Japan Australia Pages

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Tour of Aichi Prefecture

A Tour of Aichi Prefecture
Aichi Prefecture is best known for Nagoya Castle and the Toyota Motor Corporation, but if you delve further under its surface you will discover many amazing and unique things about this wonderful part of central Japan. From Japanese food culture and umami as the home of sushi and matcha to innovation and technology from Japan’s first wooden robots to modern-day marvels, Aichi has it all with a vast array of attractions.

Join me as I explore the best off the beaten-path experiences that the heart of Japan has to offer.

Mizkan Museum (Handa) 

A fun and interactive museum where you can learn about the history of the famous Mizkan company as a vinegar producer in Japan. Traditionally Japanese vinegar was made from rice, but Mizkan being the innovative company that it is, decided to make vinegar from sake lees, a by-product of sake that is usually just thrown away. This new type of vinegar was cheaper to produce and tasted amazing giving sushi rice the kick it needed to elevate sushi to star status. In the early 1880s, as nigiri sushi was starting to take off in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), Mizkan saw a business opportunity and capitalized by quickly mobilising and shipping their amazing vinegar to Edo to catch the boom. The rest is as they say history. Today Mizkan produces vinegars, mustards, salad dressings, authentic Asian sauces, natto, pasta sauces and other food products, which are sold around the world.


Mizkan Museum

Japanese Restaurant Ittou (Hekinan) 

An amazing Japanese restaurant to experience the best food that the Chita Peninsula has to offer. Ittou specialises in traditional Japanese food made with the best local ingredients of the area. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch here prepared by chef, Nagata-san, who learned how to cook at the famous Tsukiji Tamura in Tokyo.


Japanese Restaurant Ittou

Hichifuku Brewing Corporation (Hekinan) 

The home of shiro shoyu (white soy sauce) in Japan with the Hichifuku Brewing Corporation being the only manufacturer of this amazing product. The amber-coloured sauce is organically made and keeps intact the colours of other ingredients it is cooked with unlike regular soy sauce. Hichifuku Brewing also manufactures shiro dashi (white broth) which is made with its famous white soy sauce along with a broth of carefully selected dried bonito, konbu (kelp) and shiitake mushrooms, giving umami to any dish. A tour of the factory will allow you to see and learn how these delicious products are made.


Hichifuku Brewing Corporation

Aiya Matcha Museum (Nishio) 

Although not as well known as Uji in Kyoto, Nishio City is the home of matcha (powdered green tea) with a history of over 800 years. The Aiya Matcha Museum gives you an interesting hands-on experience where you can learn how to differentiate between the different quality of matcha by colour, aroma, texture and taste, as well as make your own unique matcha blend, which you can grind with a mill stone, whisk up to perfection and enjoy in the traditional tea ceremony room.


Aiya Matcha Museum

Japanese Restaurant Genjiko (Minami Chita) 

Enjoy fresh seafood from the Chita Peninsula at this traditional Japanese-style Inn located in Minami Chita Hot Spring Village. The tasty dishes prepared by Genjiko feature a lot of fresh fish from Ise Bay including the famous Ise-ebi spiny lobster.


Japanese Restaurant Genjiko

Kameya Yoshihiro Confectionary (Nagoya) 

Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets made of mochi and anko (red azuki bean paste) that were originally made to be enjoyed and counter the bitterness of matcha green tea. Nagoya established itself as a center for wagashi during the age of the samurai with the city home to many famous samurai warlords. One of the most famous wagashi makers in Japan is Kameya Yoshiro which was founded in 1949 and now has 17 shops around Nagoya. We experienced making Jonamagashi, fresh Japanese sweets designed to capture the colour and seasonal beauty of Japan. The wonderful experience included watching a certified wagashi master with 40 years of experience make a cherry blossom flower (spring), iris flower (summer), autumn leaf (fall), and chrysanthemum (winter), before trying our own hand at making a cherry blossom flower.


Kameya Yoshihiro Confectionary

Midtown BBQ (Nagoya) 

An American style BBQ restaurant in the heart of Nagoya in the Fushimi area. The steak & smokehouse make their own original BBQ rubs and sauces with everything cooked over fire. I enjoyed a fantastic lunch here specially prepared by the chef for our visit. The lunch included a A5 Black Wagyu Shiitake Mushroom Cheeseburger and BBQ Smoked Spareribs featuring an original BBQ sauce made with Hatcho Miso, a local variety of red miso. I really like how this restaurant combines American classics with Japanese umami through great local ingredients.


