Moving to Tokyo? Real estate agent picks five best neighborhoods for single residents

real estate

RocketNews 24 (by Preston Phro):

Tokyo is a big place, both in terms of population and area, and if you’re moving here from anywhere else, you might be at a bit of a loss in terms of where to look for an apartment. Obviously, a large part of that decisions is up to personal preference, but we do happen to have some advice for areas to look at if this will be your first time living alone!

These five areas were selected by a local real estate agent, so you know they must be good, right?

1. Nakano

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For a lot of youngsters moving to (or already living in) Tokyo, Kichijoji is the place to be, but it’s also fairly expensive. So, our real estate friend said, “If you want to live in Kichijoji no matter what, I would definitely recommend the Nakano area, as it’s on the same train line as Kichijoji. The neighborhood gives you access to not only JR train lines but also subways, making it a really convenient place. It’s been popular with students for a long time, and there are a lot of treasures to be dug up if you look.

Rents in the Nakano area tend to range from quite high to extremely cheap, so you can be sure to find something that fits your budget. There are also plenty of shops and supermarkets in the area, making it all the more convenient. Similar places would be Koenji, Ogikubo, Asagaya, and Higashi-Nakano.

2. Komagome and Tabata

Komagome Station

Generally, living near the JR Yamanote Line, which circles the heart of downtown Tokyo, means paying a lot in rent, but the Komagome and Tabata areas are (relatively) inexpensive. People generally don’t think of either area when they think of the Yamanote Line, but they do, in fact, have stations on it. Also, they’re close to lively Shinjuku, making it easier to go out for a drink whenever you feel like!

Our real estate agent told us, “They’re not the most glamorous areas, but they have plenty of shops and supermarkets, so they’re by no means inconvenient. And they’re not too expensive either. Komagome in particular has green spaces like Rikugien and Kyu-Furukawa gardens, in addition to temples and shrines, making it a good place to take a stroll on your days off.”

3. Sumiyoshi

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Apparently people aren’t too familiar with the Sumiyoshi area, even people living in Tokyo. However, it has stations on both the Hanzomon and Shinjuku lines, so you can get wherever you want to go pretty easily. Even better, you can get to Otemachi, Shibuya, and Shinjuku without changing trains!

Like most of the places on this list, the Sumiyoshi area has supermarkets and shops, as well as lots of greenery in places like Sarueonshi Park. “It’s a popular area for families,” the real estate agent told us, “but there are also a variety of places for people living alone.” It’s apparently gotten a bit more expensive in the last few years as its popularity has grown, but it’s still reasonable and convenient.

4. Kamata

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This area is kind of close to Kanagawa Prefecture (which is actually a plus if you’re keen to spend your weekends at the temples of Kamakura or seaside parks in Yokohama), but access to the Tokyo city center isn’t too bad. The area right around the station feels fairly busy but not so far away from it things are pretty quiet and rents aren’t too expensive. There are a lot of inexpensive but good restaurants around the station, so it’s pretty convenient for people living alone.

Access to the city center isn’t the best, but Ikegami and Hasunuma, which are accessible from Kamata on the Tokyu Ikegami line, are worth checking out. Due to the less-than-ideal public transportation options, rent is cheaper, so if you can’t find what you want in Kamata, these two areas might be worth a look.

5. Asakusa

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People tend to think of Asakusa as a tourist area, but it does also have a lot of residences. As you might expect, rent around Sensoji temple and the station is expensive, but if you head towards Tawaramachi or Iriya, there are plenty of inexpensive places,” we were told. And, in addition to Sensoji and the shopping/dining area around it, there are also plenty of restaurants elsewhere in Asakusa, too.

Apparently there isn’t much in the north part of the Asakusa area, so if you want to make the most of living in Asakusa, our real estate friend told us that places close to Asakusa, Tawaramachi, Inaricho, and Iriya stations are highly recommended.

