Archive for the ‘Food & drink’ Category

Okonomiyaki gives you nutrients you need!

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

“Pharmacists” on call at Fast Food Aid (Mio Yamada photos)

Recent visitors to Cat Street near Harajuku might have noticed a curious little pop-up giving away bottles of pills.

The Fast Food Aid popup in Harajuku

The Fast Food Aid popup in Harajuku

A neon red cross glowed behind the counter while two women in white lab coats showed customers scientific-looking charts on clipboards.

Hangover cure after a night out? Not exactly.

The sign outside read Fast Food Aid. Panels inside explained the concept: The customer hands over a fast-food restaurant receipt and, in return, receives a bottle of food supplements customized to replace the nutrients missing from that meal … for free.

Public service? Nah.

Fast Food Aid turns out to be part of a clever marketing campaign for a chain of restaurants specializing in the okonomiyaki savory pancake.

Dohtonbori is promoting a new restaurant opening in Hiroo (on May 26) by cheekily spelling it out: The healthy ingredients in Dohtonbori’s healthy okonomiyaki have all the nutrients you need.

The campaign is part of Dohtonbori’s recent makeover, which includes a new emoji-like logo and “Tasty-healthy” slogan. It is also announced the chain’s new policy of only using domestically grown vegetables by issuing a public apology for “not having done so earlier.”

The Fast Food Aid popup ends on May 4, but you can always go to any of the Dohtonbori stores later for a fix.

The deal: One fast-food receipt gets you a bottle of supplements.

The deal: One fast-food receipt gets you a bottle of supplements.

Rush of new gravity wave products set to flood the market

Friday, April 1st, 2016

With the announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves in February, and the interest by Japanese physicists in neutrinos, consumers have become increasingly concerned over the possible adverse effects of these phenomena on their health.

Feeling a bit heavy? GW Nuke might be the ticket.

Feeling a bit heavy? GW Nuke might be the ticket.

In case you’re out of the loop, neutrinos are those elusive massless chargeless subatomic particles whose presence is only made apparent through the use of sophisticated detection devices.

Japan’s food and beverage manufacturers have been quick to seek new marketing opportunities. On March 28, Aomori-based Nandemo Beverage Co., Ltd. released its new anti-GW drink, “G-W Nuke” (pronounced “NOO-kay”).

“Our customers are aware that gravitational waves (GW) can affect their body weight,” Hiroshi Daido, marketing manager at Nandemo, pointed out. “These gravitational irregularities can affect the body’s metabolism. So we developed our anti-GW drink to neutralize the waves’ effects.”

Packaged in a specially designed container composed of a composite material — the details of which are a corporate secret — a 240 ml bottle of “GW Nuke” will retail for ¥980.

“Those concerned that gravitational waves may be affecting their weight should consume at least three bottles daily,” Daido recommends.

To Makkana Usoda, head of Nandemo’s R&D laboratory, the existence of gravitational waves wasn’t exactly news.

“It seems our researchers actually detected them in the early 1930s,” he said. “In fact, we discovered their lab notes stuffed in the back of a filing cabinet just one day after NASA announced their results.

Apparently the company couldn’t find any practical applications for them at that time. But now of course we’re in a far better position to exploit their commercial possibilities.”

For those disturbed by reports of neutrinos and “dark matter,” Muriyari Productions of Gifu, the same prefecture where Japan’s neutrino detection experiment has been ongoing, has succeeded in producing a “Light Shield.” While similar in appearance to a conventional umbrella, Muriyari has applied a special surface coating that it claims will protects users from the harmful effects of neutrinos while also repelling dark matter. The shield is offered in small, medium and large sizes and in a variety of patterns, with prices starting at ¥45,000 (consumption tax extra).

As science achieves a better understanding of the effects of gravitational waves and neutrinos on humans, the Japanese government is pinning hopes on a new export boom spurred by breakthroughs in this field.

A high-ranking official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), speaking on condition of anonymity, remarked, “This may very well mark the turning point for Japan to emerge from its prolonged recession, vindicating the principles of ‘Abenomics’ and forming the ‘fourth arrow’ in the revitalization of the economy.”

