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Life in Tokyo Archive

Plum Blossom Viewing in Tokyo

Photo by Kanegen via Creative Commons

Photo by Kanegen via Creative Commons

Plum (ume) blossoms usually bloom in late February to signal the start of spring. While hanami revellers focus on cherry blossoms, which tend to overshadow the former, plum blossom blooms should not be overlooked. Plum blossoms have red, pink, or white flowers and remain in bloom until early March and because they can start to bloom in the early part of Feb, sometimes they can be seen surrounded by snowfall. Given the timing, they provide a colorful and cheerful backdrop to the drabness of winter. The peak of the bloom usually starts from middle or late February until the beginning of March.

The main difference between plum and cherry blossoms is that a cluster of cherry blossoms bloom from one single bud and have a long stem, while there’s only one plum blossom per bud. Much like cherry blossoms, plum blossoms dot the city and can be found almost anywhere around town. Click here for a previous blog entry on cherry blossoms. In this article, we showcase five places where the plum blossoms are in concentration and where festivals may also be held celebrating them in Tokyo.

korakuenKoishikawa Korakuen Garden

One of Tokyo’s oldest landscape gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen Garden was founded in 1629 and located in a downtown part of Tokyo near Tokyo Dome. This charming private garden has a small grove of plum trees beautifully planted around the gardens that feature a pond. This garden features a central pond and hills, making it perfect for a stroll. Under the terms of the Law for Preservation of Cultural Assets, Koishikawa Korakuen has been designated an important historical asset and site of special historical significance. This garden impresses all year round.

Photo by Guilhem Vellut via Creative Commons

Photo by Guilhem Vellut via Creative Commons

Kyu Shiba Rikyu and Hamarikyu Gardens

With a modern city backdrop, Kyu Shiba Rikyu and Hamarikyu are great city parks. Kyu Shiba Rikyu is by Hamamatsucho station, while Hamarikyu Garden is located near Shinbashi and Shiodome stations. The two parks are within close range to one another. At Kyu Shiba Rikyu, plum trees spread out on the grounds amidst an attractive pond. Hamarikyu Garden, which has a plum tree grove on its premises sits by the waterfront and a pier with boats heading to Asakusa is beside it.

hanegi-parkHanegi Park

Hanegi Park is considered one of the best plum blossom spots nationwide. Located in Meidaimae, Setagaya Ward, the large park houses a playground, baseball field, tennis courts and a traditional tea house. The park holds an annual festival during the plum blossom bloom period, which features various musical performances, haiku classes, and outdoor tea ceremonies. The festival also has refreshment booths, horticulture and potted plant markets, and sales of plum-related foods.

yushimatemple2Yushima Seido Temple

The plum blossoms of Yushima Tenjin feature about 300 trees of 20 different varieties. Located in Bunkyo Ward, the Yushima Seido Temple holds a series of events such as taiko performances when the plum blossoms are in season. It is a Shinto shrine established in 458 A.D. to worship Ameno-tajikaraono-mikoto, one of deities that appears in Japanese myth.

kinutaKinuta Park

Kinuta Park is a large grassy park in Setagaya Ward, and the land  was a golf course before 1957. About 40 Japanese apricot trees relocated here in 1984 to form a dense plum tree forest, located near the athletic field and children’s forest. It is also a popular Hanami spot in Tokyo with over 900 cherry blossom trees on site.

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Tokyo: Prices reach 23-year high for newly-built apartments, luxury types take the lead

tomohiro-ohsumi-bloomberg

Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi, Bloomberg

Hanabi (fireworks) is not the only thing going “boom” in Tokyo these days. Tokyo’s real estate market is also enjoying a boom of its own. According to a recent report published by the Real Estate Economic Institute, the average price of new apartments released for sale in 23-Ward Tokyo reached JPY79.84m, an increase of 27.9% year-on-year (YoY). The average price per square meter was JPY1,199,000, representing a YoY growth of 34.6%. An increase in the supply of higher-end condos and the rising construction costs are cited as key reasons for this price growth.

More interestingly, sales of luxury, high-end properties costing over JPY100m now represent over one fifth of the entire 23-ward market. While there were 2,020 units on the market in July for 23-ward Tokyo, of which 83.3% were sold (1,684 units), out of this, 417 units (22% of the total)  had cost over JPY100 million.

brillia-meguro2

Computer-generated image of Brillia Meguro

One key example of this rapid growth is the Brillia Towers Meguro development in the Meguro station area. A total of 603 units were sold in July, of which the average price tag was a whopping JPY111.47m. Apparently, there were an average of 3.4 offers for every unit released for sale, and as many as 43 offers for the popular ones, according to the report. Construction is slated to be completed in 2017, and so far 91% of the units have already been sold.

