Japan Australia Pages

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Rare Craft Matcha Green Tea from Japan

Matcha is an infinitely precious & pure material
Material Matcha Uji, one of the most disruptive tea companies of recent years, launch their unique craft Matcha green tea after a year of patient development and hard work.

Material Matcha Uji (MMU) produces insanely good Matcha Green Tea. Collaborating with traditional tea-masters and using ancient, nearly forgotten blending techniques with the highest quality tea leaves from Uji, MMU creates the most exclusive blends of matcha ever offered to the world.

From corporate jobs to the fertile lands of Uji 

Material Matcha Uji is the brainchild of two Frenchmen & longtime expats in Japan, foodies at heart, who after years in finance & IT gave up their big corporate jobs to go on a quest for purity: to find and create the greatest matcha green tea ever.

The Founders Morgan & Etienne
The Founders, Morgan & Etienne

Etienne Denoual, co-founder at MMU, explains: “It all started from a deep wish to reconnect with nature and authenticity. When I went back to Kyoto, a city I had lived in for years before, it was a revelation. We just had to do it.”

The Team at Material Matcha Uji
The Team at Material Matcha Uji

Becoming a tea-maker 

Making high grade Matcha is no walk in the park. Indeed, they faced serious issues: while so-called matcha is booming worldwide (it is often low quality green tea dust), its production has seen a steep decline in Japan. Farmers are facing increasing expenses, weak demand for superior quality matcha, and lower sales value. Even more worrying, the aging tea-making community faces successor problems, endangering its very existence.

Grinding Green Tea
Grinding Green Tea

The two founders, who willingly admit that two years ago they knew next to nothing about tea-making, and were both rather coffee people, took a fresh look to the issues and devised an innovative development model: if superior matcha doesn’t work in the domestic market anymore, they would take it abroad for the first time, where foodies are thrilled by Japanese delicacies.

Rare Craft Matcha 

Their matcha blends, the result of more than a year of hard work in the fields and in their workshop, are uncompromising, bold, sophisticated, and probably unlike anything you have ever tasted before. Straying from the very classical image of Japanese tea ceremony, their craft matcha belongs to the realm of guilty pleasures, not unlike artisanal chocolate or micro-distillery whiskey.

Uji in Kyoto
Green Tea fields of Uji in Kyoto

Because Matcha is a precious and pure material, they package their blends in different raw materials honoring the minimalism of Japanese craft & culture. "We consider our packages and vessels as something one lives with, a celebration and everyday ceremony of the purity of Matcha." explains Morgan Josset, co-founder.

Material Matcha Uji Vessels
Material Matcha Uji Vessels

Support their Kickstarter's Crowdfunding campaign 

Backed by a devoted community and now ready for production, they are asking backers to help them buy a whole year of harvest of several plots of land that are especially promising. Providing tea farmers financial stability and peace of mind, they push them to always favor quality over quantity, and hope that younger generations will one day take up the torch!

You can help support their Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign by visiting the following link https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/materialmatcha/rare-craft-matcha-green-tea-from-japan

Matcha is an infinitely precious & pure material

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Top Spots in Tokyo to Eat for Free

Super Cheap Japan
Tokyo is a great place to eat out, with a bewildering choice of exciting restaurants and new, surprising flavours. One great way to try out many new flavours without splashing too much money away is to visit places that generously give out small samples to customers. It means you can try many types of food, and take your time to find the right snack or meal for you. It’s also useful for picky eaters, as it means there is less chance of ordering food that won’t get eaten!

With my new book, Super Cheap Japan: Budget Travel in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Surrounding Areas, I have made a guide to show exactly how you can travel on a budget in Japan. I have been all across Tokyo and collected a list of free sample spots, which I included in the book. Here are some of my top spots for free food!

Walking past the wide number of choices
Walking past the wide number of choices

Shinjuku is a good start to experience a bit of free food. The two main department stores, Isetan and Takashimaya, both have huge food courts on their basement floors. Isetan is a little more upmarket and seems to have an ever changing selection of stalls and shops, so it’s worth visiting more than once. Takashimaya, next to the tax-free Tokyu Hands variety megastore, has a good range of bakery goods and snacks to take home as souvenirs.

Head a few stops down on the Yamanote Line for more options in Shibuya. Tokyu Food Show has lower prices than the above department stores, and also has a few stalls offering free samples. There is also a good choice of western food, as well as Japanese twists on western favourites, such as cheese fondue and pasta dishes. Also located on the lower level, it can be accessed via Shibuya station.

