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Japanese Cuisine Archive

Japanese Koshu: Wineries to watch

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Recently Decanter Magazine published an article on Japanese wine, specifically from Koshu in the Yamanashi Region. Here below is an excerpt of the article.

Decanter: Japan may be better known for its sake, but its national grape, Koshu, has been picking up awards for several years, mostly under the radar. Decanter’s Tasting team has selected five wineries to watch out for following a recent tasting hosted in London by Koshu of Japan. (Visit the Decanter website for the selected five wineries.) It is surprising to see that such a new style over here in the West has been around for a long time in Japan, with our top five wineries all being founded in the five decades spanning the 1880s to the 1930s.

japanese-wine31About Koshu from Yamanashi Prefecture

Koshu is a native Japanese grape variety that has been grown domestically for centuries, but only used for winemaking since 1874. It now covers 480 hectares of vineyards in Japan, with 95% grown in the Yamanashi prefecture, in the shadow of Mount Fuji.

About the Viticulture

During the growing season, typhoons can bring a lot of rain which threatens the bunches with rot. This is countered by training the vines high above the ground on a pergola system to encourage airflow. Some vineyards even adorn individual bunches with hats that protect them from rain; an incredible display of attention to detail!

About the Flavour

A delicate and aromatic grape variety, Koshu produces refreshing still and sparkling wines that display distinctly Eastern flavours such as yuzu and creamed rice. Suffice to say, thanks to the high acidity and lightness of this variety, it is a perfect pairing for Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi.japanese-wine

For the entire article: visit http://www.decanter.com/wine-reviews-tastings/japanese-koshu-wineries-354235/

For more info on Koshu wine, visit Koshu of Japan, an organization established in July 2009 by fifteen Japanese wine producers from the Yamanashi Prefecture.

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Hand-Drip Green Tea has arrived

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Further to the string of green tea chain shops around town that serve up delights such as matcha tea lattes and accompanying red-bean sweets, a new style of tea shop has arrived. Recently, Tokyoites are being offered a hand-drip green tea shop (slated to be the world’s first).

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Located in Sangenjaya, Tokyo Saryo recently opened at the beginning of January 2017. At the shop, detailed attention is given to the brewing temperature and brewing time, to provide, according to Tokyo Saryo, the best balance in aroma and flavor for a proper tea experience. According to the company, packaged green tea drinks and instant types fall short in maximizing the aroma and depth that can be derived from the tea leaves; and by this method operated by the shop, the richness and complexity of the tea leaves can be enjoyed.

The menu is simple, offering a two-tea sample along with accompanying sweets ideal for pairing with the tea at a cost of JPY1,300 (including sales tax). And similar to the high-end coffee brewing experiences found at some high-end coffee chains (or high-end Starbucks), the teas are meant for discussion and contemplation. For more information, visit: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

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New Bakery in Ebisu: Crossroad Bakery

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In the last couple of years, we have seen many high-quality bakery cafes open up in Tokyo. With the TV-show famous City Bakery (Sex and the City) adding to the already sophisticated french-style versions and popular mall types (such as Aux Bacchanales), there just seems to be a fancy sit-down style bakery in almost every part of Tokyo.

At the foothill of Daikanyama, in Ebisu, a swanky new bakery has opened. Crossroad Bakery (http://crossroadbakery.com/) offers all-day breakfast as well as other carb-loaded delights. The new shop is located just a few shops from the popular Blacows burger restaurant, and is a few minutes walk from Ebisu station. An eat-in section accompanies the bakery, which offers a wide variety of bakery items for takeaway.

img_20160928_114446Items on the menu include: the usual burgers and sandwiches, but also offers other items not so commonly seen in Tokyo — the Philly Cheese Steak and various stews and fondue served in fresh bread bowls. There is also a dinner menu with main dishes, and appetizers that include guacamole, chili and popcorn shrimp.

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Photo Log: Brick End Stand Yokocho Opens

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Here is a photo log on the recent opening of Brick End Stand Yokocho at Ebisu Garden Place. Brick End consists of a small cluster of eateries at one end of Ebisu Garden Place. Right beside the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, it faces the museum’s modern cafe, Maison Ichi. Here is a collection of photos highlighting this new commercial nook.

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Located at the opposite end from the Sky Walk in Ebisu Garden Place, the businesses located in Brick End lies in a small and narrow lane that leads pedestrians towards the Meguro direction. Situated right beside the photography museum, customers are likely to be nomikai (afterwork drinking) patrons from the adjoining office building or from the museum. There are already a selection of restaurants and bars at Ebisu Garden Place, on its ground floor, basement floor as well as the top floors of its office building, but Brick End makes a welcome addition.

