Navigate your way through a row of tall buildings and condos near College and Bay, and you’ll stumble upon floor-to-ceiling windows that invite you into a trendy and stylish hair salon. Hiroki is a veteran hairstylist who polished his skills in both Japan and Canada over the years before joining forces with partner Jessie to open N15 Hair Salon last September.The name of the salon is a cute reference to November 2015—back when Jessie was still a client of Hiroki’s, and when they decided that they would open a hair salon together.

“Japanese hairstylists really understand Asian hair and there’s quite a demand in Toronto because a lot of people realize how sophisticated our technique is,” says Jessie. At N15 Hair Salon, you’ll be primped and pampered with the latest hairstyles that are trending in Japan, and you’ll have the option to get a digital perm or straight perm using Japanese solutions brought directly from overseas. If you want to change your look with a new hair colour, they will set you up with high-quality hair dyes that are also from Japan.

(Some popular colouring techniques are ombre, sombre and balayage.) You can also get a Japanese hair treatment and eyelash extensions. Pop in on your way home from work or school and freshen up your look!



Japanese fashion has finally arrived


Women’s Camisole Jumpsuit

Combining a compact top and wide-leg pants, you’ll be trendy and comfortable in this jumpsuit!


Women’s Ribbed Cotton Flare Striped Half-Sleeve Dress

Celebrate the warming spring weather with this nautical-style cotton jersey dress.


Women’s Drape Trench Coat

Made with lightweight yet durable Tencel, a sustainable fabric,this trench will add sophistication to any outfit.

The presence of a Japanese district in Toronto was cemented by the arrival of two of Japan’s fashion giants. If you’ve somehow missed the hype around Uniqlo’s Canadian launch last fall at the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale, let’s catch you up. This brand prides itself on providing well-made, stylish clothes that act as a “fashion toolbox” from which customers can mix and match to express their own unique style. Uniqlo is less about dictating what you should wear and more about providing a wealth of options to showcase your individuality.

CF Toronto Eaton Centre 3F, 220 Yonge St., Toronto |
OPEN: Mon–Fri 10 am–9:30 pm
Sat 9:30 am–9:30 pm ● Sun 10 am–7 pm

MUJI Atrium

From clothing, to stationery, to house-wares: MUJI has it all


Cuckoo Clock

This cute cuckoo will cheerfully greet you on the hour. Bring some character to the walls of your home!


Well-Fitted (Microbead) Neck Cushion

With tiny microbeads, this travel pillow twists and bends in any way needed to keep you comfy on the go.


Gel-Ink Ballpoint Pen

No more frustration! These pens are precise and easy to use, giving you smooth, clean, unbroken lines.

The other Japanese fashion pillar holding down the entrance to Little Tokyo is lifestyle retailer MUJI’s Atrium location. First-time visitors to MUJI often spot the housewares section and mislabel the brand as a Japanese Ikea. However, if we’re making these comparisons, MUJI could also be a Japanese H&M and a Japanese Papyrus. MUJI is famous for its stylish minimalism, an esthetic statement it applies equally to fashion, lifestyle items and stationery. In one trip, you can pick up a classy blazer, a modular storage unit and a cute card, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any Swedish meatballs!

Atrium, 20 Dundas St. W., Toronto
TEL: 416-591-2233 |

OPEN: Mon–Fri 10 am–8 pm ● Sat 10 am– 7 pm ● Sun 11 am–5 pm

Don Don Izakaya

Spend a lively night out in Little Tokyo


Spicy Seafood Udon

Rich pork broth seasoned with spicy sesame oil, brimming with delicious seafood!


Spicy Okra Tofu with Pork

A Japanese twist on a popular Chinese dish, mabo dofu or fried tofu with ground meat in a spicy sauce.


Otafuku Omelette

This omelette is made with takoyaki dough and stuffed with yakisoba and mentaiko (pollock roe).

