Tag Archives: Japan

International Space Station

Can You Really Age Whiskey In Space?

International Space Station

An unmanned cargo ship loaded with emergency supplies — including Japanese whisky — successfully docked at the International Space Station early Tuesday, officials said.

But thirsty astronauts will have to keep their hands off the golden tipple — it’s a science experiment.

Drinks giant Suntory sent the booze to space so it could test how time in a zero-gravity environment affects its flavour.

suntory whisky

Researchers for the company have said that storing the beverage in an environment with only slight temperature changes and limited liquid movement could lead to a mellower flavour.

The cargo was placed inside the 5.5-tonne vessel Kounotori, which blasted off from southern Japan last Wednesday attached to an H-IIB rocket.

Suntory has previously won the world title for the world’s best whisky and produces the drink at the oldest distillery in Japan.

Inside The Suntory Yamazaki Whisky Distillery

Suntory to launch whisky into space

Inside The Suntory Yamazaki Whisky Distillery

Japanese whisky will be sent into space next month to test how time in a zero-gravity environment affects its flavour.

Suntory to launch whisky into space

Samples of whisky produced by Suntory will be stored in the Japanese laboratory facility of the International Space Station for at least a year, with some flasks staying longer.

Researchers for the company believe that storing the beverage in an environment with only slight temperature changes and limited liquid movement could lead to a mellower flavour.

Suntory will send whisky aged for 10, 18 and 21 years as well as a number of other alcoholic substances.

Once they are returned to Earth, blenders will assess their flavours while researchers subject the liquids to scientific analysis, the company said.

“For the moment, we’re not thinking about applying the study results to commercial products,” a Suntory spokeswoman told AFP.

Whisky demand rocketed in Japan last year after national broadcaster NHK aired a drama called “Massan,” the true story of a Japanese entrepreneur and his Scottish wife who established Japan’s first whisky distillery.

Sales also soared when Suntory’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 was named the best in the world by the prestigious Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015.

Book and Bed Hotel

The library hotel, Japan’s latest concept for tourists

Book and Bed Hotel

Have you always dreamed of staying in a library after hours? Japan has the solution: a library hotel, the “Book and Bed Hotel,” will open this fall.

The owners have partners with Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers, a publishing house that has agreed to provide all the books and other reading materials that will make up the walls of the hotel.

In reality, the place will be a vast room divided by stacks of books. Don’t expect to arrive and be given a key to your room, as there are no rooms.

Guests will have to make do with cabins and bunks in little nooks between the books to get some rest. Intimacy is definitely not a priority at this concept hotel that is set to open in the commercial and entertainment district of Ikebukuro in the Toshima ward of Tokyo. There will however be curtains installed to offer tired guests a bit of peace.

Tourists can reserve for one night or just spend some time catching up on reading during the day. The hotel has yet to announce its pricing options.

This isn’t the first time Japan experiments with concept hotels. Earlier this month a robot-staffed hotel opened its doors where travelers may, for example, be welcomed at reception by a robot dinosaur.

receptionist robots

Lady Gaga for Shiseido

Watch: Lady Gaga in latest Shiseido ad

Lady Gaga for Shiseido

In the latest ad for Shiseido, Lady Gaga may start off au naturel, but by the end of the 30-second promo, in true Gaga fashion she ends the ad with beaded curtains hanging off her eyebrows. As only Gaga can do…

LADY GAGA PHOTOGRAPHS HERSELF FOR SHISEIDO

With the tagline “Be Yourself. That’s what makes you beautiful,” the singer sports a pretty, natural face at the beginning of the ad, and leaves the hotel in a nondescript fringed dress.

But once in the limo, the Lady finds her inner self by changing into a blue leather jumpsuit and affixing beaded curtains to her eyebrows.

Henn-na Hotel staff

This Japan hotel is almost entirely run by robots

Henn-na Hotel staff

Japan has opened the doors to the world’s first automated, robot-staffed hotel, replacing people with pretty, lifelike lady humanoid receptionists and a bow tie-wearing, dinosaur concierge.