There are five different establishments: Aalaap Lene Waala,  KakuUchi, The Great Burger Stand, Music Bar Berkana and Moze No Yorimichi. The list includes a curry eatery, burger joint, Japanese eatery, music bar with craft beer and cocktails, and another drinking and snack place. The individual places are pretty small and cozy given the narrow surroundings.

For more information: http://gardenplace.jp/special/brickend/

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All About Ramen

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Ramen noodles, one of the main favorites in the Japanese diet, have become one of Japan’s most well known foods abroad. And while it is often thought of as a quick, go-to fast food meal, it can, as highlighted in the world-famous Itami Juzo film, Tampopo, also be savoured slowly by connoisseurs. The key feature about ramen is that it keeps renewing itself and is a cuisine that is often updated, reinvented and modernised. From the traditional chashu (roast pork loin) pork bone soup ramen, we now can find curry ramen, spicy garlic ramen, tomato and basil chicken ramen, and even lemon soup ramen.

jeffreyfriedlfieryramen

Kyoto Fiery Ramen by Jeffrey Friedl

Ramen are, generally, wheat-based noodles that are served in a meat, fish, soy, or miso-based broth with sliced meats and vegetables. Regional ramen dishes vary in their presentation, preparation, flavor, and ingredients. But in a nutshell, main differences are often the type of soup stock and shape of the noodles. For instance, Sapporo ramen is associated with a rich miso ramen, while Kitakata (northern Honshu) is known for its thick, flat curly noodles. Yokohama ramen called Ie-Kei consists of straight, thick noodles in a soy and pork bone broth similar to tonkotsu (pork bone) soup, while Hakata ramen (Fukuoka, Kyushu) is known for its milky, pork-bone broth.

regionalramenHere we highlight two well-written guides about the regional differences, as well as in depth description of the ingredients:

A Guide to the Regional Ramen of Japan by Nate Shockey and  The Serious Eats Guide to Ramen Styles by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.

Also, check out ANA’s popularity ranking here: https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/contents/ramen/ and incidentally, there is also a Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama: http://www.raumen.co.jp/english/

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The Fruits of Chiba

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By Richenda Elledge

Chiba Prefecture is adjacent to Tokyo and runs southeast of the Kanto Plain. It is often thought of as a suburb of the sprawling metropolitan of Tokyo, where many commuters take arduous return trips to and fro work on a daily basis. Besides suburban life, the prefecture has much to offer for Tokyoites, interested in going beyond the confines of Tokyo City. One area of interest would be to sample the agricultural output. The prefecture boasts Japan’s overall second-highest agricultural output for vegetables. Some of the major produce that this prefecture produces are peanuts, carrots, daikon, tomatoes and a variety of fruits. In this article, we explore a variety of fruit-picking and farm excursions.

Fruit and vegetable harvests:

kawatsurastrawberrypickStrawberry Picking

Kawatsura Farm is usually open for strawberry picking between middle of December until early May.The farm has been growing strawberries since 1964. Located in Sammu city, (eastern part of Chiba), visitors will find strawberries grown in a beautiful environment. It takes about 1 hour from Tokyo station by express train to get there. The farm encourages visitors to try their out their strawberries without milk and sugar, and essentially enjoy the natural goodness from the fruit. http://www.kawatsura15.com/e/index.html

pear2Fresh Pear Harvest

Chiba is one of Japan’s largest producers of pears. Pears are grown throughout the prefecture taking advantage of the ideal soil and climate coupled with the advanced cultivation techniques of long-established orchards. When the harvest starts, many farmers open shop and offer their pick for direct sale along National Route 464, dubbed Omachi Pear Street. The various breeds of pear from Chiba available between early August and mid October are popular for being juicy and fragrant.

yokotafarmSweet Potato Digging

Yokota Farm near Narita Airport offers a variety of farm-harvest activities. With strawberry picking in the Spring, there are also sweet potato, peanuts and potato digging, tomato and vegetable throughout the year. And handy for the urbanites, the farm has a cafe and farmer’s market shop, and also offers some craft-making courses. They also offer a tractor-pulled wagon ride, which is ideal for young children. http://yokotafarm.jimdo.com/

