5 Things Japan Does Better Than the Rest of the World
Certain countries are renowned for one particular thing: Scotland for whisky, Switzerland for watches, France for gastronomy. But what if we told you there was a place that has perfected all these and then some? Well, there is: Japan.
Don’t worry—this isn’t a jack of all trades, master of none situation. Whether we’re talking fashion or food, when it comes to Japanese craftsmanship, each and every creation is meticulously perfected, fuelled by tradition and pride.
The best news is there’s no need to fork out on airfare to enjoy these finer things. Here’s how to inject a dose of Japan’s unparalleled aesthetic into your life without the jet lag...
The Watch: Seiko
Switzerland may know its timepieces, but for an alternative that will also turn heads, look East to Seiko’s covetable watches, all handcrafted with unmatchable attention to detail.
For example, its Presage collection combines traditional craftsmanship with mechanical watchmaking to create dials that beautifully showcase different forms of skilled artistry, all created in-house by a dedicated team.
The Presage collection uses a super-strong and fine Arita porcelain to form the dials, which takes immense skill and patience (they are fired at 1,300 degrees and glazed by hand). They are created by an experienced manufacturer in Arita itself, which has been making them since 1830. At the helm of this delicate process is master craftsman Hiroyuki Hashiguchi, whose creative genius has fused a rich heritage with modern watch design.
The true beauty of this is that every Seiko craftsman can be named. Whether it’s the artist Isshu Tamura creating Urushi lacquer for the Presage dials, Mitsuru Yokosawa and his application of glossy white enamel, or Shippo enamel expert Wataru Totani, who found a passion for manufacturing at an early age and entered the Aichi Prefectural Seto Ceramics High School, these watches are created by creative authorities with unbelievable CVs, for whom this is a labour of love.
The Whisky: Suntory
Scotland may boast some incredible distilleries but, surprisingly, in 2015 it was a Japanese single malt that was named the best whisky in the world.
So what’s the difference? Well, the climate in Japan is more like Kentucky than the Highlands, which speeds up the maturation process. But what really clinches it is the use of Miruzana barrels made from Japanese oak, which impart a drier, smokier, and peatier flavour compared with scotch.
Our selection is Suntory’s Toki (meaning “time” in Japanese), a blended whisky from the brand’s three distilleries, Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita, created using the purest water in the country. With a nose of basil, green apple and honey followed by a subtly sweet and spicy finish with a hint of vanilla oak, it will bring a tear to the eye of even the proudest Scotsman.
The Food: Sake no Hana
France is known as the destination for culinary luxury, but in some respects it’s surpassed by Japan, where intricate cooking methods are legendary.
“For me, authentic Japanese food is about flavorings and techniques,” explains celebrated head chef Hideki Hiwatashi, who has been cooking professionally for 27 years. He owns Sake no Hana in London.
“Tradition is incredibly important in cooking, as all areas of Japan are dominated by nature, from the rivers that flow out of the rugged mountains to the sea that surrounds it,” says Hideki. “All regions have their own speciality meat, fish and vegetables that are a bounty of the climate and geography of the region.”
But this ethos is not confined to the East. “I always craft Sake no Hana’s dishes with ingredients sourced from the UK, Kyoto and Hokkaido,” states Hideki. “It is this combination of seasonality, locality and a focus on natural flavors that makes Japanese food so delicious—like the Nasu Goma Arare, which is aubergine with fresh fig and roasted sesame miso sauce, the most popular item on our Signatures of Sake no Hana menu.”
The Menswear: Ring Jacket
Japan is leading the way in avant-garde tailoring, eclipsing London, New York and Paris. At the crest of this stylish wave is Ring Jacket, which fuses classic Italian cuts with contemporary Japanese design and premium fabrics.
Even though it’s ready-to-wear, it looks and feels custom-made because the garments are made with a full-canvas construction that utilises the hand-sewing skills of artisans in their Osaka workshop.
The brand’s speciality is jackets, with vintage styles such as Oxford-esque boating stripes and safari-inspired waist-tie jackets taking center stage, all made to mix and match with other smart separates for an eclectic look.
The Fragrance: Di Ser
Grasse in the South of France may be the obvious fragrance hotspot, but for something truly different, look to Hokkaido, where Di Ser creates distinctive scents from local ingredients, favouring high quality over mass production and synthetic materials.
One of its most popular scents, Kyara, is named after the fragrant wood used in the traditional incense-burning ritual of K?d?, long celebrated by the Japanese as having one of the finest scents in existence. The perfume also features notes of other smoky woods, such as agarwood and cedarwood, as well as rose otto, for a decadently dark floral aroma.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.