen, tonkotsu (pork bone broth), but the delicateness of Harukiya’s version of Japan’s beloved noodle bowl, is something few other ramen shops can compete with.

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Photo credit: Harukiya

Restaurant information:

Name: Harukiya

Price range: 1,000 yen

Location: Kamiogi 1-4-6, Suginami, Tokyo

Access: A 3-min walk from Ogikubo Station (JR Chuo Line and Marunouchi Line)

Website: http://www.haruki-ya.co.jp/english/

Editor’s pick: Memories of Matsuko

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“Memories of Matsuko” by director Tetsuya Yamada (also known for “Kamikaze Girls”) tells the sad life of goodhearted and cheerful, but oh so clumsy Matsuko. We follow her through the eyes of her nephew, who tries to figure out who she was, after Matsuko has passed away.

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Matsuko starts her adult life as a schoolteacher, but soon gets herself involved into trouble she cannot control, which eventually brings her to the darker sides of modern Japan, ranging from hostess clubs to yakuza and even prison.

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“Memories of Matsuko” is a sad story with an optimistic, sometimes even cheerful approach. Whenever Matsuko’s life changes for the worse, you will see her cheerfully dancing and singing in a musical scene. It is during these moments that I feel the Japanese nature of this movie, as Japanese tend to hide their inner feelings, be it without singing and dancing.

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Personally, I was especially moved by Matsuko’s “funny face”. This face was her only way to make her strict father smile as a little girl. Seeing her still making the same funny face more than 20 years later, after for example being treated like garbage by her Yakuza boyfriend, makes Matsuko sympathetic and pitiful at the same time. Details in Matsuko’s character like this, kept me caring for her even after the final credits had rolled.

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While making the most crazy and drastic developments, “Memories of Matsuko” manages to avoid plot holes, resulting in a fantastically well-paced story. If you are in for an engaging movie that takes you to many different sides of modern Japan in little more than 2 hours, this has to be your pick!

Movie details:

Title: Memories of Matsuko (Kiraware Matsuko no Issho)

Director: Tetsuda Yamada

Language: Japanese (English subtitles available)
Year released: 2006 (Japan)

Runtime: 130-min

Genre: Drama

WAttention Photo Contest: Best of 2015 (1)

We kicked off our WAttention Photo Contests on Google+ this past April, and with so many great submissions, we thought we’d round up the year by posting our favorites.

Starting with our summer contest, here were some of the best of our photos themed on Mt. Fuji, Japanese summer, Shinjuku and Shibuya. Be sure to scroll to the end to catch the winning photo!

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“The 29th Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks Festival 2014” by Hazel Tan
"Lake Yamanakako is the lake situated closest to Mount Fuji. When I was here it was about 2 weeks before the cherry blossoms were in full bloom but the silhouette became a rather interesting aspect of the scene." by Kathy Nguyen
“Lake Yamanakako is the lake situated closest to Mount Fuji. When I was here it was about 2 weeks before the cherry blossoms were in full bloom but the silhouette became a rather interesting aspect of the scene.” by Kathy Nguyen
"Mt Fuji with Shinjuku Skyscrapers" by Masayuki Yamashita
“Mt Fuji with Shinjuku Skyscrapers” by Masayuki Yamashita
"Shibuya Crossing" by Kathy Nguyen
“Shibuya Crossing” by Kathy Nguyen
"A matsuri in Shimbashi on a Friday night" by Brian Kemper
“A matsuri in Shimbashi on a Friday night” by Brian Kemper
"Kabukicho" by 毛國駿
“Kabukicho” by 毛國駿

And the winning photo is…

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“Waking up during the twilight hours to capture the beautiful Mount Fuji. View from ryokan at Kawaguchi Lake.” by Alvin Chua

This shot impressed for capturing the sublime twilight tranquility of Mt. Fuji over the Yamanashi townscape.

Check our next article, which will feature our top shots of Shibuya, Autumn Colors, Tokyo Must-Buy Omiyage, and Shibuya!

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Situated in Fushimi-ku, about 2km south-east of Kyoto station, the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is said to originate from the Hata clan’s worship of the god of rice and sake in the 8th century. As centuries went on, the god also became known as the one to ensure prosperity in business. People often call it “Oinari-san,” and is the head shrine of no less than 30,000 Inari branch shrines nationwide today.

3The Fushimi Inari-taisha has drawn countless businessmen to worship here, especially at the first prayers of the New Year. After all, Oinari-san is the god of prosperity. Visitors may be overwhelmed by over 5,000 orange-colored torii gates standing on the approach that were donated and inscribed by worshippers thankful for their prosperity.
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The shrine is also characterized by dozens of statues of foxes, which are considered to be messengers of the god. In Japanese mythology, foxes can be both a force of good and a force of evil. However, the foxes from Fushimi Inari are good-natured and divine. A fox’s power is determined by how many torii gates there are on the shrine’s property. It is said that messenger foxes have to jump over all their shrine’s torii gates every day, thus becoming stronger. The more gates a shrine has, the more a fox has to jump. Fushimi Inari has the most gates of all the Inari shrines, making the foxes here the strongest.

The sanctuary consists of several buildings, including the Sakura-mon Gate and Go-Honden Shrine, followed by a 4km tunnel trail with thousands of torii gates that stretches to the top of Mt. Inari. These tunnel gates have become very famous as they’ve been featured in movies such as “Memoirs of a Geisha”.

4Additionally, there are small restaurants and shops along the street to the shrine, where you can try the shrine related dishes such as kitsune udon (fox udon), a noodle soup topped with pieces of fried tofu that is said to be fox’s favorite food, and inari sushi, fried tofu wrapped around sushi rice. Of course you cannot leave without buying a fox-themed souvenir.
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Access

A 5-minute ride from Kyoto Station to JR Nara Line Inari Station and a short walk from Keihan Electric Railway Main Line Fushimi-Inari station

Get Funassyi goods @ Harajuku!

While Funassyi heralds from Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, the city’s unofficial mascot character is also no stranger in hip Harajuku.

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From Dec. 5, Funassyi LAND Select HARAJUKU, a store that sells official Funassyi goods has opened, and is showing great popularity. The items specially designed to match Harajuku fashion are a must buy!
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Funassyi LAND Select HARAJUKU

Address: Jingumae 6-1-9, Shibuya
URL: http://funassyiland.jp/harajuku.html

A Taste of Sh旬n: Christmas, A Time For…Fried Chicken?

For most part of the world that celebrates Christmas, a roast turkey is the main star of the Christmas meal. But in Japan, Christmas means a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

KFC

 

There are various theories as to how this tradition came about – either from a very successful marketing campaign by KFC years back, an innate Japanese preference for all things smaller and more compact (stemming from a perception that bigger objects tend to taste bland with a less refined taste), or even perhaps the uncanny resemblance between Colonel Sanders and Santa Claus…

KFC-Japanese-Christmas-Christmas-Chicken-Shop
Ho,ho,ho…goes Colonel Sanders, laughing all the way to the bank.

Orders are taken for the KFC bucket around two weeks before Christmas. And, in a bid to get a piece of the Christmas pie, convenience stores and supermarkets have also started frying up chickens in zest.

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If you don’t want to queue at KFC, just head to the combini.
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7-11 (left) and Circle K Sunkus amost those joining the fowl play.

So, if you haven’t already placed your KFC orders and don’t fancy a long wait for fast food, you know where to go for your Christmas Fried Chicken. Or, you could just go cold turkey.

Here’s wishing all our readers a Merry Christmas!

 

A collaboration between Hooters and NAMCO

Florida based chain restaurant Hooters, famous for its chicken wings and Hooter Girls (waitresses in sexy outfits) opened its new interactive sports bar GAMING BAR SIDE-B at its Shibuya branch on December 18.

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This entertainment zone was made possible through a collaboration with Japanese video game and entertainment giant, NAMCO, the company famous for iconic video game franchises as Pac-Man and Tekken.1
With a New York downtown style, you can watch sport matches or dancing Hooter Girls over a beer and some chicken wings here, as well as play table football and arcade basketball.5
Spot Information
Address: Dogenzaka 2-29-5 SHIBUYA PRIME
URL:  http://www.hooters.co.jp/en/shop/shibuya/

World’s First Smart Phone Christmas Tree at Shibuya 109

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“PLAY LIGHT TREE”–the world’s first interactive smart phone christmas tree by XFLAG, the makers of the Monster Strike game–has arrived at fashion landmark SHIBUYA109’s Event Space.

Comprised of 203 synchronized smart phones and tablets, you can “decorate” this 3m tall tree by accessing the event’s website via QR code at the Event Space and “shoot” the digital Monster Strike ornaments onto the tree from your smart phone display.

For each person who decorates the tree with a digital ornament, XFLAG, will donate 394 yen towards Christmas presents for those less fortunate.

Dates: Dec. 21 – 25, 2015
Hours: 11am – 9pm (from 6pm on Dec. 21)
Location: SHIBUYA109 Event Space

Low on Cost, High on Design

Introducing the new LCC Terminal at Narita

Running to catch your plane at the new budget terminal at Narita will be a breeze – after all, the terminal which opened this April is designed around a running track.

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With 2 distinct track designs; the blue track for departures and the red track for arrivals; it currently serves 12 domestic routes and 7 international ones, plied by Vanilla Air, Jetstar Japan, Spring Japan and Jeju Air. 

 

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And if the simple yet stylish look of the terminal reminds you of designer label MUJI, that’s because all the furniture is from minimalist MUJI. The furniture is also traveler friendly – cushioned benches without cold metal armrests getting in the way of the weary traveler’s rest. 

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One thing to note, though, is that unlike Terminal 1 and 2, there is no direct access by train, so you’ll have to allow time to take the shuttle bus to the budget terminal from Terminal 2. Or if you don’t have much luggage, it’s a 500m walk. 

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While the international gates are connected directly to the main terminal building, you’ll have to cross a bridge 15m off the ground to get to the domestic gates, but this walk makes for a great photo opportunity of the runway and the docked planes.

 

Assuming that you have more budget for shopping – having saved on your airfare – there is no lack of shops at this terminal, with shops lining the 680m international gates and a café there as well. There is also a bookshop, convenience store, and shops run by Vanilla Air and Jetstar Japan selling original goods. 

 

Pix5For those catching early flights, the budget terminal boasts the largest airport food court in Japan with over 400 seats open from 4am, with 7 stalls such as Nagasaki Champon Ringer Hut, Botejyu, Freshness burger, udon and sushi to name a few. The food court itself is accessible 24 hours a day for travelers to lounge around.

 

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So are you tempted to take a trip from the running track to the runway yet?

 

Photos courtesy of Narita International Airport Corporation.

Editor’s pick: ICHIGENSAN The Newcomer

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This novel was published in Japan in 1996, and was one of the first novels to be written in Japanese by a Westerner. In one of the original reviews, a Japanese journalist mentions that the Swiss writer, David Zoppetti, “writes better than 99 percent of all Japanese”. Now that is a big statement to make, and indeed, his beautifully flowing sentences make me as someone who writes in Japanese as well, feel jealous to say the least.

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The novel tells the story of a young exchange student in Kyoto. He finds it hard to integrate with the local culture as he is always judged by his appearance. Japan is generally known as a culture that does not easily open up to foreigners, which can especially be said for Kyoto. In Kyoto, even Japanese outsiders have a hard time becoming part of the local society. As to this day, Kyoto still has many restaurants that do not accept “Ichigensan”, or outsiders, which is also the title of this novel.
Life in Kyoto becomes harder and harder for the protagonist, but then, he meets a blind girl, who treats him as a normal person, as she can obviously not judge him by his foreign appearance.

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From “Ichigensan” the movie, released in Japan in 2000.

If you are dreaming of studying or working in Japan, this book will give you a realistic and honest impression on what living in Japan as a foreigner is like. In case you already live here, I’m sure you will identify with many experiences of the main character, and understand his frustrations.
Read it in Japanese if you can, as it will allow you to enjoy beautiful sentence structures and accurate metaphors that burst in character and creativity. For example, I remember I couldn’t help but laugh when the main character’s kitchen is described as “a place that makes even the most experienced cockroach want to commit suicide”.
The novel was made into a movie in Japan in 2000, but sadly no subtitled version has been released at the moment of writing this article.

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Novel details:

Title: ICHIGENSAN The Newcomer (Ichigensan)
Author: David Zoppetti
Year released: 1996 (Japanese) 2011 (English)

Limited-time cosmetics and photo shoot at Tokyu Hands

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Popular brand Yoroshi Cosmetics will feature a limited-time shop at Tokyu Hands Shibuya Store from Dec. 26 – Jan. 11, selling its products made with Japanese ingredients like sake, rice bran, and matcha green tea.

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Also, customers who spend more than 1,500 yen can take a commemorative photo wearing a traditional Japanese hakama. The whole process takes just 3 minutes–perfect for tourists on a tight schedule!

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Tokyu Hands Shibuya Store
Hours: 10am – 8:30pm
Address: Udagawacho 12-18, Shibuya

Ippudo’s original ramen for just 500 yen! (Dec. 19-22)

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In celebration of its one year anniversary, SHIROMARU BASE (by Ippudo) in Shibuya is offering its classic Shiromaru Base Ramen for just 500 yen (normally 700 yen) between Dec. 19-22.

World-famous Hakata-style tonkotsu (pork bone-based broth) ramen eatery Ippudo has changed its recipe multiple times since its founding in 1985, but only at SHIROMARU BASE (five stores across Japan) can you try the 30-year old original flavor that started the craze.

In addition, you can also get an extra serving of noodles (kaedama) for free for any ramen that you order during this campaign, including the spicier Karaka Base Ramen pictured above (620 yen).

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SHIROMARU BASE Shibuya Store
Hours: Mon – Thurs & Sun 11am – 5am; Fri, Sat 11am – 6am
Address: Udagawacho 25-3, Shibuya

 

A horse ride at Shibuya Station!?

