12 contents : JULY/ AUGUST 2009 – Volume 5, Issue 4
A look into life’s dazzling diversity Published by Paradigm Kamiyama Ambassador 209 18-6 Kamiyama-cho, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-0047, Japan Tel 03 5478 7941 Fax 03 5478 7942 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher Vickie Paradise Green Editor-in-Chief Simon Farrell Editor David Umeda Creative Director Richard Grehan Art Director Akiko Mineshima Editorial Researcher Francesca Penazzi Advertising Sales Eileen Chang, Sarit Huys, Helene Jacquet, Leai Kubotsuka
Delivered Inside: • Wall Street Journal Asia (Tokyo)
Placed in the Following Exclusive Locations: • Apartments 33 • Oakwood Serviced Apartments • Bureau Shinagawa Residences • Mori Residences • Frasers Place Howff Shinjuku • Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so • Hilton Tokyo • Roppongi Hills Club • Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan • Yokohama Country & Athletic Club • Tokyo American Club • The British School in Tokyo
APPETITE FOR ADVENTURE 04
SHAVING LATEST 17
By Justin McCurry
By John Boyd
To escape the heat in Tokyo this summer, try Hokkaido’s abundance of fine food and exciting outdoor activities.
Electric shavers are making skin smoother and softer than ever thanks to the latest models for men and women.
PERFECT 10: GEL NAILS 10
IT’S NOT THE HEAT, … 19
By Catherine Shaw
By Tony McNicol
There’s no need to pay astronomical prices for sparkling, selfexpressive nails with your own easy-to-use DIY manicure kit.
If you’re staying home this summer, consider these cool solutions designed for humid climes.
THE TAIWAN TOUCH 12
TIME FOR LUXURY 20
By Julian Ryall
By Justin McCurry
Just a three-hour flight from Japan, this historic island draws visitors from afar with its spectacular culture and cuisine.
They say that luxury timepieces never go out of fashion— for those who can afford these stylish accessories.
choice choices 02
from the editor’s desk 03
Tropical getaway. Waxing salon.
festival finds 24
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active relaxation Discover the Pacific Islands Club Saipan, the perfect tropical island getaway conveniently located just three hours from Japan. Saipan, the largest island in the Commonwealth, is part of a group of 14 volcanic islands rich in history, heritage and culture surpassing about 4,000 years, from its first settlers to its self-administration in Union with the United States. PIC is famous for its spectacular Waterpark and the friendly international team of Clubmates that can instruct you in one of the 70-plus sports and activities available. Try the Sunset Outrigger canoe, 20-ft climbing wall, the new beach front batting cage, or opt for a comfortable float around the 0.5km lazy river, a Thai Massage, or the Happiest Happy Hour at the Seaside Grill. Kids’ Club is available for the little ones aged 4-12 years, so that parents can enjoy playing on their vacation. Make your next holiday a PIC adventure! Conveniently book online for special packages at www.picresorts.com Pacific Islands Club: 03-3436-0777
exclusive look & feel NUA is Tokyo’s freshest new waxing salon, offering head-to-toe services provided by fully qualified and trained therapists. NUA’s unique waxing techniques are not only hygienic, but also quick and efficient, providing smooth results. The therapists at NUA understand that waxing is personal and are committed to making you feel comfortable—through both friendly and straightforward service, and educating you on all aspects of pre-waxing and aftercare. You’ll be in for a surprising treat with NUA’s signature “Wicked Chocolate” Hot Wax, which looks, feels and smells just like the real thing, and is used for every wax service. Women’s and men’s waxing packages are available, giving bonus savings on the already reasonable pricing. Your skin will also love the Natura products from Brazil that you can purchase at NUA. The Cocoa or Brazil Nut Body Butters, and fruity-scented Passionfruit moisturizers will leave your skin feeling exquisite—and have you addicted after just one try! Manicures and pedicures are also a part of the treatment menu every Friday and Saturday. If you have an iPhone, download the free NUA application on the iTunes app store. You can use it to call, book an appointment, and get directions with one touch! Lamial Jingumae #102, 4-8-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-68045285. Open Mon-Fri, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Sat-Sun, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Tue. Nearest stations: Omotesando or Meiji-Jingumae. E-mail: email@example.com www.nuajapan.com
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FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
cool choices When Monacle, that mouthpiece of the chattering classes, in June hailed Tokyo as one of the world’s most livable cities, behind Zurich and Copenhagen, I had to wonder how much time the magazine’s judges actually spent here. Yes, we all know about the quality cuisine, on-time transportation, and obsequious service. But did they ever take in a long, hot, damp summer here? We all react to Tokyo’s seasonal humidity in our own way. Endure it or go away, being the main choices. This issue, we offer two such variations. Our cover story is a dual mission to capture the food and sights of Hokkaido—the country’s dairy and mountain capital. Our writer and photographer returned from the northern island with evidence that eating and adventure go hand in hand. What better way to justify gorging on steaming baked potatoes swimming in melted fresh butter and indulging in award-winning whiskies than a white-knuckle ride down the local rapids? Summer stay-at-homes need not feel guilty about their choice. Page 19 reveals a product that is deliciously cool in both temperature and design. Originally made for flower shops and wine cellars, the manufacturer says these custom-made “radiators”
ensure a stable temperature year round without those familiar stopstart blasts of air—and, naturally, are eco-friendly. You won’t, however, find much respite from the weather this time of year in Taipei, our Destination on page 12. Just three hours’ flight from Tokyo, though, is a pulsating city of culture, history and, of course, some of the world’s best Chinese cuisine. Taiwan could be on the cusp of permanent change as it embraces its mainland neighbor’s nascent overtures, so our writer suggests skipping familiar Southeast Asian beaches for this friendly, safe and fascinating country.
