3 Love It
Save it

The Time Out Tokyo blog

Tokyoite – your daily guide to city life, news and culture

Read more popular posts

How to phone like a Tokyoite
Blog

How to phone like a Tokyoite

No matter how long you’ve been in Tokyo, dealing with things over the telephone often seems harder than it should be. Put your manners on the line with our guide to the dos and don’ts of dialling. DO: USE SET PHRASES Most people know that Moshi-moshi is ‘telephone hello’ in Japan. But with phone calls occupying their own special corner in the complex world of Japanese protocol, where do you go from there? Conversational conventions are the secret sauce for making your call progress smoothly. At an appropriate moment, even if you’ve never, ever talked to the person before, be sure to deploy the set phrase, Itsumo osewa ni natte imasu (‘Thank you for your continuing support and kindness’), and you’re good to go. If you’ve just had a call referred to you, say Odenwa kawarimashita (‘The phone has changed’). And if all else fails hit the abort button with Shitsureishimasu (‘Excuse me’), the universally accepted cue for hanging up. DON’T: USE YOUR PHONE ON THE TRAIN You’re on the train and your phone rings. Anywhere else, the worst that might happen is you go into a tunnel and your conversation cuts off. In Tokyo, however, submitting innocent bystanders to your cellphone chitchat is deeply frowned upon, and in a packed train carriage you’ll be committing a serious courtesy crime simply by taking the call. Instead, ignore the impulse to answer and send a quick text to say you’re on the train. Or pick up, say the same in hushed tones, and get off the line. And whatever you do,

Meet Juli Sasa, the nocturnal pâtissier
Blog

Meet Juli Sasa, the nocturnal pâtissier

Bathing in the neon glare of Kabukicho’s Sakura-dori, the inconspicuous KI Building is home to one very quirky cake shop. Open until 3am every night, it’s run by master pâtissier Juli, who used to cut fruit for the famed Takano Fruit Parlour before developing a fruit allergy that forced her to quit that job. Desperate to continue her career despite the suddenly difficult circumstances, the fruit-loving Juli quickly gathered her courage and opened her own shop mere minutes on foot from her old workplace. Juli, who counts a number of celebrities among her customers, turns out wildly colourful, made-to-order cakes decorated with dolls and comic book characters. Also skilled in amezaiku, the Japanese art of miniature candy sculptures, she tops her cakes with these small pieces of edible art, in addition to ample amounts of delicately cut fruit and edible flowers, which are quietly becoming something of a trend in Tokyo. She decided to start using these because they allow for colours that can’t be obtained from other ingredients, and because she likes the idea of communicating through flower arrangement. ‘The first flowers I used were pink mini roses, which embody the message of happiness and thankfulness,’ says Juli. ‘I thought this sounded perfect for the cake I was making, and when I then showed one decorated with mini roses on social media, I started receiving a lot of requests.’ As Kabukicho is famed for its many host and hostess clubs and their lively parties, Juli

Get an insider's look at Tsukiji market and learn to make washoku with Airbnb Experiences
Blog

Get an insider's look at Tsukiji market and learn to make washoku with Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb has certainly had enough publicity – both positive and negative – on these shores over the past few years, and the rental accommodation giant has quietly become quite the player in our beloved city. But what to do when simply staying in a local's apartment doesn't cut it, and you're looking for more ways to connect with the city? Enter Airbnb Experiences: these local-led tours range from cooking courses to strolls around Tokyo's best music spots. We recently joined the Foodie Insider course, a two-day extravaganza which saw participants dive deep into the bowels of the capital's food scene. Our host was Ayuko, founder of the Buddha Bellies cooking school, recent cookbook author and food expert extraordinaire.    Tasting some nori   Ayuko caught up with our little group at Tsukiji Station at 7.30am and quickly led us through the outer market. Our first stop was at a tamagoyaki shop, which turns out perfectly yellow blocks of stacked omelettes with a pinch of sugar and dashi, served on a stick – great for a little snack. We then headed to a nearby nori shop to taste the differences between various qualities of dried and roasted seaweed, with the dealer prying us with six different varieties, including a few Tokyo-made ones.   Statue dedicated to eggs   After a short pit stop at the local shrine, decorated with statues dedicated to eggs, sushi, shrimp and other seafood, we made our way towards the main prize of the morning: the usually off-limits (for tou

