November 1st, 2020 issue

Unique Museums, Legendary Cuisine, and Cityscape Sunsets Atop Tokyo

In this issue we bring you some of the most unique museums you can find in Japan, the legendary donabe cuisine, a Japanese cookbook written by gaijin, where to craft your own hand-made tenugui, and incredible views from atop Tokyo.

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1. Explore Some Particularly Unique Museums

Tokyo, and Japan for that matter, is home to museums showcasing a range of art and temporary exhibits. From the Mori Art Museum to the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum to the Tokyo National Museum — there is a lot to choose from.

But sometimes you want something extra unique. You could check out the Amuse Museum in Asakusa, but even the “harmony, ethos, and beauty of technology” isn’t quite what you’re looking for.

Well, JapanTravel has a few museum picks I think you’ll find interesting. These are stunningly unique structures with fantastic architecture.

#3 on their list, the Kadokawa Culture Museum in Saitama (just a bit north of Tokyo) is one I think you should pay extra attention to. It was designed by Kengo Kuma and associates, who also designed Tokyo’s Nezu Museum.

+Map pin to Kadokawa Culture Museum
〒359-0023 Saitama, Tokorozawa, Higashitokorozawawada, 3 Chome−31

5 Uniquely Designed Museums in Japan “This stunning architectural piece is a real newbie, and only soft-opened in August of this year. It was designed by Kengo Kuma and associates, who also designed Tokyo’s Nezu Museum and a host of other impressive works. The venue is billed as a complex that combines libraries, art galleries, and museums – a one-stop cultural shop!” (JapanTravel)

2. The Japanese Donabe; Cuisine of Legends

Donabe cuisine

The Japanese donabe is the stuff of legends. An earthenware pot — crafted by banko-ware craftsmanship and pride — with seemingly millions of options in creative nabemono cuisine. Made with a special clay, the donabe is usable on a hot open flame and is said to last decades.

It’s far more than cooked rice, soup, and veggies. There is an artform to fantastic donabe dishes. Here, Bon Apetit has put together a simple recipe with a big impact. If you’re looking for a Japanese food experience at home, give it a try.

One Japanese Donabe, One Million(ish) Options “At a basic level, a donabe is a pot that just happens to be pretty enough to double as a striking serving piece. High-quality versions have thick walls that effectively retain heat and are especially good for gently cooking the vegetable-heavy meals I want constantly this time of year.” (BonAppetit)

Bonus: when cleaning your donabe, be careful. Use a soft sponge, baking soda, and a clean cloth to avoid ruining the natural non-stick finish. Proper care will help the pot last a long time.

Just One Cookbook also points out it is very important to season your donabe when you first get it. Since the clay material is porous. The traditional method of seasoning your donabe involves rice water — the cold water left after washing rice. Interesting cultural hack.

When you purchase a brand new one and takes it out of the box, you have to season it before using it. We call this process Medome (目止め) in Japanese. Why does it need seasoning? Because the pot is made from clay, the material is naturally porous.” (JustOneCookbook)

3. Ivan Orkin and the Gaijin Cookbook

If you’re looking for a unique cookbook to add to your collection, look no further than “The Gaijin Cookbook” where chef Ivan Orkin teams up with Chris Yang to create a magnificent “cook Japanese food at home” cookbook.

Stir fry, tonkatsu, ramen, steamed rice, Japanese curry, and more. Many of the reviews are even saying they don’t need to go to Japanese restaurants anymore because they can make better at home now!

I don’t believe it — at least, no in Japan anyway. But they are great reviews for the cookbook by a chef I’ve featured many times on TokyoSpark.

Ivan Orkin and Chris Yang team up to produce “The Gaijin* Cookbook” — atypical, refreshingly unconventional and, yes, drool-worthy “For Orkin, ramen is a dish with no rules, unconfined to rigid conventions or protocols. Befitting his personality, it is a freewheeling “maverick cuisine” that can be made with as many variations as imaginable: the noodles thick or thin; the sauces of differing flavors; toppings wide-ranging.” (iexaminer)

4. Design Your Own Hand-Made Tenugui Masterpiece

The tenugui cloth has a special place in Japanese culture. You’ll find them used as art and decoration, sports,  or even to wipe the sweat from one’s brow during summer festivals. It’s one of those purely Japan objects that conjures unique imagery of this wonderful country — as we’d say here in Japan “sasuga nihon” which means “admirable Japan.

There are stores dedicated to nothing but a massive variety of tenugui designs. A simple cotton fabric with vibrant fabric paint. Tenukuri Studio is one such store, but you can also design your own tenugui here

+Map pin to Tokyo Wazarashi
+Official English site

Traditional Dyes! Make Your Own Hand Towel At Tenukuri Studio “Tenugui have beautiful designs and colorful patterns. They are also affordable, and are easy to wash! Sometimes, people frame their tenugui and hang them on walls as decoration. You can pick up tenugui at department stores and 100-yen shops, but Tenukuri Studio uses traditional methods to dye their own towels.” (Matcha)

5. Watch Amazing Sunsets From the Sunshine 60 Observation Deck in Ikebukuro

Sunshine City Observation Deck Tokyo Tower

Sunshine 60 is a huge mall in Ikebukuro — in downtown Tokyo. The top floors are home to fantastic things to do when in Tokyo, such as a planetarium, sunshine aquarium, and this excellent observation deck.

Not only is the main observatory one of the tallest structures in the area, giving you magnificent city views, but during a special time of year,  you can witness the sun setting atop Mt Fuji from the angle you get from here — giving you some of the best photo-ops you’ll find in Tokyo — including the landmark Tokyo Tower (second only to the new Tokyo Skytree).

Not to mention the other interesting things to check out inside the Sunshine City complex such as Namja Town, VR game center, electronics shopping (at Bic Camera and Yamada Denki), and of course — excellent dining options.

Sunshine City is easy to access directly from the Ikebukuro Station.

+Map pin to the Sunshine 60 Observation Deck

And don’t miss out on the nearby Shiba Koen when you want to take an outdoor break.

See the Sun Sit Atop Mount Fuji at Tokyo’s Sunshine 60 Observation Deck “SKY CIRCUS Sunshine 60 Observation Deck is holding its 5th Tentai Kanshokai this year where visitors can witness the phenomenon known as Diamond Fuji, a rare occurrence that only happens several times a year where the sun looks like it is sitting on top of the mountain peak and looks like a sparkling diamond.” (MoshiMoshiNippon)

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