By CAMERON LAM
A few decades ago, Japan used to be the strongest country in Asia. It is however now overtaken by China in economy and by Korea in show business. Many people argue that this is because Japan failed to internationalise; a proof would be the establishment of international programmes like PEAK at university level in recent years. As a student, I offer my discoveries so far of Japan’s global elements in Tokyo during my first year of stay.
One does find the presence of music from other countries in Japan. The most distinct and recognisable form would probably be the song choices at karaoke. Japanese karaoke offers a massive range of song choices. From Chinese to Korean to English (sometimes German and Italian, too), they cover three of the world’s largest music industry. Also, all songs come with subtitles in the original language with katakana phonetics. That means if you are Japanese you can sing along with all the songs available at the karaoke. As someone who frequents the karaoke with multinational friends (Japanese, Korean, English, German…), we always have a good time as one of us sing in their native tongue while the rest of us form a backing choir by following the katakana awkwardly. Moreover, Japan is usually included in international music tours. Coldplay visited Japan in March 2017 and Ed Sheeran in November. Even the world’s DJ festival Ultra comes to Japan annually.
Mori Art Museum’s homepage
Of course, you will find samurai armours, katana, noh theatre masks, ancient scrolls and scripts at the Tokyo National Museum. But Tokyo has much more than traditional Japanese art for ye refined spirits. The popular Ghibli Museum in Mitaka contains your favourite Ghibli characters and models. This museum provides an alternative to art enthusiasts who are searching for artworks outside of the realms of fine art and classical pieces.
The Mori Arts Museum in Roppongi keeps its exhibits fresh by changing the theme every few months. Out of my two visits there, I was lucky to have seen artworks about “the space” and paintings of different styles. The first exhibition featured artworks from around the world and art from as early as 16th century, expressing the artists’ interpretation of space. The second exhibition features paintings from 16th to 18th century Central Europe. Referred by the museum as “Old Masters”, artists like Ruben and Titian are introduced to the audience through their work.
An ongoing stream of events in Tokyo is always available at your fingertips awaiting for you to explore. All information is available on the Japan Times website among other places, featuring events from “The Art of Disney” to “Mannequin History Exhibition”, surely you will find your cup of tea.
Image 1: A small whisky collection (all bought in Japan). Photo by author.
Japan most certainly surprised me with its variety of liquor and the incredibly cheap price. A walk around Don Quijote or BIC Camera will have you dazzled by shelves and shelves of liquor with affordable prices. Vodka from Poland, whiskey from Taiwan, wine from Germany… Japan offers a liquor experience that you would not expect. Japan is the heaven for amateur bartenders who want to try out recipes. Be it a special liqueur or a liquor of specified origin, Japan has them all. As a whiskey fan, Japan has definitely amazed me with its whiskey collection. One can purchase Scotch in Japan with a price comparable if not cheaper than that in Scotland. Coupled with its local whiskey industry, Japan offers a unique and global drinking experience. Caution though, the drinking age in Japan is 20, which is older than many foreign countries.