EXPERIENCE JAPAN in SYDNEY

EXPERIENCE JAPAN in SYDNEY

JS1817_SYDT_L3

EXPERIENCE JAPAN in SYDNEY

You can learn about Japanese culture and language in Sydney and itssurrounds. There are also many shops that stock an eye-boggling selection of Japanese goods, as well as Japanese-style hot spring ryokans. Experience a taste of Japan in Australia.

japan1

THE JAPAN FOUNDATION, SYDNEY

Bring Japan to You

INFORMATION
Level 4, Central Park,
28 Broadway,
Chippendale NSW 2008
Tel: (02)8239-0055
Web: jpf.org.au

japan2

Nestled within the leafy green Central Park building in the creative neighbourhood of Chippendale, lies a welcoming oasis for Japanese language and culture enthusiasts. Here is the home of the Japan Foundation, Sydney – your little piece of Japan in Australia! 

As you walk through the glass doors on the fourth floor of Central Park Mall, you are welcomed by friendly reception and library staff ready to assist. You are encouraged to explore the textbooks and multimedia, and can stay to relax or study with floor to ceiling views of Chippendale Green stretched down below. The library is now open regularly on Saturdays. Special events such as Japanese seasonal celebrations and storytelling for children make for culturally rich and enjoyable weekend outings for families and friends. (Check the library schedule: jpf.org.au/library). 

Down the hall, classrooms brim with energetic Japanese language teachers and J-Course students (Japanese language classes for adults) from beginner to advanced levels while the gallery offers a contemplative space for members of the public to soak up the latest exhibition of Japanrelated works from traditional through to contemporary pieces. You can also satisfy your thirst for knowledge of all things Japanese by attending cultural workshops, lectures and public talk events held from time to time.

If there was one Japanese-related event to put in your calendar for the year, it would have to be the Japanese Film Festival (web: japanesefilmfestival.net) which showcases and immense variety of cinematic delights from 35 mm film classics, to newly released critically acclaimed titles. After celebrating their 40th anniversary in Australia and 30 in Sydney in 2018, The Japan Foundation, Sydney will continue to bring Japan to you into the future.

japan4


GOJYUAN

japan5GOJYUAN

In Sydney sits a Japanese inn that looks almost as if it has been plucked straight out of Japan – Gojyuan. The Australian owner, Linda Evans, and her husband, Steve, renovated their whole house and opened the doors to their establishment in October 2013. What makes this inn particularlyunique is that it doesn’t merely offer accommodation. Guests and visitors can learn and experience various different aspects of Japanese culture through the workshops offered there.

Gojyuan has been offering Japanese-related workshops from 2 years before it started its operations as an accommodation facility. Linda continues her efforts to provide even more workshops purely out of her own fascination and passion. She hopes that many people come to experience the “showcase of hospitality” and learn about Japan through their visits to Gojyuan. This feature will focus on the particularly popular “food” related workshops of “tsukemono” (Japanese pickles), “shojin ryori” (Buddhist cuisine), and “wagashi” (Japanese sweets).

TSUKEMONO

japan6

Tsukemono refers to the process of pickling various foodstuffs (mostly vegetables) in mediums such as salt or vinegar with the aim of preserving them for storage purposes.

The instructor of the tsukemono workshop is Keiko Ikeda from the “Soramame Cooking School”.

The types of foodstuffs pickled in the workshop differ according to the seasons. After the instructor explains the different types of tsukemono such as asazuke, bettarazuke, lemon-zuke, and nukazuke, participants then get to try their hand at making their own asazuke and nukazuke. Participants get to take the container filled with the prepared creation home with them after the workshop.

Next up in the workshop is the preparing of the salted bran used for pickling, or “nukadoko”. Rice bran is mixed together with a brine to make the nuka before it is placed in a container. Vegetables such as carrots and celery are then placed into the nukadoko. A little bit of the nuka can then be taken home by the participants.

After the workshop comes the tasting of the tsukemono with brown rice balls. The recipes and instructions are given to participants
to take home.

