A music rave in a Shibuya library? Silent disco at Mori no Tosho Shitsu book bar

Written by: William on March 5, 2015 at 8:32 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

On April 4th, Mori no Tosho Shitsu (Mori’s Library) in Shibuya will be transformed into a club for a silent disco event.

Remember Mori no Tosho Shitsu? It was the crowdfunded “book and beer” library opened by a book worm in Shibuya last year. Not only can you go there for a drink and a bite to eat, if you become a member you can borrow the books, just like a library.

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

While there are plenty of public libraries in Tokyo (there’s even one right in the same building as the Cosmo Planetarium), places like Mori no Tosho Shitsu attract interest because their book curation is special. You don’t go there just to see any books; you go there to see THE books the owner has selected. This is similar to the appeal of places like B&B in Shimokitazawa, Village Vanguard, and Shibuya Publishing Booksellers.

Silent discos are nothing new, not even in Japan.

But this is a silent disco inside a “library” in the heart of noisy Shibuya. How cool is that?

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

Audiences to the silent disco event will get to enjoy the music through wireless headphones, in the unique bibliographical surroundings of Mori no Tosho Shitsu.

If you like your drink too, you’ll be pleased to know the event is being supplied by Tokyo Craft Beer Mania. Craft beer will be available from ¥500 a glass.

Music is by DE DE MOUSE and others.

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

It’s also being billed as a club event, since it starts at 11pm and carries on until 5am.

Tickets cost ¥3,500.

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KFC Ebisu rewards customers with smashed phone screens with free Krushers smoothie

Written by: William on February 26, 2015 at 8:54 am | In LIFESTYLE | 5 Comments

Head into a KFC in Japan on March 1st and if you’re clumsy enough, you can get a free drink.

The Ebisu branch of KFC is running a special campaign rewarding those poor souls among us who have dropped their mobile devices and cracked the screens.

kfc ebisu krusher-smashed phone screen free drink

If you haven’t had the misfortune to have cracked your screen, don’t worry. KFC Ebisu is loaning out hammers on March 1st for anyone who wants to join the lucky people claiming a freebie.

Yes, they will actually give you a hammer so you can smash your own phone screen.

Needless to say, you have to take responsibility for whatever carnage you cause to your device.

kfc ebisu krusher-smashed phone screen free drink

kfc ebisu krusher-smashed phone screen free drink

The perk of having a cracked screen isn’t that amazing.

You only get a free Krushers smoothie, though KFC is probably the only restaurant in Japan that actively lets customers make use of their damaged hardware. And this is also not a bad way to promote a drink that likely doesn’t sell much during the colder months.

kfc ebisu krusher-smashed phone screen free drink

So butterfingers, head down to the Colonel Sanders eatery in Ebisu on March 1st with your cracked phone in tow.

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Stay at the Godzilla Room inside Hotel Gracery, opening April in Kabukicho, Shinjuku

Written by: William on February 25, 2015 at 9:02 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

The new Hotel Gracery opens in Kabukicho in the heart of Shinjuku on April 24th, part of the changing landscape of a district more known for sleaze than sightseeing.

This being a Japanese hotel, they decided to create a special themed room to celebrate the opening. And they chose Godzilla!

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

Up on the thirtieth floor, the Godzilla Room will cost you just under ¥40,000 (over $300) for a weeknight, while at weekends and holidays the rate jumps to nearly ¥50,000 (over $400). It features a chamber decked out in items from the Godzilla films, including a large model of the iconic kaiju. Even the restroom is decorated in Godzillas. Best of all, though, is Godzilla’s hand bursting through the wall to grab you while you sleep. Definitely guaranteed to help you get a good night’s sleep.

If you are lucky enough to secure a reservation, you can stay at the Godzilla Room between May 6th and June 30th.

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

For a different experience, you can go for one of the two ninth floor Godzilla View Rooms, offering you a vista of Japan’s most famous beast at your window. Staying at one of these will cost you a mere ¥15,000 ($125) per night — pretty much the cost of a regular central Shinjuku hotel room.

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

The choice of Godzilla is not merely due to the newly revived popularity of the monster movie series, which has come thanks to a Hollywood film last year and another home-grown live-action reboot scheduled for the future.