Simon Farrell Editor-in-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org
GUIDE TO INTERNATIONAL
SCHOOLS IN JAPAN “Offers the most in-depth account of Japanese international schools available.”
— American Father living in Japan
By number-one bestselling author Caroline Pover, the guide features six pages of detailed research on each of more than 100 schools, complemented by photographs. This is an essential resource for expatriate parents, bicultural families, and internationally minded Japanese parents. 704 pages retailing at ¥5,000. READ ABOUT: Age, gender mix, student nationality • Class & school size • History, goals, ethos, curriculum • Facilities, hours, semesters, vacations • Key staff backgrounds & qualifications • Awards & recognitions • Languages taught & language of instruction • Services for bicultural children • Special needs & gifted child programs • Level & placement tests held • Religious affiliations • Lunch policies • Disciplinary procedures • Sex education • School buses and parking • Security • Homework • Trips & special events • Extracurricular programs • Expected parental involvement • Alumni activities • Fees, discounts, and scholarships • Application procedures & acceptance criteria
www.internationalschoolsguidebook.com Kaleidoscope / 3
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appetite for adventure Scenic and gastronomic Hokkaido hits the spot for piling on pounds and working them off. By Justin McCurry Photography by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert
Most tourists are drawn to Hokkaido by the northernmost island’s unspoiled national parks, dotted with volcanoes and hot springs, and a plethora of wildlife not found anywhere else in Japan. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Hokkaido three times— always for work—but determined on every occasion to leave enough time to sample its other great contribution to our communal enjoyment of nature’s bounty: food and drink. Osaka City in the Kansai region of Honshu describes itself, with typical understatement, as Japan’s kitchen; but Hokkaido surely comes a close second. Its cuisine may lack the diversity of Japan’s second largest city; but what Hokkaido does, it does better than anywhere else: from dairy products and seafood, to beer and whisky. My conversion came in the simplest form imaginable: I never conceived it would be possible to get excited about humble potato … until I ate thick slices of grilled Hokkaido spud, dripping with melted butter. When cooking is that simple, the extravagance must come from the quality of the ingredients. For that, Hokkaido, a 90-min flight from Tokyo, has its location to thank. Our gastronomic journey this time round began in the island’s eastern belt, in Akan—a spa town located in the shadow of a volcanic mountain range, and overlooking one of Hokkaido’s magnificent caldera lakes. Akan lake is synonymous with the marimo, spherical clusters of green moss that grow in large numbers only here in Japan, and in Estonia and Alaska. The marimo, sadly rare enough to have merited inclusion in Japan’s endangered “red” list. They form the centerpiece of an annual festival performed by the area’s Ainu community, Japan’s indigenous people who have lived on Hokkaido and the Russian island of Sakhalin for at least 700 years.
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The Yoichi distillery is the stuff of distillersâ€™ dreams, its early 20th century buildings set amid stunning mountains, a fast-flowing river, and an untamed Sea of Japan coastline.
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▲ This Nikka distillery in Yoichi makes one of the best whiskies in the world.
The chances of happening upon an authentic Ainu restaurant are as slim as spotting a colony of marimo in their natural habitat. By one estimate, there are just two such eateries in the entire country. Fortunately, many of the restaurants in Kotan, a re-creation of an Ainu village at Akan’s outskirts, serve dishes that borrow heavily from Ainu cuisine. Though Banya, our venue for lunch, looked like it could do with a lick of paint, what it lacked in style it made up for with steaming bowls of ramen made with gyoja ninniku—a wild mountain garlic sometimes referred to as Ainu onion—and plates of venison sausage. The latter was satisfyingly rich and smoky, if a little salty; and the party of middleaged tourists at the next table quickly demolished plates of raw venison and mugs of ice-cold Sapporo beer. But there would be no lunchtime drinking for us, for the simple reason that the best way to explore much of Hokkaido is by car. In the more remote areas, it is possible to drive for miles without seeing another vehicle. And there is something radically un-Japanese about being able to stop and peruse roadside stalls selling ice cream, sweet corn and, yes, potatoes. The next stage of our journey took us even farther east to the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005, in recognition of its large number of seabirds, sea lions, Ezo deer, dolphins, whales, and one of the world’s biggest concentrations of brown bears. Dinner in Utoro, a seaside town on the cusp of the UNESCO site, was a multi-course symphony of texture and color, much of it brought directly from the port in front of our hotel. There were salmon, eel, kegani hairy crab, tempura mountain vegetables, and charcoal-grilled Shiretoko beef that is a meaty, heavy antidote to the soft, heavily marbled—and dare it be said, overrated?—version typifying the ultimate in Japanese beef. Despite our early-morning hike through Shiretoko’s primeval forests, the local bear population clearly had better things to do than terrorize a couple of tourists. The hunger—thankfully—was ours alone.