The average sales price of new apartments in the wider area — greater Tokyo — also grew but to a lesser extent. Greater Tokyo sales (which includes its suburban sprawl of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama Prefectures) grew 2.4% month-on-month (MoM) and 7.6%YoY with the average sales price hitting JPY59.53m. This is the highest sale price since May 1992, when prices had averaged JPY59.71m. The average price per square meter, which ran up to JPY850,000 in July for greater Tokyo, had increased by 2.5% MoM and 10.2% YoY. This is the highest per square meter price seen since November 1992.

Photo by Reuters

Photo by Reuters

In July, 4,785 new apartments in greater Tokyo were released for sale, an increase of 36.6% MoM and 13.3% YoY, and of which 83.7% were sold (4,003 apartments). Of all new apartments, 1,722 units on the market were in high-rise buildings (an increase of 12.3% YoY) and of which 92.3% were sold (buildings with 20 or more floors are categorized as high-rise buildings).

For more details, here is the actual report (Japanese only): https://www.fudousankeizai.co.jp/share/mansion/216/s201508.pdf

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Pocket-sized personal transporters could soon be seen on the streets of Tokyo

walkcar

Photo courtesy of WalkCar

Technology | Fri Aug 7, 2015 2:06pm EDT

Reuters: A Japanese engineer has developed a portable transporter small enough to be carried in a backpack that he says is the world’s first ‘car in a bag’.

Twenty-six-year-old Kuniako Saito and his team at Cocoa Motors recently unveiled the lithium battery-powered “WalkCar” transporter, which is the size of a laptop and resembles a skateboard more than a car.

The slender WalkCar is made from aluminum and weighs between two and three kilograms (4.4 to 6.6 pounds), depending on whether it is an indoor or outdoor version.

Saito expects to see many other uses for his transporter, as he says it has enough power to help people push wheelchairs with ease. The lightweight aluminum board is stronger than it looks, and can take loads of up to 120kg (265 pounds).

It reaches top speeds of 10 kilometers per hour (6.2 miles per hour), for distances of up to 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) after three hours of charging.

Its developer says it’s also extremely simple to ride. Once the rider stands on it the WalkCar starts automatically, while simply stepping off stops the vehicle. To change direction, the user just shifts their weight.

Best of all, there is no need to find a parking space, because it fits into a small bag when not in use.

Saito said his studies in electric car motor control systems sparked the idea for the new kind of ride.

“I thought, “what if we could just carry our transportation in our bags, wouldn’t that mean we’d always have our transportation with us to ride on?” and my friend asked me to make one, since I was doing my masters in engineering specifically on electric car motor control systems,” he told Reuters.

Saito says he is confident that WalkCar goes beyond bulkier devices such as the Segway or Toyota’s Winglet.

“Maybe I just see it that way, but it seems to me that the U.S. is always the one which invents new products and Japan is the one which takes those products and improves on them to make a better version of it. But here in this case, the WalkCar is a totally new product I have started from scratch. So I also I want to show the world that Japan can also be innovative,” he said.

Saito says customers will be able to reserve their own WalkCars from autumn 2015 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. The futuristic skateboard will have a price-tag of around 100,000 Japanese Yen (about $800). Shipping is expected to begin by spring 2016.

Check out this link for a cool video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS-Bdy6nf80

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Tourism boom drives Japan to convert offices into hotels

Tourism boom drives Japan to convert offices into hotels

"Business-class" cabins are seen at First Cabin hotel, which was converted from an old office building, in Tokyo, July 3, 2015. Record tourists to Japan are stretching the ability of hotels to accommodate them in a sector constrained by high costs, forcing developers to think out of the box for means to quickly increase lodging options without breaking the bank. Picture taken July 3, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai - RTX1MBVO

By Junko Fujita

BUSINESS JUL. 31, 2015 - 07:30AM JST

TOKYO (Reuters) — Record tourists to Japan are stretching the ability of hotels to accommodate them in a sector constrained by high costs, forcing developers to think out of the box for means to quickly increase lodging options without breaking the bank.

Japan is on target this year to beat the record 13.4 million visitors in 2014, helped by a weak yen and easier visa requirements for some Asian countries. The government is aiming to attract 20 million visitors by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics, to revitalize the world’s third-biggest economy.

