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Japanese Culture | Hot Spots | Products | Food

Dec. 2016


Our sake picks for your next party TRAVEL INSPIRATION

Two of Tokyo’s most compelling districts DINNER AND A SHOW

A teppanyaki experience in downtown Toronto


Special Holiday Gifts >See page 35

From a meal out at a Japanese restaurant to an aroma diffuser for your home, we’ve got a great selection of gifts on offer. Enter our survey for your chance to take one home!




December 2016 No.22



05 Sake for the holiday season

14 Japanese dress-up

Give your winter celebrations a Japanese twist! Whether you’re a lover of fine wines or a fan of fun, fruity cocktails, we’ve got sake suggestions for you.

Party season is here! Nothing to wear? Looking for something that will draw attention from your friends?

Celebrate Japanese culture in your own backyard.

10 Entertain all of your senses One of the hottest restaurants in Toronto, Hibachi is a perfect place to visit if you are looking for a meal to remember.

38 Worth the wait at this hidden gem Japanese Fast Food-YA! has changed its name, but its home-cooked authenticity and creativity remain the same.

Dinner and a show! Half the fun of this expertly grilled feast is watching the chef flip and toss the ingredients in front of you.


30 MUJI product picks Create a warm, soothing space in your home with an item that doubles as décor and aromatherapy.

12 A New Year’s feast As the clock strikes midnight and the new year commences, a seafood delicacy makes its annual appearance across Japan.


28 Local events

22 Only in Japan Kick your shopping game up a notch by visiting a depachika, Japan’s underground gourmet wonderland.


32 Hit the books 16 Technology &TOKYO

Lynne Kutsukake’s The Translation of Love explores the triumphs and failures of expressing love in postwar Japan.

Tokyo is an urban marvel that’s long been known for technological innovation.

33 On the ball

18 Featured destination: Ginza & Yurakucho

With 3,000 hits now under his belt, we recap Ichiro’s momentous baseball career.

Get to know two of Tokyo’s most interesting districts—from upscale to laid-back living.

34 Film focus

24 Coffee and art

In the battle between Japan’s “King of the Monsters” and his American cousin, Shin Godzilla wins by a knockout.

Unleash your creativity over a fresh cup of coffee and a slice of quiche.


36 Memoir

Looking for something different for your next holiday toast? Raise a glass of one of these fine sake varieties.

While spending her first Christmas in Japan, one writer didn’t expect to encounter so many Canadian traditions—with a twist….

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter


Nina Hoeschele

Ending the year on a high note

The holiday season is almost here, and we can’t think of a better consolation for the incoming cold weather. Freezing temperatures outside give you the perfect reason to throw a party indoors! To help you raise a glass to winter, our feature this month is all about sake (p. 05)—with a variety of selections that will help you add Japanese flair to your holiday festivities. And speaking of changing up the holidays: while living in Japan, one of our writers discovered that the Japanese have transformed some of our familiar Christmas traditions in unexpected ways (p. 36).

Editors Nina Hoeschele, Amanda Plyley, Yumi Nishio Editorial coordinators Nina Hoeschele, Yumi Nishio Writers Amanda Plyley, Amanda Taylor, D’arcy Mulligan, James Heron, Jenny McKechnie, Junko Mita, Kathleen O’Hagan, M Crowson, Nicholas Jones, Sheena Kirkbride, Walter Muschenheim, Yumi Nishio

Even after the holidays are done, there’s no shortage of entertainment out there. How about a teppanyaki restaurant for dinner and a show (p. 10)? Or go catch a thrilling movie—we hear a famous monster might be on the loose (p. 34). If you prefer to hibernate, we’ve got a suggestion for you, too: just set the perfect ambience (p. 30) and curl up with a good book (p. 32). Happy holidays from all of us at Bento Box!

Designers Chiyako Mukai, Reiko Ema Illustrator Chieko Watanabe

Japanese calligrapher Kaori Sakamoto

Photographer Kazu Maruyama Production assistants Alexandra Weaver, Erin Kim, Kaori Sakamoto, Lisa Tower Advertisement & marketing Maiko Kurotaki Publisher Kazu Maruyama

Bento Box Communication Inc.

ISSN 2368-9153


600 Bay St., Suite 410, Toronto, ON, M5G 1M6


Phone: 416-847-6799







for the holiday season

By Nicholas Jones

Give your winter celebrations a Japanese twist! Whether you’re a lover of fine wines or a fan of fun, fruity cocktails, we’ve got sake suggestions for you.

Discover the natural beauty of Nanbu Junmai Daiginjo Super Premium

Shinpaku Junmai Daiginjo

Striking a harmony from spring water and rice

An aromatic, refreshing sake that is fruity, crisp and bright

This is master brewer Hajime Yamaguchi’s masterpiece. He has drawn on three decades of experience to create an elegant, fruity sake with a lingering, satisfying finish.

This sake offers a premium experience for an affordable price. It is fruity while maintaining a surprisingly dry finish that should appeal to lovers of crisp white wine. Aromas include strawberry, pear and apricot.

Nanbu Bijin Now in its fifth generation of sake brewers, Nanbu Bijin draws on local natural resources to make truly beautiful sake.

Delicate, light and clean sake from Nanbu no Kuni in northern Japan

The Nanbu Bijin Brewery is relatively new on the sake scene. Though founded as a sake merchant in 1901, it only began brewing sake in 1915. The brewery then rebranded itself in 1951, discarding its old, sweet sake recipe (all the rage at that time) and replacing it with a brew that tasted clean, focused and, above all else, beautiful. This dedication to beautiful sake is so absolute that it’s preserved in the brewery’s name: Nanbu Bijin. Bijin means “beautiful person” and is a Japanese moniker most commonly reserved for gorgeous young women, fitting with the sake’s delicate, light and clean nature. The other half of the name— Nanbu—represents the region in northern Japan from which the sake hails. The area has long been known as Nanbu no Kuni. It boasts two national parks and an ample amount of fresh water. One of the most important ingredients in sake is high-quality spring water. Being located in Nanbu no Kuni allows Nanbu Bijin to brew its sake (most of which is certified Kosher) from naturally filtered, mediumhard water. There could be no more appropriate name for this sake than Nanbu Bijin, as it tells you exactly what to expect: a natural beauty! Continued on page 08



Brewed care by twhith experts e

’Tis the season for sake cocktails Beat the winter blues with the ripe taste of fruit Looking for something a little more vibrant for your next holiday party? Sake is a versatile beverage that makes a great addition to cocktails or other mixed drinks—as these light, fruity sake varieties can attest. Check out these sweet offerings for some drinkspiration.

Strawberry Nigori Sake

Yodan Jikomi Nigori

Mix with grapefruit juice for a refreshing spritzer.

Add milk for a sake strawberry shake!

