Experience Japan in Sydney

Experience Japan in Sydney

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Sydney is home to establishments where you can learn about Japanese cultural traditions and language; a Japanese-style hot spring ryokan (inn); as well as shops which stock an eyeboggling selection of Japanese goods. Experience a taste of Japan 8000km away in your own backyard in Australia.

THE JAPAN FOUNDATION, SYDNEY

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Bringing Japan to You

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 you are welcomed by friendly reception and library staff ready to assist. You are encouraged to explore the shelves of over 17,000 novels, manga, textbooks and multimedia, and can stay to relax or study with floor to ceiling views of Chippendale Green stretched down below. The popular Tadoku Reading Nights held at the library are a fun and engaging way to practice your Japan reading skills while surrounded and supported by like-minded people.

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 Japan-related works from traditional through to contemporary pieces. 

Whether you have come for an exhibition opening reception; a panel discussion with leading Japanese fashion icons; or to participate in an anime design workshop, you will get an immediate sense of the enthusiasm and pride of the staff and volunteers at the Japan Foundation, Sydney.

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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: http://japanesefilmfestival.net) which showcases an immense variety of cinematic delights from 35mm film classics, to newly released critically acclaimed titles. Over the past 20 years the festival has grown  to be one of the largest celebrations of Japanese film  in the world, immersing audiences across Australia in uniquely Japanese settings while offering fresh perspectives on universal themes.

Perhaps you have always dreamed of visiting Japan one day, or just can’t seem to get there enough. Regardless of your situation, the Japan Foundation with its vast resources, events and language courses is pleased to bring Japan here to you in Sydney.

GOJYUAN

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Cypress baths and an authentic Japanese Ryokan in Sydney

Ryokan Gojyuan is an authentic, purely Japanese-style ryokan nestled amongst the rows of houses and cafes in the heart of Sydney’s Balmain. Known not just for providing accommodation, but also a taste of Japanese culture through workshops such as flower arrangement, Japanese calligraphy and more, Ryokan Gojyuan’s greatest attraction is its cypress bath. Owner, Linda Evans, has paid meticulous attention to every detail of Ryokan Gojyuan, but nowhere more than the use of real Japanese cypress. Join us as we go on a quick journey through the history of Japan’s bathing culture, and find out what makes this cypress bath so special.


ABOUT GOJYUAN

Situated on a small peninsula jutting out from Sydney’s bay area is Balmain. There, on a corner of a housing district lined with townhouses from Sydney’s colonial days, stands an authentic, Japanese-style ryokan – Ryokan Gojyuan, opened three years ago after Australian-born owner, Linda Evans, and her husband undertook a complete transformation of their traditional sandstone home.

One question that challenged the couple in their days before opening was that of marketing. Who would want to stay in a purely Japanesestyle ryokan in Sydney? It’s safe to say that question has now been answered, with 80% of guests coming from inside Australia and 20% from overseas, ranging from Australians who have never set foot in Japan to guests from Asia with a rich history of visiting ryokan in Japan. The Ryokan Gojyuan of today is now much loved by a core group of local regulars.

In addition to their initial goal of providing a high level of hospitality that would match that in Japan, their aim was also to recreate the details of Edo period Japan as much as possible, employing the kaizen technique, often used in Japan’s manufacturing industry, to implement ongoing improvements to their service and facilities.

Ryokan Gojyuan offers not just accommodation, but regularly invites Japanese teachers to hold workshops and introduce aspects of Japanese culture, such as: tea ceremony, flower arrangement, Japanese calligraphy, how to fold and tie furoshiki and gifts, origami, Japanese sweets, thread balls, and more.

ABOUT FURO CULTURE

THE FURO OFFERS A WINDOW INTO A TRULY JAPANESE EXPERIENCE THAT OFFERS NOT JUST RELAXATION, BUT A SENSE OF HARMONY AND APPRECIATIONFOR ALL THINGS

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Bathing in furo (traditional baths) is a daily ritual for the Japanese, and an essential tool for washing away the worries of the day. Bathing is also a form of relaxation. The several thousand hot springs across the country and facilities that combine cypress baths, cascading water baths, hot stone baths and more, are wildly popular in Japan. Guests engage in conversation with friends and family as they hop in to take a bath, sometimes having a drink, but always having fun.

As the body is cleansed when it enters the world with its first bath in a tub, so, too, it is after passing on when it is washed before burial. The nobles of the ancient Heian period and onwards would also take baths after moving residence, getting married, after recovering from illness, and to welcome the new year. The significance of bathing, both religious and cultural, is of great importance to the Japanese.

The oldest baths in Japan are the stone baths found dotted around the Seto Inland Sea where natural rock formations created vapour baths. After the arrival of Buddhism in Japan, temples, such as Todai Temple, constructed bathing halls, baths and steam baths, where water was boiled in large iron pots, began to appear. Monks and laypeople alike took baths to cleanse their minds and bodies, sometimes even for medicinal
purposes. Baths later became a commercial trade, and baths where water was poured over heated rocks to create steam grew in popularity. Thebamount of water grew as time passed, and the style changed so that people would enter the lower half of their body into the water while their upper half was exposed to steam, giving way to a type of bath that was enjoyed from the Muromachi period all the way through to the middle of the Edo period by monks, nobles, and warriors alike.