Other agriculture-related attractions:

duckparadeMother Farm

Mother Farm, spanning over 2.5 million square meters entertains visitors with a wide variety of agriculture-related interests; such as interaction with animals, a sheep show, and activities like milking and harvesting seasonal crops. http://www.motherfarm.co.jp/en/

tateyamaFlower picking

Tateyama Family Park: You can enjoy gathering poppy (from early in December till early in May), gerbera (throughout the year), and antirrhinum (from November until May) all the year round in the 5,000 sq. meter-wide flower garden for a small cost. There are also some workshops that take place; such as herb wreat making, herb soaps and incense making, and flower dyeing. Also, it is possible to make ceramic ware by hand at the atelier. http://familypark.jp/

Other interesting places in this prefecture:

andersenparkAndersen Park: Andersen Park is a 28.5-ha wide park that is comprised of the Children’s Kingdom with Japan’s largest athletic fields and a park that has a petting zoo and a reproduction of the place where Andersen, a famous Danish children storyteller lived, called Fairy Tale Hill. The park also has a children’s art museum where children can make things freely and experience the joy of making things. http://www.park-funabashi.or.jp/and/index.htm

mt_nokogiri2Mt Nokogiri is located in Awa, Chiba. The entire mountain is inside of the Nihonji Temple. At the top of the mountain, visitors can see a wonderful landscape of Tokyo Bay, Boso Peninsula, and Miura Peninsulan. From the famous cliff spot, Jigokunozoki, visitors can see the bottom of the cliff from a large rock face that perches off. There are over 1,500 Buddha statues decorating this mountain location.

sawaraSawara, also known as Little Edo, houses many classical style buildings. Because of the unique look of the place, and Katori Shrine which is close to Sawara, it is a very popular travel spot in northern Chiba. At Ono River, which runs through the middle of Sawara, visitors can enjoy classic Edo-style boat rides. Many of the Edo style buildings are now used as restaurants, hotels, gift shops and food stands. Another unique feature of Sawara is the sake breweries. There are a couple of sake breweries which can date back to over 300 years, in the area, and which offer free factory tours.

yorovalley2Yoro Valley is the valley of Yoro River located in the Boso Peninsula. There are many riverside walkways placed along the river and the walking course of Awamata falls is particularly well know and offers great hiking, and sights of waterfalls and beautiful mountain trees. There are many hotels, hot springs, and gift shops in the area. Many tourists visit this valley during the summer or autumn seasons to enjoy the lush greenery of summer or browning autumn leaves.

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Dining Halal in Tokyo

halalcertifcationlogos2By Richenda Elledge

hosun2The author’s recent need to arrange business dinners at halal restaurants for Muslim visitors on business as well as gatherings for local halal-eating friends has encouraged her to put her findings in writing.

With Muslim visitors entering Japan on the rise, Halal cuisine has become a hot topic of late. According to Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), over 176,000 Malaysians (an increase of 65% in one year) and over 136,000 Indonesians, (27% increase) traveled to Japan in 2013. Japan’s relaxation of visa requirements for travelers from Southeast Asia will continue to encourage higher numbers in the long run.hanasakajishabu21

As to actual Muslims residing in Japan, there are no official statistics on this per se; however, demographic studies estimate the range to be from 70,000 to 120,000 Muslim residents, with about 10 percent of that number being ethnically Japanese.

Japan can appear as a culinary dilemma for people who follow strict dietary requirements set out under sharia (Islamic law). Food must be halal, thus must not contain or come in contact with anything considered forbidden.

halal1More commonly, most people think this means no pork and alcohol, but the halal concept also includes procedures for slaughtering animals and handling food and utensils. More strict assessments could include using halal-certified cookware.

Restaurants in Japan claiming to be halal certified are most often certified by the Malaysia Halal Corporation, which is a highly rated but a rather stringent certification process. In Japan, it’s best to check and verify which certificate (if any) restaurants claiming to be halal use.halaru21

Below is a list of interesting eateries (and by no means an extensive list).

