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issue 15 │ 2017 FREE

RYOKAN

Experience the allure of Japan’s traditional lodging

TOHOKU

Enjoying Japan’s great outdoors in the green season

NAGANO

Discover the joys of springtime skiing

NIIGATA

JAPAN Backcountry skiing in Japan’s greatest snowy regions

Skiing heaven and land of unique culture and history


CONTENTS

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Cover photo: Aomori Prefecture

issue 15 │ 2017 │ FREE EDITORIAL EDITOR IN CHIEF Kazuya Baba EDITORS Haruka Osoegawa, Marie Sekiwa, Haruka Takeuchi

10 4 Prologue 6

Travel news

60 SUBCULTURES 56

Why I love Akihabara

RYOKAN

58

Anime is life

9

A Japanese holiday in a ryokan

GOURMET

11

Tips before your first visit to an onsen ryokan

13

Japan’s magnificent onsens

15 NARAYA 16

Authentic ryokan experience in Sydney

18

The best of SEIKO

TRAVEL 19

TOHOKU

61

Interview with Hideo Dekura

62

Japanese culinary feast

65

Japanese food with wine

66

Discover wine made in Japan

67

Japanese kitchen knives

68

Beginner's guide to sake

70

The “SUPER DRY” experience in Australia

Japan’s great outdoors NAGANO

72

Finding a place to stay in Japan

Hakuba / Shiga Kogen / Nozawa Onsen

75

Live beyond the ordinary

40

KANAZAWA

76

Japanese manners and etiquette

A taste of traditional Japanese culture

78

Understanding Japanese expressions

42

KUSATSU

8 0

Event Calendar 2017

Undiscovered hot spring and skiing paradise NIIGATA

Echigo Yuzawa / Myoko Kogen

TRAVEL - TIPS 50

Travelling in Japan

52

Travel tips

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TRANSLATORS & WRITERS Andrew Dahms, Charlene Lim, Christopher Hall, Dave Windsor, Dennis Bott, Ida Van, Miona Ikeda, Shunichi Ikeda, Taro Moriya, Yuko Frost

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jStyle is published by NICHIGO PRESS AUSTRALIA PTY. LTD. Level 3, 724-728 George St., Sydney NSW Australia General Enquiries Tel: (02)9211-1155 Fax: (02)9211-1722 Email: npsyd@nichigo.com.au Websites: j-style.com.au / nichigopress.jp / www.nichigo.com Southpaw Font: AWP, Allison Usavage, Tyler Finck DISCLAIMER: Whilst we take every care in ensuring that material published in jStyle is accurate, data and information may change after the date of publication, 26 Sep 2016. Nichigo Press cannot take responsibility for the content of advertisements and contributions from external persons or entities. No material may be reproduced in part or in whole without written consent from the copyright holders. Nichigo Press Australia requires as part of its terms and conditions of contract that the content of advertisements do not infringe the rights of any third party and do not breach any provision of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) or the Fair Trading Act 1987 (NSW) or similar legislation enacted in other states of Australia (or other jurisdictions). Nichigo Press cannot be held responsible for advertisements that breach these conditions.

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WELCOME

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PROLOGUE Words and photography: Kazuya Baba

@Shibuya

As the curtains close on the Rio 2016 Olympics, the baton has now been firmly passed to Tokyo, and the performance by the Tokyo Olympic team during the closing ceremony appears to have earned itself quite the popular reception. Starting with a video of one of Tokyo’s major trendsetting spots, Shibuya, the video brought together the real world and a world of fantasy with popular video game character Mario and famous anime figure Doraemon, building up to an appearance by Mario as he appeared through a tunnel from Japan to the other side of the planet in Brazil. At the very end, a touch of flair as Prime Minister Abe appeared from the midst of a green pipe placed in the middle of the arena dressed as the famous plumber himself. Some in Japan were not quite the fan of this perhaps unusual performance, but the global reception seems to have been generally positive. (And in many ways, ‘domestic disputes’ such as this are very much a part of Japan’s national identity.) It may then come as a surprise to hear that overshadowed by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is the coming of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, also set to be held in Japan, and perhaps the more noteworthy piece of news to some in Australia. Whichever you prefer, Japan is busy, busy, busy preparing for this string of international events set to take place in the next three to four years. Preparations for receiving guests from abroad are no

doubt set to pick up the pace as well, making Japan a more tourist-friendly destination than ever before. Australia and Japan enjoy strong ties both economic and cultural, and the number of Aussies who come to visit Japan has been on the rise in recent times, coming close to setting a new record with each new year. Be that as it may, differences in history and cultural background can sometimes lead to hesitation when it comes to heading off the beaten path in search of new experiences. And so it was in last year’s issue of jStyle that we put together a special feature focusing on the keyword used to welcome visitors to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - omotenashi - standing for sense of hospitality unique to Japan, for those looking for a deeper understanding of the cultural heritage that makes Japan special. This year, we focus on Japan’s renowned traditional accommodation, the ryokan, the culmination of culture and etiquette in Japan from olden times. Given their rich history, they offer the perfect way to enjoy your trip to Japan, and a little extra knowledge can help you get that much more out of your experience. Our second special feature of this issue is the green season of six prefectures in the Tohoku region, including a report by an Australian travel journalist who went out to travel

across the Tohoku region in person. Tohoku as a region has been making efforts to publicise its skiing areas, but the skiing resorts found there also offer a compelling reason to stay in the area. A trip during the green season offers many attractions, from enjoying the picturesque outdoors to visiting ancient shrines and temples, and so much more. By all means, make the trip to Tohoku and experience its wonders firsthand. We have also doubled up on our coverage of skiing in this issue. I myself visited Nagano, Niigata, and also out to Kanazawa. In particular, one new adventure I can recommend is spring skiing in Nagano. Many go skiing during the holiday season of January, while others seek the peak skiing season of February, but there are many highlights only to be enjoyed in the spring. I hope you can enjoy the attractions of the new adventure that spring skiing presents. After our introduction to Nagano, we turn to two skiing areas in nearby Niigata prefecture. Here I was joined by an editor of the Australian skiing magazine, Snow Action, who also provides some comments. Last, we look at Kanazawa, a historic town now just one hour from Nagano thanks to the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train. I hope this issue will help you discover the attraction of a trip to Japan, and act as an aid to those already on their journey of discovery of the country.

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TRAVEL NEWS

NEW WORLD HERITAGE LISTING - THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WESTERN ART OF JAPAN The National Museum of Western Art (NMWA), located within Tokyo’s Ueno Park has officially been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Although it houses the exquisite works of many artists, the building itself has now been recognised as a beautiful work of art. The NMWA was designed by French architect, Le Corbusier (1887 – 1965), a master of modern architecture. The building, which was erected in 1959, was the only project he completed in Japan and is characterised by its spiral staircase and the pilotis to the first floor. On 17 July 2016 at the 40th UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Istanbul, Turkey, the decision

to inscribe the building to the World Heritage List was made following the recommendation of 7 countries (Japan, France, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, India and Switzerland) for the inscription of “The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement”. Ueno is a great place for tourists to walk around and casually soak up Japanese culture every day with ease. Take the experience one step further by combining Japanese scenery with the beauty of Le Corbusier’s architecture the next time you visit Japan. Web: www.mofa.go.jp/press/release/ press12e_000003.html

s w TRAVELN e FOR JETSETTERS TO JAPAN

Planning a trip to Japan? Read up on the latest news regarding tourist spots and useful services. *Information on this page is accurate as of September 2016. For further information, please visit the provided links.

HOKKAIDO TOPS BEST IN ASIA LIST The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has announced that Hokkaido has been named as the top destination in Asia to visit, according to the popular traveller’s guide book – Lonely Planet. Although Hokkaido is generally renowned amongst skiers for its high quality powder snow in winter, it secured the top spot for the beautiful experiences it can offer all year round. Located in northern Japan, Hokkaido summers are mild, offering ideal living conditions for those looking to escape the harsh, sticky summers of other major prefectures.

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Hokkaido has everything a traveller could ever wish for: the finest seafood and produce nature has to offer; breathtaking views at numerous national parks – including Daisetsuzan National Park; the magnificent lavender fields of Furano; unique wildlife such as the ezo-shika (deer) and kita kitsune (northern red fox); and even hot springs to revitalise a travel-weary body. It’s also even more accessible now with the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen in March 2016. Web: www.jnto.org.au/media-release/hokkaido-tops-lonelyplanets-best-in-asia-list


DIRECT ACCESS FROM NARITA AIRPORT TO POPULAR TOURIST SPOTS! A new, high-speed express bus service – the Narita Air & Bus – has begun operation this year from Narita Airport, one of Japan’s largest international airports, to the following locations: Nikko, Niigata, Toyama, Kanazawa, Yamanashi, Kyoto and Osaka. Purchasing tickets for the bus has been made easily accessible to foreign travellers with many languages on offer, making travelling to these great locations simple and convenient. The new bus service’s main drawcard is providing direct access to each destination without the need for troublesome transfers. Osaka’s popular

Proudly standing at a towering 3,776m is Japan’s highest peak – Mount Fuji. This magnificent mountain is a popular tourist spot amongst Japanese and foreign hikers alike. Mount Fuji has become a world renowned symbol of Japan and its sacred status as well as its depictions in Hokusai Katsushika’s famous ukiyo-e (Edo period art) have earned it a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Although the mountain crosses over numerous different prefectures, Yamanashi prefecture proudly announced the opening of the Mt Fuji World Heritage Center this year. The centre aims to educate the many visitors to this World Heritage Site by providing information about Mount Fuji’s cultural significance.

“Universal Studios Japan®” and the sacred Mount Fuji can now all be reached from Narita Airport by hopping onto a single bus and relaxing until you reach your destination. Some routes also provide night ride (depart at night and arrive the next morning) options which will no doubt suit those travelling on a tight schedule. Looking out the window of the bus as you watch the streets of Japan or captivating natural sights go by is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. Web: www.jnto.org.au/direct-bus-from-naritaairport-to-popular-tourist-destinations

Housed within the centre is a 15m high replica of Mount Fuji made from Japanese paper which depicts the changes the mountain goes through in a day and through four seasons using music and lights, offering a unique experience to visitors. Entry is 420 yen for adults, 210 yen for university students and free for high school students and under. Next door to the cultural exhibit is a visitor’s centre certified by the JNTO which offers handy tourist information about Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes area to foreign visitors free of charge. Web: www.jnto.org.au/mt-fuji-worldheritage-center-now-open

MT FUJI WORLD HERITAGE CENTER NOW OPEN

TOKYO’S A TERRIFIC TIME FOR CHILDREN Words and photography: Dave Windsor

As exciting and interesting Tokyo is for adults, it can be equally awesome for kids too.

From lightning fast trains to sushi trains to navigating labyrinthine subways; the neon lights and robot restaurants of Kabukicho to the 350 and 450 metre high observation decks and restaurants of Tokyo Skytree with views to Mt Fuji by day and a sparkling sea of lights at night. Tokyo’s a wonderfully unique and exotic place for a 9 year old from Melbourne. The Japanese signs and language, Tokyo’s immense size, deliciously diverse food, onsen bathing, tatami mats, wearing kimonos and sleeping on futons are all so very different. To be honest I was a little nervous that my daughter, Porshia, wouldn’t appreciate or embrace Tokyo. To my delight and relief she loved it. Watching dad eat fish and slurp on miso soup for breakfast raised her eyebrows as did the endless array of vending machines which she begged me to feed with yen for the goodies they contained. Naturally, a visit to Disneyland or DisneySea or both in our case was high on the agenda. A cuddle with Daisy Duck, a bag full of souvenirs and the fabulous rides left us both with beaming smiles. Downtown in Asakusa, around the corner from the must see Sensō-ji temple and Nakamise Street Market, is quaint Hanayashiki Amusement Park, Japan’s oldest and a fond reminder of our very own Luna Park in St Kilda. The local history and city-side location, near Ueno, made for a convenient

compromise between culture for me and fun for her (and me). Also around Ueno is a massive park complete with a world class zoo, National Museum of Nature & Science and the brilliant bargains, bustle and calamity of the mazelike Ameyoko Market, which makes for an electrifying evening. Cross town in Shibuya is the statue of the legendary loyal pooch Hachiko and the amazing street crossing with its legion of pedestrians patiently waiting to cross en masse in every direction. And don’t get me started on the sensational shopping. Finally, the traditional tea ceremony at our ryokan was a gentle experience that Porshia respectfully took part with due regard, politeness and attention. Tokyo’s a bento box of culture, adventure, awe and joy for parents and kids alike and a funfilled addition to any Japanese itinerary with your children.

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TRAVEL NEWS

HANDS-FREE TRAVEL SERVICE AT SHINJUKU STATION Following the steady rise of foreign travellers using Shinjuku Station (one of Tokyo’s central hubs) every passing year, a “Hands-Free Travel Service” was launched in June 2016. Located next to the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Centre at Odakyu Shinjuku Station’s West Ground Gate Exit, the service can be used arrange for luggage to be delivered to your hotel, Haneda Airport or Narita Airport. Japan’s efficient and convenient courier services guarantee same-day delivery if items are checked in by 11am. The introduction of this service has solved the age-old problem of having to travel around impeded by heavy luggage. It’s also handy for those wishing to wander around Shinjuku and the surrounding areas without having to drag or carry around unnecessary items as the service also offers temporary luggage storage. The Hands-Free Travel Service is currently available for use in English and Chinese. It is still undergoing a trial phrase, however, plans to implement the service permanently at Shinjuku Station have already been confirmed. As time until the long awaited Tokyo 2020 Olympics draws ever nearer with each passing day, the city of Tokyo is looking for different ways to enhance its facilities in efforts to become a friendlier city to foreign travellers from around the world. Web: www.jnto.org.au/hands-free-travel-service-at-shinjuku

DISCOVER MORE ABOUT JAPAN! The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) strives to spread the word on Japan’s endless charm to those living in Australia and New Zealand. Its website is packed with information about Japanese culture, art, food, skiing, shopping, hot springs and various other topics as well as handy guides to travel agencies and ways to get around Japan. Travellers planning a trip to Japan are sure to pick up some useful information through a quick visit to the JNTO homepage. The website is constantly being updated with the latest information about all things Japan, so be sure to check it out before you fly out! The jStyle Facebook page is also a great source of information with daily posts about Japanese culture for you to peruse

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at your leisure. It’s filled with information about traditional Japanese sweets, historical castles and temples, summer fireworks, beautiful natural sights and unique Japanese expressions to keep you in the know on the latest ways to experience Japan. You can also find posts about Japanese cultural events in Australia such as the pop culture convention – SMASH! and cherry blossom festivals which welcome in spring. Each post will either provide information leading up to the event or a review of the event itself. Discover more about Japan today through your smartphone or computer at the jStyle Facebook page! JNTO website: www.jnto.org.au jStyle Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ nichigojstyle


RYOKAN

Dogo Onsen - one of Japan's oldest hot springs, located in Ehime prefecture. The main building (Dogo Onsen Honkan) is the heart of this renowned public hot spring and is a recognised national treasure. Many other ryokans surround this majestic place.

A JAPANESE HOLIDAY IN A RYOKAN Have you ever considered staying at a ryokan (Japanese inn) rather than a hotel the next time you visit Japan? Being pampered by the warm service of a ryokan as you soothe the mind and soul will surely have you hooked on this unique Japanese experience.

Words: Haruka Osoegawa

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RYOKAN

©JNTO

©JNTO

Japanese people love ryokans. There are still find many ryokans scattered around the nature-rich country towns just outside of the big cities. Spring blooms with cherry blossoms and summer celebrates with fireworks. Autumn brings beautiful autumn leaves and winter greets you with stunning snow. The modern Japanese person will take a few days off work to rest their weary bodies and souls at a traditional ryokan. Time feels as though it slows to a relaxing pace there, something you wouldn’t experience in a big city. Nowadays, the number of visitors from overseas choosing to stay in a ryokan rather than a hotel appears to be gradually increasing. Ryokans are the best place for overseas visitors to have a truly Japanese experience. But, what exactly is the difference between a traditional Japanese ryokan and a hotel? In simple terms, the average hotel consists of western-styled rooms with beds for guests to relax. Hotels are focused on protecting the privacy of its patrons with

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individual bathrooms contained in each room. Furthermore, stepping out of your hotel room in your bathrobe is not exactly commonplace. On the other hand, ryokans are fitted with Japanese-styled rooms and guests sleep on a futon rolled out onto the tatami mat floor. Guests walk around the ryokan premises in their yukata. An okami-san (landlady) runs a ryokan and the nakai-san’s (maid) job is to carry your luggage to your room, set/ pack up your futon, and bring meals to your room amongst other things. This unique characteristic of Japanese culture, “Japanese hospitality”, can be experienced here first hand. “Japanese hospitality” is to give guests the utmost best service from the very bottom of one’s heart. Each guest is entitled to the most pleasant of environments. As such, regular visitors to ryokans often feel as though they’ve come home to their “second family”. The effort the caretakers make to meet the requests of every guest is another ryokan charm.

ONCE YOU’VE DISCOVERED THE PURE CHARM OF A RYOKAN, YOU’LL WANT TO KEEP COMING BACK. IT’S NO WONDER SO MANY PEOPLE ARE HOOKED.

Take timing, for example. Many guests are served dinner at their rooms. After dinner, the nakai-san comes to set up each guest’s futon. The nakaisan will adjust to each guest’s schedule as required in order to carry out this task. Most ryokans are also very flexible when it comes to check-in and checkout times. Many ryokans also have onsens (hot springs). These are usually common baths separated by gender for guests to enjoy with other guests. Being able to stretch out your arms and legs as you have a good long soak in the thermal waters is a truly relaxing experience. There are also private baths which can be reserved if you wish to bathe without having to worry about others. Enjoy the pinnacle of service as you dine on delicious foods and bathe in the relaxing onsen. Once you’ve discovered the pure charm of a ryokan, you’ll want to keep coming back. It’s no wonder so many people are hooked.


THINGS TO NOTE WHEN MAKING A BOOKING

Many of you might be worried about how much English is understood at ryokans. If you’re not a fluent Japanese speaker, the best way to make a booking is via email or fax. Fluency in spoken English is still uncommon in Japan, so it’s best to put your booking in writing to avoid mistakes. It is very important to be aware of peak seasons before you make plans to stay at a ryokan. Christmas/New Year’s, Golden Week (late April – early May) and Obon (mid-August) are particularly busy, leading to higher booking fees. Sometimes rooms will be booked out one year in advance for these periods, so make sure you are well prepared. Another point you should be careful of are the prices displayed for booking. Unlike in Australia, the prices are per person, not per room. Also, although credit cards issued by major banks are accepted at many places, some only accept cash. Have some cash on hand, just in case. ARRIVING AT THE RYOKAN

TIPS BEFORE YOUR FIRST VISIT TO AN ONSEN RYOKAN Learning some ryokan and onsen etiquette before your first visit is sure to make for a much richer experience. Here are some handy tips before you take the plunge.

Make sure you remember to take your shoes off indoors in Japan. When you arrive at the ryokan, take your shoes off at the entrance and slip on a pair of the provided slippers. However, once you’ve entered your room, remove your slippers so you do not damage the tatami mats. If you happen to stay in a traditional Japanese room there may be a small shrine in the corner of your room with a scroll and seasonal flowers. As it is considered a sacred place, avoid placing any luggage or items there. There will be a yukata placed in your room. Yukatas are a type of casual kimono made of cotton which can be worn around the ryokan. The correct way to wear a yukata is to slip it on like a robe, fold the left over the right side and then tie the obi (belt) around your waist just tight enough so that it stays together.

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RYOKAN

If you are unsure about anything, just ask the nakai-san. The nakai-san is in charge of taking care of guests during their stay. She will be at the entrance to greet you upon arrival at the inn. She is also the person who brings tea, snacks and meals to your room. Once you have finished dinner, she will come to retrieve the dinnerware and set up your futon. You’re sure to become very familiar with her during your stay. Although it is not customary to give tips in Japan, if you wish to express your gratitude for the nakai-san’s services, place 2000-3000 yen in an envelope and pass it onto her as you check-out. TAKE A DIP IN THE ONSEN

If you’ve never been to an onsen before, it may seem like a daunting experience. Aside from cleaning times, onsens are open all day and all night, so you can take a dip whenever you please. You can also hop in as many times as you want during your stay. The customary Japanese way is to have a soak before dinner. Start off by grabbing the provided towel and head over to the bathing area. Most baths are separated by gender. Take your clothes (or your yukata) off in the change rooms and wash your whole body in the showers. Most onsens stock their showers with shampoo and soap. Before finally hopping into the onsen, you must not forget to kakeyu. This is to scoop up some of the mineral waters with the provided ladle and pour it over your body. It is important to do this, not only to rinse off any remaining dirt, but to acclimatise your body to the heat and feel of the thermal waters. The temperature of onsens differ from place to place. Some may be lukewarm whereas others may be piping hot. The thermal waters are packed with minerals, providing a wide range of benefits for your skin. Some people go to onsens purely for its health benefits.

