TRAVEL TIPS – GETTING AROUND

getting-around

A quick guide to domestic flights and train travel

JAPAN’S MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS

airportmap

flightschedule2018

NARITA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Travelling to and from TOKYO

TRAINS

Narita Airport has two key rail connections operating between central Tokyo Station and the Narita Airport terminals. JR East’s Narita Express (N’EX) is the fastest option (60 min., ¥3020). The Keisei Sky Liner is the best choice for travel to Ueno (44 min., ¥2470).

BUSES

Airport Limousine buses stop at most major hotels and certain landmarks on the way to central Tokyo (75 – 125 min., ¥3100).

TAXIS

Taxis can be expensive depending on your destination. Travelling to central Tokyo costs approx. ¥20000 to ¥24000 by taxi.

A few domestic flights do leave from Narita, but most domestic flights leave from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (70 min. from Narita by the Airport Limousine bus).

using public transport system

Japan has an extremely efficient public transportation system. Trains and buses service a large network, especially in metropolitan areas and between cities, and are clean and punctual.

TRAINS

shinkansen-lines travel time

Most trains and train lines in Japan are owned by Japan Railways (JR). However, others are owned by a number of private companies, often sharing mutual tracks. The urban train systems comprise of shinkansen (bullet trains), limited express, express, rapid and local trains. Many are owned by separate companies, so it can be a little confusing. It’s a good idea to carry a route map (called rosenzu) with you at all times. You can pick one up from most train stations.

All individual tickets (including shinkansen, private railways and subways) can be purchased from vending machines or ticket offices. Individual ticket costs will be shown on the railway line map next to your destination station. Once you have checked the price, you can buy your ticket from one of the nearby vending machines. Children aged six to 11 pay half price and children under six travel free. Trains owned by different companies require different fares, so prepaid integrated-circuit (IC) cards such as Pasmo and Suica, are a useful way to simplify the system (see box). Passengers tend to form queues while waiting for the next train.

SUICA AND PASMO

Suica and Pasmo are rechargeable, prepaid integrated-circuit cards that can be used for all buses and trains (except shinkansen), regardless of the operating company.

Suica or Pasmo cards can be purchased and recharged at rail vending machines and ticket counters in Tokyo. The initial cost consists of a small refundable deposit plus an initial loading of ¥1500 (for Suica) or between ¥500 and ¥10500 (for Pasmo). When riding the train, touch the card to the card reader when you pass through the station’s ticket barrier. The applicable fare will be automatically deducted at the ticket gate at your destination. When riding the bus, touch the card to the reader when you board. If you are required to pay when alighting, make sure you touch your card to the reader when you get on and again when you get off for the appropriate fare to be deducted.

THE JAPAN RAIL (JR) PASS

The JR pass allows unlimited travel on JR-owned trains, buses and ferries for periods of 7, 14 or 21 days. JR passes are available outside of Japan (either online or through your travel agent) before your visit. See www.japanrailpass. net for more information.

BUSSES

bus

Many bus routes link train stations and residential areas. Each stop is announced and displayed on an electric signboard on approach. Push the button to alert the bus driver when you wish to alight. Tickets are purchased upon entering the bus, or when getting off, depending on the bus company and the bus route. Fares can be pre-paid or you can use cash or integratedcircuit cards (Suica or Pasmo) on the bus.

*It is considered bad manners to talk on a mobile phone in trains and buses, so they are best left switched off or muted.

The secret of JAPAN’S RAZOR-EDGED KNIVES

knife2

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?


knife

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.

cha

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.


tea2

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.

tea3