Experience Japanese Culture in Malaysia
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, international travel for leisure has halted across the entire world. Many Malaysians miss being able to travel to Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, to experience Japanese culture firsthand. Good news, however, as some authentic aspects of Japan have actually come over to Malaysia, sometimes quite literally as well. Here are a few aspects of Japanese culture that you can experience right here in Malaysia.
Urban Retreat Onsen Spa—Japanese Hot Springs
One of the most famous aspects about Japanese culture is their onsen, or hot springs. It’s one of the best ways to relax regardless of the weather, whether it is summer or winter. Allowing your whole body to soak in high temperature waters from natural hot springs not only relaxes the muscles in your body as the minerals also work to rejuvenate your skin, reduce stress and increase blood circulation.
If one were to talk about the benefits of soaking in hot springs alone, there are numerous hot springs all across Malaysia itself. However, onsen also refers to the special facilities that enhance the experience of using hot spring water. Urban Retreat Spa aims to bring such an experience to Malaysia. Using bathtubs specially crafted from Japanese cypress and imported from Japan as well as several salt selections extracted from various hot springs in Japan, they even let you choose your preferred temperature level for their Urban Retreat Onsen Spa experience. They also offer various services such as body treatments and massages that complement your onsen session. Urban Retreat Spa has several outlets, but their Onsen Spa is only available at their 163 Retail Park outlet in Mont Kiara.
J’s Gate Dining—Japanese Food
Japanese food is known worldwide for sushi, sashimi, ramen, etc. Malaysians are not that unfamiliar with Japanese food as we are quite used to seeing restaurants like Sushi King and Sushi Mentai pop up in many places. However, authentic Japanese food is much more than just these, and there is a world of a difference in terms of quality and what you can get out of a single meal.
Over at J’s Gate Dining in Lot 10, there is an entire floor’s collection of Japan’s best restaurants. During their grand opening in January 2018, 14 out of the 18 restaurants from Japan had the first launch of their brand overseas. From teppanyaki to tonkatsu, you’ll take days to sample all that they have to offer over at J’s Gate Dining, which is the 4th floor of Lot 10.
Jalan Jalan Japan—Japanese Pre-loved Goods
Not many might know this, but the secondhand market in Japan is huge. There are a number of shops specialising in the buying and selling of used—or pre-loved—goods, including books, kitchenware, clothes, etc. One such example in Japan is the chain of bookstores called Book Off, which is the largest chain of used bookstores in Japan. They sell not only used books, but also used CDs, DVDs, video games, consoles, and even used mobile phones! Furthermore, they even branched off to several stores called Hard Off, Hobby Off, Off House, etc. that specialise in selling pre-loved goods of a particular market, such as toys, gadgets, audio equipment, etc.
Speaking of Hobby Off, they have even expanded their businesses overseas. Right here in Malaysia, they have set up Jalan Jalan Japan to sell pre-loved goods from Japan at affordable prices. The best part of this is that all goods are from the original Book Off, so the goods are most certainly Japanese in origin, or at least owned at one point by someone living in Japan. In some of their stores, you can even get authentic Japanese kimonos for a fraction of the original price!
Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several Japanese experiences in Malaysia had to be called off. Here are some of them that we are forced to miss out on this year.
Bon Odori is a Japanese festival of nearly 600 years which is a celebration in honour of the spirits of one’s ancestors. Originally started in 1976 for Japanese expatriates as an event for them to immerse their children in Japanese culture, Bon Odori in Malaysia, organised by the Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur, has become the largest Japanese cultural event in Malaysia, possibly even the largest Bon Odori celebration outside of Japan. Every year, participants both Japanese and non-Japanese would take the opportunity to dress up in yukata, a type of casual kimono worn in the summer, and take part in the food and dance. Alas, the Bon Odori of this year, which would have been the 44th, had to be cancelled.
Do you seek to learn more about Japanese culture, especially their arts and language? Welcome to the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL) Library! Unfortunately not during this time; they are currently temporarily closed in light of the government’s announcement to extend the CMCO until 20 December. Under normal circumstances, you would have been able to immerse yourself in their impressive collection of Japanese books, audio, film, documentaries, etc. There’s even a section with tatami mats on which you kneel for the complete Japanese immersion. That will all have to wait until next year when they reopen.
Which of the above Japanese experiences tickle your fancy? As we should soon be able to fly over to Japan again, why not take this opportunity to learn Japanese before getting there? After all, it is estimated that less than 30 percent of Japan speaks English, so you’re going to have a hard time if you don’t speak their language while you’re there.
Your Gateways to Getaways,