From sushi tutorials to Studio Ghibli on Netflix, try these novel ways to immerse yourself in Japanese culture without leaving your house.
1.DISCOVER STUDIO GHIBLI
For sheer escapism and stunning artistry, look no further than Studio Ghibli’s anime films. They’ve captivated audiences since 1986 and if you haven’t yet delved into the richly storied archives, now’s your chance. Netflix acquired the rights to a number of Ghibli films this year: must-sees include My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001) – all available now in South Africa.
2. FIND ANCIENT TREASURES
For those keen on Japanese culture and apparel, you can feast your eyes on the silken splendour of its full kimono collection online. The ‘Search the Collections’ function unearths everything from 17th-century traditional treasures to sleek contemporary creations. Meanwhile, the virtual ‘Museum of the World’, curated by the British Museum, boasts a brilliant ‘Asia’ section.
3. PERFECT YOUR SUSHI ROLLS
Every second household during lockdown unleashed a chef in the making. If you haven’t already, why not start or perfect your sushi-making skills at home? Head out to your nearest store or order online from some of SA’s leading food chains for your sushi stock and fill your locked-down pantry with everything you need. Stock up on any and everything from miso paste and yuzu sauce to sushi-making kits and rice, as well as Japanese-style handcrafted tableware. Try this free sushi recipe tutorial.
4. MASTER A NEW ART SKILL
With its intricate scripts and fluid brush-strokes, calligraphy (or shodō) is beloved throughout Japan. It is rooted in meditation and mindfulness, but the practical element is totally immersive, so if you’re struggling to calm your thoughts, a YouTube tutorial could be just the ticket. Look for origami and blockpainting videos too: you might not have all the required materials, but with a bit of initiative (using styrofoam packaging instead of printing blocks, for example), you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve.
5. TRY HOME-STYLE HANAMI
The Japanese tradition of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) might be trickier this year, but you can still get your fix in some ingenious ways: by spying on Tokyo’s pink-petalled Chidorigafuchi moat via the live Sakura Cam, or by browsing the Smithsonian’s stunning collection of blooming artworks.
6. LOSE YOURSELF IN A BOOK
Weaving poignant anecdotes and folklore tales with meticulously researched history and sumptuous prose, Alex Kerr is Britain’s foremost writer on all things Japan. His books and articles, such as Lost Japan (1993) and Dogs and Demons (2001) bring to life his childhood in Yokohama, and reveal the rich customs and culture of his adopted homeland. These are ideal takealot.com.
7. BREW A MOMENT OF CALM
On your next grocery run, stock up on some soothing Japanese sencha green tea, like Pukka’s Organic Supreme bags (available from Faithful to Nature, Wellness Warehouse and some supermarkets). While it’s brewing, pop on Spotify’s ‘Japan Top 50’ playlist, an eclectic mix of Japan’s most-played songs. Prefer baking? Vivid Matcha’s ceremonial-grade matcha powder is perfect for making a matcha crepe cake.
8. CHECK OUT THE TOYOTA AUTOMOBILE MUSEUM COLLECTION
The Toyota Automobile Museum is currently closed, but you can still browse through the amazing collection of cars stored here. The museum collection dates from 1886 to the present day, covering multiple brands from across the globe. Favourites include the 1966 Toyota 2000GT Bond Car from Live and Let Die and the famous Lexus LFA.
9. START WITH A STRETCH
For nearly 70 years, millions of people across Japan have started the day by tuning into rajio taisō (radio calisthenics) on TV and NHK radio – a three-minute routine of low-impact stretching, bending and jumping. Combining bright piano music with a rather sombre male voiceover, it’s a much-loved part of Japanese culture. Give it a go via YouTube – whether in your workout gear or Pikachu costume.