SHUN CURATORS (September 2015)
Japan’s appeal needs to be understood first-hand
― Christopher Jones, editor of English-language listings magazine Metropolis
Christopher Jones, the magazine’s editor, strives to convey the appeal of the “authentic” Japan that people from overseas don’t yet know about.
As of 2015, Christopher has been living in Japan for 18 years, and over that period he has observed the culture of the global city of Tokyo from a variety of perspectives. We wanted to find out what he finds appealing about Japan.
The Authentic Tokyo
First of all, please tell us about Metropolis.
Metropolis is a multimedia platform for listings and other information, in English, about culture and events in Tokyo. As of this year (2015) I’ve been working to spread information through the “Metropolis” brand for 21 years, and today it’s operated in three forms: a free fortnightly magazine, a website, and podcasts (Internet radio/television). The largest chunk of Metropolis’s readers is made up of people who have been transferred to Japan for work. For people who come to Japan without being able to speak the language, being able to get their hands on the latest information about Japan in English is very important. And with the Olympics and Paralympics coming up in 2020, the number of people accessing the website and podcasts from overseas has also been increasing. Tokyo is a great place to live-every day is exciting. My goal with Metropolis is to give people a feel for the authentic Japan, and the authentic Tokyo.
Uniquely Japanese ways of enjoying the seasons
Would you tell us how you first became interested in Japan?
I’ve been interested in foreign cultures ever since I was at school-back then I was particularly interested in Russia, and I took part in a music program there, and studied the language. I like traveling overseas, too, so I’ve visited a lot of countries: Finland, the Netherlands, Germany… Meeting my wife-a Japanese woman-at college in my home country, the USA, was what made me become interested in Japan.
What are your favorite ways to spend time in Japan?
I find it really stimulating seeing the autumn leaves in Hakone during fall, or riding the Enoden from Kamakura and getting off along the way. The heat is gentler in fall, so it’s nice for visiting places. There’s something really special about the cherry blossom season, too-everyone celebrating the start of the new season together. I love Tokyo as well, of course. Each year I look forward to the Christmas illuminations in Roppongi.
You can really enjoy each of the seasons to the fullest here, can’t you. How about the food, which is one of the great things about the four seasons?
I think that Japan’s food culture is a wonderful thing-because Japan has such clearly defined seasons, you can enjoy different shun ingredients during each of the four seasons. It’s something that’s passed down from adults to children. I think that Japan’s appeal also lies in the range of variety within its food culture. Japan has such a rich variety of food that even if there are some dishes that a visitor from overseas dislikes, that person is still sure to find some that they do like. Japanese confectionery alone has amazing variety. My favorite of all is ichigo daifuku [laughs].
Are there any culinary experiences that you’d really recommend to visitors from overseas?
Although it’s possible to learn a lot about Japan from overseas, through things like TV and manga, when you come to Japan I think it’s good to try and experience food in its authentic form. The taste of Japanese food overseas and Japanese food in Japan is different?sushi in the USA uses less vinegar in the rice, for example. When you come to Japan, you should try and get a sense of differences like this first-hand. I’d also recommend trying out some new things, like participating in a real tea ceremony, or drinking not just green tea but also buckwheat tea. If you like sake, you can travel around different breweries to experience authentic Japanese sake. Whether it’s food, drink, or places to visit, there’s so much to explore in Japan.
Writer : MINA HIRANO
Photographer : SATOSHI TACHIBANA