About IS JAPAN COOL?
People say “Cool Japan.” Is that true? Here on this site, we offer a wide choice of stories about old and new Japan ― from traditional customs to the latest trends and culture. If something catches your eye, read the full story and vote whether or not it's cool. Depending on what you like, you'll discover what's truly cool about Japan. Step by step, we'll bring you new features to introduce cool Japanese culture and fascinating flight destinations. So, look for lots of new stories to come. And be aware. The more you know Japan, the more you'll want to know. Come to Japan on ANA. Always changing. Always new!
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Some mornings call for nothing more than simplicity. And despite the unusually quiet city streets that often greet those in search of a morning meal, there is hope to found down some of the lesser trodden paths of the inner city. Hidden somewhat surprisingly in Jingumae, Omusubi Marusankaku is a cosy destination that specialises in omusubi, or traditional Japanese rice balls. The shop celebrates the essence of this simple and traditional snack by following a simple formula of selecting the best seasonal produce and preparing it in a way that enhances freshness and flavour. Barely a few dozen footsteps off the Gaien Nishi-Dori sidewalk and not far from Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Omusubi Marusankaku is hidden down a narrow laneway, where you’ll often be greeted by a hanging blackboard and woven bamboo trays of sliced vegetables drying in the sun. Focusing on breakfast, lunch and order-made bento, the comfortable shop is the creation of Chieko Okura, a trained colourist – an urban and architectural colour designer – who was first drawn to the magic of omusubi while holding hands-on workshops with children and adults. She went on to pursue other omusubi-related projects and is now involved in various endeavours that range from food education to environmental design and cultural activation. The shop features half a dozen or so seats arranged along the counter, meaning that you’re never far from the making of the meals in the open kitchen. Made-to-order omusubi means that rice is taken from one of the stovetop donabe and mixed with ingredients such as dried seaweed and dill, before a firm set of hands presses a generously-sized ball or triangle. Served a la carte or paired with pickles, soup and sides, the nourishing omusubi carry satisfying subtle flavours, whether it be umeboshi, fresh ginger, salted salmon roe, or Chieko’s original pairing of dried tomato and herb. Beneath the warmth and attention that goes into each handmade creation, there is a deep appreciation for quality produce and the domestic farmers who dedicate long days and nights to nurturing its creation. Chieko happily shares their stories with visiting customers, in turn passing their appreciation back to the producers themselves – an important link in a network of people connected by, and passionate about, quality seasonal food. And within the subtleties of the perfectly-balanced omusubi, the vibrant flavours of the colourful sides and the sweetness of the near-luminous fruit syrups, there’s a sense of sanctuary to be found in this tiny omusubi shop. <Information> -Omusubi Marusankaku -Where: 3-1-25 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku -When: Tue-Fri 9:30-11:00, 11:30-15:00 (occasionally open Sat 11:00-16:00) -Website: http://omusubi-garden.com/omusubi-garden/omusubi_garden.html
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As one of my more recent discoveries, Buzjenbo has turned me into an udon-lover. The Higashiyama restaurant's warm, casual atmosphere is a refreshing change from stark noodle bars and overly-formal establishments, providing the perfect setting to enjoy the masterful udon that Kazuaki Sato has been fine-tuning for almost two decades. Tucked away on a street corner just off Yamate-Dori, Buzjenbo opened in the late 1990s at a time when there was only a handful of shops in the area and locals would often wonder what kind of restaurant it actually was. These days the udon restaurant has become ingrained in the local community. Regular customers range from newborns to octogenarians, friends’ zines and favourite publications line the white-tiled counter and well-stocked bookcase, and families stop by to share a quiet meal. Kazuaki has spent years developing the kind of udon that can be eaten – both happily and healthy – on a daily basis. The smooth Okayama-made noodles and lightly balanced dashi are at the heart of a menu that features udon ranging from the classic 'Tsukimi' to the sweet and spicy 'Pirikawa Niku' (with wagyu beef) and the ever-popular 'Buzjenbo'. Strangely enough, one of my favourite parts of dining at Buzjenbo is the wait, which hovers at around 14 minutes as Kazuaki takes each order from start to finish. While undoubtedly adding a touch of anticipation, it also proves to be just enough time to sample the famous dashimaki-tamago or a nip of nihonshu. Arriving on a shiny black tray and served in an arita-yaki bowl, it often seems as though the painted flowers are dancing joyfully around the rim of the steaming bowl. As the mainstay of the menu, the 'Buzjenbo' features satsuma-age (fish cake) and kyo-age (deep fried tofu) topped with a soft green bundle of shredded konbu that slowly drifts into the dashi, gradually turning it the most delicious and syrupy of soups. It’s a brilliant combination and one that you’ll want to appreciate from the first slurp to the final drop. Completing your bowl of udon is a most fulfilling moment, after which you can opt for an almond pudding or affogato, or even head off into the streets of Higashiyama, which have welcomed a peppering of small shops and eateries in recent years. And for those who fancy a generous post-meal stroll, following the river up to Meguro Sky Garden is the perfect way to head back to Ikejiri-Ohashi station. <Information> -Buzjenbo -Where: 1-11-15 Higashiyama, Meguro -When: Tue-Sat 11:45-14:30, 18:00-23:00; Sun, 18:00-23:00* -Website: http://www.buzjenbo.com *Closed on the fourth Sunday of the month