The rising influx of tourists is already squeezing existing accommodation supply in Tokyo, which has about 100,000 hotel rooms. Just 7,600 rooms are scheduled to be added in the next three years, according to STR Global, a research firm for the hotel industry.

The slow pace of growth is due to rising land prices and construction costs. One quick solution: convert old office buildings into hotels with tiny but stylish rooms that can rent for under US$30 a night, less than half the rate for a cheap business hotel.

“Converting an office building into a hotel is an ideal way to respond to the immediate need for hotel rooms,” said Yukari Sasaki, senior managing officer at property developer Sankei Building Co. “Building a hotel from scratch costs too much money now because of high construction costs.”

Sankei, a unit of Fuji Media Holdings Inc, which owns the conservative Sankei newspaper, converted a 35-year-old office building in Tokyo’s electronics-geek district of Akihabara into a hotel in under a year and for less than $8 million.

The hotel, called Grids, charges ¥3,300 ($27) a night per person for a bunkbed and up to ¥5,000 ($40) for premium rooms with tatami mats.

By comparison, the average room rate at Tokyo’s lowest-ranked business hotels has risen 11.7 percent from a year earlier to ¥9,500, according to STR Global.

“The market for this type of hotel is still tiny, but it has potential to grow bigger in major cities where hotel demand is strong,” said Tomohiko Sawayanagi, managing director for Jones Lang LaSalle in Tokyo.

Also, as more office towers are being built, older and smaller office buildings become less attractive. Such properties could be better used as hotels, industry people say.

“Some office buildings can generate higher returns when converted into hotels because we can expect further increases in foreign visitors to Japan,” said Yuji Sakawa, deputy general manager at B-lot Co, a Tokyo-based real estate investor.

COMPETITION

Last year, B-lot converted a 28-year-old office building near Tokyo’s popular Tsukiji fish market into a hotel called First Cabin, where ¥5,500 will get you a “business-class cabin” with a single bed.

Another ¥1,000 buys you space to open a suitcase.

In March, B-lot sold First Cabin to Hong Kong-based property investor SIS International Holdings Ltd, and is now converting a 30-year-old office building in Shinjuku, a popular destination for Asian tourists, into a bunkbed hotel.

Competition will come from the likes of home rental website Airbnb, which has listed thousands of properties, even at the risk of running afoul of the law.

Current regulations on short-term rentals are strict: owners are not allowed to legally let their homes without a license, hotel-style reception desks and minimum room sizes.

But there is hope. As part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic growth strategy, his government has designated special zones across the country where a range of regulations will be eased, including laws related to short-term lodging.

In the meantime, property developer Sankei plans to convert more office buildings into low-end hotels. Its Grids property in Tokyo is slated to be torn down eventually to make way for an apartment building.

“But if tourism is still booming, we may rebuild it as a new hotel,” Sankei’s Sasaki said.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015. Click For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

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Cool off with Summer Festivals

tokyobay3-2By Richenda Elledge

Despite the sweltering heat, summer is an exciting season in Japan. From catching gigantic beetles and tuning in to the cicadas’ last song,  to relaxing on the beach digging into a kakigori (shaved ice flavored with syrup), it wouldn’t be a Japanese summer without watching a display of fireworks and attending a Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival). What better way to cool off from a summer’s day of sticky, muggy heat than to attend these events in the cool evening. The listing is given in chronological order.

hiratsukatanabataTanabata Hiratsuka Festival, Jul 3-5

In its 65th year, Hiratsuka’s Tanabata is the biggest in the Kanto region. The colourful festivities will be centered around the shopping street on the north side of Hiratsuka station. The official event will continue until 9pm on Friday and Saturday and until 8pm on Sunday.

http://www.tanabata-hiratsuka.com/

mitamimatsuriMitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine, Jul 13-16

The hottest months of summer are traditionally when Japanese commune with and honour the spirits of the dead. One such festival based around this idea is the Mitama Matsuri at the politically complex Yasukuni Shrine. Along the sando – the promenade leading to the main shrine – 30,000 lanterns are strung from towers of metal scaffolding to create a spectacular approach. As is typical with summer festivals, there is also plenty of food, beer and music. The festival runs for 4 days from Sunday, July 13th. The shrine is a 5 minute walk from Kudanshita Station on the Tokyo Metro Honzomon and Tozai Lines as well as the Toei Shinjuku Line. http://www.yasukuni.or.jp/schedule/mitama.html

adachifireworksAdachi Fireworks Festival, Jul 18

This year will be the 37th edition of the Annual Adachi Fireworks Festival, where 12,000 fireworks will go off from 7:30-8:30pm.