Each year, JRA (Japan Racing Association) has its last horse race “Arima Kinen” in the end of December. To get excited for this event, JRA bring you a magical horse-ride inside Shibuya Station. An illuminated life size horse together with a Cinderella like carriage can be seen near Shibuya Station’s Tamagawa Entrance until Arima Kinen takes place on December 27. Grab your chance and hop on this horse or take place in the carriage together with the Christmas girls here!

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Location: Shibuya Station (in front of Tamagawa Entrance)

Nightlife at Yokocho’s in Tokyo

How and where you should have your beer in Tokyo

 

Being a vibrant city, Tokyo is full of bustling entertainment districts, but where and how do the locals take their beer after a hard day of work?

If mingling with the locals at small pubs and bars is your thing, head over to one of Tokyo’s many Yokocho’s, which are narrow alleyways full of quality drinks and simple but delicious food awaiting you.

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In this article, I will not introduce any specific Yokocho, but give you an impression of what kind of bars, pubs and restaurants you can expect in general.
(A list of some Yokocho in Tokyo can be found at the end of the article.)

Yakitoriya

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Without a doubt, Yakitoriya are the most common type of bars at Yokocho’s. You will recognize them by the smoke that comes from the charcoal grill on which the Yakitori skewers are grilled. In most cases, a crowded counter is faced towards this charcoal grill. While consuming a beer or shochu, mostly male customers will be enjoying a conversation while their skewers are sizzling on the grill. Skewers come in a large variety such as chicken breast, chicken leg meat, chicken meatloaf, chicken skin, gristle, gizzard and even beef tongue and entrails.

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Izakaya

You might know Izakaya as big dining style restaurant bars, but the Izakaya at a Yokocho are usually much smaller, simpler and more old-fashioned. Their coziness gives them an undeniable charm, and they often have rare sake bottles collected from all over the country for you to pick out. The dishes served here might not be culinary masterpieces, but you will be able to taste the character of the bar owner that prepares these dishes like a caring mother does for her children.

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Tachinomiya

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If you just want a quick drink or bite, a Tachinomiya, or a stand and drink bar, is your pick. The alcohol and food here is usually very cheap, and you don’t have to gather energy to stand up if you want to leave!

If this does not sound romantic enough to you, think again. I for one, would chose picking at some edamame (boiled and salted soybeans) from a wooden board that is balanced on empty beer cases on the side of a small alley with a highball cocktail in my other hand over a luxury French restaurant anytime!

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Ramen and gyoza

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Every good Yokocho has a small eatery that serves quality ramen and gyoza, but do you know why? In Japan, after a session of bar hopping, the night is often ended by slurping a good ol’ bowl of ramen, maybe together with some gyoza. Once you also get strange cravings for ramen after a night of drinking, it’s time to start considering yourself Japanese!yokocho10

Snack

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 Don’t think that bars that say “snack” are simple snack bars where you can have a light meal. Snacks are drinking bars with a woman host called “Mama” that entertains guests and listens to their problems and worries of life. Many Japanese salaryman have one particular Snack they visit regularly to have their favorite Mama cheer them up. Snacks are an interesting phenomenon in modern Japanese society, but are not really a place for tourists to visit, especially without any knowledge of the Japanese language, so be careful!

Spot information:

  1. Omoide Yokocho

 Location: Nishi Shinjuku 1, Shinjuku
Access: A 1 minute walk from the West Exit of Shinjuku Station (JR Lines, Subway Lines, Odakyu Line, Keio Line)
URL: http://www.shinjuku-omoide.com/english/index.html

  1. Ameya Yokocho

 Location: Ueno 4-9-15, Taito
Access: A 3 minute walk from Ueno Station (JR Lines)
URL: http://www.ameyoko.net/ (Japanese only) 

  1. Ebisu Yokocho

 Location: Ebisu 1-7-4, Shibuya
Access: A 2 minute walk from the East Exit of Ebisu Station (JR Lines, Saikyo Line, Shonan Shinjuku Line)
URL: http://www.ebisu-yokocho.com/top.html (Japanese only)

  1. Harmonica Yokocho

 Location: Kichijoji Honcho 1-1-2, Mushashino
Access: A 3 minute walk from the North Exit of Kichijoji Station (JR Lines and Keio Inokashira Line)
URL: http://hamoyoko.com/ (Japanese only) 

  1. Nonbe Yokocho (Tateishi)

 Location: Tateishi 7-1 Katsushika
Access: A 3 minute walk from Keisei Tateishi Station (Oshiage Line)
URL: none available

 

Geisha life – Funds and Games

Two months ago I wrote about my new trainee Sae (find this article here). She has proven to be hard working and reliable. She wakes up early to clean the geisha house and to sew the collars that we need to regularly change on our under kimonos. She attended kimono sewing school for a while so has actively taken on the role of sewing in my geisha house.

Geisha Septembre 2015_MG_2336Sae after her first banquet

After three months she has learned a range of banquet drinking games, and is able to help at banquets. And now she is currently practicing her third serious dance piece which she learns from one of the most senior geisha in Tokyo. She has been attending drum lessons as well and can already perform the first song in the repertoire.

In the old days, young trainees came into geisha houses as early as four years old, as did my own geisha mother, and were supported fully by the geisha house. My own geisha mother was a distant relative of a distinguished Asakusa geisha, but of a poor branch of the family from northern Japan. At just four years old she was put on a train for distant Tokyo to start her training as a geisha.

Girls in the old days were contracted and could not leave their geisha houses until the debts incurred in the purchase of their kimono – and lesson fees and all the tools they needed to purchase to become geisha – were paid for. But that doesn’t work so well these days when young girls come in at the earliest in their late teens, and who can leave at any time they want. And most geisha houses these days are not large establishments where there are scores of young geisha, and one runaway would not be missed, but are in houses, like mine, with one, two, or just a couple of trainees.

Geisha Septembre 2015_MG_2374Sayuki and Sae

In the old days, geisha facing their debut and all the expenses associated with that very solemn ritual at the start of their geisha life, might have had a “danna”, a sponsor who financed all the expenses of the debut, and who may or may not have had a romantic interest in the debuting geisha. Needless to say, the geisha world these days is dramatically different to former times and the burden of financing geisha debuts often falls upon the geisha house or on the geisha training and on her family.

In my own case, I trained in a very conservative district where it took a whole year of training before I could go to my first day of work, and I was in a staggering amount of debt when I debuted. I would arrive at the geisha house and my geisha mother would say “I just had a set of undergarments made for the day of your debut, and I have put $1000 on your debt account”. As I was choking, she would fix me with a stern eye and say, “You do want to be a geisha, don’t you? Not just any geisha, but an Asakusa geisha?” I had a very strong incentive and desire to become a geisha, but most girls these days, and their families, do not want to incur debt before they can even start work.

Geisha Septembre 2015_MG_2283Sae in Asakusa
I have been lecturing part-time at university since I became a geisha which gives me a little extra income beyond and above my income as a geisha. When I first started teaching at university I used to joke that Keio University was my danna. But more seriously, most geisha cannot lecture at university as I did, and it takes a long time in training before a geisha can teach dance or music for extra income as many of the senior geisha do. And of course geisha trainees have no income like this in the crucial period before their debuts. One of the real problems of the geisha world today is that there is nothing to take the place of a sponsor to finance the early days of a geisha career when the expenses are enormous and there is not yet enough work coming in to pay for those expenses.

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In the sumo world, many sumo wrestlers are sponsored by companies, and even appear on television commercials. But in the secretive geisha world that has not happened.

One of my dreams is to have a company sponsor one of my trainees, paying for her financial support in the first year before they are able to properly support themselves. Such a sponsor would pay a certain amount of money each month in support, and perhaps could even be paid back in banquet attendances after the young geisha gets through her first year, for example. If there are any companies out there reading this, do keep this in mind!

Geisha Septembre 2015_MG_2346Sae after her first banquet2

But perhaps there are also other ways to do things in the digital age.

A girl recently wrote to me on the net asking if she could be of help to my geisha house. I am deeply grateful to even be asked this. It is so nice to know that people are interested in geisha and what I am doing and in helping to protect geisha culture.

I wonder if some of the fans of forums about geisha might not be able to collectively sponsor the training of a young geisha. In return she could write a blog, update them about her daily life, or post photos. Or even meet them if they travelled to Japan.

In my career as a geisha, I have tried many new things – initially always with the permission of my geisha mother and the geisha office – aimed at trying to ensure that geisha culture survives the modern era. But I have not yet solved the dilemma of how to help young geisha through the crucial first year of training.

It will take another six or nine months for Sae to become competent enough to be more than a trainee at banquets attended by older geisha from whom she must learn.

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How wonderful it would be if we could find new sources of support for new geisha – like a group of geisha supporters around the world, connected by the internet – helping to sponsor a young girl and help her on her way to achieving her dream of becoming a geisha.

 Sayuki welcomes new trainees in her Yanaka-based geisha house that have a strong interest in traditional Japanese culture, perfect Japanese, and long-term residency. Please see www.sayuki.net for more information. And anyone can book a banquet with Sayuki, her geisha sisters and her trainees through the contact form on the web-site.

Fun Dining in Ikebukuro

Game for a Japan-only dining experience?

In addition to the regular tourist must-eat menu of sushi, ramen and tempura, why not go for a unique dining experience that will allow you to get a taste of Japan’s traditional martial art, kendo ( the ‘way of the sword’) or Japanese pro-wrestling? Or get a taste of Japanese “kyushoku” (school meals) and fulfil your dream of eating snacks for your main meal at a restaurant specializing in dagashi, or snacks that all Japanese grew up munching on.

Get into the kendo spirit

This bar transposes the way of the sword, or kendo, into its operations. Its name “Zanshin” refers to an important state of mind in kendo where the practitioner does not lower his guard even after scoring a point in a match.
When the bar is open, the shop hangs a sign saying “keiko (practice) is ongoing”. Of course, the players here are swigging beer or alcohol instead of swinging bamboo swords. There’s a full set of kendo armour on display and the plasma screen here shows kendo matches. There’s even a kendo goods retail corner for players to stock up or for people inspired to start kendo!

 

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Shop info:
Zanshin Ikebukuro Japanese Sports Bar
Address: 2-26-10 Actiole Minami Ikebukuro 3F, Toshimaku, Tokyo
Tel: 050-5570-4898 (reservations)
03-6907-0310 (enquiries)
Hours: Mon-Sat: 5pm – 12pm; Sun & Public Holidays: 4pm ? 11pm
Mon-Fri: 11:30am – 2pm
Fill up on nostalgia here

Ever wondered what school meals in Japan taste like? Or ever wanted to pig out on snacks instead of a proper meal when you were a kid? Now, you can fulfil both these desires here at the Dagashi Bar. School meal staples such as ‘soft noodles’ and curry, or fried bread with various fillings and coatings are recreated as in the good ol’ days, and over 100 types of both old and new dagashi (Japanese snacks) are available here. The snacks are also incorporated in its main menu, such as in okonomiyaki, pizza, salad or tempura.

 

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Shop info:
Dagashi Bar
Address: 1-13-7 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5458-5150
Hours: Mon-Sat: 6pm – 4:30am
Sun & Public Holidays: 5pm – 12pm

 

Hearty menu that packs a punch

This is a showa-styled bar that serves up supersized portions of food fit for a pro-wrestler while airing wrestling videos. Apparently TV dinners in the showa era consisted of a staple of pro-wrestling at 8pm on Friday nights. Expect super long sausages, towering stacks of onion rings and a giant rack of ribs (called ‘Antonio Ribs’). As the name suggests, this chain is opened by Antonio Inoki, who was a former professional wrestler and politician. Dishes here are named after his signature wrestling moves, you can buy his originally-produced sake and there’s even a museum in the restaurant where you can learn about his past glory. You don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this place, just a sense of fun!

 

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Shop info:
Antonio Inoki Food Business Project
Address: 5-17-13 Shinjuku OW Bldg 7F
Tel: 03-5155-7680
Hours: Mon-Thurs, Sun: 5pm ? 2am; Fri, Sat, eve of Public Holiday: 5pm – 3am

toco. is a great place to go!

Stay in a traditional Japanese house in a historical district from 2,700 yen.

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For backpackers that have had enough of capsule hotels, toco. provides the experience of staying in a traditional Japanese house ? complete with tatami mats and futon ? without busting your budget.

Located in Iriya, a historical area in downtown Tokyo, you have easy access to everything going on in the city, but can enjoy a more laid-back life as well by soaking in the nearby public bath house or having dinner at some of the local restaurants.

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From the facade of its main entrance, toco. looks like nothing more than your average Tokyo building. The simple but cozy bar at the entrance where local people come to mingle with international visitors like yourself, isn’t anything to shout about either.

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However, once you exit the building from the back, you will be amazed by the sight of a 90-year old traditional residence with a spectacular Japanese garden right before your eyes.

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toco. is one of the few spots in Tokyo where time seems to have stood still, and the best thing is that you are not just here for sightseeing, you are actually staying here for the night! As you lay down on your futon in this historical residence, you may feel like you are one of those Dutch or Portuguese that were the first westerners to visit Japan.

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The rooms here are mostly dormitories where you can stay for between 2700 yen and 3000 yen, and chose from either bunk beds or a traditional Japanese tatami room with a futon on the floor.

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Interested in staying here? Be quick as toco. is usually booked full!

 

Hotel information:

Name: toco.

Price range: 2,700 yen – 3,000 yen

Location:Shitaya 2-13-22, Taito, Tokyo

Access: A 3-min walk from Iriya Station (Hibiya Line)

Website: http://backpackersjapan.co.jp/english/

A Yen for cheap clothing

Whoever still thinks Tokyo is expensive should go to Notoya in Itabashiku

Nevermind the cheaper yen, prices at Notoya have always been rock bottom – and we’re talking a yen for cheap clothing, literally!