SHOJIN RYORI

japan7

Shojin ryori is a type of traditional Japanese cuisine made using only vegetarian ingredients such as rice, bean products (including tofu), seaweed, and mushrooms.

The workshop, run by Sumi Saikawa, begins with explanations about various aspects of the cuisine such as the ideas behind shojin ryori. This is then followed up with an explanation of the types of tableware used and the proper way to set up a table.

Rice, soup, tsukemono, 1 main dish, and 2 side dishes make up the 6 meal components that are provided in the workshop.

Participants can look forward to different menu items to suit the time of the year the workshop happens to be held. Participants are all given a copy of the recipes. After Sumi explains all of the cooking tips, participants can choose which of the 3 dishes (main or one of the sides) they wish to make.

Once the dishes have all been prepared, they are laid out on the
table for everyone to taste.

WAGASHI

japan8

This workshop allows participants to try their hand at making nerikiri. Nerikiri is a type of wagashi that uses refined rice flour or glutinous rice flour to make the gyuhi (mochi dough) and white beans to make the sweet bean paste.

The workshop starts withthe instructor, Yukiko Hirano, explaining what nerikiri is before she makes the gyuhi and shiroan (sweet white bean paste). The nerikiri is made by combining the gyuhi and shiroan together. Participants wrap the red bean paste in the nerikiri, before red dye or matcha powder is mixed into some water and used to decorate the creation.

The 3 essential shapes for wagashi making – the pink coloured cherry bloss m petals, yellow chrysanthemum, and green leaves – are used to make the designs. The workshop finishes with students tasting their creations.

japan9


Blue Mountains – Japanese Bath House

An authentic Japanese hot spring inn just west of Sydney

japan11

As a country home to 7% of the world’s active volcanoes, Japan is also an onsen mecca. Many people spend much of their spare time traversing all of the onsens to be experienced in Japan due to the unique characteristics, locales, and water properties to be found all over the country. It would be safe to say that there are probably many jStyle readers who have experienced the joys of Japanese hot springs themselves first hand.

Conversely, there may be some Japanese fanatics out there who are deploring the fact that there are few hot springs here in Australia. To the disappointed onsen appreciators out there – are you aware that there is an establishment just outside of Sydney that replicates the Japanese onsen ryokan experience? This inn is none other than the Japanese Bath House in the Blue Mountains (formerly “Sparadise” and “竜神湯” in Japanese).

japan10
japan12

The Japanese Bath House is owned by a Japanese doctor who lives in Kyoto and was originally built to privately entertain his guests during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Following the Olympics, the owner opened up the hot spring inn to the public 3 days a week in order for Australians to learn more about the onsen culture. The bath house continues to operate in this fashion to this day. There are a total of 7 baths with temperatures of 38 and 40 degrees Celsius to choose from, including the 3 open-air baths, a large indoor bath with a shower area, the cave bath, as well as a herbal steam bath filled with fragrant aromatics. The cave bath comes highly recommended for the unique and extremely relaxing experience on offer. There is nothing quite like a good soak in the thermal waters of a dimly lit cavern. The herbal steam bath is another luxurious experience of sitting back and taking in the calming fragrances wafting around in the moistened air. A dip in the hot springs dug out from 300 metres underground is said to be beneficial for arthritis and gout due to the rich calcium and iron concentration of the waters. The grounds of the establishment itself can be split up into 3 buildings – the main building housing the hot spring facilities, and the 2 accommodation facilities. Each of the accommodation buildings have their own unique style; the Cabin is, as the name suggests, a cabin-style building, whereas the Tudor House is a Tudor-style building with luxurious Japanese rooms nestled within it. Bathing suits must be worn for dips in the mixed public baths, however, for those looking for a more authentic Japanese experience, there are private bath rooms on offer that can be reserved for dips completely unrobed. The private bath rooms come complete with a beautifully woven bamboo sofa, 2 massage tables, and a cauldron-shaped bathtub. Wonderfully aromatic fragrances fill the air with the background melodies of healing music to soothe the soul as guests can be treated to a 1 hour massage after a dip in bath in their private room. For a truly luxurious experience, the private bath rooms simply cannot be passed up.

