Where to drink

How to drink… Shochu (Japanese gin or vodka)



While sake is familiar to millions outside of Asia, shochu is the drink of choice amongst the Japanese. Since 2003, shipments of shochu within Japan have outstripped sake and the trend shows no sign of reversing.

Shochu can be made from barley, sweet potatoes or rice and is distilled like whisky, unlike sake, which is brewed similarly to beer. The shochu is then aged in oak barrels giving the drink more kick (it averages around 25 percent alcohol, rising to 40 percent for some barley shochus) and a deeper flavour.

The famed Shinozaki brewery has been producing sake and shochu for over 200 years. Here Hiroyuki Shinozaki, CEO offers his tips for how to enjoy shochu:

‘The difference between different types of shochu is huge, be it rice, barley or sweet potatoes it is a case of finding what suits you. For me though, the best shochu is made from rice.’

‘If you are new to shochu, look for a bottle that is around 13 percent alcohol, the stronger shochus are more of an acquired taste. ’

‘Although you can drink shochu neat I’d always recommend diluting it with water to bring out the taste.’

‘Rather than just throwing the water in, as you would with whisky, you should dilute the shochu the night before you plan on drinking it. That way it blends overnight allowing the water and shochu to fuse. Don’t be impatient – a good shochu is aged for four years, it deserves one more day.’

‘Once you are ready to drink the shochu heat it gently in a pot of hot water – never, ever, use a microwave. The drink is best served at about 38 degrees Celsius, body temperature. It’s not a cup of tea after all.’


SHINOZAKI Co., Ltd, 185 Hiramatsu Asakura-shi, Fukuoka 838-1303
Telephone +81 946 52 0005


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A guide to Japanese whisky

Hibiki whiskey

In Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, the Australian spy Dikko Henderson gets a vile hangover drinking Japanese whisky. James Bond, more of a martini man, is amazed that Dikko would even consider drinking that gutrot, saying, ‘I can’t believe Japanese whisky makes a good foundation for anything.’ That neatly sums up the attitude of most foreigners to Japanese whisky for most of its more than 80-year history. In 2001, that all started to change when a 10-year-old Yoichi made by Nikka Whisky won the ‘Best of the Best’ title at Whisky Magazine’s annual awards. Since then, Japan has regularly scooped the top prizes at whisky competitions and has transformed its reputation. The Japanese spirit is spelled the Scottish way – ‘whisky’ not ‘whiskey’ – and belongs to the Scottish tradition, tracing its history to an epic journey by Masataka Taketsuru to learn Scotland’s distilling secrets in 1919. Take a crash course in Japanese whisky with our guide to the country’s distilleries.


Perched in the Southern Japanese Alps, Hakushu is, at over 670 metres (2,200 feet) above sea level, one of the highest whisky distilleries in the world. Opened by Suntory in 1973, it makes clean, playful single malts with sweet fruity flavours often balanced by well controlled peppery or aniseed tastes.

For tour details, visit the Suntory website
Available to buy at amazon.co.jp


Yoichi is Japan’s second-oldest distillery. It was built by the founder of Japanese whisky, Taketsuru, when he split from Suntory in 1934 to found Nikka whisky. High up on the north coast of Hokkaido, it spends much of the year deep in snow. Its whiskies are relatively ‘masculine’, with rich stewed fruit, nutty and coffee notes often balancing the assertiveness.

For tour details, visit the Nikka website
Available to buy at amazon.co.jp


Nikka Whisky opened its second distillery at Miyagikyo, Miyagi Prefecture in 1969. Taketsuru thought the location, sandwiched between the Hirosegawa and Nikkawagawa rivers and surrounded by mountains, was ideal for whisky-making. Its products are typically softer and milder than Yoichi’s.

For tour details, visit the Nikka website
Available to buy at amazon.co.jp


With an iconic location at the foot of Mt Fuji, this Kirin-owned distillery takes its water from rain and melted snow running off the great volcano. Its malts are relatively light and elegantly balanced.

For tour details, visit the Kirin website
Available to buy at amazon.co.jp


Having been established in 2008, Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture is a relative newcomer – but that hasn’t stopped it from quietly garnering a good reputation among whisky fans. It’s no surprise, really – Ichiro Akuto, the owner of this tiny independent craft distillery, is the grandson of the man who founded the now-closed Hanyu distillery.

Chichibu Distillery, 49 Midori Gaoka, Chichibu, Saitama, 04 9462 4601. Public tours are not currently available
Available to buy at amazon.co.jp


White Oak is a small independent distillery by the sea in Hyogo prefecture, western Japan, owned by Eigashima Shuzo, a saké and shochu maker. Their single malts have a very mild, rounded flavour.

For tour details, visit the Eigashima Shuzo website
Available to buy at amazon.co.jp


Yamazaki is Japan’s oldest distillery, built in 1923, at a site famous for its pure water at the confluence of the Katsura, Kizu and Uji rivers, near Kyoto. Its malts often have a delicate fruitiness, with sweet spice, incense, and coconut aromas.

For tour details, visit the Yamazaki website
Available to buy at amazon.co.jp

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Where to shop (and drink): Maison Kitsuné and Café Kitsuné



Cafe Kitsune

Café Kitsuné

The Kitsuné brand has fingers in several pies – fashion, music and, it seems, coffee. Grab a well-brewed cup in the Japanese-style café next to the Maison Kitsuné shop in Omotesando, and browse records and selections from the Parisien and Kitsuné Tee lines. The décor incorporates Japanese touches like custom-made tatami and fusuma sliding doors, while the in-house barristas have been trained by Omotesando Koffee‘s Eiichi Kunitomo.



3-17-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Omotesando Station (Chiyoda, Hanzomon, Ginza lines), exit A4

Telephone 03 5786 4842

Open Daily 11am-8pm (shop), 9am-5pm (café) / Irregular holidays

Maison Kitsuné

They’d been talking about it for years, but on Valentine’s Day 2013, Maison Kitsuné finally opened their own Tokyo shop. Make that two shops, actually: as with their Paris boutique, the action is split between a store showcasing the latest Maison Kitsuné collections and a café that also sells Kitsuné records and selections from the Parisien and Kitsuné Tee lines.



3-15-13 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Omotesando Station (Chiyoda, Hanzomon, Ginza lines), exit A4

Telephone 03 5786 4841

Open Daily 11am-8pm (shop)


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5 Tokyo bars for train nerds (yes, they exist)


You thought your grandfather was a train buff?

Sorry to break the news to you, but ol’ gramps would have been a mere caboose in the train of railway geeks in Japan, where hard-core train aficionados are referred to by the somewhat affectionate term “densha otaku,” or train nerds.

They’re famous for feats like memorizing phonebook-size timetables and visiting every single one of the country’s almost 10,000 stations.