Japanese “Washoku” options: The first three are ideal for visitors on business, and are upmarket and comfortable for more formal or business gatherings. The last listing is more casual but introduces a cuisine that’s both important and prevalent as a modern day Japanese dining experience. All four places would need reservations.

hanasakajishabu1Hanasakaji-san

Hanasakaji-san, a shabu-shabu and washoku restaurant, isn’t exclusively halal but they offer a good halal dining experience, and in line with being locally certified it maintains the standard of separating the storage of halal meat in a dedicated freezer and keeping a separate set of utensils and plates from non-halal ones. They also offer non-alcoholic wines on the menu. For more information: http://hanasakaji-san.jp/

hosunmurata1Housun Murata

An upscale Japanese restaurant serving regional Japanese foods, Housun Murata is certified with the Malaysia Halal Corporation. The restaurant offers a halal course meal that highlights most of the major dishes in basic Japanese cuisine. A good introduction for travellers not familiar with the breadth of Japan’s food. For more information: http://www.hosun.jp/img/halal.pdf and the main site: http://www.hosun.jp/index.html

ippin3Ippin Restaurant

Located in Ebisu-Nishi (Daikanyama), Ippin is a Malaysia Halal Corporation-certified restaurant that focuses on general Japanese dishes. The restaurant’s menu features dishes from sauteed burdock root, fried chicken (karaage), rolled egg omelet stewed in stock (dashi maki tamago) to grilled wrapped salmon, tofu hamburg, crispy grilled chicken and curry rice. For more information: http://ippin-halal.jp/en/

gyumonshibuya-1Gyumon

Gyumon offers halal yakiniku either a la carte or as a set meal. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the station, and the online reviews of this eatery seems to be positive with customers rating the food good and within a reasonable price for yakiniku cuisine. This restaurant is certified with the Malaysia Halal Corporation. For more info on the restaurant: https://www.facebook.com/HalalRestaurantInfoJapan/posts/483500588401175

Casual dining, cafes and other cuisines: In addition to the many Indian and Turkish restaurants around town that tend to be halal friendly, here are a few listings of non-Japanese options.

pizza2Sekai Cafe

Located in Kaminarimon near Asakusa, Sekai Cafe is a casual eatery that offers vegan and halal fares; such as, pizza, roast chicken, lamb, foccacias, soups and salads. Drinks range from coffees to smoothies. While their business website does not state if they are halal certified, it was listed under Halal Media, a local resource dedicated to list halal friendly businesses (see listing below). They do state they are pork- and alcohol-free. An added plus is that the cafe provides free wifi and power outlets for charging electronics, which is a useful touch for travellers or if you are like the author, using a discount mobile carrier with a set monthly Internet usage budget. For more information: http://sekai-cafe.com/index.html

p_20150318_122417-1Manhattan Fish Market

Located in Ikebukuro, Manhattan Fish Market is a fish and seafood casual dining restaurant that is halal. Currently still processing its halal certification, it is a pork- and alcohol-free restaurant. Manhattan Fish Market is a global restaurant chain that has restaurants in eight different countries, and offers fares such as flame-grilled seafood (their signature style), fish and chips, chicken and pasta dishes, as well as a wide variety of appetizers, soups and salads. It offers a good selection of mocktails and alcohol-free beer. An added touch is that they offer a small prayer space for its patrons. The full menu can be found here: http://www.manhattanfishmarket.com/japan.html

malaychan-1Malaychan

Malaychan has been halal certified by the Malaysian government, a rarity in Japan. It is another eatery located in Ikebukuro, and offers an extensive menu that includes laksa and steam boat (hot pot). The establishment also offers catering services. For more information: http://www.malaychan-satu.jp/

lemaghreb2-1Le Maghreb Chandelier

Located in Nishi Azabu (a neighborhood well known for its restaurants), Le Maghreb Chandelier is a traditional Moroccan restaurant. This is the place to come for grill meats, tangines and cous cous. According to Halal Media, the restaurant is particular about reproducing authentic Moroccan cuisine without caving into the Japanese taste, and many of the ingredients are imported from overseas. Although food menu is halal, they do serve alcohol beverages in its premises, which are stored in a location completely separate from the kitchen. There is also a branch in Futoko Tamagawa, simply called Le Maghreb. Here is the website (in Japanese): http://www.lemaghrebchandelier.com/

rasamalaysiaRasa Malaysia

Located in Ginza, this Malaysian eatery is well known among the Malaysian locals and people from its embassy and airline. It is endorsed by the Malaysian Government and is certified with the Malaysia Halal Corporation. Dishes include the major Malaysian fare such as satays, mee goreng, char kuey teow, rojak and beef rendang. Its website has good photos of its dishes: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g275501/lang/en/

