The essence of Japanese tradition and aesthetics, distilled into a colourful, sweet confection that sits in the palm of your hand. Made from seasonal ingredients, and with designs that mirror the natural imagery of the season, wagashi is an edible reminder of simpler times, when life was tightly entwined with natural rhythms. In this feature, we look at the various types of wagashi, their significance, and how you can experience them for yourself while in Japan.



Exuberant, visually stunning, and filled with cultural significance, Japanese matsuri are not to be missed. Whether you are hoping to experience the nostalgia of simple shrine festivals, or a massive multi- day extravaganza of parades, this feature is your guide to planning and preparing for a safe and enjoyable matsuri experience.



In Japan, the fashion found in the back streets of suburbia trickle upward to have a very real impact on the glitzy runways. Here, the divide between high fashion and street fashion is blurred, and styles evolve seemingly overnight. Come with us on a journey through the streets of Tokyo, as we explore a potpourri of fashion subcultures, and the cult-status niche brands that the fashionistas of Japan are going crazy over.



With high-flying international ties, a vibrant local creative scene, and plenty of tradition to draw on for inspiration, it’s little wonder that Tokyo is fast becoming a world-class art destination. This art is not just relegated to exclusive, large galleries ? it is in fact surprisingly accessible, if you know where to look. This feature highlights some of the art gems that can be found around Tokyo.


Rediscovering Japan

Step outside of the metropolitan areas of Japan and you will find abundant natural beauty. In this feature, we explore an island filled with art, and find surprising links between Kyoto and surfing, Okayama and the Mediterranean, and Nagoya and Italy.



With thousands of years of wellness tradition, accompanied by a culture of hospitality and a philosophy espousing co- existence with nature, Japan is the perfect retreat for the world-weary. In this piece, we take a look at the oases of wellbeing on offer, whether you are seeking a good, restorative sleep, improved metabolism, holistic dental care, or the simple joys of a tea ceremony in a pristine environment.

10 Interesting Snippets of Life in Japan

01 Sing until your heart’s content, but don’t hog the limelight!

Everyone loves karaoke, especially in Japan! Enjoy the luxury of sharing your own private Karaoke parlour with friends. Songbooks usually have a large selection of songs for you to enjoy, but remember not to hog it! The polite thing to do is to choose a song, sing it and then enjoy everyone else’s superstar renditions.

02 Friends come first when enjoying a few drinks

In Japan when drinking with a guest, friend or work associate, it is customary to pour their drinks first and to refill their glass as soon as it is empty. Your guest will also do the same for you and it’s very common to share large bottles of beer (called “Bin Biiru”) or sake amongst a group of people. Plus remember to always say a big “Kampai” (cheers!) to kick the night off.

03 Business cards and bowing – the right way to get results

Business cards (called “meishi”) are extremely important when meeting clients for the first time, but you can’t just hand them over as we do here in Australia. The polite way of doing this is to hold the business card with two hands while bowing (called “Ojigi”). This will ensure you make a good first impression and sew the seeds for future success!

04 Capsule hotels – cheap sleeps in small places

Space is at a premium in Japan, especially in the major cities. It makes sense that capsule hotels (kapuseru hoteru) were developed in large cities for a cheap night’s sleep. The capsules generally measure no more 2m by 1m, but provide ample room to crash in the heart of the metropolis. Prices can be as cheap as 2,000 yen to 4,000 yen a night ($20 – $40) so if you don’t mind small spaces and want to try something unique to Japan, why not give one a go?

05 Customer service is everything – you are the king

Japan is known as a country with some of the warmest hospitality in the world. No matter whether you spend 100 yen ($1) in a convenience store or 10,000 yen ($100) in a top class restaurant, you will always be greeted with a loud “Irrashaimase” (“welcome”) and given impeccable service. Hospitality is built around the notion that customers should be treated with the highest respect.

06 Shoes are for the outside world, so leave them at the door

Cleanliness is paramount in Japan, so when entering a Japanese house it is customary to remove your shoes in the area known as the ‘Genkan’ (foyer area). There will usually be a small step where you can then change into the slippers provided to be worn inside the house. Japanese feet are generally smaller in size so you may find the slippers don’t quite fit but that’s half the fun!

07 Enjoying nature’s gift to Japan, the onsen (hot spring)

Japan is a land of volcanoes and constant seismic activity, with thousands of natural hot springs (called “onsen”) spread throughout the country. The feeling of soaking your bones after a hard day’s skiing or sightseeing can’t be beaten, but there are a few points to remember. First, before entering the men’s (男) or women’s (女) baths, make sure you use the small towel provided and do not wear any swim wear. Then ensure you wash thoroughly from head to toe. When at last you let out that first ‘ahhhhh’ and slip into the spring water, place your small towel either on your head or on the side but not in the water. Enjoy!

08 The Japanese toilet – exactly what can’t it do?

The land of the rising sun is at the forefront of technology, with some of the craziest and most unique inventions known to mankind, but they all have a purpose including the multi-buttoned Japanese toilet. Forget your standard half flush / full flush option. In Japan, you can also choose the temperature of the toilet seat, the power and style of the cleansing water and even whether you would like accompanying music (Mozart anyone?). There are pictures explaining what most things do but if you ever need help, just ask out loud ‘Douyatte nagashimasu ka’ (how do I flush)?

09 Slurp and enjoy – the art of eating noodles

Unlike in the western world where making noise while eating is frowned upon, slurping while eating soba and ramen noodles is very much encouraged. In fact, it actually shows appreciation and enjoyment! So next time you order a bowl, why not join in the chorus of slurping and enjoy your meal in true Japanese style. Plus if you really enjoyed them, try saying “Gochisou sama deshita” (thank you for the delicious meal) when you have finished!

10 Tokyo Disneyland celebrates 30 years

Japanese love animation and western pop culture, so it’s easy to see why 30 years ago in 1983 Disney decided to open its first international theme park in Tokyo. Every day thousands of Japanese and tourists alike flock to the park to enjoy all the attractions and fun that only Disneyland can offer. So why not spend a day or two exploring when you’re next in Tokyo?