Hot Pulse

Pulsations 1.13.14

January 13th, 2014 by

Here’s a new batch of Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order . . .

Kabe-don: How tough guys show their love! (from RocketNews24): Do you know what that pose is called when guys lean over someone with one hand against a wall? Here are some wacky examples from around the web.

less is more: Nendo Reinvents the Chopstick by turning two into one (from Spoon & Tamago): Rassen chopsticks fit together after you’re done eating due to their helix shape.

What it was like to run a popular sushi restaurant in New York City, with memories (from Just Hungry): Makiko Itoh remembers her mother’s sushi restaurant, Tsukiji Sushisay, which closed in 2002.

A Japanese Traditional Tea Room built in the Condo.! (from talk-hokkaido): This blog from Hokkaido has a new post almost everyday. This time, Kazu introduces the tea room his friend arranged for his wife.

In Japan the cycle of dependency has gone viral (from Kotaku): An anti-drug post spawns a pile of parodies ranging from addictive nature of Pokémon to olive-oil dependency.

Video Pulse

The Tower of the Sun in Osaka’s Expo Commemoration Park got was illuminated with a super fancy projection mapping show over Christmas. This multi-angle video from Osaka at Night shows the entire thing, in case you missed it.

Feelin’ lucky? The highs and lows of ‘fukubukuro’

January 8th, 2014 by

Whether you count fukubukuro “lucky bags” as a thank-you to shoppers, a scheme to unload less popular merchandise at the end of the year or just a way to kick off the New Year’s sales, buying a mystery pile of stuff worth [hopefully far] more than the price tag is a tempting offer to many. Plus, who knows, you might just be one of the really lucky ones:

https://twitter.com/pqwpqwpqw/status/418576520794218496

Translation: My Apple Store lucky bag! Thanks to being the fourth person in line about 24 hours ahead of time, I got a MacBook Air! It was a blizzard in Sapporo, so it was really rough to wait outside all that time, but I had fun! Anyhow, now I’m gonna rest! lol

Let’s see what other Twitter users’ lucky bag experiences were like…

My best friend said she bought a certain brand’s lucky bag and a mop was inside. I had her bring it over today and omg I laughed so hard lololol [...]

I bought a natural gems lucky bag thinking a phone strap or something would be inside and it was an uncut amethyst lol

Pulsations (12.6.13)

December 6th, 2013 by

Here’s a new batch of Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order . . .

Restaurant combines delicious sushi with live performances by J-pop idols (from RocketNews24): “On average, each of [the members of the idol group] works in the restaurant three days a week, and on Mondays and Wednesdays, they’re always here to take care of our guests. One of the girls hates sushi, though.”

IT knit sweaters by Shogo Kishino (from designboom): You know that time you met that guy what’s-his-name and he had some hair and like . . . a face? There’s also what’s-her-face and their hazily remembered animal friends, all in pixel art on sweaters.

Noramoji | Fonts made out of retro Japanese storefronts (from Spoon & Tamago): Buying these unique fonts supports the small business owners whose signs they are adapted from.

Tokyo Disney Sea with a bottle of vodka (from Ikimasho!): Justin goes further than journaling his visit to the theme park by rating all the rides he and his friends went on.

Stop-Motion Animator Spent Four Years Making His Dream Come True (from Kotaku): “I’m putting out [Junk Head 1] and if people are interested in the sequel and are willing to donate the funds necessary to make it, I’ll make it.”

Video Pulse

‘Tis the season to be packing Santa character bento. e-obento’s tutorial shows you how, step-by-step.

Joysound’s top 10 karaoke songs of 2013

December 3rd, 2013 by

Karaoke titan Joysound announced the most popular songs in their catalog over the course of 2013. Let’s sing along while checking out the top 10!

10. “Tentai Kansoku” — BUMP OF CHICKEN

Approximate English title: “Astronomical Observation”
Album: “Jupiter” (2002)

9. “Hebiirotēshon” — AKB48

Approximate English title: “Heavy Rotation”
Album: “Koko ni Ita Koto” (2011)

8. “Kiseki” — GReeeeN

Approximate English title: “Miracle”
Album: “A’, domo. Ohisashiburi desu.” (2008)

7. “Eikō no Kakehashi” — Yuzu

Approximate English title: “The Bridge to Glory”

*No official video available.

Album: “1 ~ONE~” (2004)
Factoid: Was the theme song to NHK’s coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

6. “Guren no Yumiya” — Linked Horizon

*No official video available.

Approximate English title: “Crimson Bow and Arrow”
Album: (The maxi-single “Jiyū e no Shingeki” just came out in July.)
Factoid: Was used as the opening theme to the first season of one of this year’s hit anime,  “Attack on Titan.”

5. “Hanamizuki” — Yo Hitoto

*No official video available.

Approximate English title: “Flowering Dogwood”
Album: “Hito Omoi” (2004)
Factoid: Was used for commercials and themes including “Kayō Sasupensu Gekijō” on NHK.

4. “Chiisa na Koi no Uta” — MONGOL800

*The only official video is a special tie-up with Pocky and Space Shower TV.

Approximate English title: “A Little Love Song”
Album: “MESSAGE” (2001)

3. “Senbonzakura” — Whiteflame feat. Hatsune Miku

English title: “A Thousand Cherry Blossoms”
Album: “5th Best Anniversary” (2013)
Factoid: The member of Whiteflame who created this song (using Hatsune Miku Vocaloid software) is Kurousa-P.

2. “Zankoku no Tenshi no Tēze” — Yoko Takahashi

*The only official video is a live cover by MAX.