Others:

halalbento-1Catering Services: Halal Bento Tokyo offers foods through lunch box delivery and also catering services. It strives to deliver tasty bento boxes anywhere in Japan and uses ingredients and kitchenware that meet the strict halal standards of Malaysia. Its kitchen has been approved by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim). https://halalbento.tokyo/

prayerroomkaraoke1Karaoke: The Manekineko karaoke chain has provided halal menu at its Yotsuya-sanchome branch. It has been given a Japan Halal Standard Certificate by the Malaysia Halal Corporation. It also includes a Mecca-facing prayer room inside the building as well. An added plus is that they are flexible with halal patrons to bring in their own food should they choose to do so. While alcohol is served on its premises, all utensils, glasses and trays are provided separately to halal and non-halal customers and storage of the halal items are kept completely separated in a different kitchen. For more information: https://www.karaokemanekineko.jp/en

Useful links:

Provided by the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO): http://muslimguide.jnto.go.jp/eng/facility/tokyo/

Halal Media Japan is the world’s first Japanese Halal portal site available in English: http://www.halalmedia.jp/

Muslim Friendly Project in Japan provides training for hospitality industry staff in Japan to enhance understanding of requirements and concerns of Muslim guests visiting Japan:

http://muslim-friendly-japan.com/

This is a simple site that lists halal restaurants by area: http://www.oksfood.com/halal/halal_tokyo.html

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Apps for Tokyo Life

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By Richenda Elledge

Communicating and getting around Japan can be a challenge for foreign residents at times. However, many apps are available that make every aspect of living in Japan easier. Not only for language assistance, there are plenty of apps for finding restaurants, art exhibitions, giving guided tours, and hailing a taxi at a touch of a button. Here are some Japan-specific apps that are useful for residents and travelers alike.

Wining and Dining Apps:

goodnite33Goodnite Tokyo

iPhone and Android

Goodnite is an app that locates Tokyo’s club events, bar locations, and karaoke shops based on the user’s GPS location. Users can also share events and locations with Facebook, Twitter, and LINE friends to arrange a fun and memorable night in Tokyo. For more information: http://goodnite.jp/tokyo/

quchy2Quchy

iPhone

Quchy offers a platform to keep track, organize and recommend favorite restaurants and shops, in a flashcard sort of fashion. Users can search nearby pressing the arrow, or search any city in the world to add any business to their collection. Like a deck of cards, restaurant listings are collected in card form with the ability to add personal notes and photos.

Also, users can collect friends’ recommended cards. The more recommendations users post, the more the user’s “expertise” increases. The app is compatible with Facebook to easily recommend great places to friends. For more information: http://www.quchy.com/en/about

teepee1TeePee Guide

iPhone

A lifestyle app, the TeePee Guide publishes more than 40,000 spots like restaurants, shops, hot springs, and leisure facilities that have been featured on TV or magazines. Four genres are covered: “Eat,” “Stay,” “Shop,” and “Play,” and the app is useful for a variety of situations like dating, traveling, and searching for souvenirs and gifts. No network connection is required for offline use. However, with the phone’s GPS function, users can easily search from their current position. Easily share information using Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail and also to post and view photos and comments. In addition, the app shows driving directions to desired location by connecting with car navigation including Internavi LINC, internavi Pocket, NaviCon, NAVIelite and navico. For more information:  http://teepeeguide.jp/

sooshi1Sooshi

iPhone

Sooshi is all about one of the most delicious foods, and is not only a sushi restaurant finder but also serves as an informative guide.

The app is put together with  hand-drawn photorealistic illustrations of food and cooking utensils and it gives a high aesthetic appeal. It informs on: what sushi is, how to prepare sushi and where to find the best sushi places via the phone’s GPS. For more information: http://getsooshi.com/

cookpad1Cookpad

iPhone and Android

Cookpad is Japan’s most popular recipe-sharing site with web usage surpassing 40 million active monthly users and mobile app downloads of over 20 million.

While the app is currently only in Japanese, the company has recently launched an English-language website of its popular Japanese counterpart.

For more information: https://itunes.apple.com/app/kukkupaddo-no.1reshipi-jian/id340368403

For the English website (not app): https://cookpad.com/en/categories/japanese-recipes

Daily Life Helpers (like language aids, information providers):

pocketbook1Pocketbook Appendix

iPhone and Android

Pocketbook Appendix is the English version of “Techo-no-furoku (手帳の付録)”. This app is essentially a compilation of reference tables quite commonly found inside diaries and pocketbooks. The free version of the app contains Japan-specific information such as age conversions table (which is useful as it also lists the year in Heisei while listing the specific animal for the specific year), Japan postal charges and public holidays, as well as the time difference of other countries from Japan and also lists the prefectures. There are other more universal, non-Japan specific conversion tables for length, distance, weight and temperature included. For more information: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocketbook-appendix-free/id417002893?mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.co.technosquare.android.gappendix&hl=en