When they aren’t trying to increase their encyclopedic knowledge of all things rail, they’re out looking for like-minded people to impress with it.

As it turns out, Tokyo offers the densha otaku a wide selection of railway-appropriate watering holes — or perhaps we should call them bar cars?


1. Ginza Panorama

Ginza Panorama is the model train lover’s dream bar.

Not only does the counter have four separate built-in electric tracks, allowing patrons to watch trains zipping by while sipping their cocktails, but a large glass case directly opposite displays about 700 model train carriages for sale.

The drink menu has the standard beer, wine and liquor options, but visitors will likely be tempted to splurge on a train-themed cocktail, like the Romance Car, named after the Hakone-bound express, or Doctor Yellow, the nickname for the diagnostic high-speed test trains used on shinkansen routes.

There’s also a full food menu.

With its mellow ambiance, mature crowd and the gentle clacking of trains as they whirl around the bar, Ginza Panorama is a relaxed place for a drink — even if you don’t get giddy debating the relative merits of the Tokaido and Tohoku Lines.

Ginza Hachikan Building 8/F, 8-4-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku; +81 (0)3 3289 8700; Monday-Friday, 6 p.m.-3 a.m., Saturday, 6-11 p.m., closed Sunday; 420 yen seating charge; www.ginza-panorama.com

2. Kiha

All aboard for canned food and sake in a jar!

All aboard for canned food and sake in a jar.There are two things all visitors need to know about Kiha.

One, the second floor has been lovingly kitted out to look exactly like the inside of a Tokyo subway car, complete with advertisements, hand straps, emergency call buttons and luggage racks.

Two, the only thing on the menu is canned food and one-cup sake.

From salted pork to seafood to curry, Kiha stocks an impressive selection of things to eat right out of the can. This is meant to recreate the nostalgic experience of a long train journey in the days before meal services were offered.

Most of the customers are dyed-in-the-wool otaku, as evidenced by the closet full of timetables and the rare ticket stubs adorning the tables. Like all train obsessives, of course, they’re more than happy to chat with newcomers. You’ve been warned.

1-6-11 Horidomecho, Chuo-ku; nearest station: Ningyocho; +81 (0)3 5651 5088; Monday-Saturday, 6-11:30 p.m., closed Sunday; Kiha-sake.com

3. LittleTGV

Service of a maid cafe, ambiance of a train.The world is already familiar with Japan’s maid cafes and those are certainly popular with otaku of every stripe.

Real rail buffs have their own version at LittleTGV near the geek paradise of Akihabara.

The restaurant bills itself as the world’s first rail-themed, moe-style pub. Instead of a pretty girl in a maid costume calling you “Master,” you’ll get a pretty girl in a conductor’s uniform telling you to board her train. No joke. And no jokes (please).

The walls are covered with train photos and memorabilia, so even if you don’t know your SLs from your JRs, the girls will be happy to chat with you and teach you a bit about their world.

LittleTGV offers a full food and drink menu with foreigner-friendly pictures, including several different courses that include all-you-can-drink options.

Isamiyadai 3 Building 4/F, Sotokanda 3-10-5, Chiyoda-ku; nearest stations: Suehirocho, Akihabara; +80 (0)3 3255 5223; Monday-Friday, 2-11 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, noon-11 p.m.;Littletgv.com

4. Mistral Bleu (Train Bar)

Soundtrack? Ozzy Osbourne’sCrazy Train,” naturally.Often referred to simply as “Train Bar,” Mistral Bleu isn’t just a hang-out for train nerds, but it is a bar made out of a train.

Somehow a train carriage was crammed into the first floor of the ROI Building close to Roppongi Crossing and transformed into a hole in the wall bar for classic rock fans.

As the Aerosmith blasting out the front door might attest, the bar is a nostalgic pleasure for drinkers of a certain age.

In addition to the novelty of boozing in a converted train car, you can keep yourself entertained by checking out the international currencies plastered all over the walls and ceilings.

It’s the kind of place where it’s easy to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you — a rarity in Japan.

ROI Building 1/F , 5-5-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Roppongi station; +80 (0)3 3423 0082Monday-Saturday, 6 p.m.-5 a.m., closed Sundays; www.trainbar.com

5. Cafe & Bar Steam Locomotive

Even--or maybe especially--buttoned-up salarymen can't resist the appeal of choo-choo trains.

Even buttoned-up salarymen can’t resist the appeal of choo choo trains.Not every train nerd likes to booze it up. Indeed, some of them aren’t even old enough to do so.

Luckily, there’s a family friendly option called Cafe & Bar Steam Locomotive, which is appropriate for train lovers of all ages.

Located on the ground floor of a Yurakucho office building, this venue is more suited to a coffee over a lunch break than an after-work bender, though the place does serve alcohol.

The center of the cafe is dominated by a massive model train display that includes several tracks and recreations of famous sites like Tokyo Tower.

The endless details — tiny pedestrians crossing the street, a little grove of cherry trees in bloom — will keep the youngsters entertained while the grownups enjoy a latte or glass of sake.

Shinyurakucho Bldg 1/F, Yurakucho 1-12-1, Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho station; +81 (0)3 3211 0610; Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; www.steamlocomotive.jp


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Where to drink: Indulge your inner child while drinking as a grown up

There really is nothing cooler than crushed ice in summer, but it can seem a little childish. The garish colors can bring to mind crayons and club nights rather than the fruits they’re intended to imitate. Fortunately, The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo’s bar has a more sophisticated solution. Located on the 26th floor of the hotel in the originally named The Dining Room, this upscale watering hole will be serving a Special Patissiere’s Kakigori summer cocktail guaranteed to cool you down and get your spirits high. Sweltering customers can customize the icy treat by choosing from five base-flavor syrups including peach, matcha, green apple with herb, tropical curry and cassis—all garnished with a layer of fresh fruit and topped with champagne. The “adult” afternoon tea set includes one kakigori cocktail, a plate of biscuits and is accompanied by coffee or tea.

¥1,800, available daily 2:30-5:30pm until Sep 16. 26F The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo, Shinagawa East One Tower. Nearest stn: Shinagawa. Tel: 03-5783-1111. www.intercontinental-strings.jp


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Things to do: Boutique shopping and more in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka

Boutique Shopping and More in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka

It’s hard to believe that Jiyugaoka is only ten minutes by train from Shibuya. Walking the calm and sophisticated streets of this leafy residential area, the gaudy neon and Manga inspired mayhem of Shibuya seem a world away.

For the discerning international visitor Jiyugaoka offers a glimpse of an urban Japan rarely seen by other tourists. For Tokyoites, however, this place is no secret and many dream of making a life here. It’s easy to see why as you join young families, dating couples and singles, all out to enjoy the area’s understated, yet creative and classy, shopping and dining scene.