Don Don was one of the first Japanese businesses to set up shop on Dundas West, and this raucous izakaya has since become the go-to location for those looking for dinner, drinks and a great time. In addition to the standard, Japanese-tapas-inspired fare and drinks you’d expect of an izakaya, Don Don offers an impressive selection of sake. Don Don’s signature fixture is a large taiko drum that the servers strike to welcome each new party to the restaurant. If you’re looking for a memorable night out in Little Tokyo, what better way to start it off than with a drumroll?

130 Dundas St. W., Toronto
TEL: 416-492-5292
OPEN: Lunch: Mon–Fri 11:30 am–4 pm Dinner: Sun–Thurs 5 pm–12 am ● Fri–Sat 5 pm–1 am


The only dessert shop of its kind on this side of the Pacific


Tsujiri Sundae

A sweet treat! Layered with chestnuts, mochi (rice cake), red bean paste and brown rice puffs.


Houjicha Latte

Powdered Houjicha, or roasted green tea, blended with milk. Experience the nutty aroma!


Matcha Latte

This latte is made with fine tea-ceremony-grade matcha powder. Delicious hot or cold.

The Dundas West Tsujiri location is not only the first in Canada but also the only one in the Western Hemisphere! Given that fact, it’s no wonder that this cute dessert boutique often sees lineups out the door. You could call Tsujiri a Japanese take on Starbucks if you were to swap out all the coffee for delicious Japanese matcha. Tsujiri mixes up this staple and other famous Japanese teas by blending them into all manner of lattes, cappuccinos and iced drinks. The shop also uses its authentic, high-quality matcha powder in a range of cakes, pastries, ice creams and other desserts.

147 Dundas St. W., Toronto
OPEN: Daily 11:30 am–10:30 pm

Yutaka Japanese Cuisine

The perfect place for your sushi party


Assorted Sashimi

Fresh seafood at its best. The selection may change depending on the catch of the day. Served with grated wasabi and pickled ginger.


Beef Tataki

AAA-ranked Canadian seared fillet beef, served with vinegar-soybean paste or citrus-soy sauce


Yellowtail Neck

A great companion to your sake! This rich, fatty yellowtail neck is grilled in the Japanese style.

Though it may look like just another izakaya from the outside, Yutaka is a hidden gem of Little Tokyo for the sushi lover. While it offers some standard Japanese fare, like donburi rice bowls and noodle dishes, Yutaka focuses on providing top-notch sushi for pretty reasonable prices. The restaurant has a great open atmosphere and can accommodate larger parties a lot more easily than most of the smaller, more cramped sushi restaurants in the city. Yutaka is open for both lunch and dinner—and, if you’re looking for lunch, their Sushi Lunch for Two is a particularly good deal.

157 Dundas St. W., Toronto
TEL: 416-596-6877
OPEN: Lunch: Mon–Fri 11:30 am–3 pm Dinner: Mon–Fri 5 pm–10 pm Sat–Sun 5 pm–Close

Uncle Tetsu’s Angel Café

Little Tokyo’s one and only maid café


Angel Hat

Angel Café’s signature cake is this custard-infused cheesecake that’s moist and bouncy.


Matcha Latte

Enjoy a warm drink with cute latte art!


Original Cheesecake

Light and fluffy, the original cheesecake that’s at the heart of everything Uncle Tetsu.

As its frequent lineups out the door can attest, Uncle Tetsu’s Angel Café is one of the most popular attractions along Dundas West. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because the Angel Café is an expansion of Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake shop—offering the same mouth-watering desserts you’ve lined up for, except served by the uncle’s friendly maids. That’s right: a maid café in Toronto! This eccentric bit of Japanese culture is definitely something you need to experience, and you no longer have to y to Akihabara to do it. If you time your visit right, you can even enjoy your Uncle Tetsu treats while taking in a live performance by the maids on the Angel Café stage.

191 Dundas St. W., Toronto
TEL: 647-351-2666 |

OPEN: Mon–Thurs 3 pm–10 pm ● Fri–Sat 12 pm–10:30 pm ● Sun 12 pm–10 pm

TAKEOUT: Mon–Thurs 1 pm–10 pm Fri–Sat 12 pm–10:30 pm ● Sun 12 pm–10 pm


Taking the sushi roll to a new level



Everybody’s favourite snack! Pancake batter that is fried in the shape of a ball, with diced octopus in the centre.


