Thursday, January 5, 2012

Viva Japan Cafe at Orchard ION Sky (56th floor)

"Our Strength Within" Japanese calligraphy

"Our Strength Within" - that is some awesome calligraphy. From the darkness, Japan's inner strength rises.

I am reminded of Japan choosing the word "Kizuna 絆 meaning "bond" as best representing 2011", when we saw strangers banding to help each other in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

It's going to take a while before East Japan fully recovers. Once so rich with harvests from land and sea, it is now striving to recover and re-energise itself.

Meanwhile, we have Cool Japan which is a series of initiatives aimed at promoting Japanese culture and Japanese products to the global public. Cool Japan is supported by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan.

Under this umbrella, comes several projects by Viva Japan Pte Ltd (a social e-commerce services company) and Cafe Company, Inc., which owns one of Japan's largest community cafe chains. These include:

1) Viva Japan Cafe: a 50-seater cafe on the 56th floor of ION Orchard (ION Sky), which is open for four months from Dec 16, 2011 to March 31, 2012. This is a contemporary "chaya" or teahouse that will serve Japanese teas and drinks, along with light bites and desserts.

2) The Cool Japan 100 Ambassador Official Online Store: featuring unique items with Japanese craftsmanship and design techniques passed down many generations. It's in Japanese though (you can run it through an online translator).

3) 100 Ambassadors: a community of selected influencers active in Asia, and based out of Singapore, with keen interest in and familiarity with Japan and Japanese culture.

Media and friends at the Viva Japan Cafe launch party
Media, ambassadors and friends attended the Viva Japan Cafe launch last month.

Nambu Cast Tekki (Ironware)
The cafe also has a small installation of Japanese products featured in the online store. These are Nambu Cast Tekki (Ironware). Looks so dainty and yet is so much stronger than pottery or porcelain.

Rie Sakamoto's Collection
Rie Sakamoto's Collection. Sakamoto and her husband have created many award-winning pieces, some of which are in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Aizu Lacquered Glass Crafts
Aizu Lacquered Glass Crafts. Nouvelle lacquerware fusing Western glass with Eastern lacquer.

As you can tell, these are fairly high-end products of craftsmanship. If you are looking for bargains, Daiso is downstairs.

It's quite a view from up here
The view from the 56th floor is quite something. It normally costs S$20 for entry to ION Sky, but with the cafe installed here, the entry fee is now only S$16 per adult, and you get S$5 off your F&B with your ticket. Children aged 4-12 pay S$8. You can use the S$5 rebate to offset the kids' entry fees too, if you prefer.

The Viva Japan Cafe is also the setting for "Special Chef's Events" where a celebrity chef will be flown in to showcase his best to the ambassadors, media and guests. Sorry, it's not open to the public, but you may be able to order some of the ingredients online via Viva Japan.

Chef Yasuji Morizumi
We were treated to a ramen demonstration by Chef Yasuji Morizumi, owner of Japanese ramen chain Chabuya and Michelin-starred restaurant MINT. From winning a national ramen competition (TV Champion) to owning the first Michelin-starred restaurant, Chef Morizumi is a legend in the world of ramen. First of all, he's trained for almost ten years in classic French cooking, which is seen as fine-dining in Japan, but he eventually decided to go into ramen, a working class food. But he has transformed ramen into something a little more unusual with his in-depth know-how.

Umami Ramen (Bamboo Charcoal Noodle) served with roast pork
Witness the Umami Ramen (Bamboo Charcoal Noodle) served with roast pork. This is a "dry ramen" featuring noodles made with "natrium water". It doesn't leave you feeling as carbo-laden somehow after consuming it.

Other chefs in the line-up include Yosuke Imada, who is chef-owner of the renowned Ginza Kyubey, and Hironobu Tsujiguchi who is one of the most successful patissiers in Japan.

Hisato Hamada of kicking off the launch of Viva Japan Cafe
We had a lovely time at the Viva Japan Cafe. Here's wishing them all success in creating a community where people who adore all things Japanese can come together and enjoy Japanese food and products together.

56th Floor, ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn,
Singapore 238801
Tel: +65-6636-5156
Open daily 10am to 10pm, until 31 March 2012
Entrance fee S$16 per adult (you will receive a S$5 rebate on F&B); S$8 per child aged 4-12


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