Maruse raisin butter cookies
Judging by the review given by our Ainu guide for around Shiretoko, it would take a brave soul to attempt to eat the chewy, smelly flesh of a bear. That said, I did have to think for a while before deciding against bringing home a tin of bear curry from Memambetsu Airport. In the end, there was no contest between that and a box of what must rank among the best omiyage in Japan: Maruse raisin butter cookies. Fortunately for those, like myself, who gain weight at the mere sight of a raisin butter cookie or frosty glass of Sapporo Classic, Hokkaido is unrivaled in its opportunities to shed a few pounds in the great outdoors. After a brief hiatus at the end of the skiing season, Niseko, in southwest Hokkaido, comes back to life in early summer as a magnet for urbanites craving lungfuls of clean air.
The Niseko Adventure Centre, run by the Australian adventurer Ross Findlay, offers a wide range of activities, including kayaking, trekking, climbing and mountain biking. I opted for a white-water rafting trip down the rapids of the Shiribeshi River that took me and five other novices past a thick forest and wetlands, and through deep pools of becalmed water and stretches of hair-raising currents. The fresh air served only to create an even heartier appetite, which we would satisfy later in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s biggest city. Appetite duly restored, there was time before the final leg of our journey in Sapporo for a visit to Yoichi, home to a Nikka distillery that makes one of the finest whiskies in the world. Aficionados of the “water of life” seemed to agree when they named Yoichi’s 1984 single malt as the best in the world at the 2008 World Whisky Awards, fending off challenges from the best that even Scotland could offer.
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It is easy to see why. The Yoichi distillery is the stuff of distillers’ dreams, its early 20th century buildings set amid stunning mountains, a fast-flowing river, and an untamed Sea of Japan coastline. The distillery operates free tours of the sprawling grounds and the chance to taste some of Yoichi’s wares, although there is a charge for the more exclusive labels. The museum shows a surprisingly poignant film about the distillery’s founder, Masataka Taketsuru, and his wife, Rita, whom he met while studying distilling in Scotland in the early 1900s, before returning to Japan to open Yoichi in 1934. I left, warmed to the core by a few drams of whisky—and armed with a half-bottle of Yoichi’s “woody and vanillic” single malt. There is barely a region of Japan that doesn’t describe its ramen as the best in the country, but Sapporo has a stronger claim than most to the title of the noodle’s spiritual home. We were not going to leave without putting that claim to the test, but, first, an appointment with the city’s other great eponymous brand: beer. The redbrick buildings of Sapporo’s historic brewery, dominated by a chimney emblazoned with the brand’s iconic pole star, produced their final barrel of beer decades ago. (Modernization saw the premises moved to a new location outside the city.) Today the beverage comes in chilled glass mugs at the brewery’s vast beer hall, a mercifully short walk from the museum, which celebrates Sapporo’s 130 years in the brewing business and offers a tasting set of three beers, including the rich and malty Kaitakushi, for just ¥400. The beer hall is dominated by a magnificent copper wort kettle, looking down benevolently on up to 1,000 diners who come here for the beer and to gorge on the restaurant’s signature dish, Genghis Khan—slices of lamb and vegetables barbecued on a cast-iron “helmet,” complete with hollow edges to capture the dripping fat. The accent is on simplicity. For ¥3,670 per head, you can eat as much lamb as you see fit, helped down with mugs of Sapporo’s original draft, its slightly maltier “Black” version, or a half-and-half mixture of the two. Two hours of fevered grilling later, and reluctant to drag ourselves from the warm glow of the beer hall into the crisp evening air, it seemed sensible to try and walk off our overindulgence—ahead of our final stop—in Ramen Yokocho, a noodle oasis set among the gentle sleaze of Sapporo’s Susukino district.
▲ Ramen Yokocho – Noodle Oasis
Deciding which of the myriad soups and toppings would represent the authentic taste of Hokkaido was harder than we’d expected. In the end, our stomachs made the decision for us. Alas, the digestive demands of Mr. Khan and his beer-friendly lamb barbecue would continue well into the evening, and we left Hokkaido the next morning thinking only of what might have been. Nothing—not even lingering outside Rai Rai Ken, one of the city’s oldest ramen shops—could coax my appetite out of its slumber. I have since found consolation in my gluttony: I now have a legitimate reason, in my own mind at least, to return to Hokkaido and resume my quest for noodle nirvana. Justin McCurry is Tokyo correspondent for The Guardian.