japan14

Within the bath house grounds is a restaurant serving Japanese cuisine with a gorgeous indoor stone garden inside of it. It is an absolute treat to feast upon the authentic Japanese cuisine dished up by the Japanese chef. The Japanese Bath House also dabbles in tea growing, so there are a variety of different teas available for purchase as well. Relaxing with a herbal tea after a long soak in the thermal waters sure does hit the spot. The grounds of the Japanese Bath House are strictly alcohol free due to the risk of fainting after a soak in the hot springs. For those looking for a quick drink, the town of Lithgow is a short 10 to 15 minute drive away. Expansion of the bath house is on the cards at the moment, with construction of a cavern-styled bath inside of a garden maze lined up for the near future. Check out the Japanese Bath House’s official Facebook page to stay up to date with their latest posts.

japan15


TOKYO MART

For all your Japanese food and sake needs in Sydney

For those who make Japanese food at home, knowing where to buy ingredients is crucial. While stores selling Japanese foodstuffs can be found across Australia, Tokyo Mart in Northbridge Plaza on the north side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a key spot to Japanese expatriates and Australians alike.

Known for having possibly the greatest range of any Japanese supermarket in Sydney, the sheer variation on offer is a sight for first-time visitors, ranging from high-quality Japanese rice
to condiments, sweets, dried goods, fresh food, and a Japaneseoperated bakery.
With over 20 types of dashi alone, a core ingredient in authentic Japanese cooking, you are sure to find what you need. Their Japanese staff are also on hand to answer questions.

EXPERIENCE THE TASTES OFJAPAN

In addition to its sale of goods, Tokyo Mart periodically holds events where you can try Japanese food and sake. The chance to experience and take home a taste of Japan is a true highlight of Tokyo Mart. Check out the Tokyo Mart Facebook page where information on events is advertised approximately one month in advance. Tokyo Mart also holds monthly 20% discount sales on items of a given category, offering new bargains no matter how many times you visit. Fresh vegetables used in Japanese cooking are also stocked in-store. Come to Tokyo Mart in Sydney for a Japanese food adventure today!

japan18

Koyasan – A Sacred Region Born through Faith

Koyasan – A Sacred Region Born through Faith

2_wakyma-60

Koyasan

A Sacred Region Born through Faith

Located in the depths of Mother Nature, in a vast world of holiness lies Koyasan – a settlement in Wakayama Prefecture approximately 85 kilometres south of Osaka and highly accessible by train or car. Known for the concentration of temples and historic landmarks within its 1.5 kilometre radius, as well as its prestigious listing as a World Heritage Site, Koyasan has been gaining momentum as a popular sightseeing spot in recent times. This feature will showcase the joys of visiting this location for 2 days and 1 night, departing from Osaka.

All aboard for a wondrous train ride through mountainous greenery

JS1817_KOYA_L2

My trip started on a direct flight, which can be boarded from either Sydney or Melbourne, destined for Kansai International Airport in Osaka, the second largest city in Japan after Tokyo. I then left Namba Station in central Osaka at 9am aboard a Nankai Electric Railway train for my 50 minute ride to Hashimoto Station (Wakayama). From Hashimoto Station, I jumped onto the “Tenku” sightseeing train towards the base of Koyasan – Gokurakubashi, which happens to connect to the cable car line. I marvelled at the beautiful sights of mountains and rivers thanks to the large windows fitted on the car as the train weaved through the steep and sharply curving tracks of the precarious mountain trail. The observatory deck on the train also allows for access to gorgeous sweeping views of the surrounds. Sights of rape flowers and rows of cherry blossom trees can also be enjoyed during the spring. Before I knew it, my 40 minute ride on the uniquely designed train was over.
Once my train arrived at the distinctively vermillion coloured bridge of Gokurakubashi, I scuttled onto the cable car to ascend 328 metres up towards Koyasan Station. Upon reaching the station, I proceeded to take the Nankai Rinkan Bus into Koyasan.

