Let’s raise a glass on World Sake Day

Posted by - October 1, 2018

Beautiful sake barrels stacked high. Source: Shutterstock.
HIP HIP HOORAY, it’s World Sake Day!
Sake, also know as Nihonshu, is an alcoholic rice-based Japanese beverage. It’s brewed in the same style as beer but impersonates wine.
Every year on Oct 1 since 1987, sake is celebrated around the world, providing the perfect time for enthusiasts to whip out their best bottle.
October also marks the start of sake brewing season in Japan. The sake rice harvest has just been completed and the cold winter months, perfect for fermentation, are about to begin.
Sake hopped onto Japan’s boozing scene at least 2,000 years ago when the practice of wet rice cultivation (rice paddy fields) was introduced to the country.
Traditionally, sake was made by villagers who chewed rice kernels and nuts into a paste then spat them into a communal tub where water was added.
This chewing process produced the enzymes needed to start the fermentation process to make sake.
Fortunately, by the 14th century, sake producers had discovered that naturally occurring koji mold also contained the same enzyme as spit and replaced old methods with the new sanitary ones.
Source: Shutterstock
Sake brewing has come on a long way since the days of chewing and spitting.
Nowadays, sake rice is milled until it mostly contains starch. Then the mold and water are added to the rice to help convert the starch into sugar.
Once this stage is complete, the ingredients are left to ferment in the presence of yeast and eventually turn into silky sake.
Source: Shutterstock
While sake remains a traditional Japanese drink, steeped in history and found in every corner of the archipelago, it’s original simplicity has been adapted to pique the interest of a wider audience.
In the mid-2000s, the drink’s popularity pushed producers to reimagine sake and provide consumers with types of sake they didn’t know they needed.
Flavored and even sparkling versions have been added to sake menus in the last decade, giving the centuries-old drink a new appeal to younger urbanites.
But no matter your age, it’s important to try as many sakes as possible to find the right one for you.
By reading the bottle’s label, you’ll get a good idea of what to expect from the drink.
If it’s your first time sipping sake, avoid drinking Ryorishu as it is reserved for cooking.
Seishu is the one you should look for as it’s fresher and smoother.
Source: Shutterstock
When ordering sake, people usually get stumped when their server replies to their request with, “What kind?”
That’s why it’s essential to understand the Sake Meter Value (SMV).
The SMV indicates the sugar acid level, for example, +5 is moderately dry, while -2 is much sweeter.
If you know your palate, you can request a plus or minus bottle and look like a sake connoisseur.
Sake is traditionally poured from a tall bottle called a tokkuri and drunk from a small porcelain cup known as a sakazuki.
However, on special occasions or to mark someone’s generosity, sake is served in a saucer-like dish inside a small wooden box called a masu.
The sake is poured in a way that fills both the saucer and the masu.
Source: Shutterstock
While many people think of sake as a spirit, it contains far less alcohol than vodka or whiskey.
It’s wine-like characteristics and silky texture means it can be paired with plenty of Asian and Western foods.
Also, sake’s versatility allows it to be served chilled, at room temprature, or warm depending on the season. But never serve the best sake warm as it loses flavor and aroma as it heats.
Lastly, the best way to experience every flavor in your sake is to take small sips and hold it in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing.
And always remember to cheers with a “Kampai!”
There is plenty of tasty, moderately priced sake on the market but if you’re looking to impress at your Japanese-themed dinner party, these are the ones to get.
Juyondai From: Yamagata, Japan Price per bottle: US$140 Juyondai is one of the highest-ranking sake brands in the world.
Its woody smell divides opinion, but the sweet fruity taste is a favorite among many seasoned sake drinkers.
Koshi no Kanbai From: Niigata, Japan Price per bottle: US$53 Brewed in the heart of Japan’s most established sake region, Niigata, Koshi no Kanbai has a one of a kind taste.
Its uniqueness comes from the shochu liquor (made from sweet potato, barley and sugar cane) which is added before the bottling process.
Unlike other sake, Koshi no Kanbai is only available at the end of summer and is very rare. So if you get the chance to try some, do!
Shichiken Mori No So From: Chubu, Japan Price per bottle: US$80 The relatively new trend of brewing sparkling sake is perfectly displayed in Shichiken Mori No So.
Sake brewers Shickiken partnered with the whiskey distiller Suntory Hakushu to create a sparkling sake with notes of vanilla that come from the oak whiskey barrels.
Ichinokura Suzune From: Miyagi, Japan Price per bottle: US$59 Ichinokura Suzune is a sparkling sake with a smooth finish.
Much like champagne, Ichinokura Suzune is rich and complex in its flavors that offer an initially sweet taste, followed by a lingering dryness.
Isojiman From: Shizuoka, Japan Price per bottle: US$50 According to the brewers, Isojiman has natural and gentle aromas of white peaches, muskmelons, LaFrance pears, ripe bananas, and passionfruit.
It may sound like a fruit cocktail, but it’s a delicate-tasting drink that pairs well with Japanese and French dishes.

