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CONTEMPORARY

LAND OF THE

RISING SUN

2017 Japan-Kuwait Relations Deep-Rooted and Prosperous

Takashi Ashiki, Ambassador of Japan to the State of Kuwait

7 PLACES IN JAPAN YOU MUST VISIT IN 2017

Tono: Legends and Landscapes Enjoy delicious Fish in Tokyo! Nagano: Snow Paradise KOTATSU COMFORTS FLOAT THROUGH

ASAKUSA Best Al-Yousifi powers ahead with steady growth

Interview with Wael Mohamad Deeb

10 distinctive features

of the Japanese education system SPECIAL ISSUE

Wackiest

Japanese Inventions issuu.com/smiqbal issuu.com/e-gulfmedia Scan this QR code with your smart phone/tablet and enjoying reading. To read it on your computer, simply visit the web link above.

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AL-Rai, Al Ghazali St., Opposite Centerpoint, P.O. Box: 42018, Shuwaikh 70651, Kuwait Tel: (965) 24748903 / 5 / 7 Fax: (965) 24748909 E-mail: imcck@imcck.com www.imcck.com


The Land of the Rising Sun

Issue: 2007

Issue: 2008

In cooperation with the Embassy of Japan - Kuwait Chairman & Editor-in-Chief

Faisal Motlaq Bejran Bajran Issue: 2009

General Manager

M. Irfan Nagra Joint Editor

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Japan waits for you ...

Japan-Kuwait Relations Deep-Rooted and Prosperous Takashi Ashiki, Ambassador of Japan to the State of Kuwait

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HAPPENINGS - Events & PR News

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Exlusive: Interview with Wael Mohamad Deeb, Country Head at Best Al-Yousifi

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10 distinctive features of the Japanese education system

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A Muslim's Guide to Japan

40

Shiki-Shima: The world's most luxurious train?

42

Famous Japanese People

44

Kimono 101

48 50

The Art of Japanese Cuisine Enjoy delicious Fish in Tokyo!

54

Soy sauce, a very traditional condiment, has evolved in surprising ways!

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Wackiest Japanese Inventions You Have to See to Believe

60

The Best Apps for Your Trip to Japan

66

7 PLACES IN JAPAN YOU MUST VISIT IN 2017

68

FLOAT THROUGH ASAKUSA

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KOTATSU COMFORTS

74

Tour the traditional shopping, entertainment and residential districts along the Tokyu Line in just 4 hours!

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Nagano: Snow Paradise

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Tono: Legends and Landscapes

86

Samurai Residences of Izumi

90

Change Your Workout

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Issue: 2011

Ambassador Tsujihara seeks to strengthen Kuwait-Japan ties

Top 10 Japanese Exporters

Popular Dishes of Japan Japan - Car Evolution

Japan Hot Spots Tokyo-New Perspectives

Sophisticated Digital Cameras Fans of Kyoto

Yukata - Traditional Garment Miss Japan crowned Miss International 2012

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Issue: 2015 CONTEMPORARY

2016 LAND OF THE RISING SUN

Japan-Kuwait n-Kuwait K it ties ti are llong standing t di Takashi ASHIKI, Ambassador

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Japan-Kuwait Relations Deep-Rooted and Prosperous Dear Readers, It is a privilege and a distinct honor for me to address you as the Ambassador of Japan to the State of Kuwait. We look at our deep-rooted relations and strategic partnership with Kuwait as one of the brightest examples of foreign relations between countries. For more than 50 years, Japan and Kuwait have been working together and sharing the same views in most regional and international matters.

Kuwait’s independence in 1961. Since then, the cooperation in broad spheres.The mutual support and solidarity that both countries showed to each other in critical times, namely the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the 2011 great earthquake and bonds between our countries.

Takashi Ashiki

Ambassador of Japan to the State of Kuwait

Business relations have years - trade exchange is

years - trade exchange is growing year after year and hit US$14 billion in 2014. Moreover, Japanese implementation of Kuwait’s ambitious national development plans. Furthermore, the two countries have signed a big number of agreements and

growing year after year and

planning, infrastructure, transport, electricity and

hit US$14 billion in 2014.

research and cultural exchange, etc. In May 2016, HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak visited Japan. During the visit, Sheikh

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Contemporary Japan - 2017


Kuwait and Japan diplomatic relations in 1961, the year of its independence

Jaberhad an Mohamad with HM the Emperor and Shinzo Abe. A joint statement was issued, in which both sides expressed satisfaction on the bilateral

“Comprehensive Partnership” between the two countries. As for the Japanese mission in Kuwait, the Embassy

animation workshops. The embassy also invites Japanese speakers to visit Kuwait and present culture to the Kuwaiti society. It always gives me great pleasure to see the increasing number of people participating in our cultural activities and events. I would like to renew our commitment to achieve the goal that the political leadership in both countries set for the years to come, to enhance the “Comprehensive Partnership” between the two countries. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the warm hospitality and concern that the Japanese community and I receive from the government and people of Kuwait.

Takashi Ashiki Ambassador of Japan to the State of Kuwait

Contemporary Japan - 2017

9


Faisal Motlaq Bdah Bajran Chairman

Ties are blooming Dear Readers, Welcome back to this latest issue of Contemporary Japan. It is heartening to see the relationship between Kuwait and Japan blooming, like the famous cherry blossoms! Ties between the two countries are strong and resilient as always. It gives me great pleasure to see the various initiatives taken by the Embassy of Japan in Kuwait in the form of a plethora of social and cultural events. The annual beach cleaning at Shuwaikh beach has become a wellknown and attended event, while the Japanese speech contest is also a popular fixture. To see Kuwaiti citizens compete in this event and speak Japanese is fun! Of course, Japan and animation cannot be separated, and the annual PLAMO comic-con festival has become an event to which cosplayers and manga fans make a beeline. All these events and a host of others only help in strengthening relations between Kuwait and Japan and boost people-to-people interactions and links. I hope readers will enjoy perusing this magazine, and hopefully it will whet their appetite to visit Japan in person.

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Contemporary Japan - 2017


FOREWORD

Feast for the senses

Mujahid Iqbal managing editor

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Contemporary Japan - 2017

Dear Readers, Welcome to the latest issue of Contemporary Japan. Every year, we strive to include a variety of articles in our magazine to give you a glimpse into the Japanese way of life. Like always, this issue is packed with news of happenings, tourism hotspots, travel tips and of course, food! As the summer season approaches, it seems almost everyone in Kuwait is getting ready to travel. With this magazine, we hope to give travellers a taste of Japan and encourage them to visit this magnificent country. Japan offers everything for all visitors – from first-time tourists to seasoned journeyers. Every area and city of Japan has something different to offer. Travelling though Japan is indeed a feast for the senses! Apart from tourism, Japan also offers plenty of business, study, healthcare and other opportunities. Japanese companies are renowned for their kaizen approach and meticulous attention to detail. This is no surprise, as Japanese products are of a very high standard and coveted everywhere. I hope readers enjoy the features this magazine offers. We will be back again with a variety of great new stories.


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HAPPENINGS

Embassy marks National Day The Japanese Embassy held a reception on the occasion of the country’s national day, attended by top officials including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khaled Al-Jarallah. Regarding Kuwait-

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Contemporary Japan - 2017

Japanese ties, Jarallah said the two friendly countries maintain exemplary and lively relations that kept growing over the last decades thanks to the top-level visit exchanges. He recalled the visits to

Japan by HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.


HAPPENINGS

All about Japan at the book fair The Embassy of Japan participated in November 2016 in the book fair with a booth in hall 7. The booth

calligraphy. Many parents and their children enjoyed these activities in a very friendly atmosphere and took their works home with them.

also presented origami and Japanese

Contemporary Japan - 2017

15


HAPPENINGS

Ambassador Takashi hosts reception on the occasion

Embassy marks Japan Self-Defence Forces Day Ambassador of Japan to the State of Kuwait, HE Takashi Ashiki hosted a reception at the Japanese ambassador’s residence on the occasion of Japan Self-Defence Forces Day which commemorates the formation of Japan’s forces, on Monday evening. The event was attended by Kuwaiti Brigadier General Abdulla Al Butti, Deputy Air Force commander, representatives of the government and MOFA as well as several members of the diplomatic corps. Defence Attaché Colonel Daisuke Kadota, in his address, expressed his thanks to the government and the people of Kuwait for the warm hospitality offered to the diplomatic and military missions in Kuwait. He said, “After

three years in Kuwait, I would like to express my admiration of HH the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah on the safety and security blessings that this good State is enjoying under His rule.” He commended the Kuwaiti Army for reinstating the National Military Service which and deemed it a step in the right direction. He shared that having been assigned as a defence attaché in 2014, he had witnessed remarkable progress in the relations between Japan and Kuwait and the countries shared common interests in preserving peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world. “In 2015, I had the honour of taking part in Eagle Resolve Exercise. What really

Photos from the reception held at Japanese ambassador’s residence 16

Contemporary Japan - 2017

impressed me in it was the superior level the operational capabilities of the Kuwait Armed Forces accomplishing such a large complicated exercise. He informed that Kuwait and Japan had dialogue in Tokyo in March 2016 after to make this dialogue happen. “It became countries to deepen the understanding of the security environment of each other and to allow us to further bolster cooperation in various areas of common interests.” He pointed out that in 2017, a senior leaders’ exchange had taken place, Commandant of Abdullah Al Mubarak Comman and Staff College paid a visit to his counterpart in Japan, where constructive and straightforward discussions were held which enhanced their leadership’s understanding of the Kuwait Armed Forces. “During my mission, I did my best to contribute and bolster the bonds of friendship that these efforts resulted in establishing the solid basis of Kuwait and Japan Defense cooperation”, he said, announcing the end of his posting in Kuwait. He thanked colleagues and friend for their support and informed that he will be succeeded by Colonel Arima next month.


HAPPENINGS

Group photo with H.E. Ambassador Takashi Ashiki

Embassy of Japan organizes origami workshop The Embassy of Japan in the State of Kuwait organized an origami workshop at New English School. His Excellency the Ambassador, Takashi Ashiki delivered his speech and thanked the school and the students for participating. Head of the junior school, Mark Medely, students, some school

staff and Japanese guests participated in the workshop. The workshop hosted the origami teacher Mrs Sumaya Al-Anezi, who presented the art of origami to participants.

with Robin star, followed by frog shape, and ninja shiriken. Everyone enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of the workshop. At the end, photos were taken with the students, the principal, and embassy staff.

Everyone enjoyed making some shapes by themselves with Mrs Sumaya. They started

Participants during the origami workshop

Contemporary Japan - 2017

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HAPPENINGS

Embassy organizes Shuwaikh Beach cleaning drive The Japanese Embassy of Kuwait,in coordination with Kuwait Societyfor Environment Protection, organized a cleaning campaign on Shuwaikh Beach with the participationof the Japanese communityin Kuwait and members of the society.The campaign, which is organizedannually by the JapaneseEmbassy, aims to spread awarenessamong the public about theneed to protect the marine environment.

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Director General of EnvironmentPublic Authority (EPA) Sheikh Abdullah AlAhmad hailed the effortsexerted by the Japanese Embassyto keep the environment of Kuwaitclean and promote the concepts ofvoluntary service, cleanliness andsustainable development amongthe people.

environment clean so thatwe enjoy the beautiful atmosphereof Kuwait and also ensure protectionof marine lives. The campaignis a true expression of the need forprotecting our environment fromnegative destructive consequencesof pollution which is dangerous notonly for our current generation butalso the future The Japanese Ambassador to Kuwait generations�. Takashi Ashiki said: “The cleaning campaign is aimed at keepingthe


HAPPENINGS

Ambassador attends final match of JKA tournament HE the Ambassador Ashiki Takashi attended the final match of the JKA tournament. He observed the talent of many trainees who are in love with

this sport. Their performance showed the deep dedication they have in their hearts.