Classic Salmon Wrap

Have a temaki lunch! Salmon, carrot, kale and avocado are wrapped in white rice and nori.


Wasabi Tuna Bowl

A bowl of happiness with fresh sliced tuna. Health-conscious customers can substitute brown rice for white rice.

Whereas Yutaka is the go-to spot for the sit-down, sushi-and-sashimi crowd, Rolltation is for those who aren’t afraid of a little culinary fusion. In a groundbreaking move that would cause consternation to sushi masters everywhere, Rolltation has brought Toronto its first sushi burrito. Yes, you read that right, and it is definitely as delicious as it sounds. Picture your typical maki roll, except giant, with flavours that range from Wasabi Tuna to Curry Chicken. If that sounds a little too adventurous, they also offer poké bowls: the Hawaiian culinary rice bowl creation that is part donburi, part chirashi sushi and fully delicious.

207 Dundas St. W., Toronto

TEL: 647-351-8986
OPEN: Daily 11 am–10 pm


Chef Leemo Han has cultivated a distinct brand. His food sits at an intersection between big American flavours and traditional Korean and Japanese tastes. With a mix of influences from Philly to Seoul, he has developed his own idiom with a local feel. At Hanmoto, this local vibe has perhaps reached its purest expression in a Japanese izakaya that is so low-key you could walk past it a hundred times without suspecting it’s one of the hottest locations on Dundas West.

Inside, neon lights peek out from behind wooden screens and reclaimed window panes, casting a glow on the bare cinderblock walls and providing spots of illumination in the dim dining room, making it seem more cavernous than it really is. With its kitchen nestled in the corner, surrounded by beer kegs, piled-up stools and other objects somewhere in between junk and treasure, the restaurant feels like a back-alley food stall that’s seen decades of action. Since it opened in 2015, the little izakaya has become the closely guarded secret of an ever-growing crowd of locals and restaurant industry professionals.

Dyno Wings

They look like normal chicken wings, but they have been deboned using a secret technique and stuffed with ground pork—this is decadent, gourmet fast food

At first blush, the menu at Hanmoto is traditionally Japanese, with flame-seared Salmon Aburi and rich Nasu Dengaku (glazed eggplant), but dishes like the trademark Dyno Wings suggest that you’re in for more of Chef Han’s trademark amped-up flavours. Growing up in Philly, Chef Han developed a connection to homey, hearty American food. While he doesn’t apologize for incorporating the bold influences of casual North American cooking, he also embraces the strong flavours of Japanese comfort food and traditional Korean cuisine. These are tastes that he relates to personally that other chefs might shy away from presenting to a North American palate.

Salmon Aburi

This torched raw salmon on rice is pure Japanese comfort food—rich and salty with an expansive, smoky note.

What one person grew up with can seem exotic to another, but by highlighting familiar, traditional flavours from all of the cuisines he holds dear, Chef Han creates dishes that are comforting and unexpected at the same time, and always satisfying. Eating at Hanmoto captures that magic aspect of discovering a new cuisine where a taste that at first seems completely foreign turns into your comfort food.

Bar chef Inh Huh confirms that the regulars get attached to their favourites. “Some flavours might be challenging at first, but soon people are coming back to order the same dishes again and again.” The same goes for the cocktail menu he created— many Hanmoto originals have been on the menu for years because they get ordered more than traditional cocktails. One of the classics is the super-refreshing Arisaka Sour, like a Pimm’s Cup with a yuzu bite. It also helps that the kitchen is reliably open until 2 am, so you know you can always satisfy that 1:30 am craving for a miso steak.


A gorgeously hand-drawn, high-energy adventure”

New films from Academy Award-nominated director Hiromasa Yonebayashi always bring with them a lengthy tracery of connections running deep into the house of modern Japanese animation, Studio Ghibli. He was the animator for such Miyazaki-directed classics as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo. He also directed The Secret World of Arrietty and one of Ghibli’s final films, When Marnie Was There.