Holly Patrick | @HollyMaeVogel
As a recent graduate of Journalism from Westminster University, Holly is keen on exploring the stories that hide in the most curious of places. She enjoys discovering new cultures, and has strong opinions about women's rights and how modern technology is influencing the globalized world. She also has a healthy inquisitiveness to find stimulating content… and the best pad thai in town.

What’s driving tourists in Japan?

Posted by - August 3, 2018

It’s true: We (travelers) are very visual people and this theory proves it. Source: Shutterstock.
JAPAN is one of Asia’s top 10 countries in terms of international tourist arrivals in 2017 and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
At least not for the next five years or so, with Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics. Japan will continue enjoying a surge in inbound travelers for sure.
In 2016, there were about 40 million departures from Japan, including 17 million by Japanese nationals.
In 2017, the country attracted a record 28.68 million tourists, reflecting the sixth consecutive yearly increase. As for departures, Japan saw around 45.2 million leaving its shores in the same year.
On top of strong promotional pushes by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the East Asian country already welcomes a steady stream of travelers ready to check out its dark tourism, sakura season, food tourism, heritage tourism, night tourism, fall foliage, and a whole lot more.
But what’s really driving the tourists in Japan these days? It’s not just tourism campaigns and guidebooks for sure.
Source: Shutterstock.
Destinations that are more off the beaten track like Nagano, the capital city of Nagano Prefecture in the Chūbu region of Japan for example, saw more than one million visitors last year.
Which is every bit impressive for the landlocked area as it marks a 36-fold increase in just three years.
How did this happen? First, CNN described Nagano as one of Japan’s most beautiful places, which spurred an influx of postings featuring Nagano’s sights flooding Instagram.
Since then, Instagram’s numbers have seen a steep increase, with Nagano becoming one of the most active markets on the platform.
Zenkoji Temple, one of the most important and popular temples in Nagano, stores the first Buddhist statue ever to be brought into Japan. Source: Shutterstock.
As of June 20, 2018, Instagram has reached one billion monthly active users.
And a majority of these users turn to the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app to match #ootd coordinations, decide where to eat, get suggestions on things to do, and add things to their travel bucket list.
“Instagram is different from other social media because users are the ones taking the initiative to post and spread pictures, not the local municipalities,” Travel And Tour World quoted marketing firm Full Speed Inc.’s Kazukiyo Yonemura of Full Speed Inc. as saying.
Source: Shutterstock.
For Nagano alone, there are more than a handful of Instagram hashtags chalking up thousands of posts such as:
City officials expressed their sheer surprise to see people of all ages visiting the mountains to get a shot of its shrine, with the mass crowds leading to four-hour-long traffic jams.
“We widened roads, built toilets and increased parking from 24 to more than 100 spaces this April,” Nagano city tourism division’s Erika Watanabe said.
The multiple foreign currencies, 27 to be exact, found in the shrine’s offertory box proved that many of the visitors were from overseas.
Last year, Instagram joined hands with the JNTO to introduce a new hashtag, #UnknownJapan, which led to more than five million foreign visitors sharing posts.