This Strawberry Nigori Sake is easily the fruitiest of the three on offer, with a strawberry flavour that is almost juicy. Some have even gone so far as to describe it as a sake fruit smoothie! That being said, the blend still preserves the full-bodied taste that is the hallmark of unfiltered Nigori sake. Though lovers of fruity and sweet drinks could easily enjoy this bottle on its own, it also serves as a phenomenal addition to sake-based cocktails.

Yodan Jikomi Nigori is an easy-to-drink sake with a surprisingly clean taste. Its fruity notes come through as a distinct banana aroma, which combines with a complex balance of sweet and sour flavours to make a perfect cocktail mix. Simply combine equal parts Yodan and grapefruit juice or soda to create a refreshing wine spritzer. If you’re feeling adventurous, mix an equal amount of the sake with your favourite yogurt drink, or equal parts Yodan and milk, with a little honey added.

Homare Shuzo The Homare Shuzo sake brewery is one of the most popular in Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region. Its signature sake, Aizu Homare, has won gold medals 13 times in Japanese sake competitions. As well, the brewery’s Homare Junmai Dai-Ginjo won the “Champion Sake” title out of 876 bottles in the International Wine Challenge 2015, the most prestigious wine competition in the world. 08


Yuzu Junmai 300

A perfect mimosa replacement at brunch.

Yuzu is one of the most loved of the unique fruit flavours to come out of Japan. It is a citrus fruit, most similar to the lemon-lime flavours we’re used to in North America— except with a healthy dash of sweet, orangelike taste in the mix. It’s a fixture of Japanese cocktails, and the perfect complement to Homare sake in this combined bottle. As you’d expect, it is tart, sweet and above all refreshing. This Yuzu Junmai pairs well with chicken and tempura dishes.

Toronto’s latest Toronto’s latest hot hot sspot pot

By Yumi By Yumi N Nishio ishio Restaurant

Entertain all of your senses One of the hottest restaurants in Toronto, Hibachi is a perfect place to visit if you are looking for a meal to remember.

For seafood lovers Dig into this generous portion of lobster tail, perfectly seared scallops and garlic-butter shrimps, served fresh from the teppenyaki grill.

Hungry for more? Let’s dig in!

Hibachi is one of the newest additions to Toronto’s entertainment district, and it’s been attracting savvy foodies and curious first-timers alike. Owner and executive chef Mr. Kee is not just a master of cooking on the teppanyaki grill, but also of entertaining guests with his performance. -Ì>À̈˜}Ê œvvÊ ÜˆÌ…Ê Ãœ“iÊ ÜiVœ“ˆ˜}Ê “ÕÈVÊ ÕȘ}Ê his spatula and grill fork, Mr. Kee greeted his diners by drawing us a flaming smiley-face on the grill. As soon as he added our meal’s ingredients, they immediately began to sizzle. (The grill is incredibly hot, meaning the teppanyaki chef has to keep a close watch on the food while showing off his amazing flipping and tossing ÌÀˆVŽÃ°®Ê-œœ˜]Ê̅iÊÃ>ۜÕÀÞÊ>Àœ“>ʜvÊÃV>œ«ÃÊÜ>ÃÊ in the air. As he flipped them, Mr. Kee mumbled, “Perfect....” And he was right. The scallops were

Crispy and tender These Chicken Wontons are crispy outside, tender inside. A great (and awfully cute) appetizer to share. -iÀÛi`Ê܈̅ÊÃÜiiÌÊ>˜`ÊÜÕÀÊÃ>ÕVi°Ê

sweet and soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth. Next up on the grill was an AAA striploin. Cooked to medium-rare as per our request, the meat was incredibly juicy and tender. (The secret? Garlic butter placed under the steak so that it absorbs the moisture and flavour without getting greasy.) After the meal was done, Mr. Kee chatted with us and shared some of the challenges of running a restaurant in Toronto. And while it’s hard work, he told us, “at least I can make new friends! I just love cooking and meeting new people.” The perfect mantra for a restaurant that seamlessly combines good food with a fun night out.

Fresh and crunchy /…iÊÀii˜Ê À>}œ˜Ê,œÊ>˜`Ê-ÕňÊ->“«iÀÊvi>ÌÕÀiÃÊ crunchy shrimp tempura and sliced avocado, arranged like the scales of a dragon!

Owner and executive chef ef

First in North America

For meat lovers The secret is not just in the high quality of the meat, but also the clever way Hibachi cooks this tender and juicy striploin steak.

Hibachi has installed special smokeless teppanyaki tables. That means customers can enjoy their food without inhaling grease-laden air or getting that smoky smell on their clothes.

With over 15 years in the business, eate a Mr. Kee knows how to create special dining experience. As Hibachi’s owner, he spendss more time at his desk these e days, but he makes sure to share his skills with his fellow teppenyaki chefs. He has three Hibachi ville locations (Burlington, Oakville and Toronto) so far and is looking to expand in the near future.

Hibachi Teppanyaki & Bar TEL: 416-367-3888 550 Wellington St. W., Toronto (by the Thompson Hotel) "* \Êœ˜q/…ÕÀÃÊ££\ÎäÊ>“q£ä\ÎäÊ«“ÊUÊÀˆÊ££\ÎäÊ>“q ££\ÎäÊ«“ÊUÊ->ÌÊ£ÓÊ«“q££\ÎäÊ«“ÊUÊ-՘ʣÓÊ«“q£ä\ÎäÊ«“



Flavour of the month

By Amanda Plyley Ingredient

子孫繁栄を願う縁起のいい食材、数の子。 おせち料理を彩る高級食品。 prosperity in the year to come. Along the same lines, kuromame signifies the hope for continued good health while tazukuri, which translates to “making a rice field,” represents the wish for an abundant harvest in the new year.

Kazunoko A New Year’s feast 数の子【かずのこ】 As the clock strikes midnight and the new year commences, a seafood delicacy makes its annual appearance across Japan. Ask people from a range of cultures and many will affirm the importance of the food one consumes on New Year’s Day. In Spain, for instance, 12 grapes are eaten at midnight, each one representing a month of the coming year. Italians opt for pork and lentils, a meal signifying wishes for wealth and prosperity. And in some countries, lobster is fervently avoided on the first day of the year—it walks backwards, and therefore represents looking back rather than forward.