When, in 2014, Studio Ghibli decided to stop production and reevaluate its future in the world of animation, talented alumni such as Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura struck out on their own and founded Studio Ponoc. We are relieved and happy to report that Yonebayashi and Nishimura have managed a seamless transition from the Ghibli house in terms of quality, visual style and storytelling sensibility with their first production, 2017’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower.

The film is based on Mary Stewart’s 1971 classic children’s book The Little Broomstick, and it is interesting to note that both of Yonebayashi’s other films took British young adult literature as their sources: Arrietty is based on Mary Norton’s 1952 novel The Borrowers and Marnie on Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 book of the same name. With Mary, Yonebayashi again visits the alien and exotic world of pastoral England in the middle of the last century where we meet a determined young ginger girl living an isolated life in the countryside, watched over by her kindly great-aunt Charlotte. One day, sick with boredom, Mary follows a mysterious cat into the nearby forest, where she discovers an old broomstick and the strange Fly-by-Night flower, a rare plant that blossoms only once every seven years and can grant magical powers. Together the flower and the broomstick whisk Mary above the clouds, and far away to the Hogwartian Endor College—a school of magic run by headmistress Madam Mumblechook. Mary is fascinated and presents herself as a new student. A quick study, and possessing the flaming red hair of the most talented witches, Mary is seen as a gifted prodigy until she is exposed as a pretender and a trespasser. She is then locked up and must find her way home before her magic runs out.

With Mary, one could argue that Ponoc, perhaps suffering from opening-night jitters, sticks a little too closely to the Ghibli model. Mary is a vintage Miyazaki heroine: spunky, high-spirited and desperately bored. Her flying broom is a direct lift from Kiki’s Delivery Service and the film’s meticulously rendered animation delivers the sumptuous colour and the kinetic fluidity of Yonebayashi’s Ghibli work. But why quibble? These are exactly the qualities that audiences feared might be lost with the closing of Ghibli. So Mary is something to celebrate: a gorgeously hand-drawn, high-energy adventure that will entertain both children and their parents.

We look forward to Yonebayashi’s next visit to the English countryside. It would be lovely to see Brambly Hedge, Toad Hall or Burnett’s Secret Garden through his lovingly polished Japanese lens.


Hungry for more? Let’s dig in!

It’s no secret that Toronto has a big appetite for Japanese food. The city’s growing enthusiasm for dishes like sushi and ramen has been a boon to Japanese chefs who choose to make Toronto home, and diners’ palates have naturally become more exacting as they are treated to more and more excellent Japanese cuisine. However, while many Japanese chefs in Toronto have found success catering to the city’s existing appetites, it is less common to see a chef break new ground in the type of cuisine they offer.

Chef Izutsu’s story is certainly an uncommon one. He arrived in Toronto as the private chef to the Japanese Consulate General. Far from catering to novice tastebuds, from his first days in the city he was serving the likes of government officials, renowned artists and even the Japanese Imperial Family. These patrons were familiar with a Japanese fine dining style, kaiseki, that is less known in the West. When he decided to open his first restaurant, Sakura, Izutsu’s mission was to teach Torontonians about Japan’s traditional style of haute cuisine with its meticulous, multi-course meals and emphasis on seasonal ingredients.

His new restaurant, Yukashi, is refined and minimal, but also very intimate. With the kitchen taking up about half the available space and separated from the dining room only by a broad wooden bar, you get the feeling that you could be a private guest in the chef’s own house. Izutsu’s disarmingly casual manner in the kitchen only heightens this feeling. But if you’re expecting casual fare, you are in for a surprise. You will soon realize that the lack of pomp is founded in Izutsu’s confidence that his food can speak for itself.

Fittingly, one aspect of Japanese haute cuisine that the chef has truly mastered is the judicious use of surprise. Kaiseki is known for its attention to presentation, including a custom of skillfully disguising one food as another. But this tradition is not just an amusing parlour trick. Wielded by Izutsu, the misdirection leads diners to rediscover familiar flavours as if for the first time.