Contemporary Japan - 2017

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HAPPENINGS

10th Japanese Speech Contest

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The Deanship of Community Service and Continuing Education at Kuwait University organized the 10thJapanese Speech Contest under thepatronage of the VicePresident of Kuwait University for Support Services Dr Jassim Ramadan Al-Kandari, in cooperation with the Japanese Embassy in Kuwait. Japanese Ambassador to Kuwait Takashi Ashiki and Chairman of the Japanese Society in Kuwait JutaroI to were present at the venue along with the Director of Continuing Learning, Training and Societal Development Fatima Bahman.

of Kuwait University, represented by the Deanship of Community Service and Continuing Education. He affirmed that the speech contest aims at creating a suitable atmosphere for cultural exchange among the people of both nations. The ambassador said the competition has motivated learners of the Japanese language in Kuwait to compete and showcase their skills by delivering a speech in the Japanese language concerning topics of their choice. He wished for more participation in the future contests.

Ashiki expressed appreciation for the efforts exerted by the organizers of the contest, which is regarded as one of thecultural activities that the embassy has been organizing since 2007 with the cooperation

Bahman expressed her delight over the fruitful cooperation between the deanship and the Japanese Embassy. She congratulated the winners of the contest and commended their skills in the Japanese

Contemporary Japan - 2017

language, adding that this has led the deanship to hold a series of Japanese language courses of various levels. The results of the contests we re announced by the judges of the contests comprising of Ashiki, Ito and Fatima Fakhrdin, a student in Japan. The winners were Latifa Hadi, Khaled Al-Bahri, and Meshari Hamad. The contest aimed at improving the speaking and presentation skills of nonJapanese learners of the Japanese language and to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their ability. Most participants were Kuwaitis who have learnt Japanese in various ways. The event was also a good occasion to encourage Kuwaitis to learn the Japanese language.


HAPPENINGS Contemporary Japan - 2017

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HAPPENINGS

Animation workshop at Qurain fest As part of the 23rd Qurain Cultural festival, NCCAL invited famous Japanese artist Mr Shuichi Seki and his assistant Mr Takashi Kojima to Kuwait with the cooperation of the Embassy of Japan in Kuwait. It was a 3-day event from January 24 to 26 and took place at the National Library of Kuwait. The first day saw a presentation of Seki’s famous animations such as Sindbad, Flona, Daddy Long Legs, Lucy, Tom Sawyer

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Contemporary Japan - 2017

and many others. Mr Ali Al-Youha, General Secretary of NCCAL, and Mr Takashi Ashiki, the Ambassador of Japan, were in attendance. The other two days saw workshops by Seki in which he drew the characters and taught the participants how to draw Sindbad and Flona. Many people attended the events and all went home with an autograph by Mr Seki.


HAPPENINGS Contemporary Japan - 2017

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HAPPENINGS 24

Japanese Embassy conducts cultural workshops

The Embassy of Japan in Kuwait organized Japanese cultural workshops in cooperation with DAI, and Yarmouk Cultural Center. The workshops took place on Wednesday February 17, 2016 at Al-Yarmouk Cultural Center. The workshops invovled were tea ceremony, origami and Japanese calligraphy. All the workshops

Contemporary Japan - 2017

were presented by Japanese specialists. More than 200 guests were present and took part in the event. The participants were given the chance to experience the beauty of the Japanese culture in a sweet friendly atmosphere.


HAPPENINGS

HE Ashiki Takashi and his wife Mrs Ashiki Haruko participate in the Layali Kuwait show HE Ashiki Takashi and his wife Mrs Ashiki Haruko participated in the Layali Kuwait show. The program is aired live on KTV2. The ambassador spoke about his life in Kuwait since he was assigned here, his impression

of the country and people, and Kuwaiti food. The program was very friendly and pleasant. Many people were impressed by the ambassador speaking Arabic fluently.

Contemporary Japan - 2017

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HAPPENINGS 26

Japanese Art Exhibition at Dar Athar Al-Islamiya The opening of the exhibition ‘Passage to the future: Art from a new generation in Japan’ opened recently at Dar Athar A-Islamiya, with the sponsorship and cooperation of the Japan Institute, an institute which is of great importance in Japan in regards to cultural exchange. Abdel Karim Al-Ghathban, assistant secretary-general

Contemporary Japan - 2017

of Dar Athar Al-Islamiya, represented DAI and from the Embassy of Japan in Kuwait Cultural Attache Fuji Wara presented a word before the exhibition opening. Amongst the attendees was Christian Nakhle, Ambassador of France to the State of Kuwait.


HAPPENINGS

HE Ashiki Takashi and his wife Mrs Ashiki Haruko participate in the TV program Diplomatic Plate HE Ashiki Takashi and his wife Mrs Ashiki Haruko participated in the TV program Diplomatic Plate. This program was aired in Ramadan on KTV3, which hosted ambassadors from all around the world to share their experience of Ramadan in their

countries and in Kuwait. After that, the ambassador and his wife presented a Japanese dish and the way of preparing it. They both shared some information about Japanese food, the serving style and the way to eat it.

Contemporary Japan - 2017

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HAPPENINGS

Cosplayers, gamers throng PLAMO con event With the collaboration of the Japanese Embassy, PLAMO con brought together cosplayers, gamers, anime lovers and every Japanese pop-culture enthusiast together for a vibrant and lively event. Alongside a cosplay competition, a karaoke contest and gaming tournaments,the three-day convention featuredWahid Jalal, a well-respected artiste that brought back childhood memories of every ‘80s and

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Contemporary Japan - 2017

early ‘90s child that stepped foot in the convention, as he was the voice of John Silver in the Arabic version of the animated series “Treasure Island”. Jalal also lent his voice to the show “Adventures of Zeina and Nahoul”, which was a huge success with Arab children in the ‘80s, alongside equally popular animated hits like “The Adventures of Sinbad” and “The Adventures of Sasuki”.


HAPPENINGS

Embassy holds Japanese Film Festival The Embassy of Japan held Japanese Film Festival with the cooperation of KNCC. The festival was for one day, and they screened two films. A lot of people

showed interest in the Japanese culture, life style, and family relations that many attended the event and enjoyed both films.

Contemporary Japan - 2017

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HAPPENINGS

The Japan club at AOU participates in the annual international exhibition The Japan club at AOU participated in the annual international exhibition at their university. The club presented Japan’s culture and beauty through costumes, magazines, food and speeches. H.E the Ambassador Mr.

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Contemporary Japan - 2017

Ashiki Takashi attened the event along with the cultural AttachĂŠ Mr. Bantani Shinji, and thanked the students for their dedicated efforts and passion.


HAPPENINGS

photo Kuwait entrepreneurs delegation at one of the factories in Japan.

entrepreneurs to Japan’s manufacturing hubs OSAKA: A delegation of Kuwaiti entrepreneurs is currently on a study tour in Japan visiting manufacturing hubs and small-medium manufacturing facilities to learn Japanese expertise, an organizer said Wednesday.The 10-day technical visit program is organized by Kuwait Industries Union in cooperation with the National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprise Development. According to Kuwait Industries’ Union General Manager Huda Al-Baqshi, the aim of the program is to

where about 27,000 people, including 400 groups, visit each year. Their itinerary also included the Entrepreneurial Museum of Challenge and Innovation to trace the growth of Japanese entrepreneurs from villages to the world stage. Many large corporations today started as small enterprises, including OsakaThe delegation also visited Toyota Motor Co’sMotomachi Plant and Kaikan Center in Toyota City in central Japan, where they

cars are produced on the same production line to promptly respond to customer orders. The group saw how body parts are welded using high technology robotic arms. The delegation’s study tour is under the supervision of Nour Al-Rughaib representing the Union and HussainAshkanani, the group facilitator. The industrial union was established in 1989 with the aim of serving the sector and industrialists, caring for their interests and boosting performance.

manufacturing companies and their relationship with small and medium-sized enterprises. While in Osaka Prefecture, the delegation visited a governmental support facility, known as MOBIO, which promotes innovation and industry partnerships among small and medium-sized manufacturers. Osaka hosts more than 41,000 factories, the largest number in Japan. Founded by the prefectural government in 2009, MOBIO is an integrated support facility to promote innovation and industry partnerships among SME manufacturers. It is equipped with Japan’s biggest permanent exhibition hall showcasing SMEs’ outstanding technologies and products at its 200 booths, Contemporary Japan - 2017

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Exclusive

WAEL MOHAMAD DEEB INTERVIEW BY: MUJAHID IQBAL

BEST Al-Yousifi

powers ahead

with steady growth

Wael Mohamad Deeb is a veteran of the electronics market in Kuwait. He joined Easa Husain of the company’s electronics division 20 years ago, which makes him the longest-serving electronics head in the country. Q: What is your principle for business? A: Our business principles are based on a transparent and unbiased himself. Some excerpts:

Q: and ventures and future plans? A: Since the past three years, we have been focusing on expanding our retail stores, aiming to get closer to our customers and meet market needs. Our stores have grown over 20 percent yearly even

business philosophy followed by the founders based on values of

provide ample resources to all areas of business to generate the best results. We do not compromise on quality when it comes to our people, systems, products and services. We value and acknowledge the dedication of people and give them an opportunity to grow.

Q: What are the unique features that set your company apart across all the areas of the country, even remote ones.

Q: What is your company’s business philosophy? A: Our business philosophy is to provide quality products and services to customers from reputed brands and manufacturers from around the globe. 32

Contemporary Japan - 2017

from others?

A: Our company is one of the oldest and most reputed organizations in the market with a long association with our well-developed and loyal partners. We are also one of the largest retail networks in the professional technicians to cater to the thousands of products and


in real estate costs.Unlike other GCC markets, the Kuwait market is

market which is almost stagnant.

Q: plans? A: No organization can delink itself from social responsibilities as we are a part of the society. We undertake and sponsor various sociocultural programs of various nationalities.

Q: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? A: the year is a big challenge.But we have been able to maintain the to the support of the team. It’s like swimming against the tide.

Q: What advice would you give to someone aspiring to your position? A: There is no shortcut to HARD WORK. No pain, no gain. Do not measure and expect gains by how much work you put in. brands we sell. We have one of the largest in-house warehousing

Q: How have you been able to strike a balance between your

and enhance our aftersales services to customers.

career and personal life? A: I don’t have a personal life (laughs)! It’s like working in a war room.

Q: What are some of the challenges that you face? A: The challenges are from many areas,starting from procedural

family.

hurdles to clear goods, because of various requisites like many

deadlines and also impacts costs. Another challenge is the increase

Q: Tell us something about your experiences of Japan? A: I love Japanese culture and their honesty in doing business. The people are very trustworthy. We have a long history of over six decades working together.

Contemporary Japan - 2017

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10 distinctive features

of the Japanese education system that made this nation the envy of the world Japanese people are known for their intelligence, strong health, politeness, and wellness. But why is this nation so unique and different from the rest of the world? We seem to have found the answer: they have an incredibly cool education system!

Manners before knowledge

In Japanese schools, the students don’t take any exams until they reach grade four (the age of 10). They just take small tests. It is school is not to judge the child’s knowledge or learning, but to establish good manners and to develop their character. Children are taught to respect other people and to be gentle to animals and nature. They also learn how to be generous, compassionate, and empathetic. Besides this, the kids are taught qualities like grit, self-control, and justice.

