Japan Australia Pages

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Traditional Tatami-Style Starbucks to Open in Kyoto

The new traditional Starbucks in Kyoto
Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto is famous for its many tourist attractions ranging from historic temples, colourful shrines, and sublime gardens. Now, it can add a new one to list with the world’s first traditional tatami-style coffee shop under the global Starbucks brand.

The announcement this week by Starbucks Coffee Japan Ltd., the Japanese arm of global coffee giant Starbucks Coffee Co, is already creating buzz over the internet here in Japan, with the store to officially open on June 30, 2017.

Starbucks coffee will be served in traditional “tatami” floor rooms in a 100-year old Japanese-style machiya wooden townhouse.

The new traditional Starbucks in Kyoto
The new traditional Starbucks in Kyoto

The two-story townhouse is conveniently located near the UNESCO World Heritage listed Kiyomizu-dera Temple, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kyoto.

The new shop can be found along Ninen-zaka, a historic street lined with traditional Kyoto shops which leads from Kiyomizu-dera to Kodaiji Temple.

Ninen-zaka historic street in Kyoto
Ninen-zaka Historic Street in Kyoto

Starbucks Coffee Japan Website

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Stay at Kujo Stays

Kujo Stays
We were lucky recently to stay in a fantastic machiya (traditional wooden Kyoto townhouse) accommodation in the heart of Kyoto. Kujo Stays is a set of 4 Japanese style townhouses that gives you a taste of real Japanese style accommodation and lifestyle with their authentic look and feel. Machiya are great because they combine all the advantages of a vacation rental with the authenticity of a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).

The rooms at Kujo Stays are very quiet, peaceful and comfortable, allowing you to concentrate on the important things in Kyoto which are all the historic temples, colourful shrines and sublime gardens.

Machiya Style Accommodation at Kujo Stays
Machiya style accommodation at Kujo Stays

Located a short 5 minute walk from JR Kyoto Station, Kujo Stays is also conveniently located near a big AEON Shopping Mall. If you are looking for a bit of culture and history, make sure to check out the UNESCO World Heritage, To-ji Temple, which is only a 10-minute walk from the accommodation.

Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station

The temple which served as one of the guardian temples of ancient Kyoto is home to Japan’s tallest wooden 5-storey pagoda, as well as Japan’s most famous flea market which is held on its serene grounds on the 21st of every month.

Toji Temple
The UNESCO World Heritage To-ji Temple in Kyoto

Kujo Stays features rooms with traditional Japanese machiya style décor such as tatami-mat floors, folding screens and hanging scrolls as well as basic furniture such as chabudai (Japanese low tables) and tansu (Japanese chest of drawers), along with Japanese ornaments and decorations such as pottery and ceramics.

Decorations at Kujo Stays
Beautiful Japanese style ceramics and decorations at Kujo Stays

The rooms at Kujo Stays are minimalist and very spacious which is great for families with kids or for those looking for a traditional Japanese experience. The futon bedding is comfortable and safe for children. We didn’t have to worry about kids falling out of beds at all.

Kujo Stays Room
Spacious rooms at Kujo Stays

Along with the traditional Japanese rooms are mod-cons designed to make your stay all that more comfortable. The essentials are all there such as heating, air conditioning, flat-screen TV, FREE WiFi, and private bathroom/shower. We also really loved having kitchen facilities as well as a washing machine to keep on top of the dirty laundry that starts to pile up after a few days of sightseeing.

The kitchen facilities include a microwave, fridge and all the kitchenware necessary to make your stay away from home as pleasant as possible.

I also like the fact the once you have picked up your room key from nearby Ebisu Ryokan, you are free to come and go as you please without the need to drop off the key whenever you want to go out.

The highlight of the stay for me was the beautiful Japanese style Zen garden which can be found in all the Kujo Stays townhouses. Designed by the owners Mr & Mrs Shimamoto, the enclosed courtyard gardens are illuminated at night to create a magical atmosphere.

Japanese style Zen Garden
Japanese style Zen garden at Kujo Stays

The property is managed by Global Network, who also own the nearby Ebisu Ryokan where we picked up the key to our room. Although there are no staff onsite at Kujo Stays, the friendly staff at Ebisu Ryokan are happy for you to stop by with any questions you may have. The staff can speak a multitude of languages including but not limited to English, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, and of course Japanese. In fact, the onsite manager is a fellow Aussie who has spent the last 10 years working in both China and Japan, including several years in my hometown of Gifu.