In Japan, kazunoko is the New Year’s Day ingredient of choice. Kazunoko or herring roe—tightly packed bundles of eggs shaped like pieces of fish—is one of three main celebratory dishes that make up osechi ryori, Japan’s traditional New Year’s Day feast. Together with kuromame (sweet black beans) and tazukuri (sardines cooked in soy sauce and sugar), kazunoko is enjoyed on the first day of the year as much for its symbolism as for its taste. Literally translating to “numerous offspring,” kazunoko represents the wish for familial

Long considered a delicacy fit for royalty, kazunoko as a salty, crunchy snack dates back to sixteenthcentury Japan, when it was first recorded in official documents as a gift received by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru. Abundant for years in the waters of Hokkaido, the country’s herring population was nearly wiped out by over-fishing practices in the decades following World War II. Today, much of Japan’s kazunoko supply is imported from countries like Canada, making it an expensive luxury item to be savoured on special occasions. In fact, kazunoko is so rare that it tends to appear in Japanese supermarkets only when December has begun and the end of the year is approaching. So, it’s a culturally important and beloved holiday must-have—but how does kazunoko actually taste? Well, the texture (firm and satisfyingly crunchy) is arguably more enjoyable than the flavour (salty and fishy). Typically eaten raw as a side dish or incorporated into a larger meal, herring roe has a knack for absorbing marinade flavours, making its preparation flexible and customizable. It is recommended that kazunoko be soaked in water for half a day to draw out excess salt before having its membrane removed and being marinated overnight in a dashi broth consisting of katsuo-bushi (bonito flakes), sometimes with kombu (kelp), as well as sake and soy sauce—with an optional pinch of sugar to sweeten the deal. The next day, dice the roe into bite-sized pieces and enjoy it within a few days, preferably on New Year’s Day itself. That is … if you’re hoping for “numerous offspring” in the year to come!

1314 Queen Street West Toronto M6K1L4 phone: 647-351-1314


Guu Izakaya Toronto





Hot in





Party season is here! Nothing to wear? Looking for something that will draw attention from your friends?

Have a magical outlook Get your groove on in these psychedelic kaleidoscope goggles and take a trip to a new world. View the world in a new and exciting way

TThese spiky goggles are sure to make you stand o out. The high-quality crystal glass lenses will transform your everyday vision into an immersive eexperience. These goggles are popular among p party animals and are must-have items for musicfe fest goers. Each pair has an adjustable strap, so you d don’t need to worry about losing them—just focus o on having fun!


FISHING FOR LAUGHTER Hungry for a unique costume? This is the perfectt choice for any occasion. ccasion. ca io

Laughter is always the best medicine— cine— — ou ous especially with these fresh, delicious mes. and mouth-watering sushi costumes. Pick a sushi variety that suits you,, like ea tuna or ikura (roe). The name of each ted ed on o costume’s main ingredient is printed n see the front (rice side), so people can o our what you are at a glance. Have your friends in stitches when you show w up ke sure su wearing these costumes. Just make that they don’t try to eat you.

Easy to move— so you can dance!

More info about these products ucts HAPPY JOINT | (J (Japanese language l on only) nly) l ) (To order, visit and an n nd search ”RYSTALASS” for goggles or “sushi” for costumes) 14


Talk about “tuna belly”….

See you in t rself dist his inc fash tive ion



©Kevin Nishijima

Technology &TOKYO By Amanda Taylor

Tokyo is a city on the cutting edge From ground-breaking robotics to its world-class transit system, Tokyo is an urban marvel that’s long been known for technological innovation. The word “Tokyo” often brings to mind images of a mega-metropolis full of neon lights, advanced technology and smooth efficiency. The truth of this teeming city is all that and more. The ultimate example of Tokyo’s sophistication is its transit system. At first glance, the Tokyo transit map is an intimidating web of rail lines, impossible to detangle. But thanks to the helpful colour-coding of the entire system, it’s easier than it looks to plan a route. The trains of each line are assigned a specific colour, so if you need to get to a station on the JR Yamanote Line (light green) but a red train pulls into the station, you know not to board. In addition, each station features a personalized door-closing jingle. Meanwhile, ultra-sleek bullet trains take travellers out of the city to explore Japan. These trains get their name from their modern, bullet-like shape as well as their speed: up to 320 km/h!

At the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Odaiba, visitors can view robotics demonstrations featuring ASIMO—a cute humanoid robot meant to be a human helper and companion. The museum also brings visitors face to face with some of the most advanced androids in the world. The facial features and expressions of Professor Ishiguro’s androids come as close as ever to real human features. Right now the Miraikan has a special exhibit showcasing Kodomoroid, a childlike Android that reads the news in different languages and voices. Around Christmastime the streets of Tokyo sparkle with charming illumination displays, turning many of the city’s most prominent neighbourhoods into fantastical winter wonderlands. The top displays use projection mapping and digital choreography with music to create enchanting winter scenery. Of note

is the “Canyon d’azur” display at the Caretta complex, which uses an astonishing 270,000 LED lights to transform the area into a sea of twinkling blue. Nothing is more quintessential of this city than Technology &TOKYO. d k Official Tokyo Travel Guide What’s your &TOKYO? Visit the Tokyo Brand website to plan your next trip and connect with the many exciting experiences this city has to offer.

All photos: ©Tokyo Convention Visitors Bureau unless otherwise noted




goto kyo . o rg and to kyo . jp/e n / Tokyo is continually generating new styles and subcultures at the intersection of tradition and innovation. The city is always encountering and connecting with new ideas that create its unique charms. The emotions and experiences that await you in Tokyo are sure to transcend your expectations. You will take on the role of the architect of your own experience as you create your ideal Tokyo rendezvous.


Featured destination

By Amanda Taylor Travel

古き良き 古き 良き時代 時代の雰 の雰囲気 囲気と、 と、 最先端の 最先 端の文化 文化が共 が共存す 存する西 る西洋文 る西洋 洋文化の 化の発祥 発祥の地 の地。

Ginza & Yurakucho Upscale shops characterize Ginza, Tokyo’s ritziest district, while Yurakucho emits a more laid-back vibe. Historically the site of a silver mint, the Ginza area has a long-standing association with money. Ginza’s clean streets are framed by towering department stores where the wealthy come to indulge in designer fashions, high-end treats and superior dining, while nearby Yurakucho serves as a playground and watering hole for businessmen after 12- to 14-hour days. Though the two districts sit side-by-side, in many ways they’re night and day.



Exploring all that glitters in Ginza Ginza literally means “Silver Mint,” and though the silver has since been replaced with designer stores, there’s still a lot of money flowing through this upscale neighbourhood. On weekends the central thoroughfare, Chuo Street, is closed off to traffic, turning the centre of the district into a massive pedestrian mall. Ginza’s most recognizable department stores include Marronnier Gate,

Discover two of Tokyo’s most fascinating districts

Ginza & Yurakucho 【銀座&有楽町】

From historic fruit shops to hopping nightlife

In contrast to the high-end shopping and dining so characteristic of Ginza, antenna shops offer hometown favourites from districts all over Japan. It’s where homesick Tokyo transplants go to get a taste of their roots, with souvenirs and regional delicacies available. Two of the most popular shops are the Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza and the Okinawa Washita Shop, but there are over a dozen others for various districts like Iwate and Fukushima.

Sembikiya is one of Tokyo’s oldest fruit shops, selling some of the freshest, sweetest and most colourful fruit in the city. The shop is known in particular for its famed Japanese muskmelon, prized for its musky scent and melting sweetness. Japanese muskmelons have a stem that sticks up and out to each side like an antenna, and the skin of the melon is manipulated into an unusual webbed pattern, created using a special massaging process. The melons at Sembikiya are shipped from Shizuoka, a coastal region outside of Tokyo which is known for producing the best muskmelons due to the copious amounts of sunlight the area receives. Sembikiya is also the place to get one of Japan’s famous square watermelons.