Marketing push for Hokkaido Shinkansen blasts off

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Some of the new items promoting the Hokkaido Shinkansen.

Some of the new items promoting the Hokkaido Shinkansen.

Japan’s famous shinkansen bullet train is known around the world for its speed, efficiency and safety. Currently, people in Tokyo can take a bullet train all the way to Fukuoka on Kyushu island or to Aomori, at the northern tip of Honshu. But now the high-speed train network is taking it to the next level by extending its reach to Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, letting consumers go from Tokyo Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in about four hours.

As Japan gets ready for the start of the new Hokkaido Shinkansen on March 26, many companies are launching marketing tie-ups — with some odd results. Here are a few of the campaigns on the fast track.

Tomix train set

New train toys modeled after the Series H5 Hayabusa? No brainer.

Tomix’s set comes with all 10 cars, and the interior can even be lit up. If you’d like to buy it outside of Japan, there are sets being sold on eBay.

Suntory beer

One of the best parts about riding bullet trains in Japan is being able to eat food on public transportation without judgment — huzzah! Ekiben, or train lunch boxes, are a given. Like a beer with that? No problem.

Let the conductor be the designated driver as you can pop a can or three of Suntory’s beer — same taste, new design. If beer is not your thing, Co-op Gurana is repackaging its soda with the Hayabusa train as well.

Lotteria meal

Fast food chain Lotteria is famous for creating food that could kill you, but this time they’re putting it inside a cute Hayabusa box.

A Shinjuku branch is selling meals wrapped up in the Hokkaido Shinkansen train that comes with a rib sandwich, fries and a drink. The meal won’t cost as much as a train ticket though as it’s only ¥1,000 and is available until May 31.

Calbee potato chips

Snack king Calbee is also taking a bite out of the shinkansen commotion with a line of bullet Hokkaido-inspired chips.

Calbee has three new flavors for potato chip fans — onion and salt, seaweed and mentaiko, and garlic and mayonnaise. The company has never shied away from strange new flavors, including its tuna-corn-curry flavor. If you can’t stop eating these addictive chips, you can always keep the bag shut with a Hayabusa stapler.

Acecook Ramen

It may take four hours to get to Hakodate, but it will only take a few minutes to warm up Acecook’s newest ramen.

The two instant noodles come in salt or soy flavors. The packaging also features the official Hokkaido Shinkansen mascot, Dokodemo Yuki-chan (Anywhere Snow-chan).

McDonald’s pie

The only thing faster than the Hokkaido Shinkansen is the food at McDonald’s. The venerable chain is releasing a line of sweets with nods to Hokkaido’s farming and dairy culture.

For a limited time, customers can buy its Hokkaido Milk Pie, a fluffy croissant filled with gooey goodness. It’ll also be packaged in a signature purple color to match the stripes on the Hayabusa train.

Sapporo Snow Festival

And bringing this marketing blitz back to where Hokkaido, this year’s Sapporo Snow Festival was decked out in ads featuring the new shinkansen line. There was even a huge snow sculpture shaped like a Hayabusa train that was lit up at night.

As the Hokkaido Shinkansen will be extended from Shin-Hakodate to Sapporo Station in 2030, the Sapporo Snow Festival — and Hokkaido itself — is bound to get a jump in tourists as more and more people head north.

Get a taste of spring with cherry blossom-inspired goods

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

sakuracombo2All of Japan will soon be in the pink as the country celebrates the sacred sakura with picnics and drinking sessions underneath the cherry trees

Part of the hanami tradition includes eating cherry blossom-flavored snacks, including classics such as sakura mochi. Now the number of sakura-themed goods are blossoming as more and more major corporations jump on board with their own snacks and items. Here’s a taste of some of the items on shelves now.


This season Starbucks isn’t roasting just coffee beans but cherry petals with its sakura chiffon cake. You can also wash down the sugary treat with even more sugar — either strawberry sakura lattes or strawberry sakura frappuccinos.

If you want to experience spring all year round, you can also pick up Starbucks’ cherry blossom-themed mugs and tumblers. Get a move on; these sell out fast.

