NHK WORLD-JAPAN Video on Demand Reviews: Urban life and kitchen knives

Although many countries have begun relaxing internal regulations on going outdoors and socialising, international travel is still a pipe dream for most of us. Looking to live vicariously through the internet, I’ve turned to the wide range of free-to-view programmes available on the NHK World-Japan website to get some inspiration on what to explore next, when we eventually can.

So far I’m loving the insider information and exposés on the food and culture of Japan, which gives a deeper insight to Japanese culture than what is usually offered to tourists.

【Watchlist 1】 DESIGN TALKS plus: Urban Life

Duration: 28 mins, available until March 31, 2023

In highly populated cities like ours, overcrowding is a perennial and often thorny issue of contention among citizens. In the new era of social distancing ushered in by Covid-19, we now have to rethink the way our spaces can be better utilised.

Naito holds an ostrich egg and demonstrates why he thinks an egg is the ultimate design

Working from home like most of us, the hosts Andrea and Shaula check in with architect Naito Hiroshi by video conference call to learn more about how urban planners are brainstorming for the future. Naito has an impressive resume of 13 rebuilding projects in Iwate and Fukushima, and currently helms the command centre for the redevelopment of Shibuya, which is scheduled to complete in 2027.

The museum designed by Naito mimics the surrounding mountain peaks and blends into its environment

Naito helpfully explains to us the parallels between economic growth and population density. On this basis, he envisions that our cities will move away from a central business district model to smaller scale commercial enclaves in the future.

The towering skyscrapers of west Shinjuku, one of the main business districts in Tokyo

In line with his vision, Naito is aiming to create wider pedestrian networks between Shibuya and its neighbouring areas of Daikanyama, Aoyama and Ikejiri. One such project is the Miyashita park corridor that will connect Shibuya to Harajuku. As a small city, I can totally imagine Singapore adopting similar measures

The new Shibuya station designed by Naito takes inspiration from a snake’s skeletal structure

In these uncertain times, it’s heartening that architects like Naito are not forgetting the importance of nature and our history while innovating for the future.

【Watchlist 2】 Direct Talk: A Cutting-Edge Steak Knife: Koji Masutani / President, Ryusen Hamono

Duration: 15 mins, available until February 11, 2021

3rd generation craftsman Koji Masutani comes from Echizen, a region with a 700-year tradition of blade making. Although faced with a waning interest when he took over the family business, Masutani now supplies his knives to fine dining restaurants internationally.

Masutani himself, pictured together with his impressive kitchen knife collection

Originally producing kitchen knives, Masutani developed steak knives after being commissioned by chef Noriyuki Hamada for the prestigious Bocuse D’or competition. Masutani’s discussion of his development process really demonstrated how much thought and craftsmanship goes into a seemingly ordinary utensil.

Just by their shapes, you can tell a kitchen knife and a steak knife have very different uses

Having more background knowledge hammers home how outstanding Masutani’s final product is. His hand-forged steak knife employs a microscopic serrated edge to maintain sharpness without injuring the diner.

The patterns on Masutani’s knives are not decorative, but show that the knife is hand-forged and therefore stronger

This ability to cut through steak in one motion to retain full umami flavour made Masutani’s knives a hit. That a bespoke utensil could elevate the dining experience was something which I had never contemplated, but thanks to Masutani, now fully appreciate.

Reviewer
Yonghui
Quarantine-time-only chef and baker who is temporarily enjoying travelling vicariously online.

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