Mountain fuji in cherry blossom season during sunset.
Virtual Travel

In Praise of Japan: How to Celebrate Japanese Culture At Home

Even though we can't travel right now, we're still channeling our favorite destinations. This week, we're celebrating Japan and everything we love about it. We're talking fashion, food, movies—and yes, maybe more than just a sip of sake. Whether you're collecting ideas for date night, digital happy hour, or just because, use these ingredients to bring home a taste of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Senior Editor, Jetsetter | @lindseytravels | lindseytravels.com

See recent posts by Lindsey Olander

Album to Blast

Easy Recipe to Cook

soba noodle with zucchini, carrot, sesame oil

Soba Noodle Salad

IngredientsHow to Make It
– 7 oz dried soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)
– 2 green onions/scallions
– 1 bunch cilantro
– 1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds

For dressing:
– 1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
– 3 tbsp sesame oil
– 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
– 3 tbsp honey
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
1. For dressing, combine vegetable or canola oil, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Whisk together and infuse over medium heat for three minutes. Add honey and soy sauce, whisking together until honey is completely dissolved. Set aside.

2. In a separate pasta pot, bring water to a boil and cook noodles al dente according to package instructions. Drain into a colander and rinse under cold water to remove starch. Drain remaining water and transfer to large bowl.

3. Slice green onions thinly and chop cilantro into small pieces. Add to noodles, along with sesame seeds and dressing. Toss together and transfer to serving bowl or plate. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

…and when all else fails?

Drinks to Sip

many sake cup and bottle with copy space

Sake

This Japanese rice wine is the easiest drink on this list to pour but arguably the hardest to decide upon. First, the flavor. Are you looking for something dry or sweet? More nutty or more fruity? Rich or light? A good rule of thumb is to look out for the Sake Meter Value (SMV)—a scale ranging from -15 to +15, the driest being +15 and the sweetest being -15—which is listed on many bottles and restaurant menus. Next, do you serve it hot, chilled, or at room temperature? It depends on your personal preference, though is often influenced by the season.

Whisky Highball

IngredientsHow to Make It
– 1 part whisky (preferably Suntori)
– 2-4 parts chilled soda water
– Lemon wedge
1. Fill a straight-sided 8-12 ounce glass—known as a highball—to the brim with large, clear ice cubes. Stir and drain any water that accumulates.
2. Add one part whisky and stir approx. 10 times with a long-handled muddler.. Top off with another ice cube or two if needed.
3. Pour two to four parts chilled soda water to the top of the glass, depending on what kind of whisky you’re using (three to four parts are recommended for Suntory).
4. Stir twice, vertically, in order to keep the soda fizzy.
5. Garnish with lemon wedge, if desired, and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine

Sakura Martini

IngredientsHow to Make It
– 2 1/2 oz sake (Dassai 50 preferred)
– 1 oz gin (Plymouth gin preferred)
– 1/2-1/4 tsp maraschino liqueur
– Salted cherry blossom


1. In a small bowl, soak cherry blossom(s) in hot water for 10 minutes. Pour blossoms through a fine sieve, then rinse with cold water. Drain and dry with paper towels. (JS Tip: Although not as fresh, you can purchase preserved blossoms here.)
2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, stir sake with gin and maraschino liqueur. Strain into a cocktail glass—we recommend a coupe.
3. Garnish with cherry blossom and enjoy.

Recipe originally from Bar Goto, NYC

Outfits to Wear

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Movies to Watch

Lost in Translation Movie
Departures Movie
Memoires of a Geisha Movie

Lost in Translation (Hulu) | Departures (Prime Video) | Memoirs of a Geisha (Prime Video)

Book to Read

After the Quake

Any book by prolific Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is worth the read—his bestsellers have won awards both locally and internationally and been translated into more than 50 languages—but we suggest “After The Quake.” Set immediately following the 1995 Kobe earthquake, it tells six seemingly disjointed short stories about the emotional toll an event—even one that happens far away—can take.

Even More Stuff to Set the Mood

Want more?

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