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Taryn Siegel

Taryn Siegel

Articles (8)

6 best jazz bars in Tokyo

6 best jazz bars in Tokyo

Japan is a great city for live music and jazz holds a special place. In fact, Japan has had a long love affair with jazz – nearly as long as the genre’s existed, with the first jazz scenes emerging in the early 1920s in Osaka and Kobe, just years after the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first jazz record, ‘Livery Stable Blues’ in 1917. Today, it is Tokyo that hosts Japan’s most thriving jazz scene. Tokyo offers a few beautiful mega-clubs which bring in some of the best talents, both domestic and international. But the real jazz scene is often found down snaking backstreets, up or down a winding staircase and inside a hideaway joint where the whole bar is operated by one devoted jazz fanatic (you'll find lots of music venues like this in Koenji). It’s here where the local scene thrives, where a different mix of incredible jazz musicians can usually be found jamming together any night of the week. We’ve selected some of the very best spots from across the spectrum – from bars so narrow you’ll have to squeeze around the bassist to get inside, to clubs the size of concert halls where chandeliers hang above elegant table settings. Each spot offers a passion for jazz that is palpable, and a music quality that is totally immersive. Recommended: Visit some of the best bars in Tokyo

Tokyo Q&A: How does Japan celebrate Christmas?

Tokyo Q&A: How does Japan celebrate Christmas?

If this year is your first Christmas in Japan, you might be a little surprised (or even confused) at some of the traditions you witness. Even though only about 1 percent of the Japanese population are Christian, Christmas is still a pretty big deal over here (as you may have noticed with the plethora of Christmas markets and stunning illuminations dotting every corner of Tokyo). But the Japanese have their own spin on Christmas that doesn’t include any religious affiliations. We’ve broken down the three most important Japanese Christmas traditions and where they all came from.

Guide to Ogasawara: Tokyo's island paradise

Guide to Ogasawara: Tokyo's island paradise

Just a hop, skip and a 24-hour ferry ride from mainland Tokyo, you’ll find the exotic Bonin islands, better known as Ogasawara. Despite transport to the 30-island archipelago being discouragingly expensive and tedious, it’s impossible to oversell this little subtropical paradise. It’s 1,000 km away, but this volcanic chain of islands still comes under the administration of Tokyo – and it couldn’t be more different. The name ‘Ogasawara’ comes from a ronin (masterless samurai) named Ogasawara Sadato who falsely claimed in 1727 that the islands were discovered by his ancestors. He was later exiled from Japan when his fraud came to light eight years later, but hey, the name stuck. The islands passed through the hands of several European imperialists after the first recorded visit by a Spanish fleet in 1543, meaning that some of the current residents are descended from European settlers. There are also some World War II ruins on the islands, which you can explore. Since 1875 the islands have been an official part of Japan, although they were controlled by the US military for 23 years after World War II, and they became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2011. Although the 2,000-resident main island (and our focus here) is Chichijima, keep in mind that there are dozens of other islands in the archipelago – including Hahajima, the only other inhabited island – which are also worth a visit if you have time. But you probably won’t be coming here for the history. The wildlife on the islan

Best music bars in Tokyo

Best music bars in Tokyo

Though Tokyo is often praised for its hole-in-the-wall jazz joints and live music venues that span the gamut from indie intimate to multi-storey clubs, a lesser known gem of the city is its plethora of music bars. A music bar or music cafe can have a bit of a broad definition, but is generally distinguished as a place without live music – outfitted instead with a well-stocked record library and usually an audiophile proprietor who really knows their stuff. At these more subdued bars you can enjoy some of the best record collections in the world, drink in a carefully curated selection of music, along with a nice stiff tipple. RECOMMENDED: Our Tokyo drink list features the city's best bars

Tokyo's indie music comes out from the underground

Tokyo's indie music comes out from the underground

‘The borderline between the famous “major musicians” and the “indie musicians” – no one really knows where that line is.’ Sitting composedly in a black kimono-like jacket, Kai, guitarist for the acoustic duo TOW, explains this while Nue, TOW’s vocalist and accordionist, nods along vigorously. By this Kai means that while the lifestyles and degrees of fame in the two camps are wildly different, the idea that there’s a blanket difference in quality is simply false. Stacked side by side, he continues, most fans ‘wouldn’t be able to tell the difference’.