Jiyugaoka is relatively compact and rewards an aimless stroll. Below are some suggestions for spending a half-day in the area.



There are a wealth of fashion boutiques and home-ware stores here that offer astute shoppers the chance to move away from high-street lines and find something unique. Many collections and pieces balance elements of European and Japanese design.

Jiyugaoka boutique

You’ll want to explore the many unique shops of Jiyugaoka.

Watashi no Heya and Quatre Saisons – Located on Sunset Street, these popular stores have collections of home-ware accessories, tending towards a clean, organic sensibility.

Popeye Camera – Enthusiasts will love this store just north of the station, which sells trinkets with which to deck out your camera along with frames and albums to display your Japan pics. There’s also a delightful collection of vintage cameras.

Luz – A smart little shopping center for Japanese fashion on Suzukake Street which attracts a younger crowd who want urban style without losing sophistication.

Jiyugaoka Department Store – Next to the train station (central exit) this department store harks back to an older era (and an older clientele). It’s an interesting local attraction without being a tourist trap, and a great place for authentic souvenirs.


Jiyugaoka Cake Shop

Refuel for more exploration with sweets and a coffee.

The Japanese obsession with cake is astonishing given how slim everyone is. (Where does it all go?). Jiyugaoka has an abundance of French inspired boulangerie (French Bakeries) for you to drool over. A local favorite is Pais S’eveille on Hilo Street which sells an exquisite range of cakes, cookies and jams. For a more low-brow experience (yes, Jiyugaoka is capable) Sweets Forrest on Green Street has a whole floor of treats for you to enjoy.


Green Street Jiyugaoka

Green Street in Jiyugaoka is a great place to meet the locals.

Green Street, so named for the row of trees running down the center, is one of Jiyugaoka’s main thoroughfares. On the pedestrianized stretch south-east of the train station you’ll meet many locals, visitors and the occasional old-timer hanging out on benches beneath said trees. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a break with your purchase from the boulangerie and watch some beautiful people rocking the latest in tasteful Japan fashion.


Joshin Temple Jiyugaoka Tokyo

Joshin Temple: A traditional treasure in modern Jiyugaoka.

Follow Green Street west out of town and you’ll arrive at Joshin Temple, also known as Kuhonbutsu. The temple is a mystery. The mystery being how a place so staggeringly beautiful and peaceful, surrounded by some thirty million people, could be so little visited. Founded in 1678, it’s a large complex of amazing buildings, Buddhas, gates and bells, hidden in an area of woodland. People spend days chasing around Kyoto for experiences like this. And it’s free! I almost feel guilty for writing about it.


Jiyugaoka, Tokyo outdoor dining

Al Fresco dining opportunities abound in leafy Jiyugaoka.

Opportunities to dine Al fresco in crowded Japan are limited so take advantage of the charming options in Jiyugaoka to round off your visit. One of the nicest terraces belongs to the Rakeru restaurant on Hillside Street. Surrounded by greenery it offers privacy, peace and fresh air. Although it’s a chain restaurant it’s one of the best places to try an ‘only in Japan’ combination of omelet and rice. Otherwise known as omuraisu!

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Where to drink: What a hoot, after cat and rabbit cafe’s, now you can enjoy your coffee break with an owl for company

Written by: Kunihiko Miura

An owl was looking into my eyes through a glass wall at Tori no Iru Cafe (bird cafe) in the Kiba district of Koto Ward, Tokyo. Nowadays, cafes where customers can connect with owls are quietly gainly popularity in central Tokyo with people seeking comfort.

Mika Toriyama, 40, who opened the cafe in December, said, “I wanted as many people as possible to see beautiful owls.”

In the cafe, horned owls and other species of birds are kept in a glass enclosure. For a fee, customers can enter the enclosure and touch the birds.

Customers were happily chatting about the birds, saying, “The feather pattern on this bird is pretty, isn’t it?” while drinking coffee and other beverages.

At another cafe in the Tsukishima district of Chuo Ward, Tokyo, Fukuro no Mise (owl spot), more than 10 kinds of owls freely interact with patrons.

  • At Fukuro no Mise, owls receive regular talon buffing so they won’t hurt customers when perched on their arms.

Customers are charged an hourly fee, which includes a drink. Customers can choose their favorite bird and place it on their arm or shoulder.

The cafe also sells birds, and the owner said more than 30 birds have been sold in the past six months.

The cafe is so popular that on weekends there is a long line in front of the shop before it opens.

Yukika Ofuji, a 34-year-old company employee who frequents the cafe, smiled with an owl on her arm and said, “I feel comforted as the birds closely watch me when I worry about illness or work, for example.”

Though it is unclear whether owls have a therapeutic effect on people, how about enjoying a drink with an owl on your arm, when you need a break from work?

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Things to do this week in Tokyo July 29th-August 4th 2013

Oi Oktoberfest 2013 (TCK 1)

Mon Jul 29 – Fri Aug 2, 2013 Tokyo City Keiba
How many Oktoberfests is too many Oktoberfests? Tokyo is pushing things to the limit this summer, with a total of ten editions of the Munich beer festival (plus Asahi’s pseudo-Oktoberfest in late August). Tokyo City Keiba is one of the newest converts to the cause, and will be hosting a pair of mini-festivals during the summer. Expect the usual mix of suds, sausages and sauerkraut, with beers from German and Japanese breweries, all served up in proper glasses. The first runs from July 29 to August 2, with the second going from August 12 to 16.


Open August 12-16

Time 2.20pm-9pm

Admission Free

Venue Tokyo City Keiba

Address 2-1-2 Katsushima, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo


Mon Jul 29, 2013 Sound Museum Vision


Proving that you don’t have to wait until the weekend to have a good party, this regular bash organised by the Asobisystem agency turns Monday into the most bangin’ night of the week. Producer Yasutaka Nakata and his barnstorming electro-house duo Capsule top the bill, joined by event regulars including Ram Rider, Verbal and Yun*chi.


Open July 29

Time Doors 10pm

Admission ¥3,500 on the door; ¥3,000 with flyer, ¥2,500 adv

Venue Sound Museum Vision

Address 2-10-7 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Shonan-Shinjuku, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin, Denentoshi, Tokyu Toyoko, Keio Inokashira lines)


Mon Jul 29, 2013 Astro Hall


UK hype bands don’t always translate, but this all-female post-punk quartet has been leaving nothing but corpses in its wake during 2013. Savages recall a lot of music you might already know – PiL, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Dead Kennedys, even PJ Harvey – but the high points of debut album Silence Yourself are far too thrilling to dismiss as mere pastiche. Fresh from making their Japan debut at Fuji Rock, the group heads to Tokyo for a headlining show at Astro Hall. Tickets go on sale on July 13.