The world’s best Chinatowns that aren’t in China

Posted by - August 1, 2018

MOST METROPOLITAN destinations in the world host little cultural enclaves such as Little India, Koreatown, Vietnamese suburb, Japantown, and perhaps the most popular town of the kind, Chinatown.
Whether you’re in Cuba or San Francisco, the concept of a Chinatown is the same across the board: an ethnic enclave of Chinese people located outside of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan.
It’s often a unifying factor for the Chinese in the area, offering Chinese-themed shopping centers and markets, Cantonese restaurants and cafes, decorated in giddying lanterns and flashing lights, and is often the place to be to celebrate festivities such as Chinese New Year.
#THINGS TO DO
The heart of heritage: A glimpse of Bangkok’s Chinatown If you’re Chinese, no matter where you are, a Chinatown will make you feel right at home. And for travelers, a Chinatown is simply a taste of China.
Chinatowns are usually found in an urban setting, so don’t expect peace and quiet if you plan to take a stroll down the cramped streets. Do, however, enjoy being in between all the action in the old and the new, as tradition and modernity blend together to become one.
Here are some of the world’s best Chinatowns that aren’t in China:
Manila, The Philippines Located in the Binondo district of Manila, the Philippines’ Chinatown has influence that extends beyond Quiapo, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas.
Considered the world’s oldest Chinatown, it was established in 1594 by Spaniards as a settlement near Intramuros for the Catholic Chinese.
Source: Shutterstock.
Aside from its Filipino-Chinese businesses, Binondo is also famous for The Umbrella Alley where street food is aplenty and historical sites such as the Seng Guan Temple and the Kuang Kong Temple.
Niu Che Shui, Singapore Niu Che Shui, which means “ox”, “cart”, and “water”, Singapore’s Chinatown was once an enclave for the island city-state’s immigrant population.
Today, Niu Che Shui is a sharp but pleasing contrast to the high-rise buildings that surround the area and is heavily visited by both locals and tourists.
Source: Shutterstock.
From its historic ornate Chinese and Buddhist temples to the traditional medicinal halls to the bustling street market and food streets, as well as the hip new watering holes and lifestyle shops, there’s never a dull moment here.
Bangkok, Thailand The sights, sounds, and smells of Yaowarat area will be an assault on any visitor’s senses but in all the best ways.
Get ready for an adventure when you stroll down many of Thailand’s Chinatown in Bangkok and sample the treats from its street food vendors, while occasionally whipping out your camera to take shots for the ‘gram.
Source: Shutterstock.
Yaowarat’s fascinating mix of Chinese and Thai cultures sets it apart from other Chinatowns in the world and it’s not an experience that you should miss.
Kolkata, India Located in the eastern part of Kolkata, Tiretta Bazaar was established in the early 19th century and was once home to 20,000 ethnic Chinese Indian nationals.
Today, the area is still very much loved, dotted with Chinese restaurants that offer traditional Chinese cuisine and Indian-influenced Chinese food.
Source: Shutterstock.
During Chinese New Year, throngs of Chinese Indians flock to Tiretta Bazaar to celebrate and also to witness the lion dance performances that continue to be held every year.
Yokohama, Japan Located in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo, the Yokohama Chinatown has a history that spans about 150 years long and a population of about 3,000 to 4,000 Chinese people.
Established not long after Tokyo opened its port to foreign trade in 1859, it’s the largest Chinatown in Japan and also in Asia, and one of the largest in the world.
Source: Shutterstock.
Yokohama Chinatown is home to over 200 restaurants serving Japan-influence Chinese cuisine, an eight-story entertainment mall and theme park, Chinese grocery and medicine stores, and two elaborate Chinese temples.
Melbourne, Australia In Australia, the Chinese community is well-represented, especially in Sydney and Melbourne. In fact, Melbourne’s Chinatown is popularly known as the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world and the oldest Chinatown in the southern hemisphere.
It was established upon the arrival of Chinese immigrants during the Victorian gold rush of the early 1850s, a period of extreme prosperity for the Australian colony.
Source: Shutterstock.
Home to many Chinese restaurants, cultural venues, businesses, places of worship, architectural heritage and annual festivals, Melbourne’s Chinatown is a major tourist attraction.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia At the heart of Malaysia where the city never sleeps is a lively and colorful destination with sprawling flea markets, beautiful temples, and quirky art galleries. It has to be Chinatown.
The large covered market is known for its fashion shops selling both must-have items as well as designer rip-offs, handicraft and souvenir stalls, as well as stalls dishing up delectable Chinese food and refreshing beverages.
Source: Shutterstock.
Shopaholics will love haggling for and scoring dirt-cheap steals and deals whilst other travelers shouldn’t miss this mindboggling sightseeing activity.
The post The world’s best Chinatowns that aren’t in China appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

What does Japan’s new vacation rental law mean for travelers?

Posted by - June 11, 2018

AS Japan clamps down on private lodging services across the country, accommodation vendors such as Airbnb are acting quickly to avoid costly penalties.
From June 15, Japan will enforce a new law for minpaku (private lodging services). The law aims to provide the vacation rental industry with a clear legal framework.
#HOTELS
Take a look inside the Trump-Kim Summit hotel If rental companies do not adhere to the new rules, they could pay more than US$9,000 (JPY1 million) in fines.
The minpaku law will apply to every rental opportunity from single bedrooms to entier houses, most of which currently straddle a grey area of undefined rental law.
But the minpuka law is about to make this clear for all.
What does the new law state? A post shared by Edward Hsieh (@edamameedward) on May 23, 2018 at 9:23pm PDT
By June 16, all rental properties must be registered with the local government. In light of this looming regulation, one of the major players in the rental market, Airbnb recently unlisted 48,200 of its unregistered properties.
Additionally, landlords can only rent properties for a maximum 180 days per year, and local governments can enforce further restrictions, such as stipulating days or weeks of the year when owners can’t rent properties.
Also, every rental must display its registration number on the outside of the property and take measures to prevent noise, garbage, and fire problems.
Landlords must also make an effort to provide overseas tourists with information about facility access and emergency escape plans in foreign languages.
Lastly, the new law has done away with the minimum two-night stay rule but states a management company must be employed to look after the property if owners do not live onsite.
A post shared by arbol (@arbol_architect) on Jun 8, 2018 at 3:02am PDT
Earlier this month, Airbnb issued a warning to its Japanese property owners, stating it would not list rentals until they could prove their registration.
Minpuka law aims to protect neighborhoods and ensure guests are safe.
But until property owners are officially registered and adhere to all the aspects of the regulation, travelers might find themselves with limited options.
#HOTELS
Marriott has big plans for Sheraton brand However, as Japan sees a tourism boom ahead of the 2020 Olympics, the government is investing in accommodation infrastructure to cater for increased tourist numbers.
Earlier this year The Japan Times reported the Organization for Promoting Urban Development would be revising its financing rules to loan hotel developers up to 50 percent of hotel construction costs.
With brand new hotels and registered rentals on the horizon, travelers won’t have to wait long for secure and legal stays. But in the meantime, here are two accommodation booking platforms for those off to explore the Land of the Rising Sun.
Japan Experience A post shared by @japan_experience on Jan 24, 2016 at 2:51am PST
Japan Experience is a tour operator providing accommodation, tours, transport, and real information about the country from those who know it well.
It has traditional and contemporary properties in Kyoto, Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Takayama and offers “Tour Angels” to assist you when you arrive in a new city.
Whether it’s one night or a month-long stay, Japan Experience offer hard-to-beat rates in excellent locations.
Beyond resting your head, Japan Experience gives travelers in-depth tours, either self-guided or expert-led.
Just a glance at the website will reveal how well it knows the country and provide a wealth of information for traveling families, couples, friends and solos.
Rakuten Travel A post shared by 楽天トラベル (@rakutentravel) on Feb 15, 2018 at 12:45am PST
Booking with Rakuten Travel makes you part of something bigger than the accommodation industry.
Rakuten is an innovative e-commerce platform that knows a thing or two about offering competitive hotel rates.
It has 31,000 hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) on its books and constantly offers exciting deals.
The post What does Japan’s new vacation rental law mean for travelers? appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

