Monday 21 December 2015 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 21/12/2015

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

What a dish

Just when we thought we knew all there was to know about Japanese cooking, the country’s food item of 2015 – as awarded by the Gurunavi Research Institute – turns out to be onigirazu, a dish that might leave even Japan aficionados scratching their heads. A modern twist on the classic onigiri rice ball, onigirazu is the perfect dish for anyone in a hurry. Instead of careful pressing and shaping a rice ball (nigiru), the onigirazu is simply made by putting layers of rice and filling on a sheet of seaweed and folding it over. The fad has gained momentum this year, appearing in magazines and convenience stores but the term isn’t new: Tochi Ueyama coined it for the culinary manga Cooking Papa back in 1991.

Image: Alamy

In good taste

Oseibo – the end-of-year gift-giving season – is big business in Japan and food and drink usually top the list of presents being shipped around the country. This year, however, the traditional ham is proving a less popular gift. Sales of ham – as well as sausages and bacon – have slumped ever since the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer released a report in October stating that processed meats are a cause of cancer. The Japan Ham and Sausage Processors Cooperative Association put out its own statement arguing that the research didn’t take into consideration other lifestyle factors but the damage had already been done. It looks like consumers, who spend billions of yen on oseibo gifts, are finding other ways to say thank you this year.

Image: Alamy

On the move

For many Japanese it’s not easy to get away from the office for a couple of weeks but the year-end holiday is an exception. This year nearly 30.6 million Japanese are expected to be on the move between 23 December and 3 January, according to travel agency JTB’s annual forecast; that’s about a quarter of the country’s population and the highest number in two decades. Domestic travel accounts for almost the entire figure as JTB notes that the weak Japanese yen, safety concerns about going overseas and the shorter-than-average holiday period will likely keep many Japanese closer to home. Think of it as a gift to the economy: domestic tourists are expected to spend just over ¥1trn (€8.4bn), up more than seven per cent from last year.

Image: Getty Images

Sky’s the limit

In Japan seeing the sunrise on 1 January is an auspicious kick-off to the New Year. But finding the best viewing spot will cost you. Consider two Japan Airlines flights from Tokyo’s closest airports, Narita and Haneda. Both Boeing 777 aircraft leave just before 06.00, loop past Mount Fuji at sunrise and take in other sights before landing two hours later; passengers also get a traditional New Year’s bento box meal, sweets and a certificate. For the Narita flight a pair of first-class window seats goes for ¥160,000 (€1,200), while two window seats in economy cost ¥71,000 (€533). Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree also have pay-for-view options. Of course you can always catch the sunrise from a public place, say Rainbow Bridge over Tokyo Bay, the top of Mount Takao or almost anywhere along Japan’s Pacific Coast. It’s all the same if the skies are overcast.

The Monocle Christmas Market

Tyler Brûlé finds a space between Santa Claus and his reindeer to host a special edition of The Stack from The Monocle Christmas Market. Hear from Monocle’s editors and friends as they discuss their seasonal favourites and preferred periodicals against a backdrop of festive fun at Midori House.


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