Kimura Drink

Now that you have your sakura mug, why not fill it up with Kimura Drink’s sakura cola? This fizzy concoction contains the extract of real sakura leaves for an authentic taste of spring.

Worth noting that Kimura Drink has previously launched sodas with curry, tomato and wasabi flavors so they clearly know what they’re doing.

Suntory Chu-hi

If you want something with more of a kick, Suntory has got you covered with their sakura flavored chu-hi (a canned alcoholic drink consisting of shochu and fruit juice.)

Suntory’s chu-hi drink is made with real Sato Nishiki cherries and sakura liqueur. At 4 percent alcohol, it’s about half as strong as most shochu drinks, giving it a light, sweet and fragrant taste.

Sanktgallen beer

If sake or chu-hi is a little strong for your taste, you can always go with the more refined option of this sakura-mochi beer. This beer uses much less hops than your average beer and balances it out with flavors inspired by sakura-mochi — a traditional spring treat consisting of rice cake and bean paste wrapped in a cherry leaf.

This delicious beer is produced by Sanktgallen, a microbrewery based in Kanagawa Prefecture, who insists on using only the famous Takato cherry blossoms from Nagano Prefecture in its sakura beer brewing process.


In the past McDonald’s has released a sakura burger, but this year they are keeping it simple.

Available now are the sakura soda, sakura float and ume fries. While the soda is just what it sounds like, the fries are more interesting. Probably inspired by its successful chocolate fries, the side comes with plum powder, which should be put on the fries and liberally shaken.

Kit Kats

It’s well-known that Nestle saves its wacky flavors for Japan. In the past the company has created a variety of Kit Kat flavors ranging from pumpkin to, yes, cherry blossom.

This year it is trying something new with pistachio and raspberry-flavored Kit Kats that come in a spring-themed box along with a sakura keychain. The company says, naturally, that the new flavor is the “perfect” hanami treat.

Lindt Chocolate

For a more sophisticated sakura treat, Lindt is rolling out its sakura macarons. The treat is filled with a cherry puree ganache. Its special macarons are available until April 12 and the company’s Lindt Chocolate Cafes.

And if that wasn’t sweet enough, Lindt also has a white chocolate cherry ice drink. Its topped with white chocolate shavings and cherry syrup.

Calbee’s sakura butter chips

Sakura butter might sound like an odd flavor, but if you’ve ever had sakura shortbread cookies, then you’ve already experienced it. What does it taste like in the form of a chip? That’s for you to find out.

Calbee has never shied away from strange flavors as it has produced shrimp, pizza and okonomiyaki chips in the past.

Red Bull

In case you need some pep in your step at the hanami party, Red Bull has a Japan exclusive for you.

Its “spring” drink, featuring a bright pink can, will keep you out of a food coma. Grab a couple of these in case your party heads off to an izakaya once the sun sets.

Baskin Robbins

Baskin Robbins is doing something really special this time around. After a 24-year hiatus it is finally bringing back its sakura salted ice cream.

The ice cream contains real sakura leaves and a hint of sea salt to contrast the light, sweet floral taste. It’s available till the end of May, so stop by your local Baskin Robbins and scoop it up.

But wait! There’s more …

You’re sure to be a hit at the hanami parties if you show up in Nike’s sakura shoes. The modern kicks have a traditional look with prints that somewhat resemble suibokuga (Japanese ink wash paintings).

The sakura line is available as skate shoes, sneakers and even high tops. So whether you’re on a short jog or taking it to the courts, you can do it while decked out in your sakura swag.

Need to have that spring feeling wherever you go? You can bring sakura experience with Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

This sakura toilet paper is covered with sakura print, making your trip to the bathroom almost as great as a hanami party.

Happy hanami!

Sugar rush of sweet sushi, chocolate fossils and more as Valentine’s in Japan approaches

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Japan has an uneven track record when it comes to celebrating Western holidays. While many people have started dressing up for Halloween only recently, the country has wholly embraced Valentine’s Day since the 1950s. Annually, women buy premium chocolate and in bulk, generating half the country’s chocolate business being spent in February.

(Yes, that’s mostly women. Men repay the confectionary favor on White Day a month later.)

