If you haven’t been counting, it’s been 1 year and 36 days (as of April 23) since travel restrictions were announced in Singapore. The lack of travel has been agonising. Nowhere to spend your annual leaves, an Instagram feed full of #tbt photos and 365 days of weather that only changes from hot to hotter. *cries*
Of course, not travelling is the responsible thing to do during these special times. But when the weather forecast says it’s 33 degrees outside, we can’t help but wish we were walking on the streets of 20°C Tokyo, admiring the beautiful sakura in Ueno Park, and eating the freshest sashimi in the land of the rising sun. If Japan was part of your cancelled travel plans or on the top of your places-to-visit-after-the-pandemic list, hear me out.
Here are six ways you, while stuck in sunny Singapore, can still feel like you are in Japan; or Nihon, as the Japanese call it.
1. Visit a Japanese food street
All the way in the west, Shokutsu Ten brings a slice of Japan to our city-state. Walk through the entrance of this Japanese food street—inspired by the Kabuki theatre in Tokyo—and enter the bustling streets of Osaka. Complete with neon signs and huge floating lanterns, have a taste of Japan, quite literally, through the many Japanese delicacies they have to offer.
Location: Jurong Point, 1 Jurong West Central 2, #B1-47, Singapore 648886
2. Take a floral-themed #ootd at the Japanese Cemetery Park
Built in 1891, the Japanese Cemetery Park was used to serve the burial needs of Japanese residents in Singapore. The Japanese architecture and statues give the park a zen and tranquil vibe, but the highlight would be the floral archways lined with pretty pink bougainvilleas. You might not be able to catch the cherry blossoms in Japan, but this place comes close to being just as whimsical!
Pro tip: visit right after the monsoon season or after it rains, for the pinkest, most picturesque scene.
Location: 22 Chuan Hoe Avenue, Singapore 549854
3. Surround yourself with the latest manga
For all the manga and anime fans out there, Akihabara is a place not to be missed when visiting Tokyo. While there aren’t rows of maid cafes or manga shops in Singapore, we do have Japan’s largest bookstore chain, Kinokuniya. With its flagship outlet stocking over 400,000 books, it is easy to spend a few hours looking through the shelves of Japanese manga and magazines, as well as books from around the world — and for a moment, feel as if you were visiting a quaint bookstore located in Japan.
Location: 391 Orchard Road, #04-20/20B/20C Ngee Ann City, Takashimaya Shopping Centre
4. Immerse yourself in the way of tea
What’s Japan without matcha? For the Japanese, traditional tea ceremonies are a big part of their culture. But you don’t have to fly to Japan to learn the way of tea! Immerse yourself in an authentic Japanese tea experience, complete with yukatas and tatami floors that will make you forget you are still in Singapore. Be guided on how to sit, move, accept, pour, present and drink matcha as the Japanese do.
Find out more here!
5. Experience authentic omakase
Omakase, お任せ in Japanese, means ‘I'll leave it up to you’. There is no menu, you simply have to trust the chef! In the world of fine dining, omakase meals are known for their utmost quality and each dish being artfully crafted by the chef to showcase the best of seasonal Japanese produce.
While some of the best omakase restaurants are found in Japan, Singapore has her own line up of authentic omakase restaurants as well — from the 2 Michelin-starred Shoukouwa whose sashimi is flown in fresh daily from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market, to a range of affordable options that will not burn a hole in your wallet.
6. Spend the afternoon in a Japanese cat café
Tokyo is known for its animal cafés. Owls, capybaras, miniature piggies; all for you to cuddle and relax with over a cup of coffee. While there are a variety of cuddle-worthy animals in Japan, the original craze started with cat cafés. And what’s more therapeutic than spending an afternoon with fluffy felines? If you share a love for all things neko (Japanese for ‘cat’), check out Singapore’s list of cat cafés here.
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At Culturally, we offer customised hands-on cultural experiences for you and your loved ones to enjoy and have fun whilst learning about other cultures. Check out our full list of experiences here!