From Naka no hashi to Okuno-in

和歌山県高野山 修行僧
©Wakayama Prefecture

As I hopped off the bus at Okunoin-mae and ventured further in from Naka no hashi towards Okuno-in, the first thing I saw was the slogan of Koyasan – “live your life to the fullest”. While the common teachings of Buddhism speak of entering Nirvana upon one’s death, the words of this slogan reflect the mantra of the Shingon School of Buddhism as preached by Kobo-Daishi a.k.a. Kukai, where one can reach Buddhahood whilst still alive. The park cemetery here is lined with gravestones of not only commonfolk from within and outside of Japan,
but also those of people from companies synonymouswith Japan such as Nissan, Panasonic, and Sharp, as well as gravestones to honour the victims of disasters such as the Great Hanshin earthquake and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. I crossed the park cemetery, entered the approach surrounded by greenery, and was met with a solemn air of awe. Okuno-in is dotted with the graves of famous historical figures and uniquely shaped graves and memorial towers. It is a place where all followers of Kukai can set up graves regardless of status, ranking, ordenomination. Further along across the sacred “Gobyo nohashi” (bridge), and atop the stone steps stands the magnificent “Toro-do” (lantern hall). Inside of Okuno-in is a cave where Kukai is said to be meditating to this day, and the “Kobo- Daishi Mausoleum” where worshippers can go to pay their respects in the closest proximity they can get to the cave.

和歌山県高野山 世界遺産高野山 奥ノ院参道 
©Wakayama Prefecture

Enrich your five senses in the sacred atmosphere for an unforgettable experience

A meditative experience at Ekoin

After strolling around Okuno-in, I had a walk through the forest, filled my belly up with lunch and then set off for Ekoin. It was here that I tried out a type of meditation known as “ajikan”. Ajikan is a form of meditation taught in Shingon Buddhism and was spread through Japan during the Heian period by Kukai. Although this form of meditation was originally to help calm the minds of monks, ajikan has become a form of meditation taken up by people from all walks of life as the ultimate form of relaxation due to its simplicity – all that is required of participants is that they sit with their hands and legs crossed. To start off, you must cleanse your body before entering the temple. The next step requires you to take a pinch of zuko (incense powder) with your dominant hand and rub it into your hands. Once this has been done, you then sit cross-legged on a zafu (a cushion used for Zen meditation). After settling into the cushion, join your hands in prayer, creating a lotus bud shape with them, and bow. First-timers or even experienced meditators need not fret as there will be a monk to carefully guide you through the motions. With half-closed eyes, look at the Sanskrit “阿” (a) character on the hanging scroll as you join your hands together in front of your belly button and take steady breaths, picturing the fresh air entering your body with every breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. This process is then repeated. The “阿” character is supposed to represent the origins of everything in Shingon Buddhism – the Buddha known as “Dainichi Nyorai”. The character on the scroll appears as though it is placed on top of a flower and is said to represent “oneself” sitting on a lotus flower. The character not only represents the macrocosm, but also one’s own self. There is a notion in Shingon Buddhism that the Buddha and oneself are one in the same. I felt as though the fragrance of the sacred incense-filled air wafting around the temple had permeated every pore of my whole body through the deep breathing exercises. Experiences such as this meditative one and others, including sutra copying, can be found in many different temples in the Koyasan area. It is the perfect place to spend invaluable time to enrich your five senses.

JS1817_KOYA_L5

Living the life of a pilgrim

An experience that absolutely must not be missed during a trip to Koyasan is a stay at a temple or “shukubo”. Shukubo refers to lodging for pilgrims or visitors to a temple. These guesthouses were originally provided for monks, or pilgrims looking to cleanse their minds and bodies, however, the number of temples welcoming tourists in for stays continues to increase along with improved facilities, services, and access to temple culture experiences. In the past, there were 2000 temples in Koyasan. Currently there are 117 temples in the area with half of them offering temple lodging. My place of choice this time around was Jyofukuin. From the antique furnishings to the Buddhist cuisine and the tatami mat rooms, it had everything you would come to expect from a typical Japanese inn. My dinner of Buddhist cuisine was particularly lavish despite only using vegetarian ingredients such as grains, beans, and vegetables. Whilst you get to experience the history of Koyasan and Japanese culture first hand, you also get a peek into the life of a monk by participating in experiences such as the morning service of the chief priest reading the sutra. With the opportunity to immerse yourself in the sacred atmosphere, it is not hard to see why both domestic and international tourists continue to visit this area.

