Japan Australia Pages

Monday, September 19, 2016

Tsukimi Burger 2016 McDonald’s Japan

Tsukimi Burger 2016 McDonald’s Japan
The seasonal Tsukimi Burger is back for autumn 2016 in Japan with a brand new addition to the “tsukimi” family.

The Tsukimi Burger (月見バーガー) is named after the famous Japanese tradition of tsukimi (月見) or moon viewing, which is a festival honoring the bright autumn moon.

The Tsukimi Burger has been around for a few years now, first making its first appearance way back in 1991. It has been a popular seasonal favourite ever since and comes back every year in some form or the other. Check out last year’s edition of the Tsukimi Burger. It traditionally contains a beef patty, smoky bacon, a poached egg and a special Aurore sauce made up of ketchup mixed with Japanese mayonnaise. The poached egg in the burger is said to resemble the autumn moon with the egg yolk representing the bright autumn full moon and the egg white the white sky.

This year it is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the brand new “Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger”.

The Tsukimi Burger 


The Tsukimi Burger is the original and some say best version of the burger. It contains a juicy beef patty, smoky bacon, a poached egg and special sauce all in sesame topped buns.

The Tsukimi Burger


The Cheese Tsukimi Burger 


The Cheese Tsukimi Burger is the best in our opinion and is pretty much the same as the original above, with the addition of cheddar cheese, which makes it better.

The Cheese Tsukimi Burger


The Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger 


The brand new Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger is similar to the original but contains a slice of ham instead of bacon, cheddar cheese, and is inside buttery, fluffy, round moon-shaped buns made with fresh cream.

The Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger


The Taste Test 


We at Japan Australia are huge Tsukimi Burger fans, so just had to try the brand new “Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger”. How was it? It was OK! The addition of ham instead of bacon was a minus in our opinion and the buttery soft fluffy buns were good, but give us the original sesame topped buns any day of the week. Overall it was good, but we think we will just stick to "The Cheese Tsukimi Burger" from now on as it is definitely the best in our humble opinion.

Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger Set
Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger Set

Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger Box
Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger Box


A look at the Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger
A look at the Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger

Under the skin of the Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger
Under the skin of the Full Moon Cheese Tsukimi Burger

The Tsukimi Burger series is available from August 31st until the first week of October at McDonald’s restaurants across Japan. Prices for the burgers vary depending on the region of Japan.

McDonald’s Japan Website

The Tsukimi Burger Lineup for 2016
The Tsukimi Burger Lineup for 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

TABICA: A Day with a Bushido Master

TABICA Tour
Are you looking for a truly unique Japanese experience? If you answered ‘yes’, then I have just the tour for you. TABICA is a Japanese tour company established in 2015 with the vision of “connecting people by trips”. They offer fun and unique cultural experiences that allow you to “dive into the life of locals” and experience the real Japan. Each tour is accompanied by an English interpreter, who helps break down the language barriers between foreign tourists and Japanese local hosts, who are monks, geisha, farmers, chefs, bushido masters and many more.

Some of the many tours on offer include; a day with a Buddhist monk at a temple, a day with a bushido (Japanese sword) master at a dojo, a day working with organic farmers, and a day with a soba making master. The tours are located at various places around Tokyo, all within one hour of the Tokyo Metropolitan area.

Shibuya Scramble Crossing in Tokyo
Shibuya Scramble Crossing in Tokyo

I was recently invited along to participate in their “A Day with a Bushido Master” tour, which I accepted with open arms as a huge samurai culture and history fan.

After a brisk 90 minute ride on the Nozomi Shinkansen (bullet train) from Gifu, I arrived in Tokyo, where I made my way to the TABICA office located just off the famous Takeshita-dori street in Harajuku, Tokyo.

Takeshita-dori Street in Harajuku
Takeshita-dori Street in Harajuku

The TABICA staff is available to meet you at their office, or in front of Harajuku Station. The tour heads off as a group with an English speaking interpreter, who is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the subject matter leading the way. They also speak excellent English which is a big relief especially if you can’t speak a lot of Japanese, or are new to Japan, as a first-time visitor.

We arrived at the dojo (training hall) located near Kudanshita Station on the purple Hanzomon Metro line in the early afternoon. The dojo is located on the second floor of an old building and is full of authentic samurai armour, swords, tsuba (samurai sword guards) and pictures. The oldest piece of samurai armour dates from the 17th century and once belonged to a famous samurai in the Kanto region of Japan.