The Owners Mr & Mrs Shimamoto
Yours Truly with Mr & Mrs Shimamoto and the onsite manager

Kujo Stays might appear to be a little more pricey than say your typical accommodation, but it is definitely worth the money for the fantastic location, facilities and spaciousness. I hope you will pay them a visit the next time you are in Kyoto. Just remember to tell them that John from Japan Australia sent you.

Kujo Stays 

Address: 8 Higashikujo, Nakatonodacho, Minami-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 601-8048
Phone: +81 75-574-7100
Website: https://www.agoda.com/kujo-stays/hotel/kyoto-jp.html

Kujo Stays

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Unifying Power of Karaoke

Unifying Power of Karaoke
I'm usually against stereotypes. I do not like the idea of judging an individual before getting the chance to interact with them properly. However, there is one stereotype that even I, a Japanese-American, am powerless against... Japanese love karaoke.

There are karaoke boxes all throughout Japan, mostly located near train stations and in big cities. Majority of the time they filled with young and elderly people a like. It is a good way to relax after school or work and blow off some of the day’s stresses. But why hasn’t karaoke’s popularity boomed in the Western world as it has in Japan? What is it about karaoke in Japan that makes it so special?

Unifying Power of Karaoke
 Photo by Ed Schipul 

Impress your Japanese friends at a karaoke night & learn Japanese. Try a free class here.

The most noticeable difference between Japanese karaoke and Western karaoke is the structure. In Western karaoke, participants stand up on a stage in front of other bar patrons and sing their (drunk) hearts out. In Japan however, karaoke patrons are assigned a booth (depending on group size), completely separated from strangers and alone with their friends. Hence the difference in names; karaoke bars in the west, and karaoke boxes in Japan.

Not surprisingly, this plays a huge factor in karaoke’s popularity. Knowing that the only people who will hear them sing are their friends, may allow the Japanese to participate without hesitation. In addition, the dark and intimate setting provides the singers the feeling of being able to hide, while many Westerners succumb to ‘stage fright’ knowing that complete strangers will judge them. This leads to probably the biggest difference between Japanese karaoke and Western Karaoke—ideology.

Karaoke Box
Karaoke box. Picture from Wikipedia 

The ways in which the Japanese and the Westerners view the idea of karaoke are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Where Westerns tend to view karaoke as a talent contest for the vocally gifted, the Japanese focus on participating and giving a sincere effort. This can be viewed through the many talent shows that exist, such as American Idol or The X Factor, both of which look for a new star and spend the first couple of weeks ridiculing those of lesser talent. Whereas in Japan, although their actual singing talents are questionable, some Japanese music artists’ albums are able to sell in the millions.

Japanese people do not care if you are a skilled singer or not. They only want you to participate in the fun and enjoy yourself. Karaoke is a good bonding experience. Not only are you in a small setting, where you are able converse with everyone in the room, you are able to show your true self without the fear of being judged based on your singing abilities.

Shimatachi summarized the difference between the ideology of Japanese karaoke and Western karaoke in Japan Pop!: “[...] karaoke must be seen as a positive social development. In short, the Walkman isolates and the boom box domineers—but karaoke unites.” (Shimatachi, 2000) [1].

Obviously, Shimatachi wrote this article in a time where people used Walkmans and boom boxes, but the message remains unchanged. Walkmans, or more recently mp3 players, keep individuals isolated from each other and encourage introverts; boom boxes, or more recently American Idol, encourage the separation of the talented and the less talented.

The success of Japanese karaoke boxes is contributed to the combination of structure and ideology. The unifying power of karaoke to bond and connect with others around them overpowers any fears and embarrassments an individual might have, a leads to an awfully fun Friday night!

Ready to sing in Japanese like a pro? Try a free class here.

[1] Shimatachi, H. (2000). A karaoke perspective on international relations In T. Craig (Ed.), Japan Pop! (pp. 101-105). Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe.].

This guest post has been written by Greg Scott from LinguaLift, a 21st century online language textbook for Japanese and Russian. Take your free class today!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Japanese Film Festival in Australia 2016

Japanese Film Festival 2016 in Australia
The Japanese Film Festival (JFF) in Australia 2016 celebrates its 20th anniversary with a huge national tour of Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, shining a spotlight on the best of Japanese culture from October 14th to December 4th.