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The academic year starts on April 1st. While most schools and universities in the world begin their academic year in September or October, in Japan it is April that marks the start of the academic and business calendar. often coincides with one of the most beautiful natural phenomena — the time of cherry blossom. The academic year is divided into 3 trimesters: April 1 — July 20, September 1 — December 26, and January 7 — March 25. Japanese students get 6 weeks of holidays during the summer. They also have two-week breaks in winter and spring.


Most Japanese schools do not employ janitors or custodians. The students clean their school themselves. In Japanese schools, students have to clean the classrooms, cafeterias, and even toilets all by themselves. When cleaning, students are divided into small groups and assigned tasks that rotate throughout the year. The Japanese education system believes that requiring students to clean up after themselves teaches them to work in a team and help each other. Besides, spending mopping, and wiping makes kids respect their own work and the work of others.

In Japanese schools, school lunch is provided on a standardized menu and is eaten in the classroom. The Japanese education system does its best to ensure that the students eat healthy and balanced meals. In public elementary and junior high schools, the lunch for students is cooked according to a standardized but also by health care professionals. All classmates eat in their classroom together with the teacher. This helps build positive teacher-student relationships.

After-school workshops are very popular in Japan. In order to get into a good junior high school, most Japanese students enter a preparatory school or attend private after-school workshops. The classes in these schools are held in the evenings. Seeing groups of small kids returning from their extracurricular courses late in the evening is common in Japan. Japanese students have an 8-hour school day, but apart from that they study even during the holidays and on weekends. It’s no wonder that the students in this country almost never repeat grades in primary, lower secondary, or secondary school Contemporary Japan - 2017

35


Apart from traditional subjects, Japanese students also learn Japanese calligraphy and poetry. Japanese calligraphy, or Shodo, involves dipping a bamboo brush in ink and using it to write hieroglyphs on rice paper. For Japanese people, Shodo is an art that is no less popular than traditional painting. Haiku, on the other hand, is a form of poetry that uses simple expressions to convey deep emotions to readers. Both classes teach children to respect their own culture and centuries-old traditions.

Nearly all students have to wear a school uniform. Almost all junior high schools require their students to wear school uniforms. While some schools have their own attire, traditional Japanese school uniform consists for girls. The uniform policy is intended to remove social barriers among students and get them into a working mood. Besides, wearing school uniform helps to promote a sense of community among the children.

The school attendance rate in Japan is about 99.99%.

Probably all of us have played truant at least once in our life. However, Japanese students don’t skip classes, nor do they arrive late for school. Moreover, around 91% of pupils in Japan reported that they never, or only in some classes, ignored what the teacher lectured. How many other countries can boast such statistics?

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A single test decides the students’ futures. At the end of high school, Japanese students have to take a very important exam that decides their future. A student can choose one college they would like to go to, and that college has a certain score requirement. If a student doesn’t reach that score they probably don’t go to college. The competition is very high — only 76% of school graduates continue their education after high school. It’s no wonder that the period of preparation for entrance to higher education institutions is nicknamed ’examination hell.’

College years are the best ’holidays’ in a person’s life.

Having gone through ’examination hell,’ Japanese students usually take a little break. In this country, college is often

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Contemporary Japan - 2017

considered the best years of a person’s life. Sometimes, Japanese people call this period a ’vacation’ before work.


A Muslim’s Guide to Japan: Mosques, Halal Food and More

Muslim visitors to Japan might be apprehensive with ease. In this tour, you will not only be able to taste halal certified Japanese food, go to Japan’s largest mosque but also be able to take at first when it comes to finding halal foods or time for prayers. places to worship, but in this article you will find all you need to know and more to make your trip Muslim-Friendly Accommodations Aside from restaurants, there are also accommodation facilities to Japan a fabulous one. Halal Food in Japan When Muslims travel overseas, they have to be very careful about their dietary restrictions. As one of the rules of Islam, Muslim people must eat things that are certified halal. In countries such as Japan with only a small population of Muslim residents, visitors to Japan will need to be extra careful. However, lately, there has been an increase in the number of restaurants that are halal certified. In Tokyo, there are sushi and yakiniku barbecue restaurants that do not use pork or alcohol whatsoever. From ingredients to cooking utensils, there has been an increase of restaurants that respect the rules of Islam. For places where you can eat halal food safely, please read the following articles for more details.

Muslim Tours If you join the Muslim-friendly tours made by Trip Advisor, you can go to major tourist spots such as Asakusa, Shibuya, and Harajuku 40

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that are Muslim-friendly in Japan. Conveniently located only two stops away from Shinjuku station, Sakura Hotel Hatagaya has prayer rooms, a cafe with a halal menu and other great facilities. There are also fun activities arranged by the staff that all visitors from abroad can enjoy such as Japanese culture experience tours, hanami flower viewing tours, and origami workshops. Your trip to Japan will become even more memorable this way! This hotel also is suited for long term guests and have washing machines and other handy goods.

Halal Friendly Souvenirs With an increase in the number of Islamic visitors to Japan, there have also been more shops that carry souvenirs and gifts that are certified halal. Even the popular shopping spot Don Quijote made a souvenir section with Muslim-friendly goods in 2015. Recommended items sold here include the halal-certified matcha green tea waffles, the samurai ramen that doesn’t contain animal products and green tea tea bags.


Aside from halal foods, the Don Quijote Asakusa location has a whole area for souvenirs including food sample key holders, anime character merchandise, chopsticks, knives, cooking utensils and many products. There’s also a tax-free counter and free Wi-Fi, so visitors from abroad can shop at ease.

Mosques in Japan From large to small, there are approximately eighty mosques in Japan. In Yoyogi Uehara, Tokyo you will find the Tokyo Camii Turkish

Culture Center which is said to be East Asia’s most beautiful mosque. It is a mosque that is worth stopping by whether you are Muslim or not.

session (no photos allowed) and find some great souvenirs or Turkish food. However, it is a place of worship, so please follow the rules when visiting.

Not only will you be able to give your prayers at one of Asia’s most beautiful mosques, but you will be able to meet other Muslim worshipers and enjoy delicious halal foods. Non-worshipers can join a tour on weekends to learn more about the Islamic religion, the mosque itself, see a worshiping

These are only some of the various places throughout Japan that have been established with Muslim visitors in mind. Why not have a memorable time traveling in Japan by visiting halal certified restaurants and staying in a Muslim-friendly accommodation facility? Contemporary Japan - 2017

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Shiki-Shima:

The world’s most luxurious train? Japan’s new narrow-gauge wondertrain has proved so successful that it has completely sold out until April 2018 — despite a price tag that works out at up to £2 per minute. Even before the first run, on 1 May, demand has been so high that bookings have been allocated by lottery. The Shiki-Shima is an extraordinary creation: a futuristic 10-coach train running on 3ft 6in-gauge lines and carrying a maximum of 34 passengers, who enjoy the most luxurious experience on the rails. The train is the latest excursion venture by the East Japan Railway Company. Its basic three-night/two-day “summer tour” starts from Ueno station in Tokyo. Lunch and dinner are served as the train rolls north to the mountain

42

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resort of Yuzawa and passengers acquaint themselves with the facilities on board. Five of the 10 coaches are filled by the standard suites — three to a carriage, offer comfortable beds and a bathroom with shower and toilet. Another has just two “deluxe suites”, each with an aromatic cypress wood bath. There is also an observation car at either end from which to watch the scenery roll past, a lounge and a dining car with Michelin accreditation. Service on board is by uniformed butlers. The name Shiki-Shima means “Island of Four Seasons”. Even by the standards of luxury trains, it is expensive: a solo traveller taking a standard suite can pay the equivalent of £7,500, which


works out at £2 for every minute of the 60-hour trip. The train’s top speed is just 70mph, barely one-third of that achieved in normal service by some Bullet Trains in Japan. As with the new Japanesedesigned trains for the Great Western Railway in Britain, it is equipped with both electric motors and diesel engines. After dinner on the first night, passengers are given a live performance of the traditional Japanese “Dance of the Dead” — which the company says has been designated “An Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property”. The train rolls on through the night to Hachinohe, on the Pacific shore almost at the northern tip of the island of Honshu. Here, oddly, passengers transfer to a different luxury train, the Tohoku Emotion, which has “an open kitchen where you can watch your food

being prepared while you wait”. This train trundles along the coast to Kuji, where passengers disembark for a sightseeing trip. After the return to Hachinohe and re-boarding the Shiki-Shima, dinner is served as the train meanders south to Naruko-onsen, a spa town set amid mountain scenery. After immersion in the “hot springs village”, passengers retire to their luxury suites. The train slows to a crawl for the short overnight journey to Ichinoseki — prospective home for the International Linear Collider, a scientific research project which could help the search for dark matter. Passengers will be taken by bus to neighbouring Hiraizumi, home to a Unesco-listed temple complex. Back on the train, one more lunch is served as the train returns to Tokyo.

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Famous Japanese Japan is one of the most economically and technologically advanced nations on our planet. There is a host of famous Japanese people who have made invaluable contributions in diverse areas like business, to know about some of them. Emperor Akihito

Michiko Shoda, a commoner.

Akihito is the reigning Emperor of The couple has three children Japan. He is the 125th emperor of his - Crown Prince Naruhito, line according to Japan’s traditional Prince Akishino and Princess order of succession. Akihito succeeded Nori. As a crown prince, he his father Showa and acceded to the traveled widely. Akihito is Chrysanthemum Throne on Jan 7, an accomplished amateur 1989. In April 1959, Akihito married marine biologist. He is known as an ichthyological researcher.

Sakichi Toyoda Sakichi

Toyoda

was

a

famous Japanese inventor and industrialist. He was born into a poor family of carpenters. He patented the increased productivity by 4050 percent. He perfected the loom. Sakichi’s most famous 44

Contemporary Japan - 2017


People

Love?’ and ‘Nausicca of the Valley of Wind’.

invention was the automatic power loom in which he implemented the principle of autonomous automation. He founded Toyota Industries Co Ltd. Toyoda is referred to as the “King of Japanese Inventors”.

Kobo Abe, pseudonym of Kimifusa Abe,

was

playwright,

a

Japanese

photographer

writer, and

inventor. His works include ‘Kangaroo Notebook’, ‘Women in the Dunes’, ‘The Man Who Turned Into a Stick’, ‘Inter Ice Age 4’, ‘Secret Rendezvous’, ‘The Ruined Map’ and ‘The Box Man’.

Den Fujita Fujita was a famous Japanese entrepreneur. He worked as an English translator during high school. He is the man who made the hamburger a Japanese icon. He started McDonald’s

Kobo Abe

franchises

in

Japan in 1971.

Ai Sugiyama Ai Sugiyama is a Japanese former professional tennis player. In 1995, she broke into the WTA Top 50. In 1999, she reached the Japan Open singles final. In 2000, she became the first Japanese woman to rank number one in the world in doubles.

Hideaki Anno Hideaki Anno is a Japanese animator, film director and actor. He is best known for his part in creating the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. In 1984, he confounded Gainax, a Japanese anime studio. He was key animator for two of the most popular anime movies

of

the

decade:

‘Macross: Do You Remember Contemporary Japan - 2017

45


as a midfielder. He is widely considered to be one of the most famous Asian footballers who played 22 seasons for the Her career-high singles

Yomiuri Giants in Nippon Professional

ranking was No. 8,

Baseball from 1959 to 1980. He hit a

achieved on Feb 9,

lot of homers in his “one leg style”

2004.

and contributed to the golden age of Giants. His uniform number was 1,

Taiho Koki

which has been permanently retired.

Taiho Koki was the

His nickname was “Wan-chan (Mr. 1)”.