GETTING THERE See the Japan Airlines Web site for details of flights between Tokyo and several locations in Hokkaido. www.jal.co.jp/en/dom WHERE TO STAY Shiretoko Grand Hotel “Kita Kobushi”: Utoro Higashi 172, Shari-cho, Shari-gun. Tel. 0152-24-2021 www.shiretoko.co.jp/english/ Abashiri Central Hotel: 2-jonishi 3-chome, Abashiri City. Tel. 0152-44-5151 www.abashirich.com/index2.html Keio Plaza Hotel: 2-1 kita-5 jonishi-7, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City. Tel. 011-271-0111 www.keioplaza-sapporo.co.jp/english FURTHER INFORMATION Toyota car rental: www.toyotarentacar.net/english Niseko Adventure Centre: www.nac-web.com Japan National Tourist Organization: www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ Hokkaido Tourism Organization: www.visit-hokkaido.jp/en Nikka Whisky’s Yoichi Distillery Tour: www.nikka.com/eng/distilleries/yoichi.html Sapporo Beer Museum and Beer Hall: www.sapporobeer.jp/english/guide/sapporo/
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Perfect 10: Gel Nails
Here’s the thing about a standard manicure using nail varnish: it takes forever to dry properly. Chances are the perfect set of gleaming nails you leave the salon with will soon enough sport a few unattractive dents and scratches. You’re sure to be in need of another manicure within the week. By Catherine Shaw
Truth be told, however, I doubt there’s many people with the time, let alone the dedication, for an intensive weekly grooming routine at the salon, never mind spending the subsequent hours waving their hands in the air in a strange varnish-drying action. There are also only so many times they can get away with the excuse of not washing up because they’ve just had their nails done. I’ve always assumed, for the most part, that Japanese women spent inordinate amounts of time on their perfect nails; but it appears I’ve been living in the nail’s equivalent of the Dark Ages. “No one uses polish anymore,” chorused my Japanese friends when I decided to get to the bottom of their permanently sleek and shiny nails. “Gel nails are what we now use.” “What? At ¥10,000 a go!” I gasped, having earlier checked out a few salons around town. In actuality, it turns out that the vast majority of Japanese women invest in a DIY gel nail kit to create the perfect manicures at home—for a fraction of the salon price. Being a gel novice—and slightly put off by the scientific description of it being a pre-mixed polymer and monomer gel needing curing under ultraviolet lights—I decided to play it safe. The basic techniques were introduced through a professional salon manicure, followed by an attempt at home.
“No one uses polish anymore. Gel nails are what we now use.”
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I’ll happily admit that, following my gel conversion, I now find myself admiring my own newly transformed rock-hard nails. The process is relatively simple. Instead of regular varnish, non-acrylic soluble gels are applied like you would a regular manicure, but with a small paintbrush. The gel dries in seconds, leaving hard but flexible protective layers. For DIY application, you need to remember to clean the nail first. You next paint on a base coat, apply the gel with a small brush (invest in a decent brush for this) and then add the topcoat. In between applying each of the gel layers, you pop your hands under a UV light for about 20 seconds. This step cures each layer into a hard, non-permeable polish. The benefits of this relatively new DIY manicure are many. Any painting mistakes, for example, are easily corrected before placing under the UV light (perfect for those with shaky hands). After applying the final coat, you can immediately use your hands without fear of chipping. In the interests of scientific research, I tried digging out a metal memory chip embedded in my digital camera—the two fingernails didn’t show a scratch. Obviously, gel nails are the ideal holiday grooming technique—and a lazy person’s best friend. The coating lasts about three weeks and withstands all kinds of elements—from seawater to beach sand. The nails also are natural looking, especially when using clear gel that gives them a glossy, healthy appearance. “Gel nails are more in demand than acrylic nails,” explains one manicurist. “Most clients prefer it because it has less impact on their nails and is low-maintenance. It also hasn’t got that horrible smell acrylic nail manicures produce.” You need a special solvent to remove the gel, so applying regular varnish over it won’t affect the gel manicure underneath. As gel nails grow out from the root, you can easily fill in—giving you another week or two of glossy nails.
Much to my surprise, I discovered that gel nails are not just for women. While purchasing my starter nail kit at Seibu Parco’s Loft in Shibuya, I was intrigued to find two men inspecting the same products. It turns out both suffer from split nails and had been advised by their girlfriends to try the clear gel. “I don’t want to go to a girl’s salon,” admitted one of the gents. “This kit comes with a DVD, and it looks quite easy.” I assured him that he had nothing to be embarrassed about. After all, he is following a time-honored tradition: both men and women have decorated their nails since as early as 5,000 BC. Catherine Shaw is a freelance writer based in Tokyo.
where to buy Starter Gel Manicure kits range from ¥3,000 to ¥5,000 without a UV light; and ¥9,000 to ¥12,000 with a small light box. The Loft, across the street from HMV in Shibuya, carries a wide variety of colors, decorations, UV lights; and the friendly staff is on hand to help non-Japanese speakers. For DIY gel nails, it is advisable to invest in the very best equipment available. For example, a 9-watt bulb will cure faster than a 6-watt UV light. Visit a professional manicurist for your first gel nail application, and then apply the techniques at home with greater confidence.