Open July 29

Time Doors 6pm. Gig 7pm

Admission ¥4,500 adv

Venue Astro Hall

Address New Wave Harajuku Bldg B1F, 4-32-12 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Harajuku station (Yamanote line), Takeshita exit or Meiji-Jingumae station (Chiyoda line), exit 5.

Mumford & Sons

Tue Jul 30, 2013 Studio Coast


Strap on your waistcoats and pull on your boots: having stormed to worldwide success with a hugely popular combination of banjos, braces and big, big choruses, Marcus Mumford’s travelling band are finally making their Japan debut this summer. With an appearance at Fuji Rock Festivalalready confirmed, the group have announced an additional Tokyo date.


Open July 30

Time Doors 6pm. Gig 7pm

Admission ¥6,000 adv

Venue Studio Coast

Address 2-2-10 Shinkiba, Koto-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shin-Kiba Station (Rinkai, Yurakucho lines)

66th Tsukiji Honganji Bon Dance Festival

Wed Jul 31 – Sat Aug 3, 2013 Tsukiji Honganji

Around Town

Mid-summer is synonymous with obon, the traditional Japanese festival of the dead – and where there’s obon, there’s usually dancing. Get in on the action at one of Tokyo’s more established obon festivals, held across four evenings at Tsukiji Honganji temple. There’ll be taiko drumming and group dancing every night, while August 2 – for reasons that we can’t quite determine – has been designated ‘fancy dress day’.


Open July 31-August 3

Time July 31-Aug 2, 7pm-9pm; Aug 3, 6pm-8.30pm

Venue Tsukiji Honganji

Address 3-15-1 Tsukiji, Chuou-ku, Tokyo

Transport A 1-minute walk from Tsukiji Station (Hibiya Line : exit1) / A 5-minutes walk from Shintomichyo Station (Yuurakuchou Line)・Higashiginnza Station (Asakusa Line)・Tsukijishijyou Station (Toei Ooedo Line)


Wed Jul 31 – Sun Aug 25, 2013 Tokyu Theatre Orb

Performing Arts

Bust out the sequins: Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s Supremes-inspired musical is returning to the Tokyo stage in a touring Broadway production, to mark the first anniversary of Theatre Orb.


Open July 31-August 25 No performances Mon, Tue

Time Performance times vary

Admission S ¥12,500, A ¥9,500, B ¥7,500

Venue Tokyu Theatre Orb

Address 11F Shibuya Hikarie, 2-21 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Shonan-Shinjuku, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin lines, etc.)

Shuji Terayama: Knock

Until Sun Oct 27, 2013 Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art


In 1975, unruly dramatist Shuji Terayama conducted a 30-hour performance in Asagaya, where his accomplices roamed the neighbourhood randomly knocking on doors (prompting some befuddled residents to call the police). The inspired anarchy of Knock is documented in this exhibition at the Watari-Um, which includes films and a variety of previously unseen ephemera.


Open Until October 27 Closed Mon (except Sept 16 & 23, Oct 14)

Time Tue-Sun 11am-7pm (Wed until 9pm)

Admission Adults ¥1,000, students ¥800; pair ticket ¥1,600 (students ¥1,200)

Venue Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art

Address 3-7-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Gaienmae station (Ginza line), exit 3.

Quincy Jones

Wed Jul 31 – Thu Aug 1, 2013 Tokyo International Forum


The stars are out in force for this 80th anniversary tribute to producer, composer and 24-time Grammy winner Quincy Jones. Singers Patti Austin, James Ingram and Siedah Garrett will be paying tribute to their hit-making collaborator, alongside a host of youthful musicians who’ve recently received the Quincy stamp of approval. But it’s not all about the overseas guests: homegrown musicians ranging from jazz pianist Makoto Ozone to M-Flo frontman Verbal and guitar god Miyavi are on board for an all-Japanese tribute session, led by producer Seiji Kameda.


Open July 31-August 1

Time Doors 6pm. Gig 7pm

Admission SS ¥12,000, S ¥9,500, A ¥8,000

URL qj80.jp

Venue Tokyo International Forum

Address 3-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Transport Yurakucho station (Yamanote, Yurakucho lines), Tokyo International Forum exit.

Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks Festival (2013)

Thu Aug 1, 2013 Rinko Park
The Minato Mirai waterfront lends a picturesque location to this bombastic summer fireworks display. There’ll be around 15,000 fireworks deployed in the course of the event, the largest of which measures 480m in diameter, with musical accompaniment to heighten the sense of spectacle. If you want to secure a good spot, there are ‘Fireworks Appreciation Tickets’ sold at Lawson convenience stores (L-code 31110); note that the display will be postponed until Friday if the weather is poor.


Open August 1

Time 7pm-8.30pm

Admission Adults ¥2,500, junior high & elementary school students ¥500

Venue Rinko Park

Address 1-1 Minato Mirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama

Transport Minatomirai Station (Minatomirai line)

Walking with Dinosaurs

Thu Aug 1 – Wed Aug 7, 2013 Saitama Super Arena

Museums & AttractionsAround Town

Kids and big kids alike are catered to with this live stage show, an offshoot of the TV show of the same name. If you’ve always fancied a trip to Jurassic Park without the risk of being eaten by a pack of raptors, then this is about as close as you’re going to get. The show starts at the cretaceous period, before moving to the jurassic period and finally the triassic period using a mixture of video footage and enormous puppets that roam the stage fighting, feeding and doing your usual dinosaur activities. Expect to see triceratops, stegosaurus and, of course, the always crowd-pleasing T-rex.


Open August 1-7 August 5

Time 11am, 3pm & 7pm

Admission Adults ¥4,200-¥10,500; children ¥3,150-¥9,450

URL wwdj.jp/

Venue Saitama Super Arena

Address 8 Shintoshin, Chuo-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama

Transport Saitama Shintoshin station (Keihin-Tohoku, Utsunomiya/Takasaki lines)

Steve Vai

Thu Aug 1, 2013 Akasaka Blitz


No disrespect to guitar god Steve Vai, but we’re pretty much over the technically proficient, yet emotionally empty, razzle-dazzle that’s on display tonight. Gotta hand it to the dude, though – he hasn’t let up on his fret-shredding ways since his days studying with Joe Satriani, counting among his many achievements stints with both Zappa and David Lee Roth, a still-thriving solo career and a new album, last year’s The Story of Light.


Open August 1

Time Doors 6pm. Gig 7pm

Admission ¥7,000 adv

Venue Akasaka Blitz

Address Akasaka Sacas, Akasaka 5-3-2, Minato, Tokyo

Transport Akasaka Station (Chiyoda line), Akasaka-Mitsuke Station (Ginza, Marunouchi lines)

Movie Day
The first day of the month is Movie Day, meaning you can get discounted ¥1,000 tickets at cinemas throughout Tokyo – an ideal opportunity to catch recent openings includingHope Springs and Emperor.