Midtown BBQ in Nagoya

Karakuri Dolls at Tsutamo (Nagoya) 

Japan is renowned for its futurist robots but did you know that these innovative marvels have their roots dating back to the age of the samurai? Karakuri Ningyo were Japan’s original robots made during the Edo Period (1603-1868) to entertain guests. These traditional mechanized puppets use only the power of springs or weights, and can do it all from accurately shooting arrows at a target to writing calligraphy and serving tea or sake to their guests. These days you can find them at the top of festival floats entertaining the crowds at local festivals. I was lucky to be able to learn all about the workings of these mechanical wonders at the traditional Japanese restaurant, Tsutamo in the Sakae area of Nagoya, where a 9th generation master craftsman of karakuri-ningyo gave us a lesson in all things karakuri.

Karakuri Dolls at Tsutamo

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology (Nagoya) 

Did you know that the Toyota Motor Corporation started out in the textile industry? At the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology in Nagoya you can learn all about the fascinating history of Toyota from making innovative textile weaving machines to their evolution as a motoring giant. The museum utilizes and preserves the old factory and industrial heritage at the birthplace of Toyota in Nishi-ku, Nagoya. The interactive museum allows visitors to explore the wonderful history and technological revolutions of Toyota with over 3,000 real machines and moving exhibits spanning the modernization of Japan.


Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Monday, January 8, 2018

Kyoto Journal: Japanese Culture Magazine

Kyoto Journal
Kyoto Journal is a quarterly publication that was founded in Kyoto in 1987 with the goal of covering Japanese and Asian culture. Its subtitle, “Insights from Asia”, reflects its commitment to local voices from all over Asia and promoting intercultural understanding. The award-winning magazine showcases life, culture and society not only in Japan by throughout the Asia region from a myriad of perspectives.

The publication is now the longest established independent English language publication in Japan with 75 high-quality print issues, 13 digital issues and several books.

Kyoto Journal (KJ) recently marked its thirtieth year with a return to print format. The latest edition, KJ89 fall/winter 2017, is a fascinating look at the artisan community in Japan and Asia, with an emphasis on the interdependent relationship between individual crafts people and businesses.

Cover of Kyoto Journal issue 89
Cover of Kyoto Journal issue 89

Picking up a copy of KJ89 it feels more like a high-quality book than a magazine and is something that can be revisited again and again due to the nature of its content. A highlight of the current issue for me was “Living Kagai Culture”, by Robert van Koesveld, where Robert delves into the role of local communities and businesses in supporting geiko (geisha) entertainers. I have a deep interest in traditional Japanese culture and in trying to help promote it and indeed keep the traditions alive in this modern world that we live in. This article takes a look at how a living traditional culture has evolved to survive in modern Japan without losing its true essence.

Living Kagai Culture by Robert van Koesveld

If you are not familiar with this magazine, do yourself a favour and take a look at it, I’m sure you will find it as hard to put down as I did.

You can order a copy of this fantastic publication via the Kyoto Journal website

Have you read Kyoto Journal before? What aspects of Japanese culture do you particularly enjoy? Please leave a comment below.

Credit: All photos copyright and courtesy of Kyoto Journal 

Kyoto Journal Insights from Asia

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pepsi Christmas Cola in Japan

Pepsi Christmas Cola
Japan is famous for its unique and unusual Pepsi flavours that come out to celebrate the different seasons and events here in Japan. Popular past flavours include Pepsi Pink Cola for cherry blossom season in spring and Pepsi White Cola for winter. This year, news has come out that Pepsi will be releasing a special Christmas Cake flavoured Pepsi for Christmas in Japan.

Christmas Cake is the highlight of any Christmas meal in Japan, typically served at the very end of the meal. Back home in Australia, Christmas Cake is a heavy fruit cake that is full of dried fruit and nuts. Here in Japan, Christmas Cake is typically a gorgeous sponge cake, frosted with whipped cream, topped with strawberries, and elaborately decorated for the Christmas season.

Christmas Cake in Japan
Christmas Cake in Japan

The Japan exclusive Pepsi Christmas Cola looks very similar in appearance to the Pepsi White Cola from a few years back, but has a totally different taste flavour-wise. Inspired from Christmas Cake in Japan this unique tasting Pepsi mixes white cola with sweet cream with tangy strawberry flavours.

Pepsi Christmas Cola
Pepsi Christmas Cola

Pepsi Christmas Cola will be on sale from November 21 for a limited time only. What do you guys think? Do you plan on getting your hands on a bottle of this unique cake-flavoured cola? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Suntory Japan 

Pepsi Christmas Cola

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Personalised Kit Kats in Japan

Personalised Kit Kats in Japan
Kit Kat is huge in Japan and a popular souvenir among the many visitors to Japan every year with a wide variety of exclusive seasonal and regional flavours on offer. A new vending machine in Kyoto now gives you the chance to personalise your own Japanese Kit Kat.