At the Henn-na Hotel, or ‘Strange Hotel,’ guests check in, check out, get their rooms cleaned and their luggage conveyed by a fleet of blinking, beeping and rolling robots that the hotel describes as “warm and friendly.”

Likewise, as part of their aim to feature cutting-edge technology, stays are keyless. Instead, guests enter their rooms via facial recognition technology.

The use of robots and the emphasis on automated services is part of a bigger concept: To reduce labor costs, save energy, reduce waste, and develop a self-sufficient hotel powered by solar energy and machines.

receptionist robots

For example, rooms are conspicuously absent of refrigerators, lights are motion-sensored, and rooms are cooled using an energy-efficient radiant panel air conditioning system.

The hotel is part of the Dutch theme park Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo, Nagasaki, and may be expanded across Japan and abroad.

Future plans also include the addition of Chinese and Korean languages to the robots’ repertoire.

Henn-na Hotel bedroom

Other features include a porter robot, that will transport luggage to guest rooms, and a self-serve cafe which serves snacks and drinks from, what else, a vending machine.

Room rates at the Strange Hotel, which features 144 rooms, start at 9,000 JPY ($73 USD) for a single room.

Henn na Hotel

bunch of Ruby Roman grapes

Bunch of grapes sells for record $8,200 in Japan

bunch of Ruby Roman grapes

A bunch of Japanese grapes has sold for a record one million yen ($8,200), or $315 per berry — no trifling matter even in a country where fruit can cost a small fortune.

The record-setting bunch of 26 “Ruby Roman” grapes was the highest-priced at this year’s first auction in Kanazawa, 300 kilometres northwest of Tokyo, smashing the previous record of 550,000 yen set last year.

Each berry weighs at least 20 grams (three-quarters of an ounce) and is the size of a ping-pong ball, according to the local board of agriculture.

Winning bidder Masayuki Hirai, head chef of the Nikko hotel in Kanazawa, told media he had been under strict orders, with local tourism chiefs eager to capitalise on a new train line to the area.

“With the opening of the Hokuriku shinkansen (bullet train) line, I was told to win the bidding at any cost,” he said.

For connoisseurs of eye-wateringly-priced fruit, Japan is Seventh Heaven.

Earlier this year, a pair of Yubari melons from Hokkaido, northern Japan, were snapped up for a jaw-dropping 1.5 million yen.

Meanwhile, a Japanese department store thought nothing of shelling out 300,000 yen for a pair of pristine mangoes grown in southern Japan.

Kyoto Golden Temple

Kyoto named world’s best city 2015

Kyoto Golden Temple

For the second year in a row, Kyoto, Japan has been voted the world’s best city by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine.

After compiling the scores from its affluent and well-traveled readers, the American travel magazine released the results of its annual World’s Best Awards, which break down the top-scoring cities, hotels, airlines and cruises into tidy rankings.

And with an A+ approval rating of 91, Kyoto was given the top spot on the world’s best cities list, narrowly beating out Charleston, South Carolina and Siem Reap in Cambodia for the title.

Aerial view of Kyoto

While Tokyo is best known for being a portal of modern city life — bustling energy, skyscrapers, flashing neon lights — Kyoto offers a different kind of rhythm that includes more than 1,000 ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, zen gardens, traditional ryokan inns and a district dedicated to working geishas. Kyoto is considered the birthplace of geisha culture.

It was also the imperial capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years.

Interestingly, conspicuously absent on the list are a few of the top tourist destinations in the world, notably Paris, New York and London, as well as representation from Latin countries and South America.

Suiran Kyoto

The only North American city to crack the list is Charleston, which also topped the best cities list for the US and Canada.

Travel + Leisure readers were most enamored by the Galapagos Islands in the category of best islands, followed by Bali and the Maldives, while Disney Cruise Line emerged the favorite mega-ship cruise line.

Disney Fantasy Cruise

In the category of top hotels, the luxurious Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur on Lake Lake Pichola in India, was named the best in show, scoring a near-perfect mark of 99 for its unrestrained opulence.