The festival will be held along the Arakawa River – 15 minutes from Kita-Senju Station. Pack a picnic and find a spot on the river banks – the display is visible from a variety of vantage points. The show lasts for an hour.

Please note the event will be postponed a day in the event of storms and cancelled if there are two days of storms. http://adachikanko.net/hanabi/index.html

kamakurafireworksKamakura Fireworks Festival, Jul 23

The 67th Kamakura Fireworks Festival takes place at Yuigahama on the coast of Kamakura City from 7:20pm-8:10pm on Thurs, Jul 23rd.

This would probably be a good finish to a day trip to the area to either enjoy the beach or visit the various historic temples and shrines in the area. In event of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled with no back-up day this year. http://www.kamakura-info.jp/topics/31395

showakinenfireworksShowa Kinen Park Fireworks Festival, Jul 25

The Tachikawa Showa Kinen Park Fireworks Festival will see 5,000 fireworks launched, making it a medium-sized festival by Tokyo standards. About 300 000 people attend. Expect lots of yukata and picnic baskets – it’s a nice idea to bring dinner and make an evening of it. Entrance to the park is entirely free after 6:00pm but if you paid the entrance fee to the park earlier in the day, you’d get a better viewing spot, the organisers say (over 15’s: 410 yen; under 15’s: 80 yen). Apparently it gets crowded around 5:00pm.

The nearest station is Nishi-Tachikawa or Tachikawa Station on the JR Line. http://www.tbt.gr.jp/hanabi/

sumidafireworksSumidagawa Fireworks Festival, Jul 25

This is the Motherload of all summer fireworks festivals and it takes place in Asakusa, Tokyo on Sat, Jul 25th. The fireworks kick off at 7:05pm and run for a full 90 minutes. This festival attracts massive crowds. If there is stormy weather the event will take place on the following day. http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index_eg.html

shinjukueisa2Shinjuku Eisa Festival 2015, Jul 25

Not really a typical summer matsuri or tanabata event, but very close — Saturday, the 25th of July sees the 43rd Shinjuku Eisa Festival. Eisa is a traditional dance originating in the Okinawan islands.  The traditional costumes, dancing and drumming are quite different to what you’re likely to see in other festivals in Japan. The organisers are only expecting about 1 million people to turn up to watch!  Mind you, this is Shinjuku so you probably won’t notice the difference. http://www.shinjuku-eisa.com/

tokyobay_picmonkeyedTokyo bay Fireworks, Aug 8

Not the most public-friendly of the fireworks display but definitely one of the most stunning given the attractive backdrop comprising of Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge. The event, which kicks off from 6:50 to 8:10pm on Sat, Aug 8th, launches 12,000 shells from a barge installed in the water near Harumifuto Park. The best views are from official spots at Harumifuto Park, a 15 minute walk from Toyosu Station. Some areas are free, but it is necessary to arrive early enough to secure them. http://www.city.chuo.lg.jp/bunka/event/toukyouwanndaihanabisaimeinn.html

Photo credits: direct from organiser’s website

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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

chibafarming_picmonkeyed

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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Spring into the Cherry Blossoms!

flowerblossom31

By Richenda Elledge

One of Tokyo’s best times of the year and event has arrived. Cherry blossom season with all its glorious hanami parties and beautiful scenery is a time not to be missed. The Japan Meteorological Agency has officially declared that cherry trees are blossoming and the first cherry blossoms were even spotted as early as Monday at Yasukuni Shrine.

That said, they are expected to come into full bloom throughout Tokyo from the weekend, and the full-blooming day is expected to be on April 1st. Here are some of the best locations for viewing sakura in Tokyo.

yasukuni2Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto Shrine in Chiyoda. This is one of the most famous locations and hordes of locals and travelers head here for cherry blossom viewing.

Much like the groundhog in the US, it’s also the go-to location to gauge the cherry blossom blossoming schedule.

imperialpalace3Imperial Palace Grounds

The Palace Gardens are especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season.

The Japanese Imperial Palace Gardens are open to the public daily except Mondays and Fridays. The entrance is free.

shinjukukoenShinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen has over 20,000 trees, including 1,500 sakura trees.