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Tokyoites living in other wards have been known to go all the way to Shimo Akatsuka in Itabashi ward to shop at this establishment.

Founded by a former clothing wholesaler some 50 years ago, this shop attracts around 1,500 customers a day on average and over 2,000 customers a day during the weekends and holidays.

Shopping here is like a treasure hunt ? you never know what gems you may find.
This is a good place to buy super cheap basics such as socks and stockings for under a 100 yen, and 100 yen T-shirts are a staple here.

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For 500 yen, you can get a branded item at just a fraction of its listed price elsewhere.
And if you’re lucky you may be at the store just as it holds it one yen time-limited sale!

How can Notoya afford to keep its prices so low? The key can be said to be volume and variety. Goods here move fast, meaning that new stock comes in frequently, so you continue to indulge in a fast fashion lifestyle!

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The customer base here varies from young ladies to mothers shopping for their children. Bags together with bedding and baby clothing can be found on the second floor. Children’s clothing is big business here as fast fashion is a good fit for children who seemingly outgrow their clothes overnight!

Shop info:

Address:
〒175-0092
2-2-6 Akatsuka Shinmachi Itabashiku Tokyo
TEL: 03-3939-0860
Hours: 10am – 8pm (Closed Tues)

Welcome to Wisteria Lane in Japan

Catch Japan’s “May flower” in full bloom at Ashikaga Flower Park

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Catch Japan’s “May flower” in full bloom at Ashikaga Flower Park

 

When it comes to flowers, Japan has much more to offer than just cherry blossoms. In particular, the month of May is most known for the Japanese fuji or wisteria.

 

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The Japanese have treasured this pastel-colored flower throughout their history, making it the subject of traditional paintings, poetry, dances and family crests.

 

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Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture is perhaps the most famous of all fuji gardens.

Here you can walk through tunnels of fuji in pink, purple, blue, white and yellow, and with the special evening illuminations, these petals will glow like showers of stars trailing from the sky.

 

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The oldest and largest fuji in Japan also blossoms here, hovering over nearly 2,000 square meters off the park grounds.

Don’t miss this chance to catch the magical sight of Japan’s magical fuji – other than Mount Fuji!

 

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Tourist Attraction Info: 
Ashikaga Flower Park
Address: 607 Hasama Town, Ashikaga City, Tochigi Prefecture, 329-4219 Japan
Access: A 13-min. walk from Tomita Station (JR Ryomo Line)
Tel: 0284-91-4939
Hours 7am–9pm
Closed: None
Price: Varies depending on the blossoming of the flowers
URL: http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/english/index.html
English tours available: No

Getting Wifi in Japan can be SIMple

Comparing 4 prepaid SIM cards for tourists in Japan

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One of the first things that everyone does upon touchdown (other than releasing their seatbeat) after a flight, is to turn on their mobile phones – and then try to latch onto free Wifi to update their online status on Facebook, Twitter, Google+  or to message their safe arrival on Watsapp, Line or WeChat, etc.

 

And as free Wifi isn’t that common throughout Japan yet, your best bet would be to get a data SIM card for convenient and reliable Wifi access. While renting a mobile router was the only option until recently, the good news is more carriers such as NTT and Softbank have started to offer data-only SIM cards targeting tourists.

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Broadly speaking, there are 2 options when it comes to getting a data only SIM card – those you order in advance (which can be picked up at the airport, your hotel or a specified address in Japan), and those that you can buy in the airport/department stores in Japan.

And within that differentiation, another two options: a SIM card that needs online activation (ie: you need to hunt for free Wifi first) or one that doesn’t.

Data SIM cards that do not require online activation are recommended over those that do. After all, if online access were so easily available why would there be a need for data SIM cards in the first place?

So-net (http://www.so-net.ne.jp/prepaid/en/index.html) offers LTE SIM cards at major airports such as Narita, Haneda and Kansai International Airport to name a few, as well as some retail outlets.

 

Others such as Iijmio’s (https://t.iijmio.jp/en/index.html) Japan Travel SIM card are available at Bic Camera or at Blue Sky, the airport convenience store, for example.

eConnect (https://www.econnectjapan.com/products/sim/) can be ordered online and delivered to a specified address in Japan, as well as b-mobile (http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/).

I found eConnect the most convenient as it did not require online activation. However, it’s not the cheapest option, and you have to pay for the delivery fee. But, it’s probably worth the peace of mind.

All SIM cards will require you to set up the Access Point Name in order to get a Wifi signal.

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Once the APN information data is entered correctly, the Wifi sign will magically appear and your social network signal flickers back to life! And with all that settled, you can finally focus on your vacation and on not checking your office email. 😉

 

Here’s a comparison table of the above-mentioned SIM cards.

             
  Prepaid SIM Card brand b-mobile Visitor SIM eConnect Japan Japan Travel Sim powered by iijmio Prepaid LTE SIM  
  Carrier NTTCommunications NTT Communications IIJ so-net  
  Sales Points Online Online Bic Camera, Blue Sky Narita Airport, Kansai International Airport, Shinchitose Airport, etc  
  Online Activation No No No Yes  
  Voice/Data Data Data Data Data  
  Duration Data: 1 GB (until limit reached) 3GB for 30 days 2GB for 3 months 1GB, or 2.2GB for 30 days; 3GB for 60 days  
  Cost 3,686 yen 3,780 yen Open Price 3,000 yen (1G) 4,000 yen (2.2GB) 5,000 yen (3GB)  

 

Wakayama’s workaholic cats

Cat-ch Tama the station master and her apprentice, Nitama

Cat-ch Tama the station master and her apprentice, Nitama

Note: Tama Station Master passed away on June 22 2015, one month after this article. Tama was 16 years old.

What do you do if a train station in the countryside is threatened with closure due to declining ridership?
Hire a cat as the stationmaster!

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Show me your ticket nyaow!

This idea was a huge success for Kishi Station on the Kishigawa Line in Wakayama prefecture. The station is now a major tourist site, and was renovated to become cat-shaped in 2010.

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How a cat can change a railway company’s fortune!

Inside the station, there is a cat themed cafe, and even a small Tama museum. A Tama train that features 101 cute illustrations of our hard-working station master is on the tracks as well.

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The insides and outsides of the Tamaden, or Tama train.

Tama, the stationmaster will soon turn 16, so be quick if you want to see her on duty before she retires! Don’t worry though, Tama’s apprentice, Nitama is currently learning how to take over this busy job.

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Tama, exhausted after a long day of checking tickets.

How was Nitama recruited for this role? In 2012, Nitama was saved from a car accident. Due to her similarities in appearance with the then already famous Tama station master, Wakayama Electric Railway decided to recruit Nitama, … after carefully reading her resume, of course.

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Nitama’s educational background impressed the people at Wakayama Electric Railway.

Nitama is usually on duty at Idakiso Station, but also at Kishi Station when Tama takes a day off on or in case she catches a cold.
After Nitama’s arrival, Tama station master was promoted to the status of Ultra Station Master, while Nitama proudly inherited Tama’s former status of Super Station Master.

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Tama’s speech on Nitama’s first day of work, left everyone in tears.

Spot information:

Station Names: Kishi Station and Idakiso Station (Kishigawa Line in Wakayama Prefecture)

Tama Station Master Working Hours: From Tuesday to Friday (10am – 4pm) at Kishi Station

Nitama Station Master Working Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Friday (10am – 4pm) at Idakiso Station. Saturday, Sunday at Kishi Station

URL: http://www.wakayama-dentetsu.co.jp/images/wakayama_eng.pdf

A staff cafeteria high in the sky

Enjoy your less than 680 yen meal with a 100 million dollar view!
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Standing 243 meters tall, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, or Tocho as the Japanese like to call it, is still Shinjuku’s tallest skyscraper. With an unparalleled view on Tokyo’s skyline, the free observation deck on the 45th floor has become a popular tourist spot in Shinjuku. However, the vast majority of visitors are missing another tourist spot hid in the same building.

At the 32nd floor, you can find the staff cafeteria, and guess what, it’s open to the public! If you want a lunch with a view, there’s no need to head for chic and pricy restaurants, as this staff cafeteria provides simple but good typical Japanese lunches so cheap you won’t even find them without a view!
Restaurant Information:

Name: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building 32nd floor

Location: Nishi Shinjuku 2-8-1, Shinjuku

Access: A 10-min walk from the West Exit of Shinjuku Station (JR Lines, Subway Lines, Odakyu Line, Keio Line)

Website: http://www.tokyo-jinzai.or.jp/eng/index.html

Kanpai to Shibuya Beer!

Developed by Cafe Udagawa in April 2015, Shibuya Beer is the newest alcoholic trend in town with already more than 150 restaurants & cafes serving this original craft beer.

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The high-quality maca (a root vegetable) used in Shibuya Beer makes it a drink that not only boosts one’s spirit, but also stimulates one’s health, as maca is good for anti-aging. The grapefruit flavored beer aims to become synonym to Shibuya, and online retail has recently started here (Japanese only).

Have a Herbal Harvest!

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Herbal tea brand “Have a Herbal Harvest” will be holding an exhibition in Gallery ROCKET, Harajuku. Here, you can participate in workshops to make herbal art with a vacuum‐sealing machine.

Information
CATERING ROCKET×plantica「Have a Herbal Harvest」

DATE:Dec. 18-23 (12noon – 8pm)
PLACE:Gallery ROCKET
ADDRESS:Jingu-mae 6-9-6,Shibuya-ku
TEL:03-3499-1003
WEBSITE:http://haveaherbalharvest.tumblr.com/

Kyo Karakami by Maruni Stationery

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What is Kyo Karakami?

Simply put, Kyo Karakami refers to a type of woodblock print, using hand-carved printing blocks made from magnolia wood with traditional patterns from days of old. The characters for Karakami mean “Tang Chinese paper”, harking to the origins of the beautifully crafted paper that came from the Tang Dynasty during the Nara Period. As the production of Karakami started in Kyoto, the capital during the Heian Period, the paper has since been referred to as Kyo Karakami.
This paper, which brings out the beauty of brush calligraphy best, was first used by aristocrats to write letters or poetry, and also began to be used for fusuma shoji (paper screens for sliding doors). Through the centuries, it became popular with the nobles, samurai warriors, tea ceremony practitioners and finally, with the merchants during the Edo era.

Karakami Gift

While not everybody may be able to appreciate the texture of karakami via calligraphy, almost anyone, from young to old, can experience the joy and satisfaction of making your own printing block creation with Maruni’s Karakumi Gift sets. With this, anyone can create their own patterned paper greeting cards.

Sophisticated yet easy to use, all that is needed is a desire to send a heartfelt greeting made by hand.

Kyo Karakami Stamp ‘Four Seasons’ A・B Rakkan Set

$85.00

See in store


Kyo Karakami Stamp Kit 1 ‘Kichijousou’

$29.00

See in store


Kyo Karakami Stamp Kit 2 ‘Onami’

$40.00

See in store

Kyo Karakami Stamp Kit 1 “Kanae” Lucky items

$65.00

See in store


Kyo Karakami Karabaco (Small) Peony Tang Grass

$53.00

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Kyo Karakami Karabaco (Large) Metal Lines

$71.00

See in store

Diamond Fuji – The best free sight in Tokyo

The only catch is…you can only catch it twice a year!

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The only catch is…you can only catch it twice a year!

The only sight more spectacular than Mount Fuji on a clear, cloudless day is a view of “Diamond” Mount Fuji, preferably also on a clear, cloudless day.

This term refers to a phenomenon which occurs twice a year, when the sun is aligned with Japan’s highest mountain, resulting in a glorious moment during sunrise or sunset when dazzling rays of light seem to be erupting from the peak of Mount Fuji.

One of the best places to catch this view for free is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Observatory. If you missed the earlier sighting on Feb 2, you can catch it from there next on Nov 10.

Info:
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Observatory
Address: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No.1, 2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
South Observation Deck: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (until 10:30 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month)
North Observation Deck: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Caramel Apple Frappuccino & Hot Apple in Starbucks

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“Caramel Apple Frappuccino” and “Hot Apple” are the newest seasonal flavors at Starbucks across Japan. For limited time only!

DATE:Dec. 1-25, 2015
PRICE:
Apple caramel Frappuchino
Tall 540yen+tax
Grande 580yen+tax
Venti 620yen+tax

Hot Apple
Short 420yen+tax
Tall 460yen+tax
Grande 500yen+tax
Venti 540yen+tax

Up And About Carrot Tower

Sangenjaya to the west of Tokyo is a popular suburb for locals to hang out.

The Chazawa-dori street connects Sangenjaya to Shimokitazawa, another neighborhood with interesting local culture nearby. Along this street, you will find many cozy shops, restaurants and cafes.

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On Sunday from 1pm to 5pm, the first part of this street starting from Sangenjaya Station becomes a car-free zone, or pedestrian heaven as the Japanese call it. How about spending your Sunday in this heaven of the locals?

Sangenjaya Station can be reached either by the Tokyu Den-entoshi Line or the Tokyu Setagaya Line, the latter one being one of Tokyo’s only two tram lines left today.

While the Setagaya Line has only few stations, you will be able to appreciate its nostalgic atmosphere for sure.

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Directly connected to Sangenjaya station is Carrot Tower, a 124-meters tall skyscraper that lends its name from its orange-colored exterior.

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The 26th floor of Carrot Tower functions as an observatory deck with a free seating area.

With comfortable tables and seats available near the window, people tend to stay here for a long time, so it can be quite hard to find an empty spot. Especially in the weekends, it is advised to arrive early!

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A view at the Setagaya Line tracks from Carrot Tower

The free seating area is faced to the west, allowing you to see Kanagawa Prefecture’s residential areas and Mt.Fuji in the backdrop on clear sunny days.