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With preparations now well underway for the upcoming 2020 Olympics, it’s nice to take a closer look at some of the venues that featured in the defining 1964 Summer Olympics. The Kenzo Tange-designed National Gymnasium remains a defining part of the Yoyogi landscape, while the octagonal Nippon Budokan in Kitanomaru Park continues to host martial arts competitions and music concerts. Situated a short train ride from Shibuya in the western neighbourhood of Komazawa, Komazawa Olympic Park retains some classic sporting architecture and continues to be a destination for both organised sport and casual exercise. Komazawa Olympic Park was used as the second site for the 1964 Summer Olympic Games, with its indoor and outdoor stadiums playing host to sports including hockey, soccer, wrestling and volleyball. While several venues are currently under renovation or construction, the large plaza at the centre of the 41 hectare park remains, along with three distinctive features: Masachika Murata’s outdoor stadium, the Yoshinobu Ashihara-designed gymnasium and the unmistakable watch tower. Resembling a tall, multi-layered stack of concrete blocks, the tower is visible from almost ever pocket and corner of the park. Strolling around the park, whether it be in the crisp winter sunshine or on a balmy summer’s night, is the perfect way to enjoy the various natural and built features, not to mention a spot of people-watching. You'll find no shortage of morning exercisers and dog-walkers, while budding sports stars complete on the numerous fields and courts. Children play in the animal-themed playgrounds or the summertime splash pool, while the two kilometre jogging course follows a beautiful tree-lined route. While Komazawa is a slightly quieter alternative to some of the inner city’s parks and gardens, weekend events ranging from flea markets to pop-up food festivals and professional sports games bring a vibrant atmosphere to the sport-friendly destination. And for those who are keen to learn more about the 1964 Games, the free Memorial Gallery showcases some historical items and footage from Tokyo's first Olympics. <Information> -Komazawa Olympic Park -Where: 1-1 Komazawakoen, Setagaya -Website: http://www.rbf.jp/komazawa.html
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Whether your looking to kickstart another bout of exploring or are simply looking to start your day in the best way possible, it’s comforting to know that there are hidden gems just waiting to welcome you inside. Retaining the perimeter walls and verdant surrounds of what was once a private residence, Yakumo Saryo remains hidden from the street and offers sanctuary to those whom venture up the stony path. Located between Komazawa and Toritsu Daigaku in the lesser-known neighbourhood of Yakumo, the restaurant offers a modern take on traditional Japanese cuisine; with an intimate dining space complemented by a confectionery shop called Baishinka, along with a tea salon and gallery. Perched atop a small rise and surrounded by well-manicured garden, the Showa period-architecture was taken from residence to restaurant under the direction of Shinichiro Ogata, the founder of Simplicity. Drawing upon the philosophy and techniques of both traditional and modern Japanese design, each facet of the restaurant flows harmoniously into the next. Connected to the restaurant by a light-filled passage that wraps around a beautiful pine tree, the tea salon is the setting for the traditional Japanese breakfast, Asacha. Enjoyed in the most peaceful of settings, the ever-so-gently paced meal features a seasonal set menu complemented by several offerings of tea, before concluding with freshly-made wagashi. Asacha begins with taking your seat in the softly lit salon, where an expansive feature window provides layered views of the adjacent garden. The service commences with a serving of seasonal tea and then houjicha, which is roasted barely moments before arriving by your side. The main course follows, with rice or okayu (rice porridge) paired with a tempting accompaniment of sides – my recent visit featured sun-dried sardines and daikon topped with yuzu miso. The meal gradually unfolds before the window, which remains a balancing force throughout the morning – like a soothing, living work of art. The service concludes with traditional confectionery and matcha, by which point your mind and body will be feeling well and truly at ease. With a deliciously well-balanced menu presented in a beautiful private hideaway, Asacha is the perfect start to a day in Tokyo. The salon remains open throughout the day and is a place to appreciate and saviour the seasons and their produce: spring sees a flood of greenery sweep through the garden, while summer provides a chance to enjoy sweet kakigori drizzled with syrup made from ume or natsu-mikan from the garden. Wandering back down the path completes your journey and if you're still not quite ready to return to reality, Komazawa Olympic Park is barely a hop, step and jump away. <Information> -Asacha at Yakumo Saryo -Where: 3-4-7 Yakumo, Meguro -When: Tue-Sat, 9:00-12:00 (Last order 11:00) -Website: http://yakumosaryo.jp/e/breakfast/