DIY GEL NAIL KIT
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Shilin Night Market photos courtesy Taiwan Tourism
The Taiwan touch For culture and cuisine close to Japan, this is an island of pleasant surprises. By Julian Ryall
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Taipei 101 Tower Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Taiwan assaults the senses. The smells and tastes of the myriad food stalls in the night markets, the cacophony of the motor scooters that shimmy through the traffic, the colors of the neon in the night and the busy thoroughfares by day—the contact with a country that is promoting itself with the slogan –
“Touch your heart” For a destination that is so close to Japan, less than three hours by air, it is remarkable that not more people take advantage of a vibrant city that has so much to offer. Perhaps that is, in part, due to a legacy of beliefs that Taipei has little for the visitor in terms of culture or entertainment; that its cuisine is, in some ways, inferior to that of the mainland. Today, nothing could be further from the truth. The Taiwanese capital, Taipei, sprawling primarily over the east bank of the Danshui River, was little more than a trading port for tea and camphor from China 150 years ago. Trade fostered growth and the construction of a walled town in the 1880s; and, with the arrival of the Japanese, elevation in status to the island’s key city. Chiang Kai-Shek led the remnants of the nationalist forces to Taipei after the civil war on the mainland, and the colossal monument to the man revered as the father of the nation is a must-see on any itinerary.
Fronted by a huge traditional Chinese gateway, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is a gracefully shaped building open on one side and topped by an eight-sided blue roof. Within sits an enormous bronze statue that is guarded around the clock, and etched into the wall behind the effigy are the characters for “ethics,” “democracy” and “science.” The vast parkland surrounding the hall—which includes a museum containing Chiang Kai-Shek’s uniforms and reinforced Cadillacs—also houses the traditionally designed National Theater and the National Concert Hall. But for an overdose of Chinese architecture and to see the Taiwanese at prayer, the best place is Longhsan Temple, close to the river, to the west of the city. Visited by local people and the famous alike—President Ma Yingjeou pays his respects here before elections—it has a waterfall in the courtyard and cobblestones that were ballast in ships that brought the nationalists to the island. Incense sticks in enormous Kaleidoscope / 13
Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf
braziers give off clouds of smoke amid the red and gold columns, lanterns and extravagant decorations. In stark contrast to the old districts, with their narrow streets and reminders of the past, the ultra-modern Taipei 101 Tower can be seen from anywhere in the city and has only recently been overtaken as the tallest building in the world. In the far east of the city, where hiking and bike trails lead off into the surrounding hills, the 508m Taipei 101 is designed to resemble a length of bamboo with ropes tied around the joints. From the observation deck, the whole of the city is laid out like a map—and the silence is remarkable after being at street level. The hustle and bustle can conspire to wear a visitor down, but there are a couple of places close to the heart of the city that serve to refresh and rejuvenate. In the hills to the north are the hushed halls of the National Palace Museum. They’re hushed because few visitors are less than stunned at arguably the world’s finest collection of Chinese art. A collection started thousands of years ago by the Han Dynasty emperors, it was kept under lock and key in the Forbidden City in Beijing until the nationalists moved the treasure before the communists literally could seize it (as the former, who included artisans and scholars, were weaving their way to the coast of China). The collection has screens made of jade, innumerable ceramic and bronze vessels that are so well preserved they could have been made yesterday, and an incredible ball made of a single piece of ivory that has been intricately carved—and contains 17 other balls that are similarly decorated. The collection is so vast 14 / Kaleidoscope
Yangminshan National Park
The 508m Taipei 101 is designed to resemble a length of bamboo with ropes tied around the joints. From the observation deck, the whole of the city is laid out like a mapâ€”and the silence is remarkable after being at street level.
All Nippon Airways flies twice daily from Tokyo Narita to Taipei, departing at 09:20 and 18:20. For further details, fares and promotions, please refer to the ANA Skyweb: www.ana.co.jp/eng
that only 2% can be displayed at any one time (collection rotated on a regular basis), with the rest originally stored 200m-deep inside the mountains behind and, since 1985, in a large temperature/humiditycontrolled, fire-proof 4,000m2 modern facility. A little further afield are two towns that are popular day trips for Taipeiâ€™s residents. At the very northern end of the Danshui Line stands a former fishing port bearing the same name that has reinvented itself as a destination for urbanites to relax. Small fishing skiffs are moored alongside the sea wall, in waters receding as low tide approaches, and white egrets pick through the flats for a meal. Across the wide river mouth, the pyramidal hills of Guanyinshan rise, with temples dotting the upper slopes, and apartment blocks and shopping districts clustered around the wharves.
You may find it difficult to keep your sense of direction after plunging off the main thoroughfares and into the back streets, as crowds jostle and sway, stallholders call out and show off their wares, and motorcycles force their way through the mayhem. Kaleidoscope / 15
Ducks are hung on racks over ovens, bowls of noodles steam, and the dumplings are excellent. Fried tofu is a staple, along with chickens’ feet and pigs’ trotters; but many a Taiwanese will tell you that duck eggs observing a thousand-year tradition—stored underground for six months— are their preferred delicacy.
Ferries ply back and forth, depositing travelers arriving on the Danshui side at river wharves awash with stalls selling grilled squid, ice cream and fish dumplings. The sea wall leads all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf, a new development that feels somewhat staged; but the two forts commanding the straits are the genuine article. Huwei Fort, built by German engineers in 1886, has massive walls with canon positions on top. A short distance away is Fort San Domingo, a former fortress following Spanish occupation of the region in the 1620s. Adjacent is the impressive British Consul General residence, which was re-occupied as recently as 1972. Just six stops back down the railway line is the Beitou, a hot springs resort that was the former home of witches when the aboriginal tribes lived here. Dozens of hotels dot the hills that rise up behind the town, including one pool known as Hell Valley, where blue sulfur springs form underground.
