The city of Tokyo has a lot to offer visitors from all walks of life. While some enjoy studying ancient history, others enjoy shopping and exploring local cultural events. One such event, long popular amongst both locals and visitors, is the Tokyo Honbasho, one of six official professional sumo tournaments held in Japan.
Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category
Japan’s state religion is Shinto, and among its set of beliefs is the worship the spirits residing in nature, such as in trees, rocks, rivers and mountains. In ancient times, the Japanese directly worship these objects, but in time they built temples and shrines as formal places of ceremony, and a few become the epitome of several architectural styles. Nevertheless, some objects still retain its sacredness, and other religions such as Buddhism has its share of places that are considered holy by their followers.
Here are six places and objects in Japan that are deemed sacred:
Todaiji â€“ The Eastern Great Temple possesses the biggest wooden structure in the world, built to accommodate the largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. This temple in Nara is home to several treasures, including the Great Buddha Hall (daibutsu), the rear support pillars whose holes at the bottom are said to give anyone who fits in them a guaranteed place in Heaven, and the bronze Octagonal Lantern, which dates back to the original 8th-century structure. Located at the northern part of Nara Park, Todaiji is a 45-minute walk from JR Nara Station.
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A trip to Japan is one youâ€™ll remember for a lifetime, but while itâ€™s important to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main cities and enjoy some of the gorgeous countryside.
Unlike its Western counterparts, Japan has liberal laws with regards to alcohol, and there is little stigma to partaking it. It is readily available in the country, in bars, restaurants, supermarkets and vending machines. And with such a repressed and hectic culture, alcohol drinking is considered one of the few safety valves to allow people to act without inhibition. Most families will serve alcohol during meals, and it is considered rude to refuse when offered.
Here are 6 favorite Japanese alcoholic drinks to sample during a visit to the country:
Sake - the national alcoholic drink, which tastes like weak vodka and is supposed to be taken straight. People aren’t supposed to get drunk on sake; rather, they imbibe on one or two cups to relax. Autumn rice is usually used for sake, which the brewing process starts from winter and ends in spring, while the maturation takes all summer. The cheaper varieties are usually served hot.
Beer - Beer started overtaking sake as Japan’s most popular drink. Introduced in the country by Dutch sailors during the Edo period, beer is usually enjoyed with beer snacks like steamed soy beans, edamame (salted boiled beans), grilled meat and seafood and so on. Popular brands are Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo and Suntory. The Great Beer Festival is celebrated annually in Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama.
Happoshu - literally meaning, “sparkling spirits”, is any Japanese spirit with less than 67% malt content. This category was created by a tax law that places high-malt beer with high taxes. This low-priced, light-tasting beer has found its own market among budget-conscious drinkers. There is even a lower category called third beer, which replaces malt with pea protein, soy protein, or soy peptide.
Shochu â€“ a completely different drink from the Korean soju, this is a distilled beverage made from potatoes and barley. Described as possessing an earthy taste, Shochu originated from Kagoshima, on the island of Kyushu. It was traditionally an old man’s drink, but recent marketing has developed a market for it among young women, helping it attain massive popularity in recent years. Often referred to as a â€œwater cocktailâ€, it is enjoyed on-the-rocks, with cold water or with hot water, with the quality of water being critical to the latter two options; natural water of the region where the shochu was produced is a fashionable source. Of all the different variants of shochu, the most interesting is imoshochu, which is made from sweet potatoes. A fun way to drink it is tea ceremony-style, substituting the ceremonial green tea to create a formal, yet unorthodox ritual.
Chuhai - a canned drink that comes from the term “shochu highball”, where shochu is mixed with fruit juices, flavored sodas or other spirits. Traditionally, chuhai is shochu mixed with carbonated water with a splash of lemon, but modern variants are known to replace the shochu with vodka, and the lemon with grapefruit, apple, orange, pineapple, grape, kiwi, ume (plum), yuzu, lychee or peach. It is considered an individual’s drink, as it does not come inÂ large bottles which is shared by groups. It also has a low alcohol content, allowing those with a low tolerance for alcohol to drink safely.
Umeshu â€“ also known as plum liqueur, this drink made by immersing unripe plum into sugar and shochu and marinating them for a year. Originally brought from China as a medicinal drink, umeshu comes in 4 basic types: sake-based, shochu-based, brandy-based and white liqueur-based. Some producers even leave a few plums in the umeshu to the delight of enthusiant.Â Known as an aperitif, umeshu should be tried with everything, but itâ€™s most popularly enjoyed straight, on-the-rocks or with hot water (oyuwari).
Every October, tens of thousands of spectators gather in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture for the largest tug-of-war in the world. It is the highlight of the annual Ryukyu Kingdom Festival Tsunahiki (rope-pulling ritual) and has even made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for its sizable feat of rope pulling.
Celebrity traveling chef Anthony Bourdain will immediately retch at the idea of eating anything other than traditional food in any new country he visits. But many modern amenities in the world can surprise travelers with their range of healthy eating choices, from both the traditional to the fusion of international cuisine. Case in point: Japan‘s convenience stores. The konbini, as it is called locally, got its start when businessman Hideo Shimizu visited the United States in his search for the next big thing and fell in love with the idea of a store that sells items one might need in short notice, displayed in a uniform way.
Bunkaru is the common name for Ningyo Jururi, or traditional Japanese puppet theater, where ningyo is Japanese for “puppet” while jururi is a Japanese term for a chanted play. Bunkaru was used to refer only to a specific theater in Osaka, but the term eventually applied to all ningyo jururi. This ain’t your kid’s puppetry: bunkaru is the most developed puppet theatre in the world, and commonly deals with mature themes likeÂ conflict, loss and death by suicide. Like Kabuki, Bunkaru is the layman’s Noh, as the latter is reserved for the aristocracy.
It is only recently that Japan is discovering the joys of All Hallow’s Eve. A traditionally American holiday with a background in respecting the wandering spirits of the earth, the Japanese decided to do away with the religious aspects altogether and adopt the pumpkins, candies, costumes, and merry-making associated with it. Though still only observed by a fraction of the population, Halloween is a growth industry, fueled by commercialism and a cultural need for another festival that has outfits going for it.
The city of Tokyo, Japan is constantly bustling with activity. Fashion and cultural trends come and go quickly here – in a city that represents both ancient history and modern advances. The citizens of Tokyo honor and respect some of Japan’s most ancient traditions while at the same time embracing the fast paced nature of change.
Fortunately, there are dozens of opportunities for visitors to take a break from the constant movement. Stepping inside one of Tokyo’s fine dining establishments will afford you an opportunity to relax while at the same time enjoying true Japanese cuisine. Make sure you stop by at least a few of these incredible restaurants during your stay. Read the rest of this entry »
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