Samurai Armour from the 17th Century
Samurai Armour from the 17th Century

First, we get dressed in our traditional Japanese clothing, which is called keikogi (稽古着) and is the uniform used in martial arts or bushido training. It includes a hakama (袴), the clothing of a samurai, gi (着) and obi (帯). This isn’t as easy as it sounds and actually takes a little bit of work with all instructors on hand to help get us dressed appropriately. You certainly feel the part if not look it in these traditional bushido clothes.

Dressed in Traditional Japanese Martial Arts Clothing called Keikogi
Dressed in Traditional Japanese Martial Arts Clothing called Keikogi

Second, we learned the correct way to enter the dojo and start the training. This is very important in Japanese culture and is called aisatsu (formal greetings). To learn how to do these greetings properly would take a full day’s training. Not much fun, so we did a short condensed version that teaches you the basics to get started. Bow to enter the dojo. Enter the dojo with your right foot, if you are standing on the right side of the room and left foot, if standing on the left side. This is very important and is done as to not step on the kami (god) of the dojo. Bow to the master and then bow to Amaterasu (the sun goddess), who is famously enshrined at Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture. The goddess can magically visit the dojo via a mirror which is placed in a small shrine on the wall of the dojo. This shrine is called the showmen, and is usually at the front of the dojo.

Samurai Armour and Swords in the Dojo
Samurai Armour and Swords in the Dojo

There are many different styles of sword fighting in Japan that have been passed down from generation to generation and from master to master. This school teaches Iaido (居合道), which is a modern Japanese martial art that focuses on the quick drawing of the sword, a resolute attack, and a smooth withdrawal.

The first thing to learn with the swords is how to draw them from the sheath and hold them correctly. This luckily isn’t too hard to learn and can be picked up quite quickly. You learn which part of the sword is best for striking and how to wield the sword in both hands. The key is 80% of the gripping power is in the left hand, while 20% is in the right, which is mainly used for guiding the sword. You also learn the correct stance with right foot forward, well balanced posture with lose shoulders and relaxed hands.

Practicing Kata or Set Movements with the Sword
Practicing Kata or Set Movements with the Sword

There are also many different kinds of sword strikes or cuts, so we learn the basic two of straight cut (makko giri) and diagonal cut (kesa giri) using practice swords.

After practicing the two different strikes via kata (set movements), it was time to put the strikes into action and actually cut something with real swords. Away went the practice swords and out came the shinken, a razor sharp sword. You get to practice the strikes by cutting wet tatami (straw) mats, which have been soaked in water for several days. They actually smell quite fowl, but do a good job of simulating the limbs of a human body.

Surprisingly it doesn’t take much effort to easily cut through the mats with the razor sharp swords and is like slicing through butter with a knife.

Cutting Tatami Straw Mats with the Sword
Cutting Tatami Straw Mats with the Sword

Last of all after working up quite a sweat, it was time to watch the master and his instructors in action. Sitting on the wooden floor of the dojo and watching their precise, graceful and powerful movements was a treat and something that I will soon not forget. It is easy to tell that they have been practising this art for many years and have a great knowledge and experience in handling the swords.

The Iaido Instructors in Action
The Iaido Instructors in Action

I really enjoyed my interactions with the instructors and the sword master, Mr Sakaguchi during the tour. It was great to be able to find out the history behind the samurai armour and various tsuba on display. The master also visits Gifu on a regularly basis as Seki City in the Mino region of Gifu Prefecture is a famous sword-making area, that has been producing high-quality blades since the 13th century. Mr Sakaguchi has a great sense of humour, telling us funny stories as well as many Japanese proverbs (kotowaza), which originate from samurai culture and samurai swords. Most of our interaction is in Japanese, but he throws in a little English now and then, which always brings a laugh.

Training with the Bushido Master
Training with the Bushido Master


Mr Sakaguchi, the Bushido Master
Mr Sakaguchi, the Bushido Master

I highly recommend this tour if you like me have an interest in traditional Japanese martial arts and samurai culture. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

If you are interested in joining a TABICA tour, check out their website, or contact them via email (info-en@tabica.jp). Tell them John Asano from Japan Australia sent you and you are bound to receive the VIP treatment.


TABICA Tour



Friday, August 26, 2016

The Stars’ Fault by John Box

The Stars’ Fault by John Box
The Stars’ Fault is the brand new book by John Box, star of American MaleWhore in Tokyo: The Great White Host.

The Stars’ Fault is a 66 page novella (story) that follows the parallel short stories of Fen, a tenacious 10-year old fighting for his life against cancer, and Vulp, the captain of a space pioneer squadron, fighting for the survival of his species.