Finally, at night Ginza becomes a neon wonderland, and the plethora of bars, clubs and restaurants draws crowds of people looking to indulge in Tokyo’s legendary nightlife. Star Bar fits right in among Ginza’s elite establishments. This small and cosy specialty bar has no menu. Patrons simply give the bartender an idea of what they’re looking for—perhaps light and fruity, or rich and robust—and, kings of their craft, the knowledgeable bartenders come up with something that satisfies every time. They have cocktails down to a science: even the ice is frozen slowly to reduce bubbles. A drink here can easily run ¥5,000, or $65 CAD.

Tokyo Plaza Ginza—which includes tax-free shops for tourists—and chain stores such as Matsuya and Mitsukoshi. Planning to meet someone in the district? The Wako building’s clock tower serves as an iconic meet-up spot.

Ginza’s Kabuki-za theatre is one of the best places to see a traditional Japanese kabuki show. Kabuki is an old art form, akin to opera, dating back to the 1600s. In kabuki performances actors in elaborate costumes and wigs put on dramas through song and dance. Don’t worry if you can’t understand them—the language is old Japanese, similar to Shakespearean English, and even many locals have trouble grasping the entirety of what’s being said. An audio guide can be purchased at the theatre for a small fee.

Coming back down to earth in Yurakucho Just west of Ginza, Yurakucho shares some of the same traits as its upscale neighbour, but the shops and watering holes of Yurakucho are geared toward the hard-working salarymen and office ladies of Tokyo. G͊do-shita, or “under the tracks,” refers to the networks of standing bars and food stands often found lining the streets under the tracks of major


stations. Yurakucho’s g͊do-shita has a festivallike atmosphere. On weeknights, tired workers let down their hair, loosen their ties and succumb to the siren call of vendors coming from the flashy, bright stands stretching out from Yurakucho Station. Here the beers and snacks are cheap and flowing, and though the crowded, tiny shops might seem downright grungy compared to the pristine establishments of Ginza, the atmosphere serves to help people relax. Yurakucho’s g͊doshita is the place to go for Japanese bar classics like ramen, gyoza (dumplings), Japanese-style fried chicken and Chinese and Korean fare. Possibly the most visited section of Yurakucho’s g͊do-shita is Yakitori Alley, a stretch of yakitori



Eats and treats, Tokyo-style

For great food and souvenirs, you can’t ask for a better place than Ginza. The department stores of Ginza are ideal places to find the perfect gift, and the high-quality restaurants promise excellent dining no matter how simple the fare.

©Kevin Nishijima

Food & souvenirs

©Kevin Nishijima

Famous meat es croquett ©Shiseido Parlour

©Shiseido Parlour

©Shiseido Parlour

Omurice: Omurice (“omelette” + “rice”) consists of a fried egg omelette draped over flavourful chicken rice and covered in ketchup. Ginza is the perfect place to sample this popular Tokyo dish—especially at Shiseido Parlour, the area’s culinary mecca.

stands just to the south of the station. It’s fun to go from stall to stall, sampling skewers of grilled meat and green onion to find the best grill. The wafting scent of grilling meat sits perfectly in the lantern-lit alleys, in harmony with the boisterous laughter of relaxed office workers unwinding after a hard day’s work. ©Kevin Nishijima

Tsubaki Cookies: These homemade gourmet cookies can only be found at Shiseido Parlour. They feature intricately crafted designs of tsubaki flowers (camellias in English) and are made of the finest butter, flour and eggs.

Another of Yurakucho’s highlights is the Tokyo International Forum, lauded for its stunning architecture. The curved structure mimics the inside of a ship and is made mostly of glass, giving it a beautiful, airy feel. Concerts, exhibitions and more are hosted at the Tokyo International Forum. Shopping in Yurakucho consists largely of the Itocia department store and plaza. Yurakucho is also home to a massive eight-floor Bic Camera shop—a ubiquitous electronics shop in Tokyo. Whether you’re dazzled by the high life of Ginza or more comfortable among the down-to-earth dives of Yurakucho, these two neighbouring districts are distinctly Tokyo. All photos ©Toyooka City Photo Library unless otherwise noted





Cultural curiosity

By M Crowson Only in Japan

High class down under Kick your shopping game up a notch by visiting a depachika, Japan’s underground gourmet wonderland. 選りすぐりの美味しいものがいっぱい。グルメを魅了するデパ地下。 appeal isn’t enough, the delicious smells will be sure to draw you in. Not sure what you want? No worries, many of the stations offer samples. You can also buy a rare bottle of sake or limited-edition beer to go with your delicious meal. If you’re more in the mood for sweets, choose from hundreds of varieties of delicious pastries, cakes and candies. Japanese sweets are a far cry from the sugar bombs you find here at home, and ’tis the season for the famous Christmas cake, a modern tradition in Japan, where Christmas Eve is celebrated as a romantic couples’ holiday. Depachika sweets pair perfectly with a steamy cup of tea, also available in many varieties. You can also buy omiyage (or souvenirs) for your friends or family, like traditional Japanese sweets or top-grade green tea powder. And for international tourists, depachika help you fill out your duty-free paperwork as soon as you buy. Sweets are a great gift to bring back to your friends in Canada, but they also make a lovely gesture when someone invites you over to their house while you’re travelling in Japan. Are you a foodie who’s willing to go the extra mile for the perfect cut of meat, slice of cake or cup of tea? Are you willing to brave winter storms to get your hands on the rarest and tastiest treats? If you’re in Japan, you’re in luck, because you can head straight for the wonderful underground world of depachika (デパ地下). Literally a contraction of the words for “department store” and “basement,” depachika are fashionable underground food utopias, usually housed in the basements of mid- to high-end department stores. These impeccably designed wonderlands feature hundreds of



regional delicacies and seasonal goods, which are artfully displayed in a brightly lit maze of food stations. Depachika are sometimes linked directly with a city’s main subway stations, so you can do your gourmet shopping safely tucked away from the sleet and snow. You can find a smorgasbord of delicatessen-style foods, from freshly fried pot-stickers to plump German brats or beautifully arranged bento boxes. Each station features squeaky-clean, shiny displays and courteous, uniformed staff, and if the visual

If you’re seeking something healthier, you can also get some of Japan’s famous fruits, including giant Muscat grapes, square watermelons and muskmelons that can cost more than $100 each. If you’re looking to have a date night in, depachika are also great places to pick up ingredients for a gourmet dinner, including prime cut steaks. But if your main purpose is to get out of the house, after you’ve had your fill of the depachika you can hop on the elevator and have a white-gloved attendant escort you up to the department store’s upper floors, where you can shop to your heart’s content.

Know your underground eating etiquette

MAKE SHOPPING YOUR DEPARTMENT Experiencing depachika for the first time is exciting and potentially overwhelming, so take a tip (or three) from us to help you get by.