What? Nothing about Japanese studying apps or translators! This blog article would never end listing the English-Japanese dictionaries and Japanese language learning apps that are currently available (Google Translate, Iniwa, and  JEDict to name a few)  but here is one that is more unique:

waygo1Waygo

iPhone and Android

Waygo is a visual-based translator and dictionary for Chinese, Japanese and Korean that works offline and can translate text from photos taken from the camera photo. There is also a live mode where the user points the phone camera at the text and it will translate it. For more information: http://www.waygoapp.com/

safetytips1Safety Tips

iPhone and Android

Developed in collaboration with the Japan National Tourism Organisation, this app gives users earthquake and tsunami warnings issued in Japan. It provides various functions useful for both foreign tourists and residents in Japan. After registering desired location (a maximum of five is allowed), notifications regarding Earthquake Early Warnings will be sent to the user for earthquakes with a seismic intensity of 4 or greater.

The app also provides details regarding evacuation procedures, communication cards written in four languages (Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese), as well as links to other sources of information that may be necessary during disaster situations (such as contact information of embassies and nearest tourist centers). There are also explanations regarding the intensity of an earthquake (according to the seismic intensity scale). For more information: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/emergency/safety_tips.html

nhkworldtv1NHK World TV and NHK Radio

iPhone and Android

NHK operates international television, radio and Internet services. Together, they are known as NHK WORLD. NHK WORLD provides both domestic and international news to the world and to serve as a vital information lifeline in the event of major accidents and natural disasters. It also broadcasts many aspects of Japanese culture and lifestyles, recent developments in society and politics, the latest scientific and industrial trends, and Japan’s role and opinions regarding important global issues. The aim is to foster mutual understanding between Japan and other countries and promote friendship and cultural exchange. The broadcaster provides two apps, one for radio and another for TV. NHK World TV enables users to watch its channel on the iPhone or iPad, while the radio streams live radio and audio clips. For more information:  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/app/info/index_en.html

Travel & Exploration Apps:

tokyoartbeat1Tokyo Art Beat

iPhone and Android

TokyoArtBeat.com is a highly-reputed art and design events calendar. It is a free bilingual website listing hundreds of events each month. The team launched an official Tokyo Art Beat app where users can find events near their location and get directions and details for those events. It also lists a popular list to show the hottest events in Tokyo. It is compatible with Twitter, Facebook, email and SMS to bookmark and share the events. Users are able to browse through hundreds of exhibitions happening in Tokyo, sorted by media, area, time period and popularity. For more information:  http://www.tokyoartbeat.com/tablog/entries.en/2010/02/introducing-the-tokyo-art-beat-official-iphone-and-ipod-touch-app.html

tokyomapwalks1Tokyo Map and Walks

iPhone and Android

Both a lite (free) and full version are available for this app. The lite version of Tokyo Map and Walks offers a detailed and fully functional city map to assist the exploration of the city and locate sights. A useful app for travellers and residents new to Tokyo,  users can search for street names and businesses and bookmark locations. Walking tours included in this app are: the Tokyo Imperial Palace, Asakusa, Ueno Park, Yasukuni Shrine, Kitanomaru Park, Shibuya, Ginza and Takanawa.

While the Lite version does not provide navigation assistance during the tour (this function is disabled), users are still able to use the city map or learn about the tour sights visited by the walking tours from the sight descriptions and photos. The paid version includes detailed tour route maps and turn-by-turn directions to guide you from one sight to the next. For more information:  http://www.gpsmycity.com/apps/tokyo-walking-tours-20.html

sentomap1Tokyo Sento Map

iPhone

For travellers and residents who are interested in experiencing public baths Japan style, this app locates the nearest communal bath house in Tokyo by location and allows users to mark those already visited. While it is in Japanese, it is quite easy to use the search function for the locations and get addresses and directions. For more information:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tokyo-sento-map/id844039424?mt=8

Transportation Apps:

japantaxi1Japan Taxi

iPhone and Android

Japan Taxi App enables users to order a taxi with direct control and GPS function of the smartphone. It covers 47 prefectures, 22,007 cars from 123 taxi companies. Other functions include: fare calculation as per the local taxi company’s fare system, corresponding to the location, the ability to save favorite locations, and storage of past history information. For more information:  http://japantaxi.jp/

uber1Uber

iPhone, Android and Windows

Global private driver service provider, Uber, provide private taxis to customers in over 50 countries. Tokyo is one of the locations under its coverage. The app allows users to request a ride and get picked up within minutes, and the on-demand service means no reservations required and no waiting in taxi lines. The app also enables users to compare rates for different vehicles and get fare quotes in the app. In addition, customers can use PayPal or add a credit card to their secure account, thus enabling a cashless transaction. For more information: https://www.uber.com/cities/tokyo

tokyorailmap1

Tokyo Rail Map

iPhone

Tokyo Rail Map showcases a comprehensive map of the metropolitan Tokyo rail & subway system.