48t hyokozuna in the Japanese sport of sumo wrestling. He became

Yoko Ono is a Japanese multimedia artist, singer, songwriter and peace

at the age of 21, the

activist who is also known for her work

youngest ever at the

in performance art and filmmaking.

time. He established

She is the second wife and widow of

many records by 1971.

singer-songwriter John Lennon of the Beatles. She exerted a large influence on Lennon.

baseball

player and manager

his exact judgment, advanced techniques and bold game tactics.

YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra) Japanese

electronic

music

band consisting of principal members

HaruomiHosono,

Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Chiaki Mukai Chiaki Mukai is a Japanese She was the first Japanese

Hidetoshi Nakata Hidetoshi

of all time. He was famous for

doctor, and JAXA astronaut.

Sadaharu Oh is a retired Japanese

the greatest Japanese players

Yellow Magic Orchestra is a

Yoko Ono

a yokozuna in 1961

Sadaharu Oh

of his generation, and one of

Nakata

is

a

former

Japanese football player who played

woman in space, and was the first Japanese citizen to have two spaceflights. She flew in space with Colombia in 1994 and Discovery in 1998.

Junichiro Koizumi Junichiro Koizumi is a Japanese politician who was the 56th Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006. He retired from politics when his term in parliament ended in 2009, and is currently the fifth longest serving PM in Japanese history. 46

Contemporary Japan - 2017


W

hen you think of Japan, chances are your mind quickly conjures up images of multi-tiered pagodas, sushi and kimonos. While kimonos are a common sight, even in modern day Japan, most foreigners are surprised to learn that a typical kimono is made up of 12 (and sometimes more) separate pieces. And knowing how to properly wear them is a testament to a level of attention to detail and tradition rarely found outside of Japan.

Kimono 101

A Unique Challenge Walking along the crowded streets of Harajuku, a kimonoclad woman stands out against the sea of urban fashion, effortless elegance. But wearing a kimono properly can be challenging, especially the first time. And many people engage the services of a kitsuke-shi or professional dresser to help them don their first kimono. Many dressers make house calls, and some even provide tourists with a “kimono experience.”

One of the fun things tourists can do if they want to get a ‘feel’ for Japanese life and culture is to take advantage of an opportunity to wear a traditional kimono. Worn by both women and men, the kimono has been a part of the Japanese landscape since the Heian period (7941192). In fact, kimono was the standard everyday wardrobe choice for Japanese citizens for the majority of the country’s recorded history. Kimonos are still worn, though in decreasing numbers. Traditional kimonos are more frequently reserved for wearing during auspicious days such as festivals, ceremonies, or other special occasions. The most visible parts of a kimono are a floor length robe and a wide embroidered belt called an obi. Traditionally, both of these items are made of hand-woven silk. But the more commonly machinemade robes and obi have found increased popularity 48

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among wearers in recent years. Despite the passage of time the kimono robe and obi, at the heart of Japanese culture, still appeal to locals and visitors alike.

Kimono Experience For a fee, you can be dressed professionally in a kimono of your choice, after which you can take part in a Kimono photo shoot. Stroll the streets of historic neighbourhoods dressed flawlessly in a traditional kimono, and get great professional pictures to remember the moment. Available in almost every major city, many kitsuke-shi also offer classes for those who want to learn the intricate techniques of assembly for themselves.

Kyoto Nishijin Textile Centre

A helping hand might be needed when getting dressed in kimono for the first time

If your travels to Japan take you to Kyoto, a visit to the Kyoto Nishijin Textile Centre is a must. The centre provides visitors with the opportunity to watch kimono being made,


Older, married women wear tomesade, traditional kimono sleeve length.

starting with the harvesting of the silk, weaving the threads, cutting and assembly of the garment, and wrapping up with a kimono fashion show.

Colour

Colour plays a significant role when wearing kimono and is chosen with care to reflect the wearer, season, and situation. The rules surrounding colour choices are intricate and complex, referring to pattern and colour combinations. For example, “gentle colours” are worn in the summer and spring, ‘cool’ colours and fabrics come into play in autumn, while heavier winter materials sport patterns reflecting an anticipation of the coming spring.

How to ‘Kimono’ Fabric Most kimono are traditionally made from fine silk, but kimono made from cotton or polyester have become popular due to their reduced cost and durability.

Winter Kimono Winter kimono are made from heaver woven fabrics, lined and worn from October to May. Wool kimonos are not worn for special events or celebrations but are a popular everyday wear.

Nagajuban

Always Wrap Left over Right

A stroll along Philosopher›s Path in Kyoto.

Geta and Zori

A nagajuban is a thin, cotton, kimonoshaped robe worn under the actual kimono. It helps to keep the outer silk robe clean. The collar of the nagajuban can be seen peeking out from under the robe. Nagajubans often have a remove able collar allowing the wearer to coordinate with the outer robe.

Geta and zori are traditional footwear worn with kimono. Resembling ‘flip flops’, both geta and zori are open-backed sandals, worn with split-toed socks called tabi. Getas are zoris’ more informal cousins and are typically worn with a yukata.

Yukata

Juban A juban is a white cotton undershirt-type garment worn under the nagajuban.

A trio of obi

Obi Typically made of embroidered silk, the obi is a wide belt worn on top of the kimono. An obi can be tied in many different ways, with each ‘knot’ bearing special significance. The fukura-suzume musubi (“puffed sparrow”) knot is worn by young, unmarried women. While the much easier taiko musubi (named after the taiko bridge – not the drum as many mistakenly believe) is an everyday favourite.

Summers in Japan can be quite hot, making wearing full kimono ensemble uncomfortable. Instead, you’ll see many people wearing a brightly coloured yukata, a light, breezy, cotton, casual kimono.

Kinchaku

Intricate patterns and luxurious fabric

A festive, drawstring bag called a kinchaku is often used to carry essential items while wearing kimono. Small items can also be carried tucked into an obi, such as a hand fan, or into the sleeves.

Hair Worn up, lacquered, adorned with sticks and other ornaments, when it comes to wearing kimono, a woman’s hair plays a starring role. Many kimono appropriate hairstyles feature seasonal flowers or other botanicals.

Sleeves Kimono sleeves carry a specific significance. Unmarried women wear floor length furisode or swinging sleeves. Furisodes are typically worn during coming of age celebrations taking place when a young lady turns 20.

Kimonos are always worn wrapped left over right. Never wear right over left. Kimonos are only ever wrapped right over left for the deceased in the preparation of burial.

Geta sandals - traditionally worn with kimono

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The

Art of

Japanese Cuisine: Food Presentation 101 I consider myself a very lucky girl because my mom is an outstanding cook with a diverse range of foods in her repertoire, but if there’s one thing that’s special about the evenings she makes Japanese food, it’s that the meal is always served with our collection of beautiful Japanese dishes, bowls and utensils. I learned from a young age the importance of presentation when it came to Japanese cuisine. So since we’re feasting on a delicious Japanese lunch this Friday, how about a little food presentation 101! Let’s take a look at a few of the traditions.

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The Secret Ingredient In traditional Japanese cuisine, visual presentation is as much a part of the dining experience as the taste of the food itself, so beauty is always an essential ingredient in any Japanese meal. Presentation is truly an art form and great attention is paid to everything from the arrangement of the food and garnishes to the dishes upon which each component of the meal is served. Nothing is accidental as every choice is made with the intention of enhancing the dining experience.


Balance and Harmony

Almost.

An aerial view of a typical Japanese dish will show you a calculated asymmetry in the placement of the food framed in the backdrop of a beautiful dish, creating a peaceful yet striking balance and harmony, soothing in its quiet starkness but inviting with its lively colors and sharp angles. There is a strong emphasis on invoking the sensual experience of eating not just in the way of taste, touch and smell, but also sight. Gorgeous Japanese presentation is a true feast for the eyes and when the chef’s artistry is at its best, the meal becomes a work of art that’s almost too beautiful to sink your chopsticks into.

But the purpose of the presentation is to share something of yourself through the food you prepare. And as with any art form, there is no right or wrong way to create, so let your instinct guide you as you arrange your dish. In Japanese food presentation, minimalism is generally the word of the day. When in doubt, less is usually more. Space on a clean, white dish can be as beautiful as the cucumber you, or maybe Morimoto, skillfully crafts into a delicate rose garnish.

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sits delicately in the center. Fish should be placed facing to the left with the tail slightly away from the diner. Simmered foods are placed with the largest item to the back of the dish. Platters of foods including tempura and sushi are arranged with each type of food grouped together.

that not only in the ingredients used, but also in the tableware chosen to present the food. In the spring, sashimi is served on beautiful dishes formed into a miniature landscape. In the fall, a red and gold leaf may be used as a plate to give a seasonal touch. Noodles are served in big bowls in the winter and chilled in a bamboo basket in the hot seasons such as white for winter, pink and green for spring, red and green for summer, and orange and yellow for fall.

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Vegetables are cut and colored to form garnishes that give a dish an added seasonal touch.

The Final Touch Some form of garnish is almost always present in a Japanese dish helping to add contrast in the taste, texture and color of the food. Grated daikon, thinly sliced ginger, or a sprinkling of sesame seeds are very common garnishes while vegetables fashioned into special touch. Again, minimalism is key, but a small touch of beautifully prepared dish with an artistic accent. Always remember, the goal of Japanese food presentation is harmony. If for a moment as you look at your completed creation, you feel quiet, still, balanced and peaceful, you have elevated yourself from chef to artist!


At Azumami, we reinvent the Japanese experience with a modern take on the traditional cuisine. 我々は再 発 明します 日本の経 験 www.azumami.com @azumami_sushi Dar Al-Awadhi, Ahmad Aljaber St. Sharq. Level B1 Online orders through www.talabat.com

Spicy Salmon Sushi


Enjoy delicious

Fish in Tokyo! Japanese cuisine was registered as a UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage, and experiencing Japanese food culture has become one of the mustdo activities to enjoy your trip to Japan. There are many Japanese foods that are popular abroad, including ramen, which evolved in a unique way in Japan, traditional sushi, and tempura. Among these, seafood dishes, especially raw fish such as sushi, give you an experience of Japan’s location, which is surrounded by sea. You might be worried about hygiene, but there is nothing to worry about. Food hygiene control in Tokyo is of the world’s highest standard. You can safely enjoy delicious fish dishes here.

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Fish market that sustained the diet of the people of Edo (former name for Tokyo) The fish market in Tokyo is one of the world’s largest fish markets, and fish and shellfish caught throughout Japan are presented here. Its origin was “Uogashi” in Nihonbashi, which was the center of Edo in the Edo period (1603-1867). This fish market, which was at the foot of Nihonbashi, sustained the diet of Tokyo for over 300 years until it was finally transferred to the Tsukiji Market in 1935. Not only the fish from the seas and rivers of Edo, but also those from the wide areas that are currently known such as Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka were carried over to the market, filling the bellies of the townspeople and Samurais of Edo. Uogashi has developed from one era to the other, and now it is one of the largest fish markets in the world, bringing


together fish from all around the world. Fish and shellfish landed at fishing ports inside and outside of Japan go through local fishermen’s cooperatives and intermediate wholesaler markets and reach the mouths of consumers via fish stores and restaurants.