Use these Japanese phrases to reduce plastic use in Japan

Use these Japanese phrases to reduce plastic use in Japan

Anyone who's spent even a week in Japan has probably noticed the country's troubling love affair with plastic. Load up a tray with pastries at the bakery and you'll watch in mild horror as the cheerful bakery staff wraps up each pastry in its own individual plastic bag and then pops those six or seven bags into yet another plastic bag with a handle, followed by a stack of plastic-wrapped wet napkins.  Since China banned the import of plastic waste in 2017, Japan has seen an alarming build-up of plastic waste that has finally reached emergency levels. Japan's Environmental Ministry is now requesting local municipalities to collect and dispose of industrial plastic waste usually handled by specially designated recycling businesses because there's just too much for these companies to handle on their own. Of course, collecting, incinerating and dumping this waste in landfills is a far cry from actually solving this serious environmental problem. If you're wondering what you can do to cut down on your plastic use in Japan, here are some useful phrases to try out the next time you're offered way too much plastic. 

Five things you didn't know about Tokyo's train stations

Five things you didn't know about Tokyo's train stations

With about 10 percent of Japan’s population residing in Tokyo – and with most Tokyoites using the city’s trains every day – a slick public transport system is crucial to keep the city on the move. The capital’s train stations have thus evolved into one-stop destinations for not just commuting but also for eating and shopping. More importantly, they have become world-famous for their to-the-second efficiency, so much so that train companies are known to issue public apology for departing mere seconds earlier than scheduled. But there’s a lot more than just on-time departures that makes Tokyo’s train stations some of the smartest around... RECOMMENDED: Cheap transport deals for tourists in Tokyo and Japan 

Best live music venues in Tokyo

Best live music venues in Tokyo

From  jazz clubs to DJ bars, the (live) music scene in Tokyo has been thriving for decades and only seems to be getting better and better, with top-class acts from all over the world drawn to the metropolis's unique venues and enthusiastic live music fans. But the local scene is where you'll find the heart and soul of Tokyo music, with a warm music community that's both sprawling and incredibly interconnected. With hundreds of venues all over the city showcasing awesome talent, it can be hard to know where to even start. We've rounded up the 10 best live music venues in Tokyo for catching that sweet home-grown indie sound. RECOMMENDED: Best record stores with bars in Tokyo

News (8)

10 things you didn't know were invented in Japan

10 things you didn't know were invented in Japan

Everyone knows that we have Japan to thank for contributions to the world like sushi, origami, Marie Kondo and Pokémon, but there's a whole host of ideas, inventions and gadgets that have come from Japan. Some were groundbreaking, some were very silly, but almost all of them have profoundly changed the world in one way or another. Here's our top ten list of the best inventions you didn't know came from Japan. Photo: Sincerely Media/Unsplash 1. Emoji It should come as no surprise that the land of mascots and kawaii cuteness – where even a notice about a tsunami is invariably accompanied by a cheerful cartoon bear or something – is also the home of the emoji. In fact, 'emoji' is actually a Japanese word, combining the word for 'picture' ('ei') and 'letter' or 'character' ('moji'). It was first introduced on Japanese-made phones in the 1990s, at first not meant for texting (which was not really a thing yet) but for weather reports or business info. It's come a long way since then, though. In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries announced the 'face with tears of joy' (😂) as its word of the year. Photo: Martin Engel - Grafiker Hamburg/Unsplash 2. Walkman Anyone born after 2000 probably doesn't even know what this wacky device is, but in 1979, Sony completely changed the way we listen to music with its portable cassette player dubbed the 'Sony Walkman'. The player was so immensely popular the world over that 'Walkman' became shorthand for any portable music player (until the iPod, that

New Pokémon monorail to serve Haneda Airport starting July 1

New Pokémon monorail to serve Haneda Airport starting July 1

It's been over two decades since the video games 'Pokémon Red' and 'Pokémon Green' launched this unstoppable franchise onto the world stage. These days, Pokémon is riding a wave of resurgence, which started with the release of Pokemon Go back in 2016 – and now the brand is hot once again, especially with this year's blockbuster hit 'Pokemon Detective Pikachu'. Recently, the popular Japanese retailer Uniqlo launched a Pokemon T-shirt design competition, with the winning designs hitting stores earlier this month amid much fanfare (including a life-size Pikachu waddling around and greeting shoppers in some stores). With the expansion of routes and airlines in Haneda Airport over the past few years, not to mention the expected massive influx of visitors next summer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the airport's monorail is capitalising on the fandom too, coming up with the only natural way to welcome its foreign visitors to Japan: a Pokémon train.  Photo: prtimes.jp According to the concept images that Tokyo Monorail has released, Pikachu will be fittingly leading the pack at the front of the train. And following in the carriages behind we've got Snorlax and Bulbasaur. This is only a teaser, though, since the full train is planned to be six cars in length, which means we've got three undisclosed Pokémon friends coming up behind. Try to catch the train starting July 1. Love Pokémon? Here are more ways to encounter your favourite pocket monsters in Tokyo.