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Back in the city, there is only one way to spend a Taipei evening. Districts throughout the city all have their own night market, but one of the biggest and best is close to National Taiwan University at Gongguan. You may find it difficult to keep your sense of direction after plunging off the main thoroughfares and into the back streets, as crowds jostle and sway, stall-holders call out and show off their wares, and motorcycles force their way through the mayhem. Ducks are hung on racks over ovens, bowls of noodles steam, and the dumplings are excellent. Fried tofu is a staple, along with chickens’ feet and pigs’ trotters; but many a Taiwanese will tell you that duck eggs observing a thousand-year tradition—stored underground for six months—are their preferred delicacy.
Julian Ryall is the The Daily Telegraph’s Tokyo correspondent.
shaving latest Technology is helping electric shaving appeal to men and women like never before. By John Boyd
Wet or Dry? If you are one of those who think real men don’t use electric razors, it might be time to broaden your mind. Recent advancements on the dry front mean more men than ever are finding the convenience of an electric razor hard to resist—particularly those prone to cuts, nicks and razor bumps that are a foregone eventuality of shaving with a blade and messy cream. Similar advances have also been made in women’s shavers, so they need not feel left out of the wet/dry debate. There are electric razors that use a rotary cutting action featuring two or three spinning heads, and the foil-based kind that employs a thin metal mesh to protect the skin from the cutters. Preference remains an individual choice, so best to try each type before deciding. Braun Inc. has come up with the most novel shaver design in recent years with its renamed Series 7 (formerly Prosonic) models that pulse 10,000 times a minute against the skin to expose and cut more stubble. Though a foil-type shaver, it takes a little getting used to—so different is the action compared to the conventional back-and-forth movement associated with most foil shavers. The result is a close shave. The four models in Series 7 essentially provide the same closeness of shave, with only small differences in design apparent. But the top-three model comes with a cleaning system that leaves the shaver feeling and smelling like new. The cleaning liquid is alcohol-based; a cartridge costs around ¥500 and needs replacing every couple of months or so, depending on frequency of use. The shaver can also be cleaned using running water. Prices range from around ¥20,000 to ¥30,000. Panasonic Inc.’s response to Braun is to add an additional cutting head for a total of four in its newest Lamdash foilbased models. The shaver’s linear motor now operates at an astonishing 14,000 strokes a minute and fairs well with the competition in the closeness of shave it delivers. The five Lamdash shavers are priced from between ¥20,000 to ¥45,000, and the high-end models come with automatic cleaning systems. Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. has long been known for its distinctive triple-head rotary design. The newest Arcitec models have the heads raised on a rubberized pivot that makes for extremely flexible shaving. Prices are similar to the Braun models and include cleaning systems. All three manufacturers also make shavers for women, albeit model choices are more limited. Some of the higher-end products come with different heads for shaving underarms, the legs and bikini line. All manufacturers emphasize their products’ protection of the skin, while prices are roughly about half those of the men’s models. A few, similar to some of the men’s shavers, can be used wet or dry. No one is arguing electric shavers give as close a shave as a razor. But recent advancements do improve their appeal, while automatic cleaning systems make them a greater convenience than ever. No wonder, then, that even real men—and women—are going dry. John Boyd is a freelance technology writer based in Kawasaki.
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PS Company, Ltd.
It’s not the heat, … Cool solutions for humid climes. By Tony McNicol
Many customers were in the cooler northern climes of Japan. “We had a solution for wintertime, but not summertime,” says CEO Takehisa Hirayama of PS Company, Ltd., in explaining why they made only radiators for heating during the first 30 years after being founded in 1960.