Food Culture of Edo, Food Culture of Tokyo Dishes that shaped modern Japanese food culture were born in the Edo period. Back in those days, Edo was one of world’s largest cities and it is said that its population was 800,000 or 1

Japanese cuisine was registered as a UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage million. Diverse culture was born during a period of stability that lasted 265 years, including the culture of fish cuisine. Eel, sushi, and tempura are leading examples of the fish food culture born in the Edo period. One of the reasons why these dishes were developed is the popularization of seasonings. The essential seasoning for these fish dishes is soy sauce. Soy sauce, which is a fermented food, became available to common people because of the climate and water transportation in the Kanto area (around Edo), as well as development of the production

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was for vinegar, the essential seasoning for sushi, people started to mix vinegar with rice at the end of the Edo period, leading to the current “handpressed sushi.” Hand-pressed sushi first appeared around 1820. At the end of Edo period, sushi shops where the chefs made sushi in front of the customers became very popular. Even in Japan, only certain people such as fishermen used to eat raw fish, but it became common thanks to the development of the low temperature distribution network and

t h e popularization of soy sauce. Now it is loved worldwide as the most common form of raw fish cuisine. Cooking techniques and attention to hygiene of restaurants that serve raw fish For some tourists visiting Japan, sushi will be their first experience of eating raw fish. There are various fish cuisine restaurants in Tokyo, from budget-friendly ones to exclusive ones, according to your budget and purpose. Nihombashi’s “Shigenozushi” was established as a fish store when there

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NihombashiUogashi in Edo. Shigenozushi has transitioned into a famous sushi restaurant and has preserved its history over 80 years. Because of their good judgment of the quality of fish, Shigenozushi has been an official purveyor of the Imperial Household Agency (to purvey articles to the Imperial Palace, where the Emperor of Japan lives). You can enjoy sushi made by master sushi chefs with great skill in a comfortable atmosphere and have a relaxing time. This will definitely be an experience to cherish when visiting Japan.


Soy sauce,

a very traditional condiment,

has evolved in surprising ways! Soy sauce is immensely popular as a condiment for Japanese food. How many of you, however, really know its properties and versatility? Today we are going to tell you why soy sauce is good for you as well as show you some variations and alternative ways to taste it.

Often confined to supporting roles, soy sauce has many underrated properties. Most of us know soy sauce as the black, salty and distinctivetasting sauce that we dip sushi in. While soy sauce would seem to have only a secondary role, it has, in fact, plenty of amazing properties. For example, a few drops of this sauce can mitigate the smell of certain ingredients or bring out the sweetness of other, and when used for marinating food, it slows down the decaying process. Not to mention its nutritional value. In addition to vitamin B2 and B6, it is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals of which it is hard to get an adequate intake, like magnesium, potassium, zinc and more. (However, since it is high in salt, you should be careful not to overuse it.) 58

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Pink soy sauce on a soy sauce cake? Some surprising variations Generally speaking, soy sauce is used as a condiment on boiled vegetables, meat and fish, as well as for seasoning the broth of udon and soba noodles. There are, however, some surprising variations.As its name suggests, “Pink soy sauce Hana lady ROSE”, is a pink-colored soy sauce! While its distinctive color comes from the bright red vegetables and red beets used in making it, it has the same taste as ordinary black soy sauce. Perfect for serving on immaculately white tofu.

“Soy Sauce Roll Cake” is a soy sauce flavored roll cake produced by a food manufacturer in Japan. One of the major soy sauce companies developed a special soy sauce that matches perfectly with sweets. MitarashiDango, is widely known as a traditional Japanese sweet. On the other hand, “Soy Sauce Roll Cake” is the combination of soy sauce flavored sponge

and whipped cream. That is new! Why not try this best combination of Japanese traditional condiments and western sweets? All of the above make perfect souvenirs! Try the latest evolutions of the everchanging Japanese soy sauce!

“Taberudashi Eatable Soy Sauce Soup Stock” is a plushy delicacy made by marinating soybeans and malted rice in a special sauce soy and then mixing them with koji and bonito flakes. It is made exclusively with ingredients grown in Japan. It’s ideal as a dipping sauce for vegetable sticks or chicken steak!

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Wackiest Japanese Inventions You Have to See to Believe Japan has always excelled at inventing things that leave people in awe. They build almost anything they can possibly think of. Here are some of the craziest inventions ever made in Japan.

1. Butter Balm

2. Chopsticks Fan

3. A Hand Chopper

4. A Device That Allows You To See What’s In Your Ears

5. Helmet Camera

6. Eye-drop Funnels

This is basically butter in a tube that lets you put butter on anything quicker.

There’s a lot more to an ear than what you see on the side of your head. The device fits into your ear and can finally give you a full view of it. 60

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Get the chopsticks fan and enjoy your noodles right out of the cooking pot. Hot and delicious.

It is basically a compilation of cameras that give you the ultimate 360 panorama shot.

Ever had the misfortune of cutting your finger while slicing some cheese or chopping some vegetables? Well, you don’t need to worry now. Japan has invented a hand chopper to help prevent you from cutting your hand while preparing a delicious meal for yourself.

Japan has a solution for almost everything, including making sure your eye drops hit their mark and don’t go to waste


7. A Goldfish Aquarium Phone Booth

8. Vending Machine That Sells Cars

9. The Noodle Guard

10. A Mouth Exerciser

Within this noodle hair guard, you can eat without the fear of feeding spoonful of noodles to your hair.

An amazing invention that is a face slimmer exercise mouthpiece that helps in beauty anti-aging and anti-wrinkle muscle care.

11. Heels With Umbrellas

12. Air-conditioned Pants

A Japanese artist fills an old phone booth with water and goldfish, to The clever “vending machine” pictured above is located in Japan. You can’t really buy a smart car from it, but you can get brochures and the delight of passers-by. info about the various models.

Umbrella shoes can be the answer in keeping your heels dry and safe in the rain.

If you work outdoors during the hot summer months, you’ll know how hard it is to find flexible and practical pants that can also keep you cool. Japan has introduced air-conditioned pants that are probably the most engineered garment on the face of the earth. Contemporary Japan - 2017

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13. A Stencil To Put On Lipstick 14. Earplug Earrings

15. Public Transport Helmet

16. Air-conditioned Shoes

17. A Wrap-around Shoe

18. A Tie Wallet

19. Leg Pillow

20. Sound Catcher

21. Book Holder

This lipstick stencil makes sure you apply This amazing piece of jewelry can function as This Japanese invention makes traveling classy earrings, as well as, earplugs. the lipstick with neatness. in a public transport so much easier.

These shoes will keep you keep cool and Running late for work or school and have no Since keeping a conventional wallet is too time to tie up your laces? We have all been mainstream your whole body. there. Japanese designer Masaya Hashimoto has designed just the perfect shoes for you that have no laces and instead, wraps around the foot.

This weird invention is for all the lonely This sound catcher pillow lets you sleep in peace This amazing book holder is adjustable to men out there who love to take a nap. by muting all sounds around you. life so much easier. 62

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22. Device That Records Baby Sounds During Pregnancy

23. A See-through Umbrella

24. Napkins That Help You Look Your Best While You Eat

25. Glasses That Fog Up On One Side When It Detects You Haven’t Blinked In 5 Seconds

26. Skirt kayak

27. Nail-paint Dryer

Using this umbrella on a rainy day will let you see your path clearly.

Device That Records Baby Sounds During Pregnancy.

Japanese women can eat their heart out without worrying about getting seen opening up for a big mouthful of burger.

if you plan to travel to some sight seeing with a dangerous river nearby. Then fear not for your safety. Japan has invented a skirt kayak that transforms into a small narrow boat for you.

The action is supposed to “jolt” the eye and wake you up if you were falling asleep.

The Japanese use straws connected to a hand-held air pump that’ll dry your nail paint in a few seconds. Contemporary Japan - 2017

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28. Square Watermelon

Square water melons that can only be found in Japan allow you to stack them together without them rolling away.

29. Metro Chin-stick

30. Hearing Enhance

All of us can understand the struggle of travelling in a metro. This Do you have trouble hearing softer sounds that conventional hearing metro chin stick can make your journey so much easier. aids can’t fix? Japan has the answer.

31. Personal Rain Saver

Every drop that falls is yours to keep.

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32. Napkin Pants

Napkin pants are the next big thing. Most people are too lazy to grab a paper towel, so they can just wipe their hands on their pants.

33. A Solar-powered Cigarette Lighter

A spring-mounted holder ensures your cigarette is always at the focal point of the sun’s reflected rays.


The Best Apps for Your Trip to Japan Traveling in Japan has never been easier. This article introduces the best applications for your Japan trip. They provide information on transportation, Wi-Fi connections, safety and other useful information. Traveling to Japan either as a solo traveler, or with friends and family has never been easier thanks to smartphone technology. For the past few years smartphone applications have somewhat replaced travel books and physical maps. Let’s take a look at the applications available for iPhone and Android, that will make your Japan trip (and life) easy and stress free.

Free Wi-Fi Applications There are free applications in Japan than enable you to connect to hundreds of Wi-Fi-spots all over the country. Although data SIM-cards have become widely available at Japanese airports, convenience stores and hardware and electronics shops, you can get by on your trip by just downloading these apps and connecting to free Wi-Fi spots. 66

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We recommend downloading both applications, as some Wi-Fi providers might be participating in one of the apps, but not the other. Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi, a Wi-Fi service for visitors to Japan, lets you connect easily to registered Wi-Fi providers (without the initial sign up) such as for example 7 Eleven, Lawson, Family Mart and others. The app lets you skip any registration process and connects you automatically, making getting online a very easy process. TRAVEL JAPAN WIFI connects you automatically to any participating Wi-Fi provider around the country, and also maps out where connection points are located in and around your pinned location.


by the government, as well as many tips on travelling in Japan. Each major city will usually have its official application offering free tourist and sightseeing information, so be sure to be on the lookout for those. If you just want one general tourist information app, JapanGov is an excellent choice and covers the country well.

Metro and Train Applications

Depending on the city you are traveling to, you will most likely find a decent metro or train information app for that city. For visitors to Tokyo, the Tokyo Rail Map is a metro app that helps you navigate the train lines efficiently, and also gives you suggestions regarding the quickest routes. It is recommended that you also download JR Train apps such as JR-EAST Train Info, to your phone before your trip, as you will most surely use JR trains during your trip. Most metro and train applications have maps for various train lines where routes can be saved and studied. When connected to WIFI the applications will also give you better tips in planning your route, according to the train timetables. Hyperdia for Android is the most popular app for travellers using a Japan Rail Pass, and makes planning the route easier and most convenient.

Safety Information

Certain areas in Japan are prone to earthquakes (and tsunamis), and as a traveler you might not always know what to do in case of an emergency. To help visitors to Japan feel safer on their trips, the Japan National Tourism Organization launched the Safety Tips application for locals and visitors in 2014. This application will notify you when an earthquake occurs, as well as give your relevant tips on evacuation and safety measures. Included in the application is a list of words and phrases the traveler can show or use when in need of help. The application also gives you weather warnings, which makes planning your trip easier. “Safety Tips� is available in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Discounts and Tax Information

Shopping in Japan is easy and convenient, but sometimes the tax is not displayed on the price tags. There are some apps that help you calculate the price of an item with the added 8% tax. It even helps you calculate the full price of an item with a certain percentage of discounts. Sale & Tax Japan is such an app that lets you easily choose the discount you want to include to the price. The entered price can either be inserted with or without the 8% tax, making this app a great resource also for tax free shopping.

