How to Experience Japan in Singapore
How to Experience Japan in Singapore
Have you just returned from a glorious holiday in Japan? Are you already experiencing withdrawal symptoms? Are you in love with all things related to the Land of the Rising Sun?
Well, we have good news. You can indulge in all things Nippon even while you are in Singapore. We tell you where you can go for that Japanese experience right at home. When we are through, you may not even feel the need to fly to Japan anymore.
1. Tokyo street market
Source: Jurong Point &JOY & Daniel Food Diary
Diving into the labyrinth of Tokyo’s traditional yokocho (alleyways) is a fine way to soak in the street culture of the city. Budget stalls laden with souvenirs, tiny eateries and izakayas (pubs) offering cheap meals, hipster farmers’ market stands beckoning with enticing local produce – these line the narrow paths, providing sharp relief to the glistening towers of the metropolis. The heaving crowds, the bustle of place and the bargain finds only add to the charm.
You can recreate the buzz of the street markets of Tokyo at the basement of Singapore’s Jurong Point mall. Stepping into Daimon Food Alley is like entering a portal that takes you straight into a night out in Japan’syokocho. There are the shops selling authentic Japanese food –sushi, bento boxes, udon, tempura, yakitori, karaage. There are the many lanterns and flashing neon lights that make it feel like perpetual night. There are echoes of “irasshaimase ” or “welcome” entreating you. The atmosphere is as close to the real deal as you can get without boarding a plane.
2. Japanese park
Japan is known for its scenic national parks and immaculately landscaped gardens. that dot the archipelago. The tranquil respites steeped in history are prime destinations for locals to escape into the embrace of Nature.
Singapore has a tiny slice of that in the form of the Japanese Garden. Part of the Jurong Lake Gardens, the 13-hectare park was designed according to the gardening style of 14th to 17th century Japan. There are arched bridges, Toro stone lanterns, koi-filled ponds, gravelled pathways, traditional rest houses, miniature waterfalls and even a winding stream that echo the aesthetics of ancient Japan.
One of the best ways to enjoy the park is to find a sheltered pavilion or a bench and watch the migratory birds as they drop by for a visit. Alternatively, take a stroll among the many plants and flowers, and look out for the Cycads planted by former Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in 1970.
The Japanese Garden is undergoing redevelopment but when it re-opens in 2021, there will be more floral and aquatic gardens to add to the tranquil atmosphere of the place.
3. Harajuku fashion
Source: Rice Media
Harujuku is a stretch between Tokyo’s Harajuku Station and Omotesando that is known for its colourful street fashion and pop culture. The area has trendy boutiques, hipster bars and cafes, and, more importantly, serves as a catwalk for outlandish streetwear.
You will not have to travel that far to see this kawaii (cute) culture up close. Twice a month, Singapore has its own Harajuku Fashion Walk tailored after the one in Japan. People are invited to turn up in their own personal take on Japanese alternative fashion and walk the city, beginning usually at Merlion Park. If you are not yet ready to strike out in wild style, you can join the throng of admirers and photographers in this Japanese fashion parade.
4. Hokkaido food
Source: Takashimaya & Evacomics
Fresh seafood, quality dairy products, ramen and Yubari King Melons, these are food Japan’s northernmost prefecture Hokkaido is famous for. At least twice a year, you can enjoy these and more in Singapore.
Japanese department store Takashimaya organises Hokkaido Summer and Winter food fairs where grilled squids and scallops, chilled king crabs, rosy salmon roe, crispy croquette, steaming oden and gelato made with Hokkaido milk are up for grabs. Since Hokkaido is famous for its lavender harvests, at the Summer fair, lavender products such as pillows and beauty items are also sold.
4. Japanese culture
Source: The Smart Local
Japanese culture aficionados have a buffet of festivals to attend. Every year between August and October, the Japanese Cultural Society organises the Japanese Cultural Festival. There are performances, shows, musicals, exhibitions and contests galore, all displaying Japanese culture in its full glory.
National University of Singapore’s Japanese Studies Society also has similar festivals – the Japanese Cultural Festival and Japanese Cultural Night. During the day, there are booths where you can try your hand at traditional matsuri (festival) activities and games, buy Japanese trinkets, sample Japanese snacks and watch performances. In the night, there is a concert featuring dances, musical performances and songs that celebrate Japanese culture through the ages. A bonus is that it is all free.
5. Japanese films
Source: National Museum SG
Since 1983, the Singapore Film Society has organised the Japanese Film Festival. So, if you love the Japanese film world, watch out for the event. This year, over 30 movies were screened in nearly two weeks and enjoyed by about 4,000 people.
6. Anime festival
Anime or Japanese animation is a huge part of Japanese culture. It has even spawned cosplaying where people dress up as their favourite anime characters.
There are several anime and cosplay festivals in Singapore every year. The largest is probably Anime Festival Asia. There are cosplay opportunities, celebrity cosplayer meet-and-greet sessions, booths of various anime creators, souvenirs for sale, and performances and talks by special guests.
The EOY J-Culture Festival offers cosplay and anime lovers another avenue. Cosplayers can showcase their creativity by parading in their costumes, performing, and exhibiting their own anime or photographs.
7. Animal café
Source: Cat Cafe - Neko no Niwa
Tokyo has seen the increasing popularity of animal café in recent years. While Singapore does not have the exotic selection Japan has – hedgehog, owl and penguin – the island-state does have a cat café that lets you enjoy this bit of Japanese culture.
Neko No Niwa is a Japanese cat café and the first of its kind in Singapore. For $12, you get to spend an hour with the 13 rescued cats that roam freely. You can also order drinks and desserts.
You will definitely need the hour or even more to discover the quirky personalities of each feline. Kai Kai and Jia Jia, for example, are a brother-sister pair who are foodies. They will gladly accept scraps from you even though they should not be sampling human food. Robbie and Baloo will head butt you in greeting if you flop onto the floor. Skittles enjoys a good belly rub while Little Miss Muffet and Dewey love chasing string toys.