What makes this location so popular is its variety of cherry tree species that bloom from March to the end of April.

uenoparkkUeno Park

Ueno Park has around 1,000 sakura trees, most of which line the main path through the park. The area also offers plenty of space for hanami parties.

Of course, another good thing about Ueno is that there are other attractions in sight; such as the wide variety of museums and the Ueno Zoo. The grounds are also a delight to meander through.

yoyogiYoyogi Park

Although the number of cherry trees is small, the family-friendly setting of this park makes it a popular destination. Thus Yoyogi Park remains one of Tokyo’s most popular locations for families and friends to congregate for hanami. In addition, it’s in a very central part of Tokyo, a mere stone’s throw from Harajuku and Omotesando.

p1050922Nakameguro River

This author’s favorite spot, this location is a little different, in that the cherry trees dot the Meguro River and really don’t offer spaces for hanami parties per se. However, the restaurants and cafes that line the river all come out with food and drink stands in a festival setting. The festivities start from early in the day and end late into the night.

midtownnightTokyo Midtown & Roppongi Hills

For an urban Cherry Blossom viewing, Roppongi actually offers a great place for this enjoyment. Tokyo Midtown is a convenient spot. Its gardens feature eight different kinds of cherry trees and 150 in total, many of which are lit up at night. And of course, the complex has come up with promotions and decorations to match the occasion.

rhillsThe annual cherry blossom light-up at Roppongi Hills lights up the sakura trees in the Mohri Garden and along the Sakura-zaka slope. There are also festivities to mark the occasion with its Spring Festival that will showcase light performances and Springtime menu in a variety of restaurants located inside the complex. Some craft making sessions are also on offer.

skytreeblossom2Sumida River

About 1,000 trees along the Sumida River are lit up from 5 to 9:30 pm during the bloom period. Furthermore, the close proximity of Tokyo Sky Tree means cherry blossoms can be viewed along with one of Tokyo’s major landmarks. This has in turn  increased the popularity of this location.

inokashiraInokashira Park

Inokashira Koen straddles between Musashino and Mitaka in western Tokyo. Many cherry trees are planted around the pond, which makes this a charming spot to enjoy the blossoms while riding a boat out in the pond (available for rent). The park also has a petting zoo and a small aquarium.

chofuJindai Botanical Garden Chofu

Out in Chofu, Jindai Botanical Garden has over 60 different kinds of cherry trees, all of which burst into bloom around the end of March. The park offers free guided tours and as a botanical garden, the green surroundings, sculptured grounds and other plants compliment the cherry blossoms. To mark the occasion, special concerts will be held on March 28 and April 5.

cherrybird23

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Moving Companies

moving

Moving Companies

In addition to Art Corporation (http://www.the0123.com/) (awfully expensive but professional), there are some lower-priced options that offer help in English.

Quoz Movers Tokyo

Quoz Movers is a moving company for people who need to get things done in Tokyo. The company has been moving people since 1995 and have an experienced team that can handle any kind of move small or large. All of its staff speak English. Services include packing, moving, and disposal. Although the majority of our work is in Tokyo we are able to offer moving services to other parts of Japan. Website: http://www.quoz.biz/

Tokyo Happy Move

Tokyo Happy Move provides reasonably priced moves in the Kanto area. The company is able to keep prices low by working together with our customers. It is the client’s choice for the type of move, either assisted or non assisted. Website: http://www.tokyohappymove.com/moving

Tokyo Helping Hands

Tokyo Helping Hands is a family owned company, founded and based in Tokyo City. The company claims to have friendly, energetic and trilingual staff, and offer services designed specifically to meet the needs of the international community in Tokyo. Tokyo Helping Hands provide tailored packages to suit individual needs, and ensures that moving in and around Tokyo area will become a much simpler and relaxing experience. Website: http://www.tokyohelpinghands.com

Tokyo Move

Tokyo Move is a small Tokyo-based, service-oriented moving company that works hard to provide clients with affordable hassle-free moving. They are known for their professionalism and flexibility. Email Cem at sales@tokyomove.com or call him at 090-6016-5109. Website: http://www.tokyomove.com/

Transporter Tokyo

Trilingual ((English, French and Japanese) moving and delivery company. Website: http://transporter-tokyo.com/

XPS Tokyo

Serving Tokyo’s foreign community for 7 years and offering professional services at competitive prices,  XPS Tokyo, provides a wide range of services tailored for foreign residents. Website: http://www.xpstokyo.com/

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