Archive for the ‘Food & drink’ Category

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, one holiday that the country has wholly embraced Valentine’s Day since the 1950s. Annually, women buy premium 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 girl’s best friend

Takashimaya Osaka Store has morphed two favorite 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, 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.

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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.

monsters

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.

cozy-corner-20151021

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.

Dominique Ansel caters to Tokyo’s (semi)sweet tooth with cronuts and s’more

Friday, June 19th, 2015


Dominique Ansel Bakery opens June 20, but expect extremely long queues because Ansel has brought to Japan not only his famed Cronut, but also a vast array of unusual and creative desserts.

Though Ansel has said that he’ll be toning down the sugar levels for the Japanese clientele, this is still definitely a must-do for people with a sweet tooth as we discovered on a recent press preview event.

The bakery’s celebrated Frozen S’more — huge chunks of toasted marshmallow-covered vanilla ice cream on sticks — and Cookie Shot — chocolate-lined cookie cups filled with milk — are being served alongside several Japan-only treats.

Among the exclusive items is the Paris Tokyo. Inspired by the circular metro sign and Japanese bamboo, Paris Tokyo’s small balls of vanilla cream and matcha ganache have a dab of passion-fruit jam and are sandwiched between rings of choux pastry and topped with white chocolate ginkgo leaves.

Then there’s the Maneki Neko Religieuse filled with vanilla cream and yuzu jam, and fashioned in the shape of a smiling lucky cat. If you’re looking for something a bit more mature, though, the traditional Japanese sweet-inspired Mont Blanc Wagashi is a chestnut-paste covered meringue that sits on a bed of gold leaf.

Most of the desserts may be rich and aimed at adults, but the space is for the fun-loving child in everyone. Even the bakery’s brightly lit interiors uses candy-floss colors in a mock Paris subway map that names Ansel’s creations in place of stations, while cute color-matching graphic works by Vahram Muratyan look down on customers from the staircase.

If you need a break from the sweet stuff, the second floor also serves light savory dishes, salads and drinks, and if you’re brave enough to take your kids there’s always the Mr. Roboto melon pan — it’s filled with Hokkaido milk cream, but it can’t be any worse than a regular Japanese melon pan pastry.

Save your breath and let ‘Suimasen!’ make the call

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

suimasen3

Getting the attention of a server can make some people feel a little anxious. Should I raise my hand? Do I wait to make eye contact? How loud should I yell?

Well rest your nerves (and your voice) because there is a new app that makes eating out a little less stressful for soft-spoken diners.

Suimasen Daikō” (“Excuse Me Agent”) is an application where users simply tap a button and their phone will let out a hearty “すいませ~~~ん!” (“Excuse me!”)

Users can choose between a female voice, a male voice and even an ikemen voice for the cool kids. In addition, there is a bell and buzzer button to grab someone’s attention.

Need to adjust the volume? The app comes with three scene settings ranging from quiet cafes to noisy izakaya.

Suimasen Daikō is now available on iTunes.

Grow a new boyfriend with ‘ikemen’ seeds

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

ikemen-seeds

Sick of waiting to meet your dream man? Why not grow your boyfriend from the ground up?

That’s the idea behind “Tabegoro kareshi Ikusei Setto” (“Ripe Boyfriend Growing Set”), a line of vegetable seeds that are adorned with cute ikemen.

The manufacturers hope to turn up the heat in the greenhouse as each vegetable features a handsome animated character (Mr. Habanero Pepper has fiery red hair, Mr. Eggplant as smooth purple hair, and so on). Girls are encouraged to buy their favorite boy and watch him grow right before their eyes . . . after some tender love and care.

Gardeners might have to turn the hose on themselves to cool down after reading the salacious details and backstories behind each boy. Spoiler alert — Mr. Mint likes to eat mint chocolate ice cream.

The mail-order males can be purchased for ¥900. Available vegetables include cherry tomatoes, arugula, baby carrots, mint, habanero peppers and eggplant.

Takashi Murakami + Frisk = super-artsy breath

Friday, March 20th, 2015

For a limited time you’ll be able to freshen your breath by popping a piece of contemporary art into your mouth.

On March 16, Belgian confectionary Frisk launched a special collaborative line of art candy, called Frisk Neo, to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The collaborator is none other than Takashi Murakami, that superfamous creator of superflat pop art.

Though Murakami’s most expensive art pieces have sold for more than $4 million, the Frisk Neo decorated in his original Kaikai Kiki characters and signature skulls cost less than ¥400.

“We basically bring a piece of art into the pockets of normal consumers,” said chief marketing officer Jan Heelinn in the Frisk Neo x Takashi Murakami official video.

Murakami likens the candies to sculptures in the promo video. Though we shouldn’t expect them to be auctioned at Sotheby’s any time soon, every tin bears the text “Designed by Murakami.”

The local buzzsphere celebrated the pop artist’s foray into breath mints with exclamations of “kawaii!” (cute) and “getto shimashita!” (I got one!).

Not only are the tins customized, Frisk went a step further by reshaping their pellet-like mints into original Murakami motifs. The Blooming Cherry mints are pink and flower-shaped and, as the name suggests, taste like sweet cherry. Pop open the Frightening Mint tin and you will see white-and-blue skulls. You might taste a hint of chilli in the mint — eccentric, like the artist himself.

Frisk Neo is supposedly available in convenience stores nationwide, but our guess it’s a hot-seller so good luck finding a tin.

A photo posted by Tomoya Yamashita (@_txmxyx_) on

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