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dsc05825Our agent, Higherground (HG) did a fantastic job in helping us acquire our home. The company showed us many properties and the appointments were flexible and suited our schedule. More importantly, they helped us with our loan application, contract procedures, and answered all our questions. To buy a home through HG was like a stroll in the woods; stress-free and smooth. Because of HG, it was surprisingly easy for us to buy a home in Japan. In addition, the fees we paid were very reasonable. In the end we were able to find our dream home, and we are very happy with our purchase.

I would highly recommend them to anyone interested in purchasing a home.

N.K.

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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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Japan’s First Robot Manned Hotel

At Japan’s Weird Hotel, receptionists, porters, concierge are all robots to save labor costs

By YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer

Check out the Photo Gallery: http://www.wral.com/business/image/14774321/?ref_id=14774320

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

SASEBO, JAPAN ? From the receptionist that does the check-in and check-out to the porter that’s an automated trolley taking luggage up to the room, this hotel in southwestern Japan, aptly called Weird Hotel, is “manned” almost totally by robots to save labor costs.

Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel as part of an amusement park, insists using robots is not a gimmick, but a serious effort to utilize technology and achieve efficiency.

The receptionist robot that speaks in English is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one that speaks Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes. “If you want to check in, push one,” the dinosaur says. The visitor still has to punch a button on the desk, and type in information on a touch panel screen.

Henn na Hotel, as it is called in Japanese, was shown to reporters Wednesday, complete with robot demonstrations, ahead of its opening to the public Friday.

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Another feature of the hotel is the use of facial recognition technology, instead of the standard electronic keys, by registering the digital image of the guest’s face during check-in.

The reason? Robots aren’t good at finding keys, if people happen to lose them.

A giant robotic arm, usually seen in manufacturing, is encased in glass quarters in the corner of the lobby. It lifts one of the boxes stacked into the wall and puts it out through a space in the glass, where a guest can place an item in it, to use as a locker.

The arm will put the box back into the wall, until the guest wants it again. The system is called “robot cloak room.”

Why a simple coin locker won’t do isn’t the point.

“I wanted to highlight innovation,” Sawada told reporters. “I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up.”

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Staying at Henn na Hotel starts at 9,000 yen ($80), a bargain for Japan, where a stay in one of the nicer hotels can easily cost twice or three times that much.

The concierge is a doll-like hairless robot with voice recognition that prattles breakfast and event information. It cannot call a cab or do other errands.

Japan is a world leader in robotics technology, and the government is trumpeting robotics as a pillar of its growth strategy. Robots have long been used here in manufacturing. But interest is also high in exploring the potential of robots in human interaction, including helping care for the elderly.

Robotics is also key in the decommissioning of the three reactors in Fukushima, northern Japan, which went into meltdowns in 2011, in the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.

One area Henn na Hotel still relies on human beings is security.

The place is dotted with security cameras, and real people are watching everything through a monitor to make sure guests stay safe and no one makes off with one of the expensive robots.

“And they still can’t make beds,” said Sawada, who has also engineered the rise of a popular affordable Japanese travel agency.

He has big ambitions for his robot hotel concept and wants to open another one soon in Japan, and later abroad. He is also eager to add other languages, such as Chinese and Korean, to the robots’ vocabulary.

A block-shaped robot that was scuttling around in the lobby had been brought in to do room service, delivering beverages and simple snacks. But it wasn’t ready to do that yet.

Outdoors, Sawada also demonstrated a drone that flew in to deliver a few small jars filled with snacks. He said he wanted to eventually have drones perform in shows for guests.

Photo: Shizuo Kambayashi, AP

Photo: Shizuo Kambayashi, AP

In the hotel’s rooms, a lamp-size robot in the shape of a fat pink tulip called Tuly answers simple questions like, “What time is it?” and “What is the weather tomorrow?”

You can also tell it to turn the room lights on or off. There are no switches on the walls.

Sawada is keeping the hotel half-filled for the first few weeks to make sure nothing goes wrong.

He also canceled at the last minute the overnight stay planned for media. The robots simply weren’t ready.

___

Follow Yuri Kageyama: twitter.com/yurikageyama

Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Vintage Apartments in the Azabus

The Azabus (Moto Azabu, Minami Azabu and Nishi Azabu mainly) are highly sought-after residential areas with one of the highest price tags in Tokyo. It is a well-known embassy and affluent area, and is popular with locals and foreign residents alike. The branded residences as well as newly-built apartments tend to run over JPY10,000 per square meter in rent.

One option that is worth considering is looking for vintage-grade residences that would offer the convenience and luxury of residing in a popular location. Vintage-grade apartments tend to offer spacious layouts for the given rent, and are likely to be renovated inside to provide a comfortable lifestyle. Because of the location, the building, while on the older side, are also well-maintained and kept tidy to fit in with the surroundings. In this article, we highlight a number of vintage-grade apartment buildings primarily in Motoazabu and Minami-Azabu.

customCustom Motoazabu

Located in the heart of the exclusive Motoazabu neighbourhood, Custom Motoazabu is a vintage apartment residence with a small number of units, which affords it a private and exclusive atmosphere in a sought-after location. Each apartment occupies an entire floor, which enables residents a very private living arrangement in this five-storey building.