DO try the samples.

DO window shop.

Samples are a great way to try new and exotic foods without committing to a whole meal.

Even if you’re light on cash, depachika are a visual feast, so go ahead, enjoy all the eye candy.

DON’T go short on patience. You can wait an hour or more in line at one of the more famous shops, so settle in and enjoy the sights. Illustrations by Chieko Watanabe



One-of-a-kind dining

By Sheena Kirkbride Restaurant in Tokyo

美味しいコーヒーを飲みながらポタリーペインティング 釉薬を塗り、窯で焼き上げる本格的な陶芸カフェ。

Coffee and art Feeling artistic? Unleash your creativity over a fresh cup of coffee and an exquisite piece of quiche. After spending a few days in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, you may find yourself getting lost in the crowds and wanting a respite from the chaos. A short walk from Koenji Station in the heart of Tokyo, the Potter Café is a cozy haven for urbanites and overwhelmed tourists, and a place for people to get back in touch with their inner artist while fulfilling their foodie spirit. The Potter Café is a unique space that somehow perfectly balances itself as a pottery art studio, art gallery, event venue and restaurant café. The moment you walk up the stairs and in the door, you’ll feel as if you’ve come into the home of an artist friend. If you want to paint your own 24


pottery, you can select from a variety of ceramic shapes and dozens of paint colours. Helpful studio assistants—who perform double duty as baristas—are always on hand to offer their expert advice and guidance. If you decide to skip the pottery, that’s entirely fine too. You can simply sit back, enjoy some food and drinks, and revel in the captivating art that surrounds you, which is created mainly by local artists. The Potter Café constantly hosts a variety of several-day-long events, which means that the art, menu and decorations are always fresh and interesting. Because the themes are quite often specific and niche, you’ll get the op-

portunity to explore a world that’s new to you. A recently held event, “Ferret Carnival Exhibit,” drew ferret lovers and admirers from all over the place to get together and celebrate these cuddly and underappreciated creatures in the form of art. For a limited time, you could not only admire the ferret artwork on the walls, but also buy ferret coasters, ferret chopstick holders and ferret plates, all made by local artists. The baristas and chefs also love to participate in the fun, and for this event they got into the spirit by offering ferret latte art and fried rice molded into cute little ferret faces.

Perfecting the art of the coffee shop

Enjoy a caffeinated masterpiece

Artistic motifs The Potter Café’s revolving themes make it a favourite hangout spot that never gets old.

The Potter Café holds events and galleries with fun and interesting themes that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. For the “Paper Airplane Exhibit,” a gallery of creative and funky paper airplanes made by artists and customers was displayed. At the “South Pole Penguin Exhibition in Midsummer” event, everything on the menu was made into penguin-themed art for one night.

In addition to all of the fun and creativity that the Potter Café offers, it still takes itself seriously as a café and offers an impressive array of coffee, tea, sodas and even cocktails and beers. Their coffee-based drinks are especially noteworthy—every cup of coffee is carefully dripped one at a time to deliver the freshest and most aromatic brew, and each café latte is a miniature work of art. The food menu is also highly acclaimed with classic Japanese café menu items such as Hamburg steak and Naporitan spaghetti (a tomato-based pasta dish), as well as trendy options like quiche, which is the most popular dish and sells out quickly. While a few key items stay the same, the café also rotates its menu to showcase the season’s best ingredients and the chef’s newest collaborations with artists that match the theme of the café’s latest event. Everything offered here is extremely affordable, with nothing costing more than 800 yen.

Potter Café

Located a three-minute walk from JR Koenji Station (Chuo Line). Second floor of the building across from the 7-Eleven.

A comfortable and cosy place for kids and adults, the Potter Café is the perfect hybrid of food, art and community, and is the type of place that everybody wishes they had in their own neighbourhood. (Japanese language only) TEL: 03-5373-8099 3-21-5 2F, Koenji Kita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo OPEN HOURS: Fri–Wed 11 am–9 pm Thurs closed



1-Day Snow Monkey Tour

Round-trip from Tokyo

1 Visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park, a worldfamous park where Japanese Macaques can be seen up close as they freely soak in the hot spring. The hot spring bath here is exclusively for wild monkeys, the only spring of its kind in the world. Enjoy seeing the monkeys’ expressions while they spend time relaxing in the hot spring. 2 Visit the Zenko-ji Temple, a designated National Treasure built roughly 1,400 years ago. It is one of Japan’s most remarkable wooden structures, rivalling Todai-ji Temple’s Great Buddha Hall. 3 Just a Shinkansen ride from Tokyo Station! The guide will meet participants at Nagano Station.

TOUR BASIC INFORMATION Departure city: Tokyo Visits: Nagano Duration: approx. 11 hours English-speaking guide, lunch, other admission fees and transportation costs included in the tour.




*Price is valid for the month of December 2016 *Price may fluctuate due to change in exchange rate.

HOW TO PURCHASE Reservations can be made by either telephone or email. Please contact JTB International (Canada) Ltd. at Phone: 416-367-5824 | Toll-free: 1-800-268-5942 | Email: | Website:



Depart from Tokyo Station

Head to Nagano Station via Nagano Shinkansen


Yudanaka Station Head to Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi via taxi.



Walk to Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi.





Depart from Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi

Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi

Nagano Station

Meet with the interpreter guide and participants on the “From Nagano” tour at Nagano Station.

Head to Yudanaka Station via taxi. Walk to Jigokudani Monkey Park.

Zenko-ji Temple and Lunch 60


Visit Zenko-ji Temple, which boasts 1,400 years of rich history. Its main hall is a designated national treasure. *The meal for lunch includes soba (buckwheat) noodles, a Nagano specialty. As traces of buckwheat flour may be present in all dishes from the kitchen, those with allergies may be unable to enter.

Depart from Zenkoji Station 60





Jigokudani Monkey Park 50


At the Jigokudani Monkey Park, you can get up close with Japanese macaques as they relax in the local hot spring. This worldfamous park is one-of-a-kind: it is the only hot spring on earth that is reserved exclusively for bathing monkeys. Take a walk through the park and watch the adorable monkeys as they unwind.


Yudanaka . Station Take a train from Yudanaka Station to Nagano Station. 60



Nagano Station

Depart from Nagano Station and head to Tokyo Station via Shinkansen. Guide service ends at this point.

110 min


Arrive at Tokyo Station

Tour ends at Tokyo Station. Please proceed to your next destination on your own after the tour.

*The walking path from Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi to Jigokudani Monkey Park (1.6 km one way, about 30 min on foot) may be frozen and slippery if there is snow. Please wear winter boots or other non-slip footwear to walk in.

All photos ©JNTO

For more information, please contact JTB International at 1-800-268-5942 (toll-free) or email at



December 2016

What’s happening? Events

online on NAC’s website, in person at the NAC Box Office, at all Ticketmaster outlets or by telephone at 1-888-991-2787.