Of course, for this trick to work, it’s essential for the flavours you discover to truly stand out.That’s why Yukashi’s menu is updated regularly to reflect the freshest seasonal ingredients, most of which are own in from Japan and then combined into inventive dishes. Here, kaiseki’s seemingly contradictory emphasis on simple, fresh ingredients and elaborate presentation both serve the same purpose: showcasing the intrinsic qualities of the ingredients.

Back when Izutsu opened Sakura, heremembers that his patrons had never seen fresh grated wasabi. “They would say, ‘I thought wasabi came in a tube.’” A decade later, Toronto’s restaurant-goers are educated about Japanese ingredients and there is a demand for the same quality you can find in Japan, thanks in large part to Izutsu’s contribution. Lucky for them Yukashi is here to meet that demand.


With cooler weather on the horizon, it won’t be long before we’re all craving our favourite hot teas and instant noodle flavours. But sometimes it can seem like it takes forever to get hot water from a kettle, or worse, a pot on the stove. Yet while a watched pot never boils, you can get hot water conveniently and quickly with the addition of a hot water dispenser to your kitchen. And a hot water dispenser that makes your favourite tea healthier? Even better!

The Panasonic 4.0-Litre electric thermo pot features an inner pot that is coated with Binchotan carbon, a type of charcoal used in traditional Japanese cooking dating back to the Edo period. The superior cooking quality of binchotan comes from its ability to sustain heat, burning at a lower temperature for an extended period of time—longer than traditional charcoal. Binchotan itself is known to have purifying properties, such as the ability to remove chlorine and heavy minerals from water. Like traditional Binchotan charcoal, the coated inner pot in the hot water dispenser does not release odours into the water, ensuring fresher and cleaner-tasting water as it purifies while it heats. What’s more, this specially designed inner pot heats the water in a way that brings out the natural flavours and health benefits of tea, ensuring a tastier, healthier cup.

Panasonic also added its proprietary U-VIP insulation panel to the inner pot, ensuring the water inside is kept warmer for longer. Because of this feature, this hot water dispenser uses up to 40% less energy than other dispensers by needing to do less of the work of reheating the water each time. This ensures quick and easy access to hot water when you finally coax yourself up out of your cosy seat on the couch for a refill. This dispenser even features a timer, so you can set it to be ready just as you emerge out from under the warm covers in the morning, or better yet, as soon as you come in from the cold.


Come on in, the water’s warm! Watch your worries evaporate like the steam of a hot spring at this charming mountain destination.

When was the last time you truly relaxed? The last time you let go of your day-to-day worries and responsibilities, cleared your mind completely and felt a much-needed sense of relief wash over you? Perhaps it was sometime last week on the couch, last weekend in Savasana or even last night in the bathtub—but no matter where it was, I’d wager a guess that it wasn’t quite as scenic as this: one of Japan’s most breathtaking onsen.

Nestled in the picturesque mountains surrounding Obanazawa, Yamagata Prefecture, Ginzan Onsen is a sight to behold. Literally “silver mountain hot spring,” this postcard-perfect onsen village is situated on land originally built up around a silver mine—hence the name. Featuring a river lined with traditional wooden ryokan (Japanese-style inns) and quaint, pedestrian-only streets at its centre, Ginzan Onsen beckons visitors from near and far to come and slip into a bygone place and time—and to put their feet up for a while.

Escaping to hot springs to relax and rejuvenate has long been a favourite pastime in Japan. The first recorded onsen in Japanese history dates back over a thousand years—back to a time when the hot water from natural springs was considered to be a sacred gift from the gods. Popularity continued to pick up in the 12th century with the Buddhist understanding that onsen water had the power to cleanse and purify the body and mind. And nowadays? Well, you’d certainly be hard-pressed to find many Japanese—singles, couples, families young and old—who haven’t experienced (or don’t long for) an onsen weekend away

So, in today’s fast-paced, high-tech cultural climate—particularly in megacities like Tokyo and Osaka—it’s easy to see why locals and foreigners alike are enticed by a place like Ginzan Onsen. Picture it for yourself:

it’s December and snow is lightly falling. Taking a high-speed train and then a short bus ride, you arrive at the sleepy village after dusk. The wooden roofs are sprinkled with snow and gas lanterns softly light the walking bridges that cross the central river. White-capped mountains in the distance are framed by a twilight sky. You’re greeted with a smile at your ryokan and equipped to settle in for a cosy night’s rest on traditional futon beds laid out on tatami floors. All is quiet until morning, when it’s time to explore this endearing little town.