JS1817_KOYA_L6

A night tour of Okuno-in

After my dinner at the shukubo I took part in a tour leading up to the Okuno-in mausoleum guided by a monk. For 2km from Ichi no hashi to the old approach you get to hear insights from a trainee monk about topics including, legendary Koyasan Kukai tales; moral Buddhist teachings; and what it’s like to be a monk in training. The night-time tour exposes you to a mysterious and solemn atmosphere that cannot be had during the daytime and also happens to be offered in English as well. The part of the tour that stood out to me in particular was the explanation surrounding the memorial towers known as “gorinto” (five ring pagoda) found all around Okuno-in. The universe is said to be made of 5 elements in the teachings of Shingon Buddhism – earth, water, fire, wind, and void; which are what the 5 rings of the gorinto are modelled on. Along with this fascinating tidbit, the trainee monk guide will also elaborate on stories about the garden lamps with their moon phase motifs; Sugatami-no-ido (Well of Reflections), as well as the resting places of various historical figures. If any of this happens to pique your interest or you are looking to learn more about Koyasan on a deeper level, then I highly recommend this tour (Awesome Tours: https://awesome-tours.jp/en).

JS1817_KOYA_L7

Must see spots from Dai-mon to Danjo Garan & Kongobu-ji

JS1817_KOYA_L8

The next day I went exploring from Dai-mon to Danjo Garan and Kongobu-ji. Dai-mon is the main gate of Koyasan and stands at 25.1m tall with kongo warrior statues standing guard on either side of the two-storey structure. This is where the konpon dojo (central training centre) of Shingon Buddhism was established and leads to Danjo Garan – the heart of Koyasan. Together with Okuno-in, Danjo Garan forms the great sacred area of Koyasan with the eye-catchingly beautiful, scarlet Konpon Daito Pagoda standing proudly at 45.8m tall in the centre. The pagoda is surrounded by 4 Buddha statues and houses the “Dainichi Nyorai Mandala”. Depicted on the 16 pillars of the pagoda are the “16 Bodhisattvas” and the “8 Patriarchs” on the 4 corners, while the pagoda itself is a three-dimensional mandala. Seeing the intricate detail of this beautiful pagoda is sure to leave you speechless. There is also a plethora of other sights to see including: Kon-do (Hall), which was once known as the “lecture hall” and was used as the main hall during the mid- Heian period; the Mie-do (Hall), which is a unique pyramidshaped building synonymous with Danjo Garan, standing at 15m in height and width; and Sanko no Matsu in between the two amongst other various hot spots. Another unique structure is the beautiful hexagonal shaped Rokkaku Kyuzo or “hexagonal depository of the scriptures” that is fitted with handles on the podium and can be rotated. One rotation of the building is said to have the same virtue of one read through the complete Buddhist scriptures. The opportunity to rotate a historic building with your own hands is a unique experience that should not be passed up. To top it all off is Kongobu-ji – the main temple of Shingon Buddhism located near the centre of the mountain sanctuary. When Kukai founded Koyasan, the whole area itself was known as Kongobu-ji, however, from the Meiji period to the present the name only refers to the one temple. This area is bursting with sights to see from Japanese architecture, to beautiful fusuma paintings and sculptures filled with history.