Monsters University

Antique Jamboree (2013)

Fri Aug 2 – Sun Aug 4, 2013 Tokyo Big Sight

ShopsAround Town

Knicknack lovers rejoice as the nation’s largest antiques market returns to Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba, bringing with it 500 dealers specialising in artefacts and heirlooms from Japan, Europe and the US. This being the land of the otaku, special attention is reserved for collectors of aged toys and playthings, but there’s usually enough going on at these events to interest even the most passive browser. Hardened scavengers pay extra to get in on Early Buyer Day on Friday, but regardless of when you go, it’s worth hitting the jamboree’s website beforehand for their printable couponsthat knock a few hundred yen off the ticket price.


Open August 2-4

Time 10am-5pm

Admission August 2 (early buyer day) ¥3,000, August 3, 4 ¥1,000

Twitter Tech2R

Venue Tokyo Big Sight

Address 3-11-1 Ariake, Koto, Tokyo

Transport Kokusaitenjijo Station (JR Rinkai Line) or Kokusai-tenjijo-seimon station (Yurikamome Line)

Hachioji Matsuri (2013)

Fri Aug 2 – Sun Aug 4, 2013 Koshu Highway, Hachioji

Around Town

Floats and portable shrines are carried down Hachioji’s central Koshu Highway in this summer festival, held in the first weekend of August each year. When rival dashi floats pass, their bands attempt to throw each other off their groove in a musical face-off known as buttsuke – a distinctive Hachioji tradition. Also look out for taiko drummers, ice sculptures, dragon dancers and more in the course of the three-day fest.


Open August 2-4

Time Noon-9pm

 Venue Koshu Highway, Hachioji

Club Chic Summer 2013

Fri Aug 2, 2013 Grand Hyatt Tokyo Grand Ballroom


The Grand Hyatt dusts off the mirrorball for the classiest disco party of the summer on August 2. Put on your dancing shoes and sashay into the Roppongi hotel’s main ballroom for an evening of ’70s grooves and free-flowing booze, with DJs Ai Emori and K-Co, plus live vocals from Bro. Kone and Tsunoda Hiro. If you’re feeling extra plush, spring for one of the VIP tickets, which includes top-notch tipples such as Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2005 and Henri Giraud Fût de Chêne NV. Revellers can also stay overnight for a reduced price of ¥25,000; call 03 4333 8838 for details.


Open August 2

Time 8pm-midnight

Admission ¥15,000 (VIP ticket ¥30,000)

Venue Grand Hyatt Tokyo Grand Ballroom

Address 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Roppongi station (Hibiya line), exit 1C; (Oedo line), exit 3.

Lone Ranger

This Hi-ho Hollywood reboot can’t ride off into the sunset soon enough

Lone Ranger

Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Arnie Hammer, Ruth Wilson

Since his first appearance in 1933, he’s galloped his way between radio, movies, books and television. His popularity led to a spin-off series starring a little character known as the Green Hornet, while his catchphrase (‘Hi-ho Silver, away!’) and theme music (the William Tell overture) have become permanent fixtures of the popular culture lexicon.

Given that pedigree, a Hollywood reboot of the adventures of the masked lawman known as the Lone Ranger was inevitable. Of course that purveyor of blockbluster bloat, Jerry Bruckheimer, saw it as a chance to launch a new Pirates of the Caribbean–like franchise. And of course his house star of the moment, Johnny Depp, signed on to bring his increasingly diluted quirkiness to the role of Tonto, Native American companion to our white-hat vigilante hero John Reid (Arnie Hammer, nondescriptly noble).

Credit where it’s due, though: both Depp (only sort of cashing a paycheck) and his not-untalented Pirates 1–3 director Gore Verbinski have a lot of fun with the story’s setup. The promising opening scene, set in 1930s San Francisco, cleverly introduces Tonto as an aged attraction at a Wild West carnival exhibition (Depp rather movingly performs the role under what looks like a ton of Dustin Hoffman–in–Little Big Man prosthetics). He relates his and the Ranger’s often-convoluted adventures to a wide-eyed young audience of one, which establishes a nice air of innocence – it’s telling that Verbinski explicitly references Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon (1956) in an early composition. But the childlike sense of wonder is almost immediately eliminated once the movie flashes back to the late-1800s Wild West.

Though his adeptness with throwaway gags suggests he could have been a superb Warner Bros animator (there’s a particularly humorous one here involving vampire rabbits), summer tentpole morass tends to squash Verbinski’s gifts. As in nearly all of his films, an overstuffed plot gets the better of him: there’s a mutilated and malevolent gunslinger (William Fichtner, expectedly bringing the crazy) prowling the land. The transcontinental railroad is winding its way through the Monument Valley desert, a project overseen by a big-city businessman (Tom Wilkinson) with clearly suspicious motivations. There’s cold-blooded murder and declarations of vengeance, run-ins between the local Indians and the cavalry, a whorehouse madam with a wooden gun leg (Helena Bonham Carter, apparently on loan from an aborted Tim Burton project), a romantic interest and plenty of low comedy courtesy of Tonto’s smirky training of his new partner. Reference is even made to Depp’s ‘stupid fucking’ role in Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 acid Western Dead Man – minus the f-word, lest one offend the sensitive ears of the PG-13 multiplex demographic.

It’s all too much and not enough – a succession of disparate, can-you-top-this episodes inelegantly piling up like skidding cars on a freeway. And that’s not even taking into account the action scenes. Lord, those action scenes: monotonous, loud and relentless, they’re a punishing example of the self-satisfied, digitally augmented ephemera that typifies modern Hollywood moviemaking, and House Bruckheimer in particular.

When Tonto moves between two speeding locomotives with chamois-like agility or the Ranger leaps across the roofs of buildings and moving vehicles on his faithful steed, we never have any true sense of danger or exhilaration because everything is too uncannily seamless. Even if only at a subconscious level, we’re all too aware we’re watching ones and zeroes slathered around performers making ‘oh shit!’ faces at objects to be fully rendered later. This machine-tooled pomposity is all the more irritating for the few times Verbinski brings a genuine sense of invention to the proceedings (he shoots some of the Monument Valley locations with a comically askew eye that’s equal parts Ford and Leone). Or for those rare moments when Depp and Hammer – tossing off a quip or flashing an ingratiating grin – show a flicker of the gleam-in-the-eye ranger spirit. Otherwise, ‘Kemosabe’ and his faithful sidekick can’t ride off into the sunset soon enough.