U2 is bringing The Joshua Tree Tour 2019 to Tokyo

U2 is bringing The Joshua Tree Tour 2019 to Tokyo

[Update, June 14] The first round of pre-sale has started. It's based on a lottery system and application ends June 23 at 23.59pm. Ticket prices range from ¥15,800 to ¥60,000. More information here (though the site is only available in Japanese). *** New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, South Korea and, yes, Japan are the lucky recipients of U2's Joshua Tree Tour 2019. Tokyo (or rather, the neighbouring Saitama) will be hosting two shows, on Wednesday December 4 and Thursday December 5. 'The Joshua Tree', U2's fifth studio album, includes some of the band's greatest hits like 'Where the Streets Have No Name' and 'With or Without You'. It is not only widely considered the group's best work, but also one of the greatest records of all time. It became the fastest-selling record in British history, topped the charts in 20 different countries and really propelled the group into the worldwide fame it's enjoyed since. In 2014 it was deemed 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant' by the US Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry. Some other titles sharing the registry include Eisenhower's D-day radio address and Thomas Edition's 1988 exhibitions, to give you an idea.    The Joshua Tree Photo: fb.com/U2   The band kicked off the first Joshua Tree full album tour in 2017 to celebrate the album's 30th anniversary, hitting North America, Europe and Latin America. At each show, U2 played 'Joshua Tree' in its entirety. It was th

Kyoto's Gion Festival opens crowdfunding for its 1150th anniversary

Kyoto's Gion Festival opens crowdfunding for its 1150th anniversary

The Gion Festival, which celebrates the Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, is touted as the biggest festival in Japan – and for a country as rife with festivals as this one, it's really saying something. Part of the reason for its fame is its nearly uninterrupted run for the past 1,150 years. The festival started in 869 to appease the gods during an epidemic, and these days the tradition is continued with one local boy selected to be that year's 'divine messenger'. The boy can't touch the ground from July 13 until he's paraded through the streets on July 17. This month-long festival in July not only brings out most of Kyoto's residents – at least for the major events in the middle of the month – but also attracts hoards of visitors from all over Japan and overseas. While this makes for a great party, it also creates massive overcrowding and trash pile-up. Photo: makuake.com/project/gionmatsuri2019 For years, the cost of security fell to the city of Kyoto and the festival's organising body (Public Utility Foundation for Gion Festival Preservation Associations). The festival clean-up also fell to both parties, plus, largely, the residents of Kyoto. Two years ago, the festival organisation decided to offset this ever-growing cost with an unconventional tactic – opening a crowdfunding campaign. Their goal each year (this year included) is to raise ¥3,000,000 (USD27,135). Like other crowdfunders, the organization is offering prizes for donors that hit benchmark donation amounts. Photo: ma

Haruki Murakami celebrates 40 years of writing with a special radio show and live audience

Haruki Murakami celebrates 40 years of writing with a special radio show and live audience

Fans of the best-selling author Haruki Murakami are probably aware of the writer's obsession with music, especially jazz, based on how much the protagonists in his stories talk about music and jazz. Murakami actually managed a jazz bar called 'Peter Cat' before striking out as a writer fairly late in the day. These days, Murakami has found a way to stay in touch with his first love by hosting a radio show on Tokyo FM a few times a year called 'Murakami Radio'. Murakami selects some of his favourite jazz pieces to share with his listeners, centered around themes like 'Tonight is Analog Night!' and 'Love is a Roller Coaster'. To celebrate 40 years of writing, Murakami Radio is hosting a special broadcast this June 26 (starting from 6.30pm) where the author has invited some of his very talented close friends, including jazz pianist Junko Onishi, saxophonist Kosuke Mine and trombonist Shigeharu Mukai, to come on as special guests. Murakami is also asking his fans to tell him their favourite excerpts from his works and he'll be reading a selection live on the show. 150 lucky lottery winners will be invited to attend the live broadcast. If you want to enter, just fill out an application form here (in Japanese). Winners will be announced June 12 at midnight and then mailed a winning postcard. The odds might be long, but worth a shot to see the novelist icon in person plus some of the best jazz musicians in Japan.