5 of Japan’s most bizarre beverages

Posted by - June 4, 2018

QUIRKY is certainly one word you could use to describe Japan.
Japan is the home of ancient traditions such as sumo wrestlers and samurai warriors. It also hosts some of the world’s most magnificent flora during its spring season.
#POP CULTURE
Hello Kitty fans, here’s your first look at the Hello Kitty Shinkansen Fashion is innovative, pioneering, and inspiring in Japan. The food is cheap, delicious and healthy, and the landscapes display unrivaled beauty.
Not to mention the anime and manga which has garnered a global cult following.
Through culture, history, and nature you could describe Japan in a thousand different ways.
But for now, let’s focus on another of Japan’s prides – it’s bizarre range of beverages.
Coca-Cola The 330ml canned drink will cost around US$1.40. Source: AFP
The new alcoholic beverage Coca-Cola has just released in Japan, its first alcoholic drink ever, is interesting.
Coco-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and usually associated with a brown sweet stickiness.
However, the global leader in carbonated drinks recently introduced a Chu-Hi drink in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Chu-Hi is an abbreviation for shochu highball, a term used to categorize fruity alcoholic beverages in Japan.
While the rest of the world might remeber them as “alcopops” from the 80s and 90s, they remain popular in Japan, especially among females.
Currently, citrus flavors such as lemon and grapefruit rule the canned Chu-Hi business in Japan and Coca-Cola wants a sip of that market.
Morinaga Pancake Drink Morinaga Pancake Drink. Source: Pinterest
If you prefer licking the cake mixture off the spoon and bowl instead of actually eating the baked product, then this is for you.
The canned delight is marketed as a sippable pancake mixture and can be dispensed from plenty of vending machines around major cities.
According to those who have tried it, Morinaga has a distinct flapjack taste. Yum!
Wan Wan Sparkling Source: Japan Trend Shop
Why should the human adults have all the fun when it comes to peculiar drinks?
Wan Wan Sparking is wine for dogs and pet owners go crazy over it. The Japanese are known to be very loving toward their pets and want to make sure they feel like they’re part of the family.
Wan Wan is supposedly Chardonnay-flavored. But since dogs aren’t sommeliers, it’s hard to tell what they think of it.
Black Vinegar Source: Shutterstock
You’ll need to forget everything you know about juice bars when you visit Japan because vinegar is on the menu.
Japan has reinvented what is normally used to flavor fish and chips or used as a dip for Asian savories.
It’s drunk for its health benefits, including balancing pH levels, improving digestion and boosting energy levels.
#ADVENTURES
‘Let’s-a go’ join the Mario Kart tour, take Tokyo for a spin Kodomo no nomimono
Following the success of Tomomasu’s Kidsbeer, another Japanese company called Sangria brought out Kodomo no nomimono.
The range includes non-alcoholic champagne, cocktails, and beer, all packaged to mimic real alcohol, especially created for kids.
Oh, they grow up so fast.
The post 5 of Japan’s most bizarre beverages appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