Go for an indoor jog at the new Shin-Toyosu running stadium
Blog

Go for an indoor jog at the new Shin-Toyosu running stadium

News of yet another undertaking or project somehow related to that dreaded year –2020 – has become an everyday occurrence in Tokyo these days. However, if you look beyond the initial National Stadium controversy, not much in the way of actual new sporting facilities have been announced. Instead, we've been getting a plentiful lineup of new hotels, shopping malls and so on, most of them touted as readily accessible for everyone (with more than one eye on the aging population, of course) and easy to navigate for even the most wide-eyed of tourists.  Luckily, someone finally remembered the link between 2020 and sports, and decided to insert this aspect into the ongoing redevelopment of the areas around Toyosu. This 'Bay Zone' is set to see quite a few humongous glass-and-steel apartment blocks, but also excellent transport infrastructure and ample opportunities for getting sporty. These ambitious (and healthy) plans include the Shin-Toyosu Brillia Running Stadium, opened in early December 2016. In order to get a better idea of what's going on out by the waterside, we went to take a peek at the start of this year. The sleek facility is partially run by Dai Tamesue, a former Olympic hurdler, who was quite influential in steering the local development plans in a body-movin' direction. Its interior makes ample use of wood, giving it a rustic feel, is completely barrier-free, and boasts a 60-metre track that meets international standards. It's also the home of Xiborg, a prosth

Bars, bikes and a dapper Murakami – recapping the Love Tokyo Awards ceremony
Blog

Bars, bikes and a dapper Murakami – recapping the Love Tokyo Awards ceremony

On the evening of December 21, a packed Hikarie Hall in Shibuya played host to the inaugural Love Tokyo Awards ceremony, which saw winners crowned in a total of seven categories: Restaurant, Café, Bar, Shop, Product, Activity and Face of Tokyo. Over the past few months, local experts from across the global Time Out network descended on Tokyo and joined our own ace team in picking out the very best of the capital. After countless sleepless nights and heated debates, our judges finally decided on the winners in the five major categories, while we here at Time Out Tokyo narrowed down the Activity and Face of Tokyo lists to, respectively, five and six final picks. Once the criteria had been made clear, it was at last time to announce the award recipients. Read on for a recap of all those who triumphed, complete with comments from the winners themselves.     Higashiya's Shizu Sakihama   First up was Best Café, which was awarded to green tea and wagashi specialist Higashiya. A tea salon that puts a fresh twist on traditional Japanese confectionery, it’s a spot relaxing enough for hours of lingering in busy Ginza. Accepting the award, Higashiya representative Shizu Sakihama said her team, who also run a shop in Aoyama, were honoured to win and hope to continue pushing their vision of fusing traditional Japanese culture with modern lifestyles.     Presenter Misha Janette (left) and Tokyo Station Hotel rep Junko Hama   Next, the coveted Best Bar award was picked u

Michelin Guide 2017 in 3 minutes
Blog

Michelin Guide 2017 in 3 minutes

December is almost here, and with it the commotion that always surrounds the unveiling of the Michelin Guide. Published annually since 2008, the gourmet bible's Tokyo edition has rightfully ranked our dear city as the food capital of the world every year from 2009 onwards, so it's hardly news that Tokyo still stands high above the competition in 2017. Unveiled on November 29, the latest version of Michelin Tokyo lists 12 three-star restaurants – two more than the 10 found in Paris – 54 two-star joints (up from 51 last year) and 161 one-star places (153 in 2016), giving Tokyo a total of 227 starred restaurants. That's far more than double the number of closest challengers Kyoto (96) and Paris (92). However, the gap between Paris and Tokyo at the very top is closing at an alarming rate: Tokyo again dropped one three-star, and the heady heights of 17 back in 2012 are looking more and more like an anomaly. The unlucky loser was Aoyama's Esaki, which for some reason fell to two stars – while the likes of Sukiyabashi Jiro and Kanda maintained top marks despite predictions to the contrary.  Although the three-star list appears to be turning into a victim of conservatism and comfort, Michelin Tokyo 2017 is admittedly packed with interesting details in the less flashy categories. For one, Sugamo's Tsuta was joined by Minami-Otsuka shop Nakiryu in the hallowed hall of Michelin-starred ramen, with the innovative tantanmen specialist blindsiding most of the capital's eager slurpers (i