WHY HINOKI?

The house that forms the base of Ryokan Gojyuan is a historical construction with over 150 years of history that was built in 1855. Its construction is a sandstone style common to buildings during the early colonial era. While the sandstone frame and outer walls were left as a legacy of its former past, everything else was transformed into a welcome hall and two guest rooms, with a detached cypress bath and hallway made from mortar and dark timber in a purely Japanese style. A large amount of earth was also moved outside to create a Japanese-style garden complete with a carp pond.

Cypress (hinoki) has the power to refresh and relax. When we go for a walk in the forest and are soothed by our natural surroundings, it is the alpha waves that run through our brains at work. These alpha waves help you to relax, and stabilise the autonomous nerve. The smell of cypress has the ability to dull tempers and
soften strung out nerves. It also promotes good circulation, helps you recover from physical tiredness, warms your body, heals atopy, improves physical abilities, and more.

While traditional Japanese baths themselves are quite expensive to build, Linda understood the importance of cypress to the Japanese and the crucial role it plays in the bathing experience. Yet, while cedar can be found in Australia, cypress cannot, and the most important aspect of cypress is its unique aroma. With a carpenter for a father, Linda knew all too well the importance of using the right timber. High-quality cypress is also
beautiful in appearance and smooth to the touch. Come to Ryokan Gojyuan and try it for yourself.

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TOKYO MART

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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.

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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 Japanese-operated 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 OF JAPAN

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 isNadvertised 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!

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The secret of JAPAN’S RAZOR-EDGED KNIVES

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The secret of JAPAN’S RAZOR-EDGED KNIVES

“A Japanese knife is like the blade of a samurai.” Gaining a reputation for their superb sharpness not just at home in Japan, but also abroad, the secret of their sharpness lies in the near machine-like precision of the craftsmen who make them, and the masterful techniques they apply to their craft.

The roots of Japanese knives can be found in Japanese swords and their same pursuit of high-quality steel in the search for the sharpest possible edge. As swords evolved into the kitchen blades of today, traditional Japanese knives offer traits seldom found in western knives, not just simply cutting ingredients, but also cutting beautifully and leaving the cells of the ingredients intact.

Knives in Japan are made with a painstaking attention to detail, right down to the balance and feel when held. Where it is common in the west to hold down ingredients to cut them, Japanese knives offer the finest cutting experience, allowing you to easily slice through ingredients without applying any pressure.

The knife you use to cut your food also affects the taste. Using a sharp knife keeps the cells of the ingredients intact and leaves a beautiful surface that makes the ingredients shine, and has no negative effect on their taste.

MASTER SKILLS OF THE KNIFE ARTISANS

Hand-crafted knives are unlike those made by machine in that each one is a unique work. The end product is a reflection of the artisan that made it, from their approach to the craft, to their vision and even their individual character. More than anything else, what makes them special are the long years of intuition and experience that go into determining the conditions under which a blade is made, the temperature of the forge, the state of the steel, and more.

Each of the many different types of knives demands different considerations from the artisans that make them. Blacksmith, Mr. Hayao Doi of Sakai Takayuki Edged Tool, which draws on more than 600 years of tradition in the Sakaiuchi style of craftsmanship, says, “When changing the size and the type of the metal (materials) to match the type and size of the knife you are making, there is the right temperature and the right time for each one. It is therefore crucial that the blacksmith is able to trust their instincts to find just the right temperature inside the forge.”

Becoming a fully fledged knife artisan requires training and countless hours of experience. Training involves watching yourmaster closely and attempting to recreate their technique until you get it right. “It’s hard to say at what stage you become a fully fledged knife artisan, but I would say it generally takes around five to ten years to be called a proper craftsman,” says Mr. Doi. “Of course, it takes many more years of training and hard work to become recognised as a truly first-class craftsman after that.”

TREASURABLE BLADES MADE WITH CARE

You need to look no further than one store in Sydney to find knives painstakingly hand-crafted by artisans of the Sakai Takayuki Edged Tools brand. Selling knives and whetstones of the highest quality from Japan, Knives and Stones is the perfect place for those seeking professional wares, offering a wide range of Japanese knives and whetstones for professionals and home cooks alike. These high-quality Japanese knives are well loved by the chefs of popular restaurants in Sydney. Why not make a lifelong companion by making one of these priceless blades your very own?


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Japan’s Unique Tea Culture

Japan’s Unique Tea Culture

In Japan, tea is enjoyed both alongside food or while relaxing on a full stomach after a meal, and also to quench the thirst. It is something that fills a very familiar place in the lives of the Japanese yet presents a world that is as deep as your will to explore it.