With each city’s program carefully curated by The Japan Foundation, Sydney, the 2016 Festival will present exciting new films direct from Japan, including comedy, samurai and yakuza action, manga adaptations, high school romance and much more.

Highlights of the 2016 Festival include CREEPY, the latest film from Japan’s leading horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure) about a former detective who investigates the case of a missing family all the while obvious of the dangers close to home, CHIHAYAFURU PART I and II based on the popular manga series of the same name, and a fascinating documentary which captures the unique culture of the world’s largest seafood market, TSUKIJI WONDERLAND.

The popular JFF Classics program will also return to Sydney this year, featuring social films from post-war independent directors Tadashi Imai and Kaneto Shindo. The free program will include Imai’s BLUE MOUNTAINS, a two-part film where school teacher Yukiko, played by Setsuko Hara, attempts to introduce democracy into her classroom at a time when feudal ideologies still ran strong, and Shindo’s 1952 docudrama CHILDREN OF HIROSHIMA, a heartfelt film telling the stories of children affected by the bombing incident in World War II.

JFF Program Coordinator, Margarett Cortez, said “We’ve scoured Japan for the best of both classic and modern Japanese cinema and we're thrilled to celebrate our 20th anniversary with such a diverse program. From special events and classic films from the fifties on, to works by female directors and rising indie filmmakers, there really is something for everyone in this program”.

The Festival will also host a number of special event screenings, including pop culture days in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, foodie film screenings and special guest screenings.

The program is available via www.japanesefilmfestival.net

• CANBERRA - 14 to 23 October 2016 at Capital Cinemas, Manuka
• ADELAIDE - 21 to 30 October 2016 at at Mercury Cinema
• BRISBANE - 26 to 30 October 2016 at Event Cinemas Brisbane City Myer Centre
• PERTH - 2 to 6 November 2016 at Hoyts Carousel, Cannington
• SYDNEY - 17 to 27 November 2016 at Event Cinemas George Street
• MELBOURNE - 24 November to 4 December 2016 at Hoyts Melbourne Central & ACMI Cinemas
 • SYDNEY CLASSICS - 8 October to 6 November 2016 at Art Gallery of NSW Free admission. Tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre one hour before.

 *** Competition Time *** 

Japan Australia in conjunction with the Japan Foundation Sydney is offering the chance for one lucky reader to win a FREE double pass, which is valid for any Japan Film Festival film screening in Sydney and Melbourne. To enter the competition, please leave a comment below in the comments section on the following topic, “What is your favourite Japanese movie of all time and why is it your favourite?

The winner will be selected at random on November 11th and announced on this blog.

Note: Please comment using a recognized profile such as Google or WordPress, etc, Anonymous comments will not be eligible. We need to be able to contact the winner to pass on their details in order for them to receive the prize.

Good luck and I look forward to reading your entries.

Japanese Film Festival

Japanese Film Festival 2016 in Australia

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Halloween Choco Pumpkin Fries at McDonald’s Japan

Halloween Choco Pumpkin Fries at McDonald’s Japan
McDonald’s Japan has joined the Halloween party by introducing some pumpkin flavoured treats to celebrate the scary season. The “Halloween Choco Potato” released to mark its 45th anniversary in Japan features golden McDonald’s French fries covered in a pumpkin and chocolate sauce.

This isn’t the first time McDonald’s have released chocolate covered fries in Japan. Earlier in the year, they created some huge media buzz with their “McChoco Potato”, French fries covered in a double chocolate sauce of milk chocolate and white chocolate. While they were only available for a limited time, the concept is now back for Halloween, with an all new addition of pumpkin added to the chocolate mix.

The Taste Test 

We at Japan Australia are always game to try something new, so headed to our local McDonald’s to test them out. How were they? Surprisingly very good! The flavour combination of sweet & savoury work really well together and the fries tasted really good. It wasn’t too sweet with the mild and subtle sweetness from the chocolate combining well with the saltiness of the fries, which was balanced nicely with the savoury fruity pumpkin sauce. A real winner in our books!

Halloween Choco Potato Box
The Halloween Choco Pumpkin Fries come in a cute Halloween box

Halloween Choco Potato Box and Sauce
The sauce is served separately in a plastic snap pack sachet

Halloween Choco Potato Sauce
When squeezed the two sauces drizzle out together

Halloween Choco Potato
The colours and flavours of Halloween

The Halloween Choco Pumpkin Fries are available for a limited time until Halloween at McDonald’s restaurants across Japan and cost 330 yen (USD$3.28). You can also purchase them for an additional 60 yen as part of any set deal. Hurry before they vanish like a ghost from the menu forever.