The app displays a clear and concise route map, and also offers the ability to do route planning and specific station lookup, as well as an overview of the train lines and transit options.

It also offers GPS support to find the user’s closest station. For more information:

http://urban-map.com/home/

trainsjp2Trains.jp

iPhone

Further to the previous listing, trains.jp app covers a wider scope. The app covers over 1,300 stations and 110 lines in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama. It displays train routes and access information including travel time, distance, and price. This version has all the route information included, so no network connection is required - perfect for visitors from overseas or iPod touch users. For more information: https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/trains.jp/id344946340?mt=8

tokyometro1Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists

iPhone and Android

Despite the app’s actual name, it would probably be useful for anyone that need directions on the subway in Tokyo. Provided by Tokyo Metro, this app enable users to search transfer information for the Tokyo Subway network (both Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway). This app is available in English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Korean and Japanese, and informs which stations have free wifi. For more information:  http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/tips/connectivity/smartphone/index.html

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Tokyo’s Fantastical Dining

alice11

Theme Restaurants in Tokyo

By Richenda Elledge

Tokyo is a mecca for gastronomical delights, from award-winning Michelin-starred restaurants to fusion izakayas and street vendors. The restaurant business is one of the most competitive industries in the city. Some Tokyo eateries have taken a more creative route, and have created special themed places. Here are a few — and by no means is this the entire list — that are truly quite out of this world.

alice21Alice’s Fantasy Restaurant
This theme restaurant chain is about Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The atmosphere of the restaurants is very cute and friendly; a suitable place for families. There are several branches around town including areas like Ginza, Shibuya, Ikebukuro and two in Shinjuku, and they all have different names such as Alice in a Labyrinth (Ginza) and Alice in Magical Land (Shinjuku).

Customers are immersed in a sense of fantasy and surrealism and the design of the interior is centered around images and descriptions straight from the novel; such as, playing card dining tables, giant tea cup booths, a magic forest, and heart-shaped chandeliers. And of course, the menu matches the theme with dishes labeled after the story characters. Dishes include the Cheshire Cat Tail Pizza and Burgundy-style Braised Beef Cheek in Queen of Hearts Red Wine Sauce. Even for non-fans of Alice in Wonderland, these restaurants are a feast for the eyes. http://www.alice-restaurant.com/

selfkitchenSelf Kitchen, Higashi Nakano
Located in Higashi-Nakano, the owner here rents out the professional-grade kitchen and living room-like area for anyone who needs a space for their culinary activities. Pick and choose ingredients from the impressively stocked fridge and well-equipped kitchen. The charges are for usage fee and the ingredients used. Drinks are available to order, and non-cooks can also amuse themselves with a variety of games, reading material and the pinball machine. http://profile.ameba.jp/oyaji-seihin/

alcatrazer1Alcatraz E.R.
Very creepy and one of Tokyo’s most crazy theme joints, the Alcatraz E.R. in Shibuya is styled after a hellish, prison hospital. Not for children, nor the squeamish, this eatery is definitely unique and one-of-a-kind — the kind that can only exist in a city as unique and “different” as Tokyo itself. Brace yourselves, the menu includes human intestines (actually a long sausage in a kidney dish) and various impossibly spicy delectables, while drinks include the Nounai Hassha (“brain buster”), which is a vodka-based cocktail in a life-size mannequin. Venture there at your own risk.  head. http://alcatraz.hy-system.com

christoncafeChriston Cafe
Not for the spiritually-sensitive, the Christon Cafe in Shinjuku is decorated with a wide range of religious paraphernalia. This theme restaurant offers Asian-European fusion food. It is operated by the Diamond Dining, which operates other theme restaurants; such as King of Pirates (Daiba), Vampire Cafe (Ginza). http://www.diamond-dining.com/shops/christoncafe/

ninjaNinja Akasaka
One of the more popular attractions for travellers, the Ninja Akasaka is a ninja-themed izakaya. The restaurant’s interior involve cave-like passageways, bridges, ponds, and gardens. The restaurant’s signature ninja-inspired courses include Shuriken (star-shaped blades) grissini, vegetables Mont Blanc, ninja-style kurage (fried chicken), and special stone-boiled soup. Since it’s tourist-friendly, the establishment also offers vegetarian or halal-friendly courses for customers. This well-known establishment has been visited by celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Lady GaGa.