Japan bucket list: Peanuts-themed hotel

Posted by - May 16, 2018

SNOOPY is coming to town! By “town”, we mean if you’re anywhere in Japan or if you’re planning a trip to Japan.
Famed for being the “land of cute things”, the upcoming Peanuts comic strip-themed hotel will be yet another adorable addition to the country’s attractions.
#POP CULTURE
Here’s your first look at the magical ‘Ghibli Park’ Set to open in Hyogo prefecture near Sannomiya Station located in the heart of Kobe, the hotel spans six floors of rooms and facilities.
It embodies its motto, “It’s nice to have a home where your guests feel comfortable”.
Guests would be delighted to know that they will be getting a Peanuts Cafe (first floor), a Peanuts Diner (third floor), and three upper floors of guest rooms themed, “Imagine”, “Love”, and “Happy”.
A post shared by PEANUTS HOTEL / ピーナッツ ホテル (@peanutshotel) on May 13, 2018 at 8:14pm PDT
The hotel’s Peanuts Cafe offers the same menu as the Peanut Cafe in Tokyo’s Nakameguro neighborhood, filled to the brim with casual Snoopy-themed food and drinks that are totally Instagrammable.
Peanuts Diner, on the other hand, will serve a slightly more adult menu, complete with pasta and Japanese specialties such as Kobe beef.
And what’s a Peanuts hotel experience if there’s no merchandise?
Peanuts Cafe and Peanuts Diner will also sell Snoopy-themed goods such as T-shirts, tote bags, printed serviettes, and mugs, so you can take a piece of Peanuts hotel home with you.
A post shared by PEANUTS HOTEL / ピーナッツ ホテル (@peanutshotel) on Mar 21, 2018 at 10:01pm PDT
More importantly, be ready to be overwhelmed by the sheer cuteness of the guest rooms.
Each of the 18 rooms will boast its own design and decorations based on different comics from the Charles M. Schulz franchise.
So don’t forget to whip out your camera and snap away.
A post shared by PEANUTS HOTEL / ピーナッツ ホテル (@peanutshotel) on Apr 26, 2018 at 2:15am PDT
Interested? Reservations will start from 10am on July 9, 2018.
The Peanuts hotel will open in Kobe, Japan in August 2018.
Check out their website for more information.
The post Japan bucket list: Peanuts-themed hotel appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

What does Japan’s volcanic eruption mean for your trip?

Posted by - April 23, 2018

LAST Thursday, Japan witnessed the eruption of Mount Io in the southernmost main island of Kyushu.
The volcano had remained dormant for over 250 years until it spewed a potentially deadly plume of thick grey ash last week.
#AIRLINES
Asia’s most dangerous airports The ash cloud prompted officials to shut the usually walkable peak and monitor the situation to ensure the zero death and injury count remains the same.
“There is a possibility that (Mount Io) will become more active,” Makoto Saito, an official from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), cautioned in a report by AFP.
A post shared by Rachel W. (@rachelc.tw) on Mar 2, 2018 at 6:56am PST
The warning level was raised to three over the weekend, with the maximum on Japan’s scale being five.
While the volcano itself does not pose much of a threat to anyone unless they are close by, falling rocks emerging from the thick ash clouds could potentially cause serious harm to anyone unfortunate enough to be in the way.
#ENVIRONMENT
Savannas to rainforests – these are Asia’s newest Geoparks In a later televised interview, Saito urged residents not to go anywhere near the spewing mountain, also establishing a no-go zone around the area.
This is a temporary rule hikers will have to follow too.
While no airline has announced route closures to the island, holidaymakers looking to explore the mountain peaks will have to rethink their itineraries.
A post shared by Amanda Msf (@amanda_msf) on Jan 12, 2018 at 3:09am PST
The volcano is set within the Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, famous for its hiking trails which snake through baron wasteland, thick forests and rocky paths.
However, there are hundreds of other peaks to climb on Kyushu Island.
Mount Sobo offers hikers a challenging and steep climb with rewarding views of the lush landscape and the sweet scent of beautiful blossoming flowers on the way up.
A post shared by Johan Carlsson (@j0hancarlsson) on Apr 24, 2017 at 5:55am PDT
Alternatively, another brilliant hike can be found on the southern tip of the island at Mount Kaimon.
This particular trail takes hikers around the circumference of the dormant volcano, through woodlands up to the rocky summit.
It’s a fantastic trail climb for adventurous families all year round.
So, any plans to visit the southern prefecture don’t need to be changed, just rejigged.
The post What does Japan’s volcanic eruption mean for your trip? appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