While there are mountains of high-end choco tugging at the heart strings, many vendors are trying to stand out with unique packaging and offbeat designs. Here are a few tasty examples.

Sushi chocolate

If you want to give your partner a gift with a Japanese twist, why not go fishing for some sushi-shaped candy?

Tobu's chocolate sushi.

Tobu’s chocolate sushi.

Instead of heading to Tsukiji’s fish market, go west to Ikebukuro’s Tobu Department Store where you can buy chocolate that looks like egg, shrimp and sea urchin sushi. The set, which costs ¥2,592, includes a dollop of mousse that represent the ginger gari.

Chocolate is a girl’s best friend

Takashimaya Osaka Store has morphed two favorite gift options: chocolate and diamonds.

Takashimaya's jeweled cake.

Takashimaya’s jeweled cake.

The department store’s new cake glitters as it’s decorated with diamonds in addition to frosting. You better be in love because the cake, encrusted with 125 diamonds, will set you back more than ¥14 million.

‘Poisoned’ apples

Kuromajutsu has a series of “poisoned” apples — but not any old  “Snow White” types of fruits. The company claims it has injected “magic” into these apples using a Buddhist prayer that will, supposedly, make your victim — um, that is future spouse — fall in love with you instantly.

Kuromajutsu's magically

A screenshot of Kuromajutsu’s magically “poisoned” apple.

Kuromajutsu packages the ominous apple in a black box complete with the company’s black cat logo. True love can be yours for just a bite — and ¥10,000.

Canned meat

Does your man lack a sweet tooth? Meiji has a savory solution by offering up the perfect canned meat for this Valentine’s Day.

Meiji's canned meat.

Meiji’s canned meat.

The company’s web page recommends which canned meat would go well with the men in your life. For example, your hard-working co-worker who likes sake may prefer corn beef, while your red wine-drinking boss might like grilled chicken. We can’t guarantee your Valentine will enjoy this gift, but it is sure to be memorable.

Monster cookies

At the event Cookieboy event, people can ice monster-shaped cookies designed by textile artist Takehiro Natsuyama to create adorable and delicious treats.

Cookieboy's creatively designed treats.

Cookieboy’s creatively designed treats.

Natsuyama wants guests to use his beastly cookies as a canvas and show them how to turn treats into works of art using only frosting and other toppings. Instead of keeping it a secret, you can make your Valentine’s gift with your boyfriend this year at the Cookieboy workshop

Jurassic Fossil Chocolat

Instead of searching for the perfect gift, you can make your boyfriend dig it up himself with an archaeological treat. Welcome to Jurassic chocolate.


Jurassic Fossil Chocolat by Maquis.

Jurassic Fossil Chocolat by Maquis is a tasty set where people have to unearth the chocolate fossil hidden behind a layer of . . . more chocolate. The set even comes with a tiny hammer and brush to complete the prehistoric experience. Some of the buried dinosaurs include a T-rex, stegosaurus and brachiosaurus.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide

If none of these options sound appetizing and you’re still unsure as to what kind of sweets to give your sweetie, Yahoo! Japan has a new site where you can (virtually) ask 25 different boys what their dream date and chocolate is.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide.

After you input your lover’s face type (dog, monkey, horse) and personality (herbivore, geeky, manly man), you can ask all of your burning Valentine’s questions. It’s a little unnerving watching this uncanny valley version of your boyfriend reveal his private thoughts, but his reaction is actually based on a scientific survey.

As you can see, Valentine’s Day in Japan isn’t just about chocolates and flowers. It’s a big business, and companies will continue to reinterpret the day in new and sometimes terrifying ways.

Don’t eat and drive with sake-flavored Kit Kats

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Nestlé Japan shows off its sake-flavored Kit Kat at Craft Sake Week.

Nestlé Japan shows off its sake-flavored Kit Kat at Craft Sake Week. | MONICA IRELAND

Nestlé Japan released a new Kit Kat flavor this week that has people buzzing. Containing an actual amount of alcohol — 0.8 percent — the new sake flavor is a perfect way to spike your mid-day snack. The packaging even warns that the treat it not for kids.