The village centre has three public onsen (Shirogane, Kajikayu and Omokageyu) available for a small fee, and many ryokan also open up their indoor baths to non-guests during the day. For those too shy to strip down, there are several foot baths around town that can be enjoyed for free. Visitors can hot-spring hop to their hearts’ content but should be mindful of the rules set out at each onsen or bath—from thoroughly rinsing off before bathing (entering the water dirty or still wearing soap from the showers is frowned upon) to respecting the peaceful, meditative atmosphere of many baths. Quiet conversation is acceptable, and some excitement from children is to be expected, but most guests will be looking to immerse themselves—physically into the water and figuratively into total relaxation.

After a good soak—or if the springs just aren’t your thing—there’s plenty to do around town. A short walk will take youto the base of Shirogane Falls, a beautiful 22-metre waterfall, and a nature trail through a valley that’s perfect for hiking (but may be closed if there’s too much snow). Not far from the waterfall, visitors can check out the historic entrance to the silver mine that dates back over 500 years and was the lifeline of Obanazawa during the Edo period. Tip your head and enter the tunnel to get a sense of what the area’s miners experienced hundreds of years ago.

There’s no shortage of onsen to explore across Japan, but Ginzan Onsen stands out among the rest. It’s no surprise the area has been featured in a multitude of television dramas and movies for its esthetic appeal. Oozing with warmth and traditional simplicity, “Japan’s most charming winter village” (as CNN Travel coined it) is the perfect escape from the bright lights of big cities. Visit at this time of year (Christmas getaway, anyone? A romantic New Year’s Eve, perhaps?) to get the full effect—the snowy surroundings will make the water feel that much warmer.


A tiny, perfect gem that took Japanese audiences by storm based entirely on word of mouth.



One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Director: Shinichiro Ueda
Screenplay: Shinichiro Ueda
Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Harumi Shuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Mao
Running time: 95 minutes

A film crew enters an abandoned military test facility to make a zombie film, only to come under attack from actual zombies. The director decides to keep shooting and we are soon treated to an unlikely and hilarious celebration of filmmaking and the bonds of family.

“Laugh-out-loud hilarious and a gleefully heartfelt reminder of why we love movies.”
In 1982, Michael Frayn’s smash hit comedy Noises Off opened in London’s West End. The first of its three acts was a typical British sex farce. The remainder of the play revisits that first act, but from backstage, and we are treated to a riot of clashing egos, petty squabbling, technical disasters and general chaos. The play was a huge hit and is considered by many to be one of the funniest theatre pieces of the 20th century. To that conceit, graft a grade-Z Japanese zombie movie and a heartfelt celebration of resourcefulness and the bonds of family, and you have a rare and joyous thing called One Cut of the Dead.

In Japan the film was a phenomenon. Made by an unknown director (Shinichiro Ueda) with an unknown cast—many non-professionals—One Cut opened in two tiny theatres. Entirely through word of mouth the film took off. Tickets were impossible to get and eventually this “little film that could” found itself at the top of the Japanese box office.

The first 35 minutes present us with the final product: a marginally entertaining zombie flick, amazingly shot entirely in one long, single take. A film crew enters an abandoned military test facility to make a zombie film, only to come under attack from actual zombies. The director decides to keep shooting the requisite blood-soaked mayhem ensues. It is an amateurish slice of undead pandemonium punctuated by all manner of technical flubs, stilted dialogue and general randomness culminating in a triumphant crane shot of the heroine standing in a bloody pentagram, raising her gory axe. The final credits roll and then the film begins in earnest.