Courtesy of Animethon


A Taste of Animethon 2017

Kiki’s Delivery Service: Courtesy of GKids

The Films of Studio Ghibli Perfect for the holiday season, Studio Ghibli’s iconic films return to the TIFF Bell Lightbox! Favourites such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service as well as When Marnie Was Here and The Wind Rises will be showcased from December 24 to January 10. A total of 23 films will be screened, so come experience the timeless magic of the renowned animation studio on the big screen! Tickets can be purchased online, and a full list of films and showtimes is available on the TIFF website. As there is no assigned seating, arrive at the venue early to secure a good spot.

Japanese Cooking Workshop My Neighbor Totoro: Courtesy of GKids

Saturday, December 24–Tuesday, January 10, 2017 | Adults $14, Seniors/Students $11.50, Youth $10 | TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. W., Toronto) | More info:

Exhibitions Legendary Loyalty: The 47 Ronin in Japanese Prints Until Saturday, March 4, 2017 | The Japan Foundation (2 Bloor St. E. 3F, Toronto) | More info: > This exhibit, co-presented by the Stuart Jackson Gallery and the Japan Foundation, features original 18th- and 19th-century woodblock prints. These illustrations depict the theatrical performances of the story of Chushingura and the actual ronin (masterless samurai). One of the most popular Japanese stories of loyalty and revenge is the story of the 47 ronin and their vendetta. It began in 1701 when Lord Asano of Ako attempted to kill Lord Kira, a senior official at the Shogun’s palace. The story has been retold many times in several forms since then. 28


Friday, January 20, 2017–Saturday, January 21, 2017 | $35–$75 | Shaw Conference Centre (9797 Jasper Ave. NW., Edmonton, Alberta) | More info: > The longest-running fan convention for celebrating Japanese anime and culture in Canada is back again! A Taste of Animethon 2017 is presented by The Alberta Society for Asian Popular Arts. Events will include cosplay, AMVs, gaming and more! This year’s special guests include international cosplayer Aza Miyuko, and voice actor for anime, video games, audio books and cartoons Cassandra Lee Morris. There will also be merchandise available for purchase in the Exhibitors Hall and Artist Alley.

Performances Tetsuro Shigematsu’s Empire of the Son Until Saturday, December 3 | $39 | NAC Studio (53 Elgin St., Ottawa) | More info: > Presented by NAC English Theatre, directed by Richard Wolfe, produced by Donna Yamamoto and Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre, and written and performed by Tetsuro Shigematsu, this show tells the story of Shigematsu’s relationship with his father, Akira. He and Akira were separated by language, culture, history, but most of all, their own similarities. This show has been nominated for five Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards including Outstanding Production, Actor and Direction. Shigematsu is an actor, comedian, radio broadcaster, Huffington Post columnist, star of Spike/MTV’s The Deadliest Warrior and former host of CBC’s The Roundup. Tickets are available

Monday, January 23, 2017, 7 pm–10 pm | $40 Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (6 Garamond Ct., Toronto) | More info: > Learn to cook easy, healthy, delicious Japanese main meals with Chef Shoji in one of five cooking workshops. Focusing on taste, techniques and special ingredients, each workshop consists of an hour of instruction and demonstration, an hour for hands-on cooking, and an hour for tasting and cleaning. In the January session, students will learn how to cook a main Japanese meal. There will also be a March session (tempura) that is scheduled and accepting registration. A material fee of $10 is payable to the instructor and an apron, large sharp knife and paring knife are required for each workshop. Pre-registration is also required.

Origami Workshop Wednesday, January 25, 2017, 7:30 pm–9 pm $10 | Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (6 Garamond Ct., Toronto) | More info:, www. > Learn how to fold traditional favourites and new models with John Jay Guppy from the Origami Society of Toronto. All paper is provided and expert help is available.









Our beautiful and SRZHUIXOGLijXVHUV create a warm, VRRWKLQJVSDFH Genesis Giocada

Sales associate

The Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser fulfills a lot of the functions of home décor: it fills your space with a great scent and glows like a candle to add warmth and ambience to any room. However, it also does more than a piece of décor, because it diffuses purifying and soothing essential oils into the air of your home. And it’s also safer than lighting a candle—no fire hazard here. In short, the diffuser is both beautiful and functional. Its sculptural design is minimal and soft and really complements any style of décor. Its soft light also makes it a great bedside lamp. It creates a cosy atmosphere in any room!”

MUJI’s diffusers use an ultrasonic disc to create a cool mist without heating. The light option emits a warm, diffuse glow through the translucent sides of the diffuser. You can set the mist timer to 30, 60, 120 or 180 minutes—and you can use the light independently of the aromatherapy function.

Si-Jia Mao

Department lead for accessories

The diffuser is actually part of our heath and beauty line because of its aromatherapy function. Think of it as an all-in-one machine that creates a warm, soothing space. The great thing about our diffuser is all the different essential oils you can use with it. MUJI offers a large selection of essential oils. I like the Sweet Orange oil; it has a fresh, fruity smell. I would also recommend Energy Revigorant, a blend of peppermint and other herbs, for when you come down with a cold or have a headache, while Lavender is great for bedtime. I would suggest mixing them to find the best combination that works for you.”

MUJI offers two sizes of diffuser. We recommend the smaller size for a bedroom and the larger one for a living room. Add some water and a few drops of essential oil to the basin, and the diffuser will spread the scent through your space in a cooling mist. Small Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser (8 cm x 14 cm): $89 Large Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser (16.8 cm x 12.1 cm): $129

For more information



MUJI Atrium

MUJI Square One

MUJI Yorkdale

Atrium, 20 Dundas St. W., C-03, Toronto | TEL: 416-591-2233

Square One Shopping Centre, 100 City Centre Dr., Mississauga TEL: 905-276-2737

3401 Dufferin St., Toronto

Store Hours: Mon–Fri 10 am–8 pm ->ÌÊ£äÊ>“qÇÊ«“ÊUÊ-՘ʣ£Ê>“qxÊ«“

Store Hours: Mon–Fri 10 am–9 pm ->Ìʙ\ÎäÊ>“q™Ê«“ÊUÊ-՘ʣ£Ê>“qÇÊ«“

Store Hours: Mon–Fri 10 am–9 pm ->Ìʙ\ÎäÊ>“q™Ê«“ÊUÊ-՘ʣ£Ê>“qÇÊ«“

TEL: 416-479-1204



Hit the books

By M Crowson Books

The language of belonging

Explore other multi-generational novels and historical books about the experiences of families on both sides of the Pacific.

Dear General MacArthur:

The Translation of Love by Lynne

Add to your historical stack

Letters from the Japanese during the American Occupation By Rinjiro Sodei


Lynne Kutsukake’s The Translation of Love explores the triumphs and failures of expressing love in postwar Japan.

Read the fascinating non-fiction book that inspired Kutsukake’s debut novel.