Final thoughts

Our real estate agent left us with some good general advice. While people moving to Tokyo probably want to live in the famous places they’ve already heard of, they’re also the most expensive. If your selected area has a mixture of JR lines and subway lines, it probably won’t be inconvenient at all to get to those glamorous high-rent districts for a day out (or a day in the office), and you will have an easier time living in the city when you rent isn’t through the roof.

Other recommended locations were: Kotake-mukaehara, Machiya, Koiwa, Akabane, and Kiba. Also, we were told that places like Nezu and Sendagi, which have a lot of history and older shops and temples, are places where you can enjoy putting down roots of your own.

12 beautiful Japanese train stations by the sea

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RocketNews 24 (by Preston Phro):

Being an island nation, there is no shortages of beaches in Japan–though if you live in Tokyo, there are times when the only thing resembling the ocean to be seen is a sea of people. After a weekday morning commute spent sloshing around in a packed train car, it’s easy to find yourself wishing for a more relaxed environment like the beach. And with summer in full swing, there are plenty of beaches we’d rather be lounging on than just about anything.

But it’s a busy world and who has time to sit on the beach and just relax? Well, we sure don’t! But for those of us always on the go, there are a few train stations that at least will give you a view of the ocean on your way to whatever business you may have. Think of it like a vacation that lasts as long as the train stops!

Here are 12 of Japan’s stations on the sea–beautiful, serene, and just outside your train window!

Kitahama Station

Located on the Sea of Okhotsk in north-east Hokkaido, this is perhaps one of the coldest train stations Japan, though you couldn’t tell it from the first two photos below. However, it turns out that a train ride to Kitahama Station will provide you not only with a beautiful view of the ocean, but also of drift ice! In fact, Kitahama Station is apparently the only train station in Japan that regularly offers a glimpse of that fantastic frozen, floating phenomenon.

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Todoroki Station

Heading to the mainland, this station in Aomori Prefecture is close to the Sea of Japan–extremely close! During stormy weather, waves actually wash over the track and up to the station. While we’re not sure if that’s the most practical location, it does make for beautiful photo opportunities. In fact, the station was featured in JR advertising in 2002, driving train- and station-loving fans out to Aomori. We can’t blame them–a dip in the sea sounds great right now!

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Nebukawa Station

Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, this is the only station on the Tokaido Main Line between Tokyo and Kobe that is unmanned, though it is apparently a popular destination during New Years. It also provides a stunning view of open waters.

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Shimonada Station

Another unmanned stop, Shimonada Station is located in Ehime Prefecture on the Shikoku Yosan Line. Having been featured in numerous posters and other JR advertisements, the station has become popular among train lovers and photographers across the country as a location for breathtaking landscape photos. It even has its own Facebook page!

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Baishinji Station

Another station in Ehime PrefectureBaishinji Station is not famous just for its location–though it certainly is beautiful. The station captured the popular imagination in 1991 thanks to the TV drama Tokyo Love Story, about three Ehime friends who eventually reunite in Tokyo. As you may have guessed from the photo below, Rika, one of the main characters of the show, ties a “bye-bye handkerchief” to the railing in a climactic scene. Fans of the show and travelers have kept up the tradition for over two decades!

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Yoroi Station

This Hyogo Prefecture station isn’t much to look at itself–it could easily be mistaken for a run-down bathroom in an interstate rest area–but the view from the platform certainly makes up for it. Not only is the station unmanned, there aren’t even any automated ticket machines! Despite its desolate appearance, the station has become a bit of an attraction for train lovers following its appearance in some TV shows. It has also appeared in JR advertisements, where it was written that “you can feel the sea breeze blowing off the ocean right under your eyes just standing on the platform.”

▼The station itself

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▼The view from the platform.

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Oobatake Station

One of the more rural areas of Japan, Yamaguchi Prefecture is also home to Oobatake Station, which sits right along the sea. An hour train ride from the Shinkansen station in Hiroshima, this station is an excellent sightseeing destination–though that’s about all you’ll have time for! In this part of the country, you can usually find only local trains.