Moto-Azabu, with its famous schools (such as Azabu High School and Nishimachi International School) boasts a gated-residence feel. The array of embassies within Moto Azabu, coupled with the private Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club further accentuates the tranquil and exclusive atmosphere. The vast selection of high-quality international preschools also attract many young foreign families to the area.

custom31School buses heading for international schools farther away run through the area. Good quality playgrounds are also in close proximity; and Arisugawa Park is a public space that offers a tranquil spot within well-kept grounds and landscaping in the heart of the city.

Conveniently located, Custom Azabu is between Hiroo and Azabu Juban, which means access to the shops, cafes, restaurants and supermarkets is easily accessible in both locations. In addition, Roppongi is not too far away, and would offer further commercial choices. Hiroo station (Hibiya line) is 7 minutes walk away, while Azabu Juban station (Oedo and Namboku lines) is 9 minutes walk away.

As of July 15th 2015, one 4-bedroom (314.82 sq. m) apartment is listed for JPY900,000 per month, representing just JPY2900 per sq. m approximately. For more info:?http://higherground-rent.com/rent/564/

motoazabugdns2Motoazabu Garden

Located in the Azabu Juban side of Motoazabu, Motoazabu Garden is situated in a convenient location with direct access to supermarkets, shops, restaurants and cafes. While the property was constructed in 1989, and falls in the vintage category, in line with the rigorous demands of being in such a prestigious location, the building is well-kept and classically stylish.

The lobby has a charming lounge area and the open areas are well maintained and neat. The five-storey building has auto-lock entry, video intercom, security and offers storage lockers for deliveries.

Azabu-Juban is an area with many commercial entities from shops, restaurants, cafes to bars. While Nissin World Delicatessen supermarket, a large-scale international supermarket, is only a short walk from the train station, there are other supermarkets in the area to offer more choices.

motoazabugdns1The main shopping street of Azabu Juban gives off a charming, village atmosphere that is complimented by the cobblestone pavements in some areas. Despite the old-world charm, the area also offers modern shops and eateries, including vegan cafes, taco and burrito restaurants as well as other modern fare among the usual Starbucks or Tully’s Coffee. Four minutes from Azabu Juban station, there is easy access to the Namboku and Oedo train lines. Roppongi is also within easy reach and would offer additional delights in shopping, dining and entertainment.

Currently as at July 15th, 2015, a 2-bedroom (85.31 sq. m) is available for JPY390,000 per month. For more info:?http://higherground-rent.com/rent/1135/

castlemotoazabuCastle Motoazabu

Located seven minutes walk from Azabu Juban station, Castle Motoazabu is an older style apartment building that provides large, spacious units that are geared toward foreign residents. Steps from Motoazabu Hills and nestled amongst embassies, the residence is situated in a quiet and luxurious neighborhood.

Close to both Azabu Juban and Hiroo, residents can access the transportation found in both places as well a businesses and services to cater to day-to-day needs. The street facing the residence is lined with trees, offering a serene atmosphere. The building itself is well kept and stately in appearance. The front desk has bilingual staffs.

The spacious apartments provide a large living area as well as a good sized master bedroom. The master bedroom tends to have a walk-in closet and the kitchens of the units tend to provide a wide range of appliances suited to the needs of foreign residents. Parking is also available within the building premises.

castlemotoazabu2A number of great international schools and preschools are within walking distance from this residence; and the school buses of other major international schools pass through the area. The area is also close to Arisugawa Park. The close proximity to Azabu Juban enables residents easy access to a wide variety of shops, restaurants and cafes. There are both local and international supermarkets in the vicinity. Roppongi is also within walking distance.

Currently listed (as at July 15th, 2015) is a 4-bedroom (204.13 sq. m) for JPY 1,050,000 per month. For more info:?http://higherground-rent.com/rent/1158/

katsucourtKatsu Court Motoazabu

This apartment is located in Moto-Azabu, an exclusive residential area with an international atmosphere. ?There are several embassies around the area, as well as Arisugawa Park which offers a beautiful garden and large children???s playground. The ground floor houses a highly-reputed international preschool, ABC International and the main entrance is on the side of the building; but nevertheless providing a modern, well-maintained entrance using high-grade materials and a nice display of green that give an upmarket appeal.

Vintage-style apartments tend to offer good value and the rent per sq. meters tend to be lower in these older style apartments, which offer the possibility to live in a wonderful location. And in Motoazabu, older style apartments are great because they are well-maintained, still look appealing and stately, and tend to offer apartment styles that cater to foreign tastes. And Katsu Court Motoazabu is a great vintage apartment in the heart of one of the nicest neighborhood in Tokyo.

The neighborhood is close to Roppongi Hills and the closest train stations are Hiroo and Azabu Juban. The entrance and lobby are modern and offer a posh appeal. The apartments are very large for Tokyo standards and are well suited to foreign residents. Apartments go as large as 320 sq. meters in size, offering 5 bedrooms and ample living space, as well as a family or den area.