Lone Ranger opens nationwide on August 2

Rock in Japan Festival 2013

Fri Aug 2 – Sun Aug 4, 2013 Hitaichi Seaside Park, Ibaraki


Few music magazines have a better grasp of what the public wants thanRockin’ On, the influential periodical behind the annual summer Rock In Japan festival and its winter counterpart, Countdown Japan. The former, held at an attractive seaside park on the Ibaraki coast, consistently sells out in advance each year – despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the lineup has more repeat performers than any other summer music fest. Here’s the lineup so far…

August 2
The Back Horn, Back Number, Bigmama, [Champagne], Coldrain (NEW),Dr DownerThe FlickersFlower Flower, Fujifabric, FukurouzuGood Morning AmericaMotohiro Hata, Hey-Smith, Husking Bee, Inoran,Shishido Kavka, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Last Alliance, Maximum The Hormone, Merengue, MowMow Lulu Gyaban, Mongol800, Yuji Nakada, Negoto, Shiori Niyama, Noise and Milk, Okamoto’s, One OK Rock, Puffy, Rip SlymeRottengraffty, Sakanaction, Straightener, Shugo Tokumaru, Soil & “Pimp” SessionsTancobuchin, Totalfat, Unison Square Garden, Wasureranneyo, Zazen Boys…

August 3
Akai Ko-en, Androp, Applicat Spectra, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Back Drop Bomb, Base Ball Bear, Bump of ChickenBuzz The Bears, Capsule, The Chef Cooks MeCinema Staff, Creephyp, A Flood of CircleGood4NothingHello SleepwalkersHilcrhymeKen Hirai, Leo Ieiri, J, Miliyah KatoKinniku Shojo Tai, Lecca, Low IQ 101 & The Rhythm Makers, Magokoro Brothers, Nico Touches the Walls, 9mm Parabellum Bullet, Nothing’s Carved in Stone, The Novembers, Overground Acoustic Underground “5”, PassepiedPesPolysicsSamezame, Sayonara, mata kondo ne, Shinku-Horou, Special OthersYu Takahashi, Mao Uchu, White Ash, Masayoshi Yamazaki…

August 4
Yuko Ando, Anzen Chitai, Avengers in Sci-fi, The Band Apart, The Birthday, CNBLUE, Does, Dragon Ash, The DresscodesFlower CompanyzGroup Tamashii, The Hiatus, Kana-BoonKinoco Hotel, Taro Kobayashi, Kreva, Luki, Tortoise Matsumoto, The Mirraz, Miwa,Miyavi, My First Story, Nubo, Ohashi Trio, Tamio Okuda, Orange Range,Perfume, Plenty, PredawnQuruliRihwa, Maaya Sakamoto, Sakanamon, ScandalScott & Rivers, The Starbems, 10-Feet, TK from Ling Tosite Sigure, Tokyo Karankoron, Tricot


Open August 2-4

Time Doors 8am. Gig 10am-8.30pm

Admission 1 day ¥11,500 (including parking ¥13,000), two days ¥22,000 (inc. parking ¥25,000), three days ¥30,000 (inc. parking ¥34,500)

 URL rijfes.jp/

Venue Hitaichi Seaside Park, Ibaraki

Bondaid feat Co La

Fri Aug 2, 2013 Seco


Baltimore producer Co La – whose dreamworld beatscapes sit comfortably alongside the likes of Clams Casino and the Tri-Angle label – is the guest of honour at this liminal all-nighter. Hypnotic Tokyo-based guitarist Dustin Wong joins him for what’s billed as an ‘ecstatic sunshine session’, with further support from hazy house producer Sapphire Slows and DJs including Cold Name (from Jesse Ruins) and Mayu.


Open August 2

Time Doors 9pm

Admission ¥3,000 on the door; ¥2,500 with flyer

URL bondaid.jp

Venue Seco

Address B1F, 1-11-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Shonan-Shinjuku, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin, Denentoshi, Toyoko, Keio Inokashira lines), east exit

Prom Nite feat. Kelela & Total Freedom

Fri Aug 2, 2013 Unit


‘I would like to do Brandy but weirder,’ was how hotly tipped R&B singer Kelela described her approach in an interview with Fact earlier this year. She’s been keeping good company so far, guesting on tracks by Kingdom and Teengirl Fantasy and hooking up with LA’s Fade to Mind posse, whose Total Freedom is accompanying her for this date at Unit. DJs including Toby Feltwell and 1-Drink lend eclectic support.


Open August 2

Time Doors 10pm

Admission ¥3,000 on the door

Venue Unit

Address Za House Bldg, 1-34-17 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Daikanyama station (Tokyu Toyoko line).

Funktaxi feat Marc Schneider

Fri Aug 2, 2013 Air


Though he’s the main buyer for German distributor Word and Sound, Marc Schneider was a late bloomer when it came to producing his own music. Already a fixture on the club circuit by the mid-’90s, he didn’t start releasing tunes himself until a decade later; fortunately, his rough, Fuckpony-esque house cuts were worth the wait. He returns to Tokyo’s Funktaxi party almost exactly a year on from the last time he played there, with support from event regulars Den, Da and Pi-Ge.


Open August 2

Time Doors 10pm

Admission ¥3,000 on the door; ¥2,500 with flyer

Venue Air

Address Hikawa Bldg B1F-B2F, 2-11 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Daikanyama station (Tokyu Toyoko line).

Itabashi Fireworks (2013)

Taking advantage of a serendipitous schedule clash, Itabashi’s annual fireworks display takes place at the same time as the one in Toda City, just across the waters of the Arakawa River. You can expect a combined 11,000 fireworks to go up in the course of the evening, including an enormous ‘star mine’ and the spectacular ‘Niagara Falls’, a 600-metre chain of explosions that always draws the biggest cheers of the night. If you want to guarantee yourself a good vantage point, reservations for reserved seating areas are being taken from June 29 (details, in Japanese only, available here).


Open August 3

Time 7pm-8.45pm

Venue Banks of Arakawa River, Itabashi


Transport Takashimadaira Station (Mita line), Nishidai Station (Mita line), Hasune Station (Mita line)

Ocean Peoples (2013)

Sat Aug 3 – Sun Aug 4, 2013 Yoyogi Park

Around Town FREE

Yoyogi Park doesn’t seem like the most obvious location for a festival celebrating the sea (surely the beach would be a better option?), but don’t let that mar your enjoyment of this weekend’s Ocean Peoples fest. Organised by the crew behind the annual Greenroom Festival in Yokohama, this freebie two-day event boasts live music from the likes of Sandii (of ‘Goodbye Morning’ fame) and energetic dance shows, plus a dedicated beer garden and food offerings including burgers, shaved ice, kebabs and ice cream. Keep an eye on the timetable on the official website for announcements on who’ll be playing when.