Trying some Kimchi in Hikarie Shibuya
Trying some Kimchi in Hikarie, Shibuya

Another awesome spot for free samples in Shibuya is Hikarie, also connected to the station. Only a few years old, the higher levels are full of fancy items, with prices more reasonable than most department stores. Downstairs there are two fabulous floors, full of many original snack creations, such as a macaron inside a taiyaki! The shops here are still eager to establish themselves, and are very generous with their free samples. You might not even need a proper meal after visiting here…..

Shopping in Isetan Shinjuku
Shopping in Isetan, Shinjuku

Outside of Tokyo, Chinatown in Yokohama has several stalls offering free samples to tourists on the main street, as well as to customers lining up. Favourites here are the Nikuman (meat bun) and Gyoza (Chinese dumplings). All the free samples are a great way to save money here, as the restaurants can be a little pricey.

Finally, remember to ask for tax-free shopping if you buy lots of items, as all the shops in this post have tax-free for tourists!

Super Cheap Japan
This post was written by Matthew Baxter, author of the new book Super Cheap Japan: Budget Travel in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Surrounding Areas. It's the ultimate budget travel guide to Japan, full of the most useful, up-to-date information for a cheap holiday in Japan. With extensive tax-free shopping, crazily discounted train passes and an unbelievable exchange rate, there has never been a better time to visit. The book shows you exactly how, where and when you can save money. Go shopping for $4 clothes in Tokyo, enjoy inexpensive hikes in Nikko, or visit Kyoto’s beautiful shrines and gardens on the cheap; all with this super helpful guide.

*** Competition Time ***

To celebrate the release of the new book Super Cheap Japan: Budget Travel in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Surrounding Areas, we want to know what your best money saving tip is for traveling in Japan. The top idea will get a free copy of this awesome new book! Know a great place to eat on the cheap? A super way to save on accommodation? An unbelievable travel hack to get something for free?

Just leave your tip in the comments and we will select the lucky winner from the responses. Good luck!

Entries close on Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sake Kit Kat in Japan

Sake Kit Kat
Hot on the heels of the news about a new Nestle factory opening up in Japan for flavoured Kit Kats comes news of a new premium sake Kit Kat in Japan.

Nestle is releasing a new type of high-class Kit Kat with the help of esteemed Toyama-based sake brewery, Masuizumi and former Japanese soccer star Hidetoshi Nakata, a passionate sake fan. The new premium sake Kit Kat will be made for refined tastes and has been a year in the making.

Masuizumi sake brewery based in Toyama Prefecture was chosen from over 100 sake breweries in Japan to provide the premium sake used in these new Kit Kat. Masuizumi has a history dating back to 1893, making a great choice for these premium Kit Kat. The white chocolate wafers of the Kit Kat combine perfectly with the crisp dry finish of Masuizumi’s sake, creating depth of flavour and a distinct sake aroma.

The new premium Kit Kat containing 0.4% alcohol is called Masuizumi Japan Sake Kit Kat and will be sold in distinctive red boxes containing nine individually packaged bars. The tagline for the product is “The elegant taste of sake, wrapped in the gentle sweetness of white chocolate. Enjoy the rich, satisfying flavour of sake”.

Sake Kit Kat

Masuizumi Japan Sake Kit Kat will go on sale at souvenir stores around Japan from mid-September and will retail for 700 yen ($USD6.50). Kanpai!

Kit Kat Japan Website  

Sake Kit Kat

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Nestle Factory for Flavoured KitKats

KitKat Uji Matcha
Snacks and chocolate are big business in Japan with KitKat, the country’s top selling chocolate brand. The Japanese love the different seasonal and regional flavours of KitKat that can be found around the country, and with 300 different limited-edition varieties released so far, the choice seems endless.

Some of the more popular flavours of KitKat in Japan include Green Tea, Cherry Blossom and Yokohama Cheese Cake. On the other hand we have also been inflicted with weird and quirky flavours such as Wasabi, Soy Sauce and Okinawan Sweet Potato.

A selection of KitKat from Japan
A selection of KitKat from Japan

KitKat was first introduced to Japan in 1973, and instantly become a hit with the name “KitKat” sounding like the Japanese “Kitto Katsu”, which means “You will surely win”, making the chocolate a popular choice for students hoping to pass exams. The different flavoured varieties have been a success due to the omiyage (souvenir) culture in Japan with travelers bringing back the regional specialties to their family and co-workers.

Japan has already seen the opening of fancy KitKat Chocolatory Boutiques around the country selling a “premium artisan” variety of KitKat created by renowned Japanese pastry chef Yasumasa Takagi. The limited edition flavours have been a big hit with KitKat aficionados with high-end flavours such as raspberry-infused dark chocolate and orange chocolate rum.