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©JNTO

©JNTO

©JNTO


JAPAN’S MAGNIFICENT ONSENS Renowned hot spring towns can be found all over Japan. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to 3 of them. The beautiful winter wonderland – Ginzan, the easily accessible from Tokyo – Hakone and, one of the Big Three famous Japanese onsens – Kusatsu.

GINZAN

Located in the snow and watermelon abundant town of Obanazawa in Yamagata prefecture lies Ginzan Onsen. The onsen inns here are concentrated on either side Ginzan River, 10km east of the main Obanazawa township. As the sun sets, the gas lanterns of the retro-styled inns lining the river are lit up, creating a romantic atmosphere reminiscent of the early 1900s. Although Ginzan Onsen is particularly famous for its beautiful night view, it has equally stunning sights for every season. Its brilliant greenery in early summer and colourful autumn leaves, for example, make it a popular tourist spot all year round. Following the discovery of silver in the 16th century, this town thrived in the early Edo period through its abundance, hence the name – Ginzan (Silver Mountain). Once the silver rush had subsided, it is

said that the town turned its attention to customers seeking the hot springs for their health. Remnants of the silver mines can still be found today above the large waterfall deep within the onsen district. The milky thermal waters of Ginzan Onsen are said to be beneficial for nerve pain, rheumatism, skin conditions, injuries and female illnesses. Dip your feet into the hot springs as you listen to the gentle sounds of the flowing river with a delicious meal and enjoy your stay.

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RYOKAN

KUSATSU

©JNTO

HAKONE

Hakone Onsen is located right next to Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture and is easily accessible via car, train and bus – making it a popular onsen spot. The fastest way to get there is via the ‘Romance Car’, a train which leaves from Shinjuku station and can take a mere 85 minutes to arrive at Hakone Onsen. Surrounded by mountains and nature, Hakone has far too many sights to see in one day – from hot springs to art and gourmet food. Of course, the hot springs are the town’s main drawcard. There are over twenty onsen districts in the areas around Mount Hakone. At the entrance of Hakone is the

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Hakone-Yumoto area which boasts over forty onsen inns and stores. It is the largest and oldest onsen area in Hakone Onsen. The thermal waters are simple alkaline based and are said to benefit those with nerve and joint pain, as well as improve blood circulation. The onsen district lies alongside two rivers – Hayakawa and Sukumogawa. Various different styles of ryokan sit on the riverside, such as old, nationally treasured inns, traditional Japanese inns and even large scale spa resorts. With over twenty establishments that offer day trip options, one can see why it’s popular spot for a casual dip in an onsen.

KUSATSU IS A RENOWNED HOT SPRING WHICH HAS SOOTHED THE BODIES AND SOULS OF COUNTLESS JAPANESE FOLK THROUGH­ OUT HISTORY.

If you’re departing from Tokyo, Kusatsu Onsen is another highly recommended spot. One of the Big Three Onsens (Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma, Gero Onsen in Gifu and Arima Onsen in Hyogo), Kusatsu is a renowned hot spring which has soothed the bodies and souls of countless Japanese folk throughout history. It has the highest natural thermal water yield of any hot spring in Japan, boasting over 32,300 litres a day. Kusatsu Onsen is also one of the few acidic hot springs in Japan with a pH of 2.2. Its unique sulfuric, highly acidic waters can dissolve an aluminium 1 yen coin within a week of submersion. Thanks to its antibacterial qualities, the thermal waters are said to benefit those with chronic skin and digestive ailments. The hot spring field in the heart of the onsen district is what keeps Kusatsu Onsen alive. 4000 litres of thermal waters flow out every minute and the area is constantly draped in rising steam. Inns and souvenir shops surround the area in order to draw from the hot spring field. Kusatsu Onsen is the biggest resort town in Japan with over 130 inns and hotels and over 120 souvenir shops. Nearby lies Mount Kusatsu-Shirane with its crater lakes, Kusatsu Kokusai Ski Resort, as well as Mount Asama and Karuizawa to the south, so a combined trip to the surrounding areas would make for a fulfilling trip.


Ryokan

NARAYA Gunma, the heart of Japan. Situated amongst towering mountains in the nature abundant, onsen (hot spring) filled town of Kusatsu, dwells a history rich, long-standing ryokan – NARAYA. Take a dip in an onsen and soothe your soul as you soak up the ultimate experience.

The main entrance to NARAYA

If you are looking to experience a long established ryokan steeped in tradition, then look no further than NARAYA. It has the privilege of being located right next to a hot spring field in the centre of Kusatsu. Established in 1877, NARAYA has created the perfect balance of old charm with a clean and modern touch. NARAYA’s main attraction is, of course, the onsens. Of the six main veins of natural springs in Kusatsu, the oldest one is said to be the Shirohata (White Flag) spring which bubbles up next to the hot spring field. NARAYA draws from this slightly cloudy, high temperature spring. Before the thermal waters are piped to each individual bath, it goes through a process known as yumomi - the act of cooling the waters with 1.5 metre-long paddles by heaving it through the air. This inn is one of a select few which still continues this traditional practice today. Along with public baths segregated by gender, NARAYA also has private baths, made with Japanese cedar, available for reservation if you wish to be alone with your thoughts. The superb thermal waters combined with the refreshing scent of cedar gently caress the soul for a truly blissful experience. Also included with the private bath is a tatami mat room for you to relax in after a good soak. After a relaxing dip in the onsen, you can look forward to a traditional Japanese dinner made with the finest seasonal ingredients.

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One of the guest rooms

Eating a delicious meal in a yukata is sure to blow all the stresses of travelling away. The assistant manager of NARAYA, Tatsuya Saeki, spoke to us about the their views on hospitality. Here’s what he had to say, “All of Japan, including the onsen-filled town of Kusatsu, is gradually getting accustomed to welcoming foreign guests from around the world. Here at NARAYA, we have particularly large numbers of foreigners staying with us. They have made the trip deep into the mountains to our country town, so the least we can do is ensure they leave here with fun memories. This is why we do our very best to maintain this wonderful atmosphere and provide the best service.” NARAYA Address: 396 Kusatsu, Agatsuma-gun, Gunma Tel: 81-279-88-2311 Email: naraya@kusatsu-naraya.co.jp Web: www.kusatsu-naraya.co.jp

The public hot spring bath

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Ryokan jStyle: What got you interested in traditional Japanese culture at the start? Linda: We grew up watching “Shintaro the

Samurai”. Influenced by the TV series, kids those days loved playing samurai and ninja, playing with imitation swords and papermade throwing knives (shuriken) and so on. Our generation of Aussies all remember “Shintaro” in the good old days. Apparently, when the actor who played Shintaro came to Australia, he was welcomed by more than 7,000 fans at Melbourne Airport. That was more than the number Beatles fans who came to the airport when they visited! Interestingly, the TV series doesn’t seem to be as popular in Japan. Whenever I talk about “Shintaro” to Japanese people of my generation, no one ever remembers it. Wooden houses, paper doors, samurai and ninja clothes, swords, shuriken... Everything in Shintaro’s world was totally exotic and a great culture shock to us. That was the beginning of my interest in Japanese culture.

INDULGE IN AN AUTHENTIC RYOKAN EXPERIENCE IN SYDNEY Much like how younger generations of Aussies grew up watching Pokemon in the late 1990s and early 2000s, kids in the 1960s were crazy about the Japanese TV drama series, “Shintaro the Samurai”. Linda Evans, who runs a traditional Japanese ryokan in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Balmain, was one of them. Interview and words: Taro Moriya Photography: Naoto Ijichi

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jStyle: What inspired you to build an authentic ryokan in Sydney? Linda: My love for Japanese culture as a

child continued through to adulthood. My first trip to Japan was finally made possible in 2001. We decided to take a family trip there and stay at an authentic ryokan. The most amazing experience in the Japanese ryokan was their exceptionally warm hospitality. Since then, we have been obsessed with traditional Japanese culture and we have travelled to Japan seven times thereafter. It was then that I started to think about introducing world-class Japanese hospitality to Australia, and I came up with the idea of building a Japanese-style ryokan at home. Utilising our fifth generation home in Balmain, I was determined to start a new life by renovating the house and turning it into a ryokan. “If I am going to do it, I do not want it to be semi-Western and semi-Japanese styled. I will aim for an ultra-authentic Japanese style,” that was what I thought.


jStyle: It must have been a very difficult task to build a completely authentic Japanese house in Australia. How did you make it possible? Linda: The building was an early colonial

style sandstone house built in 1855. While the original sandstone structure and walls were preserved as historical legacy, everything else was recreated. The foyer, two guest rooms, and corridor were all converted into an authentic Japanese interior with black timber and mortar. A separate room became a bathroom with an imported Japanese bathtub. Tons of soil was removed from the garden, and turned into a tranquil Japanese garden with pond carp swimming around. I wanted to reproduce the Edo-period (1603-1868) style exterior, interior,

furniture and garden. Although it was impossible to purchase 100% genuine Japanese building materials and furniture in Australia, I did not want to make something that people would feel is “unauthentic”. Based on the architect’s plans, my husband and I DIYed every little thing with a local carpenter. While we sourced local products as much as possible — paint, timber and building materials from Bunnings Warehouse and repairing Japanese antiques available in Sydney, for example — I imported things that were not available in Australia, such as the Japanese cypress bathtub. It took two years for development approval, and seven years for construction and renovations. It was finally finished, just one week before the opening in 2013.

WOODEN HOUSES, PAPER DOORS, SAMURAI AND NINJA CLOTHES, SWORDS, SHURIKEN... EVERYTHING IN SHINTARO’S WORLD WAS TOTALLY EXOTIC AND A GREAT CULTURE SHOCK TO US.

jStyle: How is business so far? Linda: Gojyuan has attracted many

local customers as well as overseas visitors who want to try something different. Not only customers who have stayed in Japanese ryokans, but also those who have never been to Japan. Other than providing Japaneselevel hospitality, which was my initial purpose, I have been conforming to accurate Edo-period details as much as possible. I am also adopting the Japanese manufacturing way of kaizen to improve our service quality as well. Along with a unique ryokan experience in Sydney, you may also enjoy kaiseki (traditional Japanese style degustation) dinner at an extra cost, if you book more than two weeks in advance. At Gojyuan, we are also working on introducing Japanese traditional culture to Australians. Our Japanese instructors are regularly holding workshops in various areas such as: tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy, furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloth), gift wrapping, mizuhiki (rice paper art), kimono dressing, temari (thread ball), shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine), Japanese pickles, Japanese sweets making and origami.

Authentic Ryokan Experience

208 Darling Street Balmain NSW 2041 Tel: (02) 9810 3219

w w w.r yok angojy ua n.com

8254GOJY

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Quality

THE BEST OF

SEIKO 18 │ jStyle issue 15

Earlier this year SEIKO opened its first boutique store in Australia. The SEIKO boutique ranges product not usually found in Seiko Australia’s regular channel of distribution. The boutique focuses on the higher-end collections of Credor, Grand Seiko, Astron, selected Limited Edition pieces and Japanese domestic models. The boutique has Seiko staff that are highly trained in the technical specifications of the collections and models ranged in the store. In fact,

some of the staff have visited the watch studios in Japan to see first-hand the finishing techniques and quality control behind these exquisite timepieces. The Seiko boutique provides a resident watch maker from Monday to Friday to assist with after sales care. The Seiko boutique allows the consumer to ‘explore the world of Seiko’ through its finest watches, its diversity of model selection, its craftsmanship and its professionally trained staff to highlight the detailed attributes of every watch.


SEIKO WATCH COLLECTION ASTRON The World’s first solar GPS watch was developed by Seiko and launched to the world in 2012. Since then, Seiko has continued to develop new calibres in the Astron collection. This truly amazing technology has been developed by Seiko’s watch experts. Seiko solar GPS, one step ahead of the rest. ASTRON’S TECHNOLOGY

Astron GPS Solar sets new standards of precision, ease of use and global convenience. Astron GPS Solar is the most significant advance in watchmaking in a generation. Using just the power of light, Astron connects to four or more satellites, identifies its time zone and adjusts the hands on the dial to the local time, with a precision of one second per 100,00 years.

CREDOR

The boutique is located in the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) in Sydney. The QVB is an iconic Sydney landmark and is renowned as being a central shopping district for the local and overseas consumer. The QVB is readily accessible to commuters being so closely located to the Town Hall railway station and bus hubs. Seiko Boutique, 455 George St., Shop 63, Lower Ground Floor, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney NSW 2000

The name Credor comes from the French Créte d’Or, meaning ‘’the ultimate of the gold,’’ and has been the name for our collection of high-end watches crafted in precious metals since 1974. Even now, our dedicated master craftsmen use only premium materials and express Japanese beauty and delicate aesthetics. Credor timepieces combine Seiko’s traditional craftsmanship with contemporary, high-end technology, and depend on our over 100 years of watchmaking.

jStyle Choice

To make Astron GPS Solar as easy to wear as possible, Seiko invented an automatic time adjustment function that allows the watch to adjust automatically to the GPS time signal once a day. An invisible sensor analyses the level of light, and when it senses five seconds of bright sunshine, connects to a GPS satellite and receives a time update. The key to this uniquely Seiko achievement is the development of a reception antenna in the shape of a ring that lies beneath the dial ring. This unique ring antenna, combined with a ceramic used for the bezel itself, optimises signal reception and allows the watch case to have the clean, elegant lines that are its signature. AstronGPS Solar also required the development of a unique module to minimise energy consumption. Connecting to the satellites orbiting 20,000kms above the earths surface requires a significant amount of energy. Seiko developed a module that only uses about 20% of the energy required by common GPS devices. Seiko, one step ahead of the rest.

GRAND SEIKO For over fifty years, the story of Grand Seiko has been the story of a team’s dedication to perfecting the deceptively simple idea of creating the ideal watch. Though times change and Seiko’s watchmaking technology has evolved rapidly, the spirit and essence of Grand Seiko has remained the same. For over fifty years, Grand Seiko has stood for the same simple yet exacting ideals. And so it will be for the next fifty years. And beyond. jStyle issue 15 │ 19


j

Travel

TOHOKU

Japan’s great outdoors

Words: Dave Windsor

TOHOKU

Tokyo

Narita Airport Haneda Airport

Tohoku’s fascinating history, rich culture, gorgeous natural beauty and fabulous food are everywhere across this enchanting “treasureland” of northern Honshū.

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s we leave the neon excitement, tangle of towers and calamitous congestion of Tokyo behind us racing north through the urban sprawl aboard the Yamabiko Shinkansen the cluttered concrete and steel gradually makes way for vast green spaces as the horizon meets the vibrant blue sky. The heads and eyes of my fellow passengers lift from their devices, as do our spirits, to take in the calming panorama unfolding outside. Our arrival

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in Tohoku, Honshū’s northern region, brings with it a sense of lightness, calm and an overwhelming expectation of discovery. Tohoku’s six prefectures – Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata, are steeped in history of warring samurai clans and the reign of powerful shoguns, with monumental castles, reverent temples and shrines, visions of astounding natural beauty, revitalising onsen towns,

mysterious legends and delicious cuisine that has me saying "oishii" every meal. There is much to discover and experience for children as well, be it open air train rides, table top cooking, doll painting, collecting memorial stamps and ‘flying dumplings’ across the Gembikei Gorge. Getting around is easy via the excellent expressway system, shinkansen and domestic ANA routes connecting Tohoku’s main centres with Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo.


Economy Class

ANA M

y travels began aboard ANA's direct flight NH880 from Sydney to Haneda. ANA’s 787-9 Dreamliner lived up to its name and reputation. The overnight flight conveniently had us arriving bright, early and well rested with a whole day at our disposal to commence our

Business Class

discovery, be it 30 minutes away in Downtown Tokyo, or transferring to a connecting flight or like me hopping aboard a shinkansen to explore Tohoku. Fully flat-bed seats in Business with a staggered configuration provide unsurpassed privacy to rest or watch movies or live TV on the massive 18 inch screen. The elegant amenity kit from L’Occitane, complimentary slippers, Toto washlet bathroom and additional mattress are refined touches to ease the journey. Premium Economy seats are wide and comfortably recline to 38 inches. The single cabin Economy section boast a generous 34’ seat pitch, as distinct to the considerably more

Business Class

cramped 32’ which seems standard now on most cost conscious carriers. Comfort was enhanced further by the Dreamliner’s optimised in-cabin humidity and air pressure. As to be expected, ANA’s service was gracious, refined and meticulous – from counter to gate to the aptly named ‘Connoisseurs’ meal and bar service, my international and domestic flights were faultless.

Premium Economy Class

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ANA Lounge

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©Dave Windsor

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y return trip to Sydney started midafternoon from Akita Airport, about 20km from Akita City, aboard an excellent ANA direct flight into Tokyo on a freshly kitted out Boeing 737-800. The short 70 minute flight departed on time and no sooner had we reached cruising altitude and enjoyed a little shut-eye, snack and cup of tea that we commenced our descent into busy Haneda Airport. With my bags checked through to Sydney and my international boarding pass in hand I enjoyed a seamless connection, which, after clearing customs and immigration, afforded me plenty of time to browse the plethora of boutiques and duty free shops before a well earned rest in the lounge. Kicking up my heals with a glass of

Nikka Whisky and bowl of freshly made ramen noodles in ANA’s elegant business lounge at Haneda Airport prior to my restful overnight trip to Sydney was a fitting end to a great trip. Little wonder ANA has a 5 star Skytrax rating.

*ANA operates daily flights between Sydney and Tok yo (Haneda). Note that flights to and from Sendai only operate from Narita.


©Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum

YAMAGATA

FUKUSHIMA

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ohoku reminds us of times past and no better example can be found than the proudly preserved Ōuchijuku Village, Fukushima prefecture, which flourished as a major cross road in a time of relative peace and stability during the Tokugawa shogunate. With over 30 thatched roof buildings stuccoed with clay, straw and cement walls it provides a fascinating time-traveller’s perspective. Each building houses local handicrafts and eateries where you must try a delicious bowl of famous negi soba, which is eaten with a long crisp leek in lieu of chopsticks or spoon. Around the corner is Yunokami Onsen station, which is also roofed with thatch. The chance to dip my weary feet in the almost too hot communal foot bath adjacent the station was a welcome respite before catching the quaint Ozatoro Observation Train to Aizuwakamatsu city. The train, with an open air cabin, designed with kids in mind, plus a unique tatami mat dining car, winds us through

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tunnels chiselled through the scenic mountains and past the cultivated countryside where every square inch of arable land is the dominion of rice paddies, orchards and market gardens. Aizuwakamatsu has been home to the magnificent Tsurugajo Castle for 600 years. The present castle, standing 25.5 metres tall atop an 11 metre stone base, was masterfully rebuilt in 1965 after its demolition following the Boshi civil war. It now houses a museum with a large collection of items and displays, including katanas and armour that recount the history, battles and characters of this strategic samurai stronghold that served successive shoguns with admirable loyalty. Glistening white with brown tiled roofing the donjon (castle tower) dominates the area that made up the grounds of this heavily fortified garrison. Surrounded by moats and over one thousand cherry trees, today it is a picturesque peaceful place. Normally the cherries blossom from April 20, which is a little later than the warmer southern areas of Japan, thus extending this gorgeous season. Another less sobering highlight of the area is Suehiro Sake Brewery, founded in 1850. Tours and tastings at the facility are welcomed and it’s tremendous to learn the time honoured and fastidious process of preparation, fermentation and cellaring undertaken by the sake masters to produce Japan’s iconic beverage. The subtle nuance of flavours sampled in the tastings vary like the scent of floral varietals, each delighting the palate whether sweet, tart, dry or sharp.

earby Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum in Yamagata prefecture is home to the National Treasure Rakutyu-Rakugaizu-Byobu, a pair of 6 panelled folding screens elaborately painted on gold leafed Japanese paper by Kano Eitoku in the mid-16th century. It vividly portrays the places, customs and some 2,500 citizens of Kyoto at the end of the Muromachi period and was gifted to Daimyo (lord) Kenshin Uesugi in 1574 by his contemporary Daimyo Oda Nobunaga. Also in the museum, detailed dioramas depicting village life and times through the four seasons will keep the kids happy, whilst antique scrolls, documents and an impressive 24 square metre map of Niigata prefecture painted in 1597 will delight the history buffs. With nicknames like “Dragon of Echigo”, “God of War”, “Tiger of Echigo”, “Guardian of the North", Kenshin Uesugi sounds more like a character from Game of Thrones than a legendary Japanese lord. Whilst 9th generation successor Yōzan Uesugi is revered as an economic, financial and industrial wizard of the early 19th century that, it is said, J. F. Kennedy once praised as “a brilliant politician”. From brilliant politicians to a brilliant long lunch at the Uesugi Joshien restaurant across the park, where we devoured soft, tender and succulent Yonezawa beef sukiyaki. The delectable marbled wagyu is simmered with Chinese cabbage, tofu, carrots, spring onion, shiitake, shimeji and enoki mushrooms, in a warishita broth of soya, sake and sugar. The melt in your mouth wagyu is beyond delicious and little wonder can cost over ¥30,000 per kilo at the adjacent store. jStyle issue 15 │ 23


MIYAGI

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ohoku’s nature reveals her beauty and wonder as we head to Zao National Park and the 5 star Chikusenso Mt Zao Onsen Resort & Spa in Miyagi prefecture. With only 32 rooms it is a boutique lodging of understated luxury and opulence. Acclaimed architect Yukio Hashimoto is true to his goal "to design not the material, but the ambience" as the wonderful use of space, locally sourced chestnut flooring, Japanese stucco walls (wara juraku), richly woven soft furnishings, Towada stone quarried from Aomori and the impressive Bonshō (Buddhist bell) in the library lounge area immediately impress upon me that this is the height of Japanese design and style whilst maintaining a traditional feel in harmony with the lush green surrounding. A memorable kaiseki banquet at the refined Kamajin restaurant in a semi-private dining room is nothing short of culinary indulgence as Head Chef Kiyakazu Naoi presents each of the delectable 9 courses like a piece of fine art that, but for my insatiable appetite, seem a shame to eat. From Sendai beef to sweet fish to a surprisingly delicate bite sized meat pie it was an outstanding feast of Japan’s highest form of cuisine. Of course accompanying such a meal with a fine bottle of La Forge Estate Chardonnay from Languedoc, France seemed only natural, though sake would

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probably have been more appropriate. Ensconced within 16 acres of heavily forested bamboo, maple and water oak within the Zao National Park it’s an exceptional place for relaxation, reflection and appetite. Chikusenso is probably not the place to take the kids, but the nearby Miyagi Zao Kokeshi Museum in Tōgatta Onsen certainly is. The large museum is home to over 5,000 intricately painted kokeshi dolls from all over Japan and other hand crafted items, and offers the opportunity to paint your own Tōgatta style kokeshi doll, which was actually a lot more fun than it initially sounded. Under the watchful and guiding eye of a master artisan we slowly and gently paint her petite face, ornate headpiece and a green and red kimono adorned with flowers, to create our own bespoke kokeshi. Traditionally adored by girls, whilst the boys had fun spinning tops, the origins of kokeshi date back to this area of Tohoku during the middle of the Edo Period, some 283 years ago, created by skilled woodworkers to sell as souvenirs to onsen visitors. Whether it’s the unique ruggedness of Mt Zao or the unique kokeshi of Tōgatta, Miyagi prefecture also lays claim to the unique honour of having one of Japan’s three most scenic spots – Matsushima. Haiku poetry master Bashō

Matsuo famously lost for words to describe the sheer beauty and wonder of Matsushima is said to have penned “Matsushima ya, a a Matsushima ya, Matsushima ya”. It’s an astonishing archipelago of 260 pine covered islets within the protected Matsushima Bay, half an hour north of Sendai, which escaped relatively unscathed from the 2011 tsunami. The view is wonderful from every angle, be it high at Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu lookout park, through the windows of Taritsu-an Restaurant feasting on scallops, fried oysters and tempura sea eel, partaking in a time honoured tea ceremony shore side at Kanrantei or on one of the tourist boats that cruise the bay. The amazing beauty extends on shore to within the grounds of the Zuigan-ji Buddhist Temple which boasts manicured gardens, traditional buildings and a collection of exquisite gold plated panels dating back to the 17th century depicting intricate scenes of nature, such as hawks hunting white herons and scampering rabbits to chrysanthemums, pine and cherry trees blooming to regal peacocks and proud roosters painted by Hasegawa Toin, Sakuma Sakyo and others. The tile covered Hōjō, built of zelkova, cyprus and cedar by 130 master craftsmen was commissioned by Lord Date Masamune and declared a National Treasure in 1953.


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nother National Treasure and personal highlight was Hiraizumi in Iwate prefecture - one of the prettiest towns I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. To walk this quaint town with its expansive public spaces, shrines and temples, ornamental ponds, productive rice paddies, archaeological sites, heavenly parks, manicured gardens, breathing the fresh floral scented air to the tunes of birds singing, children playing and irrigation trickling is a sensory delight. The calming soulfulness of this place rested my mind and raised my spirit and is the idyllic backdrop to five UNESCO World Heritage sites representing the Buddhist Pure Land. The magical Chūson- ji Temple occupies 284 acres of gently undulating forest with a complex of well-preserved buildings, lush greenery and the amazing Konjikidō (Golden Hall) nestled within a wood of giant maples and cyprus standing guard like sentinels. Completed in 1124 by the Ōshu Fujiwara warrior clan the 5 x 5m structure is blanketed in resplendent gold leaf shining on the walls, floors, ceiling and eaves. Amida, Buddha of Infinite Light, adorns the central altar and golden peacocks, elaborate paintings, scenes of nature, statues and inlaid mother-of-pearl decorate the first architectural structure in Japan to be designated a National Treasure. Pilgrims solemnly make offerings and bow their heads whilst an orange and black robed monk quietly recites prayers. Nearby Mōtsū-ji Temple with one of Japan’s last pure land gardens centred around a large ornamental pond was awash with a rainbow of colour playing host to an iris festival which was a pure delight for a garden lover like myself.

IWATE

AOMORI D

ramatic landscapes abound in Aomori prefecture and Mt Hakkoda is yet another striking example. Like its southern cousin Zao, Hakkoda’s famous for its winter ice monsters and endless powder; whilst in summer, with the song of hummingbirds cheerfully filling the air, she’s a photographer, sightseer and hiker’s paradise; come autumn, she’s saturated in colour as the virgin forest and alpine flora turn crimson, gold and orange in preparation for their eventual hibernation in the white season. The grandness of nature makes way to grand design as we hit Aomori City, with a population of just under 300,000, it punches well above its weight in the architectural and art stakes. There’s the monolithic stark white Aomori Museum of Art designed by Jun Aoki featuring the mammoth 8.5 metre tall ‘Aomori-Ken’ dog statue by Yoshitomo Nara and a cavernous 8,379m3 space housing three gigantic backdrops for the ballet ‘Aleko’ created by Marc Chagall. The fun-filled Nebuta Festival Museum, ingeniously skinned in burnt red steel vertical louvres, contains a colourful array of illuminated festival floats and interactive displays which has me dreaming of seeing the annual parades that take place every August. Then there’s the landmark Aomori Tourist Information Center, a 15 storey triangle-shaped building representing the letter “A” for Aomori that glows apple green in the evening and the iconic cable stayed Aomori Bay Bridge that itself glows iridescent blue. The edgy Aomori night life complements this slick urban centre as Tohoku’s rich history and traditional culture makes way for cutting edge design and fun times in its northern most capital. jStyle issue 15 │ 25


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cross the border in Akita prefecture, a sense of heritage and tradition is restored at the historical castle town of Kakunodate established in 1620 and its prestigious samurai district. The half-a-dozen finely preserved samurai houses, set amongst 400 weeping cherry blossom trees, are a picture of dignified architecture, tranquil grounds, grand gates, austere black fences, interesting artefacts, antiques and museum pieces. Along the bank of the Hinokinai River the renowned 2km Cherry Blossom Tunnel is a nationally designated scenic spot that I can only imagine must glow pink in the spring and adds to Kakunodate’s reputation as “Little Kyoto”. As we venture further north, the winding roads spiral through the breathtaking Akita mountainside which lead to pictures of natural beauty and amazing hidden gems such as Tsurunoyu Onsen and Tamagawa Onsen. Tsurunoyu, dates back to 1638 and was frequented by samurai and their escorts as a place of healing and relaxation. The thatched roofed tatami lodgings, churning water wheel, communal onsens, including a mixed onsen, of this tiny resort transport us back in time. By contrast Tamagawa Onsen’s deafening fissures whistle jets of sulphurous steam and a bubbling hot spring of 98˚C feeds pools of wellness in a cloud of mist for the many sick and elderly taking respite in this most unique somewhat harsh environ. Sheer beauty in these parts are also found lakeside, riverside and in the local legends. Lake Tazawa, Japan’s deepest at 423.4m, is both a lovely place and the setting of the evocative story of the lovely Tatsuko who prayed to the gods for eternal beauty and upon drinking the waters of Tazawa-ko transformed into a water dragon and submerged into the lake. Ironically, a glorious golden statue of the enchanting Tatsuko a few metres off the lake’s western shore immortalises her beauty and saw her dream come true. Not too far away the gorgeous Oirase

Mountain Stream in Aomori prefecture is home to another legendary lovely, former geisha Omatsu, who would ambush young samurai in order to rob and sometimes kill them. This 400 year old tale is almost as enthralling as the crystal clear cascading rapids and spectacular white waterfalls surrounded in every direction by a thick wood of verdant lime green maple trees, white cedar and Japanese beech along with a blanket of furry moss covered boulders and felled timber. The 14 km nature trail is stunning, whether on foot, by bike, car or public bus and to quench my thirst a well-earned craft beer from Oirase Brewery certainly hit the spot. Life is an odyssey to be undertaken with gusto, an open mind, light heart and empty stomach. Which is easy enough said, though not always possible in our frenetically connected ‘always on’ fast food world. Taking time to travel Tohoku’s treasures and sample her flavours provided a well needed tonic for the pressures of the day to day with a delightful dose of tranquillity, warmth and beauty that serves as yet another reminder of the genuine joy of journeying to Japan. In reverence to mother nature and all the people, poets, artisans, designers, craftspeople, gardeners, story tellers, architects, iron chefs, legends and samurai that have influenced this treasureland I dedicate a haiku of my own – “Tohoku green land, water rich built legends breathe, spiritual oishii”.


TRAVEL

g n i i k S SPECIAL FEATURE

SPRINGTIME

PARADISE IN NAGANO

Words and photography: Kazuya Baba

THE POWDER SNOWS MEET THEIR MATCH WITH THE CORN SNOWS OF SPRING When it comes to the skiing fields of Nagano popular with overseas skiers, you need look no further than the likes of Hakuba, Nozawa, or Shiga Kogen, each of which sees their greatest peak in popularity in January and February. In particular, these areas see a great boost in popularity during this time thanks to the large number of Australians who take longer holidays in January and come to visit Japan. No doubt, a great many of our readers also visit these regions around this time as well. But as the explosion in overseas skiers lasts throughout these first two months of the year only to die off suddenly in March, many Japanese skiers continue to visit these skiing regions in the weeks that follow. In fact, many schools enter their spring holidays around this time, drawing students and families out to the slopes. Japan’s heavy snowfall means there is plenty of snow even in the spring, and the turn of the seasons brings a warm climate that creates a more pleasurable environment for skiing than the harsher winter months. In particular, the period from spring to early summer is the best time for backcountry skiing, and Japanese skiers who learn they can now enter the depths of the mountains that were previously sealed off, begin to stir as the seasons change. Indeed, the coming of spring heralds greater daylight hours, and along with it the chance to enjoy skiing without having to change into heavy cold-weather gear. It also brings a corn snow that is a match for the powder snows, a type of snow where it is difficult to lose control and gives you the chance to try out some new techniques. Skiing in the springtime offers a host of other highlights unavailable during the colder winter months such as the start of helicopter skiing, which is unsuited to the stronger winds of winter. In this special feature, one of our reporters shares their experience travelling to three areas where you can enjoy the delights of skiing as only spring can offer.

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TRAVEL Hakuba

Nagano Prefecture

HAKUBA Tokyo

Osaka

HAKUBA SPRINGTIME SKIING ADVENTURES HELICOPTER SKIING ON THE GRAND SLOPES OF MT. NORIKURA

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It was in March 2016 that I set out to visit three skiing areas in Nagano Prefecture. From Tokyo, I headed out by bullet train for an hour and a half to Nagano Station before changing over to a bus for just under another hour again. My destination - Hakuba. The village of Hakuba is located in the northernmost reaches of the Japanese Alps, the collective name for three ranges in the middle of mainland Japan with breathtaking views and natural scenery that have earned the village the title of the best in the country. The name Hakuba itself comes from the characters for ‘white’ and ‘horse’ in Japanese, and stories surrounding its origins abound. Some say it comes from the beautiful white line of peaks that looks like a white horse, while others say it comes from the patterns of the rocks and snow instead. Whatever the origin, you have but to lay your eyes upon the beautiful white lines of the mountains to get a sense for just how hauntingly befitting a title it is. Hakuba is actually the collective title for a multitude of skiing areas in the region. While advanced courses are in abundance here, the largest being the Hakuba Happoone Winter Resort that draws advanced skiers from across Japan, there are also many unique skiing areas

such as the Hakuba Goryu Ski Resort and Hakuba47 that offer tree run courses, non-compacted snow courses and parks, and the Iwatake Snow Field where you can enjoy a full 360 degree view out over the northern alps and the basin between the peaks of Hakuba itself. My destination, however, was the Hakuba Tsugaike Kogen skiing area, which is home to more beginner-friendly courses and a hit with families. What drew me here this time was the start of helicopter skiing. The unstable weather of winter puts a halt to all flights out of consideration for safety, making this one treat you cannot enjoy in the winter. Helicopter skiing here usually starts around 10 March each year, and is a popular service limited to only 400 people a day. In the early hours of the morning, I headed out to Tsugaike Kogen and hopped on board one of the gondolas. Arriving at the other end, a part of the skiing fields had been turned into a heliport, and soon enough, the sound of rotors could be heard on the winds. Before I knew it, a dark spot in the sky gradually grew into the shape of a helicopter as it drew close, the force of the winds stirred up by the props almost palpable. I put my ski gear in the helicopter, and got on board.

8256HEAD

RENTAL, TUNE-UP and CAFE at the foot of Mt. Hakuba Rent the latest models of HEAD (ski or snowboard) from the beginner to high-performance model

Free Wi-Fi

http://head-sportsstation.jp/hakuba/

Home made

BREAD

Rich aroma of

espresso

TEL: +81-261-72-6716 Reservation: https://hakuba.rental-yoyaku.net/english jStyle issue 15 │ 31


TRAVEL Hakuba We were up and off the ground in an instant, gliding through the skies above the snow peaks with an uninhibited view of 360 degrees out over the alps. After a flight time of some five minutes, the helicopter began to wheel through the sky, the G-force pushing me into my seat as I gazed out over the mountains spread in front of me before coming to land at the 2,200m mark. This experience itself was well worth my visit. While you can ski more than 14km from the landing site down to the foothills, today I chose to hike on up to make the peak of Mt. Norikura my starting destination. Fixing a protecting climbing skin to the soles of my skis, I made my ascent up the wide, open snow plains, arriving at the top in an hour and a half despite running into some challenging spots along the way. There at the peak, everything was still, everything was quiet. The view out to the Sea of Japan made for a breathtaking sight, as there I stood on top of the world in my secluded wonderland. And now, the time had come to make my descent along the skiing fields in a spray of snow, a sensation made all the more precious for the long journey that had brought me to the top. Along the way, the snow began to give way to the start of the treeline, turning my descent into a tree run.

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“ Even though it was springtime, the snow was still very light. Skiing over corn snow with its featherlight coating of ice is an unusual experience that can only be enjoyed at this time of year. Nearing the bottom of the slopes, the buildings of the skiing area came into sight, and I arrived out of the forest to the base of the lifts at the top of the skiing area. Continuing on down from there to the base brings the course down from the peak to a total of 17km!

THERE AT THE PEAK, EVERYTHING WAS STILL, EVERYTHING WAS QUIET. THE VIEW OUT TO THE SEA OF JAPAN MADE FOR A BREATH­ TAKING SIGHT.

When you get back from the slopes, why not settle down under the warm sun of the terrace for a beer, another pleasure of the warm spring weather. For those who have only enjoyed Hakuba in the winter, this is one place to mark out for a visit in the spring. ENJOY A WALK ABOUT THE TOWN OF HAKUBA AMIDST AN EXPLOSION OF NEW SHOPS

Many new and interesting stores have opened up in the Hakuba area in the past few years. Close to the bus terminal that serves as the main hub of the village when you come to visit via bus, stores dedicated to snow-related brands such as Patagonia and The North Face have been opening up one after the other, and are causing quite the stir. The North Face also comes complete with a café space that is popular among the many Aussies who visit in the afternoons. The Australian skiing shop, Rhythm Snow

Sports, can also be found here, and is also home to the company, Evergreen, that holds backcountry skiing tours, and you can find the equipment required for this type of adventure on rental. Come take a look! Another hot spot is the recently opened brewery in the Hakuba Iwatake area that is a bustle with patrons in the evenings. My personal recommendation is the original Hakuba beer. From the skiing to the township at its foothills, Hakuba continues to grow and evolve, and will no doubt continue to draw acclaim as a popular skiing destination from here on as well.

8265MOMI

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TRAVEL Shiga Kogen

Nagano Prefecture

SHIGA KOGEN

SHIGA KOGEN THE LARGEST AND HIGHEST-ELEVATION SKIING FIELDS IN THE COUNTRY - JAPAN’S SPRINGTIME SKIING MECCA

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Tokyo

Osaka


There is a period known as Golden Week in Japan, a time of the year in early May where several public holidays are grouped together and usher the country into an extended holiday period. It is at this time that many skiers and snowboarders head for Shiga Kogen in search of their last chance to enjoy the skiing season. Because early May heralds the end of spring and the start of summer, it may seem an odd time for skiing, but the overall elevation of Shiga Kogen, characterized by peaks such as the Yokoteyama and Shibutouge skiing area that offer the highest elevation of any skiing area in Japan with standard lifts, grants it snow even in these warm months. And if you can go skiing even at this time of year, it’s no leap of faith to believe that the conditions of March and April in spring are easily a match for the cold of winter. So it was to Shiga Kogen that I headed in search of these wonderful conditions after my helicopter skiing adventure at Hakuba. Shiga Kogen is a combined body of 19 previously separate skiing areas and the largest skiing resort in Japan with 52 lifts and gondolas that you can access all via a single ski lift pass. Some areas cannot be reached by skiing in between them, but for those there is a shuttle bus that connects all skiing areas and allows you to enjoy the full range on offer.

