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Recapping the 2017 Love Tokyo Awards
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Recapping the 2017 Love Tokyo Awards

After plenty of sweat and tears, and a very well-attended awards ceremony at Shibuya's Hikarie Hall last Thursday, this year's Love Tokyo Awards are finally in the book. We've already featured the winners for 2017 and taken a look back at the big show in picture form over at our Facebook page, but those of you who still haven't had enough awards action will want to check out the clips below.  With behind-the-scenes footage from the ceremony, a roundup of all the winners and a few looks at the afterparty action, this one is your complete 90-second recap of the 2017 Love Tokyo Awards. Take a look and start counting down the days to next year's party... This one, meanwhile, is a slightly longer and more comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the ceremony.

Tokyo is the world's safest city, once again
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Tokyo is the world's safest city, once again

Living here and following the daily stream of crime news on TV and Twitter makes it easy to lose perspective, so it's always good to be reminded of how safe a city Tokyo really is. This time, said reality check comes courtesy of the Economist Intelligence Unit, which released the 2017 version of its global Safe Cities Index last week. And just like in the inaugural 2015 index, our dear capital was ranked number one, beating out 59 other world cities for the title. Trailing just behind Tokyo were Singapore and Osaka, while the rest of the top ten consisted of Canadian, Australian and European cities (plus Hong Kong in ninth place). The safest American city was San Francisco, coming in at a relatively respectable #15. Looking at the fine print, the Safe Cities Index is made up of four categories: digital security, health security, infrastructure security and personal security. Tokyo did particularly well in the digital and health security fields, coming in at #1 and #2 respectively in those. The Japanese government's efforts to 'counter cyber threats and protect critical infrastructure' ahead of the 2020 Games scored a special mention. Tokyo also excelled in the personal security department, ranking fourth in this category. In addition to a low crime rate, the report highlighted a lack of recent terrorist attacks and even the fact that Tokyoites turned in a whopping ¥3.76 billion in lost money last year – around 75 percent of that was later returned to its owners. The only

Meet Tomo Hyakutake, the monster artist
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Meet Tomo Hyakutake, the monster artist

Tomo Hyakutake is a master of the pretty terrifying. For years this makeup and mask artist’s beautiful creations have been scaring the bejesus out of fans of Japan’s venerable kaiju (monster) movie genre. With masks from films including Michel Gondry’s short Tokyo!: Interior Design, manga adaptation 20th Century Boys and 2016 horror pastiche Sadako vs. Kayako staring ominously from the walls of his Asagaya atelier, Hyakutake tells us how he was drawn to the business after being brought up on a diet of Godzilla and Ultraman. Having grown up in an age when the now mighty Japanese figurine industry was in its infancy, young Tomo decided to make his own mini-kaiju – and some of the remarkably detailed models he came up with in his teens are still on display as we talk.   ‘I’ve learned most of what I know by doing,’ says the man who trained under the legendary Joji Tani, aka Screaming Mad George, who worked on Hollywood blockbusters including Ghostbusters and Predator. Hyakutake’s big break came with 2004 superhero flick Casshern, for which his team created all the characters and makeup. ‘Every special effects artist specialises in some genre – it just happened to be fantasy and comic book characters for me,’ he says. The coming months will see a number of Tomo Hyakutake’s creations on the screen. First up is Wilderness: Part One (in cinemas now), a boxing drama based on avant-garde icon Shuji Terayama’s 1966 novel ‘Aa, Koya’ and set in a vaguely dystopian Tokyo, and Nobuh

Some of the best things you can buy from vending machines in Tokyo
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Some of the best things you can buy from vending machines in Tokyo

If there’s one country that knows how to do impersonal shopping properly, it’s Japan. With the highest per capita rate of vending machines in the world, it offers far, far more than your average press-and-go experience. Don’t expect to just see drinks and junk food – you’ll find almost all your human needs catered for, from piping hot soup to comic books, booze and umbrellas, all just a button away.   ALCOHOLIC AND NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS When in need of an ice-cold drink in summer or a warming tea or coffee on a freezing cold day, take your pick and out rolls your choice at the perfect temperature. For those looking for something a little more stimulating, keep an eye out for sake and beer dispensers. Whoever thought of putting alcohol in a vending machine was clearly a thoughtful person; since these are of course open in the early hours of the morning, even the hardest-working of salarymen can pick up a well-deserved drink on the way home after a late night in the office.   HANKO AND OMIKUJI If you live in Tokyo or are a repeat visitor to Japan, you’ll probably know how a hanko (personal seal) is more widely used than signatures when signing off on documents and other important paperwork. Hanko machines can usually be found at ¥100 shops or even your local Don Quijote discount store, and it’s a great souvenir for tourists if you can find your name or kanji characters with the right meaning. At some shrines you may see vending machines selling omikuji or random for

10 things you’ll definitely need on a trip to Tokyo
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10 things you’ll definitely need on a trip to Tokyo