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An amazing horizon line at dusk

Even when cloudy, the view here is full of life. The long road on the left is Setagaya-dori, which starts in Sangenjaya and goes on to Komae, a residential area in the outskirts of Tokyo.

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If you care for French & Italian fusion dining with a view, you can do so at Carrot Restaurant located on the same floor. Only guests at this restaurant have the privilege to enjoy the view from the east side of this observation, which is faced towards Tokyo’s city center. I hear that you can look as far as Tokyo Tower or even Tokyo Skytree!

Sangenjaya is a great area for walking around and exploring Tokyo’s local culture.

Take for example the Sankaku-chitai, or triangle area, which can be reached by crossing the street from Carrot Tower.

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Sankaku-chitai with Carrot Tower in the backdrop.

This area originally developed as a black market after World War II. You can still catch a glimpse of Tokyo’s yesteryear here, with small restaurants and bars standing side by side in narrow alleys.

Located on the same side of the street as Carrot Tower is Suzuran-dori, another alleyway that might not have the same scale as Sankaku-chitai, but is definitely just as lively, cozy and nostalgic!

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Carrot Tower

Location: Taishido 1-1-4, Setagaya,Tokyo

Access: Sangenjaya Station (Tokyu Den-entoshi Line, Tokyu Setagaya Line)

Entrance Fee: Free

Open: 9:30AM-11:30PM

Holiday: Second Wednesday every month, New year holidays

BQpedia: Oden

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BQpedia: Your guide to the underbelly of Japanese cuisine

B級グルメ(“B-Kyu Gurume”) may mean “B-Grade Gourmet” but the only thing “B-Grade” about this food category is the price, as most Japanese will swear by the “A-Grade” taste of these local favorites. Not to be confused as the equivalent of “fast food” in the West. Let WAttention walk you through this food culture with our definitive BQ Gourmet guide!

Today’s BQ menu: Oden / oʊ·ˈden

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What it is: A traditional winter hot pot dish, commonly consisting of radish, kelp, boiled eggs and konjac, tofu and fishcakes in various shapes and sizes, simmered in a dashi soup broth, which is heavier in soy sauce in the Kanto Area (eg: Tokyo) and lighter tasting in the Kansai Area (eg: Osaka). In Shizuoka, the soup is black as beef stock is used along with a generous dose of soy sauce, whereas in Nagoya where the miso-culture wafts strong, a miso-broth is used.

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This mixed stew evolved from a snack called dengaku which is tofu grilled on a stick with a dollop of miso paste, named after the eponymous dancers who performed on sticks. In the Edo era, other foods like potatoes and konjac yams were also skewered and grilled. Over time, these skewers were put in a hot pot of broth and stewed. It can be speculated that when these items were taken off the sticks, “gaku” was dropped from the name and the honorific “O” was added to give the current naming of Oden.

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Where to find it: Finding oden is as easy as heading to a local izakaya, street stall, or yes, nearly every convenience store (conbini), as early as September. To order at the conbini, simply pick out your preferred items, pour the soup to your liking, and pay at the counter. And if that’s not convenient enough, you can even find canned oden vending machines in Akihabara! Of course, aficionados can also search for specialty stores with set menus—some offering a selection of over 50 items.

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What’s inside:

Daikon: radish that soaks up the broth thoroughly
Konjac: made from the konjac potato, springy with near zero calories!
Goboten: fried burdock root (gobo) with fish paste
Kinchaku: a small pouch of deep-fried tofu, filled with mochi
Shirataki: translucent konjac strings have a chewy texture, and are the perfect low-calorie noodle alternative!

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How to enjoy it: Oden is enjoyed on its own as a main dish. At some conbini you may have the option of adding udon to the soup. Choose any item that looks appetizing or interesting to you—the taste may be mainly of the broth, but enjoy the different textures.

Let’s Talk Subculture Vol.01: Otome Road

[WAttention X FIELDS Research Institute] 
Explore the fascinating world of Japan’s subcultures with insights from the inside

What You Oughta’ Know About Otome Road – Mecca of the FUJOSHI 腐女子

In a nutshell: Otome Road is to the Fujoshi what Akihabara is to the Otaku.

It’s the Yin to the Yang of Otaku culture (though some may argue that Akihabara-loving Otaku also includes those of the fairer sex).

First things first, fujo…what?

If that didn’t make any sense to you, fret not. The term Fujoshi isn’t as well-known as Otaku, which has elbowed its way into the Oxford dictionary to refer to a person obsessed with a certain (sub) culture, often to the detriment of their social skills.

So why should you care about this breed of beings, the Fujoshi? Because this is a global trend that taps into and reflects the psyche of nearly half of the world’s population, and is the sort of thing that once one is made aware of, can change the way you see everything. Yes, just like the blue pill and the red pill in the Matrix. So are you ready to enter this new dimension?

What is Fujoshi?

This literally means “rotten female(s)” and was a term slapped on women who drew or read manga portraying two male leads in a romantic relationship, which comes under the genre of “Boys’ Love”, or BL. This genre exists in some form all over the world, not just in Japan.

But one unique feature about BL is that it is written and drawn by women, for women. This is available in the form of specialized magazines and single-book publications, and quite often self-published spin-offs called Dojinshi. In fact, BL-type fan fiction makes up quite a majority of Dojinshi.

Now, why would any heterosexual woman be interested in two men in love or making love? Understandably the idea would make the general public somewhat squirmish.

But you’ll find that most of the Fujoshi paying pilgrimage at “Otome Road” — a nickname for a 200 meter-odd stretch of road in East Ikebukuro – are just regular romantics who desire a few things that only the BL genre seems to be able to fulfil.

WAttention’s Tor Ching Li spoke with two BL experts, BL researcher Junko Kaneda (42 years old) and freelance essayist Iku Okada (35 years old) on why Fujoshi love Boys’ Love.

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Why girls love Boys’ Love

Both Kaneda and Okada started off as fans of shonen manga (young boys’ comics), that are usually either sports or action-based, compared to shojo manga (young girls’ comics) which broadly speaking focuses on saccharine sweet, pre-teen heroines.

At the age of 9, Okada accidentally bought a fan fiction version of a manga series she was following, “Saint Seiya”, and her eyes were opened wide to the world of BL where the male protagonist’s obsession with defeating his opponent crosses the lines from hate to love…

“If you think about it, the strong feelings that the hero has towards his nemesis – constantly thinking of what he is doing and how to bend him to submission – is quite similar to the emotions of love,” said Okada.

BL explores the fantasy that the male protagonist’s hatred actually stems from a forbidden love for his nemesis – which is quite a deep hypothesis, psychologically speaking!

For Okada, even buddy couplings like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson or rivals like Batman and the Joker are interpreted as having romantic undercurrents.

“It’s another layer of enjoyment,” she says.

Today’s BL genre started off as fan fiction of shonen manga in which such sports rivalry or battles is a major theme.

“Usually you only see the characters fighting or playing sports, don’t you want to see them in other situations such as having a meal, going on a hot spring trip or at least wearing other clothes?” said Okada.

For Kaneda, her preference stems from being able to see two male characters together – without clothes.

“Simply put, I love the male form,” said the straight-talking Kaneda.

In that sense, BL offers twice the value in that respect compared to regular couples, indeed.

Men adopting a submissive position

But the physical aspect of BL aside, there is also the psychological realm of BL – it is a relationship that women will never be able to experience for themselves or imagine themselves in, hence it remains a complete and perfect world of fantasy to be enjoyed voyeuristically.

Take, for example, one of Kaneda’s favourite BL which depicts a salaryman in his 50s is pinned down by the sexual advances of his young male subordinate.

“BL gives women the chance to see men in a submissive state, being the one to say ‘No! Stop! It’s embarrassing…’ or be pleasured, instead of the normal manga when men are the one taking the lead and proving their manhood – even if in real life, they don’t quite do so!” says Kaneda.

In a male-dominated world – and society like Japan – this twist will give most ladies some pleasure.

And therein lies the key to why girls love Boys’ Love: A world removed from reality where anything is possible, and love is as free and freewheeling as their fantasies.

Is 801 (yaoi) the same as BL?

Now that you know the basics of BL, some of you may have heard of such material being referred to as “yaoi” overseas. This term stems from the phrase used to criticize to fiction writing, “yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi”, or no climax (“yama” or mountain in Japanese), no punch line or point (“ochi”) and no meaning (“imi”). The abbreviation of this word grouping can be represented by the numbers 801 that sound like the first syllable of each of these words, which is why if you see a shop or café in Ikebukuro with 801 on the signboard, it’s probably a BL-related business.

In the late 70s, female manga artists of dojinshi – who would be labelled Fujoshi – were criticized as producing manga that was poorly constructed with no climax, no point and no meaning – but in self-deprecating humour the BL circle adapted this term as a reference for their genre.

Indeed, there is a difference between yaoi and BL that even many self-proclaimed Fujoshi are not aware of. Yaoi actually refers to an often more sexually explicit spinoff of a mainstream manga series, while BL is a story featuring original characters which is often a single book, not a series.

It is common for yaoi dojinshi to get spotted by publication companies who then commission them to author BL, and some of them even move on to mainstream manga from there – one such example is hit manga artist Yoshinaga Fumi who started off self-publishing BL Dojinshi and now has some of her works licensed internationally.

And so both yaoi and BL have evolved to be properly constructed stories for a discerning audience in a competitive BL market, where budding dojinshi can even publish their work online for free viewing.

Nevertheless, if you find the distinction between yaoi and BL confusing, don’t worry; no-one will blink an eyelid if you use the terms interchangeably as they are all drawn by women, for women’s enjoyment.

 

Profiles:

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Kaneda Junko

Sociologist and researcher in yaoi, BL and dojinshi. Born in 1973 in Toyama Prefecture. Graduated from Tokyo University’s Faculty of Law, and enrolled in the Faculty of Literature. Withdrew from the Tokyo University Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences with doctoral credits. Conducts research in yaoi from the perspective of gender studies and sociology.

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Okada Iku

Essayist, Editor.

Born in Tokyo, 1980. Authored “Haji no Oii Jinsei (Mine Has Been a Life of Much Margin)” and a regular on TV news program “Toku-Dane!” (The Scoops) as a commentator.

http://okadaic.net/

(This article was written with the facilitation of Fields Research Institute, which conducts research in entertainment.)

The 2nd World Christmas Festival 2015

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DATE: Dec.19-20 10am – 7pm

Free admission
ACCESS: a 3-min walk from Harajuku (JR Yamanote Line) or Yoyogi-Koen (Chiyoda Line), a 3-min walk from Meiji-Jingu-mae (Harajuku) (Chiyoda Line or Fukutoshin Line), or a 6-min walk from Yoyogi-Hachiman (Odakyu Line)

Sponsored by World Music Internet Broadcasting Association (Wmiba)
Cooperation by Asean+3 Artists Assosiation, B.M.I

Rake In Luck And Good Fortune With The Kumade

You might have heard of the Japanese term ”Wabi Sabi,” which is often used for describing the Japanese view of aesthetics: appreciation for simplicity, modesty and imperfection.

Many of the well known Japanese designs such as withered old tea houses, traditional textiles and naturally glazed pottery often reflect Wabi Sabi aesthetics.

But when it comes to decorations relating to prosperity and fortune, spartan simplicity is thrown out the window and the “more is better” mentality takes over. After all, everybody wants all the luck they can get, right?

One of the best “more is better” design examples is the Kumade. These are bamboo rakes, yes rakes, likes the ones you use on the leaves, but smaller and just for decoration. They represent “raking in” heaps of success, wealth and good luck. Many business owners purchase Kumade around this time of year. These extravagant decorations come with different sizes, adornments and prices. Handheld size Kumade are around 1,000 yen to 2,000 yen, but larger ones range from 10,000 yen to 50,000 yen, or even more.

A large Kumade is full of good luck symbols. The larger they are the more expensive they get.
A large Kumade is full of good luck symbols. The larger they are the more expensive they get.

Let’s look at some designs and the meaning behind them.

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Here you can see Otafuku (Goddess of Mirth), a smiling white face which brings in good fortune.

Seven Lucky Gods in the middle are each representing different types of good luck such as good health, longevity, wealth, knowledge, happiness, art and beauty. The Lucky Mallet sits next to the seven gods. The mallet appears in the story of “Issun Boshi (One Inch Boy)“ where it grants the boy’s wish. Rice barrels are for a good harvest season. And the Koban (Japanese oval gold coin) symbolize, of course, money and fortune.

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The Crane and Turtle are also popular in Kumade decorations. As represented in a Japanese saying “a crane lives 1,000 years and a turtle lives 10,000 years,” they both symbolize longevity. In fact, the saying is not too far fetched as both the crane and turtle live much longer than other animals. The Red snapper is hidden under the bamboo leaves. Ebisu, one of the seven lucky gods is always depicted holding a red snapper under his left arm, thus the fish became a symbol of good fortune.

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The Owl, a symbol of wisdom in Western culture, holds a special place in Japanese people’s heart as well. The Japanese word for an owl is “Fukurou,” which not only includes the word “Fuku (happiness),” but also can be translated into “Fu (no)” “Kurou (suffering).”

The next year being the year of the Monkey, a lot of monkey dolls liven up Kumade as well.
The next year being the year of the Monkey, a lot of monkey dolls liven up Kumade as well.

So there you have it. Kumade are packed full of symbolism and eye candy. They are often displayed near the entrances of offices and restaurants. When you happen to see them, try finding as many symbols of good luck you can. It’s like a little treasure hunt.

Japanese arts and crafts may be better known for their Wabi Sabi aesthetics. But like many other cultures in the world, Japanese culture is multifaceted and diverse. Simplicity might bring peace and quiet, but embellishment might bring festivity and liveliness. Both are essential parts of Japanese design and I find the juxtaposition very interesting.

