Tokyo train conductors are always warning riders not to run for trains. Nobody ever said anything about running in trains. Japanese sporting goods maker Asics has “train jacked” a train on the Yamanote loop line, with a 200-meter track running through all 11 cars of the train. How to spot it? Keep an eye out for the train that has photos of Japanese Olympic runner Chisato Fukushima running along the outside.
Since Kirin launched Kirin Free back in April 2009, non-alcoholic beer has been a huge success in Japan. Now the other three major breweries, Asahi, Suntory and Sapporo, have all launched similar products. Suntory’s All Free is the most popular and sales were up 23 percent in the first half of this year for the same period the year before.
To encourage further growth it seems that Suntory is now promoting the idea of All Free as a lunch-time drink during the work week. Last month they opened up the All Free Garden in Tokyo Midtown Roppongi for a limited 12-day run. Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., office workers could pop by for a meal accompanied by a cool glass of All Free.
But not everyone thinks it’s acceptable to drink beer during lunch time. According to a survey by M1.F1 Research Survey, 32.7 percent of male respondents between the ages 20 and 34 thought that their colleagues would be annoyed with them if they saw them drinking non-alcoholic beer during their lunch breaks. In comparison, 48.4 percent said they felt their colleagues would be annoyed with them for drinking a normal beer during lunch.
Of 618 respondents of both sexes, 35.9 percent said that if they saw their colleagues drinking non-alcohol beer they wouldn’t be that bothered, and 14.4 percent were tolerant of their colleagues drinking real beer. While these figures are encouraging, it seems that beer manufacturers have a way to go to convince the public that it’s OK to drink non-alcoholic beer at lunch.
Even if beer companies are keen to win the public over and make lunchtime non-alcohol beer acceptable, they themselves are drawing the line at targeting minors, despite the fact that according to the letter of the law, it’s OK for minors to consume anything under 1 percent alcohol.
In an article in Tokyo Shimbun, a PR representative for Kirin made it clear that Kirin Free was not intended to be drunk by children and stressed that the product was developed to help eradicate drunken driving and is aimed at those who are 20 years and over. It seems that Suntory, Asahi and Sapporo are of the same opinion. They encourage stores to display non-alcoholic beer alongside alcoholic beverages and restaurants to list it on their alcoholic drinks menus.
Convenience stores are backing them up: Seven Eleven and Lawson do ID checks before selling the stuff. Family Mart doesn’t check IDs but can refuse to sell it to kids who are obviously under age. A number of schools have explicitly banned the drinks.
The upshot seems to be that while it may soon become acceptable to sip fake beer during the office lunch break, minors will not be openly chugging down non-alcoholic beers.
Moved by the plight of homeless people in Tokyo Ikea Japan has … Making a bold commentary on the rabbit-hutches that Tokyoites have been conditioned to tolerate, Ikea Japan has … Doing a spin on pop-up shops, Ikea Japan has invaded hinter Harajuku and wedged 14 “galleries” into various nooks and crannies on Cat Street. With a name that plays on the Japanese word for “gap,” Sukima Gallery is not only a clever way to bring a catalog to life and showcase Ikea interiors in the city (all the Ikea stores are located in the suburbs), but also an inspired social media campaign: Choose which one you like with an ”ii nee” and then enter a lottery for a chance to win a gallery of Swedish stuff. Naturally, some assembly will still be required. Launched on July 31, the event ends Aug. 5.
Bottles of amazake for sale at Matsuya department store in Ginza, Tokyo. (Photo by Rebecca Milner)
The annual competition for the summer’s hit drink is as fierce as usual, and all the major manufacturers have their contenders. Will it be Asahi’s new Red Eye in a can? Or Pepsi’s latest oddity, the shocking-pink Salty Watermelon soda?
According to the morning TV show “Non Stop!,” the winner may just be a dark horse: amazake.
Though it literally means “sweet sake,” this fermented rice drink is actually alcohol free and has been around for centuries. In the Edo Period, it was commonly drunk to ward off the dreaded natsu-bate (summer heat fatigue). Apparently the combination of vitamin B and glucose provides an immediate jolt of energy. The rich ate eel; the rest drank amazake.
At some point in history, that tradition fell out of favor. These days, amazake generally only shows up at traditional festivals, namely during New Years, or at cafes attached to Buddhist temples. Now, however, a savvy Niigata producer is looking to give amazake a little more everyday cachet.
In February, Furumachi Kōji Seijōjo opened a specialty shop in the fashionable Tokyo suburb of Jiyugaoka. Here you can get hot and cold amazake drinks spiked with matcha and shiso (perilla leaf) or health tonics that mix amazake with fruit-flavored vinegar. Boosted by plenty of media attention, they’ve since opened a second branch in the basement food court of Ginza’s Matsuya department store.
Lemongrass essential oil is used in homemade insect repellent
One of the major irritations of a Japanese summer, besides the current humid heat, is getting eaten alive by the tiny armies of mosquitoes, indoors or out. While most people resort to spraying on DEET, a growing number of mothers concerned about the effects of this potent chemical on their children’s delicate skin are now making their own aroma mushiyoke (aroma insect repellent) out of essential oils.
The trend, according to Tokyo Walker, has been spreading by word of mouth among mothers who are looking for natural alternatives. The magazine interviewed a housewife who began making her own insect repellent after becoming a mother two years ago. She favors a refreshing lemongrass spray that can be not only applied to the skin, but also sprayed onto cloth in her baby stroller to keep insects at bay.
Aromatherapy has been popular for a few years in Japan, so the essential oils used to make these sprays are readily available in the shops. To make a lemongrass spray you need extract of lemongrass oil, ethanol and water. Three to five drops of the essential oil should be mixed with 5 ml of ethanol and 45 ml of water. The whole thing is then shaken vigorously and put into a plastic spray bottle (easily bought in ¥100 stores). Unlike commercial citric sprays, the lemongrass is not overwhelmingly pungent, so the mixture can be sprayed on screen doors or curtains to keep out insects without overwhelming the room with the smell. Geranium and lavender essential oils can also be used for a similar effect.
In addition to being kind to the skin, these sprays also give off a pleasant scent. According to Get News, aromatic candles that repel insects are also trending. Especially popular are citronella candles that keep insects out with a natural refreshing citric scent that doesn’t carry any chemical taint.
The mosquito coil is a Japanese invention that has been a staple of outdoor gatherings for over 100 years. However, there are health concerns connected with inhaling the pungent smoke they give off, so scented candles could be an attractive alternative. Given the prevalence of the LOHAS mindset among eco-conscious housewives, it’s no wonder that natural insect repellents are being embraced.