Planning a trip to Tokyo? After booking your hotel or hostel and flights, you’ll probably start listing all the things you want to do, including Tokyo’s must-see sights, eating at some of the best restaurants and checking out all the most attractive shops. However, when it comes to packing your luggage and equipping your devices, you want to make sure you come prepared. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up everything we think you'll need to make the most of your stay… 1. Wi-fi pod or data SIM cardUnless your mobile provider has an awesome international travel plan, it’s best to rent a wi-fi pod or purchase a data SIM card when you arrive in Japan. Tokyo doesn’t have the best free wi-fi (and many hotspots will require a local phone number to even sign up), but you’ll definitely want that data for excessive use of your phone’s maps and for uploading updates of your trip on social media. 2. Portable battery and adaptersIntensive phone use means you’ll most likely need an extra battery to charge your phone on the go. Make sure you also pack an adapter to convert all your plug-in items so they can easily be used here in Japan. 3. Train appTokyo’s train system can be very daunting for travellers, so it's nice to have a handy app to help navigate yourself around the city. One of our favourites is the Tokyo Metro official app which can be used offline, but Google Maps also does a decent job mapping out your designated train route – including the price. 4. Translating appDon’t get

Transport yourself to the West Coast at these California imports
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Transport yourself to the West Coast at these California imports

The eager trend-hunters among you may have spotted our recent roundup of our favourite imports from New York City which have opened up here in Tokyo. This week, we’re changing it up and looking towards the American west coast for some of the best restaurants and cafés hailing from the Golden State… 1. Umami BurgerLip-smacking good, Los Angeles-born Umami Burger opened up their first Japan eatery near Omotesando back in 2016, serving up their famed burgers, sides and even some Tokyo-only specialities. Dig into favourites like the original Umami Burger, topped with shiitake mushrooms and a parmesan crisp, and the Samurai burger, served with wasabi aioli and lotus root. For a luxury option, try the Truffle Burger, filled with truffle aioli, truffle-infused cheese and a truffle-glazed beef patty. 2. Urth CafféBest known for organic coffees, bubble tea smoothies and healthy fare, this LA-born café is a Hollywood celebrity favourite and has also made a few cameo appearances on HBO’s Entourage series. With two spots here in Tokyo (one in Omotesando, the other in Daikanyama), Urth deals in fluffy pancakes, tasty sandwiches and Instagram-worthy desserts. Some of the menu items include a Japanese twist: try the matcha-infused waffle bon bon topped with kuromitsu (black sugar syrup). 3. The Pie Hole Los AngelesThese Californian pie specialists currently have two locations in Tokyo, the first in Lumine Shinjuku and a newer one inside the glitzy Ginza Six complex. Get your fill of swee

How to survive a Japanese wedding
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How to survive a Japanese wedding

Congratulations, you’ve been invited to a Japanese wedding! Now, after the first giddiness has receded, it’s time to think about how the hell you’re actually going to get through it without making a culturally insensitive fool of yourself. Luckily, we’re here to help. DON’T: FORGET TO RSVP (WHETHER YOU’RE GOING OR NOT) A Japanese hiroen, a fancy wedding ceremony often held at an upscale hotel’s banquet room, is a unique experience, so move heaven and earth to be there. Either way do not forget to send back the slip that came with the invitation card, filled in properly to show whether or not you will be attending. Circle 出席 (shusseki) if you’re coming or 欠席 (kesseki) if you, for some inexplicable reason, will not be able to make it – presumably you are in prison or trapped under something heavy. DO: GO ALL ’80S PROM DRESS Yay, slinky cocktail dress time! Think again. There’s an unspoken dress code that applies to female guests in particular. Channel your inner American high schooler on her way to prom and get yourself a shiny-fabric dress – it’s the one occasion where a bit of sheen is the done thing. Tone down the vivid colours, stick to knee-length (no mini dresses, no maxi dresses) and cover thy shoulders – with a shawl if you have to. Above all, keep those shoes closed. Even at the height of summer, no toes are to be flaunted, no matter how great your pedicure. Men, no white suits (that’s for the groom) nor black ties. And for either sex, the universal rule holds tru

Three historical ghost stories set in Tokyo
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Three historical ghost stories set in Tokyo

It's almost summer, which means that the traditional season for ghost stories is around the corner – in Japan, as soon as the temperatures soar and firework festival announcements start dropping in, yurei-related movies, plays and advertisements also return to haunt us. Peak supernatural time is August, when the Buddhist Obon festival takes place. In short, best get ready to brush up on your Tokyo ghost story knowledge and haunted whereabouts for those late summer nights. Made famous abroad by countless Japanese horror movies, yurei (幽霊, literally 'faint spirit') can be distinguished from your Western bed-sheet-with-two-eyesockets ghost by a few defining features: they tend to wear white (think more funeral kimono or dishevelled party gear than bed sheet), have long black hair, no feet and may be followed around by little green, blue or purple flame spirits known as hitodama. Yurei are classified by how they died or what they were in their former lives, with some of the more 'popular' ones being onryo (wrathful ghosts), goryo (aristocratic ghosts, usually wrathful), ubume (women who died in childbirth, serve candy to kids) and funayurei (those who died at sea, may look mermaid-esque).  Ghost stories (kaidan, which were originally based on Buddhist moral tales) became a proper pastime in the Edo period, when people would sit around and tell scary tales with 100 candles burning in a separate room, with one extinguished after each story ended. The practice was known as hyakum

How to phone like a Tokyoite
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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
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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
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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
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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

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