Create your own fancy bento at Chagohan Tokyo and ride a rickshaw while you're there
Blog

Create your own fancy bento at Chagohan Tokyo and ride a rickshaw while you're there

We've all eaten our fair share of bento (damn you, ever-so-convenient convenience stores and end-of-day sales at depachika), but it may have been, well, a while since you actually tried to make one – let alone one that actually looks nice and fancy like the ones sold at department stores during New Year's. Instead of diving into the kitchen armed only with a printout from Cookpad, we thought we'd try out some training wheels in the shape of Chagohan Tokyo, who run a variety of cooking classes from their base in Asakusa.  We were kindly welcomed by Inoue-san, Hirano-san and our instructor for the day, Hiroko (Note: if you happen to be Dutch, Hiroko will be very excited, as she's spent some time on exchange there). But first we had the option of riding around town for a bit in a rickshaw – and not the motorised variety. Fun fact: the English word 'rickshaw' is derived from the Japanese 人力車 jinrikisha, or rikisha for short.    'Go forth, to Asakusa!'       This one was hand-pulled by our 'driver', Taira-san, who apparently had only just started working for the company. He was happy to answer all the questions we bombarded him with – no it's actually not too heavy, he could probably carry it for quite some time, most people take tours that last half an hour max, and the foreign/Japanese customer split is about 50-50 – after which we rode around very briefly. After all, we mainly came for the food.      Our cool driver Taira-san   Once back inside, Hiroko sta

We checked out Panda Express Kawasaki (so you don't have to)
Blog

We checked out Panda Express Kawasaki (so you don't have to)

Oh Panda Express – who isn't familiar with the Chinese-American comfort food behemoth that's been going strong for nearly three and a half decades, currently operates over 1,900 outposts across the world and reliably supplies homesick Americans with shockingly orange chicken? Apparently said institution has plenty of fans on these shores, too (we blame the American bases and an abnormal obsession with California) – or at least enough to have warranted the opening of Japan's first Panda Express in the middle of the Lazona Kawasaki shopping complex's food court on November 25. A couple of days before that, we headed down south for a sneaky pre-open look.    Panda's main menu consists of nine options, including String Bean Chicken, Broccoli Beef, Grilled Chashu Salmon and old favourite Kung Pao Chicken, while the sides range from chow mein and fried rice to spring rolls and fried gyoza. And of course, the ubiquitous Orange Chicken makes an appearance as well. The sauces and flavours are definitely something that you'd probably only find back in the US, so for those needing a taste of home instead of Japanese-style Chinese food, this is the place to be.    The rather addictive Orange Chicken, drenched in a sweet orange sauce         You can order items separately, but mixing and matching the mains and sides makes more sense. Go down this road and they'll all come served on one plate, so you can compare flavours and see which ones blend together well. We'd say the

Watch a sumo wrestling practice and meet the stable cats
Blog

Watch a sumo wrestling practice and meet the stable cats

Finding tickets to see the big guys in action at the Ryogoku Kokugikan can be a bit of a wrestle, so here’s an alternative: the Arashio-Beya sumo stable in Hamacho lets anyone watch an asageiko (morning practice) for free. Located not far from Ryogoku, the traditional heart of the sport in Tokyo, Arashio-Beya boasts a practice ring with large streetside windows that provide a clear view of the battling rikishi (wrestlers), who descend from their living quarters to start their morning routine around 6.30am. After warming up, the wrestlers start to break a sweat with some light sparring, followed by no-holds-barred brawls. The waft of incense carrying the heavy breathing outside will make you forget about the physical barrier separating you from the wrestlers and you’ll soon find yourself flinching at the impact with which they collide – a visceral experience to behold. When the oyakata (stable master) walks into the room and takes his place on the dais to watch his pupils, the rikishi clash with ever more fervour under the hawkish gaze of the master, employing their entire repertoire of thrusts, grips and throws to force each other out of the dohyo (sumo ring). Even as the scuffles get more scruffy and the chonmage (topknots) start to come undone, the wrestlers show no signs of breaking with the etiquette of respect or easing off on each other in the slightest. When the gruelling training ends around 8am, the wrestlers ceremoniously sweep the sand ring before coming ou