But on a recent late spring day, their office, just across from Yoyogi Park in Shibuya, is deliciously cool—despite it being unseasonably warm outside. A light breeze is blowing through the open windows, and the leaves of the potted plants standing in the showroom are rustling quietly. As Hirayama points out, this room is cooled by only a 2m-high radiator in the corner. Functioning with cold water instead of hot, the same heating radiator can be used to cool the space. The challenge in Japan, however, was that everyone had assumed that cooling radiators were suitable for only hot and dry climates. In humid weather conditions, beads of moisture quickly would gather on the metal surface. But around 15 years ago, PS produced the world’s first cooling radiator for humid climates. The solution was simple. “We just let the water condense, and drain it in a tray at the bottom,” says Hirayama. Although they began by marketing the radiators to flower shops (an inevitably wet environment), the reaction from shop employees was so positive that they soon began selling to homes. A big advantage is that users can leave windows open in summer— air movement actually improves the efficiency of the system. Another plus is the striking appearance of the products, which have become architectural features in the homes where they are installed. The units can be custom designed—as large as 6m-tall—which Hirayama refers to as design radiators. The cost of the system depends on the size, thermal performance and location of the building. PS has developed systems for hospitals and wine cellars, along with flower shops and residences. “It [for wine cellars] creates an ambience that is very close to a wine cave in Europe,” says Hirayama. He recommends the system for collections of more than 400 bottles. The biggest advantage is the stable comfortable temperature all year round—no blasts of heat in winter or frigid winds in summer. “Running a [typical] Japanese heating system is like driving a Porsche in the middle of the Ginza,” says Hirayama, “ . . . accelerate and stop . . . accelerate and stop.” Not only do PS radiators create a comfortable environment, they are better for the environment. If a building is equipped with PS radiators, it can run twice as efficiently as with other systems. It also pays for itself well within the lifetime of the residence. Tony McNicol is a freelance writer and photographer based in Tokyo. Kaleidoscope / 19
time for luxury Indulgent accessory for show offs, or stylish investment in history and craftsmanship? By Justin McCurry Photography by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert
When it comes to what to wear on your wrist, the world is divided into two sets of people. There are those for whom a watch is purely functional, an incidental adornment that is worn without much obvious pride and tucked away, for the most part, beneath the cuffs of a shirt or jacket. But for others, a watch is much more than a means of keeping time. It must perform that function with absolute accuracy, of course, but anyone who is prepared to spend as much on a watch as, say, a luxury holiday or car, is buying into history, style, workmanship and, let’s be honest, the right to show off. These are not, it has to be said, happy days for the luxury
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market in general, and watches are no exception. While the super-rich will always have the means to indulge, the rest of us in the second category have to think very carefully, naturally looking with trepidation on the prospect of parting with several hundred thousand—perhaps several million—yen. The object of our desires may well be a handcrafted timepiece reflecting Swiss engineering ingenuity, but an essential it is not. In Japan, owning a luxury watch can mean having the weight of a Rolex dripping conspicuously from the wrist. But in Tokyo, it is only part of the medley of brands available at specialist boutiques occupying the more salubrious neighborhoods.
According to a recent survey by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Omega, Rolex and Gucci were the three best-known brands among Japanese consumers aged over 20 who expressed an interest in watches priced at ¥100,000 or more. Included on the list were Tag Heuer, Breitling, Zenith, and Baume & Mercier. Japanese watchmakers are well represented by Seiko and Citizen, and the tech-crowd are catered for by the quirky inventiveness that Casio has made all its own. The recession and the popularity of the cellphone, which for many has replaced the watch as the preferred timepiece, have undermined Japan’s market for expensive wristwatches.
Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. The rush to increase sales translates into bigger discounts and more scope for bartering at the many stores trading in used and antique watches. Also, dedicated watch retailers may yet step in to fill the gap left by weakened department stores and non-specialist outlets. “It may be the case that branded stand-alone stores might hold up because of a wider trend in luxury consumption,” says Michael Causton, a senior partner in Sensu, a Tokyo-based marketing agency. “With people buying less luxury, when they do, they are increasingly preferring to do so at one of the glitzy stand-alone stores or towers in Ginza, rather than at the smaller department
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store concessions. They get that much more pampering for their buck, but they also get a much bigger selection. “And in the age of the Internet, brand comparisons are done online before purchase, so the whole department store crossbrand selection advantage seems to be moot. So as departmentstore watch sales collapse, more customers may transfer to standalone stores, propping up [overall market] sales at least for now.” So where to buy? In Tokyo, the sheer number of specialist watch retailers can be intimidating for the first-time buyer. A personal favorite is Tenshodo, a historic watch boutique that has been a familiar sight to Ginza shoppers since 1879, when it opened for business as a maker of inkan personal seals before becoming the first Japanese firm to import Zenith watches from Switzerland 90 years ago. Watches, rather like iPod playlists, say a lot about their owner: Tag Heuer for the self-consciously trendy; Rolex for the
exhibitionist; Dunhill for the old-school executive; Piaget for the successful entrepreneur; and Panerai for the wannabe Italian naval commander. Watch fashions change, of course, though thankfully for the buyer, with less frequency than those for clothes. Three years ago, watches with huge faces were all the rage, notably the Breitling aviation range, according to Koichiro Yonekawa of Tenshodo’s PR department. “But they seem to be going out of fashion a little, and people are again looking for smaller watches with a simple design, something more conservative.” Tenshodo, which stocks watches costing as much as ¥10 million, also boasts its own brand aimed, says Yonekawa, at people who want more than function, but can’t afford a high-end Swiss watch. This year Tenshodo also released a new line in collaboration with Zenith, to celebrate the store’s 130th anniversary. The Zenith Class Elite 2009 range is understated, beautifully made, and a real
Watches, rather like iPod playlists, say a lot about their owner: Tag Heuer for the self-consciously trendy; Rolex for the exhibitionist; Dunhill for the old-school executive; Piaget for the successful entrepreneur; and Panerai for the wannabe Italian naval commander.