We find ourselves one month earlier as sad-sack karaoke director Higurashi (his motto: “I’m fast, cheap, but average”) is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance: the near-impossible task of making a live-to-air zombie movie in a single cut. Returning home, we meet his distracted ex-actress wife and rebellious film school daughter. We also meet his crew, which includes a pop singer-turned-actress and a pompous lead actor convinced he is too good for the material. Family and professional relations are strained and deteriorate as the broadcast date approaches but Higurashi soldiers on, driven by mild ambition and a kind of panicked inertia.

The film’s final section presents the actual filming of the movie we saw in Act 1 and it is an ingeniously constructed symphony of clockwork hilarity and chaos: actors and chew arrive blackout drunk or suffering from explosive diarrhea, last-second cast changes must be made and a vital piece of equipment is catastrophically damaged mid-shoot. Ueda defines his characters nicely and economically in the second act and the repetition on the first injects the final mayhem with a clear spatial coherence. It is an exhilarating and sophisticated piece of cinema brilliantly dressed up as shoddy DIY.

One Cut of the Dead is laugh-out-loud hilarious and a gleefully heartfelt reminder of why we love movies and the resourceful spirit of low-budget filmmaking. At the most recent Toronto Japanese Film Festival, two visiting A-list directors asked us if we had seen the film and recommended it highly. We echo that recommendation. Be prepared to leave the theatre with a big goofy grin on your face.

One Cut of the Dead screens at the JCCC as a co-presentation of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and the Toronto Japanese Film Festival on November 15.


Rich with culture, history and fresh mountain air, this popular getaway spot is the gem of the Japanese Alps.

Tucked away in the northern alpine region of Gifu Prefecture lies one of the country’s oldest and most well-preserved cities: Hida Takayama. Literally translating to “tall mountain,” Takayama (“Hida”—a reference to the area’s traditional province—was informally added to help differentiate the city from other places in Japan) lives up to its name with its high-altitude position and generous surface area. Historically largely isolated due to its mountainous location, the area has retained a distinctly traditional feel—lending its visitors the perfect chance to step back in time.

There are seemingly endless opportunities to immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture and history in Takayama. A short walk from the central train station, JR Takayama, the city’s beautifully preserved old town waits to welcome you, showcasing buildings and houses that date all the way back to the Edo period (1603–1868). Explore the handful of quaint streets by foot or rickshaw and you’ll find shops, cafés and sake breweries that have been operating for centuries. For the full experience, rent a kimono—or a kamishimo (a formal clothing set worn by Edo-period samurai) for men—and browse the streets in style.

In the mood for entertainment? There’s no shortage of it among the venues offering insight into traditional music, dance, arts and crafts, and ceremony etiquette. Watch a drum performance or try your hand at playing the shakuhachi, a traditional bamboo flute. Enjoy a tea ceremony or learn about shakyo, the art of copying Buddhist scripture with the intention of clearing the mind. Find yourself transfixed by a kabuki performance or take a lesson in traditional Japanese dance. Ryokan Kaminaka, the central hub of Japanese performing arts in Takayama, is so popular that visitors must book weeks in advance.

Breathe it in

But nothing combines the rich cultural context of Takayama with its stunning mountainous backdrop quite like Hida no Sato, or the Hida Folk Village. An open-air museum established in 1971, the village features more than 30 traditional buildings, preserved and relocated from various parts of the former Hida province. Framed by lush greenery or snowy peaks depending on the time of year, structures like past villagers’ homes, logging huts and that ched-roof farmhouses feature centuries-old architecture, tools and utensils and can be explored inside and out. In cooler months, the buildings’ wood-burning fireplaces are lit each morning, making the experience that much more authentic and memorable.