Recent Unique Menu Items from McDonald’s Japan

Tsukimi Burger (Moon Viewing Burger) 2016

McChoco Potato Chocolate Fries 

McDonald’s Japan Website

Halloween Choco Pumpkin Fries at McDonald’s Japan

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Simor Intellectual Network

Simor Intellectual Network
Simor is a great tool for you to connect with native and non native Japanese speakers. It allows you to connect with like-minded people from all over the world. In Simor rooms, you can find a Japanese room where people instantly share their interests, questions, answers and thoughts on Japanese culture, language, food, cities, and more.

What is Simor? 

Simor is an online intellectual network located at Simor.org. Registration and all the services that the Simor team provides are forever free and there is no premium account. You connect for free and share for free with people who have the same interest as you. It is really easy to connect to the network via either your Facebook or Linkedin account.

The platform allows you to build a network of intellectual peers across various topics that interest you, including Japanese. You can add friends and colleagues to your network and follow them as they post, questions and answers.The Japanese room allows you to connect with native speakers or others learning the language. The rooms are a lot of fun and are both informative and interactive.

Sharing with like minded ones

It is easy to log into the Japanese room and find new people who have a love for Japanese culture, language, food, etc. An innovative chat room instantly connects you efficiently to new people and your favourite content.

Simor Intellectual Network

Smart Profile

Unlike other social networks where "About" is age, gender, or nationality related, on Simor, "About" is your knowledge on different subjects. Creating your profile is quick and easy and it is fun to discover all the different rooms available that interest you.

Simor Intellectual Network

Simor has launched into the top 50 universities in the USA and starting today (October 1st, 2016) it gives access to Facebook and Linkedin users.

Share your brilliance with the world at Simor.org

Simor Intellectual Network

Monday, September 19, 2016

Tsukimi Burger 2016 McDonald’s Japan

Tsukimi Burger 2016 McDonald’s Japan
The seasonal Tsukimi Burger is back for autumn 2016 in Japan with a brand new addition to the “tsukimi” family.

The Tsukimi Burger (月見バーガー) is named after the famous Japanese tradition of tsukimi (月見) or moon viewing, which is a festival honoring the bright autumn moon.

The Tsukimi Burger has been around for a few years now, first making its first appearance way back in 1991. It has been a popular seasonal favourite ever since and comes back every year in some form or the other. Check out last year’s edition of the Tsukimi Burger. It traditionally contains a beef patty, smoky bacon, a poached egg and a special Aurore sauce made up of ketchup mixed with Japanese mayonnaise. The poached egg in the burger is said to resemble the autumn moon with the egg yolk representing the bright autumn full moon and the egg white the white sky.

This year it is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the brand new “Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger”.

The Tsukimi Burger 

The Tsukimi Burger is the original and some say best version of the burger. It contains a juicy beef patty, smoky bacon, a poached egg and special sauce all in sesame topped buns.

The Tsukimi Burger

The Cheese Tsukimi Burger 

The Cheese Tsukimi Burger is the best in our opinion and is pretty much the same as the original above, with the addition of cheddar cheese, which makes it better.

The Cheese Tsukimi Burger

The Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger 

The brand new Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger is similar to the original but contains a slice of ham instead of bacon, cheddar cheese, and is inside buttery, fluffy, round moon-shaped buns made with fresh cream.

The Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger

The Taste Test 

We at Japan Australia are huge Tsukimi Burger fans, so just had to try the brand new “Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger”. How was it? It was OK! The addition of ham instead of bacon was a minus in our opinion and the buttery soft fluffy buns were good, but give us the original sesame topped buns any day of the week. Overall it was good, but we think we will just stick to "The Cheese Tsukimi Burger" from now on as it is definitely the best in our humble opinion.

Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger Set
Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger Set

Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger Box
Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger Box

A look at the Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger
A look at the Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger

Under the skin of the Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger
Under the skin of the Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger

The Tsukimi Burger series is available from August 31st until the first week of October at McDonald’s restaurants across Japan. Prices for the burgers vary depending on the region of Japan.

McDonald’s Japan Website

The Tsukimi Burger Lineup for 2016
The Tsukimi Burger Lineup for 2016

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