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Oumikawa Station

Apparently this Niigata Prefecture station is the closest to actual open waters in Japan, though judging from other entries on this list, the competition for that honor is fierce. In fact, the train line runs right along the coast for several miles, making not just this station but the entire route a beautiful destination for sight-seers. And, like many other stops on this list, the station is unmanned. We’re starting to wonder how JR gets people to pay for tickets…

Yukawa Station

Located in Wakayama Prefecture, Yukawa Station provides a magnificent view not only of the sea but also of the prefecture’s mountains. And if you’re a fan of the beach, the station is just a stone’s throw away from the Yukawa Kaisui Yokujo (Yukawa Swimming Area). Best of all, this station is also unmanned, so there won’t be any attendants to scold you for tracking sand and water all over the platform!

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Umashibaura Station

Situated on Tokyo Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture, this station is probably not where you’d want to wait out a storm with large waves. It is, however, an excellent destination for sight-seeing. In addition to the view of the bay, rail riders are afforded an excellent view of the Yokohama Bay Bridge, Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge, and fireworks launched from Yamashita Park in the summer.

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Kamakurakoko Mae Station

As you may have guessed from the name of this station, it’s located in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture near Kamakura High School. Kamakura City, in addition to its beautiful temples, shrines, and German sausages, is a popular destination for its gorgeous beaches. The station offers a beautiful view of the ocean and as well as Enoshima, Miura Peninsula, and even Mt. Fuji on clear days. That said, we’re sure it’s a horrible way to start the school day–imaging having a gorgeous beach dangled in front of you only for it to be ripped away and replaced with an hour spent conjugating English verbs!

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Tagi Station

This beach-front train stop is located in Shimane Prefecture, the second least populated prefecture in Japan. Despite the lack of people around to use it, Tagi Station and the area between it and its neighbor down the line Oda Station are famous as sight-seeing destinations and have appeared in numerous magazines. Apparently there is also a sakura (cherry) tree next to the platform, providing a unique photo opportunity when the tree blossoms in the spring.

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Takashi Murakami’s “Superflat Collection” at the Yokohama Museum of Art

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Contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami will be the latest to show his own private collection to the public, linking up with the Yokohama Museum of Art to present “Takashi Murakami’s Superflat Collection.”

Taking its name from the postmodern art movement Murakami himself founded, the exhibition promises to display a unique and diverse range of pieces from the likes of Edo period painter Soga Shōhaku, the multitalented Rosanjin, fellow modern pop artist Yoshitomo Nara and German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer.

Tickets for the display will be on sale from October 2 until November 30 while the “Superflat Collection” will officially open January 30, 2016 and remain on display through April 3.

Yokohama Museum of Art
3-4-1, Minatomirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama
Kanagawa, 220-0012
Japan

This exhibition is the first large-scale public showing of the renowned contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s private collection centered around contemporary art.

Murakami (b. 1962) received the first PhD in Nihonga (Japanese Painting) to be granted by the Tokyo University of the Arts Graduate School of Fine Arts and has since come to be known worldwide for his extremely polished works blending contemporary art and traditional Japanese painting, high culture and pop culture, East and West. He has held a number of solo exhibitions at prestigious museums around the world.

While energetically pursuing his creativity as an artist, Murakami has also been active as a critic, curator, gallerist, and producer. In recent years, in particular, he has become an avid collector, acquiring a wide variety of artworks in and out of Japan with a perceptive eye and unique aesthetic sensibility. This little known collection, while loosely focused on contemporary art, includes old Japanese and Asian artifacts, European antiques, contemporary pottery, and folk art and crafts. Murakami’s guiding concept of Superflat not only refers to formal aspects he identifies with Japanese art, such as flatness of the picture plane and decorativeness, but also extends to a view of art that rejects hierarchical divisions between different artistic genres or eras and frees artistic activities from definitional boundaries. It is a dynamic, expansive concept that applies to the entirety of the artist’s life and activity as he wrestles with the big question, “What is art?” from various angles.

This exhibition of Murakami’s unique collection, with its overwhelming quantity and diversity, will provide an insight into the sources of the artist’s aesthetic ideas, the nature of art and desire, and the mechanisms that create value in contemporary society, while also encouraging viewers to question art’s conventional context.