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

The hotel building also includes a Toho movie theater complex and Toho is, of course, the film studio responsible for the Godzilla franchise. On top of the cinema there is going to be a huge Godzilla head, which, Kotaku says, “will peek out of the Toho Cinema’s roof, looking over the Shinjuku streets below.”

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

If you fancy a romantic spot for the evening in Kabukicho, head to the observation deck on the roof to see Godzilla up close.

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

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SALON &: New Meguro area designer hair salon, coffee stand and gallery space

Written by: William on February 20, 2015 at 10:57 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Could this be the most stylish new hair salon in Tokyo? Or the most hirsute coffee shop? Or both?

SALON & is opening this March in Yutenji, a neighborhood in Meguro ward, Tokyo, as a cafe-cross-hair salon concept space.

salon & and yutenji meguro tokyo hair salon coffee stand cafe gallery space

Produced by hair artist KITA3 and graphic designer and concept advisor Tetsuya Chiba, SALON & will offer hair cutting services and more. Much more. A coffee stand will serve original coffee blends, cafe lattes and espressos, while a gallery space will sell crafts and other exhibits. Books are also available to browse while you wait your turn in the salon.

salon & and yutenji meguro tokyo hair salon coffee stand cafe gallery space

What SALON & is doing is actually just the next logical step. Hair salons in Japan often look more like cafes from the outside. Many a time we have had to stop ourselves before entering what we thought was a charming coffee shop, only at the last moment to spot scissors snipping away at female customers’ hair. It’s not helped by the fact that hair salons often put signs outside with their prices — and invariably title the boards “menu”. No drinks are listed, just various cuts and treatments.

salon & and yutenji meguro tokyo hair salon coffee stand cafe gallery space

Our only concern with SALON & is what happens to the hair? Is there a danger of getting a stray strand in your coffee? Judging from the pre-released images there seems to be a sensible (but stylish!) window partition between the coffee stand and the hair salon space.

salon & and yutenji meguro tokyo hair salon coffee stand cafe gallery space

SALON & opens March 3rd. Find it at 2-8-10 Yutenji, Meguro-ku, Tokyo.

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Blackface in Japan (again): Momoiro Clover Z and Rats & Star

Written by: William on February 16, 2015 at 9:27 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

It’s a dangerous game to throw the racism card around but this development has succeeded in getting that reaction from most corners.

A photo showing a behind-the-scenes shot from an upcoming Fuji TV show has idol group Momoiro Clover Z and veterans Rats & Star posing in blackface.

momoiro clover z blackface rats & star fuji tv racism japan

New York Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi and others shared the photo on Twitter and it has since gone viral.

Momoiro Clover Z are immensely popular right now, often appearing in mainstream TV commercials for major brands. They have previously teamed up with older music stars, such as their bizarre collaboration single with the rock band KISS.

As Kotaku points out, Rats & Star have a long history of blackface since they debuted in the 1980′s. But while Momoiro Clover Z are no strangers to costumes and dressing-up (the idol group’s concept is arguably a pastiche of anime like Sailor Moon), this is a whole new territory of role-play. Could their management really be so naive in this day and age?

momoiro clover z blackface rats & star fuji tv racism japan

Blackface in Japan is sometimes seen on television, though it is also sometimes adopted more foolishly by students and youngsters.

Unless the (online) controversy succeeds in forcing the broadcasters to change their programming, tune into Fuji TV on March 7th to see Momoiro Clover Z and Rats & Star appear together in blackface on the show “Music Fair”.

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Nike to open women-only sports studio in Shibuya

Written by: William on February 10, 2015 at 8:57 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Nike is opening a women-only sports space in Shibuya for the spring.

Opening March 3rd at a location nine minutes’ walk from Shibuya Station, Nike Women’s Studio features a basement training studio and other training programs across two floors.

The first floor will be a store, while the basement training studio is for Nike Training Club members and with running, dance, yoga and other “sports experiences” on offer for visitors.

nike women only sport studio shibuya tokyo pop-up store

To promote the opening, Nike has recruited 20 famous women to operate its Nike Women Twitter account. The women include figure skater Miki Ando, dancer Koharu Sugawara, and fashion model Jessica Michibata. The selection deliberately seems to include more women from the world of fashion than sport, indicating that Nike is trying to push the brand as a lifestyle choice, rather than just as orthodox sports. It will be interesting to see how this approach evolves as we head towards the 2020 Olympics.

nike women only sport studio shibuya tokyo pop-up store

nike women only sport studio shibuya tokyo pop-up store

It will be open only until May 31st, 11:00-20:00. The address is 1-15-8 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.

