The Hollywood glitz of Japanese whisky
February 29th, 2012
10:30 AM ET
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Orson Welles, Sammy Davis Jr. and Sean Connery are an unlikely trio united by more than the love of a good party in the Hollywood hills.

What linked them, and other famous faces, was their promotion of Japanese whisky, each sipping it in TV advertisements like it was nectar of the gods.

Bill Murray's sardonic character in "Lost in Translation" may have mocked the image of sophistication that Japanese whisky manufacturers liked to portray from the 1970 to the 1990s, but since 2001, Japanese whisky has been steadily picking up awards and gaining the plaudits of international whisky connoisseurs without the need for a knowing smirk or wink.
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Filed under: Bite • Feature • Japan • Japan Eats • Sip • Spirits • Travel


Are you being served? Tokyo's 'butlers' spruce up cosplay cafes
February 22nd, 2012
11:00 AM ET
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Being waited on hand and foot now comes at an affordable price in Tokyo. A new butler-themed cafe in the Japanese capital is proving a hit with young females in search for a relaxing afternoon, an English lesson and just as importantly the chance to interact with friendly foreign men.

Shibuya's "Butler Cafe" in the heart of the city has surroundings that bring to mind a Victorian grandmother’s sitting room, with classical music, ample accents of lace and more hearts and roses adorning the furniture than can possibly be counted.
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Filed under: Asian • Feature • Japan • Japan Eats • Japanese


Step up to the plate: from baseball bats to chopsticks
February 15th, 2012
01:30 PM ET
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A chopstick making company has whittled down broken baseball bats so sushi can be shoveled with a swing.

Hyozaemon specializes in traditional hand-crafted eating utensils and in 2000 introduced their "kattobashi" chopsticks. The name is a play on words combining the Japanese word for chopsticks, "hashi," with a familiar chant heard at Japanese baseball games.

About 20,000 bats, used and abused by pro and amateur players, turn up at Hyozaemon's workshop each year. So it's a good bet the bats of Godzilla himself, Hideki Matsui, in his pre-Major League Baseball days, will have ended up on a Japanese dining table at some point over the years.
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Filed under: Asian • Feature • Japan • Japan Eats • Japanese


February 8th, 2012
09:05 AM ET
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Some sushi lovers are extending their passion for Japanese cuisine into the world of arts and crafts. From clothing to candles and jewelry to children's toys, rice rolls and sashimi are inspiring all manner of crafty marvels.

Giulia Negro, a 24-year-old Italian, fell in love with sushi years before she tasted it. “I love sushi’s elegant shape and vibrant color. I decided to explore making bracelets,” she said.

Sarah Worley lived in Japan, but only when she returned to her native United States, did she find sushi that she had never seen in Japan - uramaki with rice outside the seaweed. Now, her handmade "inside-out" sushi earrings seem to have almost as many fans as the rolls themselves.
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Mastering the art of Japanese tea
February 6th, 2012
01:30 AM ET
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During a Japanese tea ceremony, remember to slurp the last drops of tea from the bowl.

Among all the etiquette and quietude of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the slurping might seen out place, but it’s a more than acceptable way of saying thank you.

“Nosily drinking the last of the tea means that the guest has enjoyed it,” says Shirai Yayoi, a tea master for over 50 years.

Over that period she has perfected all the elements of “chado” that when translate to English is closer to “tea-ism” than tea ceremony. It’s more apt, too, as all the training of a tea master and the rituals of the ceremony date back to Japan’s medieval samurai society and are underpinned by four principles from Zen Buddhism: harmony, tranquility, respect and purity.

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Filed under: Asian • Culture • Feature • Japan • Japan Eats • Japanese • Rituals • Sip • Tea


The best sushi restaurants in Tokyo
January 30th, 2012
06:45 PM ET
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Ask five Tokyoites to name the best sushi restaurants in the city, and you’re likely to get five different answers - the old "how long is a piece of string?" quandary.

That's because the sushi experience is a very personal one that can include not only raw seafood, but also things like unmatched service, chefs whose skills were honed by years of apprenticeship, an atmosphere that screams “traditional Japan” and, in many cases, a whopping bill. Because of all this, any one traveler’s favorite sushi experience is going to largely depend on budget, interests and previous experience with the cuisine.
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Filed under: Asian • Bite • Cuisines • Dishes • Feature • Japan • Japan Eats • Japanese • Sushi


Manga maids need not apply: Japan’s high-end concept cafés come of age
January 23rd, 2012
02:30 PM ET
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You’d like a teenage girl to serve you tea while dressed in a cutesy maid outfit? You got it. You want to dine on a gurney in an Alcatraz ER-themed restaurant or eat burgers surrounded by life-size anime characters? No problem. Just get yourself to Tokyo, the city seemingly teaming with 24-hour cartoon craziness and the embodiment of "wacky Japan."

But away from these Japanese stereotypes, there is a growing scene of altogether more grown-up concept cafés fusing areas to eat and drink with spaces for business meetings and relaxation.

Called “third spaces” (home and office are the other two), these hybrid cafés are aiming to sate the need of a busy, trend-hungry population with a one-stop shop for work and play.
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Food map: Eat your way around Japan
January 19th, 2012
10:15 AM ET
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Much has been written about the relationship between the French and their cuisine, but one could also argue that the people of Japan take their love for food a step - or several galloping strides - further. Where else is it common to embark on weekend trips, the sole purpose of which is to sample several varieties of a single dish?

Modern Japanese kyodo ryori, or regional cuisine, is a tourist attraction all of its own, with a signature dish for nearly every major city.
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The secret taste of umami
January 16th, 2012
10:00 AM ET
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What do tomatoes, cheese and mackerel have in common?

They are all responsible for umami, the slightly mysterious fifth basic taste now counted alongside sweetness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness. Umami is often likened to savoriness, but defining exactly what it tastes like can be tricky.

If you have two mini-tomatoes and chew them 30 times before swallowing you should feel a strange sensation that spreads in your cheeks. That, according to chef Kiyomi Mikuni, is the umami taste.
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Filed under: Asian • Feature • Food Science • Japan • Japan Eats • Japanese


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