Open August 3-4

Time 11am-8pm

Admission Free

Venue Yoyogi Park

Address 2-1 Yoyogi Kamizounocho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Harajuku Station (Yamanote line), Yoyogi-Koen Station (Chiyoda line), Yoyogi-Hachiman station (Odakyu line)

Asagaya Bali Dance Festival (2013)

Sat Aug 3 – Sun Aug 4, 2013 Asagaya Shinmeigu Shrine

Around Town

The Balinese counterpart to the Asagaya Tanabata Matsuri reaches its 12th edition this year, supplying two evenings of free gamelan and traditional Indonesian dance. Bonus marks to anyone who can explain exactly why there’s a Balinese festival held in Asagaya every year, but it sounds like a pretty tempting proposition either way. Note that the event will be called off if there’s heavy rain on the night – an all-too-regular occurrence at this time of year.


Open August 3-4

Time Doors 4.30pm. Show 5pm

Admission Free

Venue Asagaya Shinmeigu Shrine

Address 1-25-5 Asagaya-Kita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo

Transport Asagaya Station (Chuo line)

Tatemono-en Shita-machi Yu-suzumi

Sat Aug 3 – Sun Aug 4, 2013 Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum

Around Town

The Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum will be extending its opening hours for this two-day event, which invites visitors to enjoy a balmy summer evening (known as yusuzumi in Japanese) like they used to in the Showa era. With bon-odori dancing, food stalls and paper lanterns lighting the streets, it promises to be atmospheric – though the taiko drumming and cries of a veteran street hawker should stop things getting too tranquil.


Open August 3-4

Time 2pm-8.30pm

Admission Adults ¥400, university students ¥320, high school age and under ¥200

Venue Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum

Address 3-7-1 Sakuracho, Koganei Ishi, Tokyo

Transport Musashi Koganei station (Chuo line), north exit then any bus from bus stops 2 or 3 to Koganei Koen Nishi-Guchi.

One Summer Night with DVS1 & DJ Nobu

Sat Aug 3, 2013 Unit


If the recent closure of Nishi-Azabu’s Eleven left a bitter taste in the mouth, that’s partly because the über-underground nightspot was subsequently transformed into a commercial EDM club. In a brilliantly malicious bit of timing, the old Eleven crew have chosen the opening weekend of Double Tokyo to host their own get-together at Unit, starring a host of DJs who’ll be familiar to club regulars. Minneapolis techno warrior DVS1 shares the podium with local hero DJ Nobu in the main room, while Kez YM, Kikiorix and co. take charge of the downstairs Saloon. Double who…?


Open August 3

Time Doors 11pm

Admission ¥3,500 on the door; ¥2,500 adv

Venue Unit

Address Za House Bldg, 1-34-17 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Daikanyama station (Tokyu Toyoko line).

Juno Reactor Final Frontier Tour

Sat Aug 3, 2013 AgeHa


Ben Watkins has been trawling the globe with his ever-morphing electro-trance collective for over twenty years, but if you still haven’t decided where you stand on them, here’s a simple litmus test: do you have happy memories of The Matrix Reloaded? Juno Reactor certainly won’t be sparing any excess during this mammoth twelve-hour party at Ageha, which boasts additional live sets by collaborators including Miyavi, Sugizo and Jayant ‘Jitter’ Luthra, plus DJ turns by the likes of Mike Maguire, Ree.K and Numanoid aka DJ Tsuyoshi.


Open August 3

Time Doors 6pm (all night)

Admission ¥4,500 adv

Venue AgeHa

Address 2-2-10 Shinkiba, Koto-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shinkiba station (Rinkai, Yurakucho lines).

Takkyu Ishino @ Otodama Sea Studio

Sat Aug 3, 2013 Otodama Sea Studio


Techno heavyweights Takkyu Ishino and Ken Ishii descend on Zushi’s Otodama Sea Studio for a sweaty daytime dance party – though we’re not sure how literally to take the event’s Japanese title, which translates literally as, ‘It’s hot, so take all your clothes off!’ Champion turntablist DJ Kentaro and beatboxer Afra support.


Open August 3

Time Doors noon

Admission ¥4,000 on the door; ¥3,500 adv

Venue Otodama Sea Studio

Address 2-3 Shinjuku, Zushi, Kanagawa

Transport Shin-Zushi Station (Keikyu line) or Zushi Station (Yokosuka/Shonan-Shinjuku line)

Magic Mike

At last: Channing Tatum gives the ladies what they want

Magic Mike

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody McMains

First (because we know it’s on your mind): the Channing Tatum male-stripper movie is filled with male stripping. Tons of it. With the exception of one backstage shocker of a close-up, you don’t get the full monty – but maybe something even better. These choreographed dance numbers, set to pumping remixes of ‘Like a Virgin’ and, unavoidably, ‘It’s Raining Men,’ are hilariously unsubtle. Never is an opportunity lost for an assless-chapped cowboy or a trench-crawling soldier to perform a crotch thrust; pants are removed with a magician’s bold flourish. For these sequences alone, Magic Mike connects on a screamingly funny level, and not just for wayward bachelorettes.

This being a Steven Soderbergh movie – he of the overstated ‘retirement’ and reinvigorated craft (ContagionHaywire) – it’s also a beautiful piece of straightforward storytelling, burnished with golden-hued cinematography and snappy cutting. Our hero, Mike (Tatum, who spawned the script from his own experiences), is the aging, unsatisfied star of a nightly revue; lanky Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a jobless drifter, is drafted into the squad, thrilling to the female adoration and druggy edges of the scene. There’s an unusually fine sense of money anxiety, from Mike’s seedy ’70s-style beach house in Tampa and construction day work to the routine of counting all those single-dollar bills and plunging them into ‘equity’ – a relocation to Miami is the dream.

You know where this is all going. If Magic Mike doesn’t quite attain the hedonistic stature of twin cautionary tales Boogie Nights and the campyShowgirls, it can’t be faulted for wanting to satisfy on a deeper level. Meanwhile, didn’t Soderbergh notice there was pathos enough in Matthew McConaughey’s beefcake proprietor, an ab-slapping, spandexed Peter Pan? Between this role and his owlish DA in the subversively sly Bernie, the actor has finally found a way to subvert his six-pack. He’s the magic here.

Magic Mike opens at select Tokyo area cinemas on August 3

Meteo Night 2013

Sun Aug 4, 2013 Shibuya O-West Shibuya O-Nest, 7th Floor


Call it the anti Rock in Japan. Meteo Night takes place on the same day as the ultra-commercial J-rock fest up in Ibaraki, but that’s where the similarities end. Organised by indie label Less Than TV, this one-day gig sprawls across four floors of the Shibuya O complex, and peddles a diet of scrappy, occasionally brutal music that’s unlikely ever to get within spitting distance of the pop charts. This year’s Meteo Night takes a slightly different format from previous editions, devoting the larger O-West to a face-off between acts from 11 different indie labels, including noise-Vocaloid combo Hatsune Kaidan (representing Alchemy Records), beatmakers The Lefty (Black Smoker Records) and the faintly Steely Dan-esque Cero (Kakubarhythm). Upstairs, you can expect plenty of the usual suspects, ranging from veteran hip hopper ECD + Illicit Tsuboi to pulverising post-hardcore act Tiala and hard-riffing mentalists Limited Express (has gone?) – and keep an eye out for Safari, featuring a certainTadanobu Asano on vocals.