When I bit into the Kit Kat, it tasted very smooth. It has a very light and subtle taste from the sake, accompanied by the sweetness of white chocolate. It is well worth a try even if you’re not crazy about sake.

The new Kit Kat has expectedly made a splash online with many people posting their reactions on social media.

Sake is a rice wine made by fermented rice that has been polished to remove the bran. With many different types and flavors, it is one of Japan’s most famous products, and now joins the long list of flavored Kit Kats.

While most countries only get the regular chocolate, Japan has seen an array of colorful Kit Kats, including green tea, pineapple and strawberry cheesecake. We will have to wait and see what flavor Nestlé Japan comes up with next.

Japan tricks out the Halloween treats

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Halloween is a time to carve pumpkins, enjoy a few scares and, most importantly, shovel as much candy as humanly possible into one’s own mouth. While the practice of door-to-door trick-or-treating may not be a thing in Japan, the custom of eating special Halloween snacks certainly translates. Plenty of companies, both overseas and domestic, are looking to cash in on this boom.

In fact, American doughnut company Krispy Kreme is featuring some especially creepy creations at its Japanese outlets. The “Mad for Monsters” series is available through October and includes: Spider Chocolate Custard, Maple Milk Franken, Caramel Halloween Jack and Purple Potato Monster. We’re big fans of the three-doughnut box, which comes in the shape of a coffin.


Lotte’s Koala’s March — aka crackers that depict adorable koalas doing adorable things — are dressing up, too. Be it strawberry, cookies and cream or chocolate, each cracker depicts koalas in different Halloween costumes. And if you want to your sugar crash to the next level, there’s Lotteria’s Kaola’s March shake:

In a more chilled aisles of grocery stores, be on the look-out for pumpkin pudding cups. For those who enjoy a bit more crunch than jiggle there are Kit Kat’s Halloween bars.

Of course, one crunchy pumpkin pudding treat is not enough. Luckily, Tohato Caramel Corn is featuring a similar pumpkin pudding product complete with costumed packaging that features Frankenstein’s monster and other ghouls.

After you gobble down all of these treats, you might need something to wash it all down. Well, don’t fear because many companies have released some spooky sodas.

Pepsi has released Pepsi Ghost, which features a special mystery flavor inside each bottle of witchy brew. It seems that most who have tried it are leaning toward either pumpkin or cherry as the flavor, but the jury is still out. 

Of course, tis the season of pumpkin lattes. While Lipton’s Sweet Pumpkin Tea Latte apparently hard to find, the tea has been defined as being extremely milky and rich. Both the pumpkin tea and Lipton’s infamous Yellow Label Tea are being sold in a package that features a mysterious black cat on an orange background. Unlike the pumpkin tea, however, there is no change in flavor in the Yellow Label Tea.

Toppo and High Chew are doing much of the same — new costume, same product. 

Make sure you get a taste of these snacks before they slink away back into the shadows. With so many delicious options available at once, our wallets and stomachs truly have a reason to scream.

Ginza Cozy Corner takes dessert into hyperdrive with ‘Star Wars’ cakes

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

One Japanese confectionary vendor is about to find the Force deep within a sweet tie-up.


The (caloric) force is strong with this one.

Ahead of the December release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Ginza Cozy Corner, which has outlets nationwide, has made a line of “Star Wars” sweets that are truly out of this world. The treats themselves are all based on people from the the films, and regardless if the characters were good or evil, the desserts will end up being sweet.

The cake set includes Darth Vader, Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, an Ewok, a Stormtrooper, C-3PO and R2-D2, each having its own unique taste. The yellow C-3PO cake is lemon-flavored; the white R2-D2 one is cheese mousse; and so on.

If that wasn’t enough to satisfy sci-fi fans, Ginza Cozy Corner is also releasing a “Star Wars” tin and pouch filled with the store’s original creations. They will also be selling an R2-D2 sponge cake that is covered in white frosting and colored biscuits.

The “Star Wars” collection will be sold at select stores beginning Nov. 1, and the nine-piece cake set will sell for ¥2,000.

For more information, visit the Ginza Cozy Corner website.


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