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7 PLACES IN JAPAN YOU MUST VISIT IN 2017

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HOW TO AVOID THE POST-FESTIVE-SEASON ANTICLIMAX? START PLANNING YOUR NEXT HOLIDAY NOW WITH OUR ROUNDUP OF EXTRAORDINARY DESTINATIONS

WISTERIA FLOWER TUNNEL AT KAWACHI FUJIEN, KITAKYUSHU Established in 1977, this private garden is only open to the public for a few weeks between late April and mid-May, and during maple leaf season in autumn. Located deep in the mountains of Kitakyushu, visitors can enjoy two beautiful wisteria tunnels and various other structures featuring more than 20 varieties of the flower including some blossoming trees which are over 100 years old. The admission price varies depending on the bloom of the flowers, but it’s well to experience the spectacular violet canopies overhead. HOW TO GET THERE The most convenient way to visit is to rent a car from Fukuoka, with the drive from there taking just over an hour. a better idea to take public transport. Head to Yahata Station, then catch a bus to Kamishigeta, and walk for approximately 50 minutes to the garden. Make sure to thoroughly plan your route and check the opening times in advance, and if you want to avoid the crowds, then try to avoid a weekend trip. During peak season, tickets (¥500¥1,500) must be bought in advance too. kawachi-fujien.com 68

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JIGOKUDANI “HELL VALLEY” IN NOBORIBETSU, HOKKAIDO The appropriately named Hell Valley is just a 20-minute walk from the Nobor-ibetsu Onsen town, providing mag -cent landscapes clouded in bursts of ominous steam. There are several walking trails around the hills and valley incorporating the various local sights and natural attractions. Nearby volcanic activity is the source of the area’s hot steam vents, spring waters, and Oyunuma, a sulfurous pond (with a temperature of around 50 degrees Celcius) that creates natural hot streams owing through the forest – perfect for a mid-hike footbath to revive tired feet. The most popular time to visit is around mid-October when the autumn colors reach their peak, snow fall and just before the arrives. Whilst the hot springs are open all year round, take into account that some of the higher trails might not be accessible during the winter months. HOW TO GET THERE If you’re arriving at New Chitose Airport you can take an Airport Limousine Bus directly to the Noboribetsu Onsen, or drive from Sap-poro City in approximately 90 minutes. www.noboribetsu-spa.jp

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EDO TOWNS MAGOME AND TSUMAGO IN THE KISO VALLEY, NAGANO

Magome and Tsumago are old post towns along Nakasendou, an ancient road connecting Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period. Both towns have preserved their historical charms, with electrical wires and modern conveniences mostly hidden from view, creating an almost authentic Edo atmosphere (don’t worry, the ryokan inns are up to speed with all mod over the mountains, but while picturesque, it has a more touristy feel in comparison to Tsumago, which boasts a shrine, temple and castle amongst its assets. If trekking in the outdoors is your thing, then you can follow an eight-kilometer walking trail connecting the two towns, with a handy luggage forwarding service English hiking map at tinyurl.com/TWnakasendou-hike HOW TO GET THERE Despite the rural setting, there are multiple ways to access the area. Highway buses to Magome run from Nagoya (90 minutes) and Tokyo (around 4.5 hours), or you can take the shinkansen followed by local trains to Nagiso via Na-katsugawa. Local bus services and taxis also operate between the towns and nearby stations. Contemporary Japan - 2017

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HACHIJOJIMA, IZU ISLANDS Palm trees, a warm climate all year round, and a jungle habitat – and all just an hour’s ht from Tokyo. If you’re looking for an alternative to an Okinawan getaway, then Hachijojima, the southernmost of the Izu islands, can offer you a slice of paradise surprisingly close to Tokyo. This unique subtropical island has cinematic ocean views, lush green mountains,

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and volcanic terrain with incredible scenery surrounding you in every direction. You can enjoy a wide variety of activities from diving and snorkeling with tropical amongst the coral to relaxing in one of the many natural onsen baths. Cultural attractions include the Native History and Traditional Crafts Museum, and the Osato district, which preserves some of the island’s darker history as an exile for criminals. If you’re still wanting more, how about a botanical park exhibiting rare glowing bioluminescent mushrooms? HOW TO GET THERE The island has its own airport with three hts a day from Haneda Airport, but if you have time to spare and fancy relaxing on the water then you can take the 10.5-hour overnight Tokai Kisen ferry from Tokyo’s Takeshiba Terminal. www.tokaikisen.co.jp/english/

“PALM TREES,

A WARM CLIMATE ALL YEAR ROUND, AND A JUNGLE HABITAT”

SEIGANTOJI PAGODA AND NACHI FALLS, WAKAYAMA

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A UNESCO World Heritage location incorpo rating Japan’s tallest waterfall (133m) and a series of religious sites including Kumano Na-chi Taisha Shrine and the majestic three-story Seigantoji Pagoda. The close proximity of the structures is a rare example of the harmonious amalgamation of Buddhism and Shinto (known as shinbutsu shugo), which was commonplace before the two religions were forcefully separated in 1868. The site’s earliest incarnation was most likely as a place for nature worship, and for most of their history the buildings have functioned as one combined religious institution. The temple is the stop of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, which covers 33 Buddhist temples, and is undoubtedly a rewarding location for any visitor who cares to make the trip. HOW TO GET THERE The main shrine is a 30-minute bus ride from Kii-Katsuura Station, which is a 90-minute train journey from Shirahama Airport (direct hts from Haneda Airport), or about three to four hours if you’re traveling from Nagoya, Osaka or Kyoto. For a slightly more arduous pilgrimage, you could opt for a 10-hour bus ride from Shinjuku, straight to the Katsuura Onsen area. kumanonachitaisha.or.jp 70

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OJINBO CLIFFS, FUKUI of only three similar kinds of rock formations existing in the world. The columnar rocks were originally formed around 13 million years ago from volcanic activity, further shaped by coastal erosion, making this a unique and dynamic part of the Fukui coastline stretching over one kilometer. Various local legends tell some macabre tales about ghosts haunting the area, but thankfully these days a

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are working together to prevent possible suicides and keep it a happier tourist destination. The awe-inspiring spot provides impressive views from get a closer look you can take a short pleasure boat trip around the rocks. HOW TO GET THERE Traveling by train takes around four hours from Tokyo to Fukui Station, followed by another 45-minute journey to Mikuni Minato Station. From there, take a local bus minutes, or walk there in just over half an hour. Alternatively, you could make a 6.5-hour road trip from Tokyo. www. toujinbou-yuransen.jp

TOTTORI SAND DUNES, TOTTORI Spanning over 30 k these spectacular sand dunes are the only example of this type of landscape in the country. Ash and sediment from the mountains were brought into the sea from the Sendai River where sea currents and winds bring it up the shore, forming the constantly reshaping and rippling dunes. remarkable views of the surrounding sea and land. Ten years ago a Sand Museum (www.sand-museum. jp/en) was opened, heralding itself as Japan’s only open-air museum exhibiting “sand sculptures,” which due to their medium are always temporary. While the dunes have existed for over 100,000 years, recently their scale has noticeably decreased due to a various causes thought to include natural disasters as well as the high frequency of visitors to the area, so tread with caution.

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HOW TO GET THERE Fly from Haneda Airport to Tottori Airport (75 minutes), then take a bus from the airport to Tottori Station (20 minutes). From the station, take a local bus bound for Tottori Sakyu and get sand dunes you can enjoy camel riding or a tour in a horse-drawn carriage, and you can even try paragliding and sandboarding. Contemporary Japan - 2017

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24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE

................................................... Even though Asakusa’s Rokku entertainment district saw its heyday a century ago, it still caters to nightlife with a host of rakugo (storytelling) theaters, cinemas showing classic films, and other adult- oriented recreation. You may want to take a jinrikisha (rickshaw) to Denbouin-dori for food at one of the numerous izakayas lining the street. And if you miss the last train,

SA U K A S A GH INAL U O R YO’S ORIG K O H T , T D N FLOAT NOWNED FOR ITS SACREDTHGEROSUUN GOES DOWN

LLY RE E WHEN UNIVERSA MES ALIV O C T C I R DIST PLEASURE

SERENITY NOW

....................................

The main draw in Asakusa is Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisatt-va Kannon. The first temple on this location dates back to 645 AD, making it the oldest in Tokyo. Following reconstruction after being leveled in World War II, the temple became a symbol of recovery and amity, and remains one of Tokyo’s holiest sites, hosting the popular Sanja Matsuri festival in late spring. Commanding the entrance to the temple, the imposing Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) is a popular meeting spot and background to millions of tourist selfies. On the rare occasion that it’s open to the public, a visit to Demboin Garden, on the grounds of Senso-ji’s head priest’s away from the hordes of tourists.

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communal alternative to capsule hotels.


TAKE ME TO THE RIVER

................................................................................................................ Positioned on the banks of the Sumida River, Asakusa has a great outlook on the water and the several bridges that cross it. A prime location for enjoying the view is from Kuritsu Sumida Park, right on the banks of the river. Every spring, the park’s cherry trees blossom to the delight of hanami partakers, who take up every square inch of park ground with tarps, or enjoy the sakura from traditional yakatabune houseboats on the water. Looming in the background across the Azuma Bridge, the Asahi Beer Tower can’t be mistaken – it’s the building that looks like a mug of golden beer, complete with frothy head. Tokyo Skytree is also omnipresent in the skyline to the East. omnipresent in the skyline to the East.

SNACKS APLENTY

........................................................ There are many delights to sample as you trek around Asakusa. Traditional Japanese snack foods are found throughout, such as daigaku-imo (candied sweet potatoes) at Chibaya, dorayaki (red-bean pancakes) at Kamejyu, and kuzumochi (arrowroot mochi) at Funawa. The sweet bread melonpan is a specialty in the neighborhood, and Kagetsudo has been making them since 1945. You can view the process of making intricately shaped, filled pastries from start to finish behind the window at Ganso Kimuraya Ningyoyaki on Nakamise-dori. For more savory treats, soba noodle shops are everywhere in Asakusa, with Namikiya, Benten, and Asada being some of the better spots, but really, you can’t go wrong with most of the neighborhood staples.

ARCADE CLASSICS

.................................................................................. Over 90 souvenir shops and snack shacks make up Nakamisedori, the stretch between Kaminarimon and Senso-ji’s Hozomon gate. This is Asakusa’s most popular pedestrian-only shopping lane, but it’s not the only one worth strolling down. For a calmer neighborhood atmosphere and a touch of nostalgia, head west of the temple for Hisago-dori, a covered shopping arcade made up of family-owned shops with lots of charm. While there, you can visit the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum and learn about sashimono furniture-making, antique tool design and copper crafts. Also nearby, and not to miss on a nice day, is Hanayashiki, the oldest amusement park in Japan, in operation since 1853. Contemporary Japan - 2017

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S T R O F M O C U S

KOTAT

P CURLED U S G E L H WIT ES TON TABL UR MEALS U O F Y L D L N A -A T R R: EA EATE IN WINTE PANESE H A P J U L A M N R A O I TO W ADIT THESE TR BEST WAY F O E N O AT HOME NDER COZILY U

THE STORY Although the kotatsu has been around for centuries in Japan, the the original sunken hearth and charcoal burner. Today, it consists of a low table that has an electric heater xed underneath. The contraption is covered by a futon or quilt, which extends over your legs as you seat yourself on the ground around the table. It’s so cozy that pets are bound to join in, and no-one will judge if you fall asleep and stay put all night long. WHAT TO EAT Nabe (hotpot) on a portable stove. Also, if you arrive at a friend’s kotatsu dinner party with a bag of mikan (mandarin oranges), you’ll receive a round of applause. We’re not entirely sure why, but mandarins and kotatsu go together like popcorn and movies. WHERE TO BUY ONE We like the brand Nakamura (nakamura-jpn.co.jp). Their kotatsu kits are available from Rakuten for around ¥40,000, and you can even buy the quilts separately should you want to switch them up every now and then. To purchase the kit pictured above, visit tinyurl.com/ TWkotatsu-rakuten