Takashi Murakami unveils two new exhibitions for Tokyo and Yokohama

Legendary Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, has revealed that two new exhibitions of work will be shown in his homeland within the next twelve months. The 500 Arhats, a response to the 2011 Japan Earthquake, is to be exhibited at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo from October 31, 2015 to March 6, 2016 and Takashi Murakami’s Superflat Collection Soga Shohaku and Kitaoji Rosanjin to Anselm Kiefer is to show for the first time at the Yokohama Museum of Art from January 30 to April 3 2016. Murakami, who recently collaborated on a collection with Vans, is also set to feature at Art Basel where Galerie Perrotin will present a solo show by the artist.

The subject of Murakami’s new art is one of the most famous motifs in Zen painting, the circle ensō that symbolizes emptiness, unity and infinity in Zen Buddhism. The 500 Arhats, a masterpiece stretching 100 meters by 3 meters in height represents the 500 wise followers who attained enlightenment, in Zen tradition. Keep an eye on Galerie Perrotin’s website for more details.

Medicom Toy (Japan) x Oakley Frogskins Bearbrick for BEAMS

Longstanding Japanese toy label Medicom Toy outfits its hallmark Bearbrick model with a pair of Oakley’s Frogskins sunglasses for a new release for compatriot retailer BEAMS. The collaboration embodies Oakley’s slick vibe on an equitably smooth translucent Bearbrick, featuring the brand logo on the chest alongside a screen of the silhouette on the toy’s face.

Arriving as a special, limited-edition gift at BEAMS locations in Harajuku, Nagoya, Yokohama and Shibuya, pick up this iteration of the Bearbrick beginning April 17.

Japanese Zen Buddhist temple starts selling instant vegan soba and udon noodles

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RocketNews 24:

Upon coming to Japan, a lot of people are surprised to discover just how difficult finding vegetarian food can be. Many people imagine Japan as a country that eats very little meat, and while that’s definitely true in comparison to North America and western Europe, the flipside is that you’ll find at least a little bit of meat in just about all dishes, including salads and vegetable stews with surprising frequency.

Things get trickier still if you’re trying to stick to a vegan diet. Even something as simple as noodles are generally out, since almost all broths are made with meat or fish stock. But if you’ve got an aversion to meat coupled with a craving for soba or udon, you’re in luck, with two new types of vegan instant noodles produced by a Zen Buddhist temple.

As a temple of the Soto sect of Zen, Yokohama’s Soji Temple is primarily concerned with nourishing the souls of worshippers. The institution’s newest venture, though, is more concerned with your physical nourishment, as evidenced by its name, Zen-Foods.

Many devout Buddhist monks in Japan adhere to a strict vegan diet called shojin ryori. In recent years, the cuisine has obtained a somewhat chic status, bolstered by its healthy image and connection to temple lodges that have become increasingly popular places for travelers to stay.

Under the supervision of Soji Temple, Zen-Foods has produced two types of instant noodles, both completely animal product-free, in accordance with the rules of shojin ryori.

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The Gahomen Soba buckwheat noodles, despite their elegant background, are made like any other instant variety. Open the lid, sprinkle on the soup powder, add hot water, and wait three minutes for everything to cook. Once it does, you’ll have a bowl of soba, swimming in a kelp/soy sauce broth, topped with soybeans, fried tofu, kikurage mushrooms, and an assortment of chingensai, warabi, and zenmai greens.

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Meanwhile, the Gahomen Udon wheat noodles’ has a vegetable broth seasoned with salt. While soba and udon toppings are largely interchangeable in Japanese cuisine, Zen-Foods gives its two types of noodles completely different accompaniments. With the udon, you can look forward to lotus root, green beans, and taro, among other veggies.

The udon does require a little more patience, though, as its cooking time is listed as five minutes. Looked at another way, though, that’s two more minutes for quiet meditation, self-reflection, or simply looking forward to your hot, healthy meal.

Gahomen Soba and Udon can be ordered here, directly from Zen-Foods, in packs of 12 for 3,600 yen (US$30).