Open August 4

Time Doors 12pm. Gig 1pm

Admission ¥4,000 on the door; ¥3,500 adv

Venue Shibuya O-West Shibuya O-Nest, 7th Floor

Address 2-3 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya station (Yamanote, Ginza, Hanzomon lines), Hachiko exit.

The Von Trapps

Sun Aug 4, 2013 Shibuya Kokaido


The real-life great grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp belt out ‘Edelweiss’, ‘Maria’ and other tunes from The Sound of Music, in the final date of their first-ever tour of Japan.


Open August 4

Time 2pm

Admission ¥6,500

Venue Shibuya Kokaido

Address 1-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya station (Yamanote, Ginza, Hanzomon lines), Hachiko exit.

Champagne Garden at Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

Until Sat Aug 31, 2013 Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo


Trust the Hotel Chinzano to supply a classier alternative to Tokyo’s beer garden booze-ups. The elegant Mejiro hideaway is putting its new rooftop Serenity Garden to good use for this summer-only promotion, where ¥5,000 gets you two hours of free-flowing Laurent-Perrier champagne – the same tipple served at Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding in 2011. The price also includes wine, beer and a selection of nibbles, though note that you’ll need to reserve by 6pm the day before in order to take advantage of the offer.


Open July 22-August 31

Time 1st session 3pm-5pm, 2nd session 5pm-7pm

Admission ¥5,000 per person

Telephone 03 3943 1111

Venue Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

Address 2-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Mejiro Station (Yamanote line), then 61 bus or Edogawabashi Station (Yurakucho line), exit 1A

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What to drink:Beer Cocktails for Japan’s Summer Sweat-Bath

Japan may have lost its edge for coming up with the coolest gadgets like portable music players and mobile phones. But if it’s any consolation, it now seems to have put its genius for creative innovation to work in another field of popular consumer demand–the beer cocktail.

Midway through the summer sweat-bath, Japanese beer makers have been devising all manner of beer-based cocktails and specially chilled concoctions to slake the nation’s thirst.

Kirin Brewery Co. 2503.TO -4.48%, the nation’s second-largest brewer, is promoting a cocktail based on its premium Ichiban Shibori, called the Ichiban Shibori Two-Tone Draft. It is made by slowly pouring the beer into a glass with liqueur or soft drink, using a special hand-held strainer to prevent the ingredients from mixing too much, creating a two-tone layer in the middle of the glass.  Kirin recommends combining Ichiban Shibori with cassis, lemon liqueur, grape juice or even stout.

Kirin hopes this will appeal to young people and women who prefer a sweeter taste than the usual bitterness of beer. While you can make these cocktails at home, they can also be quaffed at temporary, summertime “pop-up” bars called Kirin Ichiban Gardens in Tokyo and five other cities.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest brewer Asahi Breweries 2502.TO -0.92%, is pushing a cocktail called Double Cultured, a mixture of its flagship Asahi Super Dry and Calpis fermented milk drink. Asahi is encouraging restaurants and bars that handle Super Dry kegs to add the cocktail to their menus.

How about black beer with ice? For those who prefer some zing in the normally smoky taste of black beer, Asahi is promoting its Dry Black Bar Style–Super Dry Black beer with lemon and mint in a specially chilled glass with ice. The brew is a little hard to come by, however, available only at Asahi’s eight summer-only Extra Cold bars.

These bars also serve a chilled version of Asahi Super Dry at minus 2 degrees Celsius, close to the freezing point. An estimated 400,000 customers have flocked to the bars this summer, 10 times more than came to the single outlet that first appeared in 2010. The drink is also available at about 5,000 bars and restaurants.

There have been other worthy efforts by brewers to reinvigorate beer sales.

Last year, Kirin introduced its Ichiban Shibori Frozen Draft, a frosty brew with an ice-cream-like head of frozen foam drawn from a special tap.  This year, in addition to Kirin Ichiban Gardens, the drink is available at 2,000 bars and restaurants that have special taps.

All these funky new concoctions may be coming onto the market at just the right time for consumer demand.

The ambitious economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, known as “Abenomics,” seem to be encouraging more people to go out for a tipple. In the April-June period, restaurant beer sales rose about 2% from the same period a year earlier.

Weekend spending on pricier items also seems to be on the rise, including that on premium beer used in the new cocktails.

All of this could just mean nationwide beer shipments finally rise in 2013 for the first time in nine years. In 2012, beer shipments fell 1.0% to just over 438 million cases, 24% below the peak in 1994.

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Only in Japan: A restaurant with monkeys as waiters

A Japanese restaurant has changed the face of customer service by employing two monkeys to help with the table service.

The Kayabukiya tavern, a traditional ‘sake house’ north of Tokyo has employed a pair of uniformed Japanese macaque called Yat-chan and Fuku-chan to serve patrons.

Twelve-year-old Yat-chan is the crowd-pleaser as he moves quickly between tables taking customer drink orders.

Monkeys working as waiters

Monkey business: Yat-chan moves quickly between tables taking drinks to customers at the Kayabukiya tavern

The younger of the two, Fuku-chan is quick to give the diners a hot towel to help them clean their hands before they order their drinks, as is the custom in Japan.

Yat-chan and Fuku-chan, who are both certified by the local authorities to work in the tavern are well appreciate by customers, who tip them with soya beans.

‘The monkeys are actually better waiters than some really bad human ones,’ customer Takayoshi Soeno said.

Tavern owner Kaoru Otsuka, 63, originally kept the monkeys as household pets – but when the older one started aping him he realised they were capable of working in the restaurant.

Yat-chan first learned by just watching me working in the restaurant,’ he said.

‘It all started when one day I gave him a hot towel out of curiosity and he brought the towel to the customer.’

A regular of the tavern, 58-year-old Shoichi Yano, says the animals are like her children.

‘Actually, [they’re] better,’ she said. ‘My son doesn’t listen to me but Yat-chan will.’

Some clients, like retiree Miho Takikkawa, say Yat-chan appears to understand their exact orders.

We called out for more beer just then and it brought us some beer,” she said. “It’s amazing how it seems to understand human words.’

The monkeys work in shifts of up to two hours a day due to Japanese animal rights regulations.

But the owner is hoping to bring up the next generation of monkey waiters, and is already training three baby monkeys to work as waiters.

Watch the skilled monkey waiters at work





Categories: Japanese customs, Must see, News about Japan, Stories about Japan, Things to do, Where to drink, Where to eat | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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