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RYOGOKU TERRACE THE STORY and shower and locker facilities in the pleasant Runcube space just next door. Wondering where to run? The restaurant is situated alongside Sumida River, with a jogging or walking path easily accessible. WHAT TO EAT Go for the lunch set, which includes soup, rice, and your choice of three to plenty of healthy Japanese ingredients such as seaweed and daikon. For dinner, it’s nabe, naturally. THE KOTATSU During winter, the terrace is transformed into a comfy scene of blankets draped over heater tables, dotted around the raised wooden floor. Best of all, your view is of Kyu Yasuda Garden, where you can also take a stroll after lunch. 1-12-21 Yokozuma, Sumida-ku. www.ryogokuterrace.jp

YOYOGI CURRY SANRIKU KOTATSU TRAIN

THE STORY How to revive the tradition of kotatsu and boost railway profits at the same time? Create a kotatsu train! For the past decade or so, Sanriku Railway boasting 12 kotatsu, giving travelers the chance to experience the ultimate winter wonder expedition. WHAT TO EAT Reserve a bento one day before boarding the train – your lunch box options include Sea Urchin and Abalone (¥1,600), Sea Urchin (¥1,700), and Scallop (¥1,200). To reserve the you ask for it when buying your ticket. WHEN TO GO Until March 26, on weekends and national holidays only, the train will run between Kuji and Miyako, with the roundtrip starting at 12.13pm and finishing at 4.46pm. A one-day pass costs ¥2,500 and reservations can be made between 9am and 6pm by calling 0193 62 8900. For more info (in Japanese only), visit www.sanrikutetsu-dou.com

THE STORY Opened in 2013, this terraced restaurant has a prime spot just near the entrance of Yoyogi Village, which is a trendy little space near Yoyogi Station plenty of greenery. WHAT TO EAT Curry, of course. They – we’ve tried the Asian Chicken, and the Butter Lemon with Shrimp, and both were delicious, not very spicy, and reasonably priced at ¥980. If you’re there for dinner and want to expand on the selection, Stewed Octopus and Olive with Tomato), and meat dishes, along with a complete menu of drinks which are served from their cute bar at the back of the restaurant. HOW TO ORDER Until April, they have closed in their terrace, and added blankets and heaters to all the tables, making this the best curry experience we’ve yet to have. 1-28-9 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku. yoyogi-curry. com Contemporary Japan - 2017

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Tour the traditional shopping, entertainment and residential districts along the Tokyu Line in just 4 hours! Ginza, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Asakusa are some of the most popular areas in Tokyo, but there are other less famous but fun areas nearby. Here we take you on a small trip to several traditional shopping, entertainment and residential districts along the Tokyu Line. Pick up some information, get a discount ticket and go! Let’s take a short train trip. Get the most out of your trip by making checking out the areas along the Tokyu Line, pick up some information at SHIBUYA of the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line and Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line’s Shibuya Station. tourist information for Shibuya and other areas along the Tokyu Line and tell you how to change trains.

8:00 pm) will be happy to serve you. You can leave your large suitcases there as well (with a fee).

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Sign in at SHIBUYA CHIKAMICHI and you can use the CHIKAMICHI Lounge (above) for free. The ladies’ powder room was designed by famous photographer and movie director Mika Ninagawa. The lounge is also equipped with a nursing room and a kids’ room.

tourist spots along the Tokyu Line: Jiyugaoka (a one-way ticket from Shibuya Station costs 160 yen), known as a stylish town, Futakotamagawa (200 yen from Shibuya Station), Yokohama (270 yen from Shibuya Station), Minatomirai and Chinatown. The two areas we are visiting on this trip are also located along the Tokyu Line so it is a good idea to get a one-day pass. Various services cater to the needs of tourists such as a map with multiple language indications and a touch panel information board

A Tokyu one-day pass is very easy to use. Make sure you pick up your pass after you go through the gate!

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After about 25 minutes from Shibuya Station on the Tokyu Meguro

Musashikoayama Shopping Street is famous for its 800m shopping arcade

separate colors and information boards indicating station names and numbers are easily found on platforms and inside train cars.

Togoshi Ginza Shopping Street runs a total of 1.3km and is the longest shopping street in Tokyo. It has Ginza in its name because bricks were brought from Ginza and used in the main street pavement when Ginza was damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Togoshi Ginza is and entertainment street to have “Ginza” attached to its name.

day. Togoshi Ginza Shopping on

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Japanese

TV

programs as one of Tokyo’s popular and

traditional

shopping

streets.

The street is also known

for

original

“Togoshi

Ginza as Walking through Musashikoyama Shopping Street, we head for Nakahara Highway which has been in use since around the 12th century.

such

sweets

shochu

its

brand”

products

With roughly 400 shops, Togoshi Ginza Shopping Street is a busy place. Over ten thousand shoppers visit the street even on a week

The shopping arcade is lined with old and well-established Japanese sweets shops, local vegetable stores, cafes, interior design shops and national chain drugstores, giving the street a warm, down-to-earth atmosphere. Visitors can get the feeling of a Japanese shopping street from the 1950s – 60s.

Street

frequently appears

and

(distilled

spirits made from sweet

potatoes

and barley), developed by the shop owners of the Togoshi Ginza Shopping Street.


Eating freshly-made local snacks while strolling down the street is one of the best parts of visiting shopping streets. Filling up on taiyaki cake with a generous amount of sweet red bean paste filling, we head for our next destination.

Taking the Tokyu Ikegami Line from Togoshi-ginza station, we arrive at Ikegami Station in about 20 minutes. The area is home to the prestigious Ikegami Honmonji temple, whose history is over 730 years old. The Ikegami Line was built in 1922 to serve the people coming to visit Ikegami Honmonji.

The new Togoshi-ginza Station will have a platform built with woods from the western Tokyo Tama district. The refreshing scent of woods will greet passengers getting on and off the train at Togoshi-ginza Station.

Paying a visit to a famous temple which led to the construction of a railroad

Walking through this temple town dotted with flower shops, Buddhist altar fittings shops and a Japanese sweets shop which was established in the 16th century, Ikegami Honmonji’s main gate comes into sight in about ten minutes.

Ikegami Honmonji Temple’s main approach is 96 stone steps. The front approach is 96 stone steps built in the early 17th century.

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Ikegami Honmonji Temple deva gate. Engraved on the cross section of roof tiles is a Chinese character “(hon)”

The five storied pagoda built in 1608 is designated as an important cultural property.

The main hall which enshrines Nichiren, the founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, is a 27m-tall magnificent building. The roof is in the traditional iriomoya style (hip and gable roof ) with slopes in the front and back like Kyoto’s Heian Jingu Daigokuden. A solemn atmosphere envelops the spacious and quiet temple grounds.

Sagami-ya was founded in 1696. The current owner is the 12th generation.

The specialty of the temple city of Ikegami Honmonji is arrowroot cake. It is pleasantly sweet, has a supple texture and is served with toasted soybean flour and dark molasses (molasses made by boiling down black sugar). Unlike kansai-style arrowroot cake which is made with kudzu starch, the kanto-style cake is made with flour starch that has undergone lactic fermentation. Ikegami Honmonji is the birthplace of kanto-style arrowroot cake and three specialty stores in the city have been in the arrowroot cake business since the 17th century. 80

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Nagano

Snow Paradise Snow sports in the mountains are recommended if you plan to visit Japan in the winter. Nagano Prefecture is particularly known for its accessibility from metropolitan areas such as Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. This spacious and unique snowy resorts location can be enjoyed by anyone from beginners to experts.

Steady snowfall and an abundance of ski resorts Nagano Prefecture is located in central Japan and is surrounded by high mountains known as the Japanese Alps. There are many locations in the prefecture that are perfect for ski resorts and so there are about eighty ski resorts here due to its having some of the

largest amounts of snowfall in Japan. One of the reasons why it was chosen as the site for the Nagano Olympics in 1998 includes its various ski resorts with their fine snow, stable snowfall, broadness in area, and landscape. If you go to an actual ski resort, you will

find various courses with the perfect level of difficulty for you ranging from gentle wide slopes for families to courses with steep slopes for experts, medium-distance courses that let you ski for a long time, and kids’ parks where children can enjoy riding on sleds. A feature of many ski resorts in Nagano Prefecture is that the courses set up at the wide bases of mountains where there is plenty of space. And of course, there are plenty of courses for experts as well as skiing classes. There are even many ski resorts with kickers, boxes, and rails for performing air tricks on skis and snowboards. Statuses on deposited snow and snowfall as well as warnings may easily change so please be sure to check weather conditions ahead of time, check for information on the websites of where you are visiting, and constantly be up to day with the latest news even after you arrive.

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With great snow and courses! The representative snowy resorts of Japan. The snowy resorts of Shiga Kogen area and Hakuba area are becoming very popular in Nagano Prefecture. Each have over ten unique ski areas, let you go to the ski resort of your choosing from the town you stay in,

Shiga Kogen Ski Resort (with 19 large and small ski areas) Featuring Japan’s largest ski area spreading 425 acres out with 19 large and small ski resorts and 52 chair-lifts. You can enjoy all of the ski resorts throughout the mountains with one common lift ticket that also lets you board shuttle busses that take you to ski resorts and hotels for free. The central zone has easy access to locations such as the family-oriented Ichinose area, the

Ski Resort. The Okushiga area is for those who would like to spend a time of rest and relaxation. It is known for its quiet and luxurious environment and great snow due to its low temperatures. The Mount pleasant views. The view from the top of Mount Yokote 2,305 meters (about 7,562 feet) above sea level is particularly wide and exhilarating.

sea level – class mountains. A common ticket can be purchased to board all lifts and gondolas. They can let you enjoy skiing and snowboarding at a ski resort with the

Places such as Hakuba Sanosaka Ski Resort and Tsugaike Kogen Ski Resort are good for beginners and families with small children as they have gentle slopes. In contrast,

unique Shiga Kogen Giant Ski Resort where

Hakuba Valley

the giant slalom was performed during

Hakuba Valley has 11 ski resorts at the

the Ski World Cup, and the Nishitateyama

base of 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) above

places like Hakuba Happo-one Ski Resort on fresh snow while taking in beautiful

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scenery. You can also enjoy the feeling of the fresh snow depending on its condition. The extremely popular HAKUBA47 Winter Sports Park has features such as a full-scale halfpipe and kicker where you can practice doing snowboard tricks. There are activities that you can enjoy precisely because you have on skis or a snowboard. One of them is taking in beautiful scenery from a snowy mountain.

that can be enjoyed all throughout the year. You can even go higher up to 1,930 meters (6,332 feet) above sea level on a chair-lift in the winter. You can feel as if you are sliding into a sea of clouds from the peak of Mount Ryuoo because the sky is often clear even on days with bad weather since you are above the clouds. A huge panoramic view that spreads about 20 kilometers (12 miles) out awaits you on clear days. A long course that runs up to 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) due

Ryuoo Ski Park

Sugadaira Ski Resort

Towards the top of the Ryuoo Ropeway at 1,770 meters (5,807 feet) above sea level is the “SORA terrace”, which lets commands a beautiful view from up in the sky and is known as a scenic spot

A snowy resort consisting of 12 ski resorts on mainly three mountains. The scenery that reminds previous visitors of the Swiss resort town of Davos located at the base of mountains is appealing. There is also a special experience you can enjoy where you a take tour up to near the peak of Mount Neko by a snowmobile known as the ” Tour of Mount by SNOW CAT”. The scenery from an altitude dotted with trees with soft rime, and this beautiful scenery can be seen all the way to the mountain range of the Northern Alps with their cluster of summits that runs through Nagano Prefecture. And of course, you can ski or snowboard on your way back down and enjoy the powdery snow to your heart’s content! In addition to fully enjoying skiing and snowboarding, there are plenty of other things to experience! Here is a snowy resort for those who would like to do so.

