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Japan says 'sayonara' to Tokyo's kabuki theatre

Ureshino spa goes barrier-free
Apr 24, 2010 by Japan Times

The Ureshino hot spring in Ureshino, Saga Prefecture, widely known as a spa that helps to smoothen skin, is trying to create a barrier-free environment for babies, the elderly and handicapped people to improve safety and comfort. The trend is spreading to hot springs and tourist spots throughout the country as a way to attract more customers in these hard times. (Japan Times)
36 hours in Kyoto, Japan
Apr 25, 2010 by New York Times

(Ko Sasaki for The New York Times  A geisha on Hanami-koji, in Gion.)

Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan, is a vibrant mash-up, an ancient city electrified by the breathtakingly new. Cruise the futuristic food halls of a department store, gaping at the perfect fruit and glistening sea creatures, before zipping up to the traditional floor, with its kimonos and tea ceremony implements. See 2,000 ancient temples and shrines, then dine at a sleekly modern restaurant. Glimpse a geisha gliding down a cobblestone lane, bracketed by wooden machiya houses, and feel yourself catapulted to the 18th century - until you see her duck into a very 21st-century taxi, with a passenger door that opens and shuts automatically. (New York Times)

Michelin covers three more Japanese cities

Apr 22, 2010 by AFP

After exploring the finest eateries of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, the Michelin Guide has set its sights on three more Japanese cities, publishers of the French food guide said Thursday. Yokohama and Kamakura, both south of the capital, will be added to the 2011 edition of the Michelin Guide Tokyo to be released in November, while Kobe will be added to the Kyoto-Osaka guide. Michelin last year anointed Tokyo as the world capital of three-star restaurants, scoring 11 such prizes in the 2010 edition, against 10 in Paris. (AFP)

A drinking guide to the ancient capital
Apr 23, 2010 by Japan Times
News photo
(Extra umami: Sake Bar Yoramu owner Yoram Ofer explains how some sake can do with a little bit of maturing.)

Kyoto is renowned for its historic temples and shrines, but let's not forget its great drinking establishments. The bar with the biggest reputation in Kyoto is K6. It's where other bartenders go to drink. It has several hundred Scotches, good food, plenty of space and lousy hospitality. On my first visit, the bartender barely acknowledged me until he learned of my job, when he suddenly became most attentive to me and blanked his other guest. He mixed a weak sidecar, then a good Manhattan, but lied about the ingredients. Better bets for malt lovers are Cordon Noir and K'Ya, both run by young, friendly bartenders with colossal collections of rare Scotches. (Japan Times)

Technically Kagoshima but Ryukyu in its soul
Apr 23, 2010 by Japan Times

Astute readers will notice this story is datelined "Kagoshima Prefecture." But given that this island lies just southwest of Amami-Oshima and roughly 100 km from the northern tip of Okinawa, it's no surprise that Tokunoshima feels more like a part of the Ryukyu Islands than Kyushu. Famed for its bullfighting, pristine beaches - one of which, Prince Beach, was named after the Emperor, who visited the area when he was the Crown Prince - and an annual triathlon that draws athletes from all over Japan and abroad, including Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi, who got a local road named after her, Tokunoshima is about as far away from Kyushu as you can get and still be in "Kagoshima." (Japan Times)

Low-cost airline Jetstar Asia to fly to Japan
Apr 23, 2010 by AP

Budget airline Jetstar Asia said Thursday it plans to launch daily flights between Singapore and Osaka via Taipei from July this year. The low-cost wing of Qantas will begin flying the route from July 5, offering one-way fares which are expected to be as low as S$198 (around $145). Jetstar Asia said it will be the first budget airline to operate direct services between Taipei and Osaka. (AP)

Japanese airlines resume flights to Europe
Apr 22, 2010 by Reuters

Japanese airlines said Wednesday they had resumed normal flights to Europe, ending a nearly week-long suspension of air travel to the region caused by a thick plume of ash from an Icelandic volcano. Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA), however, warned passengers that dramatic changes to European weather systems and conditions related to the Eyjafjoell volcano could ground flights again in the future. Distressed Europe-bound passengers welcomed the news with applause, and quickly formed long lines in front of check-in counters at Narita Airport near Tokyo, the main international gateway to Japan. (Reuters)

Japan says 'sayonara' to Tokyo's kabuki theatre
Apr 21, 2010 by mysinchew.com

The curtain is coming down on Tokyo's Kabukiza, the iconic home of Japan's traditional kabuki drama, which is set to be demolished next month to make way for a skyscraper. Women dressed in their finest kimonos and crowds of tourists have flocked to the venue, a landmark that evokes ancient Japanese castles and temples, to catch the final shows before its date with the wrecking ball. Nestled amid the glass and steel of the upscale Ginza shopping district, the four-story playhouse, with its curved roofs and red paper lanterns, is a reminder of a quieter past beloved by many in the bustling metropolis. (mysinchew.com)

Vegetables given pride of place in upmarket kaiseki cuisine
Apr 16, 2010 by Japan Times

Down in Ginza, we got another glimpse of the future. This version, though, is hushed and sophisticated, with waitresses in kimono. It feels very traditional - in all but one respect. Instead of tuna and eel on your sushi, you get mushrooms and vegetables. Welcome to Nagamine, Tokyo's first vegetable kaiseki restaurant. The idea is simple but profound. Japan's traditional multicourse cuisine has always been based on the bounty of the vegetable kingdom. Increasingly, though, kaiseki meals have become loaded up with meat and seafood, with vegetables, herbs and mushrooms treated as mere seasonal accents. Nagamine winds the clock back, but in contemporary style. (Japan Times)

Building a new history in Tokyo
Apr 16, 2010 by Japan Times

The first thing that occurs to you as you survey the dark wooden floorboards, high skirting boards, deep-colored walls, fireplaces and - until July 25 - the selection of Eduoard Manet paintings at the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in Marunouchi, Tokyo, is that on entering this grand redbrick building you must have been transported, somehow, to Europe. The Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum might be new, but it is also genuinely old - 116 years old, in fact. In a district that has seen several waves of redevelopment over the last century, that makes it one of the only buildings with any claim to historical significance (another is Tokyo Station, which is currently undergoing renovations). (Japan Times)

Heading north in no time at all
Apr 14, 2010 by Asahi

Ahead of the full opening of a northern Shinkansen route this December, East Japan Railway Co.'s six-car "East i" inspection train Tuesday morning pulled into JR Shin-Aomori Station, the final stop on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, without a hitch. The red-and-white train was greeted by residents and train buffs along with traditional music from the region's famous Nebuta Festival. JR East will introduce the E5 series in March 2011 on the line. From March 2013, the train will be operating at its top speed of 320 kph, linking Tokyo and Shin-Aomori stations in 3 hours and 5 minutes. (Asahi)

Under the volcano, Iwate's capital keeps its rich history alive
Apr 11, 2010 by Japan Times

The signs of boredom on this first morning in Morioka are manifest. Arriving ill-equipped for the pouring rain, there is a limit to how much interest can be squeezed from the otherwise admirable station facilities. After two hours of window- shopping and an over-surfeit of canned coffees, I'm ready for the wet walk to my hotel. Strolling, even in the heavy rain, turns out to be a good idea, a chance to reconnoiter the city prior to what promises to be more clement weather on the morrow. For now though, I'm resigned to watching my map dissolve into a sodden ball in the downpour, listening to Iwate-ben - the incomprehensible local dialect here in Japan's northern Iwate Prefecture - and that worst of all signs of chronic understimulation: the act of contemplating dinner. (Japan Times)

By T.S. on Apr 30, 2010
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Author:T. SATOH