And travelers seem to be happiest with Singapore Airlines, which was named the world’s best airline over Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Top 10 cities as voted by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine

1. Kyoto, Japan
2. Charleston, South Carolina
3. Siem Reap, Cambodia
4. Florence, Italy
5. Rome, Italy
6. Bangkok, Thailand
7. Krakow, Poland
8. Barcelona, Spain
9. Cape Town, South Africa
10. Jerusalem, Israel

Unagi

Eel-flavored soda to launch in Japan

Unagi

A Japanese company has created a limited-edition eel-flavored soda as a refreshing summer treat.

Produced by Kimura Inryou, a company based in Shizuoka Prefecture, which is famous for its unagi (eel), the drink is made of eel extract and bottles the salty, fishy, savory flavor of grilled, barbecue eel in a fizzy cola.

The novelty drink will be sold at highway rest stops and gift shops throughout the prefecture and will also be made available at its online store for 200 JPY ($1.60 USD) as of July 21.

Other eyebrow-raising soda flavors out of Japan include salty watermelon, curry and iced cucumber.

Pair of Japanese melons

This guy just paid $12,400 for a pair of Japanese melons

Pair of Japanese melons

A single pair of premium melons fetched an eye-watering 1.5 million yen ($12,400) at an auction in Japan on Friday.

The winning bid was placed by a local fruit wholesaler for the first Yubari melons to go under the hammer this year at the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market in northern Hokkaido, officials said. (You can find more news about these melons here.)

The figure, enough to buy a brand new car in Japan is some way short of the record for the luxury fruit, which fetched 2.5 million yen in 2008.

High prices are the norm for the opening auction of the season and reflect buyers’ desire for prestige.

Yubari melons are considered a status symbol in Japan — like a fine wine — with many being bought as a gift for friends and colleagues.

The best-quality Yubari melons are perfect spheres with a smooth, evenly patterned rind. A T-shaped stalk is left on the fruit, which is usually sold in an ornate box.

While the prices they fetch at auction are very high, melons are not the only expensive fruit in Japan.

A single apple from a supermarket can cost more than $3 and a presentation pack of 20 cherries might sell for over $100.

Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe

Obama, Abe to dine on fusion food with Hawaiian twist

Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe

High politics will dominate Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the White House on Tuesday, but there will still be time for some haute cuisine.

At a state dinner Abe, US President Barack Obama and hundreds of other guests will tuck into an array of food that links Japan and the US, with a touch of influence from President Obama’s home state of Hawaii.

For starters guest chef Masaharu Morimoto will rustle up his fusion take on a salad classic — the “Toro Tartare and Caesar Sashimi Salad.”

“The salad is wrapped in a clear acetate and tied with Mizuhiki cord emulating a gift to be opened,” according to the program.

Then a consomme will be given a twist with bok choy and Wailea hearts of palm and bamboo shoots from Hawaii.

“This is served with a crisp Hawaiian pineapple tempura topped with a sliver of cured ham from Virginia.”

Blue-Trimmed Barack Obama State China

The main course will be roasted American wagyu beef with Spring vegetables.

For dessert the American-style cheesecake will get a spin with the addition of silken tofu and soymilk and a selection of seasonal berries from Florida.

All the dishes will be served on a new 11-piece State China Service, which was designed by Michael Smith in consultation with Michelle Obama.

Instead of opting for the traditional primary red or blue normally seen, the First Lady opted for a blue “inspired by the waters” off the coast of Hawaii — a “Kailua blue.”

The food will be washed down with sake — Dassai’s 23 for a toast — a Freeman 2013 “Ryo-fu” Chardonnay and a 2010 Morlet Pinot Noir.

Hachiro Mizutani

Why foreigners aren’t allowed to eat here…

Hachiro Mizutani

A top notch Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo on Monday defended its special reservation rules for foreigners after a report in Japan it had refused to accept a booking from a Chinese customer.

Sushi Mizutani, which has two of the coveted Michelin stars, told AFP it has an “across-the-board policy” of not accepting bookings by non-Japanese customers — unless they are made through a hotel concierge or a credit card company.