More details will appear on the Nike campaign site from February 13th. Other tie-in campaigns include a “virtual marathon” in Nagoya.

This isn’t the first pop-up Nike store by any means. Previous ventures include The Pivot Point, a special Nike Air Force 1 running shoes showcase store that was also in the Jinnan area.

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Kenji Goto 2010 tweet goes viral, spreads message of peace and fraternity

Written by: William on February 4, 2015 at 8:38 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

As now know, freelance journalist Kenji Goto was murdered by members of the Islamic State last week, following the similar beheading of his acquaintance Haruna Yukawa, the wannabe military contractor.

The politicians are trying to use the incident as a springboard to increased powers for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to act overseas.

Meanwhile, most people are in shock and consoling themselves with Kenji Goto’s journalist achievements. A veteran of the Middle East, Goto was far from an enemy of the Arab people.

Though some online reactions had been concentrating on mocking the footage released by IS — though we don’t think anyone is laughing now — others have been sharing images of Goto when he was at work as a journalist.

Within this, a four-year-old tweet has gone viral proving that Goto was humane and above all, a friend to the people of the Arab world.

kenji goto murdered beheaded japanese journalist islamic state

Goto tweeted in Japanese on September 7, 2010:

Close your eyes and remain patient. It’s over once you get angry or yell. It is almost like praying. Hating is not the role of humans; judgement is God’s domain. It was my Arab brothers who taught me this.

At time of writing this has been retweeted over 35,000 times and favorited nearly 40,000.

kenji goto anti war tweet

His mother, who has shown herself to be outspoken — using her first press conference when Goto was still held capture to rail against nuclear power and the government — has warned against the dangers of such mass emotion, though.

“I believe this sorrow must not create a chain of hatred,” said Junko Ishido.

Already some pundits are posturing that Goto’s murder (significantly, not Yukawa’s) could be a “9/11-like” watershed for Japan. Abe has already spent much of his time as prime minister in beefing up the legal ability of Japan to wage war.

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Starbucks celebrates spring cherry blossom with sakura-design stores, special drinks

Written by: William on February 3, 2015 at 8:25 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Today is Setsubun, which marks the start of spring in the old lunar calendar.

If you are unfortunate enough to step outside, you may be forgiven for thinking it’s still winter. That would because you’d be right — it is still winter.

But nonetheless, when the kids start throwing the beans in the springs, everyone already begins looking ahead to the spring, and spring in Japan always means one thing: cherry blossom.

Every store or brand seems to run some sort of sakura-themed during the season, even McDonald’s.

If you want to see the real thing, head to Ueno Park or one of the other top spots for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).

starbucks spring cherry blossom design menu ueno park tokyo

starbucks spring cherry blossom design menu ueno park tokyo

And while you’re in Ueno Park, check out the Starbucks, which is going to be transformed especially for the season.

The cherry blossom interiors are courtesy of flower artist plantica and will see the Ueno Park branch and the Sakurabashi branch in Osaka re-designed for the famous bloom season. Both locations have been chosen for their association with hanami.

starbucks spring cherry blossom design menu ueno park tokyo

starbucks spring cherry blossom design menu ueno park tokyo

There are also special sakura tumblers and other cups for sale. Even the Starbucks gift cards have got the cherry blossom treatment.

This year marks the fourteenth of the Starbucks sakura series of seasonal menu items.

starbucks spring cherry blossom design menu ueno park tokyo

Convenience stores will also sell Starbucks Discoveries Sakura Latte with Strawberry drinks, while Starbucks branches will offer sakura-designed drinks and foods such as Caramel Sakura Chocolate Latte and Sakura Chiffon Cake.

The drinks and cake are available from February 15th to March 17th, while the two decorated branches will be “blooming” from February 16th in Tokyo and February 26th in Osaka, both ending in early April, as the cherry blossom season itself ends for another year.