Kudoyama & Jison-in

After leaving Kongobu-ji I made tracks towards Jison-in over in Kudoyama. Kukai established the konpon dojo of Shingon Buddhism approximately 1,200 years ago when he was bestowed the land of Koyasan by Emperor Saga, however, it wasn’t until the 5th year of the Meiji period (1872) that the strict restrictions against women visiting the area were finally lifted. Although Koyasan is now a popular tourist destination and listed World Heritage Site, remnants of restricted era can still be found, such as the “Nyonin-do” halls (halls for women) built at the entrances to Koyasan for female worshippers to visit and pray at. Located at a 30 minute train ride from Koyasan towards Osaka, Jison-in was established by Kukai as a “nyonin-koya” or a place where women can freely gather to pray. It is said that Kukai’s own mother could not even visit him during the period when women were forbidden from Koyasan. This formed the origins of Kukai’s routine of walking down “Choishi-michi” (mile stone route) 9 times a month to visit his mother and is said to be the roots of the name “Kudoyama” or literally, “9 time mountain”. Choishi-michi (mile stone route) owes its name to the guide stones placed at every cho (approximately 109m) to lead the way towards Koyasan. While Jison-in was the last place I decided to drop by on my trip, many travellers start their trip at Jison-in and make their way to to Dai-mon in Koyasan on foot by following the Choishi-michi. Jison-in sees many female visitors offering breast-shaped ema (votive tablet) at the temple to pray for good fortune in areas such as fertility, safe birth, child rearing, breast-feeding, and life partners due to its designation as a nyonin-koya. Prayers for recovery from breast cancer have particularly increased in recent years, leading to demand from women all over the country for the pink charms synonymous with breast cancer eradication. All of the many “breast ema” offered in exchange for prayers are handmade. The dearest prayers of women are written on these breast ema including prayers for the good health of their family, and hopes for their children to growth up healthy. If you happen to find yourself in Koyasan, make sure to drop by these historically-rich locations. Approximately 1,200 years have passed since Kukai opened up the Shingon Buddhist dojo, yet it still retains its beautiful surrounds and traditional culture. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities and hone in your 5 senses in the solemn atmosphere for an unforgettable experience.

JS1817_KOYA_L9

Web: https://en.visitwakayama.jp
Facebook: Visit Wakayama
Instagram: @visitwakayama

Capture

JAPANESE CRAFT GIN

JAPANESE CRAFT GIN

JS1817_GINJ_L1

JAPANESE CRAFT GIN

ジャパニーズ、クラフト、ジン

Piquing the curiosity of liquor connoisseurs with a new style of enjoyment

Did you know that there is currently a new craze sweeping across, not only Australia, but the whole world? This craze just happens to be around the hip new drink – craft gin.

JS1817_GINJ_L2

Gin is a distilled spirit madenwith juniper berries. It has two very distinct characteristics – one being that juniper berries are the only required base ingredient to qualify the spirit as a gin, and the other being that it does not need to be aged over a long period of time like whiskey or wine. Small scale production of highly original craft gins has seen an increase recently due to its propensity to instill unique qualities with ease, whilst also being a product that can be sold immediately after distillation leading to high profitability. In fact, there are even some wine makers in Australia riding the craft gin wave of production. Japan, of course, is no exception to this craze and is firmly within its grasp.

Suntory, the makers of much-loved single malt whiskies loved all around the world such as Yamazaki, hopped onto the craft gin boom with the product, “ROKU” in July 2017 in their quest to create a quintessentially Japanese gin. The name, “ROKU”,
refers to the number “6” in the Japanese language. As the name suggests, the product is made with 6 uniquely Japanese botanicals – sakura flower, sakura leaf, sencha tea, gyokuro tea, sansho pepper, and yuzu.

ROKU, now one of the craft gins synonymous with Japan, began sales in Australia in July 2018. A short 2 months after sales commenced, a product PR event was held from September 6 to 20 at “Tokyo Bird”, a Japanese restaurant in Sydney. Japanese craft gin has well and truly begun to carve out its own spot in the Australian market.

Cameron Pirret, the ambassador for Beam Suntory Australia, which was involved in the running of the event, explained how to enjoy ROKU to its full potential:

“I highly recommend mixing it with some tonic water and adding some freshly sliced ginger. You should make this drink for someone else first, rather than yourself, in order to completely enjoy the Japanese concept of omotenashi or ‘hospitality’. You’re sure to draw a great response wherever you go this way.”

If you are looking to ride the latest craze wave, then drinking Japanese craft gin the Japanese way is a new style of nightcap that absolutely cannot be missed.

JS1817_GINJ_L3