Go take a chocolate bath in Hakone this week

Go take a chocolate bath in Hakone this week

The hot springs resort and water park Hakone Kowakien Yunessun is hosting its annual chocolate bath from now until Sunday March 17. These baths are refilled with one litre of chocolate sauce twice a day. Although we wouldn't recommend drinking the chocolate directly from the bath, no matter now tempted you may be, you can wash your face and of course, your body in the delicious sauce. The cocoa that the chocolate sauce is made from is said to contain antioxidants, while the hot waters help regulate blood flow, making for an all-round holistic beauty treatment. This year, the water park is teaming up with the Embassy of Belgium, which has put on a Chocolate Fair at the same time. So when you’re done with your chocolate dip, head over to the stalls and sample some Belgian waffles and chocolate. It’s bound to be a whole-body experience of chocolatey goodness. The event is open from 9am to 7pm (last entry 6pm). It's ¥2,900 for high-school students and adults; ¥1,600 for children above three years old including primary school students. Ends Mar 17. For more information, check the official website here. 

Orizuru Tower in Hiroshima opens winter 'glamping' deck

Orizuru Tower in Hiroshima opens winter 'glamping' deck

The Orizuru Tower in Hiroshima has found a way to keep its observatory deck open and even enjoyable throughout the winter season. Until the end of February this year, the tower is putting on a 'Machinaka Glamping' (Downtown Glamping) event. Several single-family sized plastic igloos have gone up on the tower's observatory deck, surrounded by twinkling tree-lights and faux snow. View this post on Instagram A post shared by おりづるタワー (@hiroshima_orizuru_tower) on Jan 20, 2019 at 5:07pm PST From the shelter of their little igloo, visitors can enjoy the nighttime cityscape while staying (relatively) warm and cozy. The 50-meter-high rooftop observation deck offers a panorama of the area, sitting astride the A-Bomb dome and the Peace Memorial Park. The deck is all outdoors – no protective glass screens, just a thin wire mesh – for an unimpeded view. View this post on Instagram A post shared by おりづるタワー (@hiroshima_orizuru_tower) on Dec 18, 2018 at 5:43pm PST Admission into Orizuru Tower costs ¥1,700 for adults (teens 12-17 years old ¥900, youth 6-11 years old ¥700, pre-schoolers 4-5 years old ¥500). For an extra ¥350 you can order a s'mores skillet to enhance the 'camping' aspect of the experience. Despite the 'glamping' moniker in the event's name, visitors can't actually spend the night in their igloos, though, as the deck closes at 9pm. There's also no way to reserve an igloo – if one of the five are free when you arrive

Tokyo now has an umbrella-sharing service called iKasa

Tokyo now has an umbrella-sharing service called iKasa

Tokyoites are generally very conscientious about having their umbrellas on them if there’s any chance of rain, which makes you feel all the sillier (not to mention very wet) if you find yourself caught in a storm without one. A new LINE app called ‘iKasa’ (kasa being the Japanese word for umbrella) is on a mission to mitigate this problem with a pretty genius idea: an ‘umbrella-sharing’ system. Here’s how it works: LINE users add the ‘iKasa’ (アイカサ)account as a friend Click ‘Talk’ and then click on the ‘Rent an Umbrella’ button At that point, a map appears showing all the ‘iKasa’ spots closest to your current location You can tap on a spot close to you and check if the spot is open right now and if they have any free umbrellas When you get to the spot, pick the umbrella of your choice and scan the QR code on its handle to check it out When you return it later, scan the QR code at the return stand    Photo: fb.com/iKasaJapan The rental umbrellas come at a very reasonable ¥70 per day (paid via a registered credit card). If you forget to return your umbrella, you’ll be changed for extra days, but only up to ¥420 (at which point the umbrella’s basically yours to keep). You can also check out and return umbrellas as many times as you want in one day for just the one-time ¥70 fee. Photo: fb.com/iKasaJapan The program only opened on November 1 of this year, but in its first month alone saw over 1,000 people using it. 50 spots are now open in Shibuya with about 40 umbrellas per

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