Everything I Never Told You By Celeste Ng

Author info

Lynne Kutsukake is a third-generation Japanese-Canadian writer who studied Japanese literature for many years, and worked as a librarian at the University of Toronto library. The Translation of Love is her first novel.

How many ways can love be expressed in English? How about in Japanese, or in the space between the two languages? These questions are at the heart of Lynne Kutsukake’s debut novel, The Translation of Love, which takes place in the wake of World War II in US-occupied Japan. One thread of the story follows timid, 12-year-old “repat” Aya Shimamura, a Japanese Canadian who was repatriated to Japan at the end of the war, along with her father, after being interned and losing her mother at the camp. Stuck in a strange country with an imperfect grasp of the language and an absent father, Aya has no real allies except her homeroom teacher, Kondosensei. Kondo tries to help Aya by pairing her with Fumi, a headstrong classmate who initially bullies Aya to deflect the attention of her own frenemies, who whisper that Fumi’s older sister Sumiko is a pan-pan girl. Fumi isn’t entirely sure what that means, but she knows it’s bad, and she knows that Sumiko has started living in the Ginza district, wearing flashy Western clothes and dancing with American GIs. When Sumiko stops visiting home altogether, Fumi realizes that she needs Aya’s help 32


to find her. She asks Aya to translate a letter to General MacArthur asking for his help. Fumi isn’t the only one. Hundreds of Japanese wrote letters to MacArthur—both in real life and in the novel—to express admiration, anger, to seek help or simply to ask existential questions. But since most of the letters were written in Japanese they had to be translated. That’s where the novel’s other thread picks up, with Yoshitaka “Matt” Matsumoto, a Japanese-American translator for the occupation, who spends his days translating the hopes and dreams of everyday Japanese citizens. But when the girls personally deliver Fumi’s English letter, he decides to search for Sumiko himself, even as he struggles to search for his own identity. Matt takes on Fumi’s request because he believes that MacArthur will ignore her letter, that it will get lost in the endless pile of voices looking for closure of one kind or another. Matt works in an office of occupation translators, but there are other, unofficial translators at work too. When he’s not teaching, Kondo-sensei moonlights as

Tragedy strikes a mixed-race, Chinese-American family when their eldest daughter is found drowned in a lake.

one of several back-alley translators, most of whom work on letters from GIs to their Japanese mistresses. Many of the letters are full of unwelcome news, but Kondo translates each one faithfully, even as his competitors edit freely to please their lovelorn customers. Kutsukake’s story treats a difficult time in our history with a light hand, almost too light at times. But the plot takes second stage to a bigger story in this novel: the story of how to learn to love oneself, and how to express love to others. In war-torn Japan, it’s a hard task for everyone, but the most moving stories come from those characters caught between two countries, adrift without a culture to call home. Matt’s ambivalence about the occupation is shaped by the death of his brother, who sacrificed his life in the 442nd infantry, while Aya craves a female mentor who calls her by her Western name and laughs without covering her mouth, even as she mourns her quiet Japanese mother, who died unable to translate her love of self and family to the icy desolation of internment.

Exploring Japanese sports



Ichiro: No need for last names or subtitles, Part 2

By D’arcy Mulligan

Rusin winds up and throws but misses his mark—and Ichiro, with that inimitable swing of his, connects. The sound tells you right away that Ichiro struck the ball true, and the whole crowd erupts. The ball sails deep into right field, evading the Colorado right fielder and hitting the wall. Ichiro is already around first, the 3,000th hit of his major league career is in the books, but he keeps running. He arcs around second and glides into third with a stand-up triple. And with that, on August 7, 2016, Ichiro became the 30th member of the illustrious 3,000hit club. Just one hit out of many in his career thus far, and with many more sure to come.

“To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.” —Ichiro Suzuki, 2007 It’s August 7, 2016. Ichiro stands at the plate opposite Chris Rusin, the Colorado Rockies lefthanded pitcher. Ichiro is 0 for 3 in this game and has been mired in a slump. He’s only had two hits in the last 10 days and people are starting to talk about his nerves getting the best of him. But Ichiro is used to doubters. No other Japanese position player had ever left the Land of the Rising Sun for the major leagues. In 2001 Ichiro made history when he debuted for the Seattle Mariners—and realized that he wasn’t playing just for himself, but for every other Japanese hitter who wanted a chance to prove themselves in North America. If Ichiro succeeded, he’d open the door for them. If he failed...

was too unconventional. Ichiro had always proven them wrong, and never more emphatically than in his first year in the major leagues. In 2001 Ichiro became only the second player to ever win the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the same year. From there the accolades would keep on coming. In the major leagues Ichiro would be a ten-time all-star and a ten-time Gold Glove winner. He would lead the American League in hits seven times, would be named as a Silver Slugger three times and would lead the entire major leagues in batting twice. He holds the major league record for most 200-hit seasons in a row, and in 2004, he also set the single season record for hits, breaking a record set in 1920. The excitement of the first pitch of the at-bat is over and the crowd relaxes. Ichiro takes just a moment to compose himself before setting himself back in the batter’s box. Rusin rears back and throws. Low and outside, ball two.

Ichiro waggles his bat just a little behind his head as the Rockies’ catcher flashes his signs and sets himself in a crouch. Rusin fires the pitch. Low and away, ball one.

Outside the majors, Ichiro also excelled in the World Baseball Classic where he helped lead Samurai Japan to victories in 2006 and 2009. His highlight was stroking the game-winning hit against South Korea to win the World Baseball Classic in 2009. After Ichiro declined to participate in 2013, Japan lost the event for the first time (hopefully this isn’t the start of a “Curse of Ichiro” for the team). Ichiro is currently tied for the most (all-time) stolen bases at the WBC along with being second in hits and, as he does at every level, holding a batting average of over .300.

But Ichiro had never let fear of failure get in his way before. His whole career people had told him that he was too small, that his swing

The count is 2–0. Ichiro goes through his preswing ritual, the bat over his head. He is ready once more.

Ichiro’s ideas On batting technique and the ladies: “Chicks who dig home runs aren’t the ones who appeal to me. I think there’s sexiness in infield hits because they require technique. I’d rather impress the chicks with my technique than with my brute strength. Then, every now and then, just to show I can do that, too, I might flirt a little by hitting one out.” On facing Daisuke Matsuzaka: “I hope he arouses the fire that’s dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger.” On motivation: “If I’m in a slump, I ask myself for advice.” When asked about the run of multi-hit games that started his 2007 season: “It’s not surprising. At the same time, it’s not that usual. It’s somewhere between usual and surprising.” When asked why he decided to re-sign in Seattle: “[My dog] said, ‘Woof, woof, woof,’ which meant, ‘Stay, stay, stay.’ Of course, I listened.” When asked his dog’s name: “I do not have the dog’s permission.”