The fancy vending machine is located in the “Omiyage Kaido” (Souvenir Highway) inside JR Kyoto Station near the west entrance. The unique and one of a kind Kit Kats are called “Travel Memories Kit Kat” and will only be available for a limited time.

The vending machine allows you to print one of your own images via your mobile phone onto a pack of Uji Matcha Green Tea Kit Kats, creating a personalised memento of your travels in Japan. The pack even comes with a special stand inside the box allowing you to beautifully display your personalised Kit Kats. The whole process is quick and easy, taking just five minutes to create your own box of Kit Kats.

A box of personalised Japanese Kit Kats
A box of personalised Japanese Kit Kats

 How much does this amazing personalised Kit Kat cost, I hear you ask. It costs just 400 yen (USD$3.50) to use the service, which include the box of Matcha Kit Kats. This unique service is only available for a limited time until mid-April 2018. Remember to give it a try if you are in Kyoto and hopefully it can spread to other locations around Japan.

Nestle Japan 

Personalised Kit Kats in Japan

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Rare Craft Matcha Green Tea from Japan

Matcha is an infinitely precious & pure material
Material Matcha Uji, one of the most disruptive tea companies of recent years, launch their unique craft Matcha green tea after a year of patient development and hard work.

Material Matcha Uji (MMU) produces insanely good Matcha Green Tea. Collaborating with traditional tea-masters and using ancient, nearly forgotten blending techniques with the highest quality tea leaves from Uji, MMU creates the most exclusive blends of matcha ever offered to the world.

From corporate jobs to the fertile lands of Uji 

Material Matcha Uji is the brainchild of two Frenchmen & longtime expats in Japan, foodies at heart, who after years in finance & IT gave up their big corporate jobs to go on a quest for purity: to find and create the greatest matcha green tea ever.

The Founders Morgan & Etienne
The Founders, Morgan & Etienne

Etienne Denoual, co-founder at MMU, explains: “It all started from a deep wish to reconnect with nature and authenticity. When I went back to Kyoto, a city I had lived in for years before, it was a revelation. We just had to do it.”

The Team at Material Matcha Uji
The Team at Material Matcha Uji

Becoming a tea-maker 

Making high grade Matcha is no walk in the park. Indeed, they faced serious issues: while so-called matcha is booming worldwide (it is often low quality green tea dust), its production has seen a steep decline in Japan. Farmers are facing increasing expenses, weak demand for superior quality matcha, and lower sales value. Even more worrying, the aging tea-making community faces successor problems, endangering its very existence.

Grinding Green Tea
Grinding Green Tea

The two founders, who willingly admit that two years ago they knew next to nothing about tea-making, and were both rather coffee people, took a fresh look to the issues and devised an innovative development model: if superior matcha doesn’t work in the domestic market anymore, they would take it abroad for the first time, where foodies are thrilled by Japanese delicacies.

Rare Craft Matcha 

Their matcha blends, the result of more than a year of hard work in the fields and in their workshop, are uncompromising, bold, sophisticated, and probably unlike anything you have ever tasted before. Straying from the very classical image of Japanese tea ceremony, their craft matcha belongs to the realm of guilty pleasures, not unlike artisanal chocolate or micro-distillery whiskey.

Uji in Kyoto
Green Tea fields of Uji in Kyoto

Because Matcha is a precious and pure material, they package their blends in different raw materials honoring the minimalism of Japanese craft & culture. "We consider our packages and vessels as something one lives with, a celebration and everyday ceremony of the purity of Matcha." explains Morgan Josset, co-founder.

Material Matcha Uji Vessels
Material Matcha Uji Vessels

Support their Kickstarter's Crowdfunding campaign 

Backed by a devoted community and now ready for production, they are asking backers to help them buy a whole year of harvest of several plots of land that are especially promising. Providing tea farmers financial stability and peace of mind, they push them to always favor quality over quantity, and hope that younger generations will one day take up the torch!

You can help support their Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign by visiting the following link https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/materialmatcha/rare-craft-matcha-green-tea-from-japan

Matcha is an infinitely precious & pure material

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Top Spots in Tokyo to Eat for Free

Super Cheap Japan
Tokyo is a great place to eat out, with a bewildering choice of exciting restaurants and new, surprising flavours. One great way to try out many new flavours without splashing too much money away is to visit places that generously give out small samples to customers. It means you can try many types of food, and take your time to find the right snack or meal for you. It’s also useful for picky eaters, as it means there is less chance of ordering food that won’t get eaten!