Needless to say, taking full advantage of such a wide range of skiing areas demands its fair investment in time. In terms of timing, however, the mountains here are deep, and with the majority of skiing areas reaching an average elevation of over 1,500m, the weather is often quite unpredictable and cold in the winter. The option of a spring visit is, therefore, an attractive alternative with its warmer, more stable climate. A trip of some 40 minutes along the road from the foothills of the mountains up to Shiga Kogen first brings you in contact with the Maruike, Sun Valley, and Hasuike skiing areas. From here to Okushiga Kogen at the very heart of Shiga Kogen, you can travel through the 15 skiing areas in between via the skiing fields themselves. Sun Valley and Hasuike are comparatively easy courses, but the Giant skiing area that continues on from there is a challenge even for experienced skiers, and is known as a famous barn. The areas characteristic of central Shiga Kogen such as Ichinose and Takamagahara offer steep slopes for more experienced skiers near the top and comparatively easy slopes near the bottom, offering a layout that is incredibly well balanced. It was through these courses that I made my way without

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TRAVEL Shiga Kogen issue as I headed for the Terakoya skiing area known for its springtime conditions. Of the skiing areas in Shiga Kogen, Terakoya in particular boasts a reputation for excellent powder snow, and there was still a frost in the trees even amidst the soft sunlight of spring. Arriving at Terakoya in the midst of this beautiful scenery, I was further greeted by wonderful conditions out on the slopes where skiers and snowboarders hit the well-packed snow in little more than a parker. Now this is what it’s like to ski in spring! The foothills of Terakoya offer a terrace space where you can enjoy a meal, sitting back for lunch and enjoying the outdoors. The Higashitateyama Ski Area is another popular spot that boasts the longest runs of all the skiing areas in Shiga Kogen, and a variety of courses ranging from to gentle to steeper slopes and mogul slopes. This is one spot you can’t afford to miss! After enjoying the central areas, I decided to make for the Okushiga Kogen skiing area known for its good springtime conditions. I passed through several other skiing areas along the way, each of the courses I traversed offering its own attraction and making for a good journey. Here in the sun, each slope you

hit is different, and each slope is good. The Diamond skiing area I passed along the way with its kids area complete with conveyer belt was popular with families, as were the sleds at the separated skiing areas at the foothills of Mount Yakebitai that I passed further on, the look of happiness on the children’s faces a reminder of Shiga Kogen’s family-friendly side. At last, I arrived at the Okushiga Kogen skiing area. And even though this area is a part of the greater Shiga Kogen area itself, the change in atmosphere was immediate. With superb powder snow the likes of the Terakoya skiing area and boasting a large, open space of its own, there are few visitors and you have all the space you need. One of its key attractions is one of Shiga Kogen’s most eminent long courses. It’s enough to make you understand why the Okushiga Kogen area is a familiar name to those who seek springtime skiing. The Okushiga Kogen Hotel, at the foothills of the skiing fields, is a highly refined western-style accommodation. Its mascot, a St. Bernard kept on site who is loved by all who come to visit, and, it is said, can even go out for walks on snow shoes. The hotel also offers the opportunity for an outdoor BBQ, making a stay here a popular option.

Hotel Villa Ichinose, Shigakogen ★We locate at center of “Ichinose Village”, and “Ichinose Tanne-NoMori ski area” is just behind us. ★We have Chinese & Japanese restaurant and convenience shop “Yamazaki Shop”. ★There is fire place and sofa at our lobby. Free Wi-Fi access. ★Japanese tatami room, spa shared public bathroom. 7149 HIRAO, YAMANOUCHI-MACHI, SHIMOTAKAI-GUN, NAGANO, 381-0401 JAPAN Tel:81-269-34-2704 e-mail:info@villa101.biz URL:http://www.villa101.biz

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to wa l k u t es r d A r ea n i m 1- 3 boa S n ow Ski / 7966VILL


THE OPTION OF A SPRING VISIT IS, THEREFORE, AN ATTRACTIVE ALTERNATIVE WITH ITS WARMER, MORE STABLE CLIMATE.

Shiga Kogen is also home to the famous Sugiyama Ski & Snowsports School, which incorporates methods from the home of skiing itself - Austria. All you need do to take a lesson is turn up and make your presence known. SHIGA KOGEN’S SPRING BEER FESTIVAL

One event that is a huge hit with skiers from abroad who visit Shiga Kogen in March is the Snow Monkey Beer Live that offers more than 100 different types of craft beer and live music performances. It was held in mid-March this year, and is quickly gaining ground as an annual fixture for the region. I made my way there one evening this year, and what a surprise! I had a fun evening choosing from among a myriad of craft beers on tap while live performances play on stage. I highly recommend a visit should you make your way to Shiga Kogen in the spring.

Nagano’s Best Kept Secret

Okushiga Kogen Resorts Hotel & Ski Resorts www.okushigakogen.com www.okushiga.jp Shiga International Ski School www.shigaskischool.com 8209OKUS

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TRAVEL Nozawa Onsen

Nagano Prefecture

NOZAWA ONSEN Tokyo

Osaka

NOZAWA ONSEN A BLEND OF A HISTORIC HOT SPRING VILLAGE AND SIDECOUNTRY SKIING OUT IN THE WILDS

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Nozawa Onsen is a destination so popular with Australians and other overseas skiers that the bars and restaurants of this hot spring village are filled almost entirely with these venturers during peak season. The reason for its popularity is none other than its compact combination of skiing areas and a hot spring village. Not only does Nozawa Onsen boast expansive skiing areas, the hot spring village that lies at the foothills offers incredible convenience with a great many stores that you can visit by foot, all set amidst the atmosphere of a traditional Japanese village. The hot spring waters of Nozawa Onsen are known for their quality, and hot spring stops

can be found throughout the town, visited by people walking through the town in their traditional Japanese yukata, lending it an air of sophistication. I visited Nozawa Onsen directly after my trip to Shiga Kogen, and was surprised to find that here in March, there were much fewer travellers from overseas than in the peak season, another sign that springtime skiing has yet to gain in popularity. The Nozawa Onsen skiing area is an expansive one that feels like a mountain in and of itself whose average elevation exceeds 1,000m, reached by taking a long gondola from the foothills. The Yamabiko area there at the topmost reaches changes dramatically in the spring.


“ From the peaks of the mountains, the Yamabiko area breaks out into three main courses. In between those courses, however, is a sidecountry area that skiers can enter at their own risk. In Japan, entering sidecountry areas such as these is generally prohibited out of concern for safety, but some skiing areas have recently begun to open these areas up in response to demand. Most tend not to stray too deep, but the sidecountry areas that you can enter here at the Yamabiko area are popular for allowing skiers to enjoy tree runs over powder snow on a scale available in true backcountry areas. That course, however, changes completely with the spring. Nozawa Onsen is an area known for its heavy snowfall, so it comes as no surprise that there are heavy snows even

THE SIDE­ COUNTRY AREAS THAT YOU CAN ENTER HERE AT THE YAMABIKO AREA ARE POPULAR FOR ALLOWING SKIERS TO ENJOY TREE RUNS OVER POWDER SNOW.

in the spring, and the high elevation of the Yamabiko area allows the groomed barn here to retain a consistency that is perfect for carving while the sidecountry areas are covered in corn snow typical of the springtime. The amount of snow does gradually fall in comparison to the harsher winter months, however, as the days grow warmer they unveil the natural formation of the wilderness around. The Yamabiko area is normally well known for its natural half pipes and kickers that make for an exciting course, but the receding snows that uncover the wilds beneath bring an added layer of strategy to the slopes. Gliding down the slopes across this ever-changing terrain amidst the warm weather, the rustling sound of the wind through the trees greets you as you come to rest. It is here, in this wonderful oneness with nature, that Nozawa Onsen shines.

A HOT SPRING VILLAGE WITH A MYRIAD OF ATTRACTIONS

The village of Nozawa itself is beginning to evolve as new stores open to meet the boom in popularity among overseas skiers. One example is a new brewery that has opened up in front of the large outdoor bath that is one of the symbols of this hot spring village. Another gift shop in the center of the town has turned into a café that uses coffee beans and equipment popular in New Zealand and Australia to serve authentic espresso coffee. When I visited, there was a customer from Melbourne who was sitting down to a cup. The older soba noodle and other shops are also still alive and well. This jumble of eastern and western cultures in the midst of an old hot spring village is one of the reasons that gives the area its charm, and is sure to secure its place as a hotspot in the springtime for those that come to learn of its appeal. Last but not least, Nozawa Onsen is a place from which many national skiing representatives have been born, some of which have gone on to become former world champions and olympic competitors. During my travels this time, I happened across a social get together between some olympians, and had the chance to join them for a drink, a rare opportunity that few other locations can provide.

8270HAUS

CRAFT JAM FACTORY CAFE / RESTAURANT / HOTEL

Hotel & Jam Haus St. Anton

A Greatest Local Craft Food Experience in centre of town Nozawa Onsen.

HP: st-anton.jp

mail: info@st-anton.jp

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TRAVEL Kanazawa

KANAZAWA A taste of traditional Japanese culture, samurai residences, and a garden created by a famous general, all just one hour from Nagano. Words and photography: Kazuya Baba

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KANAZAWA

Nagano Prefecture Tokyo

Osaka

The March 2015 opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train line has led to a marked increase in travel to this town of the samurai and previously oftenoverlooked destination, Kanazawa. For those staying in the skiing areas of Nagano, a trip to Kanazawa is a must. This town is a treasure chest of traditional Japanese culture that can be reached in just one hour by train from Nagano Station. The township of Kanazawa developed as the largest urban centre after Edo (presentday Tokyo), Osaka, and Kyoto more than 400 years ago when the extremely wealthy daimyo, Toshiie Maeda built a castle there. Known as a beautiful town that combines the heritage of a town for samurai built around the castle, of bustling commerce, and with a temple that looks out over all below the castle itself, much of this traditional architecture still survives given that Kanazawa was largely spared from the destruction of World War II. Beside the Asano River and Sai River that run through the town are three old teahouse districts, or 'chaya' districts, the largest of which is the Higashi Chaya District. The delicate lattice decorations

KNOWN AS A BEAUTIFUL TOWN, THAT COMBINES THE HERITAGE OF A TOWN FOR SAMURAI BUILT AROUND THE CASTLE.

of the buildings here offer a refined and elegant atmosphere, the lights at night adding a touch of glamour to the area. The flow of the water supplied to the castle is a sight that no other town can offer. Drawn from the upstream section of the Sai River some 10km from the castle itself, the water is drawn up into the castle itself using the principles of a reverse syphon after being brought down to a lower height, an incredibly advanced technique for the time. Moreover, the remains of the Nagahama samurai residential district and its mud walls and stone paving offer a taste of the Edo Period, and the middle class samurai of the Kaga Domain that used to live there, offer a telling view into the daily lives of the samurai of the time. There are many historic sights to be seen in this ancient town, but perhaps none more so than the Kenroku-en Japanese garden, one of Japan’s three most famous traditional garden settings. The Kenroku-en is one of the greatest Japanese gardens of the Edo Period, slowly built up over generations by the leaders of the Kaga Domain. Located in the centre of Kanazawa City, this is one

garden that offers a glimpse of the beauty of all four seasons throughout the year, and sees visitors from across the country and across the world. The recent increase in visitors has given rise to a number of programs where you can experience traditional Japanese culture first hand, from wearing kimono to creating chopsticks using gold leaf, and more rarer fare such as experiencing the traditional art of Japanese noh theatre. However, no talk of the town would be complete without mention of food. There are many delicacies special to the region, including local vegetables and more, but the highlight of the region is its seafood. Given its location by the Sea of Japan, there are many types of seafood here that cannot be found on the Pacific Ocean side of Japan, providing many options that can only be enjoyed here in Kanazawa. One dish of particular note is a type of fish called the black throat sea perch, one of the major draws to even the Japanese visitors who come to Kanazawa, and one that sees immense popularity amongst a people who have a fine appreciation of fish in general. Be sure to give it a try.

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THE BEST HOT SPRINGS IN JAPAN

K usatsu Japan’s undiscovered hot spring and skiing paradise Powered by Kusatsu Now Resort

There is one hidden resort in Japan that, despite being home to one of the most famous hot spring regions in the country and to skiing fields whose history spans over a hundred years, still awaits discovery by the western world. That resort is the Kusatsu Onsen of Gunma Prefecture next door to Nagano Prefecture. To understand what makes Kusatsu Onsen so special, you need look no further than its hot spring fields. These fields are facilities where the water of the hot springs is drawn out to flow freely across the ground and on wooden flumes to collect hot spring mineral flowers (the mineral component of hot spring waters that are stored in a dried, powdered state that resemble a flower, turning hot water into hot spring water when mixed) and adjust the temperature of the waters. Although similar fields can be found across Japan, those in Kusatsu are so large in size and so great in renown, the term ‘hot spring field’ is almost synonymous with the area. Kusatsu Onsen is one of, if not the most famous hot springs in the country, frequently coming out on top in hot spring rankings in Japan. Its history reaches back to the age of legend itself, although its first appearance in written record is in the year 1472. Even then, the hot springs here were well known throughout Japan for the quality of their water, securing the region its place as a popular hot spring health resort. The quality of the hot spring water is of particular note. The mineral components of the water grant it a strong aroma of sulfur and are quite potent in nature, being effective in treating ailments such as skin conditions and nerve pain. The town of Kusatsu itself spreads out in a large circle around the giant hot spring fields, which are lined with numerous restaurants, tourist shops, and more. And while it is common for guests to dine at the facilities their accommodation provides, many prefer to walk about the town in search of a restaurant that suits their mood. In Kusatsu, you are spoiled for choice. At night, looking out over the hot spring fields as they are lit up in the evening light while dipping your feet into the foot spas before heading off to a restaurant for dinner is also a treat. Another great attraction can be found in the hot spring water handling shows. Hot spring water handling is the tradition of mixing together water with a wooden ladle while slowly bringing down its temperature and softening it, a traditional technique used since the Edo period. Kusatsu offers just such a glimpse of some of Japan’s ancient and fascinating traditions. SNOW & SPA RESORT KUSATSU

Another of Kusatsu’s attractions are the ski fields. Although a multitude of tourists from Australia and elsewhere across the globe have come to visit the ski fields of Japan in recent years, this is one that has escaped the spotlight of Australians and other skiers from abroad. The reason is much like that of the hot springs themselves - their popularity within Japan has been enough to sustain them. The Snow & Spa Resort Kusatsu is one of Japan’s most historic ski fields, and the first in the country to have ski lifts installed. At an average elevation of 926 metres, the mountain’s peak sits at 2171 metres above sea level. The 42 │ jStyle issue 15


Gunma Prefecture

KUSATSU Gunma Prefecture Tokyo Osaka

Tokyo

Narita Airport

quality of its snow is among the best in Japan, and its ski slopes range up to a length of 8 kilometres. The ski fields are starting to see a gradual increase in tourists from outside Japan who have come to realise the region’s attraction, and with the range of attractions for your post-skiing stay, this is one area whose potential is undeniable.

"A hidden resort for Aussies, but the No.1 most popular, historical hot spring and ski resort in Japan"

KUSATSU NOW RESORT HOTEL THE ONLY WAY TO EXPERIENCE KUSATSU

While the ski fields and hot springs are both some of Kusatsu’s greatest attractions, one of the largest barriers to tourists from abroad is access. Most travellers come to the area from Tokyo, having to move from the trains to the bus, or making a reservation for the direct bus service. Even then, however, making it from the bus terminal to your final destination is no easy task. Kusatsu Now Resort Hotel provides the answer with a direct bus service leaving daily from Shinjuku in Tokyo. (See the hotel’s homepage for conditions, such as the requirement for bus travellers to stay in twin rooms.) The Kusatsu Now Resort Hotel welcomes travellers from abroad, and is known for its high level of service for overseas visitors. Its handy location a mere walk away from the ski fields and hot spring town alike make it a handy spot, and the ability to take shuttle buses every day from morning until night also make for an attractive addition. The hotel itself is host to a store with premium ski equipment for hire, and to four high-quality restaurants serving Japanese and western-style buffets, French, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine, and the accommodation plans with meals included are a hit. Those who prefer to dine in the hot spring town itself have the choice of a breakfast-only plan. In the hotel is a joint bathing area known as the ‘big bath’ where you can enjoy outdoor and indoor bathing areas supplied by the hot spring waters of Kusatsu to your heart’s content. If a joint bathing area is not quite your taste, however, there are also private outdoor bathing areas with a multitude of styles including traditional Japanese cypress and Shigaraki ceramic baths. The combination of private bathing areas and Japanese-style rooms let you relax in your room after a long dip in the hot waters. The hotel is also offers pools, table tennis tables, tennis courts, putter golf spaces and other recreational facilities such as karaoke, bars, and other activities, and massage and other relaxation facilities. With so much on offer, why not choose Kusatsu Now Resort Hotel for your first adventure in Kusatsu?

KUSATSU NOW RESORT HOTEL 750 Kusatsu, Agatsuma-gun, Gunma, 377-1711 Tel: 0279-88-5111 Web: http://www.kusatsu-now.co.jp/ Japanese Style Room 7 Twin, Double Bed Room 147

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TRAVEL Niigata

N

a t a g ii

ECHIGO YUZAWA A hot spring and snow paradise just ninety minutes from the heart of Tokyo

Words and photography: Kazuya Baba

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One area that has been seeing renewed appeal as a ski resort amongst skiers both inside and outside Japan is Echigo Yuzawa. In addition to its heavy snowfalls, the area offers incredible ease of access from the gateway to Japan, Tokyo, at a trip of just one hour and twenty minutes via the high speed train lines of the bullet train. In February 2016, I went on a trip around the skiing areas of Niigata prefecture with David Windsor, travel

editor of the Australian skiing magazine, Snow Action. Leaving early in the morning from Sydney airport, we arrived in Tokyo in the evening that day and headed on to the bullet train. That very night, we were in Echigo Yuzawa, our accommodation for the evening - the NASPA New Otani Resort on the slopes of the NASPA Ski Garden. For those seeking the heights of luxury, you need look no further than the NASPA New Otani Resort. The


rooms at this hotel are magnificent, the food exquisite. The skiing areas, while compact, offer a great deal of variation and are family-friendly. English-speaking staff are also in abundance, making this one place you’ll want to visit. For hardcore skiers, however, a half day may be all you need when it comes to exploring the NASPA Ski Garden. And so it was the following afternoon we decided to make for the Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort. The 14 areas on

offer at Echigo Yuzawa make it a breeze to move from one to the next to suit your schedule. The Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort offers unparalleled ease of access as you step out of the bullet train station and straight out onto the slopes, all just 77 minutes away from Tokyo. Another great attraction is the ability to go skiing without having to bring any gear, with over 5,500 of the latest skis and snowboards available for hire, allowing you to choose the perfect setup. Change rooms are available, as well as washroom facilities for female guests. The ease of access from Tokyo via train and the ability to get all your gear on the slopes make this a resort unlike any other. As for the skiing areas themselves, the Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort is a comparatively large area with 16 courses, and its connection to the Yuzawa Kogen and Ishiuchi Maruyama areas offers an attractive combination. This area is home to 14 skiing areas of varying sizes, the most prolific of which is the Naeba Ski Resort. After taking in our fill of NASPA Ski Garden and Gala

Yuzawa Snow Resort, it was here we marked out as our next destination. Host to a long course stretching up to 4km in length, this resort is also home to the giant Naeba Prince Hotel that boasts 1,224 guest rooms on the slopes, offering everything from a variety of dining options to shopping facilities and a hot spring, making it the perfect place to stay. It was in the midst of a cold wave when we arrived, and we were greeted with heavy snowfalls. The position of the skiing areas directly in front of the hotel made it a breeze to ski in and ski out, and the world’s longest gondola lifts leaving from Naeba (known as ‘dragondolas’, a combination of the words ‘dragon’ and ‘gondola’) carried us out to the Kagura, Mitsumata, and Tashiro skiing areas where we were met with a fantastic powder snow, much to David’s delight. Combined, these areas bring together 35 lifts and gondolas and a total of 44 courses, forming the one great skiing area. Add in facilities that let you take a snowmobile for a run out over the snowfields, and this is one place you won’t want to miss the next time you visit Yuzawa.

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TRAVEL Niigata

MYOKO KOGEN

a t a g ii

Backcountry skiing in one of Japan’s greatest snowy regions

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Just over the border from Nagano prefecture into neighboring Niigata prefecture is Myoko Kogen, a skiing area known for its heavy snowfalls. This area, comprised of three main skiing areas, has seen a large boom in visitors from overseas in recent years. There is the Suginohara skiing area that offers a change in elevation of over 1,100m and a skiing route up to 8,500m in length, the Akakura area comprised of the Akakura Kanko Resort Ski Area, and the Akakura Onsen Ski Area set amidst the backdrop of a hot spring town, and the Ikenotaira Hot Spring Ski Area that has seen a recent boom in park facilities and is popular to snowboarders that can be found in between. Another area seeing a boost in popularity spread through word-ofmouth from the overseas skiers who have visited recently is the Seki Onsen Ski Area. The course itself at the skiing area here is extremely small, but enjoys great popularity due to its easy access

to backcountry skiing areas that let you ski to your heart’s content out on the powder snow. This time, after my trip to Echigo Yuzawa, I chose to venture forth to the skiing areas in the Akakura area and to the Ikenotaira Hot Spring Ski Area. The reason for my choice was to see the longstanding Akakura Kanko Hotel on the skiing fields of the Akakura Kanko Resort Ski Area, which has recently been refurbished and affords amazing views out over the surrounding countryside. The timing of my trip couldn’t have been better. Even though it was late March, the ground was thick with snow, with a further snowfall later in the night that turned the skiing fields into a heaven of powder snow by the morning. The cold was nothing like that of the harsh winter months, however, allowing me to enjoy a powder run out on the slopes. This is what I was here for! The Akakura Kanko Hotel itself offered a refined, elegant atmosphere befitting its reputation, and

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TRAVEL Niigata

On my trip to Echigo Yuzawa and Myoko Kogen, I was joined by travel editor of the popular skiing magazine Snow Action, David Windsor. Here, David shares a few impressions on his trip to the area.