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Karuizawa Prince Snow Resorts Just 1 hour by Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station. Karuizawa Prince Snow Resorts, which is located right by JR Karuizawa Station, is a snowy resort where you can enjoy everything from a hotel to hot springs, shopping, and a post station along a former highway. It is also open every year from early November even if there is no snowfall because there are 195 snow-falling machines that spray compressed air and water into the air so as to freeze them and 8 not only in Nagano Prefecture but also throughout the island of Honshu as a ski resort that opens early in the winter.

can slowly relax after your trip or long day of playing in the snow. Spreading out in front of the hotel is an outlet mall that is easily accessible. Visitors can freely enjoy their shopping without having to worry about their baggage.

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is recommended for those who want to experience Japanese culture more when they are not skiing or snowboarding. It has long been famous for its hot springs and the hot springs town has developed over a period of hundreds of years. One of the attractions is the 13 public bathhouses known as “sotoyu�, which are managed by the local residents outside the hotel. They can all be enjoyed at low fees and visiting various sotoyu

It has become a hot springs town where tradition and modern times have come together as young people have been opening up bars and izakayas so people of all ages can enjoy their time here in their own ways.

and various kinds of courses. Please be sure to enjoy skiing or showboarding in Nagano Prefecture if you plan on visiting Japan in winter.

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Tono: Legends and Landscapes Japan’s Eternal Home

tono is a small city located in Iwate prefecture of Japan. It is known as the City of Folklore for its abundant collection of folktales and dedication to the preservation of traditional culture. Kunio Yanagita recorded the legends, the Tono Monogatari, in 1910, preserving the multitude of tales for posterity, and the city has beautifully and uniquely preserved 86

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the traditional Japanese farming way of life. In contrast to the slick, sophisticated cities of Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and the like, Tono is a place of simplicity, beauty and endless landscapes. To truly see Japan at its most unique and individual, Tono is the place to visit. The most famous characters of Tono’s

legends are the mischievous kappa, mythical creatures not entirely unlike trolls who like to live in the water and cause general havoc. Historically, the kappa were held responsible for unexplained pregnancies and accidents, and they have lived on in legend to essentially become


It is not possible to visit Tono without encountering kappa depictions: a group of kappa statues can be found right outside the train station, kappa carvings are dotted across the city, and it is even possible to purchase a kappa-cino at the cafe in the Tono Tourist Centre. They are described as grotesque creatures with red faces that leave footprints like those of a

monkey and handprints of human beings, less than eight centimeters in length. One interesting sightseeing spot in the city is Kappabuchi, a pool where the mythical kappa creatures are said to live. One of Tono’s most famous tourist attractions is the Unedori Shrine, dedicated to the god of marriage.

About ten minutes from Tono Station, it is a collection of small wooden shrine buildings under a canopy of spectacular trees, from which dangle long lengths of string with red cloth. It is said that if you use only your left hand to tie a piece of red cloth on the tree at the Unedori Shrine, then your wish will be granted. In August and September you can view the Contemporary Japan - 2017

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Tonotanabata festival and and the Tono festival where there are various foods and displays including horseback archery. February holds the Tono Folktales Festival where local storytellers recite famous tales from the TonoMonogatari. For lunch, try out Yu Wa, a restaurant run by the wives of Tono’s farmers. Fresh produce is available for sale just within the front door, and out the back you can get a delicious meal of exceptional Tono food. I heartily recommend the fish. There is a hotel in the city, but for a more authentic experience, consider a homestay with a friendly, welcoming Tono family. Other famous fares include Genghis Khan, or barbecued lamb, and hittsumi, or wheat dumplings. For the adventurous there is a wasabi beer

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created from the local brewery, but I did not get a chance to try it out. In Furusato Mura, the traditional folk village, located approximately 7 km from Tono Station, traditional farming has been revived, offering a novel experience for visitors to Tono from around the world. Travelers are able to try activities such as farming or making bamboo or straw crafts. I had the opportunity to work with an instructor making a small model horse from straw: a thoroughly enjoyable activity made all the more rewarding when you finally get the hang of it, after how difficult it is when you start off. A trip to Furusato Mura is a hands-on, intercultural experience of rural life in Japan.


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SPECIAL EVENTS

Saeed Ahmad receives the award

Best photographer of the year Saeed Ahmad, Senior Photographer of “Contemporary Japan� Magazine, Kuwait receiving the Best Photographer of the Year Award for Overseas from Mohammad Yameen Siddiqui, President of the Punjab Press Council and Irtaza Siddiqui. Pakistan Photographic Conference 2016 at Al Hamra Cultural Complex, Lahore, Pakistan was organized by the Punjab Press Council (Photographers Wing).

Yameen Siddiqui, Mudassar Dar, Asif Sherazi, Nadeem Khawar, Saeed Ahmad, Amna Yaseen, Rabbania Shirjeel, Massod Ahmad Khan, Saleem Khawar, Tariq Sulemani, Umair Ghani, Hassan Ahmad and Irtaza Siddiqui at Pakistan potographic conference 2016 at Lahore.

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Samurai Residences of Izumi A taste of old Japan Izumi, located in the northwestern corner of Kagoshima Prefecture is a Kyushu Island town with ancient history steeped with samurai lore. Samurai are a strong symbol in Japan, with a deep and fascinating history. The samurai residences of the Satsuma Domain (now modern-day Kagoshima prefecture) remain preserved with great care as a reminder of the rich history and the samurai who made this area their home than the typical sightseeing experience as tourists visiting Izumi have the unique opportunity to dress in Japanese kimono while exploring the area and drinking tea. Once clad in kimono and surrounded by traditional buildings and unpaved streets you are no longer a tourist, transforming into a character from an old folktale. Our group gathered in a large tatami room

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participants how to properly sit for a tea ceremony, in the seiza style, resting directly than anything we have in my country, but the manner of how to properly get into this position was clearly explained From there, we were instructed in correct etiquette for receiving the tea. From how to bow to the attendants, correctly using the napkin, how the tea should be drank, and even the way you eat the accompanying provided snack,

is very considerate and assists each group With a live musical accompaniment of koto, or Japanese harp, the atmosphere is truly serene and peaceful.

Once the tea ceremony ends, participants can freely explore around the area in their classic Japanese attire. There are countless and friends. Among the samurai residences in the area include the shooting locations for Atsuhime, a TV series that chronicled the life of Tenshoin, the wife of the thirteenth Tokugawa Shogun. The entire tour is around one hour in total. The distances between the samurai residences are perfect for casual strolling, but one interesting point is the traditional ox carriage for those who would rather be driven around. While the ox is led around, an attendant sits inside the carriage, explaining the history of the area and be expected from anyone you meet in Izumi, the attendants are extremely polite and very interested in meeting and sharing


their experiences with foreigners. Even with limited English, the helpful staff will do their best to attend to your needs. The samurai residences allow you to taste a piece of the rich cultural history of Japan: a travel in time that should definitely not be missed. Izumi has countless beautiful locations to explore and cherish outside of the samurai house district. One such place is the Izumi crane migration grounds which has been designated a national natural treasure. The attached Crane Park hosts observation facilities with free admission from November to March. Each year over 10,000 cranes migrate through the area making Izumi the perfect location to view the traditional, fabled bird. Other sightseeing spots are numerous and include fields filled with flowers changing with the seasons, beautiful forest areas, and the Komenotsu River winding through the city out to the sea. A collection of hot springs overlooks Izumi creating a wonderful place to rest, relax and take in the full view.

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Need to burn some calories, but bored of your standard training sessions? Over the next five pages, we round up five Japanese martial arts to try, along with some new rends, gadgets, and workshops to keep y red

MARTIAL

ARTS

Compiled by Dorothee Erle & Annemarie Luck

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ast year’s trend was all about less is more, with many choosing to do weight training from home, or to count the number of steps taken each day in lieu of taking time out for a jog around the block. But there’s something to be said for turning your workout into a sociable occasion and joining a group class, especially if you’re new to the city, or simply feel like meeting new people. And since we’re in Japan, it makes sense to try something traditional. To that end, we’re recommending ve martial arts to try, including a couple of classics as well as some more modern ones. Then, over the next few pages, we’ve collected a few treats for those who love a good trend – or a good gadget.

Contemporary Japan - 2017

JIU JITSU

If you prefer more action to meditation, Japanese jiu jitsu might be a good option for you. Developed by samurai warriors as a weaponless hting technique to be used in times when they had no sword on hand, it’s considered to be one of the oldest Japanese martial arts. The jiu jitsu-ka learns to react quickly to an opponent’s attack, using their energy against them, and incapacitating them with techniques such as pins, joint locks and throws. In which also makes it ideal for strength and cardio training. The sport also foexibility, and endurance. cuses on breathing techniques, incr

WHERE TO TRY IT Axis Jiu Jitsu Academy, www.axisjj.com


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AIKIDO

Derived at least partly from jiu jitsu, aikido is among the youngest of the traditional Japanese sports. As the “ai” in “aikido” indicates, it focuses on peaceful resolution of a conflict. Another big aspect is self-development. While aikido is always practiced with a partner, there are generally no competitions, and the movements are almost like a choreography. Aikido is great for a full body workout – although beware there is a bit of throwing and falling involved, so you might end up with a few bruises. It is much more predictable than jiu jiutsu, though, so it allows the practitioner to reach a state of relaxation. In aikido, the opponent’s power is used against him or her, which makes it a good option for all ages and levels as superior strength is not required.

WHERE TO TRY IT Aikikai Foundation, www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/index.html

KENDO Although this modern Japanese martial art, which named kendo in 1920, is mostly associated with samurai-style sword fighting, kendoka (kendo practitioners) use wooden swords called bokken rather than sharp blades. As etiquette plays an important role, every fight begins and ends with an exchange of formal bows. A kendo bout is only five minutes long, and ends when one kendoka twice strikes the other on a designated strike zone (head, trunk, forearm, and the part of the throat just beneath the chin). A short yell, called kiai, is uttered each time a strike is made. Besides improved strength, endurance and overall fitness, kendo sharpens the mind and reactive abilities. WHERE TO TRY IT Tokyo Kyumeikan Kendo Dojo, kyumeikan.info

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KYUDO

With origins dating back to the Yayoi period (300 BCE to 300 CE), Japanese archery was developed into the art form kyudo during the Edo period. For many, a sign of a good kyudoka is an aura of serenity, hence mental training comes first, followed later by attempting to hit the target, which stands 28m away from you, and is only 36cm in diameter. If you hit the target, everyone shouts “sha,” which means “arrow” or “shot.” Interestingly, in Japanese archery, the kyudoka always shoots two arrows in succession. They rotate in opposite directions and can be seen as a “female” and a “male” arrow. With its focus on mindset, kyudo can be viewed as a kind of moving meditation, and so is especially recommended for those seeking a spiritual way of training body and mind. WHERE TO TRY IT Koto-ku Kyudo Renmei, kokyuren.com/english.html, or Shinjukuku Archery Association, shinjuku-archery. com/index.html -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

IAIDO

This martial art got its start in the 1500s, and is performed with a Japanese long sword called katana. However, the focus is not on combat but rather on being present, aware, and being able to swiftly draw one’s sword in order to respond to a surprise attack. The iaidoka learns how to react to an endless set of situations, ending their motion with the resheathing of the sword. In a way, iaido is more about choreography and defense than attack, with the focus being on the development of a focused and clear mind, calm nerves, and balance of the body. WHERE TO TRY IT Isokai, www.mugairyu.jp/english/index.html Contemporary Japan - 2017

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