“Natto” Your Ordinary Eatery

Sendaiya serves natto like you’ve never seen (or smelled) before

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Sendaiya serves natto like you’ve never seen (or smelled) before

Natto, or fermented soybeans, is a love it or hate it food. You either love or hate the taste, smell and sliminess of it. But Sendaiya, in Ikejiri-Ohashi and Shimokitazawa, is a Natto specialty store that may convert some naysayers to natto.

Do“natto”s and coffee?

Sendaiya has created an original line up of 12 donuts made with ground natto powder as a batter ingredient. With flavors like chocolate, strawberry, as well as the more traditional kinako and matcha azuki (green tea and red bean), these donuts with just a hint of natto’s distinct taste might be the first natto anything that you can say you actually ate…and enjoyed!

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All-you-can-eat natto for just 100 more yen!

For natto fanatics, the Sendaiya in Ikejiri-Ohashi might be the only place where you can eat all the natto you want by paying just an extra 100 yen! As a part of a regular teishoku set meal, including miso soup, rice, and pickled vegetables, you will feel like you’re in natto heaven!

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Natto vending machines for your midnight cravings

Yes, add it to the list of weird vending machines that could only exist in Japan. Though fresh fermented food seems like an oxymoron, now you can get over 20 varieties of it any time of the day.

Shop Info: 
Sendaiya Ikejiri-ohashi
Address: 3-20-3 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5431-3935
Hours: 11am – 7pm
Eat-in Hours: 11am – 3pm (Last Order)

Sendaiya Shimo-kitazawa
Address: 2-27-8 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3481-2611
Hours: 11am – 8pm

 

Photo Source: shimokita-happytown.net, http://www.playingwithfireandwater.com, http://blog.goo.ne.jp/negokunta

Do the Shibuya Scramble

Take a walk through the world’s most famous intersection

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Take a walk through the world’s most famous intersection

No intersection in Japan is more famous or photogenic than the five-way intersection known as the Shibuya Crossing. You’ve seen it in countless movies and advertisements. It’s a physical metaphor for modern Japan – an overload of visual, audio and sensory data.

No surprise when you consider the following facts:

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1. It is located just outside of the world’s second busiest train station (approximately 1,090,000,000 passing through per day, second only to Shinjuku Station, a few stations away).

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2. On its southern end, sits the Hachiko statue, the most famous meeting place in Japan.

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3. On its northern end, the iconic 10-story Tsutaya Building houses the world’s busiest Starbucks (in terms of daily customers served).

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4. The crossing itself is the busiest in the world, with over 1,000 pedestrians crossing per signal at high traffic hours.

Though there are many great places to view the massive scramble, but we’d like to introduce you to perhaps the best view yet: right from your computer!

For those who have yet to come to Shibuya, or for those who simply want to reminisce about their last trip to Tokyo, check out this LIVE camera feed of the Shibuya Crossing, airing 24 hours a day updated every 85 seconds!

Have you been eating sushi wrong all this while?

Taste sushi as it should be with these three pointers

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Taste sushi as it should be with these three pointers

So watching “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” inspired you to book a trip to Japan?

Time to learn how to eat sushi like a native Japanese.

Yes, because you don’t want to seem rude. (For example, don’t ever rub your chopsticks together to get rid of wood splinters. It implies that the restaurant provides cheap utensils!)

But honestly, Japanese sushi chefs are quite forgiving towards foreigners who simply don’t know proper etiquette. Well, other than that one place in Tsukiji Fish Market where the chef yelled at me for breaking Rule #3 (see below).

There is however, an even more important reason why you should learn to eat sushi like the Japanese do: it simply tastes better. Japanese sushi chefs have mastered the craft of preparing and serving sushi for over 200 years. So it might be worth trusting them when it comes to how they say it should be eaten.

Though there’s obviously many opinions out there, here are three of the most basic rules that many Japanese agree on when eating high quality sushi:

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Rule #1: Don’t mix the wasabi and soy sauce. The amount of wasabi used really depends on the fish. Which is why the chefs apply the amount they deem necessary directly onto the fish. (And if you really can’t stand wasabi, you can ask them to not put any on, “wasabi nuki de”.)

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Rule #2: Dip the fish in the soy sauce, not the rice. The rice will soak up more soy sauce than you need, overpowering the flavor of the fish and the shari (rice) will probably disintegrate in the process. Furthermore, sushi chefs pay just as much attention to the quality and taste of their carefully-crafted vinegar rice. Remember, you came to eat sushi, not wasabi and soy sauce.

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Rule #3: Eat it quickly! If you’re sitting at the counter and the chef places the sushi on your plate in front of you, don’t let it sit too long. Sure, it’s not going to get cold per se, but many sushi chefs say that the flavor of the fish will change as the freshly sliced fish is exposed to air and begins to oxidize. Not to mention, you can be sure the chefs carefully calculate the juxtaposed temperature of the warm rice and the cold fish. So eat it quickly.

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Summary: When the chef puts the sushi out in front of you, take it quickly, dip the fish-side in a little soy sauce, then put it in your mouth. Simple isn’t it? And if chopsticks aren’t your forte, feel free to grab the sushi with your hands! (Really, it’s actually considered polite!)

 

Sorry, what’s the name of your station again?

Funny names of Japanese stations (you may want to avoid staying at)

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Funny names of Japanese stations (you may want to avoid staying at)

Japan’s train culture is highly developed. It has the world’s busiest train station (Shinjuku), the world’s most high tech trains (Shinkansen), and station staff trained (no pun intended here) to pack commuters neatly into already packed carriages.

But some train station names don’t seem so well thought through, with unintentional puns that are enough to make one stop in their tracks.

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Sorry, would you mind spelling that out for me again?

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Can’t help feeling a bit intimidated reading this sign for the first time. (omaeda=Hey you punk!)

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You can’t help but wonder if the people who liver around here are also…(hage=bald)

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Wait…are you serious? Is this REALLY what the station is called? (maji=seriously?!)

Photo Sources: corobuzz.com, date-yanagawa.info

A day out at Tokyo Station

Experience Tokyo and more at Tokyo Station itself

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Experience Tokyo and more at Tokyo Station itself

Tokyo station is a starting point for many a Shinkansen train journey by the foreign traveler, but the station – which celebrates it centenary this year – is also worth setting aside time for a visit by itself even if you aren’t train bound anywhere.

Needless to say the facade of the station is grandiose – after a 50 billion yen renovation that spanned 5 and a half years – but the shops inside give a quick taste of the modernity and quirkiness of Tokyo and Japanese culture as a whole.

Ramen Street

For ramen lovers, Tokyo Ramen Street boasts a collection of 8 famed ramen stalls in Tokyo, with various bases from shio, shoyu, fish, to pork broth and even cow’s tongue ramen.

The ramen street has been attracting long queues since Day 1, and if you are pressed for time, this is a good place to try several types of ramen in one place!

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Tokyo Okashi Land

This is first such concept shop of its kind in Japan ? a gathering of antennae shops of Japan’s three most famous confectionary and snack makers: Calbee, Glico and Morinaga. These shops offer Tokyo Station limited edition snacks, as well as the chance to eat freshly-fried Calbee potato chips, potato chip sundaes, freshly-made Glico chocolate confectionary and recipes on how to use Morinaga snacks in various recipes. Leave calorie counting at the entrance!

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Tokyo Character Street

26 specialty shops selling character goods from popular manga, such as Naruto or One Piece at the Jump Shop, or from TV shows from various broadcast stations are gathered here. Of course, you can find shops selling a broad range of all-time favourites such as Hello Kitty goods, Rilakkuma, Pikachu and Ultraman, as well as Kabuki goods for fans of Japanese theatre.

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Tokyome+

On the first floor of the Yaesu North exit, Tokyome+ is any tourists’ dream collection of Tokyo’s best omiyage. Here you can find anything from regular favourites such as Tokyo Banana and newly popular confectionary such as rusks or caramel rolls, and traditional delicacies such as sushi and stewed foods eaten since the Edo era.

Even if you’re not catching a train, do not fret. Entry into the station is possible if you buy a station entry ticket at 140 yen.

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Address:Tokyo Ichibangai, B1, Tokyo Station Yaesu Central Exit, B1

Photo source: Tokyo Station Corporation

WANTED: Used In Japan Goods

Why tourists are now first in line to bag second-hand branded goods in Japan

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Why tourists are now first in line to bag second-hand branded goods in Japan

The secret is out – Japan is the place to buy first rate second-hand branded goods. And the Chinese are already flocking in to get their hands on the best bargains – especially bags.

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Let’s face it. Japan has a branded bag fetish. Though Japan has a population half that of the United States, Japan has twice the number of branded bag retail shops compared to the U.S.

As with the emphasis on seasonal foods, fashion goes out of season quickly here, and so many branded bags end up in second-hand shops even though they’ve only been used a few times. Secondhand shops for more common items are often called ‘recycle shops’, so you can shop on the pretext of saving the earth!

Here we’ll introduce a few second-hand branded goods shops in major shopping areas in Tokyo.

 

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Komehyo takes up 8-storeys in Shinjuku with one whole floor dedicated to branded bags, from Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and Prada? you name it, they have it. This is the largest second-hand department store in Japan and is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

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IKEBUKURO

Daikokuya is also a nationwide chain of second-hand department stores. In Ikebukuro alone, there are 5 outlets. Here, you can get a Prada bag for around half price!

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GINZA

These second-hand shops are even springing up in glitzy Ginza! In fact, Rokoshira is based in Ginza and offers the branded goods you can find along Ginza at a fraction of the price.

 

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So, are you ready to for some environmentally-friendly shopping today?

Shop Information:

Name: Komehyo
Location: 3-5-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 1pm – 9pm, closed first Wednesday of every month
Website: http://www.komehyo.co.jp/store/shinjuku/shinjuku_f05

 

Name: Daikokuya
Location: Several throughout Ikebukuro, Tokyo
Hours: Depends on store
Website: http://www.e-daikoku.com/
Name: Rokushira
Location: Asano 3rd Blgd B1F-2F 2-4-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11am ? 8pm
Website: http://rokoshira.jp/

 

What’s in a Sakura Hotpot? A horse, of course!

Well, a horse of course…

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Well, a horse of course…

Amongst the many delicacies (or some would say, strange) foods that is eaten Japan, is horse meat, otherwise known as ‘sakura’. This moniker probably comes from the bright red colour of the flesh.

A full course of horse?

While some cultures may balk at the thought of eating a creature as handsome as the horse, here in Japan it is gaining popularity even amongst the ladies as a ‘beauty food’ for being low in fat, high in protein and iron – and great in taste.

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Kyushu and Nagano prefectures are famous for their horse meat production and cuisine. Specialty horse meat restaurants such as Bakurou have also galloped onto the scene in Tokyo as well, offering horse meat hotpots (sakura hotpots), sashimi, yakiniku and innards as well.

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Caption: Horse yakiniku

As in most foods in Japan, the best way to eat horse meat is raw. The sakura sashimi is dipped in soy sauce and grated ginger or garlic, as you prefer. How does it taste like? The texture (depending on the part) is firm and it’s probably best described as a clean, fresh taste.

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Horse innards stew is also a popular dish at izakayas. It’s been one of the signature dishes at大統領(Daitouryou)izakaya at Ueno for decades, which specializes in grilled innards on sticks – speaking of innards…but that’s another story!

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Horse innards stew

 

Taste all of Japan in Ginza

Antenna Shops offer a glimpse into Japan’s regional culture and cuisine

Antenna Shops offer a glimpse into Japan’s regional culture and cuisine

Ginza isn’t all about flashy fashion outlets and the latest gizmos ? it’s also attracted a cluster of regional retail outlets, known as antenna shops, where tourists and Tokyoites alike can get a taste of what the culture and cuisine is like from as far south as Okinawa to Hokkaido in the north, and plenty of prefectures in between.

Why not explore Japan through these antennas?

Osaka Hyakkaten

This showa-feel retro retail shop has an eat-in corner where you can try the Osaka staple of takoyaki or butaman (steamed pork bun), and sells over 600 quirky items reflecting Osaka’s offbeat sense of humour.

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Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F
Tel: 03-5220-1333
Hours: 10:00 – 22:00

Tokushima and Kagawa Tomoni Ichiba

This is within the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, which houses several antennae shops. Here you can get try authentic sanuki udon from Kagawa, Tokushima ramen and sudachi, or a local type of lime.

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Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F
Tel: 03-6269-9688
Hours: 10:30 – 19:30

Iki Iki Toyama Kan 

Even if you can’t get a ticket on the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Toyama, you can get a taste of Toyama’s specialties such as the white shrimp and sweet shrimp, firefly squid and honey here.
This stocks over 800 items including the region’s famous masu (trout) sushi.
An on-site sushi master will whip up whatever seasonal specialty the prefecture has to offer.Nearest stn: Yurakucho. Open daily, 10am-7pm. http://toyamakan.jp

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Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1
Tel: 03-3231-5032
Hours: 10:00 – 19:00

Iwate Ginza Plaza

Support Tohoku’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake by shopping here. This is a relatively large scale store with over 1,500 items and even a Koiwa ice cream corner.
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Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-15-1, Nankai Tokyo Bldg. 1F
Tel: 03-3254-8282
Hours: 10:30 ? 19:00

Gunma-chan Chi

Get your hands on nutritious egoma (sesame) sauce here or local snack, yaki manjyu (roasted buns).

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Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-13-19, Duplex Ginza Tower 5/13
Tel: 03-3546-8511

Oishii Yamagata Plaza

Other than selling local sake, fruits and vegetables, this antenna shop uses Yamagata’s products in an Italian restaurant San Del Delo that it operates on premise, run by star chef Masayuki Okusa.