JAPAN STAR SUSHI CHEF WARNS AGAINST OVERFISHING

“(Non-Japanese) customers may not show up for their reservations,” a member of staff at the restaurant said, adding employees do not have the foreign language proficiency to explain requirements to patrons.

“We prepare fish for the number of expected customers and have to turn down other requests for booking sometimes. We simply cannot afford it if people don’t show up. “We don’t think it is anything discriminatory” he said.

The confirmation came after a report that the restaurant, located in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district, had refused to take a reservation for Chinese journalist Mo Bangfu.

Mo, a resident of Japan for 30 years who is fluent in Japanese, intended to host three guests at the high-end restaurant, where prices start at 20,000 yen ($168) per person, the Nikkan Gendai tabloid reported.

“We have an increasing number of cases in which people are abandoning their reservations,” a restaurant worker told AFP, adding Japanese-speaking customers are called for reconfirmation a few days before their reservation.

The number of foreign tourists coming to Japan has rocketed in recent years as the value of the yen has fallen and as tensions have eased between Beijing and Tokyo.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he wants to attract 20 million foreign visitors a year by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.

Suiran Kyoto

Starwood opens first Luxury Collection hotel in Japan

Suiran Kyoto

The Suiran in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district opens this week and will combine the hotel chain’s existing luxury concierge service with traditional Japanese hospitality.

Presidential Suite Suiran

Overlooking the Arashiyama hills, and situated within the grounds of Tenryuji temple, a World Heritage site, the hotel offers 39 guest rooms ranging in size from 500-1000 square feet (46-93 sq meters).

Kyo Suiran

The hotel also features a traditional Japanese open-air bath and a number of Japanese well-being treatments, while the menu at the hotel’s restaurant, Kyo Suiran (pictured above), is focused on local flavors and traditional cuisine but with a modern twist.

Suiran Hotel

“With an esteemed past as well as a Japanese-style experience defined by renowned Japanese hospitality and cuisine, Suiran will resonate with sophisticated and affluent guests seeking a different, more refined side of travel,” said Hiroshi Komoto, General Manager.

Japanese mangoes

Pair of Japanese mangoes sold for $2,500

A deep pocketed Japanese department store shelled out an eye-watering 300,000 yen ($2,500) Monday for a pair of mangoes, a record price for the second year in a row.

Japanese mangoes

After the hammer fell at an auction in far-southern Miyazaki, the successful bidder airlifted the fruit to its luxury shop in Fukuoka, where they went on sale at a bargain 210,000 yen.

The mangoes — top-of-the-range “Taiyo no Tamago” (Egg of the Sun)-brand — were the first to go for auction this year, an occasion that usually attracts inflated prices.

To qualify as a “Taiyo no Tamago” mango, each fruit must weigh at least 350 grams (12 oz) and have a high sugar content.

While $2,500 is steep for a pair of mangoes, fruit is routinely expensive in Japan and it is not unusual for a single apple to cost upwards of $3.

This year’s must-have luxury fruit is a particular brand of strawberry, with a single berry currently selling for around $415.

However, all pale in comparison with the tear-inducing $25,000 price tag for a pair of cantaloupe melons auctioned in 2008.

Henn na Hotel

Hotel staffed entirely by robots to open in Japan

Henn na Hotel

After robot servers and concierges, Japan is set to open a hotel staffed entirely by robots.

When the Hen-na Hotel opens this summer, guests will hand over their luggage to robotic porters, and present themselves to a front desk staffed by blinking, beeping robots, reported The Japan Times.

Rooms will likewise be cleaned by robots, and coffee poured by AI.

Likewise, the “cutting-edge” hotel will use the latest in facial recognition technology and allow guests to open their door by simply presenting themselves in front of their room, without a key.

The Hen-na, which means “strange” in Japanese, will be the newest addition to the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki, a head-scratching concept for the outside observer.

Built as an ode to the Netherlands, the park recreates Dutch streetscapes with life-sized replicas of old Dutch buildings and even a mock-up of The Hague, adds RocketNews.

