Japan is a country of contradictions.
Skyscrapers tower over the century-old garden with traditional Japanese structures from the Edo period. The most nondescript office building houses a world-famous sushi restaurant. Even in rural areas that are barely lit after nightfall, you can find public restrooms with high-tech toilet seats.
From the city of Tokyo, which never sleeps, to the calm serenity of natural hot springs in the countryside, Japan has many faces – exciting, relaxing, futuristic and traditional all at the same time.
While Singapore may not be able to recreate all of Japan’s facets, there are still ways to experience the land of the rising sun from the little red dot.
Emiko Sakashita, communication director for Japanese fashion store Colony Clothing, keeps her Japanese recommendations simple. The mother of two, 42, moved to Singapore six years ago with her sushi chef husband Masaaki Sakashita, who recently opened fine-dining sushi restaurant Masaaki in South Beach Avenue.
“What really feels like home is Japanese service.”Emiko Sakashita, communication director for Japanese fashion store Colony Clothing
She says shopping at Japanese department stores and supermarkets reminds her of home.
She says: “What really feels like home is Japanese service. In Japan, in department stores such as Isetan and Takashimaya, the staff bow deeply to the guests when their doors open in the morning. When I’m greeted politely in Japanese stores here, I feel the sense of being at home.”
“For groceries, the Japanese supermarket at the basement of Isetan Scotts and Meidi-ya at Great World City really feel like Japan. There’s a great variety of miso and natto (fermented soya bean) to choose from and those are staples in my cooking,” she adds.
The fashion-forward woman, who mixes menswear and womenswear in her own style, gets her sartorial fix where she works – at Colony Clothing, which also runs two more stores in Singapore, the perfume, bath and body products brand Santa Maria Novella’s counter at Isetan and American Shoe Store at Mandarin Gallery.
“Our founder, Mr Kozo Kawamura, will sometimes go to Japanese bookstores like Kinokuniya to get inspiration from Japanese fashion magazines,” she says.
“In Singapore, there are not as many fashion-focused magazines as there are in Japan, with different magazines focusing on different styles. So to get the latest style news, Japanese magazines are really helpful.”
Ahead, some ways you can experience that slice of Japan right in our own backyard.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times