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Store Guide: Blue Button Shop brings sophisticated Japanese clothing and accessories to Dundas West

Store Guide: Blue Button, an “otona” style boutique in Dundas West Name: Blue Button Shop
Sells: Men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, grooming products and home goods
Contact info: 1499 Dundas St. W., 647-606-3270, bluebuttonshop.com
Hours: Mon–Sa 12–7, Sun 12–5
See it on a map » 

Canadian- and Italian-themed boutiques have both already been done, but Blue Button Shop, on Dundas and Dufferin, is Toronto’s first store dedicated to the “Otona” (or “adult”) style out of Japan. Here, the refined aesthetic translates into lots of stripes, muted colours, natural fabrics and quirky details like pockets shaped like birds or stitched-in hidden messages. Like in similar boutiques in Japan, nearly all of the wares are unisex.

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GALLERY: 10 of the world’s most over-the-top fast foods, in honour of the new Kentucky Chicken Rice

Gross Fast Food: Kentucky Chicken RiceKFC, the culinary innovator that launched the infamous Double Down in 2010, introduced the Kentucky Chicken Rice to Japan this week. Like the Double Down, it’s a sandwich of sorts, with two pieces of fried chicken taking the place of the bread, and a thick rice patty inside, along with ketchup, mayo and cheese. The concoction is yet more evidence that the gluttonous fast food item arms race rages on, propelled as much by the Internet’s love of a good gross-out as by the fad for comfort foods that kicked off with the Great Recession and never seemed to ebb. In honour of KFC’s new invention, we present 10 over-the-top fast food items, drawn from around the world, with a couple notable Toronto contributions.

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Restaurants

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Ryoji, Toronto’s newest ramen shop and izakaya, is set to open this month

(Image: Ryoji’s Facebook Timeline)

The mania for non-sushi Japanese food that dominated the restaurant scene last year is continuing into 2013: Ramen and Izakaya Ryoji, an Okinawa, Japan–based chain of izakayas and ramen shops is opening its first international location on College Street. Located a couple streets west of recent Vancouver import Hapa Izakaya, Ryoji is scheduled for a January 15 launch provided it gets its liquor license in time. Expect the chain’s “Tondou” brand noodles swimming in either a pork and chicken–based broth or their unique “Onna-aji,” soup made from a blend of three different broths: pork-chicken, fish and vegetable.

Ramen and Izakaya Ryoji, 692 College St., facebook.com/RyojiofCanadaInc

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Restaurants

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Hapa the latest Vancouver izakaya to migrate eastward

Wagyu beef cooked, tableside, on a hot stone (Image: dreamoo)

Yet more evidence that 2012 truly is the year of the Vancouver Japanese import: Hapa Izakaya announced yesterday that it will open a Toronto location this August, taking over Coco Lezzone’s old Little Italy digs. This follows on the heels, of course, of Guu’triumphant Toronto takeover of 2009 and Kingyo’s announcement earlier this year of plans for an eastward expansion.

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The Informer

Business

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Japanese giant Rakuten to buy Indigo’s majority stake in Kobo for close to $150 million 

Turns out we aren’t the only ones who love Kobo: news broke yesterday that the e-reader company is soon to be scooped up by Japanese behemoth Rakuten. The e-commerce company, one of the world’s top three by revenue, is buying the Toronto-based company for $315 million; Indigo, the largest shareholder, will see around $140 to $150 million. But why sell one of Canada’s bigger success stories? According to Indigo CEO and Kobo chair Heather Reisman, Indigo simply doesn’t have the cash to support Kobo going forward (Reisman’s personal wealth notwithstanding). “Over the next year, this business will need in excess of $100 million to take it to where this industry is going,” she told Canadian Business. “We just cannot play in that league for that amount of capital.” Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis agreed. “We’re dealing with Amazon [and] Apple, and if that weren’t enough, Google is interested in [the e-reading market],” he said. “We’ve always been competing with goliaths, and now we’ve got a goliath backstopping us…With Rakuten at our side and at our back, I see Kobo becoming a multi-billion-dollar company.” Read the entire story [Quill and Quire] »

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Features

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See, Hear, Read: Three summer arts recommendations from three local experts

See, Hear, Read

(Image: Matthew Hollings)

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The Goods

Shopping

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The Thing: Desktop globes are making a comeback, this time in monochromatic motifs

(Image: Christopher Stevenson)

In the zoomed-in age of Google, with its panoramic street-viewing eye leaving little to the imagination, desktop globes are making a comeback as the nostalgic decor item du jour. But these are not your elemen­tary school models with Crayola-coloured countries—the ones we spun wildly as kids, stopping them with our fingers on far-flung locales where we were going to live when we grew up. The new globes are simple and refined, and come in muted, monochromatic motifs. Yet they manage to evoke the same sense of wonder as the classic versions—this time as objects of design. We especially love the Corona globe from Japan ($300 at Mjölk, 2959 Dundas St. W., 416-551-9853) for its stark black and white rendering of the continents and oceans. This is the globe all grown up—still fun to spin, even if we now do it with much less abandon.

