My love for good food, especially Japanese cuisine, and local Singapore history has contributed to this story. The recent opening of the world’s first Japan tourism-themed cafe, the Japan Rail Cafe, and other new-to-market brands and concepts at the new Tanjong Pagar Centre, will help to create an exciting lifestyle destination in the historic Tanjong Pagar area.
Tanjong Pagar ~ A New Lifestyle Hotspot
Moving into the future of urban development, historic Tanjong Pagar is being redeveloped into another modern ‘Marina Bay’ type business district with residences, hotels, lifestyle and other new-to-market attractions. By 2030, Tanjong Pagar is envisaged to merge into the URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) Greater Southern Waterfront plan.
In fact, the new integrated mixed-use Tanjong Pagar Centre, at 290 metres high, is set to be the tallest building in Singapore. Billed as a “Transit-Oriented Development”, this award-winning iconic showpiece consists of Guoco Tower, a 38-storey Grade A office block and six levels of retail and F&B (food and beverage) space, a luxury 5-star Sofitel hotel and luxurious homes. Positioning itself as a cosmopolitan lifestyle destination in the CBD (Singapore’s Central Business District), it is the flagship development of GuocoLand**, a premier regional property company listed on the Singapore Exchange since 1978.
JR East’s Japan Rail Cafe – A World First For Singapore
I believe the Japan Rail Cafe, operated by Japan’s largest rail operator, JR East (the East Japan Railway Company), has chosen Singapore to open its very first outlet outside Japan to tap into Tanjong Pagar’s potential. In fact, the cafe has located itself early at the brand new Tanjong Pagar Centre, with its connectivity on Singapore’s MRT (the Mass Rapid Transit network).
JNR (Japan National Railways) was once the money-draining railway juggernaut in Japan. Re-structured into seven for-profit companies, JR East group is one of them. Today, about two-thirds of JR East revenues come from its rail transportation business. The remaining third comes from its station space utilisation, office buildings management and hotels, shopping malls, retail stores and F&B.
Its F&B arm now owns over 50 brands that include original and franchise brands ranging from coffee houses, burger shops, dessert outlets and bars.
A Tourism-themed Japan Rail Cafe In Singapore
JR East serves the Tohoku region of Japan (northern Honshu, the main island comprising the prefectures of Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Fukushima, Miyako, Niigata and Yamagata), the Greater Tokyo and nearby areas. The Cafe features a ticketing counter where visitors can purchase their rail passes before flying off to Japan.
It will also carry the latest Japanese collectables and food products, some of which are “kawaii items” found in JR East’s in-station (or ekinaka) shops tailored for customers on the go.
Menu Differentiation Through Featured Region Of The Month
The Cafe collaborates with the JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organisation), as well as provincial Japanese governments and corporations, to promote travel destinations beyond Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. The themed Cafe is committed to update its menu monthly “representing the featured region of the month.”
In October-November, the Cafe is partnering the Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organisation to promote the Tohoku region which covers seven prefectures: Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Fukushima, Miyako, Niigata and Yamagata. The cultural variations, cuisines and natural beauty within the compact but diverse Tohoku region are charming attractions by themselves…
For example, this current favourite in Japan, the Kaisen Avocado Don uses multigrain rice and the famous Aomori scallops. Toppings include mentaiko, sesame and seaweed. It can be eaten two ways: as a usual rice bowl (don) or pour in the dashi soup to enjoy as an ochazuke.
There is no shortage of curry dishes when it comes to Singapore. And if you have not tasted Japanese Curry Rice, then it’s time to do so. The Cafe’s Watashino Curry Rice secret is in its curry that is made from black pepper and blended spices. And you can customise your own set by choosing one main (choice of crispy chicken, stirred fried pork in sweet ginger or fried oysters) and one side dish (choice of fried egg, crab cream korokke or stir-fried butter scallops).
No rice for you? Then go for burgers a la Japon! I chose the Ultimate A.B.C Burger. This king of burgers come with the all-time favourite ingredients of burger lovers with A for avocado, B for bacon and C for cheddar cheese. And the patty in between Asanoya’s soft bun (outlet in Bugis Junction) is 160 grammes of Wagyu beef, nothing less!
Just the three selections featured above should be sufficient reason to try out JR East first venture outside the Land of the Rising Son. And experience an ever-changing Tanjong Pagar. Bon Appetit…
Footnotes: (1) ** I have two interesting years working with the GuocoLand Group after 30 years with the national airline. With the latter, I was posted to Japan twice: first as Manager Western Japan, based in Osaka and later as General Manager Japan, based in Tokyo. (2) Researching for this post has given me new insights into JR railway stations as lifestyle destinations and historic Tanjong Pagar. I now have new things to re-discover when spending this Christmas in Tokyo