Kitchens are also well proportioned and offer a large working space and a good selection of appliances. The modern apartments also include a large master bedroom and closet space. There is a building manager on duty and parking is available within the building premises. For more info:?http://higherground-rent.com/rent/790/

veneo1Veneo Minamiazabu

Located between Hiroo and Shirokane Takanawa stations in Minami Azabu 4-chome, Veneo Minamiazabu is an older but upmarket classic-type residence. Built in 1988, both the exterior and interior are finished with granite and natural tiles, giving it an expensive look.

The entrance leads to a lobby decorated with classical furniture and the finishings give an European atmosphere to the environment. While the exterior is grey toned, the interior is finished with a travertine-toned tile walls and light flooring.

Apartments are large, for example one unit in this building is over 300 sq. meters and came with four bedrooms, an ensuite in the master bedroom and a housekeeper???s room. Parking is also available on site and the building has good security in place.

Hiroo offers not only an international supermarket but also a local supermarket, a large number of eateries and also chain coffee shops such as Starbucks. There are further options in Shirokane Takanawa for shopping and restaurants. In addition, there are many bilingual services in the surrounding area, which such as bilingual and dental clinics and hair and beauty salons. For more info:?http://higherground-rent.com/rent/304/

victoriacourtVictoria Court Minamiazabu

Located in a quiet residential area of Minami Azabu 3-chome, not far from the Honmura Elementary School is Victoria Court Minamiazabu. The residence is a low-rise development comprising of two wings, East and West. Built in 1991, this residence is a great vintage-style property that provides great value in rental for size and quality of the apartments.

The property houses a total of 21 units only, which is small given its land size and provided facilities. This enables residents to live in a private and tranquil setting. There is also plenty of greenery and the surrounding exterior has a lot of trees and shrubs that give the building a relaxed, laidback atmosphere.

The in-house facilities are extensive: there is a heated indoor swimming pool, squash court, sauna, BBQ area, and kids play room. With such a small number of units, these facilities would also not be crowded. The 24-hour manned front desk is also bilingual and the building has auto-lock entry and video intercom installed. On site parking is available as well as trunk rooms for residents.The bright, well-lit apartments have an array of appliances installed and offer plenty of storage space. The living area and bedrooms are well proportioned to maximise the space.

There are also good international schools in close proximity and school buses to international schools further out run through the neighborhood. Tokyo International School is a stone???s throw away and ISSH is also within walking distance.

The closest train station would be Shirokane Takanawa but Hiroo station is also accessible, being about 13 minutes walk away. Azabu Juban station is also reachable within 15 minutes. The close proximity to multiple stations also maximises the variety of supermarkets, shops, clinics and restaurants. For more info:?http://higherground-rent.com/rent/318/

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Quirky Pics Around Town

A Collection of Quirky Photos Around Tokyo (as only in Tokyo)

tokyohackginza1Number 1:

Members of the human statue street performer group named “Tokyo Hack” get shoppers’ attention as they march in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district Sunday, April 12, 2015. The main street in Ginza shuts the traffic and opens for shoppers during the day on Sundays. They have also been spotted on the subway. ?(Source: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

tortoisewalker21Number 2:

Residents in Tokyo have recently reported several sightings of possibly the most patient pet-walker in the world: an elderly man who takes his enormous African spurred tortoise (or sulcata) out for walks around town. Photos of the pair have been making the rounds of social media networks. (Source: Straits Times, Rocket News 24, Bored Panda)tortoisewalker3

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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!

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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.

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Homat Woodville

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Homat Woodville is a luxurious apartment surrounded with trees located on the hilltop of Nishiazabu 4-chome that was refurbished back in 2005. It is located in a quiet area a little away from both Roppongi-Dori and Gaien-Nishi-Dori, and is close to the Nishi Azabu intersection. Hiroo, Omotesando and Roppongi are within walking distance. The Japan Red Cross Medical Center (Nisseki Hospital) and Arisugawa Park are both in close proximity.

homatwoodville3The garden within the premises and around the entrance area greet residents with comfort. The living room and master bedroom are particularly spacious. Kitchen appliances such as a washer and dryer, a refrigerator, and dishwasher are already installed.

The Homat brand of residences, while they are on the older side, are popular amongst the foreign community given their western-style design. There is a high-end vintage feel with Homat buildings, which have withstood the movement of time and are built to last. homatwoodville21

Homat Homes has developed more than 3,000 single-family houses and apartments, mainly in central Tokyo and each of these residences is designed on the pillars of comfort, security and health. This is reflected not only in their floorplans and architectural detailing, which blend the best features of East and West, but in the use of the highest quality materials and most advanced construction techniques.

School bus stops for major international schools such as ASIJ, Seisen and St. Mary’s are nearby, while Sacred Heart and Nishimachi are easily accessible. Hiroo Station, which serves the Hibiya train line is about nine minutes walk away, while Roppongi station (Hibiya and Oedo lines) is about 11 minutes away.

For more details and current status, click here: Higherground Listing

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