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Random Stuff

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Kissinger versus Ferguson: three things we hope to see at the next Munk Debates

It’s interesting—in the “kind of weird” sense of the term—that an academic debate hosted by the University of Toronto garners the attention that it does. Nonetheless, the Munk Debates have somehow managed to make a splash on the international scene (which is exactly the sort of splash Toronto cares about). Whether the subject is the environment or atheism, the foreign press corps takes note, and the next debate should be no different, as Henry Kissinger and Fareed Zakaria square off against Niall Ferguson and David Daokui Li over whether the 21st century will belong to China. Given the stodgy, prim and proper environs, those in attendance will probably be painfully polite—but we’re still holding out hope for some fireworks. A small wish list after the jump.

1. Someone brings up Rising Sun
It may be a distant memory now, but back in the early 1990s, plenty of smart people thought that Japan would supplant the U.S. as the world’s biggest superpower. One real-estate bubble—and resultant economic collapse—later, and Japan’s economy has spent nearly 20 years underperforming. It makes the entire genre of Japan’s-coming-to-eat-our-lunch fiction look rather silly.

2. Someone brings up Wilfrid Laurier
If the supposed best and brightest couldn’t predict the future two decades ago, they probably shouldn’t attempt a century’s worth of guessing. Seriously: predicting how the 21st century is going to pan out in 2011 is about as hubristic as saying, in 1904, that Canada would “fill the 20th century.”

3. Someone goads Henry Kissinger
It’s a shame the debate is likely to be so gosh-darn polite, because we’d be awfully tempted to give Kissinger a poke and a prod. Say, if he claims China can’t sustain its power without respecting human rights, or if he argues that China needs to respect the rule of law. Or better yet, if he says he’s worried about China’s treatment of other, smaller Asian countries around it.

Be it resolved the 21st century will belong to China [Munk Debates]

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Culture

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Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and other Toronto artists are banding together for Japan fundraiser

In today’s hype-obsessed mediascape, it’s easy for public attention to bounce from one issue to another. Toronto to Japan, a local collective of artists, musicians, writers, activists and business types, is working to keep Japan’s earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster trifecta in the minds of Canadians. Committed to raising support for disaster relief, the collective is hosting Hope Blossoms at the Bell Lightbox on April 21. Organizers promise a showcase of Canadian talent inspired by the tradition of the Japanese variety show. Dedicating their time and support are Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Adrienne Clarkson and Bob Wiseman.

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Events

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The Weekender: Harlem Globetrotters, Bugs Bunny and six more distractions

1. HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS
This long-running exhibition team—they celebrate their 85th anniversary this year—may have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves (think ball-handling skills and buckets of confetti), but they play to win. And win they do; according to their records, they’ve lost only 345 of their 25,000-plus games. One can only hope their three-game stint in the city this weekend inspires the Raptors to strive for a 98 per cent success rate. April 8 and 9. $15–$195. Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way, 416-870-8000, ticketmaster.ca.

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Sports

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Toronto’s Patrick Chan skating for more than a medal

Patrick Chan (Image: Queen Yuna)

Toronto-based figure skater Patrick Chan is all about making Canadians feel warm and fuzzy. First he gave us heartwarming McDonald’s advertisements, and now he’s skating for a cause. The Canadian champion is set to perform at the Oshawa Skating Club’s Ice Show at the GM Centre on Saturday night, his last public appearance before the world championships, scheduled for April 24.

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Business

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With Canada’s coins getting lighter, we geekily measured loonies against other currencies

The Royal Canadian Mint has weighed in: Canadian dollar and two-dollar coins need to go on a diet. New coins, with a new metal composition, will be released with the next mintage. Canadians, however, don’t have the heaviest pockets in the world—that honour goes to Brits, whose pound coins weigh two grams more than the loonie. Here, a quick survey of major currencies and how they measure up our golden birds.

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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In the midst of Japan’s nuclear crisis, demand for iodide pills rises near leaky Pickering plant

Pickering A nuclear generating station (Image: ilkerender)

With the news that Japan may be on the brink of a serious nuclear crisis, Ontarians living near the Pickering power plant seem to be increasingly worried about the adverse health effects that come with living near a nuclear reactor. Those fears got an extra boost when it was discovered that the plant leaked tens of thousands of litres of demineralized water into Lake Ontario. Experts say that the risk posed to locals is “negligible,” but that hasn’t stopped people from planing for the worst. The Toronto Sun reported yesterday an increased demand for potassium iodide pills at pharmacies in the plant’s surrounding areas. While potassium iodide can help prevent thyroid cancer caused by radioactive iodine, it’s probably not as effective as people think.

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The Goods

Stores

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Joe Fresh’s anticipated New York opening excites tourists, not analysts

Joe Fresh is making the move to New York this fall, but some skeptics suggest that the Mimran dynasty may have to pull back to Canada sooner than anticipated. Analysts seem mixed on the potential success of yet another fast fashion retailer. The Financial Post notes that companies who moved south of the border (among the fallen are Danier, Harry Rosen, Tristan, La Senza and Brown’s Shoes) haven’t always been welcome, while the New York Times highlights a boom in tourist traffic around Joe’s chosen 5th Avenue and 43rd Street location.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Toronto chefs and Ontario wineries join forces for Japan earthquake relief dinner

In response to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week, a number of Toronto chefs and Ontario wine producers will be joining forces in a fundraiser on Sunday, March 27th, organized by Nobuyo Stadtländer, the business partner and wife of Michael Stadtländer.

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