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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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Toss Away Your Demons

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Dividing the Seasons with Setsubun

Setsubun (節分, せつぶん) literally means “seasonal division” is celebrated on February 3rd every year. Setsubun is the day preceding risshun, which is the first day of spring according to the old Japanese or lunar calendar. The idea of Setsubun involves cleansing away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come.

Artist: Sheila Harrington of eachdayisacelebration.com

Artist: Sheila Harrington of eachdayisacelebration.com

Called Mamemaki (bean throwing), the ritual involves throwing roasted soybeans either out the door or at a member of the family wearing an Oni (demon or ogre) mask, while saying “Demons out! Luck in!” (鬼は外! 福は内! Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!) and then slamming the door. These soybeans are called fuku mame or fortune beans,

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Source: Daderot, Creative Commons

The beans are thought to symbolically purify the home by driving away the evil spirits that bring misfortune and bad health with them. Also people can be healthy and happy if they pick up and eat fuku mame the number equal to their ages. Also, eating fortune sushi rolls called eho-maki is a Japanese custom on Setsubun.

Mamemaki is still common practice in households, and widely celebrated at schools and kindergartens with children. In addition, many people attend a shrine or temple’s Spring festival for an event. At major temples and shrines, Japanese celebrities often participate in mamemaki by tossing the beans at the revellers.

Setsubun at Sensoji

Setsubun at Sensoji

For Zozoji Temple, famed for its association with the long line of Tokugawa shoguns and for its proximity to Tokyo Tower, will have a bean flinging ceremony. Also, a similar event will be held at Asakusa’s famous Sensoji Temple.

For more on the subject visit Best Living Japan’s compilation here: http://www.bestlivingjapan.com/best-of-setsubun-february-3rd-read-go-and-make/

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Reuters News: Tokyo office boom fades with more space, fewer workers

REUTERS/Yuya Shino/File Photo

By Junko Fujita | TOKYO (Mon, Jan 16th, 2017)

Commercial property prices in Tokyo, a bellwether for Japan’s market, look to have peaked as the capital faces a glut of new offices even as the number of office workers is set to decline.

The property market had rebounded in the past three years as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, with ultra-low interest rates, drew in investors attracted by the wider gap than in other developed markets between returns on property and borrowing costs.

Also, as Japanese companies regained confidence, they sought more space, helping drive down office vacancy rates in the capital. Rents have been rising since 2014.

But office rents are now expected to start falling as early as next year as new space comes on to the market, analysts and commercial property owners say.

“Tokyo’s office space is almost full, but if the economy turns negative, some tenants may reduce their space or move to a cheaper location,” said Masashi Saio, section manager at the real estate department of Nippon Life Insurance, which owns office buildings nationwide.

“If that happens, owners of office properties may have to cut rents. We expect a large supply of office space that could affect the balance between supply and demand,” he added.

Between 2018 and 2020, when Tokyo is due to host the Olympic Games, the capital expects to add 2 million square meters of new office space - equal to more than 8 percent of its total as ofmid-2016, said Shunji Kobayashi, senior manager at the real estate research team for Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.

“Newer space may be filled, but there will be vacancies in older properties,” he said. “Demand for new office space is not expanding because financial institutions are not growing their space like they used to.”

Worries over falling rents are already feeding into property firms’ share prices, with the performance of the Topix real estate index .IRLTY.T ranking 26th out of 33 sub-indexes last year.

Mitsui Fudosan (8801.T), one of Japan’s largest property developers, is already marketing space in its Tokyo Midtown, a10-year-old office and retail complex in Roppongi, which is expected to become almost one-third vacant, a Tokyo-based broker said.

Yahoo Japan Corp (4689.T) last year moved from the complex to the newly built Tokyo Garden Terrace, developed by Seibu Holdings Inc (9024.T). And Fast Retailing Co (9983.T), which operates the Uniqlo clothing retailer, also plans to move some of its operations out of the complex to a warehouse in a cheaper location.

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Tokyo’s office vacancy rate has fallen in almost every month since June 2012, from 9.43 percent to 3.61 percent, said Miki Shoji, a broker, and office rents rose 10.6 percent over that period, though that increase was tempered by the prospect of so much new office space coming onstream.

The vacancy rate is expected to rise again, to around 6percent - more than the 5 percent level considered healthy - and that will push down rents from 2019, said Kobayashi at SumitomoMitsui Trust.

CBRE, a global real estate research firm, predicts Tokyo’s prime office rents will fall 1 percent in 2017-18, and some new office towers will open with vacancies.

With an average annual office rent of $160 per square foot, Tokyo’s Marunouchi financial district ranks sixth among global business centers, some way behind Hong Kong’s Central ($290) and London’s West End ($262), according to CBRE.

Predictions of falling rents have already slowed property deals, with the value of office property transactions falling 28 percent to 1.3 trillion yen ($11.37 billion) last year. Urban Research Institute, a think-tank affiliated with Mizuho Trust & Banking Co, reckons this is because prices have risen too high for investors to justify future income.

Office deals made up less than a third of all transactions last year, down from 41 percent in 2015, according to Urban Research.