The Niigata prefecture of Japan is such a rewarding adventure. The snow's out of this world and makes for awesome days on the speedy Yuzawa "gelandes", with over 12 resorts to choose from just 75 minutes from Tokyo; or smashing through pow in the trees and out the side and back country of Myoko. The adventure continues off slope with a relaxing peaceful onsen in our hotel or ryokan before hitting the boisterous bars and rowdy restaurants full of happy folk sharing their experiences and loud shouts of 'kanpai' over frosty beers, hot sake and an awesome array of shochu. As for the food, the adventure begins with fish, an omelette and pickled veg for breakfast; an amazing bowl of squid ink with mozzarella cheese udon noodles for lunch at "Udon-no-Fu" in Akakura Onsen; and for a super fun dinner I loved the okonomiyaki savory pancakes and yakisoba made in front of us on our table top hot plate at the "Lumber Jack" or the yakitori at "Asagao", also in Akakura Onsen. None of that could top a magnificent 10 course kaiseki banquet at the NASPA New Otani Resort in Yuzawa. All up, Yuzawa and Myoko is a wonderfully happy, unique and cultural ski adventure that should be experienced with an open mind and a "try everything" attitude.

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its facilities, most notably the newly established Aqua Terrace, were a sight to behold. Some rooms come complete with an outdoor hot spring bath, and the layout of the rooms that afford a view out over the skiing fields is the very picture of luxury. Your choice in dining ranges from French to Japanese cuisine, bakeries and more, offering a wide variety of options. The spa facilities are a hit with female guests, and you could certainly find no better hotel for a stay in Akakura. I look forward to a stay there someday, but alas my time had come to make my descent back down the mountain. My goal for my next destination - the Ikenotaira Hot Spring Ski Area - was the tree run, an area to which entry was previously prohibited, yet opened up in response to popular demand. Heading straight for the course, I could see that the treeline in the middle of the slopes as you come down from the peak was open to entry, offering a satisfying change of pace as you ski through the trees on powder snows on just the right decline. Such easy access to sidecountry areas such as these is a true delight. The Ikenotaira Hot Spring Ski Area also offers easy access to backcountry areas. Heading to the peaks by lift and trekking further out allows you to enjoy amazing backcountry skiing. The backcountry of the Myoko area is comparatively low in risk, and highly recommended. I was able to visit the backcountry this time with the help of

AKAKURA IS KNOWN FOR BEING A HOT SPRING TOWN, AND HERE THE TOWNSHIP’S HISTORY ALLOWS YOU TO ENJOY DELICIOUS TRADITIONAL COUNTRY­ SIDE CUISINE.

©David Windsor

a guide from the Dancing Snow touring company, and was met with an amazing course. My run here was very fun yet not too advanced, making it the perfect choice for all who visit. Check out the local Dancing Snow touring company for more details if you’re keen to try your hand. Of the areas in Myoko, Akakura is known for being a hot spring town, and here the township’s history allows you to enjoy delicious traditional countryside cuisine. No matter where you go, you are met with the simple yet inspiring heritage of Japanese cuisine. One recommendation is Matagi at the foothills of the Ikenotaira skiing area. While English service is not necessarily their forte, familiar fare such as ramen is on offer and a must for any who visit, offering a window to the understated tastes of traditional Japanese cuisine.


Established in 1937, the Akakura Kanko Hotel has a combination of old-world tradition with modern amenities and a unique Japanese touch.

Akakura Kanko Hotel

216 Tagiri, Myoko City, Japan 949-2102 +81 (255) 872-501 www.akhjapan.com

All hotel spring water used in the hotel’s onsen and roten-buro comes from a natural source high on the mountain.


TRAVEL Tips

TRAVELLING IN JAPAN You’ve got your plane tickets, your accommodation, and your itinerary. But how are you going to get around Japan? How do you get the most out of your JR Pass, and what other options are available for longer term visitors, seasoned travellers, and the budget backpacker? While Japan is well known for its advanced transport systems, it can be daunting to navigate. Doing a bit of research and preparation before you land in Japan can save you a lot of time later.

The Japan Rail Pass is considered almost an essential by travellers to Japan. It offers very good value for money, but only if you are travelling between cities. If you are spending the first few days of your trip in a single city like Tokyo or Osaka, consider getting a shorter term JR Pass, and only activating it when you start on the inter-city portion of your trip. Previously, travellers would activate their JR Passes as soon as they landed at Narita Airport, so they could ride the Narita Express (N'EX) train to central Tokyo without having to splash out 3020 yen for the privilege. But with a new option for foreign visitors called the N’EX Tokyo Round Trip Ticket, you can take the Narita Express train from the airport to Tokyo and other major stations for just 4000 yen. COSMOPOLITAN TRAVEL

So you are in a bustling Japanese city, and you have held off on activating your JR Pass for now (or you didn’t get one in the first place). How will you get around? The Japanese subway and metro area train networks are world famous for their punctuality, service frequency and coverage. For one-off trips, you can buy a ticket at a vending machine or over the counter. But if you anticipate making multiple trips, and you want to avoid the queues, deal with

50 │ jStyle issue 15

less loose change, and have greater flexibility, learn from the locals and get a prepaid IC card like a Pasmo or Suica. IC cards are convenient because you simply tap them at the ticket gates to enter or exit the platform areas. You can also use them to pay for purchases at vending machines, convenience stores and certain restaurants. Because the major IC cards are interoperable, you can use a Pasmo, Suica, or an Icoca card to travel on virtually all trains, subways and buses in the major cities of Japan, although they will not allow you to travel between cities. To get an IC card, look for the relevant ticket machines or ticket counters at a railway station. You

will need to pay a deposit of 500 yen, plus an initial amount of preloaded credit between 1000 to 1500 yen or more. You can recharge your card with up to 20,000 yen at ticket machines or recharging machines. At the end of your trip, you can get your 500 yen deposit back by returning your card to the ticket counter of the issuing operator. For those who are more adventurous, One-day Passes may be a good option. These special one-day tickets allow unlimited travel on subways, trams, trains and buses within a single city. They are available in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Kamakura Enoshima, and Kobe. Another local tip: if you are on


GOOGLE TRANSLATE (Android/iOS)

FREE

This app lets you speak, type, or write into it, and will then translate to/from Japanese and English -- as well as around 80 other languages. The camera function lets you take a picture, and highlight the text to translate.

GOOGLE MAPS (Android/iOS)

FREE

Find destinations by typing in the address, or by touching it on the map. The navigation system

a budget, check out the discount ticket shops. Usually located around train stations, these small hole-in-the-wall operations buy tickets in bulk and resell them at a discount, and they are perfectly legitimate. If you know what you are looking for, you can save anywhere from 10 yen (for a local JR subway ticket) to 1000 yen (for a longer distance shinkansen ticket). These discount ticket shops also offer cheap food/ drink vouchers, as well as discounted tickets to attractions like Disneyland and concerts. RESERVING SHINKANSEN SEATS

The JR Pass allows you to use the shinkansen (bullet train), though

not the ultra-fast Nozomi and Mizuho services. An added benefit is the ability to reserve seats on the trains for free. Reserving seats requires some advance planning, but is a good idea if you have a strict schedule to stick to, are travelling during busy periods, or want to guarantee that your group can sit together. Some services like the Narita Express, or the fast Hayate/Komachi shinkansen, require compulsory seat reservations. To reserve your seats, find the Reservation Office at a JR station. Show them your JR Pass, then inform the staff of the number of travellers, the date you want to travel, the departure and destination stations, the carriage

class (ordinary or Green), and train name/number or departure time. For those who are less confident in their Japanese, it’s a good idea to put this information down on paper in advance, which you can show to the staff in order to minimise the risk of a misunderstanding.

will show you the public transport navigation options, the train and platform changes you need to make, as well as the estimated time and cost of the trip.

JAPAN TRANSIT PLANNER (iOS)

ESSENTIAL TRAVEL APPS

The smartphone revolution has made it easier than ever before to access all the information we need while we are on the go, and travel is no exception. If you have mobile internet access while you are in Japan (by renting a phone, getting a local SIM card, or via a portable hotspot), the following apps will come in really handy.

$4.99

Enter the start and end points, and the app generates the fastest and cheapest routes via rail and air. The app can also quickly look up the cost of tickets between start and end stations, and show the timetables for almost every station in Japan.

jStyle issue 15 │ 51


Wakkanai

TRAVEL Tips

Asahikawa

GETTING AROUND

Sapporo Niseko

Kushiro

Shin Chitose Airport

Shin-Hakodate Hokuto

A quick guide to domestic flights and train travel

Shin-Aomori

Hachinohe

Aomori Airport

Morioka

Akita

JAPAN'S MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS

Yamagata

Kanazawa Komatsu Airport Hiroshima Airport

Hiroshima Hakata

(Fukuoka)

Nagasaki Kyushu Shinkansen Line

Itami Airport

Izumo Kobe

Takamatsu Tokushima Kochi Beppu

Kumamoto

Shin Yatsushiro

Kagoshima

Kyoto

Nagaoka

Fukushima

Echigo-Yuzawa Nagano Karuizawa

Hakuba Takayama Mt Fuji Gifu

TOKYO

Narita International Airport

Haneda Airport

Nagoya Chubu Airport

Nara Osaka

Nanki-Shirahama Airport

Kagoshima Airport

Naha Airport

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

DOMESTIC FLIGHTS FROM TOKYO (BY JAL OR ANA)

The easy way to get to Japan From

To

Day

Airlines

Flight No.

Departure

Arrival

To

Duration

TOKYO (Haneda)

SYDNEY

Daily

QANTAS

QF26

22:00

09:30

Shin Chitose (Hokkaido)

1 hr 30 min.

Aomori

1 hr 15 min.

Komatsu (Ishikawa)

1 hr

TOKYO (Haneda)

SYDNEY

Daily

ANA

NH879

22:10

09:45

TOKYO (Narita)

SYDNEY

Daily

JAL

JL771

19:30

07:15

TOKYO (Narita)

BRISBANE

Daily

QANTAS

QF62

20:40

06:45

SYDNEY

TOKYO (Haneda)

Daily

QANTAS

QF25

22:00

05:30

SYDNEY

TOKYO (Haneda)

Daily

ANA

NH880

21:30

05:05

SYDNEY

TOKYO (Narita)

Daily

JAL

JL772

09:15

17:00

BRISBANE

TOKYO (Narita)

Daily

QANTAS

QF61

10:45

19:00

*The flight schedule is correct as of Oct. 2, 2016 and is subject to change. ▪Qantas Airways: www.qantas.com ▪ANA: www.anaskyweb.com ▪JAL: www.jal.com.au

52 │ jStyle issue 15

Travelling to and from Tokyo TRAINS

Yokohama

Kansai International Airport

Matsuyama Airport

Naha

Sendai

Niigata Noto

Fukuoka Airport

NARITA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Shinjo

Kansai (Osaka)

1 hr 5 min.

Nankishirahama (Wakayama)

1 hr 15 min.

Hiroshima

1 hr 20 min.

Matsuyama (Ehime)

1 hr 25 min.

Fukuoka

1 hr 55 min.

Kagoshima

1 hr 40 min.

Naha (Okinawa)

2 hr 30 min.

Narita Airport has two key rail connections operating between central Tokyo Station and the Narita Airport terminals. JR East’s Narita Express (N’EX) is the fastest option (60 min., ¥3020). The Keisei Sky Liner is the best choice for travel to Ueno (44 min., ¥2465). BUSES

Airport Limousine buses stop at most major hotels and certain landmarks on the way to central Tokyo (75 - 125 min., ¥3100). TAXIS

Taxis can be expensive depending on your destination. Travelling to central Tokyo costs approx. ¥20000 to ¥24000 by taxi. A few domestic flights do leave from Narita, but most domestic flights leave from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (70 min. from Narita by the Airport Limousine bus).


USING THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM Japan has an extremely efficient public transportation system. Trains and buses service a large network, especially in metropolitan areas and between cities, and are clean and punctual.

TRAINS

ESTIMATED SHINKANSEN TRAVEL TIMES

Most trains and train lines in Japan are owned by Japan Railways (JR). However, others are owned by a number of private companies, often sharing mutual tracks. The urban train systems comprise of shinkansen (bullet trains), limited express, express, rapid and local trains. Many are owned by separate companies, so it can be a little confusing. It’s a good idea to carry a route map (called rosenzu) with you at all times. You can pick one up from most train stations. All individual tickets (including shinkansen, private railways and subways) can be purchased from vending machines or ticket offices. Individual ticket costs will be shown on the railway line map next to your destination station. Once you have checked the price, you can buy your ticket from one of the nearby vending machines. Children aged six to 11 pay half price and children under six travel free. Trains owned by different companies require different fares, so prepaid integrated-circuit (IC) cards such as Pasmo and Suica, are a useful way to simplify the system (see box). Passengers tend to form queues while waiting for the next train.

SUICA AND PASMO

Suica and Pasmo are rechargeable, prepaid integrated-circuit cards that can be used for all buses and trains (except shinkansen), regardless of the operating company. Suica or Pasmo cards can be purchased and recharged at rail vending machines and ticket counters in Tokyo. The initial cost consists of a small refundable deposit plus an initial loading of ¥1500 (for Suica) or between

197 SHIN-AOMORI

JR Shinkansen (minutes from Tokyo) 128 TOYAMA

230

148 KANAZAWA

223

110 NAGANO

166 HACHINOHE AKITA SHINJO

125 NIIGATA

JR TOKYO STATION NAGOYA KYOTO

94 JR Kyushu Shinkansen 129

440 KAGOSHIMA-CHUO

144 SHIN-OSAKA HAKATA

¥500 and ¥20500 (for Pasmo). When riding the train, touch the card to the card reader when you pass through the station’s ticket barrier. The applicable fare will be automatically deducted at the ticket gate at your destination. When riding the bus, touch the card to the reader when you board. If you are required to pay when alighting, make sure you touch your card to the reader when you get on and again when you get off for the appropriate fare to be deducted.

298

357 SHIN-YATSUSHIRO

BUSES Many bus routes link train stations and residential areas. Each stop is announced and displayed on an electric signboard on approach. Push the button to alert the bus driver when you wish to alight. Tickets are purchased upon entering the bus, or when getting off, depending on the bus company and the bus route. Fares can be pre-paid or you can use cash or integratedcircuit cards (Suica or Pasmo) on the bus. *It is considered bad manners to talk on a mobile phone in trains and buses, so they are best left switched off or muted.

THE JAPAN RAIL (JR) PASS

The JR pass allows unlimited travel on JR-owned trains, buses and ferries for periods of 7, 14 or 21 days. JR passes are available outside of Japan (either online or through your travel agent) before your visit. See www.japanrailpass. net for more information.

jStyle issue 15 │ 53


TRAVEL Tips

TRAVEL TIPS Handy tips and useful information to know before travelling to Japan

VISAS

MOBILE PHONES

INTERNET

PUBLIC PHONES

Visitors to Japan from Australia do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days. Under Japan's New Immigration Procedures, all visitors must present their passport upon arrival and agree to be fingerprinted and photographed. Immigration may also ask a few quick questions. See www.immi-moj.go.jp/ english for more information.

Currently, 3G models and 4G LTE work in Japan that use the 2100 MHz band. With some global roaming plans from Australian service providers you can use your own phone to send and receive calls and texts and to access broadband internet. Alternatively, you can rent a SIM card if it works in Japan to use with your own phone, or a pre-paid phone from such service providers as Softbank and Mobal Narita at Narita Airport Terminal 1. Renting a portable Wi-Fi router in Australia to use in Japan is also an option worth considering. Portable Wi-Fi is a device that allows multiple machines including laptops, tablets and smartphones to gain internet access wherever you are within the carrier service area.

Internet cafes are readily accessible in Japan, especially in the cities. Although big-name chain stores like Global Gossip are prevalent, the most popular internet cafes in Japan are manga cafes, which also provide comics, magazines and video games. You pay time increments in either a private booth or a communal seating area. Special time-packages are available and there is even the option of an overnight stay on a reclining seat in a private booth.

Green or grey public phones can be found everywhere in Japan. They accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins, and telephone cards that can be purchased from kiosks and news agencies. You can make international calls from grey phones displaying the "International" sign.

MONEY AND COSTS The Japanese currency unit is the Yen (¥). Coins are available in units of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen. Notes are available in 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen. ATMs that accept Cirrus, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, PLUS and JCB can be found at post offices, major convenience stores and many banks. Cash payments are still more popular than credit cards, especially in smaller stores.

54 │ jStyle issue 15

TIPPING Tipping and bartering are not customary in Japan.

TO CALL AUSTRALIA Japan has three international call providers. Dial one of their access numbers (0033, 001, or 0061) + 010 + country code (61) + area code (without the zero) + personal number.


POSTAL SERVICE International mail can be classified into letter post (letters, aerogrammes and postcards); parcel post; and EMS (Express Mail Service). EMS takes two to four days to reach Australia. Airmail or letter post and parcel post takes three to six days and sea mail takes one to three months. Parcels must be under 20 kg. Most post offices are open 9am to 5pm on weekdays. www.post.japanpost.jp/english

POSTAGE Domestic Mail to Mail Australia

PEAK TRAVEL SEASONS EMS

Postcard

52 yen

70 yen

---

Standard Letter up to 25g

82 yen

110 yen

2,000 yen

Standard Letter up to 50g

92 yen

190 yen

2,000 yen

Number of delivery days

---

7

3

For police assistance call 110 (free call from public phones if you press the red button) or look for the nearest koban, or police kiosk, marked with a red pentagonal light. For the fire department or an ambulance call 119.

Train, bus and flight timetables may change during the following peak travel seasons: New Year (December 27 to January 3 and adjacent weekends), Golden Week (April 29 to May 5 and adjacent weekends), Bon Festival (the week surrounding August 15).

WATER All tap water in Japan is safe to drink.

INFORMATION CENTRES The Visit Japan Information Network consists of 324 information services across the country. Usually located near major train stations and town centres, they will provide information on local tourist sites.

EMERGENCIES

AVERAGE TEMPERATURE Source: Japan Meteorological Agency, www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html

SAPPORO

SENDAI

TOKYO

YOKKAICHI

OSAKA

FUKUOKA

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Highs

-0.6

0.1

4.0

11.5

17.3

21.5

24.9

26.4

22.4

16.2

8.5

Dec 2.1

Lows

-7.0

-6.6

-2.9

3.2

8.3

12.9

17.3

19.1

14.2

7.5

1.3

-4.1 8.4

Highs

5.3

5.9

9.2

15.0

19.4

22.3

25.7

27.9

24.4

19.4

13.7

Lows

-1.7

-1.5

0.9

6.1

11.1

15.5

19.5

21.4

17.6

11.2

5.2

0.9

Highs

9.6

10.4

13.6

19.0

22.9

25.5

29.2

30.8

26.9

21.5

16.3

11.9

Lows

0.9

1.7

4.4

9.4

14.0

18.0

21.8

23.0

19.7

14.2

8.3

3.5

Highs

8.6

9.5

12.3

18.3

22.5

25.7

29.4

30.9

27.3

22.0

16.7

11.3

Lows

-0.3

-0.3

2.6

7.7

12.8

17.6

21.7

22.8

19.2

12.3

6.8

1.8

Highs

9.5

10.2

13.7

19.9

24.5

27.8

31.6

33.4

29.3

23.3

17.6

12.3

Lows

2.8

2.9

5.6

10.7

15.6

20.0

24.3

25.4

21.7

15.5

9.9

5.1

Highs

9.9

11.1

14.4

19.5

23.7

26.9

30.9

32.1

28.3

23.4

17.8

12.6

Lows

3.5

4.1

6.7

11.2

15.6

19.9

24.3

25.0

21.3

15.4

10.2

5.6

jStyle issue 15 │ 55


SUBCULTURES

WHY I LOVE AKIHABARA Words: Charlene Lim

A

kihabara, a district full of bright lights and culture. On the surface it looks like a busy city full of life and adventure, with its own culture and social group. Underneath it all, it has a history so deep it took over a century to develop into the place it is today. This is one of the top cities to visit when in Tokyo. Located in central Tokyo, it is most accessible by train as the district has its own station where several lines converge. For tourists, Akihabara has many sights and wonders that are uniquely Japanese. The experience is quite unlike any other city, some may love it whilst others may not. It is quite a strange and unique city. To truly grasp the Akihabara experience may take a few good days. Looking around, you will be sure to notice a large number of electronic goods stores. If you have a penchant for gadgets, be it the latest and

56 │ jStyle issue 15

greatest or just something cute or practical, there is something in store for everyone. Akihabara houses many shops that offer a wide variety of otaku goods. On top of anime and manga offerings, there are also stores that specialise in action figures and other collectibles. There are also shops that specialise in gachapon vending machines – vending machines that dispense capsules containing memorabilia and trinkets that may make unique gifts and are collectible as well. Fancy being treated to a unique café experience? There are many maid and cosplay cafés unique to Akihabara. At these cafés, you will be treated to adorably decorated meals and served by staff dressed in French maid outfits or your favourite anime character. If you are looking for a quick snack instead, like most of Japan, Akihabara is no stranger to

the vending machine. In Akihabara, you may find vending machines that dispense ramen noodles and oden in a can as well! We also must not forget the history of Akihabara. Another unique experience is a visit to a shrine. The Kanda Myojin shrine is a short walk from the electronics district. It is a beautiful Shinto shrine that has been rebuilt and restored many times due to fire and earthquake damage. Being located so close to Akihabara Electric Town, it has become the shrine where blessing ceremonies are held particularly for technology ventures. The shrine also sells omamori (take-home charms) in the shape of a computer chip to protect the user from harm. Akihabara has managed to give its own twist to commonplace Japanese culture and items, making it one of the more unique places to visit in Japan. It’s a must-go spot!