Five things you need to know about pets in Tokyo
Blog

Five things you need to know about pets in Tokyo

By Benjamin Boas Tokyo is a wonderful city to live in but it can be tough for pet owners. Occasionally it feels like there’s barely enough room for humans, and finding places to live where pets are allowed can be problematic. But despite all the kawaii in popular culture, for some there’s no substitute for a real-life furry clump of cuteness in their home, and not having enough room to swing a cat doesn’t stop Tokyoites from idolising their pets... 1. PUPS WEAR DESIGNER CLOTHES What could be better than chasing your own tail? Chasing your own tail in a designer bone-motif gilet, a diamanté-trimmed collar and a pair of fierce doggie aviators, of course – the very pinnacle of canine élan. They don’t often express it, but deep down every dog wants to be fabulous. And if you’ve ever walked down the streets of Ginza, you’ll already be familiar with the ultimate accessory: the dog-stroller, in which owners parade their pets in cushioned splendour. Walkies is so last season. 2. PETS ARE CARRIED AROUND INSIDE HANDBAGS So the lease on your apartment doesn’t allow pets. But ‘pet’ is such an outmoded and condescending term – and the tenancy contract doesn’t specifically refer to ‘non-human dependent companions’, so technically you’re in the clear. But to be on the safe side, it’s still a good idea to keep it on the down low from your landlady: invest in a supply of fragrant air-fresheners; obtain a spacious handbag with air-holes; and train your quadrupedal flatmate to respect lo

Meet Dobolo: Tokyoite, Nigerian factory worker and aspiring pop star
Blog

Meet Dobolo: Tokyoite, Nigerian factory worker and aspiring pop star

During the day, factory worker Benjamin Odabi, one of more than 2,500 Nigerians who call Japan home, toils away in a Tokyo plant recycling printing equipment; at night, he pursues a more glamorous career as Dobolo, aiming to become 'the greatest music act in the world'. When Tokyo-based Canadian filmmaker Jeremy Rubier heard Odabi’s inspiring story, he decided to direct a pro bono music video to accompany Dobolo’s catchy dancehall tune ‘I’m About to Blow’. With several successful music videos already under his belt – made with minuscule budgets to boot – Rubier channels his DIY ethos into another polished and entertaining clip shot with the little money Odabi had saved aside. The video, filmed over a single day in four locations, reveals Odabi’s competing identities as we see him lift boxes in his factory overalls, swagger down a Tokyo street flanked by his flamboyant posse and kick it back with low-riders by the Shonan seaside. Like the upbeat notes of his song, Dobolo exudes a positive energy that's hard not to like – and boy does he clean up good. Watch the clip below:

Meet Ginza's 'coffee godfather'
Blog

Meet Ginza's 'coffee godfather'

‘Coffee only’ reads the sign outside Café de l’Ambre, which has been keeping the Ginza hordes well caffeinated since 1948. Remarkably, it’s still run by the same man – Ichiro Sekiguchi, who turned 102 this May. A living legend in Japan’s coffee community, Mr Sekiguchi named his shop after the colour amber because ‘it’s the ideal shade of coffee, of course’. Working as a sound engineer in the pre-war movie industry, Sekiguchi used to casually treat his colleagues to home-brewed coffee. His blends turned out to be fine enough to both charm his co-workers and make their creator reconsider his career path. A coffee nerd during his student years, Sekiguchi tells us he often visited bean wholesalers for fun, gradually picking up the knowledge that would become the basis of his business. But setting up a coffee shop was no simple task after the war: Sekiguchi long struggled to obtain a license for his place, eventually securing the right to open an ‘alkaloid laboratory’ – which, after some wheeling and dealing, he transformed into Café de l’Ambre. Now, this venerable establishment offers almost 50 different varieties of Joe, including brews made of aged beans that have been left to mature for at least a decade. And although beans are his true passion – ‘Make no mistake: how they are roasted is what determines a coffee’s flavour,’ he stresses – Sekiguchi thinks of coffee-sipping as a comprehensive experience. This attitude is what drove him to design his own roaster, mill, pots an

Show more

Comments

0 comments