And if all of the previously mentioned walking and wandering just isn’t enough, there are plenty more ways to get your steps in. Visitors to Takayama aren’t typically coming in search of a big-city vibe—rather, the beautiful mountains, hills and trails surrounding the city are one of its main draws. Hike or ski to your heart’s content depending on the season, or enjoy a peaceful stroll along Higashiyama Yuhodo, a pleasant 3.5-km walking course that passes more than a dozen temples and shrines plus wooded hills, parks and the ruins of Takayama Castle. The course is the perfect way to get a healthy dose of fresh air and indulge in the gentle sounds of nature before returning to the lively city centre for dinner and sake.

Plan your visit

With four distinct seasons, the allure of the great outdoors and all of its traditional charms, Takayama is unsurprisingly popular with tourists—both Japanese and international. But with so much to offer, the city isn’t limited to any one season when it comes to visitors.

Mild spring weather, cherry blossoms in bloom and the popular Sanno Matsuri (spring festival) make April a great time to experience the region. But October is equally enticing with its vibrant foliage and Hachiman Matsuri (fall festival). Visit in winter and make sure Okuhida Hot Spring Village—the largest collection of open-air onsen in Japan, with some of the country’s most majestic mountain scenery—is high on your list! And, of course, you can bask in the festive spirit of Takayama in any season with a captivating performance by the city’s legendary karakuri ningyo (mechanical puppet dolls) at the Karakuri Museum.

Year-round—with its historic architecture and natural wonders, its outdoor markets and traditional breweries, its friendly locals and soothing break from Japan’s megacities— Takayama stands ready to delight the senses.


Where we explore the fluidity of being, language and borders.

Yoko Tawada has spent the last year touring the world. From Amsterdam to Manila to Toronto and back to her hometown of Berlin, she’s been sharing her unique perspective to enthusiastic, often sold-out crowds. I sat down with the award-winning author after her talk at the Japan Foundation, Toronto, and we had a chance to chat about everything imaginable—from evolution and regression to boundaries and Kafka. And, of course, her latest book, The Emissary.

Set in an isolated Japan in the decades following a massive disaster, The Emissary is a dystopian story that explores mortality through the relationship between the seemingly immortal elderly and the rapidly evolving younger generations. The idea of boundaries and evolution creep up in many of Tawada’s stories—including Memoirs of a Polar Bear,The Naked Eye and Where Europe Begins. Tawada is fascinated with the idea of the “other”; people and creatures who move across borders and make new homes for themselves. Inspired by polar bears that are born in Russia, then travel through northern countries and find themselves in Canada, in Memoirs of a Polar Bear Tawada explores this notion with a family of polar bears that share their history in autobiographies as they traverse the world.

An award-winning author, Tawada has been recognized around the world for her vivid prose.

In The Emissary, the idea of borders, both real and imaginary, and “otherness” are also challenged. Tawada found inspiration in her own experiences after moving to Hamburg, Germany, when she was 22. She had originally intended to travel further east, however, Soviet policies in the 1980s made settling in Russia or Poland difficult. Tawada also explores the boundary between human and animal in her writing. Inspired by Kafka’s zoomorphic tales as well as the stories absorbed during her youth, Tawada’s stories include humans that develop bird-like characteristics, the aforementioned polar bears that write autobiographies and dog-like men who fall in love with princesses. This notion of a fluid boundary between humans and animals is often rare in German literature, but quite common in Japanese prose. As a writer that straddles these boundaries, Tawada is in a unique position to deliver these unfamiliar ideas to new and anticipative audiences.

While in Toronto, Tawada spoke at a Japan Foundation, Toronto—Goethe Institute co-sponsored event and discussed the uidityof language with Japanese Literature and Film professor Ted Goossen and German Film and Literature doctoral student Yasmin Aly. They spoke of the psychological impact of the 3-11 Fukushima disaster in Japan, language barriers and the difficulty of translating concepts and ideas across languages. The Japan Foundation has recently awarded Tawada with the 2018 Japan Foundation Prize for building bridges to advance understanding of the fluidity of language and boundaries through her vivid prose. The Emissary is also a finalist for The New Yorker’s 2018 National Book Award for translated literature, and has received numerous accolades in Japan, Germany and America. When asked about the awards, Tawada humbly admitted that she is most thankful for the opportunity to visit new places and trade stories about our shared experiences.