A SHORT HISTORY OF AKIHABARA

The Akihabara we know today is nothing like how it was in the 1800s. It was not always fancy lights and maid cafés. What we see today is a direct result of everything it has gone through. Back in 1869, a massive fire broke out in the city, reducing the land to nothing. To prevent further mishaps, the Meiji government erected a small shrine named “Chinka-Sha”, also known as the “Extinguisher Shrine”, as a ward. The citizens at that time mistook the structure as a shrine for a fire-quelling deity named Akiba, and thus, the area became known as Akiba no Hara. Sometime in the early 1900s, a careless typing mistake resulted in the


Akihabara ©JNTO

AKIHABARA HAS MANAGED TO GIVE ITS OWN TWIST TO COMMONPLACE JAPANESE CULTURE AND ITEMS, MAKING IT ONE OF THE MORE UNIQUE PLACES TO VISIT IN JAPAN. IT’S A MUST-GO SPOT!

Akihabara ©JNTO

name of the town we know and love today, Akihabara. By 1935, this area had become a fruit and vegetable market. Other merchandise such as lumber also made its way here. This resulted in an influx of people. The technology also brought in the first otaku – train enthusiasts. In the 1940s after the war, the area became popular for the trade of electronic parts. It was frequented by students from the nearby Tokyo Denki University who specialised in radio parts. Second hand goods and electronics can be found in abundance in Akihabara. By 1962, the iconic seven story building, Radio Kaikan, was ready and it historically housed various popular items in Akihabara and,

more recently, a large variety of otaku goods. During this time, there was a boom in electronic sales for household white goods resulting in the sale of various such items as well. In the 1980s, the move from consumer white goods to computer products can be seen in Akihabara. White goods were now readily available from suburban chain stores, leading to the change in the demographics in the area. During this time, Radio Kaikan carried computers, parts and games, including doujinshi (self-published manga) and doujin-sofuto (selfpublished video games). By 1994, sales of computers over took consumer white goods. With computers, came video games and manga, and this movement started

building the foundations of the otaku subculture in Akihabara. In 1996, Toranoana Inc was established. This store originally started off specialising in used doujinshi. However, due to the anime boom at the time, it started extending its range of products to include character goods as well. Today, it is the centre for manga and related merchandise. “Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama!” – “Welcome home, master!”, a typical welcoming phrase that you will hear upon entering a maid café, a type of establishment that started in the early 2000s and gained popularity over the years. This style of café features “maids” – waitresses dressed in French maid outfits, serving cute themed food in a café setting. Akihabara still boasts a wide variety of maid and cosplay cafés with various themes. Today, Akihabara is a mecca for otaku. What is an otaku? An otaku is someone with a strong interest (to the point of obsession) in their chosen subject. In modern terms, it is mostly associated with anime and manga fandom. Akihabara has developed over the years to cater for the growing and evolving otaku lifestyle. It is a place where you can get computer parts and collectibles to build your hobby, or just sit back and enjoy what the city has to offer.

jStyle issue 15 │ 57


SUBCULTURES

T

he “slice-of-life” genre of anime picks up on various aspects of day-to-day tasks and interactions. It exaggerates one particular concept and builds a story from there with some light hearted comic relief for good measure. The average length of an episode of anime is approximately 23 minutes long. This is a considerable amount of time in one’s day, which is perhaps the reason why animators have chosen to produce short clips between 2 to 8 minutes long — the perfect length for break time enjoyment. To bring this guide together, some points to note are the episode length and the “Real-life Relatability Rating”. This is scored out of 10 and is based on how often we find ourselves in situations similar to what is described in the anime. Some universes may be outside our scope of imagination, but each story line covers topics such as work or school life in situations we may have experienced before.

I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying Real-life Studio: Seven Produced by: Dream Creation Theme: Otaku Culture Episode Length: 3 1/3 minutes

Relatability Rating:

7/10

This anime focuses on the married life of Kaoru, an office lady, and Takashi, her otaku obsessed husband. What’s unique about this series is the number of anime references it touches on per episode. The creators’ ability to adapt both verbal and illustration styles from different genres is impressive. I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying ran for 2 full seasons and, despite the short individual episode length, the writers have managed to introduce a large amount of characters and have allowed viewers to experience and grow with the 2 protagonists over the course of time. This is a good introduction to the lifestyle

58 │ jStyle issue 15

ANIME is

of an otaku from an outsider’s perspective. This light-hearted anime is shown from Kaoru and her friends’ perspective of a lifestyle that is quite foreign to their own. If you are an otaku, you will enjoy trying to catch as many different references as you can while watching this anime.

Meeting people from all walks of life is an integral part of social interaction. It does not matter if the networking aspect is in real life or online as it helps to develop a deeper sense of individuality and understanding. The people that we meet in our lives

LIF Ever felt like you wanted to start an anime but find yourself not having enough time for it? Or do you have a friend who you would like to get started on an anime, but they’re unable to relate to it? The writers for these anime have managed to take a concept, present their thoughts in a short amount of time, and create relatable anime. No more excuses about long runtimes or concepts that are too difficult to relate to.

may have drastically different views and lifestyles in comparison to our own and that is what makes our lives vibrant and fulfilling.

Words: Charlene Lim


Tonari no Seki-kun Studio: Shin-El Animation Theme: School Episode Length: 8 minutes

E

Real-life Relatability Rating:

3/10

This anime is depicted from the viewpoint of Rumi Yokoi, the main character, who sits next to Toshinari Seki in class. Yokoi is often distracted by the activities that Seki is involved in during class and often narrates the on goings in her head while observing the scene. Seki has the ability to transform regular objects such as stationery into complex games during class time, and more often than not, despite Yokoi’s continuous attempts to concentrate in class or getting Seki to focus on class, Yokoi often finds herself an unwilling participant in those games.

Wakakozake Studio: Office DCI Themes: Food Episode Length: 2 minutes

Real-life Relatability Rating:

9/10

Wakakozake revolves around Wakako, an office lady who spends her time alone after work enjoying food with sake. Each episode is only 2 minutes long, and focuses on a Japanese dish and with an alcohol pairing. Despite the short running time, the amount of expression and delight that is conveyed is wonderful. With Wakako’s first bite of food, sip of alcohol and sigh of enjoyment, you can feel her stresses wash away, taking your troubles along with them. A word of warning — this anime may bring on extreme food cravings. The best part about this anime is its attention to detail in illustrating the dishes served up. From the onset, you will notice that the focus is mainly on the food and alcohol pairing. For example, seafood is usually served with hot sake, whilst fried food with beer.

I would consider this a highly relatable anime with great tips on how to enjoy food with alcoholic beverages. This anime may make you want to head out to the closest izakaya (Japanese pub) to start trying some of the more traditional Japanese dishes.

Hozuki no Reitetsu Studio: Wit Studio Theme: Office Life/Work Politics Episode Length: 23minutes; 2 segments per episode

Real-life Relatability Rating:

6/10

Despite Seki’s large scale creations and the entertainment he provides, it seems that Yokoi is the only person in the whole class that notices what is going on. In such short episodes, the writers are still able to involve other classmates and build them into Yokoi and Seki’s life outside of Seki’s creative imagination and games.

During the more boring parts of school life, there are times where we would consider entertaining ourselves with what is available to us. This anime seems more likely to exist in our imaginations as carrying out the activities described in this anime would probably be a logistical nightmare.

The protagonist in this series is a high level administrative officer in Hell named Hozuki, who supports Enma, the king of Hell. The relationship between both characters is similar to that of an operations manager with a company director. Each episode is generally split into 2 stories that covers topics involving situations at work such as: personal relationships between superiors and subordinates, hiring processes, and the work/life balance. The idea that hell is run like a large corporation with multiple departments is a novel concept which the writers have done a great job with. One of the many topics this anime illustrates is international company exchange programs. This can be seen when satan from European Hell visits and discusses the cultural differences between Eastern and Western worlds. Exchange programs between administrative managers happens frequently throughout the series, often resulting in cultural shock due to their differences. Training is also depicted in this anime. This is provided to the staff by subject matter experts, and allows for skill development of current employees to provide better service and success in various job fields.

We may often find ourselves living a real-life version of this universe and many aspects of this anime are quite relatable. In the workplace, we may be met with familiar situations such as understaffing and attempts to keep a good work/life balance. This anime manages to touch on subjects in a light hearted and comical manner that is close to our hearts.

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GOURMET

n a p Ja TASTE

AS YOU LIKE

This is your guide to Japan’s culinary feast. Let’s dig deep into Japanese taste from traditional to new.

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w e i v r e t

n IINTERVIEW WITH HIDEO DEKURA

Interview: Haruka Takeuchi

HIDEO DEKURA Born to the owners of a long-standing restaurant in Yotsuya, Tokyo. Learned the art of Japanese cuisine under the strict tutelage of his father. After graduating from university, travelled overseas to gain experience, and after travelling through Europe and the States, arrived in Australia in the 1970s. Since then, Hideo Dekura has published several books in addition to helping produce a number of catering and restaurant businesses, and providing consulting services. Dedicated to the evolution of and innovation in modern classic Japanese cuisine, Hideo Dekura was awarded the Minister of Foreign Affairs Award in 2015, and appointed as a Japanese Cuisine Good will Ambassador in February 2016 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

What makes Japanese food so popular? The popularity of Japanese food owes much to trends in the social landscape and in society itself. At the same time, however, the culture surrounding Japanese cuisine itself is built on a long-standing tradition of simplicity that has developed over many years. The wide range of ingredients and cooking methods, combined with its beautiful presentation and health benefits, have granted it great appeal in many countries, and earned it a placed on the table in Australia and elsewhere throughout the world. One of the characteristics of Japanese cuisine is the role played by fermented condiments such as miso and soy sauce made using methods unique to Japan, and stocks made from foods high in umami such as shiitake mushrooms, kombu, and katsuobushi that take the food to a new level. The multicultural nature of Australia has undoubtedly made the introduction of Japanese food into everyday life a natural progression.

Japanese sake and wine that pairs well with Japanese cuisine is now also seeing a great deal of attention. The range of Japanese sake that you can purchase over the internet continues to grow, allowing more and more people to enjoy the combination of Japanese food paired with alcohol. I would not be surprised if we see more people travelling to Japan to enjoy regional cuisine alongside local sake as well. Past, present, and future The Japanese food that was popular in the 1970s, when I arrived in Australia, included such dishes as yakitori and sukiyaki, but differences in eating habits made many people reluctant to try food such as raw fish, and it was impossible to get people to try it. On the other hand, tempura earned many fans, perhaps due in part to its similarity to fish and chips. Even then, the dipping sauce used with tempura was not that popular, and many preferred to enjoy it with salt and lemon instead, and even tartar sauce, much to my surprise. And at the time, the ramen shops that are so frequent today were nowhere to be found. There is no single reason that I believe Aussies began to open up to Japanese food, but one large factor is no doubt the perfect match between an increased awareness of healthy food and the nature of Japanese cuisine. Sushi, which lends itself to take away, has no doubt had its own role to play. I have seen Japanese cuisine develop overseas for 50 years and have come in contact with three generations of locals who have loved Japanese food, and while I think this initial opportunity to come in contact with Japanese cuisine is important, I am also happy to see this tradition being passed to future generations.

Enjoying Japanese cuisine in the everyday While the concept of sushi as take away food is now firmly established, I believe the styles of Japanese cuisine available will continue to broaden, and the pace of acceptance for Japanese food culture will similarly grow. It is good that consumers have more options from which to choose. I also hope we see more people who enjoy Japanese food at home. Those who have taken part in my cooking classes have gone on to hold sushi parties with friends, try handmade udon and ramen, incorporating Japanese food into their lives by way of an attraction. For those interested in trying their hand at Japanese cuisine, I recommend starting with simple, cornerstone dishes such as miso soup and white rice. And once you master the basics of sushi rolls, you will no doubt see how easy it is to pick and choose from ingredients that are easy to find, and make your own combinations. Keeping a stock of soy sauce, mirin, nori and other Japanese ingredients at home also makes it easy to make a start. If possible, seeking out friends or local supermarkets that sell Japanese ingredients that might be able to give you advice is also a good idea. Japanese food is perfect for those who are conscious about their health. Its visual appeal gives it an added element of entertainment as well, offering a wide range of options on how to enjoy it to those who make it. In addition to restaurants and cooking classes or even in the home, I hope you can travel to Japan and enjoy your adventures in the wide world that is Japanese cuisine.

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GOURMET

d o o F YOUR ESSENTIAL

GUIDE TO A JAPANESE CULINARY FEAST

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ENJOY AUTHENTIC SUSHI

Today, sushi is widely available outside of Japan. In Australia, sushi has become more and more prevalent, with increasing numbers of Japanesestyle restaurants opening here. So it’s the perfect time to introduce you to a delicious way to eat nigirizushi, in which the topping is placed on a ball of rice shaped by hand. There are no hard and fast rules for eating sushi. Both chopsticks and fingers are acceptable. People who don’t want to get sticky fingers should use chopsticks, otherwise it’s quite acceptable to eat sushi with your hands. Sushi tastes best when dipped into a small saucer of soy sauce to which you can add wasabi for extra zing. Obviously this depends on personal taste, however, you should be careful about how much wasabi you add to the soy sauce, as there is already wasabi on the sushi itself. Flipping the nigirizushi over so that you get just enough soy sauce on the topping, but not on the rice, is the most delicious way to eat sushi. Incidentally, soy sauce is not necessary with certain types of sushi, such as unagi eel, that is pre-seasoned with a special sauce. It’s already served with just the right amount of flavouring.

As a rule of thumb, start with subtly flavoured sushi and finish with stronger flavoured pieces, to avoid overpowering the subtleties of the milder sushi. On the other hand, if after eating something oily such as toro, the fatty part of the bluefin tuna, you would like something lighter like a whitemeat fish, then nibble on some pickled ginger. Pickled ginger is not just for decoration, it’s there to refresh your palate. NABE IS HEARTY WINTER FARE

When visiting Japan in winter, nabe, or a onepot dish cooked at the table, is a must-try meal. Although it’s possible to have nabe for just one person, sharing a large nabe with like-minded friends is the way to enjoy it. It warms not only your body, but also your heart. There are many different approaches to nabe, but perhaps the most famous is sukiyaki. The Kanto style of sukiyaki involves boiling the beef and vegetables simultaneously, while in the Kansai style the beef is fried first and after flavouring with a little sugar and soy sauce, vegetables are added, followed by sake and water. A raw egg is used when eating sukiyaki made in either style, as is warishita, a special sauce for sukiyaki made from sweet mirin cooking wine, soy sauce, sake and sugar. Japan offers a rare opportunity to eat wagyu beef in its land of origin, and shabu-shabu is the perfect way to experience this premium meat. Beef which has been sliced extremely thinly is cooked at the table by briefly immersing it in a flavoursome pot of stock. The beef is cooked together with vegetables and tofu and eaten with either a sesame sauce or a ponzu citrus sauce. It’s truly a mouth-watering taste sensation.


Mizutaki takes its name from a delicious stock made from chicken bones, and chanko nabe is famous for forming part of the daily diet of sumo wrestlers. Chanko contains big helpings of meatballs, Chinese cabbage and udon noodles. Trying many different kinds of nabe and increasing your culinary repertoire could turn out to be one of the most fun experiences about travelling to Japan in winter. JAPANESE SOUL FOOD: RAMEN

chicken fat, to achieve a rich broth. Noodles are typically made from wheat flour, with each restaurant choosing thickness and shape – either straight or curly – as appropriate to their signature soup. Some will let customers choose their noodles either soft or al dente, the latter most commonly requested when the stock has been taken from pork bones. The array of specialty ramen restaurants in Japan, from famous restaurants that are privately run, to fast food style chain stores, is bewildering. Generally speaking, if your preference is for light, simple flavours, look for advertisements of soy sauce or salt flavoured ramen. If you feel like eating rich, heavy flavours, go for pork bone or miso ramen. Across the sea in major Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne, ramen restaurants are booming. Some popular Japanese restaurants have also opened Australian outlets, and are attracting local fan bases. GENUINE IZAKAYA EXPERIENCE

One Japanese word that is making an increasingly frequent appearance in Australia in recent years is izakaya the term for combined restaurant and bar spaces in Japan that offer both alcohol and a range of simple food. Where the concept of a bar or pub in Japan

conjures images of western-style stores serving western-style drinks, the izakaya is all Japanese. Many offer beer, chuhai, and Japanese sake, and a wide range of food as well. Something else that sets the izakaya apart from standard restaurants is that what you drink is the star here, and not what you eat. When you enter an izakaya and order a drink, you are first served some small dishes without even having to order.These appetisers, called “otooshi” or “tsukidashi”, fill the time between your first order and the arrival of your food. Such dishes are prepared in advance so that they can be served straight away, and are designed as a match for your first drink. While you may hold some reservations over paying for something you didn’t order at first, learning to expect and appreciate such appetisers is the first step in enjoying hospitality izakaya style. Good food is the perfect partner to a good drink. While it is popular to stick with beer throughout the evening in Australian pubs, the draw of an izakaya is the food that accompanies and brings out the flavour of the drink. The term “sakana”, also called “ate” or “tsumami” refers to the food enjoyed alongside alcohol. Often served in small portions like the tapas of Spanish food, such dishes allow you to enjoy a wide range of different food. Popular items on the izakaya menu include yakitori, edamame, sashimi, karaage, dried foods, and egg rolls.

No story about trending Japanese food culture could be complete without reference to ramen. A deceptively simple dish, ramen is a combination of soup, noodles and toppings that embodies the passion and flair of the cook. The complexity of flavours infused into a bowl of steaming ramen captivates many and has universal appeal. The flavour and impression of a bowl of ramen is established by its soup. There is great variety in ingredients and how they are combined. Ramen soup may be made from pork bones or chicken frames, or from small dried sardines, dried bonito and vegetables. Soy sauce, miso paste or salt added to the stock characterise the flavour and appearance of the soup, and oil may be added in the form of vegetable oil, lard, or

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GOURMET

s e p i c e R Recipes: Sumi Saikawa

KARAAGE

Karaage is a mainstay on izakaya menus, and popular in both Japan and Australia. Its crunchy coating and juicy, garlic-infused flavour have earned it a place as one of Japan’s most well-known and wellloved menu items amongst young and old alike. Furthermore, you can easily recreate the flavours you enjoy dining out in the home as well. For the chicken, you can use thigh or breast meat. The secret to achieving the same crunchy texture you find in your local izakaya is the two-step deep frying process. Prepare your karaage the day before, and deep-fry and serve to guests on the day of a party or other event, so your guests won’t be left wanting. INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2) 400g Chicken thigh or breast 1 1/2 tsp Ginger 1 1/2 tsp Garlic 1tbsp Soy sauce 1tbsp Sake Potato starch (as required) Plain flour (as required) Cooking oil (as required) Lemon (to taste)

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STEP 1 Cut the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces. If you don’t like the skin, you can remove it at this step. STEP 2 Finely grate the ginger and garlic. You can reduce the amount of garlic as needed to suit your taste. STEP 3 Combine Step 1 and Step 2 with the soy sauce and sake and mix well, then place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, or up to one hour, if time permits. STEP 4 Heat a pot with the cooking oil on medium heat. STEP 5 Remove any excess liquid from the chicken, and coat with a mixture containing equal parts potato starch and flour. Lightly squeeze the chicken into a round shape at this stage to form its final shape. STEP 6 Deep fry Step 5 in the oil at a low heat, then after three minutes, remove and place on a paper towel. STEP 7 With the oil at a high heat, deep fry the chicken for a further two minutes. This two-step process of deep-frying the chicken gives it its crunch. When complete, squeeze fresh lemon over the karaage to taste.