5 of Asia’s top 20 restaurants are in Japan

Posted by - April 16, 2018

AS the “Oscars of the Asian gastronomic world” draws to a close for 2018, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants have been chosen and announced to the world for culinary pleasure.
For any foodie who knows Asia’s gastronomy scene, it probably comes as little surprise Gaggan in Bangkok took the top spot once again.
The Bangkok restaurant is run by the wildly imaginative Gaggan Anand along with a team of multi-national culinary alchemists.
#BEACHES
Scuba right into Malaysia’s must-dive destinations Over 300 voters crowned this boundary-pushing restaurant winner but just because it’s at the top, it doesn’t mean it’s the only restaurant on the list worth visiting.
Each featured eatery has made it onto the prestigious list for its unique flavors, distinct dining experience, and progressive cooking methods.
Japan saw 10 restaurants make it onto the list, with five of them coming among the top 20.
Given that Asia is the biggest continent on Earth, this is quite the accolade but unsurprising as the tastes and experiences on offer at the joints are exceptional.
Take a sneak peek at Japan’s hottest restaurants and decide which one you’re going to try first.
Den A post shared by ajira (@ajirathecritic) on Nov 27, 2017 at 11:55pm PST
Coming in just behind Gaggan, Den in Tokyo was opened by Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa with the simple philosophy of making people happy.
“Homemade food is food prepared while thinking about others being happy,” Zaiya wrote on the website.
“Every day, I think about the people who come to the restaurant and cook with the ingredients that arrive each day. For a homemade dish that brings a smile.”
A post shared by Chad (@chad_the_scientist) on Jan 11, 2018 at 9:27am PST
Each dish is playfully presented without compromising taste or technique. The style of cuisine is a modern take on kaiseki, involving a series of small intricate dishes.
Zaiya takes influences from something as simple as a garden salad and jazzing it up with over 20 vegetables.
Considering Den only entered the awards list in 2016 at a well-deserved number 37, it’s now close to being the best in Asia.
Signature dish: Aged fish for sashimi. Address: 2-3-18 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Average spend: US$170 without wine. Florilege A post shared by hansa.foodjourney (@hansa.foodjourney) on Apr 12, 2018 at 7:25am PDT
Coming in at number three, Florilege is headed by chef Hiroyasu Kawate and dishes up imaginative modern French cooking.
The concept of the beautiful restaurant is focused around respect and passion which can be seen as the chefs deliver the dishes to tables and talk to eager diners through the history of the ingredients and the heritage of the dish.
A post shared by Meg (@mmidorikawa) on Apr 6, 2018 at 6:38am PDT
Each dish almost looks too good to eat with vibrant ingredients served on an array of incredible plates and bowls displaying the skill and techniques gone into every bite.
From the green tiger prawns to the manju dumplings stuffed with pigeon and simmered in port wine, every dish on the menu could be considered a delicacy in that moment.
Signature dish: “Sustainability”. Address: Seizan Gaienmae B1F, 2-5-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Average spend: US$90 without wine. Narisawa A post shared by NARISAWA (@narisawapress) on Apr 14, 2017 at 11:13am PDT
Once again, Tokyo is home to another divine restaurant run by world-renowned Yoshihiro Narisawa, who’s considered a pioneer in Japanese cuisine.
Each menu correlates to the season and chef Narisawa prides his restaurant in cooking with a conscious and approaches his restaurant with the ethos, “beneficial and sustainable gastronomy”.
A post shared by NARISAWA (@narisawapress) on Jan 15, 2017 at 8:21am PST
The restaurant aims to take its guests through a sensory voyage incorporating sound, sight, aroma, texture, and taste.
Signature dish: Satoyama scenery. Address: Minami Ayoyama 2-6-15, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062. Average spend US$202 without wine. Nihonryori Ryugin A post shared by Love to Eat, Travel & Shop (@foodaddictmag) on Mar 30, 2018 at 6:44pm PDT
Aptly named Nihonryori Ryugin, meaning “Japanese cuisine” and RyuGin meaning “dragon voice”, Nihonryori Ryugin focuses on traditional Japanese dishes with contemporary methods of making them.
Head chef and owner Seiji Yamamoto changes the menu to reflect the season but goes beyond just using seasonal ingredients.
A post shared by FoodinLife World (@foodinlifeworld) on Jan 8, 2018 at 12:44am PST
Currently, the menu themes revolve around the prodigality of Japanese nature, incorporating the finest ingredients Japanese nature has to offer.
Past menus have incorporated ingredients such as bamboo shoots and wild herbs in spring, sweetfish in summer and the wild mushroom of fall.
Nihonryori Ryugin emphasizes that although it’s a Japanese restaurant, it does so much more than just crab or fugu (blowfish).
Signature dish: Fugu and matsubagani. Address: Ground Floor, 7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-0032. Average spend: US$250 per person without wine or sake pairing. La Cime A post shared by LA CIME OSAKA (@lacime_japan) on Apr 9, 2018 at 7:23pm PDT
The only one on this list not found in Tokyo is La Cime.
The restaurant is run by Japanese chef Yusuke Takada with inspiration taken from France where he worked at Taillevent and Le Meurice before bringing his excellent culinary skills to Osaka.
The constantly changing menu has a theme which consists of three amuse-bouche, three plates of hors dʼoeuvres, meat dish, pre-dessert, dessert, mignardises and coffee.
A post shared by LA CIME OSAKA (@lacime_japan) on Feb 4, 2018 at 6:52pm PST
Another constant on the menu, however, is the boudin dog, which Takada’s take on a hotdog
Signature dish: Boudin dog. Address: 3-2-15 1F Kawaramachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 5410048. Average spend: US$170 per person without wine. The post 5 of Asia’s top 20 restaurants are in Japan appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