Meanwhile, firms are still on the move.

Trading firm Mitsui & Co (8031.T) is due to move into a new headquarters building in mid-2020, leaving Nippon Life, the owner of its current offices in the upmarket 22-floor Marunouchi Garden Tower, to find new tenants.

As co-owner of its new headquarters, Mitsui & Co will also have to find tenants for part of the twin-tower office and retail complex that will add 360,000 square meters of new space.

The other owner, Mitsui Fudosan, is also developing a35-storey building in Hibiya, near the Imperial Palace, to be completed by next January, as well as a 31-storey tower due in the same year in Nihonbashi.

Nippon Life must also secure tenants for a 28-storey office tower due to be completed in August 2018 in Hamamatsucho.

While the office space mounts up, the Tokyo government expects the capital’s workforce will have declined by nearly a tenth in the 25 years to 2035 as Japan’s population shrinks.

($1 = 114.3600 yen)

(Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)



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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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Cat Walkway? How convenient for their walkabouts!

For the latest architecture and design news, there is no better place than Dezeen Magazine. Here we share a photo of a Tokyo-based home that has a special walkway for the owner’s cat! For the article, visit: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/11/06/graphic-designer-house-studio-tokyo-japan-cat-walkway-do-do/

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Famicon Stationery Coming Your Way this December

famicon-accessoriesFrom Spoon & Tamago: Famicon Stationery Lets Adult Gamers Relive Their Childhood

An interesting blog post from creative site Spoon & Tamago featuring another great Omiyage (souvenir) from Japan. I think this will appeal to adults in their forties as they relive this childhood icon through these super cute products.

Here is an excerpt. For the whole article, visit: http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2016/11/28/famicon-stationery-lets-adult-gamers-relive-their-childhood/#more-38889

famicon-accessories-3Stationary company, San-Ei is releasing a line of items inspired by the 1980s video game console, Famicon by Nintendo. San-Ei’s lineup of Famicon-inspired items includes pencils and pens, clear folders and memo pads that all can fit snug into the Famicon tote bag. There’s also a ringed notebook that’s designed to be the exact same length and width as the original. The items are set to go on sale December 23 but many of them are available for pre-order through Amazon.



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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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New in Town: The Ginza Place Opens

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Located right on Ginza 4-chome crossing, the Ginza Place has opened in Ginza, Tokyo. The development replaces the former Nissan Gallery building, and features a number of shops and eateries. It also has the new Nissan Gallery, as well as a flagship Sony showroom. There are five restaurants and cafes in the property.

The 11-storey building is constructed with 5315 aluminium panels to give it a stunning, modern look. There are balconies on the 3rd and 7th floor of the building, which overlooks the Chuo and Harumi Avenues. The development was designed by Klein Dytham Architects and constructed by Taisei Corporation.

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Golden Accents Illuminates at Dolce & Gabbana in Stylish Aoyama

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Tokyo is the place to head to for unique architecture and design, particularly in the retail and commercial segment; and the metropolis maintains its far lead from fellow Asian counterparts. In this article we highlight an interesting retail space in Aoyama.

Recently published by leading design and architecture webzine, Dezeen, the Aoyama District has a new boutique featuring a superbly decadent golden staircase and inner display nook at the new Dolce & Gabbana store. Below is an excerpt of the article. For the full article, as well as an entertaining 3-minute video on the layout and creative use of lighting at the store, follow the link to the Dezeen article.

dggoldenshop2The theatrical lighting illuminates products inside the new black and gold Dolce & Gabbana store in Tokyo by French designer Gwenael Nicolas. The Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana commissioned Nicolas’ Tokyo-based studio Curiosity to create a one-off design for its new store in the wealthy Aoyama district. The result is a 550-square-metre space that uses dramatic contrasts between pale and dark surfaces to spotlight garments and accessories, with 400 spotlights across the ceiling that move around and switch on and off. The lighting design creates pools of bright light and areas of intentional shadow to suggest the natural play of light on a sunny day.

Walls and plinths are painted with matt-black paint, which was selected as the flat color reflects the light to seem white when hit by the spotlights. The store houses both menswear and womenswear collections, and accessories over two levels. Each display plinth and surface is topped with a thin slab of pale Arabescato Carrara marble, and the floor is covered with matt-black ceramic tiles. The large staircase and a small room for the brand’s fine jewelry collection are finished with gold-colored walls and brass fittings – including a brass ceiling and gold-toned carpet in the jewelry area – to contrast with the rest of the store.dggoldenshop3

The Aoyama district is home to a number of flagship shops for international fashion companies, with well-known architects and designers brought in to add extra cachet by creating unique shops. Last year Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron completed work on an “understated” box-like shop for the Italian fashion brand Miu Miu led by Italian designer Miuccia Prada, opposite the seminal Tokyo Prada store it created 15 years ago. Aoyama’s Omotesando Street has possibly the highest concentration of luxury fashion stores designed by renowned architects, including buildings for Dior by SANAA with interiors by Peter Marino, Coach by OMA, and Tod’s by Toyo Ito.



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