YAKISOBA Yakisoba is a popular Japanese dish that is frequently served at Japanese restaurants in Australia. In Japan, yakisoba is known as a food that can be quickly and easily made at home in addition to being a staple of stalls at local festivals. The ‘yakisoba sauce’ and ‘noodles’ included in the ingredients can be sourced from stores that sell Japanese ingredients. Yakisoba sauce is often found in the condiments section alongside okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. For the noodles, you can use vacuum-packed dried noodles or those in the chilled section. You can also find the thinly sliced pork belly in Asian supermarkets. INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2) 2 Packets of noodles 150g Pork belly (thinly sliced) 150g Cabbage 5cm Carrot 1/2 Onion Salt and pepper (to taste) 1tbsp Sake 4tbsp Yakisoba sauce (or BBQ sauce and Worcestershire sauce) Red pickled ginger, nori, sunny-side up eggs, mayonnaise (to taste)

STEP 1 Cut the pork belly slices into two to three pieces each, and cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. STEP 2 Put some oil in a fry pan and bring it up to heat, then add the pork and cook until sealed, and add salt and pepper to season. STEP 3 When the pork has been cooked through, add the onion and carrot and cook for two to three minutes, then add the cabbage and cook lightly. The vegetables do not need to be cooked through at this stage. STEP 4 Heat the noodles for 30 seconds at 1000w in a microwave and loosen them out into the fry pan, then add the sake (or water) and cover the fry pan. Let it steam for around five minutes. STEP 5 Remove the lid, and untangle the noodles with chopsticks. Add the yakisoba sauce across the entire fry pan mix the ingredients so that they combine with the sauce. STEP 6 Plate the yakisoba, add the red pickled ginger and nori, and you’re done! Top with sunny-side up eggs or mayonnaise to taste.


e n i W TASTE

JAPANESE FOOD WITH WINE Words: Yuko Frost

Although wine culture is still relatively new to Japan, just like any other cuisine almost any Japanese dish can go well with a nice glass of wine. Here are some suggestions I want you to try with your next Japanese dinner, whether it is at home or at a fine dining restaurant.

RAW WHITE FISH – DRY SPARKLING, RIESLING, SEMILLON OR KOSHU.

YAKITORI (CHARCOAL GRILLED CHICKEN SKEWERS) – PINOT NOIR

For a delicate white fish sashimi and sushi like kingfish or snapper, you want something crisp and delicate with good acidity. These tart white wines can also go well with wasabi. Another delicious way to match sashimi and white wine is replacing soy sauce and wasabi with lime and rock salt.

This is my favourite combination. Yakitori and Pinot Noir. Try it with earthy style Pinot with density from Bourgogne, Mornington Peninsula or Central Otago.

RAW RED FISH - DRY ROSE, PINOT NOIR OR SANGIOVESE

Spicy, sweet-savoury BBQ unagi goes well with these spicy, earthy red wines. Muscat Baily A is a hybrid black grape that is extensively grown in Japan which also has a similar flavour profile. If you have a chance, try it, it works!

Who said a red wine won’t go well with fish? I like matching fatty fish like salmon and tuna with dry rose or light red wine with soft tannin such as Pinot Noir or Sangiovese. These red wines also have relatively higher acidity which also helps freshen up your palate. TEMPURA – LIGHTLY OAKED CHARDONNAY, VIOGNIER OR FIANO

I like matching prawn or vegetable tempura with round, textural white wines such as Chardonnay or Viognier. The white wine’s acidity works just like lemon over food to cleanse the oiliness of the dish. Avoid heavily oaked styles that could overwhelm food flavours.

UNAGI (EEL) – GAMAY, GRENACHE, PINOTAGE OR MUSCAT BAILY A

GYOZA – DRY ROSE, PINOT GRIS OR CHENIN BLANC

From a Japanese point of view, gyoza is more of a Chinese food rather than Japanese, but it is still a very popular dish in Japan too. I like matching it with dry rose or dry or off-dry Chenin Blanc or Pinot Gris. I hope you enjoy your next Japanese dinner with some good drops and, of course, with very good company. Cheers!

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GOURMET

e n i W DISCOVER WINE MADE IN JAPAN Words: Yuko Frost

When it comes to drinking, Japan is not just about sake, beer, or premium single malt whisky that you might have seen in the movie Lost in Translation. Japan also produces wine and, although production is small in scale, the quality can be excellent.

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WHERE? YAMANASHI — THE HUB OF JAPANESE WINE PRODUCTION

The Katsunuma region in Yamanashi prefecture is historically the most important winemaking region in Japan, and it is still the hub of Japanese wine production. This beautiful high country, located north of the magnificent Mount Fuji, can be done as a long day trip from Tokyo and would also make a pleasant overnight getaway. Of course, you don’t have to go all the way to Yamanashi to get a taste of what Japanese wine is about. Track down a bottle of wine made from the Koshu grape and you will be instantly transported to the very essence of Japanese wine. WHAT? KOSHU — JAPAN’S OWN UNIQUE VARIETY

Koshu is a wine grape unique to Japan, and it is delicious. It has a beautiful pink-tinged thick skin and was originally grown as a table grape. It was only more recently discovered that Koshu has the same DNA as Vitis Vinifera wine grape varieties of European origin like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Koshu produces pale in colour, beautifully crisp and delicate white wine. It displays clean and gentle aromas of yuzu, a tart Japanese citrus, with a slight bitterness similar to grapefruit. You will also find flavours of white peach, a soft minerality on the palate and relatively modest alcohol level. It is usually a still, dry white wine, while some producers make sweet styles and even sparkling. In its dry style it is reminiscent of Hunter Semillon or French Muscadet. Sometimes its soft texture even reminds me of premium quality sake, Junmai Daiginjo, which I personally find quite interesting.

Unsurprisingly Koshu makes a perfect match with a wide range of Japanese cuisine, including sushi, sashimi, tempura or kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. It also makes a great accompaniment to non-Japanese food such as fresh oysters, Mediterranean seafood dishes or even slow cooked pork. WHO? GRACE WINE — THE RISING STAR OF JAPANESE WINE

If you have never tried Koshu, I highly recommend you start with Grace Wine. Grace is a multi-award winning winery, most recently picking up Best White Asia from the recent Decanter World Wine Awards 2016. Grace Koshu has a clean and attractive blossom aroma and is refreshingly crisp on the palate with slightly bitter citrus flavours such as sudachi, lime and grapefruit, making it a wonderful accompaniment to white fish sashimi, prawn tempura or even with very good quality pickles. Just like many quality wines, Grace Koshu also has a story behind its label. It is a drop born from the strong commitment of a young passionate winemaker. Ayana Misawa, the chief winemaker of Grace Wine has taken Koshu to a whole new level. Born as the 5th generation of a winemaking family, Ayana strongly believed in Koshu’s potential as a fine wine grape from early on. After studying viticulture and winemaking in Bordeaux then in Stellenbosch in South Africa, Ayana worked extensively all over the world and brought back many international winemaking techniques which she pioneered in her home region. I highly recommend putting Japanese wine on your to do list for Japan. Chances are you will find yourself a new favourite drink to enjoy whether at home or in Japan.


Quality

JAPANESE KITCHEN KNIVES WHICH CUT LIKE A SAMURAI SWORD

Photos: Naoto Ijichi

The essential components of tasty cuisine are top quality ingredients, the touch of a good chef and the equipment in their right hand. Just like a samurai could not exist without their sword, a chef can’t exist without their kitchen knives. Currently, the export of Japanese made high quality kitchen knives is rapidly spreading across the globe. The reason non-Japanese chefs love these knives so much is by merit of their astonishing cutting ability. Japanese knives are uniquely designed to cut without needing much force at all. The circumstances which have brought about the evolution of these knives is a culture of subtle and detailed food preparation that

has provided much satisfaction to gourmet clients in Sydney at Azuma, Tetsuya’s and a number of top restaurants serving Japanese, western and modern Australian fare. These knives give the ability to cut fish in a clean and precise manner without any hindrance allowing for beautiful presentation of the food and the wonderful texture and flavours to be felt when eaten. The sizes and shapes of the many styles of Japanese knives are a strong ally of a chef and it is said this bond is well understood and cherished by non-Japanese chefs too.

is an essential part of traditional Japanese cuisine. ACCORDING TO THE FOOD EXPERTS, WHAT MAKES A GOOD KNIFE?

Mr Takashi Sano, sushi chef at popular Sydney restaurant Sokyo, says knives are an important partner just like one’s wife. A good knife has a certain familiarity in one’s hand which acts in harmony with the chef’s thoughts and to date, this

Mr Takashi Sano, sushi chef at Sokyo

THE BEST WAY TO MAINTAIN HIGH QUALITY UTENSILS

In order to not only craft the appearance of the cuisine but also the flavour, it is vital that anyone working in a kitchen chooses the optimum knife and takes extra

“Beyond the

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special care with the maintenance of both the blade and the handle. In Sydney, Knives and Stones is a specialist shop selling a huge range of Japanese made homeware, knives and sharpening stones. On top of selling their high grade wares, they also undertake the difficult maintenance of the knives including polishing and fixing chipped and bent blades. The owner James says that with just one maintenance session, you’ll soon have a blade which can cut through anything with the utmost ease. When using a knife for a number of years, there is a chance that parts of the wood in the handle may become corroded, splinter, or the original pattern may lose its detail due to the constant pressure from one’s hand. When this happens, it’s a good idea to consult Knives and Stones to repair or replace the handle. Their showroom also displays the best Japanese knives such as: Sakai Takayuki and Masamoto Sohonten; and sharpening tools so it’s perfect for people who are serious about looking after their equipment and keeping it in top condition.

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Knives and Stones Unit 2, 2 Bishop St St Peters, NSW 2044 02 8599 0898 8239KNIV

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GOURMET

BEGINNERS’ GUIDE TO

e k Sa Words: Charlene Lim

J

apanese rice wine, or sake, is an alcoholic beverage brewed from fermented rice. In addition to rice, its base ingredients are koji and water, where koji is a mould grown on the rice that kick-starts the fermentation process. The rice grain is polished and left to ferment. The flavour of the sake is established by the rice and water used, and most importantly, the amount of rice grain that is polished away.

HISTORY OF SAKE

Sake has been around for over 2,000 years and was traditionally used for religious ceremonies and court festivals. In the beginning, sake production was controlled by the government, but in the 10th century production was taken over by temples and shrines. The Meiji Restoration saw a sake boom. Many breweries were set up by landowners who would brew sake from leftover rice crops, rather than let rice grain go to waste. Today, sake is brewed not only in Japan, but also in Asia, America, and even in Australia. The Go-Shu Australian sake brewery operated by Sun Masamune is located in Penrith. DRINKING CULTURE

October 1st is official World Sake Day: Nihonshu no Hi, and is traditionally the start date of Japanese sake production. Like wine, sake should be sipped and savoured, not drunk in shots. When drinking sake in a group, you will often hear the expression, “kampai!” — the equivalent of “bottoms up!” — but after making the toast, you should sip and enjoy the rest of your glass at your own pace. There is no need to down sake in one shot.

WHERE TO TASTE SAKE

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In Australia there are plenty of places to enjoy sake with Japanese food. Head to your local izakaya and order away! Some izakaya have push carts on which sake is brought to your table. The restaurant staff may offer you a taste before you order. Take the opportunity to chat with the staff about your preferred flavour profile and ask for suggestions. If you would like to buy some sake in Sydney, Tokyo Mart, located in Northbridge Plaza, is a 15-minute drive from the city. Tokyo Mart has an extensive range of sake and other Japanese beverages.


TYPES OF SAKE

The labels on sake bottles carry a lot of legally required information that will assist you in knowing what to expect of your drink. For example, the label will tell you the type of sake, its alcohol content, its ingredients (in particular, if it contains distilled alcohol), the production date, the amount in the bottle, the name and address of the brewer, and the sake’s characteristics. Sake is split into different categories depending on the rice polishing ratio, or how much grain remains after polishing. Sake is brewed from the starch inside the rice grain. Less polished rice with more grain remaining results in a full-bodied and richer sake. The more polished the rice, the cleaner and crisper the taste. Occasionally, brewers may add distilled alcohol into a sake brew to adjust the taste. Sake made with pure rice and not containing distilled alcohol is differentiated by the prefix, junmai, meaning pure rice. There are three main types of aroma and flavour. Ginjo has a rice polishing ratio of 60 per cent. Ginjo sake is pure, refreshing and rich, yet light bodied. It includes dai-ginjo, in which the rice is most polished to less than 50 per cent remaining grain. Dai-ginjo is the most expensive sake as it

takes approximately 40 hours to polish rice to less than 50 per cent of its volume. Ginjo sake that does not contain distilled alcohol is known as junmai ginjo-shu, or junmai dai-ginjo-shu, depending on the rice polishing ratio. Ginjo is best served cold. Honjozo has a rice polishing ratio of 70 per cent. It takes some ten hours for rice to be polished to this level. Tokubetsu honjozo is in the same flavour profile, but has a rice polishing ratio of 60 per cent. Both types of honjozo have small amounts of distilled alcohol added, resulting in a cleaner, more fragrant and drier sake. Honjozo may be served hot or cold. Junmai has an unspecified rice polishing ratio and no distilled alcohol added. Junmai is rich, savoury, and full bodied, with a subtle aroma. It is not as polished as ginjo sake, and generally has a rice-like flavour. Junmai is best served at room temperature, or warm, to bring out the most flavour. SAKE METER VALUE (SMV)

SMV is used to indicate the sweetness or dryness of sake. It is a measure of the density of sake relative to water. A negative SMV indicates a sweeter sake, while a positive value defines a dry sake, and is affected by the sugar content, or level of acidity. SMV is indicative of sake flavour and an average SMV is +3.

HOW SAKE IS PREPARED AND SERVED

Sake is served neat at either room temperature, chilled, or warmed. Temperature is dependent on the type of sake being drunk. The label on the bottle may include a suggested serving temperature. Sake should be warmed in a bath of hot water and not over an open flame. The best approach is to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Some sake contains sediment. Sake with sediment should not be shaken. Move the bottle gently from side to side to mix the liquid before serving. Most restaurants will serve sake in a small, bowl-shaped cup called a choko, poured from a flask called a tokkuri. A tokkuri is good for serving warm sake, as the narrow neck prevents heat from escaping, but a tokkuri can also be used to serve sake cold. A slightly larger cup is known as a guinomi and is used to serve both warm and cold sake. Cold sake is sometimes served in a tall shot glass placed in a wooden box called a masu. The sake overflowing from the shot glass into the masu represents wealth and abundance. Start by drinking the sake from the shot glass, then either pour the remaining sake from the masu into the shot glass, or drink from a corner of the masu itself. If the shot glass comes in contact with a surface outside the masu, do not return the glass into the sake-filled masu, to avoid contamination. POPULAR BRANDS

There are quite a few sake breweries in the market. The more popular ones are Hakkaisan and Dassai. Each is brewed in different parts of Japan and are available in Australia at various izakaya Japanese pubs.

Photo: Satoko Clarke

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Gourmet

6pm at night. A bustling street filled with people after a long day’s work. You duck into a back alley where the tantalising fragrance of yakitori (grilled chicken) wafts towards you from all directions. As you step into your usual izakaya (Japanese pub), a waiter’s boisterous, “Irasshai!”(“Welcome!”), echoes throughout the restaurant. This is what it’s all about. An izakaya is a Japanese person’s “oasis of the heart”. The first word to leave most people’s mouths as they take their seat are, “I’ll start with a beer on tap”. You order an icy cold beer and what gets brought out is an ASAHI SUPER DRY. You shout, “Kampai!” (“Cheers!”), with all of your mates, clink glasses, and pour the golden beer along with its almost overflowing, creamy white head down your throat. Such a smooth, refined mouthfeel with a crisp aftertaste. A refreshing beer sure hits the spot after a hard day at the office. One cannot overlook the small plates overflowing with edamame and yakitori, which go so well with beer. Many Australians seem to enjoy their beer on its own. The Japanese, on the other hand, much prefer a variety of side dishes to accompany their beer. Asahi Breweries, Ltd. is a proud Japanese brand, topping beer sales in Japan for 17 consecutive years*. The ASAHI SUPER DRY brand can be found in pubs and bottles shops here in Australia as well, making it familiar amongst many Australians. ASAHI SUPER DRY took out the gold award for the International-Style Lager category at the 2014 World Beer Cup, the USA’s prestigious international beer competition. At the Belgian international beer contest – The Brussels Beer Challenge – ASAHI

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THE “SUPER DRY” EXPERIENCE IN AUSTRALIA It is said that Japanese people and Australians enjoy their beers in different ways. What is the secret to enjoying Japan’s most beloved – Asahi Beer?

Asahi Breweries is the only brewer to be a Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Gold Partner.

SUPER DRY took out the gold medal for the Lager: International Style Pilsner, achieving the first gold medal for a Japanese brewery. 3 brands are currently sold in the Australian market. ASAHI SUPER DRY (5.0%ABV) has a “delicate, yet rich, full-flavoured body with a refreshing dry aftertaste”. It is the topselling Asian Beer in Australia. Since its debut in Japan in 1987 as the first “KARAKUCHI” (dry) beer, ASAHI SUPER DRY has set a new de facto standard in Japanese brewing. ASAHI SUPER DRY BLACK (5.5%ABV) is a crisp new Super Dry style lager. Bold and refreshing, it has changed the world’s perception on dark beers. Asahi successfully blended the rich aroma and flavour while maintaining the smoothness of ASAHI SUPER DRY. This beer is perfect for when you want to refresh yourself. ASASHI SOUKAI (3.5%ABV) is an Australian market-limited brand. It delivers a clean, smooth taste that embodies the sophisticated, Japanese way of life whilst still retaining that unmistakable refreshing, crisp ASAHI SUPER DRY taste. ASAHI SOUKAI is an easy-to-drink, non-filling, sessionable beer, expertly brewed using quality Japanese brewing techniques. Try comparing the beers yourself to experience their distinct flavours! The next time you get together with your mates, why not grab a few Asahi beers as well? Don’t forget the bowls of edamame to snack on. Bring the Japanese izakaya experience to your home by shouting out “kampai!” as you clink together your glasses of icy cold Asahi beer. *Taxable shipped units of 5 major Japanese beer makers in 1998-2014.


Access to the official website of jStyle on your computer or mobile! http://j-style.com.au

Photo: Naoto Ijichi

Supporting companies

OGINO’S

& BAR

Shigakogen Resort Inc

STEAKHOUSE


LIVING

Living in Japan

FINDING A PLACE TO STAY IN JAPAN Words: Dennis Bott

BUDGET ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS

Whether you’re staying long or short-term, finding somewhere to stay in Japan can be a daunting challenge especially if you don’t speak the language and have just arrived. Although I haven’t tried it myself, Airbnb, where people rent out their rooms and apartments, seems to be a popular choice nowadays. It’s usually cheaper than most hotels and depending on the option you choose, you could have an entire apartment where you can cook, use wireless internet and perhaps even get some travel advice from your hosts. Another website called couchsurfing.com connects you with hosts around the world on the condition that you also offer your place to other couchsurfers. This can be a great way

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to connect with other travellers and organise trips together and basically allows you to stay for free, anywhere. THE PROS AND CONS OF HOSTEL LIFE

Then, of course, there are hostels. Hostels also offer the ability to cook, but can often be noisy and sometimes rough or dirty. You also have to be careful about having your things stolen if you’re staying in a room with several strangers. On the positive side, they’re also a great place to meet people and can be really memorable experiences. I once stayed in a really ratty hostel in Kyoto with about eight people in one room. People came in at all hours of the night and we all had to sleep in bunk beds. But I’ve also stayed in some really nice ones as well, so make sure you do your research and read the reviews.