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-5-10, Ginza First Five Bldg.
Tel: 03-5250-1752
Hours: 10:00 ? 20:00

Ginza Kumamoto Kan

Kumamoto is famous for prefectural mascot Kumamon, and you can expect to find lots of Kumamon goods here. Over 1,000 items such as fruits, vegetables, seafood and meats from Kumamoto can be found here, and you can enjoy them with Kumamoto shochu at a bar on the second floor. You can also try basashi (horsemeat) here. (Pix 8)

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-3-16
Tel: 03-3572-1261
Hours: 11:00 ? 20:00
ASOBI Bar 17:00 ? 20:00

Marugoto Kochi
Kochi is known for its sake and sake-drinking culture. Enjoy the sake with seafood from the Seto Inland Sea at a restaurant on the 2nd floor.

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-13, Ri-burekkusu Tower
Tel: 03-3538-4351
Hours vary (Pix 9)

Okinawa Ginza Washita Shop
This stocks an impressive array of Okinawan produce, and selection of awamori in the basement, as well as and fresh produce such as goya or bittergourd.

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-9, Maruito Ginza Bldg.
Tel: 03-3535-6991
Hours: 10:30 ? 20:00
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Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza
This faces the Yurakucho station and sells Hokkaido’s famous dairy and dry products. Indulge in an ice cream or potato croquette here.

Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan L1
Hours: 10am-7pm hours
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Photo source: various sites

Campaign Registration

In order to continue with the Campaign, please register as a member by filling out the following form.
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Marchais de Noel in Ebisu Garden Place

Marchais de Noel in Ebisu Garden Place in Shibuya

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Have some hotpot, hot wine and hot sandwiches!

Information
DATE:From November 7 to December 25
PLACE:Ebisu Garden Place in Ebisu, Shibuya
ACCESS:From Tokyo Metro Ebisu Station (H02) Exit 1:
5 mins via the Ebisu Skywalk (moving walkway) from JR Ebisu Station East Exit
WEBSITE: Ebisu Garden Place marche

Japan’s First Sumo Rock Band?

The heaviest metal you’ll ever see.

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What happens when four famous sumo wrestlers form a rock band?

Perhaps not the creation of the next big Japanese idol group, but for sure, yet another unforgettable Japanese commercial is born.

To promote its new product, the “Move Band”, Docomo Health Care created a completely different kind of “band” – a heavyweight rock band comprising well-known sumo wrestlers.

At the guitar is Asahishou, at the drums is Gagamaru, manning the bass is Tenkaiho, and Toyonoshima is the lead vocal.

The “Move Band” estimates the number of calories one burns throughout the day. With an average weight of over 320 lbs (145 kg) each, Docomo Health Care must have figured that watching these four rock out with all their might would make for a very entertaining sight…not to mention a redefinition of the genre, heavy metal. Take a look for yourself!

 

Photo Source: docomohealthcare YouTube

TOKYO COFFEE FESTIVAL 2015 Winter

TOKYO COFFEE FESTIVAL 2015 Winter will be held at Aoyama’s UNU farmers’ market this weekend. Many baristas and coffee shop operators from all over Japan will show off their craft!

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SHOP LIST

December 12 (Sat)

27 COFFEE ROASTERS、AMAMERIA espresso、And Coffee Roasters (ACR)、Antidotechocolate、Bal Musette、Bird Daikanyama、bon pin gâteaux、BOOK TRUCK、cafe fua (かふぇ ふあ)、cafequark+grenier、Double tall cafe、FESTINA LENTE、Foret Coffee、GLITCH COFFEE&ROASTARS、KISSACO、Light Up Coffee、MERRY TIME、Mica Takahashi、NAGASAWA COFFEE、NOZY COFFEE、on the way、otomoni coffee、Paul Bassett、PNB COFFEE、REC COFFEE、ROUND TWO RECORDS、Slow Coffee Style / KINTO、Single Origin Roasters、SWITCH COFFEE TOKYO、TIKI COFFEE、TRUNK COFFEE、WOODBERRY COFFEE ROASTERS、Yeti Fazenda COFFEE、コルシカ珈琲、ザ・モダンコーヒー、セントベリーコーヒー、テラコーヒー、珈琲や、珈琲豆イースト

December 13 (Sun)

27 COFFEE ROASTERS、AMAMERIA espresso、And Coffee Roasters (ACR)、Antidotechocolate、Bal Musette、Bird Daikanyama、bon pin gâteaux、BOOK TRUCK、cafequark+grenier、Double tall cafe、FESTINA LENTE、FUGLEN COFFEE ROASTERS、GLITCH COFFEE&ROASTARS、HONO、KISSACO、Life size cribe、Light Up Coffee、MERRY TIME、Mica Takahashi、NAGASAWA COFFEE、NOZY COFFEE、otomoni coffee、Pas a Pas、Paul Bassett、REC COFFEE、ROUND TWO RECORDS、Slow Coffee Style / KINTO、Single Origin Roasters、SWITCH COFFEE TOKYO、TIKI COFFEE、TRUNK COFFEE、WOODBERRY COFFEE ROASTERS、Yeti Fazenda COFFEE、コルシカ珈琲、ザ・モダンコーヒー、しげくに屋55ベーカリー、セントベリーコーヒー、テラコーヒー、珈琲や、珈琲豆イースト

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/events/1643842275884125/
WEBSITE:http://farmersmarkets.jp/coffeefes2015-winter/

Lake Tama, a relaxing lake in the outskirts of Tokyo

Have you ever been to Lake Tama?

It is located in Higashi Yamato city, the outskirts of Tokyo and takes about one hour from Shinjuku by train.

Still, this beautiful wide lake is a great place to enjoy nature and is well worth the effort of getting there.
While Maruyama Reservoir is the official name of this artificial lake that dates back to 1927, it is best known as just “Lake Tama”

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The general view at Lake Tama

The architecture on the left is the intake tower of the reservoir.

The mountain range in the backdrop is Okutama. Lake Tama’s crystal clear water originates from these mountains. Lake Tama’s water is used as Tokyo’s drinking water.

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This footpath is actually a dike

Visitors can cross the lake by this dike, and of course bicycles can cross the dike as well.
On the right, you can see the Seibu amusement park, which is located near Lake Tama.

 

With its sophisticated design, Lake Tama’s intake towers are said to be the most beautiful in Japan.

Their design is called Neo Renaissance style.

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Directly connected to Lake Tama is Sayama Park.

This spacious green park belongs to Higashimurayama city, and makes it hard to believe that this is still a part of Tokyo!

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When I went here in autumn, the park’s leaves were just changing their colors, making my stroll through the park a truly mesmerizing walk.

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I came back to Lake Tama at sunset.

On a sunny clear day like this, you can see Mt. Fuji from here too!

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The surface of this calm lake reflects almost like a mirror.

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The gradation colors at twilight create a mysterious sight.

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The intake towers with a starlit sky. While Tokyo’s strong lights make it hard for the stars to come up, you can still see some here.

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However, Seibu amusement park was shining much more brightly than the stars!

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Until April 10, 2016, illumination event “illumi ju” is held every day after 16:00 PM

While Lake Tama and its surrounding have so many charm its easy to spend the whole day here, make sure you bring your bento and drinks as there are no cafes or restaurants in the area!

Lake Tama

Nearest Station: Seibu-Yuenchi Station (Seibu Tamako Line)
Entrance Fee: Free

ICHIRAN New Branch Opened in Asakusa

The best ramen with the best company

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Fukuoka based ramen shop ICHIRAN, a favorite of many tonkotsu (pork bone broth) lovers will open its 13th Tokyo branch in Asakusa on December 10, 2015. It will be the first branch in Tokyo with the “ICHIRAN Yatai” concept, which resembles the spirit of ramen food stalls common in Fukuoka. Different from ICHIRAN’s separated seats that make sure you are not distracted and can concentrate on the noodles, “ICHIRAN Yatai” is a cozy open space were you can enjoy the ramen and other dishes together with your friends!

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ICHIRAN focuses purely on tonkotsu ramen, striving to bring you the best bowl in the genre. Topped with its iconic red-pepper sauce, the classic tonkotsu ramen here can be customized according to  your preferences. The order sheet (which is available in English, Chinese and Korean) allows you to choose the strength and richness of the flavor, the amount of garlic, spiciness of the red-pepper sauce, firmness of the noodles and more.

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This classic bowl of tonkotsu ramen is one of WAttention’s favorites, and it feels great to finally be able to enjoy it with company!

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Together with Tokyo’s first ICHIRAN Yatai, Premium Sliced Pork – Kamadare Style – also makes its Tokyo debut. Topped with nori, these juicy pork slices go great with rice during lunchtime or as a snack together with your beer after a hard day of sightseeing.

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For dessert, how about a green tea flavored annin tofu, or matcha annin tofu? Although annin tofu is a common dessert in Japan, green tea flavor is a rare find!

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ICHIRAN Asakusa

Price range:1,000 – 2,000 yen

Location: Asakusa 1-1-16 B1F Tatio

Access: 1-min from Asakusa Station (Ginza Line, Toei Asakusa Line, Tobu Skytree Line)

Check Out These New Japanese Anime Face Pack Sheets!

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Isshindo Honpo Shop will release its “Japanese Anime Face Pack Sheets” in Japan on December 11th and 22th.

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These face packs feature Japanese famous anime “Doraemon”,

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“Fist of the North Star”,

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“Yatterman” and

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“Chibi-maruko-chan” (The series depicts the simple, everyday life of Momoko in the times of her childhood.)

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These face pack sheets moisturize and rejuvenate face skin.

Information
1.“FIST OF THE NORTH STAR” and “Yatterman”
will release on December 11th.
PRICE:430 yen
SHOP:TOKYU HANDS,LOFT,HANEDA AIRPORT,ISSHINDO HONPO(Mail-order)

2.“DORAEMON” and “Chibi-Maruko-chan”
will release on December 22th.
PRICE:430 yen
SHOP:TOKYU HANDS,LOFT,HANEDA AIRPORT,ISSHINDO HONPO(Mail-order)

WEBSITE: http://www.isshin-do.co.jp/html/page16.html

Santa’s favorite place to shop in Shibuya

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Even Santa can’t resist the unlimited shopping opportunities at TOKYU HANDS!

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From high-functional livingware to fancy made-in-Japan items, beauty products and materials for DIY, TOKYO HANDS has an incredible line-up that satisfies pretty much any customer.

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On top of that, overseas customers are warmly welcomed with a 5% discount coupon if you present your passport.

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Join Santa and do this year’s Christmas shopping at TOKYU HANDS!

Information
TOKYU HANDS Shibuya Store
Address: 12-18 Udagawa-cho Shibuya
Hours: 10am-8:30pm

Crispy but soft, a new style of pancakes

During this year’s Christmas season, confectionery maker & café Nicolas House’s Omotesando branch presents a new style of pancakes. Decorated with thorny meringues that together look like an elf’s cap,  this fluffy pancake’s unique texture and flavor can only be enjoyed here. This could very well be the next big hit at Tokyo’s mecca of pancakes, Omotesando.

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Nicolas House Omotesando Store

Address: 4-26-5 Jingumae Shibuya
Hours: 11am-8pm
WEBSITE:http://www.nicolasusagi.com/

Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: Johannes in Tokyo

Japan Tour Guide (JTG) is an online portal that aims to match volunteer Japanese guides with visitors coming to Japan.
Read about their tours put together for tourists by these friendly local guides in this regular column! 

Lately, we received a request to guide Johannes, a tourist from Germany.

Since he has visited Japan multiple times, this time he wanted to experience every day life with the locals.
We created a guide plan that suited his wish.
The guides for this trip were Misaki and Takahiro, two university students that are Japan Tour Guide members.

We (Misaki and Takahiro) met up with Johannes at Nippori Station.
After introducing ourselves, we headed to our first destination of the day, Yanaka Ginza Shotengai.
Yanaka Ginza Shotengai is a shopping street that still has the atmosphere of Tokyo’s yesteryear.

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This shopping street is ideal for tabe-aruki, a Japanese term for “walking-and-eating”.
At Yanaka Ginza Shotengai, there are over 60 restaurants and shops with yummy street food. We first bought croquettes of mashed potatoes, a popular snack in the area, and walked the streets tabe-aruki style!

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Our next stop was Ueno Park, one of Japan’s oldest parks, which is only 15 minutes away from the Yanaka area by foot.
There are numerous facilities and touristic sites inside this spacious park, including Ueno Zoo, Kaneiji Temple and Toshogu Shrine, as well as many museums . This makes Ueno Park not only great for a relaxing stroll, but also a great destination for culture and art.

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At Toshogu Shrine’s chozuya – a purification fountain where you clean your hands and mouth before entering a Japanese shrine – we taught Johannes how to perform this ritual.
You take one of the vessels to first wash your left hand, next wash your right hand and then rinse the mouth, but Johannes made a mistake and drank the water!
The water here is just to rinse, so be careful! (^o^)

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At the Yushimatenmagu Shrine, there were a number of food stalls, so we had Johannes try out amazake, a sweet kind of sake.
With a doubtful face, Johannes tried out this peculiar drink, which despite its name, is actually alcohol free!

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Since we wanted to show Johannes a Japanese university, we took  him to Tokyo University, the highest ranked university of Japan.

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Shibuya’s Hachiko statue is very famous, but did you know that at Tokyo University, there is another statue that pictures the reunion of Hachiko and his owner?
Although they were never reunited in real life, this statue was made with the donations of many people to let them meet again. We are sure Hachiko is smiling in heaven right now!

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For dinner, we went to a yakitori restaurant.
Although tourists will usually go to a more expensive yakitori restaurant,  to give Johannes a real local experience, we took him to a very casual yakitori restaurant frequently visited by students like us.
The restaurant was full of Japanese students, with Johannes being the only foreigner.
Being able to experience local life like this, is what we think makes Japan Tour Guide special.

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While having yakitori skewers hot from the charcoal grill, we had interesting conversations about our countries like real friends. We also wrote Johannes’ name in kanji for him. Can you write your own name in kanji?

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After the dinner, we took him back to the closest station from his hotel, and said goodbye.