Alternating chapters introduce us to three youngsters, Harold, Andromeda, and Fen determined to kick cancer in the butt at a cancer ward in a children’s hospital. In a galaxy far far away, three other valiant intergalactic space pioneers are hurtling through space in the sleek Probe Cruiser LXVIII on an epic space odyssey to continue the existence of their species. The two-books-in-one and alternating chapters keep the story, humour and action at a lively pace.

The book is one part parody (The Fault in Our Stars), two parts mind screw, and three parts the best words. It will make you laugh, cry, and question the nature of the universe. The book breaks your heart by manipulating your emotions and your attachment to the main characters, Fen and Vulp, as well as the sidekicks, who play a prominent role in the story.

I was lucky to receive an advanced copy of the book prior to the launch from the author. I really enjoyed reading the book which is a fun, quick read that left me wanting more! I especially enjoyed the connection that the book has to Japan. John references Japanese culture such as the love story of Orihime & Hikoboshi, which is Tanabata (The Star Festival), as well as having Fen’s favourite author Rowen Boozewell based in Japan. Fen even hatches a plot to take advantage of a wish-granting charity group to try and travel to Japan to meet his hero.

The book just released on August 26 is currently FREE on Amazon from 1 pm (Japan Time) Saturday, August 27 to Tuesday, August 30. It will be $0.99 after that date; you can also pick up a copy of the paperback version on createspace.com for only $3.99. Do yourself a favour and make sure you give it a read.


The Stars’ Fault by John Box

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mountain Day ~ Yama no Hi

Mountain Day
Mountain Day, or Yama no Hi (山の日) in Japanese is a National Holiday that is celebrated every August 11th. The holiday was created with the intention to give the hard-working Japanese a break from work while spending time in the mountains with family members and friends. Mountain Day will celebrate all things mountain-related in Japan, which is a nation whose culture is founded on nature-inspired Shintoism.

History of Yama no Hi 


Mountain Day is a new national holiday in Japan as from 2016, so does not have a lot of history behind it at this stage.

The national holiday was announced by the Japanese Diet in May 2014 and will start being celebrated as a national holiday every August 11, beginning in 2016. The new holiday was created with the intention to provide opportunities to the hard working Japanese to get familiar with mountains and appreciate the blessings from mountains, which dominate 70% of Japan’s land mass. Support of the holiday has come from legislator Seishiro Eto, as well as the Japanese Alpine Club who argued that Shinto beliefs in nature have shaped Japan’s culture and should be celebrated via its peaks and mountains.

The Japanese government planned Mountain Day as a way of fighting the harmful effects of overworking. It is hoped the day will give families an opportunity to bond as well as expose children to nature.

How is Yama no Hi Celebrated? 


Yama no Hi was established as a holiday to allow Japanese citizens time to enjoy nature and spend some more time with their family members and friends. It is a day to express gratitude and appreciate the many great peaks and mountains of Japan, which dominate its landscape and culture.

Mountain Day will celebrate all things mountain-related and has strong ties to nature and Shintoism, which is the ancient religion of Japan. Shinto is a religion that is based on nature and the world in which people live. According to Shinto beliefs, kami or Shinto gods, reside in nature in things like rivers, oceans, trees and mountains.

To celebrate Mountain Day, Japanese people are encouraged to visit rural mountainous areas across Japan with Mount Fuji a popular destination. The inaugural National Ceremony for Mountain Day will be held in the Japan Alps at Kamikochi in Nagano.

We are going to celebrate by heading to the Southern Japan Alps in Gifu and Nagano to take in some spectacular mountain scenery and food.

Festivals and Events for August in Japan

Mountain Day ~ Yama no Hi

Mountain Day
Image Source


Monday, July 18, 2016

Marine Day ~ Umi no Hi

Marine Day, or Umi no Hi (海の日) in Japanese is a National Holiday that is celebrated on the third Monday in July. The holiday is also known as “Ocean Day” or “Sea Day” with the purpose of giving thanks to the sea and to consider the importance of the ocean to Japan as an island nation. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, July 18.

Many people use this holiday and the long weekend it creates to enjoy the summer weather with ocean-related activities very popular.

History of Umi no Hi 


The national holiday was known as Marine Memorial Day (海の記念日), or Umi no Kinenbi until 1996. Marine Memorial Day was established in 1941 to commemorate and mark the anniversary of the 1876 voyage of Emperor Meiji in the Meiji Maru, an iron steamship constructed in Scotland in 1874. The voyage included a trip around the Tohoku region, embarking on a lighthouse boat in Aomori, a brief stop in Hakodate in Hokkaido, before returning to Yokohama on July 20 of that year. It was however not designated a national holiday until 1995, when it became the first national holiday in the summer months.