Moving to Tokyo? Real estate agent picks five best neighborhoods for single residents

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RocketNews 24:

Tokyo is a big place, both in terms of population and area, and if you’re moving here from anywhere else, you might be at a bit of a loss in terms of where to look for an apartment. Obviously, a large part of that decisions is up to personal preference, but we do happen to have some advice for areas to look at if this will be your first time living alone!

These five areas were selected by a local real estate agent, so you know they must be good, right?

1. Nakano

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For a lot of youngsters moving to (or already living in) Tokyo, Kichijoji is the place to be, but it’s also fairly expensive. So, our real estate friend said, “If you want to live in Kichijoji no matter what, I would definitely recommend the Nakano area, as it’s on the same train line as Kichijoji. The neighborhood gives you access to not only JR train lines but also subways, making it a really convenient place. It’s been popular with students for a long time, and there are a lot of treasures to be dug up if you look.”

Rents in the Nakano area tend to range from quite high to extremely cheap, so you can be sure to find something that fits your budget. There are also plenty of shops and supermarkets in the area, making it all the more convenient. Similar places would be Koenji, Ogikubo, Asagaya, and Higashi-nakano.

2. Komagome and Tabata

Komagome Station

Generally, living near the JR Yamanote Line, which circles the heart of downtown Tokyo, means paying a lot in rent, but the Komagome and Tabata areas are (relatively) inexpensive. People generally don’t think of either area when they think of the Yamanote Line, but they do, in fact, have stations on it. Also, they’re close to lively Shinjuku, making it easier to go out for a drink whenever you feel like!

Our real estate agent told us, “They’re not the most glamorous areas, but they have plenty of shops and supermarkets, so they’re by no means inconvenient. And they’re not too expensive either. Komagome in particular has green spaces like Rikugien and Kyu-Furukawa gardens, in addition to temples and shrines, making it a good place to take a stroll on your days off.”

3. Sumiyoshi

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Apparently people aren’t too familiar with the Sumiyoshi area, even people living in Tokyo. However, it has stations on both the Hanzomon and Shinjuku lines, so you can get wherever you want to go pretty easily. Even better, you can get to Otemachi, Shibuya, and Shinjuku without changing trains!

Like most of the places on this list, the Sumiyoshi area has supermarkets and shops, as well as lots of greenery in places like Sarueonshi Park. “It’s a popular area for families,” the real estate agent told us, “but there are also a variety of places for people living alone.”

It’s apparently gotten a bit more expensive in the last few years as its popularity has grown, but it’s still reasonable and convenient.

4. Kamata

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This area is kind of close to Kanagawa Prefecture (which is actually a plus if you’re keen to spend your weekends at the temples of Kamakura or seaside parks in Yokohama), but access to the Tokyo city center isn’t too bad. The area right around the station feels fairly busy but not so far away from it things are pretty quiet and rents aren’t too expensive. There are a lot of inexpensive but good restaurants around the station, so it’s pretty convenient for people living alone.

Access to the city center isn’t the best, but Ikegami and Hasunuma, which are accessible from Kamata on the Tokyu Ikegami line, are worth checking out. Due to the less-than-ideal public transportation options, rent is cheaper, so if you can’t find what you want in Kamata, these two areas might be worth a look.

5. Asakusa

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People tend to think of Asakusa as a tourist area, but it does also have a lot of residences. As you might expect, rent around Sensoji temple and the station is expensive, but if you head towards Tawaramachi or Iriya, there are plenty of inexpensive places,” we were told. And, in addition to Sensoji and the shopping/dining area around it, there are also plenty of restaurants elsewhere in Asakusa, too.

Apparently there isn’t much in the north part of the Asakusa area, so if you want to make the most of living in Asakusa, our real estate friend told us that places close to Asakusa, Tawaramachi, Inaricho, and Iriya stations are highly recommended.