That is just a small look into one of the many adventures you can have with Japan Tour Guide.
We are looking forward to guiding you around the city and showing you the ins and outs of Japan!

Cinnamoroll Cafe Opens for Limited Period

Meet and bite super cute “dog” characters. Cinnamoroll Cafe’s special dishes and beverages feature Sanrio’s (the company also responsible for Hello Kitty) Cinnamon friends.

CINNAMOROLL is a character series created by Sanrio in 2001. The main character, Cinnamon, is a white puppy with long ears, blue eyes, pink cheeks, and a plump and curly tail that resembles a cinnamon roll.

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Be quick as this cafe at Shibuya PARCO is only open until 28 December. Original character goods are also available at the shopping counter inside the cafe.

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Information
PLACE:THE GUEST cafe&diner in PARCO,Shibuya
4,Dec-28,Dec,2015
OPEN: 11:00-22:00
・twitter
https://twitter.com/THEGUESTcafe
・facebook
https://www.facebook.com/THEGUESTcafe
・instagram
https://instagram.com/theguestcafe/

Welcome back popular Japanese limited edition Häagen-Dazs flavors!

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From Häagen-Dazs, two new ice cream flavors, “Kinako & Black Honey” and “Mitarashi Walnuts” are re-release today, December 8, 2015 (Tuesday)! These traditional Japanese flavors were actually once on sale in February, but were so popular that stock ran out immediately. So, if you find the package with the “hana mochi” sign, just grab it.

Sit down face to face with your savory pie @ Pie face

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The newest faces in town here in Shibuya are these yummy Australian savory pies.

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They come in more than 10 flavors, each with a smiley that resembles that flavor. Since Pie face opened on November 19 at Shibuya Modi, these pies have been selling like hot cakes!

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Information: Jinnnan 1-21-3 Shibuya-MODI 1F ,Shibuya
Hours: 9am to 10pm (open everyday)
URL: http://www.duskin.co.jp/service/pieface/ (Japanese)

THE YARD @ Shibuya Modi

Shibuya’s newest shopping spot – is full of new innovative shops.

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One of these, is THE YARD, which brings a new fashion concept for kimono in the hope that Japanese traditional clothing will be worn more casually by Japan’s youth.

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If you are interested in wearing kimono as modern fashion, THE YARD is the place to be!

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Shop Information: Jinnnan 1-21-3 Shibuya-MODI 1F・2F ,Shibuya
WEBSITE: THE YARD

A Nationwide Simultaneous Test Transmission

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Date and time: November 25 (Wed.), around 11:00 a.m.
A nationwide simultaneous test transmission was broadcast through the
city’s disaster prevention wireless system.
Broadcast Description
• Chime sound
• Kore wa tesuto desu (“this is a test”). (Repeated three times.)
• Kochira wa, Bosai Shibuya desu (“this is Shibuya Disaster Prevention”).
• Chime sound
The test was performed to check the activation of J-Alert.
Since the test take place simultaneously throughout Japan, nearby communities were also broadcasting and training in other ways.

What Is J-Alert?

J-Alert is a nationwide instantaneous warning system in which emergency information about ballistic missile impact, large-scale terrorism, large earthquakes and the like issued by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is received by cities through satellites and automatically broadcast over the disaster prevention wireless system.
This system enables the national government to directly inform the residents of Shibuya City
of emergencies.

Telephone Response Service

You can check the broadcast content from the city’s disaster prevention wireless
system over the phone (in Japanese only).
Phone numbers: 03-3498-7211 to 7213 and 03-3498-9419
• The numbers are not toll-free.
• A broadcast over the disaster prevention wireless system cannot be checked after
24 hours have passed since the broadcast.
• If there have been no broadcasts within the last twenty-four hours, a message
will play stating “this is the Shibuya City Office. There are currently no saved
broadcasts.”
• You cannot listen to the “Yuyake Koyake” song that is broadcast at 5 p.m.
Inquiries: Disaster Prevention Planning Promotion Section, Disaster Prevention
Planning Division (Tel: 3498-9409)

Informed by Shibuya City Office

Christmas Illumination @ Hachiko

Since yesterday, Shibuya’s most loyal dog Hachiko won’t have to feel lonely at night anymore, as he is no surrounded with more than 30,000 LED lights. WAttention went to check it out yesterday, and brings you the first pictures of this spectacular illumination, which will continue until December 25.   

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Event Information:
Location: In front of JR Shibuya Station Hachiko Exit
Period: December 1 – December 25

CHICAGO THE MUSICAL

In history of Broadway long run musical “Chicago” of the second place
That Charlotte Kate Fox(The star of NHK’s morning drama) is decided by the lead (the part of ROXY Hart)!!

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“Chicago” that shines with Tony Awards best revival musical Best Picture Award, and meets the 19th-year long run now. We updated many records, and Broadway became long run of the second place in history so far. To the lead , that Charlotte Kate Fox is decided we perform Broadway publicly and performs visit to Japan performance this autumn with United States company in Tokyu theater Aube in December.
(Reference:Hikarie EVENT)

Information
DATE:Fri. December 4~Sun. December 23, 2015
PLACE:TOKYU THEATRE ORB
WEBSITE:Tokyu theater Aube

【CAST】
CHARLOTTE KATE FOX as Roxie Hart
AMRA-FAYE WRIGHT as Velma Kelly
Tom Hewitt as Billy Flynn
etc.

【CHICAGO SPECIAL MATINEE SHOW】
WATARU KOZUKI as Velma Kelly
KENYA OSUMI as Fred Casely

Tokyo Skyline Views From Roppongi Hills

From Ropongi Hills’s observatory deck, you can enjoy an amazing panorama of Tokyo’s urban landscapes. The view of Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree together, and the view at Shibuya and Shinjuku are some of the best Tokyo has to offer!

This observatory deck has two floors. You have the indoor observatory at the 52nd floor, and the Sky Deck, which is located on the building’s rooftop.

Today’s first shot was taken from the 52nd floor. This angle, with Tokyo Tower in the front and Tokyo Skytree in the back can only be taken from Roppongi Hills.

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With large windows, the spacious 52nd floor’s indoor observatory is ideal to enjoy the view at ease. Many exhibitions are held here throughout the year as well.

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This panorama shot was taken from the Sky Deck.

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While an additional fee of 500 yen (300 yen for children) is required to enter the Sky Deck, as you can see it is more than worth your money! The long bridge on the right sight is Tokyo’s famous Rainbow Bridge, which leads to Odaiba.

From the Sky Deck, you will be looking at the scenery like this.

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As Sky Deck is located on the rooftop, be sure that you’re not dressed too cold or warm depending on the season.
For safety reasons, you can only take your camera and mobile phone to the Sky Deck. Other belongings (including hats and caps) have to be put in the coin locker at the 52nd floor before you take the elevator up.

Did you know that Roppongi Hills was selected as a Lover’s Sanctuary? The scenery would indeed make for an amazing date!

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On this side, you can see the skyscrapers of Shinjuku and Shibuya in the distance.

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The next shot was taken from the 52nd floor at twilight. Tokyo gradually begins to light up.

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Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree from the Sky Deck at night.

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Another panorama view from Sky Deck, this time taken at night. There are 2 towers, 2 ferris wheels and 2 bridges on this shot, can you find them all?

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The Shibuya direction with Mt.Fuji in the backdrop taken from Sky Deck at dusk.
Mt. Fuji can only be seen on clear days from November to February, let’s hope you get lucky!

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Whenever I come to Roppongi Hills’s observation deck, I can never chose which direction to watch at twilight. With two floors and literally breathtaking sights at each corner of the observatory, this is truly a spot you keep wanting to come back to!

Spot Information

Location: Minato 6-10-1 Mori Tower Roppongi Hills Tokyo, Minato
Access: Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line Roppongi Station (directly connected to Roppongi Hills), or a 6-min walk from Toei Oedo Line Roppongi Station.

Hours: Weekdays and holidays 10:00 am–11:00 pm (last admission at 10:30 pm) Fridays, Saturdays, days preceding holidays 10:00 am–1:00 am (last admission at midnight) Sky Deck hours: 11:00 am–9:00 pm (last admission at 8:30 pm)

Entrance Fees: Adults 1800yen, age 65 and above 1500yen, students (high school, college, and university) 1200yen, children (from four years to junior high school students) 600yen

Additonal Fees for Sky Deck: Adults 500yen, children (from 4 years to junior high school students) 300yen

URL: http://www.roppongihills.com/tcv/en/index.html

Try Milan’s best pizza in Shiubya @ SPONTINI Shibuya-Modi

As a little kid, my mother once took me to Milan. We coincidentally found a pizzeria called Spontini, which was queueing with locals. I have always remembered the pizza there as the best of my life. Last month, more than 15 years later, Spontini has opened its first branch outside of Italy, and in Tokyo! Its second branch opened this month in Shibuya Modi, Shibuya’s newest shopping facility!

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Restaruant Information: Jinnnan 1-21-3 Shibuya-MODI 1F・2F ,Shibuya
Hours: 11am to 11pm (open everyday)
※Reservations are not accepted.                                                    URL: http://www.pizzeriaspontini.jp/english.html

Ski in Japan: Top 5 Central Japan Resorts

Within just 3 hours of Central Japan, you can find slopes to suit any ski level, not to mention a great selection of spas. Our top four picks take you high, where trees freeze into “ice monsters” and the onsens thaw you out at the highest altitude in the country. For sliding and soaking fun in the heart of Japan, start here.

APPI Snow Resort (Iwate Prefecture)

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English Instructors: Private and group lessons available. Advanced booking needed
Number of courses: 21

With the mind-boggling number of courses available, this is the place to go to ski or snowboard to your heart’s content. Slope levels varying from beginner to advanced, plus meticulously manicured slopes and dry light snow makes this the ultimate skiing and snowboarding haven no matter what your level is.

Address: 117 Appi Kogen, Hachimantai City, Iwate Prefecture
Access: Take the JR Hanawa Line from Morioka Station, there is a free shuttle bus available between JR APPI Kogen Station and the resort buildings.
Web: http://www.appi.co.jp/foreign_country/english/winter/index.html

Manza Onsen Ski Resort (Gunma Prefecture)

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English Instructors: Advanced booking recommended
Number of courses: 9

If ski and spa is your ideal combination, Manza is your most convenient choice. At a 1,800m altitude, enjoy fresh powdered snow and choose from ten relaxing onsens – the highest in Japan – at the Prince Hotel, located right on the slopes.

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Address: Manza Onsen, Tsumagoi-mura, Agatsuma-gun
Access: Take the Seibu Kogen Bus to Manza ski area from Karuizawa Station. Guests of the Manza Prince Hotel or Manza Kogen Hotel can take a free shuttle bus through advanced booking.
Web: http://www.princehotels.com/en/ski/manzaonsen

Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort (Niigata Prefecture)

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English Instructors: Yes
Number of courses: 17

With a decent amount of courses, Gala Yukawa is the ideal ski resort for skiers and snowboarders of any level, and is also conveniently connected to the Shinkansen Station. Have a hot bath at hot spring SPA Gala No Yu afterwards to get the most out of this all-in-one ski facility.

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Address: Yuzawa 1039-2, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun
Access: Take the Joetsu Shinkansen to GALA Yuzawa Station from Tokyo Station
Web: http://www.galaresort.jp/winter/english

Zao Hot Springs Ski Resort (Yamagata Prefecture)

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English Instructors: Private lessons only (advanced booking needed)
Number of courses: 12

Soak in one of Japan’s most famous onsens after a full day of skiing amongst the awe-inspiring juhyo (ice-frosted trees) here. From December to February, the unique weather conditions create these natural wonders – often called “ice monsters” – particularly beautiful when illuminated at night.

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Address: Zao Onsen 708-1, Yamagata
Access: A 40-min. bus ride to Zao Onsen Bus Terminal from Yamagata Station.
Web: http://www.zao-spa.or.jp/english

Shizukuishi Ski Resort (Iwate Prefecture)

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English Instructors: Advanced booking recommended
Number of courses: 13

Experienced skiers will love the challenging slopes here at Mt. Iwate, home to the FIS ski and snowboard world cup multiple times. If you’re feeling brave, glide down its longest course, which is a good 4.5km long!

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Address: Takakura Onsen, Shizukuishi-machi, Iwate-gun
Access: A 20-min. taxi ride from Shizukuishi Station, or take the free shuttle bus to Prince Hotel Shizukuishi through advanced booking.
Web: http://www.princehotels.com/en/ski/shizukuishi

Stand up for cheap, fast and good food!

Food

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While walking and eating, or even walking and drinking, was frowned on in Japan just 20 years ago, now, standing while eating is something people queue up for! And we’re not just talking about the salaryman staple of standup soba. From sushi, steak, yakiniku to even Italian and French cuisine, Japanese restaurants are packing in the crowds by throwing out the chairs!

So why would anyone stand in a queue, only to stand again inside the shop? Well, thinking on one’s feet, the answer is: good, fast and cheap food.
The steak chain, Ikinari Steak (which means ‘suddenly steak’), has expanded rapidly since opening in Ginza in December 2013.

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You choose your cut of meat, which is priced from 5.5 yen per gram, which means you can get a 300gram slab of sizzling steak on a hotplate for just 1,650 yen.

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Standing sushi has been around longer, and is still popular as a choice in between conveyor belt and real sit down, itamae sushi.

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Meat lovers will be happy to know that there’s also standing yakiniku to choose from, so now you can stand and cook your own meal!

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As most customers leave after finishing their meal, these standing dining establishments can afford to charge lower prices for higher customer traffic. Which explains why this trend has spread to almost every cuisine – including Italian and French!

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In fact, ‘Ore no French’ (which translates literally into ‘My French’) was listed in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2015 ? after all, it’s chefs hail from Michelin-starred restaurants. And ‘Ore no Kappou’, also in Ginza, now gives you the option of enjoying fine Japanese cuisine dining without burning a hole in your pocket. 