Surviving Asia’s 5 most expensive destinations for business travel

Posted by - April 3, 2018

WITH bleisure (a business and leisure travel combo) becoming a phenomenon, more and more business travelers are extending work travel for leisure.
However, extending your stay can be quite costly, especially if additional expenses for the trip has to come out of your own personal budget. This equals accommodation, meals, transport, on top of currency exchange, for the entirety of the extension.
The best way to go about this is to know firsthand which cities are expensive for travel.
#BUSINESS TRAVEL
These Asian countries are most welcoming for expats If you’re coming to Asia, keep in mind that despite the US dollar being the most powerful currency in the world, the cost of living in the region greatly varies and not all Asian countries are affordable.
In a survey released last December, market research company ECA International said 26 of the world’s top 50 most expensive cities to live in are in Asia, with 14 cities in China alone.
“This compares with just four EU cities and three US making it into the top 50,” the firm wrote.
It’s helpful to have a picture of how much life will cost as an expatriate or a business traveler in some of these locations, so here are Asia’s five most expensive destinations for business travel and the average daily expense you’d likely be making.
Tokyo Cost of living in Japan is generally high, with expatriates pegging the average monthly cost at around JPY100,000 (US$945). But it really depends on which Japanese city you’re going to.
For example, Tokyo is cheaper than both London and New York, but really expensive compared to Thailand or the Philippines, and a large chunk of your daily expenses will go to paying for your accommodation. Eating out at a restaurant, drinking at a bar, and going to the theater is also costlier than most Asian countries as they’re seen as more upscale activities.
There’s nearly nothing that you can’t find in Japan’s combinis. Source: Shutterstock.
Per day, you should expect to spend: US$536 (JPY56,742).
Tip for surviving the trip: Take the Tokyo Metro (Japan subway) and stock up on simple, money-saving meals from Japan’s popular combinis (convenience stores).
Hong Kong Although Hong Kong is no longer the most expensive city for business travel, it’s still one of the most expensive in Asia, and it certainly has the potential to empty out your bank account.
Four-star hotel prices in the land-starved country cost about US$284 per day. And due to the high price of goods, meals and drinks can cost up to US$186 per day. If you’re going to eat Western meals every day and dine out at nice restaurants all the time, then be prepared to cough up quite a bit of dough.
It’s not impossible to find affordable eats in Hong Kong. Source: Shutterstock.
Per day, you should expect to spend: US$508 (HKD3,987).
Tip for surviving the trip: Take the MTR (Hong Kong subway) and make cheap food places (market food, neighborhood noodle joints) your daily destination.
Seoul In 2015, The Economist‘s Worldwide Cost of Living report classified Seoul as the most expensive city in the world for buying everyday food items. For example, an average price for a loaf of bread (one kilogram) in Singapore costs US$3.54 while in Seoul it costs US$13.91.
And like the above well developed East Asian countries, staying in this South Korean capital can be expensive and business travelers should expect to fork out US$252 per day on a four-star hotel. That being said, subways, buses, taxis, eating out, and buying basic clothing is cheaper in South Korea than Toronto.
Remember to clink your soju glass and say, “Geonbae!” Source: Shutterstock.
Per day, you should expect to spend: US$490 (KRW518,625).
Tip for surviving the trip: Take the Seoul Metropolitan Subway and seek out bars like Ssada! Maekju! or Makgeolli Salon in Hongdae where you can get free refills for draft beers (KRW7,295/person), soju (KRW4,863/person), and makgeolli (KRW5,269/person).
Singapore For the fifth year running, the Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Singapore the world’s most expensive city to live. That goes hand-in-hand with it being one of the world’s most expensive cities for business travel as well.
Business travelers can expect to spend an average of US$251 on four-star hotels per day and about US$186 on food and drinks. You’ll never have a dull moment on the island because Singapore is home to various attractions such as Universal Studios Singapore, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo, Underwater World, Madame Tussauds, and more.
But they come with a price, of course.
The world’s most expensive city to live is also one of the world’s most expensive cities for business travel. Source: Shutterstock.
Per day, you should expect to spend: US$472 (SGD618).
Tip for surviving the trip: Take the MRT (Singapore subway) and check out all these free things that you can do.
Dhaka Are you surprised to find that Dhaka, the capital and largest city of Bangladesh, is on the list too? According to The Daily Star, the cost of living in Dhaka is as high as the Canadian city of Montreal although the living amenities and conditions in these two cities are worlds apart. In fact, it’s considered more expensive to live and work in Dhaka than nearby capitals like New Delhi and Islamabad, and cities like Kolkata.
The living cost rose by 8.44 percent in Dhaka in 2017 because of hikes in prices of rice, vegetables, house rents, electricity, gas as well as other services. Hence, you should expect to spend about US$155 on meals and drinks. And as a business traveler, most of your expenses will go to your accommodation as it costs about US$277 on average for a four-star hotel.
Built in 1872 and standing on the Buriganga River, Ahsan Manzil is one of the most attractive historical sites in Dhaka. Source: Shutterstock.
Per day, you should expect to spend: US$456 (BDT37,921).
Tip for surviving the trip: Public transportation is not an option there, and traffic and pollution are exceptionally bad so plan your travels well and mask up if need be.
The post Surviving Asia’s 5 most expensive destinations for business travel appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