Huis Ten Bosch

In addition to attracting guests for its novelty factor, replacing humans with robots is part of a larger strategy aimed at reducing labor costs.

“We will make the most efficient hotel in the world,” company President Hideo Sawada said in a news conference.

Over in California, not far from Apple’s corporate campus, Aloft Hotels put what they called the world’s first robotic butler at the front desk last year. Botlr is used to shuttle amenities to guest rooms and acknowledges requests with peppy beeps and flashing lights.

Room rates at the Hen-na Hotel start at 7,000 JPY a night ($60 USD).

Mt Fuji in Tokyo

The most popular 2015 travel destination among Asians

Mt Fuji in Tokyo

Japan has emerged the most popular vacation destination in 2015 for travelers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China in a poll of travel habits in Asia-Pacific.

In a survey by Travelzoo, which publishes travel deals around the world, 56% of Taiwanese respondents said they plan to visit Japan in 2015.

Nearly half of travelers from Hong Kong also said they have their travel sights booked on Japan, as did 40% of respondents from mainland China.

For the survey, 4,300 Travelzoo members in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan were polled in November last year.

Australians, it seems, will explore their own country this year with 50 percent of respondents naming Oz as their top vacation destination.

And the US ranked the top destination in 2015 for Japanese travelers.

The survey also revealed that the Chinese will travel the most, taking an average of 6.4 leisure trips in 2015 and spending an average of $8,558.

And while Australian members will travel the least, taking 3.8 trips this year, they will spend the most, dishing out $10,483 on travel this year.

Here’s the breakdown of top destinations by markets:

Australia
Australia, 50%
USA 34%
UK 29%

Japan
USA 38%
Japan 28%
Italy 22%

China
Japan 40%
USA 31%
New Zealand 27%

Hong Kong
Japan 49%
Australia 31%
South Korea 28%

Taiwan
Japan 56%
Switzerland 22%
Italy 20%

Lady Gaga Selfie

Lady Gaga photographs herself for Shiseido

Lady Gaga Selfie

 has been signed up as the latest face of Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido, according to a report published by WWD.

The Japanese-only campaign involved the pop star taking 50 different selfies will appear in a selection of the country’s newspapers over the New Year’s period, one of Japan’s busiest shopping times.

Forty-six ads will arrive this Thursday to greet 2015, with another four set to drop next week on January 5.

There are  no plans to use the images outside of the country, but we imagine that Japanese ‘Little Monsters’ will soon be sharing the pics!

Hello Kitty themed suite

Japanese hotel opens Hello Kitty-themed suites

Hello Kitty themed suite

A hotel in Japan has created two -themed rooms as the sun sets on the feline character’s 40th anniversary year.

The Keio Plaza Hotel Tama in Tokyo has decked out two of its suites in all things cute, one designed to evoke the concept of a city break with images of Hello Kitty visiting amusement parks and department stores, while the other is themed around ‘Princess Kitty.’

Designed to make guests feel like a princess, the room is unapologetically pink and girly, with pink ribbons, roses and even ‘high-heeled’ chairs.

DON’T MISS: LADURÉE X HELLO KITTY

Hello Kitty has enjoyed a banner year, with pop-up events held around the world to pay homage to the mouthless, triple-whiskered character.

The Hello Kitty cafe at the Shibuya Parco shopping center in Tokyo, for instance, will be serving sandwiches and cakes in Hello Kitty cut-outs.

SEE ALSO: WORLD’S BIGGEST HELLO KITTY UNVEILED

Hello Kitty plane

Taiwanese airline EVA Air flies a Hello Kitty jet on routes such as Taipei to Paris, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong that includes everything from Hello Kitty-themed seats and soap to foods and flight attendants.

And on January 1, a new Hello Kitty theme park is set to open in Anji, east China’s Zhejiang province, according to Xinhua.

Sukiyabashi Jiro Ono

Japan star sushi chef warns against overfishing

Sukiyabashi Jiro Ono

Japanese sushi maestro Jiro Ono, whose creations are reputedly the best in the world, warned Tuesday of a sea change in ingredients due to overfishing.