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SHOPS Tenshodo http://www.tenshodo.co.jp/
Satin Doll http://www.satindollweb.com/
Jack Road http://www.jackroad.co.jp/
Cotton Tail http://www.cotton-tail.com/
Ishida Watch http://www.ishida-watch.com/
WATCH MAGAZINE http://watchnavi.jp
collector’s item. Its Calibre Elite 680, in an 18K rose gold case, will set you back ¥1,281,000, though bear in mind that you will be the owner of one of just 10 such watches ever made. The Ulysse Nardin San Marco, another limited edition collaboration, priced at ¥577,500, was released this year to mark the 90th year since Tenshodo introduced the Swiss watchmaker’s wares to the domestic market. While the Japanese penchant for expensive timepieces is influenced partly by unabashed status seeking, Yonekawa’s fascination has far more cultured origins. “It’s the same as with cars, cameras or any other machine,” says Yonekawa, who recommends a budget of “at least ¥400,000 for a decent Swiss watch. “The high-quality craftsmanship is obvious. When you open up a watch, you think ‘Wow, this really is something special.’ Remember, the mechanical watches don’t have batteries. They power themselves thanks to a tiny coil, which draws on natural energy as it slowly unfurls. It’s absolutely brilliant.”
Among the other trusted names in Tokyo’s overcrowded watch trade is Evance, whose multistory flagship store in the heart of the Ginza stocks all of the iconic names in horology: Rolex, Cartier, Tag Heuer, Breitling, Bvlgari, Hermès and Gucci, together with a selection of extravagantly bejeweled beasts ensconced on the top floor and carrying appropriately lofty price tags. Satin Doll, with stores in Shibuya, the Ginza and Shinjuku, stocks a wide range of new Rolex models and, for the bargain hunter, a decent inventory of used and antique models. The less specialized end of the spectrum is occupied by retailers selling jewelry, bags and other accessories—watches included—that appeal to younger consumers who aren’t afraid of a little wrist exposure, but who want to keep expenditure to a minimum.
Justin McCurry is The Guardian’s Tokyo correspondent.
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Festival Finds by David Umeda
1st - 15th Hakata Gion Yamagasa Festival in Fukuoka, on the southern main island of Kyushu, reaches its climax on the 15th with a fleet of giant floats topped by elaborate decorations that are paraded through the streets.
1st - 7th Nebuta Matsuri Festival, from the 2nd to noon on the 7th; and the Nebuta Matsuri Festival in Hirosaki, from the 1st to 7th, are spectacular summer festivals in Aomori, most northern tip of Honshu, and are televised nationwide. Enormous illuminated papiermâché figurines set on floats parade the streets in the evening.
1st - 31st Kangensai Music Festival of Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima island, near Hiroshima, inland Sea of Japan. Classical court music and dances are performed on brightly decorated boats. 7th Tanabata, or Star Festival, is celebrated nationwide. Legend has it that the stars Vega and Altair, the separated lovers, can meet each other across the Milky Way once a year on this day. Children set up bamboo branches hanging colorful paper strips on which poems are written. 13th - 16th (other areas: August 8th - 16th) Bon Festival. Buddhist religious rites in memory of the dead who revisit this world are observed throughout the country. A Bon dance celebration is held nightly in most communities, and visitors are invited to join in on this easy-to-learn folk dance. 14th Nachi Himatsuri, or Fire Festival, of Nachi Shrine, Nachi-Katsuura, Wakayama, southeast Honshu, is visually defined by the lighting of 12 giant torches carried by white-robed priests. 16th - 17th Gion Matsuri, the biggest festival in Kyoto, a 140-min Shinkansen bullet train ride southwest from Tokyo, dates back to the 9th century when people tried to seek the protection of the gods against a pestilence that was then ravaging the city. Gorgeous floats parade through the main streets on the 17th. 23rd - 25th Soma-no-maoi, or Horse-Chasing Festival, in Haramachi, Fukushima Prefecture, northwest Honshu, is a dynamic contest of a thousand horse riders in ancient samurai armor vying for three sacred flags. 24th - 25th Tenjin Matsuri Festival of Temmangu Shrine in Osaka, a 140-min Shinkansen bullet train ride southwest from Tokyo. A fleet of boats bearing portable shrines sail down the Dojima River
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3rd - 6th Kanto Matsuri Festival in Akita, northwest Honshu, features a parade of men vying to balance Kanto, or long bamboo poles, hung with many lit lanterns, on their shoulders, foreheads, chins or hips. 5th - 7th Hanagasa Festival in Yamagata Prefecture, northwest Honshu, features a dance parade through the streets by more than 10,000 townspeople wearing Hanagasa, which are round straw hats adorned with brightly colored artificial flowers. 6th - 8th Tanabata, or Star Festival, in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, a 2.5hr Shinkansen bullet train ride north from Tokyo, is the largest and brightest of its kind. The main streets are decorated with numerous colored paper streamers and banners. Early August Waraku Odori, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, just 125km from Tokyo, is one of the most popular folk dances performed in Japan during the Bon season. Thousands of people dance to the accompaniment of festive music. 12th - 15th Awa Odori Folk Dance Festival in Tokushima, on the smallest main island of Shikoku. The entire city resounds with singing and dancing, day and night; and visitors are encouraged to join this joyful dancing parade. 16th Daimonji Bonfire on Mt. Nyoigatake in Kyoto. A spectacular bonfire in the shape of the Chinese character “Dai” (big) can be viewed from downtown Kyoto. Nasu and kyuri represent fresh food that is meant to welcome the departed back during the Obon season.
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