How is Umi no Hi Celebrated? 


Umi no Hi was established as a holiday to express gratitude for the gifts of the sea and to honour its importance to Japan as a maritime nation.

As a modern holiday in Japan, there are no special customs or traditions associated with the day. July is one of the hottest times of the year in Japan, so many people take advantage of the summer weather to take a trip to the beach. Other popular activities include visiting aquariums, enjoying water shows and water sports, swimming and enjoying a BBQ by the river.

Festivals and Events for July in Japan


Image Source


Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Soft Side of Robots: Elderly Care in Japan

The Soft Side of Robots: Elderly Care in Japan
Japan has long been renowned for its high technology and innovation in the field of robotics. In recent times, it has taken this technology along with its high level of customer service to an even greater level to help make our lives that little bit easier and more comfortable in Japan.


Some examples of this can be found in the world’s first hotel fully staffed by robots in Nagasaki, as well as Japanese companies using drones to deliver goods and basic necessities to the elderly living in remote areas of the country. For more information on robots, check out the Financial Times website.

Japan is one of the world’s fastest ageing societies with a quarter of its population over the age of 65. A low birth rate and very little immigration has led to a shortage of young people to look after its ageing population, forcing it to look into robotic solutions. Automotive giant, Toyota has been actively engaged in robotic research since 2000 in order to help provide practical and affordable tools for elderly care.

Many other companies in Japan are also involved in designing and building robots to provide cost effective care for the elderly. This robot revolution in Japan is aimed at helping to provide the elderly with therapeutic care as well as emotional and physical support.

The financial Times have made an interesting documentary called "In Caring for the Elderly", that takes a look at how Japan is using robotic technology to  provide emotional and physical care to the elderly.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Golden Week in Japan 2016

Golden Week starts today, April 29 in Japan with Showa Day (昭和の日). What is Golden Week? It is basically a collection of four national holidays closely grouped together in the space of seven days from late April to early May. This year in 2016 Golden Week is based on two separate holiday periods from April 29 to May 1 and from May 3 to May 5.

Golden Week and this time in Japan is a celebration of spring with a lot of festivals and historical events taking place all over the country.

The Four National Holidays of Golden Week 


1. Showa Day (April 29) 

The first national holiday of Golden Week is Showa no Hi (昭和の日) or Showa Day, which is the birthday of the former Showa Emperor. It is a day to honour the birthday of the late emperor, as well as to remember the hard work and effort of the Japanese people in rebuilding their country during the turbulent Showa Era (1926 – 1989).

2. Constitution Memorial Day (May 3) 

The second national holiday of Golden Week is Kenpou Kinenbi (憲法記念日) or Constitution Memorial Day. It is a day to commemorate the new Japanese constitution, which was put into effect on May 3, 1947.

3. Greenery Day (May 4) 

The third national holiday of Golden Week is Midori no Hi (みどりの日) or Greenery Day. It is a day to show appreciation for the environment and nature. It is the perfect time to head outdoors and enjoy the beautiful spring weather and fresh green leaves of the season.

4. Children’s Day (May 5) 

The last national holiday of Golden Week is Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日) or Children’s Day on May 5. It is a day for children in general, but is primarily for boys, as girls have their own day called Hina Matsuri on March 3. Children’s Day is a day to celebrate boys and to pray for their healthy growth. It’s a Japanese tradition for families with boys to celebrate this day by raising carp streamers (koinobori) outside their houses around this holiday. Carp are believed to symbolize successes in children’s lives. The black carp of koinobori represent the father, the red carp for the mother, and blue, green, purple or orange for the subsequent children.

Golden Week is one of the busiest travel periods in Japan with most tourist destinations extremely crowded and fully booked out. Airports and train stations are usually overflowing with people during this time and it can be very hard to get reservations for accommodation and transportation during Golding Week without booking months in advance. Many Japanese offices close for about a week to 10 days, depending on the calendar with many workers taking a vacation, traveling abroad or to a popular tourist destination in Japan.

The travel peak is anticipated for around April 29 this year with the return rush around May 8.

If you are not traveling, there are numerous local festivals and events for the whole family to enjoy around Japan.

What are your plans for Golden Week in Japan? Please leave your reply in the comments below.

Colonel Sanders all dressed up for Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day)
Colonel Sanders dressed for Kodomo no Hi

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