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So, don’t stand on ceremony, come check out these establishments!

 

Restaurant information:
Name: Ikinari Steak
Price range: $$
Location: Various locations throughout Tokyo
Website: http://ikinaristeak.com/

 

Name: Ore no French Ginza
Price range: $$
Location: 8-7-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.oreno.co.jp/en/restaurant/

 

Name: Ore no Kappou
Price range: $$
Location: 1F, 8-8-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://hitosara.com/0006018359/ (Japanese)

 

 

This year’s chirstmas tree at Shibuya Hikarie

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This year’s chirstmas tree at Shibuya Hikarie has “wonderland” as its theme, and is a collaboration with famous Japanese band “Dreams ComeTrue”!

Come and have your own dream come true at this 6m tall christmas tree, which will be lit up from 16:00 until midnight. From 16:00 until 22:00, Dreams Come True’s popular songs will be played every thirty minutes as well.

Spot Informatiion
Shibuya Hikarie Christmas 2015 ~WONDERLAND~ Collaboration Tree  
Light up from early November until December 25 (Friday) from 16:00 – 24:00 daily.
Location: The first floor main entrance of Shibuya Hikarie

Restaurant Review: Sakamotoya

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Katsudon perfection

Located in Nishiogikubo, Tokyo, Sakamotoya has the facade of an old-fashioned restaurant. With a hand-written menu on the plaster white wall and a weight scale casually placed on the wooden counter, there is something about Sakamotoya that instantly makes you feel at home. The store owner and his wife will be working hard in the kitchen and their friendly daughter serves you with a homeyness that seems to resemble the store interior. This is really a mom-and-pop shop in the purest sense of the word!

Sakamotoya has been loved by the locals for almost 100 years since the store opened in 1923, and for good reason! A large number of Japanese soul-foods such as ramen, fried rice, omuraisu and curry can be consumed here, but the great star is – without question – Sakamotoya’s famous katsudon.

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Sakamotoya’s variant on this contemporary Japanese classic dish that consists of a rice bowl with deep-fried cutlets and a lightly beaten egg on top of it – is so popular that people are almost always queuing for it! It was praised as Japan’s most delicious katsudon by magazine Dancyu in 2007 as well.

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I just had to go and get my portion to see if Sakamotoya’s katsudon truly deserves all the fame and glory it receives.
Let’s keep things simple, the answer is yes. Instead of trying to be original by coming up with new cooking methods or adding extra ingredients, Sakamotoya just focuses on creating a simple but flawless katsudon, and does so with perfection hardly seen elsewhere. The soft but crispy fried cutlets create a sublime balance with the lightly beaten egg that is sweetened just right, which will make you realize why katsudon is such a beloved dish in the first place. It is simple, affordable and yummy, and that is all a katsudon shoud be!

Restaurant information:

Name: Sakamotoya

Price range: 1,000 yen

Location: Nishiogi Kita 3-31-16, Suginami, Tokyo

Access: A 3-min walk from Nishiogikubo Station (JR Chuo Line and JR Sobu Line)

Ryugin, the world’s 29th best restaurant

Japanese restaurant Ryugin – located in Roppongi – is one of Tokyo’s 12 restaurants that boast 3 Michelin stars, and has received this honor for 4 years in a row! It is also one of the two only Japanese restaurants to be listed in “The Worlds 50 best restaurants”, coming in the 29th spot! No wonder that Ryugin is one of Tokyo’s most popular dining spots for those that can afford the luxury.

While classic Japanese restaurants traditionally have counter seats faced towards the kitchen, Ryugin only has normal table seats and a private room for 4 people. The somber interior is significantly different from most other Japanese restaurants, representing a modern sense of style.

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Ryugin’s refined cuisine brought to you by chef Yamamoto, puts an emphasis on only using the freshest and best ingredients of the day without any use of food additives. While authentic seasonal ingredients gathered from the whole country form traditional kaiseki dishes, Ryugin’s methods and techniques are groundbreaking at the same time, with philosophy behind dishes that go not only well with sake, but with quality wine carefully selected by chef Yamamoto as well.

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Given the fact that the ingredients are different from day to day, Ryugin does not have a steady menu, but courses are available for 27,000 per person (exclusive of beverages).

Here follow some images to give you an idea on what you can expect out of a course at Ryugin.

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The course starts with cold and warm appetizers like this
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It is then followed up by a seasonal owan (bowl) dish
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Expect an assortment of the freshest sashimi of the day!
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Grilled fish like this Ayu (sweetfish) is a feast for the eye and tummy
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Shabu shabu hot pot with fresh vegetables is a relatively common dish at Ryugin
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Grilled meat decorated with nori seaweed
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In this case, the rice dish of the day came with Japanese soul food Unagi (eel)
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The dessert usually uses fresh seasonal fruits of the time of the year.
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Ryugin’s original “Roppongi Pudding” which focuses on the original taste of eggs, makes for a great souvenir!

Another interesting fact is, that while Ryugin is ranked as the 29th restaurant of the world internationally, at Japan’s largest food community Tabelog, it is only ranked as the 74th best restaurant of Japan (34th in Tokyo). This really shows how many incredible restaurants Japan – the country with the most Michelin stars in the world – hosts, creating a true paradise for foodies!

Photo credit: Shen Mu Photography

Spot Information

Location: Roppongi 7-17-24 Minato

Access: 2-min walk from Roppongi Station Exit 2 (Hibiya Line, Oedo Line)

Price Range: 30,000

Hours: 18pm – 1am (last order: 10:30pm)

*Reservations are required!

Say “Cheese” to new Pablo Café opening on Dec. 12

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Famed for their melt-in-your-mouth cheese tarts, Osaka-based Pablo will open their first café in the Kanto area in chic Omotesando on Dec. 12.

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While you can pick up their classic cheese treats on the first floor – much like at their other stores across Tokyo – you can also dine on their expanded menu at the fashionable 2nd floor café, which includes Honey Cheese Toast, Sweet Cheese Fondue, and their limited item Baked Mini Cheese Tart Camembert x Quattro Fromage – available only at this Omotesando location!

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Address: Jingumae 1-14-21, Shibuya
Hours: 10am – 9pm (Last Order for food at 8pm, drinks at 8:30pm)
Price: Baked Mini Cheese Tart 780 yen tax included, Baked Mini Cheese Tart Camembert x Quattro Fromage 1,500 yen tax included
Website (Japanese) http://www.pablo3.com/shops/omotesando.html

Searching beyond Sushi

Besides Sushi, the next most googled Japanese food around the world is…

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Besides Sushi, the next most googled Japanese food around the world is…

What was the last Japanese food you searched for on Google (other than sushi)? If you’re from the US, it’s –surprise, surprise– likely to be the healthy edamame, and if you’re from the UK, you were probably wondering what the Japanese eat in winter to keep warm. No surprise there.

This must be right because Google (or Google sensei as sometimes referred to in Japan) said so. As in, physically, in a seminar at their Tokyo office that WAttention attended earlier this year.

Here’s a list of the most searched for Japanese foods in five countries (that isn’t sushi):

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America: Edamame
Despite the craze for ramen burgers and even sushi burritos that hit the internet search engines last year, the far more simple (and healthier) edamame is number two. No wonder that a popular American supermarket has picked up on this fad, creating their own edamame fusions like edamame hummus, and dark chocolate-covered edamame.

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United Kingdom: Oden
Though number 14 on the overall world ranking, oden – a stew consisting of fishcake, radish, seaweed and other ingredients – has apparently found a market in the UK. Perhaps it makes sense that this traditional hot soupy Japanese winter dish would go well with the cold British weather.

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Singapore: Shabu Shabu
Coming in at number 8 on the world ranking, this hot pot dish continues to be a favorite, particularly in the Southeast Asia region.

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Malaysia/Indonesia: Takoyaki
Osaka’s soul food, takoyaki – or griddled flour balls with octopus filling and worcestor sauce dressing – is on a roll! With 38% more searches than the previous year, no other Japanese dish is growing faster in popularity, especially in Southeast Asia. Though not making the top 10 in any of the Western countries, could this potentially be the next boom?

The overall top 20 most Googled for Japanese foods are:

1. Sushi
2. Edamame
3. Sashimi
4. Ramen
5. Tempura
6. Yakisoba
7. Mochi
8. Shabu Shabu
9. Teriyaki
10. Miso Soup
11. Onigiri
12. Sukiyaki
13. Okonomiyaki
14. Oden
15. Gyoza
16. Dango
17. Takoyaki
18. Unagi
19. Natto
20. Udon

Source: Google Survey (Jan.-Nov. 2014) as presented at a seminar at the Google Tokyo office on Mar. 16, 2015.

 

Niseko Ski Resorts

Being called as the “St. Moritz of the Orient”, Niseko has about 100 years of history as a ski town. The perfect powder snow and its long ski season which lasts until early May have lured skiers every winter. From late 1960s, commercial ski areas such as Niseko Moiwa, Niseko Annupuri and Niseko Higashiyama were opened one after another. The resort is internationally renowned while the number of Australian tourists has been increasing these years. For people who want to try all the slopes, Niseko all mountain pass is recommended.

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Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu
Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu is the biggest ski resort in Niseko and stretches from Niseko Annupuri’s summit (elevation 1,308.5 m) to its base. Foreign skiers are increasing especially in this area. English speaking instructors provide ski and snowboard lessons to all level of skiers.
Address: 85 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun
Phone: 0136-58-2021
Web: www.grand-hirafu.jp/winter/en/

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Niseko Village Ski Resort
Niseko Village Ski Resort is a world-class ski area which combines adventure and nature with superb facilities and amenities with English speaking staff available. It has a long 5,000-meter slope, and is rather suitable for intermediate or advanced skiers.
Address: Higashiyama Onsen, Niseko Cho, Abuta Gun
Phone: 0136-44-2211
Web: www.niseko-village.com/english/winter/

Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area
Located in the quasi-national park land, the Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area is family-oriented and attracts skiing beginners. Experienced skier can also enjoy its runs including a 565 meter champion course and 250 meter challenge course.
Address: Higashiyama Onsen, Niseko Cho, Abuta Gun
Phone: 0136-44-2211
Web: http://annupuri.info/winter/english/
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[ Transportation]
By train: Take Ishikari Liner from Sapporo to Otaru, transfer to Niseko. (90min. 2,100 yen). From Dec. to Feb., “Niseko Express” goes between Sapporo and Niseko (Reservation required).

Take taxi or bus from Niseko station to all ski areas for 15 min. By bus: Take ski bus (Chuo or Dounan) to Niseko ski area from Sapporo station. (3 hr. – 3hr. 45min. 2,300 yen. Reservation required)

By car: 2 hr. drive from Sapporo to Niseko (via Route 230).

[ Address ]

204 Yamada, Kutchan-chō, Abuta-gun, Hokkaidō 044-0081

Let’s welcome the New Year with a Japanese Nengajo

As the end of year approaches, we reflect on what happened this year; our triumphant moments, embarrassing accidents, endearing memories, new relationships, and sad goodbyes. Whatever happened, we can look forward to starting over in a great new year.

So what do the Japanese people do to welcome a new year? Well, there are many customs surrounding the New Year, but today, I would like to introduce the Nengajo, a traditional New Year’s Card.

Just like Christmas cards in other countries, the Nengajo is a great way to show appreciation for your coworkers and mentors who have been kind to you in the past year. It is also a perfect opportunity to correspond with friends and relatives who you might not have seen or talked to for some time.

The standard size for a Nengajo is the same as a postcard, but there’s a wide variety to choose from. Let’s look at some designs.

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From traditional to modern, elegant to Kawaii, the design options are infinite!
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Stationery stores usually have a few volumes of Nengajo catalogs. You can add your own photos and personalized messages.
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There are several magazines which offer design templates for those who want to make their own Nengajo.

Thanks to the hard work of the postal service, the Nengajo almost always arrives on New Year’s Day. If you are thinking of sending a Nengajo, make sure to mail them by Dec. 25th with “Nenga” printed in red ink below the stamp.

Also, if you look at the address side of Nengajo, you’ll notice there are several numbers at the bottom. These are special “Nenga lottery numbers” with which you might be able to win some prizes. The winning numbers are announced on Sunday, Jan. 17. So don’t forget to check them out in a newspaper, at the local post office or the Japan Post website.

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The numbers at the bottom might bring you some good luck!

Although the origin of the Nengajo is unknown, Japanese people have been sending them since the Edo period. Unfortunately, because of easier and faster ways of communicating, people are sending less and less Nengajo every year. But there’s always something special about seeing them arrive on New Year’s Day. Reading the personalized handwritten and warm wishes from family and friends will certainly bring joy to many Japanese people.

Getting the bundled stack of postcard-sized Nengajo is a gift for the eyes and for the heart, and a nice way to send off last year and receive a happy new year.

12 years of world-class cocktails @ Bar Ishi no Hana

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International award winning cocktail mixologist Shinobu Ishigaki’s bar Ishi no Hana celebrates is 12th anniversary. WAttention editors visited the bar earlier this year and were deeply impressed by cocktail “Japanese Old Fashioned” prepared by the master himself.

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Visit Ishi no Hana from December 1 to December 15 and receive a special souvenir. How about celebrating your own special day at this classy bar?

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Restaurant Information: Shibuya 3-6-2 Dai 2 Yagi Bldg. B1, Shibuya Hours: 6pm – 2am URL: http://ishinohana.com/en/

Farmer’s Market @UNU Aoyama

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Farmer’s Market is held in Aoyama every weekend!

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You can get fresh veggies, foods, bread and more at these markets.

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unuAll Photos:http://farmersmarkets.jp/

Date:Every Saturday and Sunday from 10am~4pm
Place:United Nation University in Aoyama
Address:5-53-70, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.farmersmarkets.jp/