Jan 1, 2017

Chong-ing Things Up

When well-known Singaporean TV personality Michelle Chong was offered the chance to host Tokyo Eye 2020, a programme that aired on NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organisation, she knew it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.


Michelle filming Tokyo Eye 2020 at The Gotoh Museum

I’ve been to Japan — Osaka, Hokkaido, as well as Tokyo — a number of times for work, but when the call from NHK came to ask if I was keen to be a guest reporter for the programme Tokyo Eye 2020, I immediately cleared out my schedule to do it. I was so honoured — it’s not every day you get to host a two-episode programme that will air on Japan’s national television network, after all!

Sampling aged soba at Nakasei

The first episode was about aged food in Japan. Prior to that, I had tried aged beef at a high-end Japanese restaurant in Singapore, but I was not aware that you could also eat aged sushi, soba, and chicken too. I must admit that I was slightly apprehensive when it came to aged soba, which we tried at a restaurant called Nakasei, because I’d thought it was going to have a sourish taste, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was very aromatic and tasted like a biscuit. When we think about aged food, we always associate them with fermentation, but that is not how the soba is aged. Rather, it’s about keeping it in a controlled temperature and conditions to remove the moisture in order to intensify its original flavours.

However, it was the aged beef that I found myself most impressed by. We sampled aged Kagoshima beef, and it was amazingly juicy and tender, and almost pillowy in texture. It was also packed with flavour, thanks to the amino acids generated during the ageing process. I tried aged beef steak at Carneya Sanoman’s and Aji-tetsu, as well as an aged beef burger at Bistro Nare-niku.

While we usually head to Tokyo for its food and shopping, I highly recommend visiting some of the museums! The National Museum of Western Art recently became a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses an impressive collection of Impressionist paintings by Renoir and Monet.

At the “Shibuya wall” for the press conference of Tokyo Eye 2020

I also enjoyed my visit to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. To be honest, I had thought of bonsai cultivation as a hobby for the older folk, but once I got acquainted with the process of designing and maintaining a bonsai tree, I developed newfound appreciation for this traditional Japanese art form.

Another tip I have for Singaporean travellers heading to Tokyo is to avoid Googling restaurants to visit. It’s so much better to use Instagram to discover great places that locals themselves dine at. I love nothing more than discovering little izakayas that offer unique dishes you won’t find anywhere else!

Being a host for Tokyo Eye 2020 was a one-off project, but I hope there’ll be more opportunities to host future NHK programmes. It would be great if Lulu — one of my characters from Singaporean TV show The Noose — could host a TV show about fashion some time in the future.