BEST OPTION FOR LONG TERM STAYS

For those looking at a long-term stay, a guesthouse is probably the best option. There are several companies in Japan with Englishspeaking staff and websites where you can book a room by the month ahead of your arrival. There’s a deposit of 20,000 to 30,000 yen, but you get most of it back when you leave, as long as you don’t trash the room. The rooms are usually furnished with a bed with new sheets and a desk. The kitchen and bathrooms are shared with your housemates. I’ve actually lived in a guesthouse for the past two years. It’s convenient and it’s fun to meet the people from all over who come and go. Another advantage is that a lot of guesthouses are conveniently located near big train stations so you can live relatively cheaply in a convenient


DECIDE WHAT’S IMPORTANT FOR YOU DEPENDING ON YOUR BUDGET AND MAKE SURE TO HAVE AMPLE TIME AND MONEY FOR YOUR RESEARCH AND APPLICATION. THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE TONS OF OPTIONS.

Choosing the right apartment in Tokyo is usually a compromise between price, size or location. Rarely will you find a place that is ideal in all three. You have to decide what’s more important for you depending on your own budget. For me, living in a central convenient location, close to a station and my job is important, but I also don’t want to pay a lot for rent. So I decided to sacrifice on space and privacy by just staying in my guesthouse. Basically, the further the apartment is away from a train station, (i.e. less convenient) the more spacious or cheaper it will be. Some people decide to live outside of Tokyo altogether and commute into the city to save money on rent. For me though, not having to ride the crowded morning trains and being able to ride my bike to work is worth the extra cost of living in the city. I’m also able to stop home for lunch or go back if I forget something and I don’t have to worry about catching the last train at night on the weekends. A LITTLE PATIENCE AND PLANNING WILL PAY OFF

area where rent would typically be very expensive. Paying rent is also easy because all the utilities are included in one price.

Homestays can also be quite expensive in the long term, but I would say it was a great experience for someone arriving in Japan for the first time.

TRY A HOMESTAY FOR AN AUTHENTIC LOCAL EXPERIENCE

OTHER ALTERNATIVES – RENT YOUR OWN APARTMENT

Another viable option is doing a homestay. I spent my first two months in Tokyo doing a homestay with a young couple who had two spare rooms. At first it was great having someone to talk to and dinner on the table every night. It was a great chance to see how Japanese people live and they organised a lot of activities every weekend. I would say that for a twoweek stay, a homestay would be perfect. Any longer than that, in my experience, seems to be wearing out your welcome. It became uncomfortable trying to be home on time for dinner and I always felt like I had to be careful about making noise or using the shower.

Finding your own apartment presents its own set of pitfalls and challenges. First of all, you’ll need a bank account. But in order to get a bank account, you need an identification card and, of course, to stay in Japan you need some type of visa. Even if you have a job lined up before you come, getting everything in order takes time, so I recommend staying in a guesthouse for a month or two so you can take your time to find a good apartment. Most apartments in Japan require at least a two-year contract as well as up to the equivalent of one or two month's rent or so in deposits and fees.

Hopefully, someone from your company or a friend will help you with the process at the realtor’s office. You might be shocked to hear that some or many of the landlords will reject you right off the bat simply because you’re a foreigner. The most common reason is that they don’t want to deal with the language barrier. Also, they're worried you will have poor Japanese etiquette such as making too much noise or not disposing of your trash properly. Some foreigners also leave Japan suddenly without paying all of their last bills. Whatever the reason, this is one of the most frustrating parts about finding an apartment in Japan. However, they do seem to be more open if you tell them you can speak some Japanese. Another thing to keep in mind is that you won’t have Internet for the first two or three weeks after you move into an apartment, while the telecommunications company changes the phone lines to your name. With proper research and planning, you may be able to shorten the waiting time by telling them ahead of time to get started on the process. Make sure you budget ample time and money in your search for a place to stay. There are tons of options, and with a little planning and research, it doesn’t have to be a headache.

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LIVING

Living in Japan

FIVE WAYS TO LIVE ON A BUDGET IN TOKYO 74 │ jStyle issue 15

A good policy is to always check the 100-yen shop before buying something from a regular store. They carry an amazing variety of items and are ideal places to stock up your apartment with dishes, silverware, and other essentials to survive when you first arrive.

Shopping online using Amazon or Rakuten is easy and convenient in Japan. You can even have your package sent to a local convenience store for pick up and often can get next day delivery. You can use a barcode reader on your phone to find better deals online while you’re shopping at stores, too. I usually use Amazon to buy big boxes of oatmeal or my favourite cereal that I know I’ll eat and that last for a long time.

Mobile phone plans can cost up to 8000 yen a month or more and require you to sign a 2-year contract. Opt for an internet only plan (with no calls included) and use free apps to communicate like Skype or LINE, which are really popular in Japan. Or, you could buy a portable WiFi router that you can use at home and then carry in your pocket when you’re out to use with your smartphone. Either option will only cost you about 3000 yen a month.

USE 100-YEN SHOPS

SHOP ONLINE

INTERNET ONLY PHONE

12 3 4 5 BUY IN BULK

BEWARE OF WARIKAN

Not everything is a bargain at the 100-yen shop, especially toiletries and other things that you’ll use everyday. It’s better to buy essential consumable supplies like tissues, detergent or body soap in bulk from stores like Costco. There are several around Tokyo and if you can find a friend with a membership, tag along with them every once in a while and stock up. It’s also a good idea to buy lots of frozen veggies and fruits, as these can be absurdly expensive when sold fresh in the supermarkets. If you can’t make it to Costco, try finding a local wholesale food store such as “Niku no Hanamasa” (there are several around Tokyo) which caters to restaurants and sells meat and seafood at big discounts. To manage bulk amounts of food, I bought a cheap box of 200 plastic bags which I then use to separate and freeze a few weeks worth of meat and fish.

Obviously, you should try to cook at home as often as possible if you’re living on a budget. And you should also try to pack a lunch everyday if you can. But sometimes you get invited out and want to have fun. In Japan, it’s pretty normal for a group of friends to share all the food and it’s often (but not always) customary to split the bill at the end of the night (called warikan). The problem is that you end up having to help pay for the five bottles of expensive wine someone decided to order. If your friends are considerate they will pitch in more if they had a lot, but don’t count on it! Your best bet is to go to a place with nomi-hodai or all-you-candrink (usually for two hours) with a set individual price or to go to a Westernstyle pub where you pay separately as you order, (called betsu-betsu). You can also just buy snacks and drinks at a convenience store but be careful because it’s bad etiquette to eat and drink while walking around.


Living

S

ince opening in 1992, Sakura House and the Sakura Hotel and Hostel Tokyo have welcomed guests from more than 100 countries. Their new ‘vacation rental’ offering is a service for those seeking long-term stays, and is perfect for families, friends, couples and other group trips. Vacation rental accommodation can be found in Tokyo and Kyoto, and in addition to having no check in or check out and other time limits common to hotels, there is no need to pay for advance securities such as key money or deposits, seek out guarantors, or pay other types of processing fees. English-language onsite support is also available, and if there is a vacancy, you can begin your stay on the same day you make your booking. All listings come with furniture and bedding, and everything you need during your stay. Simply turn up, suitcase in hand, and start your life in Japan.

j

HANDY LOCATIONS CLOSE TO TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

LIVE BEYOND THE ORDINARY

With three apartment buildings in the Shinjuku area and a listing in Nishi-Ojima in eastern Tokyo, all listings are close to shopping areas and public transport. A listing in Kyoto allows you to have the experience of staying in traditional Japanese accommodation. FRIENDLY STAFF ARE ON HAND TO SUPPORT YOU DURING YOUR STAY

Multilingual staff are available to answer any questions you may have during your stay, making it a safe option for first-time visitors to Japan. Sakura House and the Sakura Hotel and Hostel also offer calligraphy and kimonowearing experiences throughout the year, providing a chance to experience Japan in a way no other accommodation can afford.

jStyle issue 15 │ 75


LIVING

JAPANESE MANNERS AND ETIQUETTE While foreign customs can seem daunting, learning about them is half the fun of visiting another country. Here are some basic rules to help you make a good impression in Japan.

CHOPSTICKS

EATING NOODLES

Chopsticks are to be respected as more than a food implement. Do not leave the chopsticks sticking out of the rice or pass food from chopstick to chopstick; both are ancient funeral rituals. Do not lick, chew or nibble the end of your chopsticks, or use them to move or point at anything. Do not spear your food with the chopsticks. When taking food from a communal plate, use serving spoons if provided, or use the bottom, fatter end of your chopsticks. Only rest chopsticks on a designated chopstick rest.

MEISHI (BUSINESS CARDS) 名刺

Meishi are an important business tool so make sure yours are clean, straight and presentable. You should always stand when exchanging meishi. Offer your meishi with both hands, facing towards the recipient so that they can read the details easily. If you receive a meishi, do not write on it, hurriedly put it in your pocket or disregard it.

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Unlike in the Western world where making noise while eating is frowned upon, slurping while eating soba, udon and ramen is very much encouraged. In fact, it actually shows appreciation and enjoyment! So next time you order a bowl, enjoy your meal in true Japanese style.

TIPPING チップ

OFURO (BATHING) お風呂

Tipping in Japan is not mandatory as a service charge is already included in the bill. In many cases, tips may be politely refused. Attempting to tip a waiter or porter can cause confusion because it is not a common custom in Japan. You can make this less confusing if you put money in an envelope or wrapping paper, and say, “ kore-wa-kimochi-desu”.

Sento (public baths) and onsen or hot springs bathing culture has a long history in Japan. Male and female baths are separated by curtains marked with different colours and kanji characters - 男 for male and 女 for female. No clothes or swimming costumes are permitted, so place your personal belongings in the locker provided and cover yourself with a small tenugui towel when walking around. You must wash thoroughly before relaxing in the bath.


GREETINGS

TOILETS

GIFTS

あいさつ

トイレ

お土産

In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. A bow can range from a small nod of the head to a deep bend at the waist. A deeper, longer bow indicates respect and, conversely, a small nod with the head is casual and informal. Bowing with your palms together at chest level is not customary in Japan. If the greeting takes place on tatami mats, people get on their knees to bow.

There are two types of toilets in Japan: Japanese style and Western style. Some older facilities might have only Japanese style toilets. Many Western style toilets in Japan feature options such as a heated seat and a built-in washer called a bidet. When using the bathroom in a Japanese traditional hotel, you will often find toilet slippers for exclusive use inside the bathroom. Just remember to leave your usual slippers outside the bathroom.

Gift-giving is a common custom of Japanese culture. Different types of gifts are given on different occasions. Much attention is given to the wrapping of gifts. If the gift is not nicely wrapped or unwrapped, the present should at least be in a bag from which it was purchased from. When handing over the present, the gift giver should use both hands to give to the receiver, the receiver also responds by accepting it with both hands.

TEA CEREMONIES 茶道

TEMPLES AND SHRINES 寺と神社

The ritual of preparing and serving green tea in a formal setting is an art form that can take years to learn. The ceremony uses the finest tools and careful, ritualised movements to focus the mind wholly on the moment, and away from everyday life. Guests wear their best clothes and remove their shoes before kneeling on the tatami mats. Bows are exchanged between the host and the guests and the bowl must be turned three times before drinking the tea. Conversation is limited to keep the mood tranquil.

Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are places of worship, so they should be treated with respect. At a shrine, make a deep bow when you enter the torii gate, and use the bamboo dippers at the nearby fountain to cleanse your hands and mouth. A small amount of money, called o-saisen, is given at most shrines and clapping, ringing a bell, or saying a short prayer are also common.

jStyle issue 15 │ 77


LIVING

UNDERSTANDING JAPANESE EXPRESSIONS Let’s look at some indispensable words for your stay in Japan.

TRADITIONAL JAPANESE PHRASES 伝統的な日本語 Words: Shunichi Ikeda, Miona Ikeda

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ITADAKIMASU / GOCHISOUSAMA

OTSUKARESAMA

TADAIMA / OKAERI

お疲れさま

ただいま/おかえり

“Otsukaresama” (o-tsu-ka-resa-ma) is a term often used at work to express a job well done to colleagues leaving the office or coming back from a business errand. “Otsukaresama” is frequently misinterpreted as “tsukareru” which means “to get tired” in English because of the similarity in pronunciation. However, the term “otsukaresama” is simply used to pay tribute to or show care for the person who has completed a certain task. In younger generations or people in close relationships, this word can be shortened to “otsukare”. Also, when someone leaves an office, they say, “Otsukaresamadesita”, which tells colleagues that they are leaving for home.

You have probably heard the word “tadaima” in Japanese movies or anime. “Tadaima”(ta-da-i-ma) is used for when someone comes back home. In English it means, “I’m home”. Another word you may be familiar with is, “okaeri”(o-ka-e-ri), which means, “welcome home”. “Okaeri” is used by the person who is already at home to welcome the person coming home. “Tadaima” and “okaeri” are very common words that you will often hear in a traditional Japanese house. For example, Japanese mothers say, “okaeri”, to their children when they come home from school and the children respond with, “tadaima”. You can use “tadaima” on your own if you are single and if you have a family you can say, “okaeri”, to another family member when they return home. If you remain single, then you will need to find someone first to say “okaeri” to. Another Japanese word is, “okaeri-nasaimase”, which is a more formal and polite way of saying, “okaeri”, to people who you are not familiar with. You may also hear this from the staff at a Japanese traditional hotel such as a ryokan or a minshuku when they welcome their customers back from an excursion or outing.

いただきます/ごちそうさま

“Itadakimasu” (i-ta-da-ki-mas) is one of the first words you’ll hear when enjoying a meal with a Japanese person. It’s the Japanese equivalent to saying grace before starting to eat. Japanese people also place their hands together when they say “ itadakimasu”. This is to show respect and gratitude for both the food and person who made the meal. You may have also heard the word “gochisousama” (go-chi-sosa-ma), which means, “thank you for the delicious meal”. Japanese people say this word whenever they have a meal regardless of their age or where they are eating. Customers usually like to say, “gochisousama”, to the chef and staff at a restaurant when paying the bill to express their satisfaction. Next time when you have a meal, you can show your appreciation and satisfaction to others by saying, “gochisousama”.


WASEI EIGO

BAIKINGU

POTETO-FURAI

KONSENTO

バイキング

ポテトフライ

コンセント

Buffet

French-Fries or Chips

Socket or Plug

和製英語

In Japan, the word for buffet is “ baikingu” from the English word “viking”. In 1957, a Japanese cook encountered a Danish smorgasbord and thought to bring this idea to Japan. However, as the word “smorgasbord” is hard to pronounce in Japanese, these buffet-style meals were renamed “ baikingu”.

The word “poteto-furai” in Japanese refers to french-fries or chips and is pronounced, po-te-to fu-rai. It is a famous snack all over the world. The word “ furai” refers to deep-frying in Japan. Most deepfried dishes end with “ furai”, such as ebi-furai (deep-fried prawns) and kaki-furai (deep-fried oysters).

“Konsento” means electrical socket or plug in Japan. The word originally comes from, “concentric plug”. The word “socket” or “plug” are not used in Japan. Also, there are no columnar-shaped plugs or 3-pin plugs utilised in Japan, instead a 2-flat-pin plug is used. Therefore, if you travel to Japan, you may need to buy a power plug adapter beforehand.

ARUBAITO

GASORIN SUTANDO

SARARIIMAN

アルバイト

ガソリンスタンド

サラリーマン

Casual employment

Petrol Station

Office worker or white-collar worker

Sourced from the German word arbeit, in Japan the word describes temporary employment associated with unskilled and low-paid work. Arubaito is often done by students seeking to move on to full-time work or by those who cannot find full-time employment. While arubaito are traditionally considered to be low-status jobs, recently there has been a trend where young people seeking a more flexible lifestyle, known as furiitaa, choose arubaito jobs instead of joining the restricted structure of full-time employment.

A gasorin stando is a petrol station in Japan. There are 2 types of gasorin stando, one is self service where you can pump the gas by yourself and the other is the old-fashioned gas stand where staff will pump the gas for you and also provide after service such as window wiping and ashtray cleaning.

Combining the words “salary” and “man”, “sarariiman” represents the hard-working Japanese whitecollar worker. In Japanese popular culture, such as manga and anime, the sarariiman is the typical father character who works hard at the office late into the night. This portrayal is often close to the reallife experience of many sarariiman.

Japanese terms adopted from English

jStyle issue 15 │ 79


LIVING

EVENT CALENDAR 2017 JANUARY 1 JAPAN

FEBRUARY 26 JAPAN

HATSUMODE

THE TOKYO MARATHON

Hatsumode is the the first Shinto shrine visit of the Japanese New Year.

The 2017 marathon begins at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and finishes at Tokyo Station, Gyoko-dori. Some 36,000 runners took part in 2016. www.marathon.tokyo

APRIL 21- 23 (GOLD COAST) APRIL 28- 30 (MELBOURNE) JUNE 16- 18 (SYDNEY) JUNE 23- 25 (PERTH) AUSTRALIA

SUPANOVA POP CULTURE EXPO This is a celebration of pop culture in all its forms - TV, film, books, comics, toys, gaming, animation, cosplay and more! A number of high-profile personalities are scheduled to appear, including actors, comic book illustrators, authors and voice over artists. Check the website regularly for ticket release dates, prices and schedule amendments. www.supanova.com.au

FEBRUARY 6 - 12 JAPAN

MARCH 3 JAPAN

JULY 1 - 31 JAPAN

SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL

HINAMATSURI

GION FESTIVAL

An international festival now in its 68th year, it features enormous and breathtaking snow statues on display in Odori Park in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

Also known as Girls’ Day, it is an annual celebration of the wellbeing of daughters in the household. It is a custom to decorate homes with ornate dolls on a special platform.

Lasting for an entire month, Kyoto’s Gion Festival is one of the three biggest festivals in Japan. The festival showcases many traditional events, foods, clothing and activities, but the centrepiece of this religious festival is a large float parade that takes place on July 17.

www.snowfes.com/english/index.html

gionfestival.org

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AUGUST JAPAN

AOMORI NEBUTA FESTIVAL A parade of lanterns shaped like samurai warriors through the streets of the city of Aomori. Some can measure up to eight metres high and fifteen metres wide! This is the largest nebuta float festival in Japan, attracting a large number of tourists each year. Since 1980, this festival has been designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. www.nebuta.or.jp

AUGUST JAPAN

SEPTEMBER 16 – 17 JAPAN

OCTOBER - NOVEMBER AUSTRALIA

JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL Every year, Australia plays host to one of the largest Japanese film festivals worldwide. This event is presented by the Japan Foundation (Sydney) and will be travelling around the country to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth. A variety of films will be screened, showcasing both classics of Japanese cinema, as well as more modern offerings. www.japanesefilmfestival.net

NOVEMBER 15 JAPAN

SHICHIGOSAN Shichigosan, or the seven-five-three festival, is a Japanese celebration for girls aged seven, boys aged five, and boys and girls aged three.

DECEMBER AUSTRALIA

AWA ODORI

KISHIWADA DANJIRI FESTIVAL

MATSURI IN SYDNEY

This festival is the largest dance festival in Japan, dating back over 400 years. Over 1.3 million tourists visit the city of Tokushima every year to see the traditional dancers performing.

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri, a float festival, takes place in Kishiwada, Osaka. Thirty-four unique and intricately designed floats are carried through this castle town.

www.city.tokushima.tokushima.jp/english/

Matsuri in Sydney, held annually, is one of the most exciting Japanese events in Australia. A wide range of Japanese dishes, beers and dance performances can be enjoyed here. You can also participate in a variety of workshops to experience traditional arts and crafts.

awaodori.html

matsurisydney.com

www.city.kishiwada.osaka.jp/site/danjiri/english.html

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jnto.org.au

CREATED BY JAPAN An endless discovery of unique rituals and contemporary culture awaits. Experience the beauty and art of Japanese life with Japan’s inherent spirit of hospitality omotenashi.

JAPAN NATIONAL TOURISM ORGANIZATION


ASAHI.COM.AU ASAHI.COM.AU


jStyle issue15 2017  

Published by NichigoPress, Japanese newspaper in Australia since 1977. In this magazine, You will find out a lot of tips that shows where to...

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