F1 2024 Insider's Guide No. 04 – Japan

04 Apr 24

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F1-2024-Insider-s-Guide-No.-04-Japan - GLOBE-TROTTER

From the grandiose metabolic dreamscapes and the accessible designs of high street retailer Muji, to sushi, teppanyaki, tempura, ramen, and a cuisine loved the world over, Japan offers something for every interest.

A visit to the Land of the Rising Sun offers the chance to really delve and discover. Whether it's its ambitious and singular take on design or the complexities and conundrums of Japanese cuisine that go beyond the clichés that are exported to other countries, this is a country with so much to astound and amaze.

Tokyo's coolest shop designs

Norwegian jewellery brand Tom Wood has opened a new flagship store in Tokyo's trendy Aoyama district — citing Japan as its biggest overseas market. The cool, crisp store features furniture by Daisuke Yamamoto and wooden sculptures by Hideki Takayama. Other retail gems to look out for are the brand-new Fender guitar store by Tokyo-based architects Klein Dytham — a group of Europeans who have made Japan their home and taken inspiration from the country.

Another example is Globe-Trotter's Tokyo Flagship, set in a Georgian townhouse with a black and white interior reminiscent of sumi-e, the monochrome Japanese ink paintings that capture the effervescent beauty and complexity of the natural world.

Discover Japan's pioneering architect

Renowned architect, Kisho Kurokawa, designed the Nagoya City Art Museum (near to Suzuka Circuit) and the infamous Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo, which embodied the 'plug-in' philosophies of metabolism, during the fecund period in the 60s when Japan led the world in technology and rationalist thinking. Kurokawa's Hiroshima Museum of Modern Art has just reopened after a renovation added a store and a café with stunning park views.

Where to immerse yourself in anime

Anime fans will be in heaven in Japan – with comic stores, computer games cafés and cartoon cinemas on every corner. Die-hards will not want to miss Ghibli Park, the brand-new flagship of anime behemoths Studio Ghibli, who have promoted this genre beyond Japan with blockbuster movies like The Boy and the Heron and global success Spirited Away. The park, in Nagakate, boasts screening rooms, shops, exhibitions and sculptures that bring the genre to life.

How to travel in style

Tokyo bikes have taken over the world with their minimalist design. Japan's trains are even more famous. The monorail to Haneda Airport in Tokyo is Jetsons-era kitsch. Shinkansen bullet trains set the standard in high-speed rail – the iconic trains with their big noses whisk travellers across the country. Take one to Kyoto where the country's modernism gives way to traditional design – having avoided destruction during World War II by American incendiary bombs, its historic temples and houses made from wood and paper are a big draw.

Learn more about the art of mingei

Another renowned example of Japanese design is Mingei – the 'art of the people.' It mixes traditional origami and patterns with more modern sensibilities with its influence extending into fashion, pottery, and decorative objects for the home. Mingei emerged around the same time as the Arts & Crafts movement William Morris was pioneering in England, a new exhibition on Mingei is running at the William Morris Gallery in London until September. In Tokyo, the Japan Folk Crafts Museum is dedicated to the spirit of Mingei.

An even greater collection of Mingei exists at the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum in Osaka. This building is a relic of the famous Osaka World Expo of 1970, which was masterfully planned by Kenzo Tange and featured strange futuristic art and architectural pavilions from different countries around the world.

 

Design fans should head back to Japan for Design Art Tokyo from 18-27 October 2024, which highlights the greatest in contemporary Japanese art and design from fashion to museums, product design to restaurants.

Southern soul food in Kyushu

The island of Kyushu boasts the most number of restaurants per person of anywhere in Japan, save the capital city. Here you can indulge in such full-flavoured assaults on the senses as kame-no-te (barnacles) and wagyu beef cooked shabu-shabu in the hot pot. Deadly fugu pufferfish has a terrifying killer reputation, but prepared by a skilled chef who slices it thinly, it becomes a delicacy with a kick. Hiya-jiru — the chilled soup of mackerel, sesame seeds and miso is served over rice. Sola in Fukuoka serves a menu degustation that mixes French elements with Japanese produce and tradition to wide acclaim. Hakata Motsunabe Hakkei serves the famous offal hotpot to the denizens of Fukuoka.

 

The craft craze hitting Hokkaido

A visit to the northern island of Hokkaido isn't on most visitors' itineraries, but coming up here lands you squarely in the world of craft breweries. In the capital Sapporo there are dozens of small-scale microbreweries serving suds and filling snacks to go with your frosty brews. Moon Sun features 10 ales while Beer Bar North Island rotates dozens of choices. Beer Inn Mugishutei dates from the 1980s and has a cosy interior with dart board, fussball table and bottles of beer around the walls. Run by an American expat, they offer the best burgers and fries on the island.

Snacks near the Suzuka Circuit

Near to the circuit in Suzuka you can find another gem — Gravy Burger, which dishes up fine interpretations of US beef patties in buns. Elsewhere in Japan it's worth seeking out quirky yoshoku restaurants which serve the eponymous fusion of Japanese and Western food cultures, like the omnipresent hamburger covered in teriyaki sauce and served with rice and pickles or spaghetti with sliced up hot dogs and tomato sauce. Chicken katsu is the most famous dish to come from this tradition and its iconic mix of crispy chicken and Japanese curry sauce served with rice has exploded around the world, but of course is best enjoyed in Japan. Try it all at Issen Yoshoku in Kyoto.

Another recommended choice near to the race action is Atsuta Horaiken Main Restaurant in Nagoya which dishes up the national favourite of grilled eels unagi with white rice in a traditional setting. The crispy eels are not as well-known as katsu curry but remain a draw.

From matcha chocolates to Michelin stars

No visit to Japan should miss the snacks from convenience stores like Matcha KitKats and the satisfying beef rice bowls from the national chain Yoshinoya, so well regarded that Japan Airlines has served them to its passengers. KFC is also wildly popular and enjoyed by Japanese tradition on Christmas Day. At the other end of the scale, Kohaku in Tokyo is revered as one of the world's best restaurants, with three Michelin Stars. It has one of the world's youngest treble starred chefs, Koji Koizumi at the helm, crafting the likes of snow crab with caviar.

The Globe-Trotter x Aston Martin Aramco Formula One® Team partnership celebrates a shared commitment to craftsmanship, innovation, and heritage; bringing together the timeless style of Globe-Trotter’s handcrafted luggage and the cutting-edge design and performance of the Aston Martin Aramco Formula One® Team.

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