The customers are also entertained by the staff whom are dressed in the appropriate Ninja attire. To top it off, an illusionist visits each table to perform magic tricks and the staff get properly into character, sneaking around the corridors as if preparing to assassinate a target. http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/

robotRobot Restaurant
Large robots, motorcycles, and carts carrying scantily-clad women run across a brilliantly bright floor and female dancers in various sexy costumes dance away. That pretty much sums up the theme of the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. Despite the fact its name includes the word “restaurant”, the establishment is primarily a place to watch the live show over drinks and consume an optional bento dinner. Nevertheless, since its opening, it has garnered popularity from customers who describe it with words like “shockingly good fun”, “a wide ride” and “surreal entertainment”. The waiting room is already another world, surrounded by mirrors and bright colored lights. More than half of the patrons are estimated to be foreign visitors. The show starts with women in costumes starting a glamorous dance set to a taiko (Japanese drum) performance. Next, a performance that includes a marching parade and motorcycles, and a spectacle involving large robots run for about ninety minutes. During the latter half of the show, large robots appear one after another. The charge for the show is 6,000 yen and the bento box is 1,000 yen. http://www.shinjuku-robot.com/

Animal-themed cafes:
It may have started with felines but it certainly did not end there in Tokyo. Cat cafes are indeed very yesterday and here are two of the more unique animal cafes.

goatcafeSakuragaoka Cafe (Goat Cafe)
There are a plethora of animal cafes around town particularly cat cafes, but one of the most eclectic choices is Sakuragaoko Cafe, which houses two resident goats, Sakura and Chocolat. Customers can interact and even sign up to take one of the goats for a walk. Located in Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya district, besides the goats, the cafe offer a decent food and drinks menu. The cafe itself also has a calm, laid back atmosphere,  encouraging chilling out and long conversations over coffee. The lights are low and the seating is comfortable and in lounge style. The restaurant opens for long hours extending to 4am and offers both lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday. Wifi is also available. No website but here is the address and phone: 〒150-0031 東京都渋谷区桜丘町23−3 篠田ビル (just paste this into Google for map, it’s a stone’s throw from the train station) Tel: 03-5728-3242

owlcafe2Fukuro No Mise (Owl Cafe)
Gaining popularity since the first owl cafe opened, there are now a few owl cafes around Tokyo. Fukuro No Mise, located in Tsukishima station, was the first to offer this idea back in 2012. Only open for a few hours each day, entry into the establishment goes by a system where several one-hour time slots are offered on the given day. Only a small number of people are allowed to enter at each time slot, and unfortunately reservations in advance are not allowed, which means queuing up before the cafe opens is suggested. At the given time slot, customers have one hour to interact with the owls while consuming the included drink. No food is served at this establishment, the experience is really all about the owls. As the rules are given in Japanese, it is useful to be able to converse in Japanese; although English is available on Fridays. The cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. http://ameblo.jp/fukurounomise/

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Blog Entries from 2011: Gourmet and Shopping at Tokyo Station

Please note that the blog entries from this point below were published back in 2011 and earlier. The information contained in them may not be relevant as of today. Thank you for your understanding; and we look forward to you continued readership of our current articles. Please let us know if there is any information you’d like us to write.

Tokyo station is one of the largest and oldest stations in Japan, and is also the starting poing of Shinkansen rails.  There are many chances to use Tokyo station in both moving inside central Tokyo and traveling to distant areas.

Tokyo station is not a place only for transport.  There is a shopping street in the underground of the station.

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First Avenue Tokyo Station (東京駅一番街) is a shopping and gourmet area in the underground floor of Tokyo station, right outside Yaesu gate (八重洲口).  There are about 100 stores, such as restaurants, cafes, and shops where you can purchase souvenirs of Tokyo.

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In the south end of First Avenue are many popular Ramen restaurants.  This corner is called ‘Tokyo Ramen Street’.

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In the north end is an area called ‘Tokyo Character Street’.  There are shops of various characters, such as Ultraman and Hello Kitty.  There are also a shop of Shonen Jump, the comic magazine of Naruto and One Piece.

If you have time in your hand at Tokyo station, why not look around First Avenue Tokyo Station for some souvenirs for your friends and yourself?


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