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THE JAPANESE IDEAL OF HOSPITALITY

A cup of tea offers an opportunity to relax and to enjoy a moment’s respite. The casual invitation, “Let’s have a cup of tea, shall we?” is both an attractive one, and exemplifies the essential role that tea plays in the Japanese ideal of hospitality. Tea first made its way over to Japan from China along with Buddhism. There, it developed into a unique style of its own focusing on hospitality that drew on influences of Zen philosophy. Taking great care to prepare for one’s guests and valuing the time spent together is both the basic stance and ultimate goal of hospitality. The way of tea is a cultural tradition of Japan based around matcha and later evolved into sencha tea ceremonies in the Edo period and beyond. The etiquette and attitude espoused by the tea ceremony also play a role in day-today life, and have made their way into Japanese society as a whole.

A HISTORY OF TEA IN JAPAN

There are many varieties of the green tea that have come to epitomise Japanese tea, such as sencha, houjicha, and matcha. The history of tea itself is a long one said to have begun with its discovery by Shennong in 2700 BC as noted in an anecdote in the
Chinese treatise on herbs known as “Shennong Bencao Jing”. Green tea originated in Japan around the year 800 after the grand figures of Buddhism in Japan, monks Saicho and Kukai, were said to have planted seeds in Kyoto brought back from their travels to China. At this time, tea was a delicacy only available to generals and their immediate second in line in social standing – the monks. During the warring states period, records of Portuguese visitors to Japan at the time showed that tea masters and generals alike spent an exorbitant amount of their resources on tea rooms and tea equipment. It was only later in the Edo period when tea finally spread and began to be consumed by the masses.

THE ALLURE OF GREEN TEA

Matcha is one of the most popular varieties of green tea, and while it is also a product unique to Japan that first appeared in the 15th century,you can now find variants produced in China and elsewhere as well. Amidst the ongoing global trend towards health and fitness, research into the health benefits of drinking tea and the components of green tea, such as catechin, offers data that backs up long-held beliefs in the powers of tea. The spread of knowledge about these health benefits is in turn driving increased popularity. As matcha is a tea made by grinding tea leaves into a powder, you ingest all the active ingredients of the tea, providing
more health benefits over other green teas where only the tea extract is ingested. Growing recognition of matcha as a super food has led to its growing popularity in Australia and elsewhere outside of Japan. It is more commonly found in menu items, as well as flavourings for various desserts in recent times due to the increased exposure. The dash of sweetness amidst a bitterness common to unfermented tea combines with a refreshing taste to make green tea an attractive choice. The flavour, the unique culture developed over the span of many years, and the customs and values that gave birth to Japanese philosophy and sensibilities come together as one to make green tea a much-loved drink the world over.


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In Japan, this brand can be seen from the moment when you are at the airport arrival gate, when you are walking on the street, and when you are about to board on your return flight to Australia.
ITO EN and Its Australian Business

ITOEN and Its Australian Business

The company that counts the mega brand Oi Ocha as its signature brand is none other than ITO EN, which holds the largest share of the Japanese tea market in Japan and also has a subsidiary company in Australia.

The History of ITOEN in Australia

ITOEN Australia was established in 1994. Beginning to plant seedlings for Japanese tea from Japan in Victoria’s northeast in the late 1990s, ITOEN Australia has been implementing the same cultivation and processing methods as those in Japan since the year 2000. The venture was first launched with the objective of providing sustainable tea to the Japanese market from Australia where the seasons were the opposite to those in Japan, but as the recent boom in matcha shows, the demand for Japanese tea in Australia is rising dramatically. This demand has in turn spurred the sale of Australian-grown Japanese tea with the objective of meeting local consumption.

ITO EN’s products can be found in the green tea flavoured tea bags containing Matcha green tea sold at supermarkets, and in matcha or Australian grown green tea-related items on the menus of cafes , restaurants and many other places, and their popularity is on the rise.

Where to Next?

ITOEN understands that the demand for tea in Australia leans heavily towards consumption of tea bags. Yet, ITO EN has long created a finely crafted tea unique to Japan that is geared towards the Japanese market. Because we are considering making the supply of tea bags the primary focus of our approach to the Australian market, there is no need to go to the lengths of making a very fine Japanese tea. Rather, we are looking to renew the machinery in our factory lines and add the capability to produce matcha and the tea bag ingredients for tea bags. In much the same way as local consumers display a preference for fresh fruit, meat, and marine produce that are local originated, we would like to provide a locally produced green tea that meets the expectations of the Australian people for a safe and familiar product that they can also enjoy.

There is a growing number of organisations suggesting introducing a sugar tax to the food market in Australia. One of our unique products is an unsweetened green tea that contains no sweetening agents of any kind and is thus truly unsweetened, un like zero -sugar products that are made using natural and/or artificial sweeteners agents. This product is growing in popularity due to meeting the needs of these consumers. We plan to make Oi Ocha using 100% Australian-grown green tea in the future, and in doing so deliver peace of mind, a safe product, and also joy through Japanese culture to the local consumers who support ITO EN’s Australian business.

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