Final thoughts

Our real estate agent left us with some good general advice. While people moving to Tokyo probably want to live in the famous places they’ve already heard of, they’re also the most expensive. If your selected area has a mixture of JR lines and subway lines, it probably won’t be inconvenient at all to get to those glamorous high-rent districts for a day out (or a day in the office), and you will have an easier time living in the city when you rent isn’t through the roof.

Other recommended locations were: Kotake-mukaehara, Machiya, Koiwa, Akabane, and Kiba. Also, we were told that places like Nezu and Sendagi, which have a lot of history and older shops and temples, are places where you can enjoy putting down roots of your own.

Yokohama nature amusement park’s cafe introduces Black Bun/Fried Frog Burger to coincide with “Deadly Poison” exhibition

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CNN Money: 

A whole frog, minus the flies and croak, will soon be offered as a burger by a cafe in the Japanese city of Yokohama.

The deep fried frog will be served in a black bun, colored with bamboo charcoal, and topped with lettuce. For a 1,000 yen ($8), the burger comes with a drink. That’s roughly the price of a Big Mac meal in Japan.

The cafe is part of Orbi Yokohama, a nature-themed amusement park to the south of Tokyo.

The frog burger will be available as part of a special exhibition of poisonous creatures, Orbi Yokohama spokesperson Tomoko Hiroshige said. The deadly animals show will feature spiders, stingrays, puffer fish and other animals.

Fancy seconds? The cafe will also offer a toad-themed dessert.

The “frog egg pudding” consists of a miniature jelly frog and some smooth almond tofu representing spawn in a pond.

Yum!

Prince William meets Domo-kun and has other fun adventures during his first visit to Japan

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RocketNews 24:

If you haven’t been diligently following our succinct list of “seven cool things set to happen in Japan in 2015,” you might be surprised to hear that the first has already happened! Last week, Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, crossed the globe to spend a few days in our neck of woods here in Japan.

While his trip was only four days long, spanning an extended weekend of February 26-March 1, it was all documented by the Kensington Palace official Instagram account, and seems to have been a fun trip for the visiting royal!

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But really, four days is not enough time to enjoy all Japan has to offer, especially if it’s your first time visiting, as it was for Prince William. Being the short trip that it was, his schedule was jam-packed, but the Duke of Cambridge was smiling the whole time, clearly enjoying every second of it.

His whirlwind tour of Japan included taking a Shinkansen ride northeast to the 2011 Tohoko disaster area, dining with the Japanese Imperial family, touring the NHK headquarters, participating in a tea ceremony and spending some time at a book store. (More on the bookstore later…)

▼ Being an heir to the throne of Great Britain, Prince William didn’t ride the Shinkansen like the rest of us, he got to visit the cockpit.

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▼ He also went a little southwest to visit Hodogaya Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Yokohama, where he met with defense attachés from several countries.

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The prince also stopped by the Daikanyama TSUTAYA location in Tokyo. This is no ordinary TSUTAYA book store and rental shop though, as it is known as the “bookstore for adults” (not to be confused with “adult book” store) or “the library in the woods.” The elegant building and garden were designed by a British architect, making it a fitting location for the special exhibit, “Innovation is GREAT,” which is showcasing examples of British creativity and technology. The exhibit was put together in honor of Prince William’s visit and is running from February 20-March 16.

▼ He probably wasn’t expecting to look at British stuff while in Japan.

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▼ He did, however, get to see an avatar of himself dressed as a samurai and laugh about it with some lucky Japanese kids.

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Of course, there were some traditional Japanese activities too, including a sake barrel breaking ceremony, real-life samurai dress-up time and a tea ceremony.

▼ Luckily for him, they didn’t have him sit seiza during the tea ceremony.

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No trip to Japan would be complete without at least one encounter with a mascot character! On a tour of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) headquarters, the Duke met Domokun, the NHK mascot.

▼ Is Prince William making a Domokun face?!

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▼ Okay, this isn’t the prince, but this pooch is so adorably dressed in honor of Prince William’s arrival, we couldn’t not show you!

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While Japan was very happy to host the “slender, tall, and elegant” prince (as one of our Japanese writers who saw him in person described him), it’s a shame that Kate Middleton couldn’t join in on the fun. Since she’s pregnant with the next royal family member, she had to sit this one out. Hopefully, the whole family will be on board for the next Royal visit to Japan!