“I can’t imagine at all that sushi in the future will be made of the same materials we use today,” the 89-year-old master told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.

Ono owns the three Michelin-starred Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant — dubbed the world’s best sushi establishment — and was the subject of the 2011 documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”.

WHAT DOES THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE SUSHI TASTE LIKE?

“I told my young men three years ago sushi materials will totally change in five years. And now, such a trend is becoming a reality little by little.”

Ono referred in particular to a short supply of high-quality domestic tuna, which has prompted sushi dealers in Japan to source Atlantic bluefin varieties instead.

His eldest son Yoshikazu, 53, who helps Ono run the restaurant, explained growing demand for tuna amid a global sushi boom is leading the domestic industry to depend more and more on farmed fish.

He also warned of a shrinking stock of highly prized shellfish such as abalone and ark shell, which need 5 years to mature. “They catch them all together (before some are ready), pushing the stock to deplete.”

Jiro Ono and his son Yoshikazu

Their basement restaurant, which seats just 10 at a counter, opened its doors in 1965 and has remained in an ageing commercial building in a corner of the Ginza district ever since.

It has gained fame for Ono’s rigid discipline and pursuit of perfection, earning three Michelin stars every year since 2007 when the Tokyo edition of the gourmet guide was launched.

When US President Barack Obama travelled to Tokyo last April, he joined a long list of Ono’s celebrity guests, including French master chef Joel Robuchon and Hollywood stars Hugh Jackman and Katy Perry.

Obama eating sushis

As Obama and Abe went straight into “business-like talks,” focusing on trade, the senior Ono kept serving his own selection of 20 pieces as he does to everyone else, his son said.

“He (Obama) seemed to like chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) very much because he winked when he ate it.”

About 70 percent of Ono’s customers, who pay a base price of 30,000 yen ($265) for a set of 20 pieces of sushi, are now said to be foreigners.

Nestle Japan Pepper

Nestle to ‘hire’ 1000 robots to sell Nescafe in Japan

Nestle Japan Pepper

Nestlé, the world’s largest food and drink conglomerate, has bought 20 humanoid robots to help sell coffee machines in its stores across Japan.

Nescafé will use the humanoid robot “Pepper” to sell Nescafé Dolce Gusto and Nescafé Gold Blend Barista coffee machines in home appliance stores.

DON’T MISS: A $20,000 COFFEE MAKER FROM JAPAN

Through voice and emotion recognition technology, the robot is able to analyze consumers’ feelings by reading their facial expressions and listening to their tone of voice.

The machine will even be able to hold a conversation with the customers!

“The dream to create an advanced consumer experience with Pepper is now coming true,” said Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of SoftBank Corporation, producer of the robot. “We hope that by providing people the opportunity to interact with a robot whilst shopping, we can help create experiences of wonder and delight for consumers.”

Pepper was first unveiled in June of this year by SoftBank and has been working in the mobile carrier’s locations ever since.

He will make his Nestlé debut this December in around 20 home appliance stores, with the company planning to use the robot in around 1,000 stores in Japan, its biggest market, by the end of 2015.

Collection Esprit Dior Tokyo

Raf Simons taking Dior pre-fall show to Tokyo

Collection Esprit Dior Tokyo

The  creative director will show the brand’s Pre-Fall 2015 collection in the Japanese capital in December.

After last week’s announcement that Chanel will be taking its Métiers d’Art show to Austria (Salzburg, to be precise), comes the news that Christian Dior will be heading to Japan for the same season.

According to a report by WWD, the French brand will be playing to the crowds in the Tokyo with a special show on December 11.

The brand is reportedly also readying a new store in the city’s Omotesando district, as well as an exhibition and photo book by French fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier.

The trend for international shows in between the main Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer fashion weeks is now well established.

Collection Esprit Dior Tokyo 2015

Alongside Chanel’s ventures to Dallas, Singapore and Edinburgh over the past few seasons, Dior has also travelled to Brooklyn and Monaco to show off its collections.