KitKat Chocolatory Boutique Store in Tokyo's Ikebukuro District

Now, we have news that Nestle, who make the popular wafer chocolate snack will build a factory in Japan dedicated to producing weird and wonderful flavours of KitKat. The new factory in Himeji City, famous for Himeji Castle will help satisfy the ever increasing demand for exotic local KitKat flavours both in Japan and overseas.

KitKat Japan Website

KitKat Purple Potato

Sunday, July 30, 2017

New Tourist Train, the Royal Express in Japan

Royal Express Train
This July a new tourist train, the Royal Express started operations in Japan. The royal blue luxury train is Japan’s newest and biggest tourist train and is operated by Tokyu Corp and Izukyu Corporation.

The train aimed at tourists runs between JR Yokohama Station in Kanagawa Prefecture and Izukyu-Shimoda Station in Shizuoka Prefecture. The eight-car train with a capacity of 100 passengers will take in the spectacular scenery of the Izu Peninsula with the ride taking around three hours. The Izu Peninsula is a popular vacation destination with hot spring resorts and scenic coastal views of the Pacific Ocean. Izu is a stunning location with beautiful nature and this new train will bring further joy to the small communities located along the railroad where it’s running.

Izu Peninsula
The Lost Coast of Izu Japan

The new train has been designed by Eiji Mitooka, who also designed the famed Seven Stars luxury express train for Kyushu Railway. It is easily recognizable by the gold line running along the side of its royal blue carriages. The train is decked out with a dining car as well as a multipurpose car designed for wedding ceremonies, exhibitions and small concerts. Sounds like a lot of fun!

Royal Express Train
Source: Japan Today

The tickets for this incredible new train are limited and are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. You can find various travel packages using the irregularly operated train on offer now in Japan.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

MUJI Hotel to Open in Ginza in 2019

Muji Hotel Ginza Tokyo
MUJI one of Japan’s most popular brands will open its first hotel in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district in spring 2019 ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

MUJI is a Japanese retail company which sells a wide variety of household and consumer goods. Its natural and simple design has made its products popular with not only the Japanese but with people from all over the world. MUJI designs are distinguished by their minimalism with emphasis placed on recycling and the avoidance of waste in production and packaging. It maintains this minimalist approach with a no-logo, or no-brand policy.

The new hotel will be located in a beautiful tree-lined street just a short two-minute walk from the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station. The 10-story building will be home to MUJI’s new global flagship store with the store to occupy one basement floor up to part of the sixth floor. The rest of the building space will be dedicated to a hotel overseen by the company.

Muji Hotel Ginza Tokyo
Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun

The tentatively named Muji Hotel will be the first of its kind in Japan and will be decked out with all that MUJI furniture and amenities we just love. There are also plans to open two hotels in China in the near future.

The building will be constructed by publisher The Yomiuri Shimbun and real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan Co., MUJI hopes the hotel will become “a place where customers can thoroughly experience MUJI product lineups.”

Official Website 


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sacred Island of Okinoshima

Munakata Taisha Okitsu Shrine
The sacred Japanese island of Okinoshima in south-west Japan received UNESCO World Heritage listing last week on July 9, 2017.

The island was submitted for future inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List back in 2009.

The culturally important island chronicles the progression of traditional worship rituals from the 4th to 9th centuries, which were conducted to pray for safe sea voyages.

Okinoshima is part of Munakata City in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, and is situated midway between the south-western island of Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula.

Okinoshima is located between Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula

The entire island is considered a Shinto kami (god) with various religious sites and shrines dotted across it to appease the gods to protect the surrounding waters, which served as an important trade route in the region between China and Korea. The sacred island is off limits to women and male visitors must strip naked before going ashore. The island’s main shrine, Munakata Taisha Okitsu Shrine is carefully maintained by a single male employee.

Munakata Taisha Okitsu Shrine
Munakata Taisha Okitsu Shrine

The shrine located in the southwestern portion of Okinoshima was established in the mid-17th century as a sacred natural site. The shrine has gone through several repairs and rebuilding phases over the centuries with the current structure remaining in pretty much the same condition since the Showa Period (1926-1989).

The island covers an area of 97 ha (240 acres) with its highest peak reaching an elevation of 244 m (801 ft). Okinoshima is not currently open to the public and can only be viewed from a distance offshore.

Okinoshima from the sea
The sacred island of Okinoshima from the sea

Official Website

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