Tag Archives: Japan


Eel-flavored soda to launch in Japan


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.


“(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, 50%
USA 34%
UK 29%

USA 38%
Japan 28%
Italy 22%

Japan 40%
USA 31%
New Zealand 27%

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

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.


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.


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”.


“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.


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.

Noma at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Noma to pop up at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

Noma at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Due to popular demand,  has announced plans to extend its pop-up restaurant in Japan next year by an extra two weeks.

Originally scheduled to run for three weeks starting January 9, 2015, Noma at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo will now be extended to February 14.


Noma Kitchen

The registration line will reopen October 17, at which time guests can can book lunch or dinner, or an accommodation package at the hotel that includes a Noma dinner.

For the pop-up event in Japan, chef René Redzepi intends to follow the culinary philosophy of Noma and focus on using fresh, seasonal, local products in Tokyo to create a new and original menu.


Danish chef Rene Redzepi

The meal will consist of small servings followed by larger dishes, and paired with wines from small-scale producers.

The fixed menu is 40,200 JPY or about $375 USD. Wine and juice pairings are extra. For details on Noma in Japan visit noma.dk.

ritz tokyo

The world’s cleanest hotels are in Tokyo!

ritz tokyo

Not all hotels live up to the same standards when it comes to cleanliness.

According to a recent study conducted by Hotel.info, Tourists are most likely to find an immaculate hotel room while traveling to .

In the cleanliness category, hotels in the Japanese capital scored an average rating of 8.93/10 on the website.


Next in the ranking is Warsaw, Poland with an average rating of 8.76, just ahead of Seoul, South Korea. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, also achieved a high score (8.54), tying with Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Hotel Maid

At the other end of the ranking, although the ratings are not catastrophic, Rio de Janeiro holds the dubious distinction of the lowest score with 7.29/10.

Overall, Western European hotels hardly impressed the website’s users in terms of hygiene. Four of the continent’s capitals obtained some of the worst scores: London, England (7.52); Oslo, Norway (7.53); Amsterdam, the Netherlands (7.58) and Copenhagen, Denmark (7.60).

The world’s top tourist destination, Paris also has room for improvement: The French capital scored a paltry 7.63.

Peninsula Tokyo Pokemon

Pokémon comes to the Peninsula Tokyo hotel

Peninsula Tokyo Pokemon

Luxury hotel The Peninsula Tokyo has launched a PR campaign for their littlest guests by inviting characters from Pokémon to invade their hotel.

From October 1, kids staying at the hotel will get the chance to live out an episode of the cartoon with characters like Pikachu, Lucario and friends in an interactive game designed exclusively for the hotel.

Guests five and up will be armed with a Poké Ball and invited to hunt down Pokémon characters in a game that is a bit like hide and seek.

Only instead of hiding behind trees, they’ll be hiding amidst extravagant chandeliers and extravagant furnishings.

To please the silver spoon tastes of their pint-sized guests, luxury hotels know that serving milk and cookies isn’t enough.

The Burj Al Arab in Dubai also provides a personal butler service that includes bonbon and candy delivery service from a Sweet Train, a gold-plated iPad, and child-friendly excursions.

Kyoto Golden Temple

This Asian city was voted the world’s top destination

Kyoto Golden Temple

Kyoto, Japan has been named the top travel destination in the world by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine in the US.

In the 19th edition of the publication’s annual poll of the best in travel, readers gave the former imperial capital an overall score of 90 points.

It’s not just for its cherry blossoms and zen gardens but also for the cutting-edge ryokans — Japanese inns — that are being reimagined to offer experiences that straddle the modern and traditional.

Ryokans typically feature tatami mat flooring, sliding doors, and hot spring bathing areas. The ryokan experience is also defined by the traditional Japanese cuisine kaiseki, a multi-course meal that features small, light tapas-style dishes which focus on regional, seasonal ingredients.

Aerial view of Kyoto

Last year, The Daily Meal singled out Kitcho restaurant in Kyoto as the most expensive restaurant in the world.

Described as a high temple of kaiseki, diners can expect to shell out $600 USD for dinner and drinks. British chef Heston Blumenthal has also called meals at Kitcho “extraordinary.”

Overall Europe dominated the list of top 10 destinations, snagging five of the top spots.

After Kyoto, readers put Charleston, South Carolina as the second best city, followed by Florence, Siem Reap, Cambodia and Rome.

The best overall island is Santorini in Greece.

Here are the world’s top cities, according to T + L:

1. Kyoto, Japan
2. Charleston, South Carolina, USA
3. Florence, Italy
4. Siem Reap, Cambodia
5. Rome, Italy
6. Istanbul, Turkey
7. Seville, Spain
8. Barcelona, Spain
9. Mexico City
10. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Alexander McQueen Aoyama flagship

Alexander McQueen opens Tokyo flagship

Alexander McQueen Aoyama flagship

  has unveiled its first flagship in Japan, a 4,200-square-foot space in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood.

The new store is set over two storeys, has separate ready-to-wear and accessories sections and follows on from the brand’s accessories-only store, which opened in April 2013.

The retail concept was conceived by the brand’s creative director, Sarah Burton, along with architectural practice David Collins Studio. The design mixes flora and fauna with added influences from painters Francis Bacon and HR Giger as well as nods to the McQueen label’s history.

Alexander McQueen Aoyama flagship store

A heritage tailored jacket and the famous ‘armadillo’ shoe have been etched onto bespoke plaster panel moldings alongside a range of motifs from the natural world.

“The collections are presented in an environment that feels luxurious and precious which is also reflective of our design ethos,” explained Burton.

Alexander McQueen boutique Tokyo

The finishes include Calacatta Oro cracked marble flooring with deep pile carpets, and bronze animal feet on furniture, with the material also used to support marble shelves.

Other key elements include a one-piece marble staircase and a hanging installation by contemporary artists Takeo Hanazawa and Takao Togashi.

Mount Fuji in Japan

Japan to offer bullet train with footbath

Japan’s super-speedy bullet train is to offer passengers a chance to soothe their tired feet in a carriage equipped with footbaths.

bullet train japan

JR East will launch the service in July, with one carriage on the “shinkansen” bullet train having two 2.4-metre-long (8-foot) tubs facing windows.

Bathing is a ritualised and highly-prized activity in Japan and the footbaths are intended as places for passengers to relax rather than to clean their feet.

The train, named Toreiyu — a combination of the English “train”, the French “soleil” and “yu”, the Japanese word for hot water — will also have a car with a bar counter and tatami-mat flooring with tables made from cherrywood.

Bullet Train with footbath

“We are trying to offer services in which getting on the train itself is the purpose of the travel,” said JR East spokesman Ryosuke Akaya.

The train will run on a 148-kilometre route between Fukushima and Shinjo City in Yamagata prefecture. It is part of a campaign to promote tourism in Yamagata, a farming area known for rice, beef, cherries and pears.

chocolate spa

Japanese take chocolate spa for Valentine’s Day

A hot spring resort in Hakone, Japan, is offering customers a chance to relax in chocolate baths for Valentine’s Day.

Yunessun spa resort customers paid 27 USD for the twice daily bathing session which some women believe will lead to good skin and smell. In Japan, it’s traditional for women to buy gifts for men on February 14.

chocolate spa

So for those wondering what to give their Valentine, perhaps, in 2015, instead of a box filled with chocolate, it will be a tub filled with chocolate instead!