Taste Test: Sankt Gallen Sakura cherry blossom beer

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RocketNews 24: (by Casey Baseel)

After three months of cold weather, I’m ready for spring. Coincidentally, after a long week of work, I’m ready for a beer.

Lucky me, these two desires have dovetailed perfectly in the form of Kanagawa Prefecture microbrewer Sankt Gallen’s newest offering, made with the petals of the harbinger of Japanese spring, cherry blossoms. So strap on your drinking caps, because it’s time for the sakura beer taste test!

While Sankt Gallen Sakura can be ordered here directly from the brewer, you can also find it in select grocers and liquor stores. The Tokyu Store at Hiyoshi Station on the Toyoko Line (which runs between Toyoko Line’s Shibuya and Yokohama) had the special beer in stock on February 24, the day of its release.

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At 464 yen (US $3.95) a bottle, the cherry blossom beer is a little more expensive than major brands like Asahi or Kirin, but perfectly in line with what you’ll usually pay for microbrew beers in Japan. Actually, in the eyes of the law, it’s not even a beer, buthapposhu. While that designation usually gets slapped on low-malt, low-quality alcoholic beverages in Japan, in the case of Sankt Gallen Sakura, the classification seems to be strictly a result of it being made with sakura petals and leaves. Since these aren’t standard beer ingredients, for legal purposes, the brew gets classified as happoshu instead of beer .

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While the brew’s happoshu status is listed in the fine print, you’ll find “Sweets Beer” writ large on the label. That’s because the true flavor inspiration for Sankt Gallen Sakura is the traditional Japanese confectionary called sakura mochi, a dollop of sweet red beans wrapped in a thin, sweet rice cake, which is in turn wrapped in an edible sakura leaf.

▼ Sakura mochi, in non-beer form

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▼ The cap is not a twist-off, by the way.

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Sankt Gallen Sakura pours up without much head, and if you prefer drinking beer to chewing foam you can pretty much eliminate it from your glass entirely. The color is unique, in that it’s golden without being particularly yellow. As a matter of fact, it almost looks like some varieties of green tea, which is appropriate considering the Japanese inspiration for its flavor.

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One common element between the three Sankt Gallen brews I’d tried before the cherry blossom beer is a heavy bitterness. On its website, the brewer claims the sakura beer is less harsh that its usual offerings, and that’s definitely true, although there’s still more bitterness here than in, say, a bottle of Asahi Super Dry. Sadly, there’s no cherry blossom aroma to the beverage, and truth be told, initially the special ingredients don’t seem to affect the flavor very much either.

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After the liquid washes over your taste receptors, though, there’s a subtle but lingering sweet saltiness that spreads out from the center of your tongue. While it doesn’t, by any means, scream “Japanese dessert,” the sensation should be familiar to those who’ve eaten sakura mochi.

At the finish, there’s a crisp but not unpleasant bitterness that hits the back of your throat. Overall, there’s a lot of character to Sankt Gallen Sakura. One of its most intriguing characteristics is that, in contrast to the sharp sensations of bitterness that bookend its flavor profile, it’s got a very light mouth feel, something you’d generally associate with a less flavorful beer.

It’s usually been my experience that combining desserts with beer worsens them both, as though the universe is punishing you for asking for too much pleasure in one sitting. That’s not necessarily true with Sankt Gallen Sakura and sakura mochi, though. Maybe it’s because of its light mouth feel, it stays drinkable even when alternating sips of beer and bites of sweets, although doing so dulls the beverage’s more unique flavor components a bit.

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When all is said and done, how does the drinking experience compare to that of last year’s Mint Chocolate Stout? Well, remember that post-tasting snapshot above? Here’s the one for Sankt Gallen Sakura.

Sort of like a cherry blossom viewing party, Sankt Gallen Sakura isn’t necessarily something you’d want to experience every day. But as a unique change of pace for a special occasion once or twice a year?

Definitely.

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