Places in Singapore that'll make you believe you're in Japan

[UPDATED, Nov 21]: We've been informed that Diamon Food Alley at Jurong Point has been revamped to &JOY Dining Hall. The article has been updated to reflect the change.   

The year is ending and somehow everyone on my Instagram feed is enjoying a holiday in Japan. 

If you're one of those stuck in Singapore for the festive season and are yearning for a trip to Japan too, here's how you can recreate a Japanese-inspired holiday right here in Singapore.

We've put together a list of places where you can get to experience zen, relax in onsen spas and indulge in Japanese food, all without travelling out of the country.

You could take a day's leave to enjoy everything on this list or do it over the weekend. Best of all, it'll be without feeling the pinch, after all, you’d be saving on air tickets.

&JOY DINING HALL

The once dizzying Daimon Food Alley in Jurong Point that resembles the Dontonburi street in Osaka is now rebranded to a sleek Japanese dining destination featuring popular Japanese restaurants, including Roman.Tei, Ramen KIOU and more. 

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2447971451995374

You'll find ramen and beef steak rice from Osaka, affordable sushi, charcoal-grilled yakitori, and freshly-baked Neapolitan pizza with Japanese toppings, so come with an empty tummy to eat your way through &JOY Dining Hall.

Where: 1 Jurong West Central 2, #B1-49 Shopping Centre, Jurong Point, Singapore 648886

JAPANESE CEMETERY PARK

The Japanese Cemetery Park has been around since the 1890s but has only been made popular in recent years for its bougainvillaea flower archway making its rounds on social media.

The cemetery, which is now a memorial park, is great for a tranquil stroll while soaking in the history and stories of fallen soldiers, young prostitutes and Japanese civilians who once inhabited our land.

The prayer hall built in 1986 is well-preserved and maintained. Though it's out of bounds to the public, you'll be able to take a peek at the interior through a small window.

Where: 22 Chuan Hoe Ave, Singapore 549854

BAMBOO FOREST

A trip to Tokyo would not be complete without a picture of you at the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, that's if have the patience to wait for the crowd to clear for the perfect shot.

Unbeknownst to busy shoppers and transiting travellers, we have a mini bamboo forest in Jewel Changi Airport, located beside D'Good Cafe. The bamboo forest isn't without its fair share of Instagrammers too, despite the fact that it’s not as spectacular as the one in Japan. 

Where: 78 Airport Blvd, Singapore 819666

KOMA SINGAPORE

The famous row of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine is recreated at Koma Singapore, a Japanese restaurant in Marina Bay Sands. 

Stretching 20 meters long, the Senbon Torii-inspired entrance to the restaurant will momentarily transport you to Kyoto. Here's your chance to trick your friends into thinking you're in Singapore one minute and the next in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Come for the Instagrammable spots all around the restaurant but stay for the food, we heard that it's spectacular.

Where: Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Ave, #B1-67, 018972

ONSEN SPAS

Reap the healing benefits of an onsen without leaving Singapore. Ikeda Spa has two branches in Singapore and both provide an escape from the busyness of life.

Ikeda Spa Prestige at Clarke Quay is designed to look like the luxurious ryokans in Japan, where you can soak with the view of Mount Fuji in winter, but of course, you'll need a little imagination to believe you're in Japan.

Soaking in warm water for 30 minutes to 1 hour everyday single day: It may sound strange to our ears, but your body...

Posted by Ikeda Spa on Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Bukit Timah branch, on the other hand, has a zen garden to relax over a cup of tea and Japanese snacks after the spa session.

Japanese Zen Garden Ikeda Spa is the only day spa in Singapore with a Japanese Zen garden. We invite you to take a...

Posted by Ikeda Spa (Bukit Timah) on Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If you're not prepared to break the bank, the Yunomori Onsen & Spa is slightly more affordable with its sharing onsen pools starting from $28 for its bath and an additional fee for a massage.

There's also an in-house cafe offering Japanese curry, bento, kakigori and more to complete your Japanese indulgence.

Where:

  • Ikeda Spa Prestige - 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, Clarke Quay Central #05-22 (Level 5 Carpark) Singapore 059817
  • Ikeda Spa Bukit Timah - 787 Bukit Timah Road (Before 6th Ave) Singapore 269762
  • Yunomori Onsen & Spa - 1 Stadium Pl, #02-17/18 Wave Mall, Singapore 397628

BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC TEMPLE

With the right angle, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple can make your Instagram followers think you're visiting the Senso-ji, the oldest Buddist temple in Tokyo.

The enormous red and black lantern at the gate is the symbol of Senso-ji, and while the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple may not have the same huge lantern, you'll be able to find rows of smaller red lanterns on the outside of the temple too.

Where: 288 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058840

EVERY CONVENIENCE STORE

If there's one thing I miss about Japan, it’s the convenience stores that sell delish snacks, onigiri, instant meals and canned coffee that doesn't taste terrible.

The Every convenience store is a Japanese konbini in Tiong Bahru that carries rows and rows of Japanese cup noodles, snacks, sweets and drinks.

There's also a cafe that sells set meals for $10 with rotating a menu every day so that returning customers won't get tired of eating there.

Where: 593 Havelock Road, #01-03/04, Isetan Office Building, Singapore 169641

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melissagoh@asiaone.com