D’arcy Mulligan has written about video games for gaming websites, sports for his blog, and cats anywhere and everywhere he can. He once spent his entire life’s savings on beer at the ball game. It was a very good pint. www.b www ww w ww w w w.b .bentoboxmag .be .b b be ben en nttob nto to ob bo b ox oxm xm ma m ag a g.cca g.c g. a


33 33

Film focus

By James Heron Movie

New Godzilla is a monster hit In the battle between Japan’s “King of the Monsters” and his American cousin, Shin Godzilla wins by a knockout.

MOVIE INFO Shin Godzilla (2016) Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi Screenplay by Hideaki Anno Starring Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi and Satomi Ishihara

© 2016 Toho Co., Ltd. All Right Reserved.

The 29th film in the popular series finds a rebooted monster raining terror down on Tokyo. A crack team of misfit scientists confront insurmountable political and bureaucratic red tape, and an imminent US nuclear strike, to save Godzilla Japan and its people.


ver the past six decades Godzilla has faced many fearsome foes—King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan, even King Kong—but none more threatening than his American cousin, the star of Gareth Edwards’s celebrated 2014 American remake. The world asked: “has the throne of Japan’s beloved ‘King of the Monsters’ been usurped by this foreign pretender?” With that, the battle was on, and Japan’s Toho Studios decided it was time to bring their A game, teaming directors Hideaki Anno (Evangelion) and Shinji Higuchi (Attack on Titan) to create Shin Godzilla— the 29th Godzilla film and a significant reboot of the 62-year-old movie monster. There is strange activity in Tokyo Bay. What officials initially suspect is only volcanic activity turns out to be a massive, gilled eel that begins tearing a swath of destruction through the city. Officialdom is paralyzed until low-level cabinet official Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) forms an E-team of misfit scientists to circumvent red tape and save Japan. The creature evolves into a truly terrifying iteration of Godzilla—an indestructible, 300-foot combination of computer-generated and model animation that can unhinge its jaws to unleash firestorms or cut skyscrapers in half with an in34


tense heat beam. When the American military orders a nuclear attack on Tokyo to contain the beast, the countdown is on for Yaguchi and his team to save the day.

This is a true film: funny, self-aware, devilishly clever and delightfully cornball.

The film provides an engaging snapshot of Japan’s current political and social preoccupations. Where the 1954 original presented a metaphor for the atomic destruction during World War II, Shin Godzilla reflects national anxiety around the 3.11 Tohoku disaster through playfully dark satire and terrifyingly familiar images: cars are tossed in the air by surging waters during the larval monster’s first landfall, bureaucrats dither in endless meetings and politicians foist vague untruths on a panicked public. Japan’s ambivalent relationship with the US is explored with a comical lack of subtlety as the countdown to the American nuclear strike becomes as much a threat as the creature itself. In another subplot, the brash, young Japanese-American envoy Kiyoko Anne Paterson (Satomi Ishihara) drops her presidential ambitions as she connects with Yaguchi and her own pure Japanese DNA. Shin Godzilla is rooted in a soft liberal nationalism that condemns Japan’s institutions while celebrating those qualities that

the Japanese admire most: industriousness, cooperation, sincerity and sacrifice.

The film has been a runaway hit in Japan with some theatres hosting special screenings that allow usually staid Japanese audiences to cheer. The film will definitely play better for domestic audiences. Still, there is much to cheer about. The cast is great and are clearly enjoying themselves; major actors pop up at regular intervals in the tiniest of cameos—everyone, it seems, wants their chance to get stomped. First and foremost, this is a true Godzilla movie. Edwards’s Godzilla was strong, but one felt the monster had shown up in the wrong film: a much slicker, mega-budget American popcorn extravaganza. Shin Godzilla retains the clunky charms of the original series but gives us something more; it is funny, self-aware, devilishly clever and delightfully cornball when it wants to be. Sorry American Godzilla, Shin Godzilla wins this bout by a knockout. The film is enjoying an extended run of theatrical screenings in select cities across North America. Watch for an upcoming screening in your area.

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So this is Christmas?!

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KATHLEEN O’HAGAN Kathleen spent years living in and travelling around Japan—and blogging about her adventures while she was at it. Now back in Toronto, Kathleen continues to write about her life-changing experience abroad when she can—in between discovering new and delicious Japanese restaurants in the city, working as a copywriter and raising her baby boy.

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iss e show at thhi Nobu rue-nsstylthe restaurant hom A tasty classicJCapanese tak anadian e on a dish Yumi Nishio


Yumi is a beloved wife and mother who grew up in a restaur ant in Yokohama. She lived with her husband for two years before he finally found out that she ’s a great cook. She got an expens ive university degree so she could be a banker, and a diploma from Sherida n College that she actually uses.

Worth the wait at this hidden gem

Japanese Fast Food-YA! has changed its name, but its home-cooked authenticity and creativity remain the same.


o, one of our writers is absolutely in love with Japanese Fast Food-YA! on Royal York near Lakeshore ... well, to be honest, it’s located far enough from the intersection that one has to take a bus or a car to get there. But I know our writer makes special trips just for this small establishment, so when I found myself in that neck of the woods, I swung by to give it a try. Turns out, the restaurant has changed its name to Nobuya (Nobu’s Place)—but, luckily for me, the owner and chef (Nobu) continues to offer B-kyu gu-ru-me (Bclass gourmet) deliciousness to the locals. If you’ve ever wanted to try an authentic Japanese greasy spoon, this is the place to go. The menu is full of classic items along with some fusion surprises. One of the most popular comfort



foods at Nobuya is the Japanese-style poutine, Nobu’s take on the iconic French-Canadian soul food. What makes it Japanese is the toppings: green onion, aonori (seaweed), bonito and spicy mayo mixed with soy sauce, all on crispy hand-cut french fries. Nobu has also added some new offerings to the menu, like Nattorice, okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), korokke (croquette) and wakame salad. If you visit Nobuya, you’ll be likely to meet some dedicated regulars, like a guy who frequently orders Natto-rice and eats it at the bar counter. Another young patron, who was eating takoyaki (fried octopus balls) at the table near the kitchen during my visit, sounds like he knows the whole menu by heart. He even calls Nobu out of the kitchen when there is a new customer waiting

to order at the front. Yes, this place is a oneman operation—Nobu takes the orders and does all the cooking. And, if all the tables are occupied, the service will be slow accordingly. But, really, it’s worth the wait. Don’t be in a rush to get some food when you visit Nobuya. This is a restaurant where customers take a break from their busy lives, chat and make new friends, and then enjoy some yummy home-style food for a very affordable price.

Nobuya | TEL: 416-201-9491 285 Royal York Rd., Toronto OPEN: Mon–Thurs 5:30 pm–10 pm Àˆq->ÌÊx\ÎäÊ«“q££Ê«“ÊUÊ-՘ÊVœÃi`

Free parking available

120116 bentobox  

Bento Box Magazine, a Toronto-based Japanese New Concept Magazine. Our mission is to provide our readers with the latest news in Toronto, ri...

120116 bentobox  

Bento Box Magazine, a Toronto-based Japanese New Concept Magazine. Our mission is to provide our readers with the latest news in Toronto, ri...