With my new book, Super Cheap Japan: Budget Travel in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Surrounding Areas, I have made a guide to show exactly how you can travel on a budget in Japan. I have been all across Tokyo and collected a list of free sample spots, which I included in the book. Here are some of my top spots for free food!

Walking past the wide number of choices
Walking past the wide number of choices

Shinjuku is a good start to experience a bit of free food. The two main department stores, Isetan and Takashimaya, both have huge food courts on their basement floors. Isetan is a little more upmarket and seems to have an ever changing selection of stalls and shops, so it’s worth visiting more than once. Takashimaya, next to the tax-free Tokyu Hands variety megastore, has a good range of bakery goods and snacks to take home as souvenirs.

Head a few stops down on the Yamanote Line for more options in Shibuya. Tokyu Food Show has lower prices than the above department stores, and also has a few stalls offering free samples. There is also a good choice of western food, as well as Japanese twists on western favourites, such as cheese fondue and pasta dishes. Also located on the lower level, it can be accessed via Shibuya station.

Trying some Kimchi in Hikarie Shibuya
Trying some Kimchi in Hikarie, Shibuya

Another awesome spot for free samples in Shibuya is Hikarie, also connected to the station. Only a few years old, the higher levels are full of fancy items, with prices more reasonable than most department stores. Downstairs there are two fabulous floors, full of many original snack creations, such as a macaron inside a taiyaki! The shops here are still eager to establish themselves, and are very generous with their free samples. You might not even need a proper meal after visiting here…..

Shopping in Isetan Shinjuku
Shopping in Isetan, Shinjuku

Outside of Tokyo, Chinatown in Yokohama has several stalls offering free samples to tourists on the main street, as well as to customers lining up. Favourites here are the Nikuman (meat bun) and Gyoza (Chinese dumplings). All the free samples are a great way to save money here, as the restaurants can be a little pricey.

Finally, remember to ask for tax-free shopping if you buy lots of items, as all the shops in this post have tax-free for tourists!

Super Cheap Japan
This post was written by Matthew Baxter, author of the new book Super Cheap Japan: Budget Travel in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Surrounding Areas. It's the ultimate budget travel guide to Japan, full of the most useful, up-to-date information for a cheap holiday in Japan. With extensive tax-free shopping, crazily discounted train passes and an unbelievable exchange rate, there has never been a better time to visit. The book shows you exactly how, where and when you can save money. Go shopping for $4 clothes in Tokyo, enjoy inexpensive hikes in Nikko, or visit Kyoto’s beautiful shrines and gardens on the cheap; all with this super helpful guide.

*** Competition Time ***

To celebrate the release of the new book Super Cheap Japan: Budget Travel in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Surrounding Areas, we want to know what your best money saving tip is for traveling in Japan. The top idea will get a free copy of this awesome new book! Know a great place to eat on the cheap? A super way to save on accommodation? An unbelievable travel hack to get something for free?

Just leave your tip in the comments and we will select the lucky winner from the responses. Good luck!

Entries close on Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sake Kit Kat in Japan

Sake Kit Kat
Hot on the heels of the news about a new Nestle factory opening up in Japan for flavoured Kit Kats comes news of a new premium sake Kit Kat in Japan.

Nestle is releasing a new type of high-class Kit Kat with the help of esteemed Toyama-based sake brewery, Masuizumi and former Japanese soccer star Hidetoshi Nakata, a passionate sake fan. The new premium sake Kit Kat will be made for refined tastes and has been a year in the making.

Masuizumi sake brewery based in Toyama Prefecture was chosen from over 100 sake breweries in Japan to provide the premium sake used in these new Kit Kat. Masuizumi has a history dating back to 1893, making a great choice for these premium Kit Kat. The white chocolate wafers of the Kit Kat combine perfectly with the crisp dry finish of Masuizumi’s sake, creating depth of flavour and a distinct sake aroma.

The new premium Kit Kat containing 0.4% alcohol is called Masuizumi Japan Sake Kit Kat and will be sold in distinctive red boxes containing nine individually packaged bars. The tagline for the product is “The elegant taste of sake, wrapped in the gentle sweetness of white chocolate. Enjoy the rich, satisfying flavour of sake”.

Sake Kit Kat

Masuizumi Japan Sake Kit Kat will go on sale at souvenir stores around Japan from mid-September and will retail for 700 yen ($USD6.50). Kanpai!

Kit Kat Japan Website  

Sake Kit Kat

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