In the mood for Sakura: Blooming delicious seasonal eats in Japan

Posted by - March 26, 2018

SPRING has arrived in Japan, which means that the highly anticipated sakura (cherry blossom) season is finally here. And the Japanese take the celebration very seriously.
In Tokyo, rows upon rows of sakura trees bloomed on March 24, and it’s expected to last about two weeks.
#EXPERIENCES
5 best but underrated destinations in Japan to view cherry blossoms The celebration of the sakura blooming is such a big deal that travel and tour companies, F&B corporations, cosmetics and skincare brands, convenience stores, and retail outlets, all cash in on the annual occasion.
While locals and tourists alike are buckling up and quickly flocking to flower-viewing venues to picnic under the beautiful pink blossoms, a practice that’s known as hanami, companies are gearing up to push seasonal flavored food and products in line with the tradition. This is likely the only time of year that stores will be filled with sakura-themed goodies.
From stationery to greeting cards, to tumblers and drinks, here are some seasonal and limited edition sakura-themed items that you can’t leave Japan without trying/buying.
FamilyMart Popular Japanese convenience store franchise chain FamilyMart is celebrating the blooms by selling a sakura roll cake.
The soft dough is filled with fluffy whipped cream and topped with red beans, and big enough to share with your hanami buddy.
A post shared by てぃこ太郎 (@wakapanp) on Mar 20, 2018 at 12:34am PDT
Lawson Lawson, the other popular Japanese convenience store franchise chain, has also filled their stores with everything pretty-in-pink.
They’ve got mouthwatering-ly good sakuramochi (rice cake wrapped in a salted sakura tree leaf), “Pururun” water jelly (a raindrop cake enhanced with sakura extract), sakura and matcha cake roll, and more.
It’d be hard to not go crazy shopping in there.
A post shared by ヴァイオレット (@teruaihappy) on Mar 23, 2018 at 2:40am PDT
Haagen-Dazs While you’re at either one of the above convenience stores, be sure to grab a tub of Haagen-Dazs on your way out.
This year, the ice cream brand is promoting its Mochi Sakura, a flavor with a triple helping of cherry blossom deliciousness: sakura ice cream, mochi topped with a sweety salty sakura and red bean paste, and finally drizzled with sakura sauce.
It can’t get any more sakura-crazy than that.
A post shared by 前田玲奈(アイスフェアリー) (@maedarena) on Mar 7, 2018 at 8:29pm PST
Asahi While some of you may be picking up sakura-flavored shakes and teas, Japanese beer company Asahi has other ideas.
Asahi has rolled out a repackaging of its Super Dry beer in pink cans and bottles featuring a flowery motif.
On top of that, the company has also added their new fruity beer, Sakura no Utage (cherry blossom banquet) to its Clear Asahi line.
A post shared by siyeon 러브시연 (@siyeon0220) on Mar 25, 2018 at 4:09pm PDT
McDonald’s In 2014, McDonald’s Japan released its limited edition Sakura Teritama burger, a creation comprised of a teriyaki-glazed patty, egg, lettuce, a mayonnaise-based sakura pickle sauce, and pink buns
Although the burger didn’t make a grand return this year, the fast-food restaurant is still very much in line with the celebrations.
Head on over to a McDonald’s near you to sample some french fries seasoned with sakura salt.
Source: McDonald’s Japan.
Starbucks The world-famous coffee chain is also contributing to the festivities with three sakura-themed drinks: the Sakura Strawberry Pink Mochi Frappuccino (with bits of sakura-flavored mochi and strawberry chocolate chips), the Sakura Strawberry Pink Milk Latte (with bits of sakura leaf and sake lees), and the Sakura Strawberry Pink Tea (Starbucks’ first sakura-flavored tea).
This is on top of the pretty, cheery merchandise that’s for sale.
A post shared by スターバックス公式 (@starbucks_j) on Feb 14, 2018 at 2:26pm PST
Lipton From January to March last year, Lipton released its sakura tea exclusively on its online store for the first time.
The fragrant tea, which gets its flavor from sakuramochi, was an instant hit, cinching the number one position in online sales.
Now, back by popular demand, Lipton’s sakura tea is available on Rakuten and Yahoo! Japan for a limited time.
A post shared by choi_gh78 (@choi_gh78) on Feb 11, 2018 at 8:31pm PST
Pocky Japan’s homegrown snack food brand, Glico, is not one to be left behind this spring.
The brand’s snack food, Pocky (flavor-coated baked pretzel sticks), just added Sakura Pocky to its range – though for a limited time only.
Each box has 24 sticks (dusted with both sugar and salt) in total in four small sealed pouches, available at 7-Eleven convenience stores and supermarkets York Mart and Ito Yokado.
A post shared by Bell, Character Food Artist (@bellchan_cooking_bento) on Mar 24, 2018 at 9:53pm PDT
KitKat Pocky’s competitor, Nestle’s KitKat, has also jumped the bandwagon this sakura season with the repackaging of three of its flavors in flower-themed wrapping: milk, dark, and iyokan (citrus).
Its specialty boutique, the KitKat Chocolatory, will also be offering a strawberry sakura flavor in a tall cylinder decorated with the pretty pink blooms, as well as a sakura-shaped charm made of cherry blossom wood.
Source: Nestle Japan.
The post In the mood for Sakura: Blooming delicious seasonal eats in Japan appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.