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Michelin Star Dining on the Cheap: Kyourakutei

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on February 2, 2015 at 8:48 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Liz Shek-Noble first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

The Michelin Guide is one of the most respected and famous systems for rating restaurants and hotels across the world. Gaining a Michelin star can instantly propel a chef from the depths of obscurity into the light of stardom, while a loss of a star or two can lead to spectacular breakdowns. Take, for instance, the highly publicised loss of two Michelin stars for Gordon Ramsay’s Manhattan restaurant, Gordon Ramsay, in Michelin’s 2014 NYC guide. The notoriously hot-headed and sewer-mouthed cheftainer reportedly broke down in tears following the news, claiming that the feeling of losing the stars was like “losing a girlfriend” or “losing the Champions League”.

Putting aside the pressure that can spring from a particularly biting review, it’s clear that the Guide continues to be a barometer of excellence in food preparation, technique and presentation. The underlying assumption, however, is that dining at these restaurants will be out of reach for many customers due to astronomical prices. That said, many Michelin star restaurants have lunch menus that offer similar dishes to what is normally served at dinnertime, but for just a fraction of the cost. And with Tokyo boasting an incredible 267 restaurants with at least one Michelin star, there’s no better time to find cheap Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo. Why not begin your journey into the cheap and cheerful world of fine dining with a steaming bowl of soba or some freshly made tempura at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Kyourakutei?

kyourakutei restaurant tokyo michelin star
Interior of Kyourakutei | Photo by Liz Shek-Noble

The Arrival

Winding through an alleyway off Kagurazaka-dori, I find myself at the front door of Kyourakutei at the spritely time of 11:15 am on a windy Saturday morning. I step into the restaurant and the atmosphere immediately changes; it’s almost like a hidden grotto, studded with assorted knick-knacks and lighting that is used to create warmth and depth in this small space. I sit at the counter and watch the chefs as they slice, dice and chop their customers’ meals with relaxed yet sparing motions.

kyourakutei restaurant tokyo michelin star
Photo by Liz Shek-Noble

The Menu

Kyourakutei, as a soba restaurant, specialises in the art of making noodles using these grain-like seeds sourced from Aizu in Fukushima prefecture. Unlike other restaurants, Kyourakutei has its own millstone, ensuring that its noodles are freshly milled on the day that they are served. Kyourakutei, however, also has a reputation for making tempura that is unbelievably crisp and delicate. Looking down at the extensive lunch menu (available in English), I decide to have kamo zaru (¥1,600) and a selection of tempura, so as to not miss out on either of Kyourakutei’s specialties. Some other interesting dishes include tsuke care (cold soba dipped into a hot curry soup — ¥1,100), kake soba with seasonal vegetables (¥900), and cold/hot soba served with tiger shrimp, eel and vegetable tempura (¥2,400).

kyourakutei restaurant tokyo michelin star
Photo by Liz Shek-Noble

The Savoring

The kamo zaru is brought to me quickly, a palette of cold soba accompanied by a hot broth of duck and naganegi. As expected, the soba was impressive, due to the consistency in texture, as well as size and length, of the noodles. When dipped into the broth, the soba took on its soy and dashi flavours, while retaining its signature springy texture. The broth itself was earthy and mellow, and the duck meatball impossibly tender. My only complaint was that I expected more than one slice of duck and one meatball in my meal.

kyourakutei restaurant tokyo michelin star
Photo by Liz Shek-Noble

Being seated one foot away from a box overflowing with fresh vegetables and wedged between two customers inhaling their kakiage, I was never intending to leave Kyourakutei before trying some of its tempura. With this in mind, I settled on two tempura choices, maitake mushroom and tiger shrimp.

kyourakutei restaurant tokyo michelin star
Photo by Liz Shek-Noble

The tempura came out to me arranged on a plate as if carefully fallen on top of it. The batter was so light that only slight force was needed to bite through to the sweet and plump shrimp contained within it. The maitake mushroom was a robust counterpart to the shrimp, having a firmer texture and woodiness that recalled the forest rather than the sea.

kyourakutei restaurant tokyo michelin star
Photo by Liz Shek-Noble

The Lasting Impression

Walking out of Kyourakutei, I was fully satisfied with my meal, and perhaps even more so after noting how little it had cost me to dine at this Michelin-starred restaurant. Kyourakutei’s reputation is well deserved and evident in the long queues that the restaurant attracts both on weekdays and weekends. Do yourself a favour and head to Kyourakutei as soon as you can. Just make sure to get there early to avoid waiting in line out in the winter cold.

kyourakutei restaurant tokyo michelin star
Photo by Liz Shek-Noble

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