English title: “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”
Album: “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (1995)
Factoid: The theme song to the hugely popular anime “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” which originally aired in 1995-1996 and has spawned an ongoing feature film reboot.

1. “Memeshikute” — Golden Bomber

Approximate English title: “Effeminate”
Album: “Gōruden Besuto ~Pressure~” (2010)

Does it surprise anyone that the Evangelion theme is up there so high? A more pertinent question might be, were there any karaoke parties where that song was not sung? I don’t think I’ve heard anyone do “Memeshikute,” but I can see how it would get the room pumped up.

As a bonus here are the top 10 Western songs of 2013:

10. “We Are the World” — USA for Africa

9. “I Want It That Way” — The Backstreet Boys

8. “A Whole New World” — Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle

7. “Top of the World” — The Carpenters

6. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” — Aerosmith

5. “My Heart Will Go On” — Celine Dion

4. “What Makes You Beautiful” — One Direction

3. “Live While We’re Young” — One Direction

2. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” — Taylor Swift

1. “Call Me Maybe” — Carly Rae Jepsen

So Japan didn’t escape the “Call Me Maybe” wave, but they leave Bieber in the dust and favor One Direction? Hmm, hmm…

Which song did you sing the most in 2013?

All approximate translations approximated by the writer! See the rest of Joysound’s variously categorized “top” lists here and thanks to My Game News Flash for the tip.

Tokyo Eggs Benedict Bingo

November 27th, 2013 by

What is it about fall this year that seems to warrant a dribble of Hollandaise sauce on every egg? OK, that’s, uh, an eggsaggeration, but I feel like Eggs Benedict or Eggs Benedict-”style” dishes have been maybe following me around, or at least popping up in more places than I can fit in this blog post. That said, I’m still going to fit a bunch, so if you’re in the mood for an emulsion, read on.

Most unfortunate: Lawson’s “Egg Benedict,” ¥320

lawson1 lawson2

Let’s just get this out of the way. While I appreciate the asparagus accent and the black pepper (less so the olive, but it was barely there), this 307-calorie package is not only strange, but also kind of yucky — confusing as it is convenient. Rather than nestling the egg on top of a half of an English muffin, Lawson gives you the whole muffin, which is itself sandwiching . . . cheese? Really? The sauce is (well, should be) made of butter so I don’t understand how cheese would improve things.

More vexing than the limp bacon, and the drizzle of creamy yellow, was another saucy aspect. It might have been something mayo-based, or maybe it was just the poached egg losing control of more than its yolk, but the fact that I couldn’t figure it out grossed me out to no end. If, for some reason, you do feel compelled to eat this, make sure it gets a thorough zapping in the microwave because you do not want to deal with this thing lukewarm.

Least eggy: Denny’s “Pancakes and Salmon Patties, Eggs Benedict-Style,” ¥940 (drink included)

dennys1 dennys2

A word of caution: you may or may not be able to get this for breakfast. It seems to be a positioned as more of a lunch dish despite the pancakes and egg. That egg! Thrown in as if a complete afterthought, and a thoroughly unnecessary one at that. This 476-calorie (is that all?!) meal wormed its tasty way into my heart by teaching me that Hollandaise goes better with salmon. Also, Denny’s managed to buck the trend of the fast-food versions I had had up to this point and be more of a sauce than a whip, with more lemon flavor, too. The scattering of white onions (or perhaps their preparation) was the perfect amount to accent the fish and citrus without overpowering them. While the sweetness of the pancakes might bother some people, I was pretty happy with it. As a novelty dish, this stood out.

Most . . . Hawaiian?!: Freshness Burger’s Salmon Egg Burger, ¥480

fresh1 fresh2

Back after a successful run last year, this burger may be trying to set the Hollandaise sauce x Autumn trend. Or maybe when it starts to get cold, Japan longs for the warm temperatures associated with this “Hawaiian Taste.” (If Hollandaise sauce is somehow Hawaiian, please let me know. Otherwise, perhaps we can say there is no accounting for advertising?) The 463-calorie burger showed up looking very “fresh” indeed, thanks to the mini-jungle of green, green lettuce. I was hoping for a repeat of the Denny’s lemon-salmon goodness, but the sauce in this case came across pretty sweet. Before I could get a good handle on it, though, the white onions blew any nuance of flavor away (and gave me sensational breath for the rest of the night).

Most Japanese: Eggcellent’s A.M. Eggcellent Benedict, ¥1,500

maguro egg1

Opened just recently, Eggcellent is a cafe in Roppongi Hills, many of whose dishes feature a secret ingredient you’ll never be able to guess. What? How’d you know?! Not content with Original Eggs Benedict (scroll down) they’ve come up with a handful of newfangled concoctions like Bouillabaisse (that’s fish stew) Benedict and Texmex Benedict (daintier than you’re imagining).Where it starts to get really funky, though, is where they become the Mos Burger of Benedicts by doing away with the English muffin and busting out the rice. And in this case, the raw tuna. And avocado. And because plain old Hollandaise sauce would no longer do, a mugi-miso version. Wafū, wahoo!

Yes, it’s a bit wacky. I did polish them off, though. There is no unpleasant flavor, but there is the question of whether the flavors meld or not, and to me, they did not. The mugi-miso sauce, although tasty, feels unaccustomed to the egg, the egg feels weird around the tuna (especially once you pop it and the yolk oozes all over) and the tuna. . . Well, cutting it with a butter knife seems less than effective, so it’s basically a giant pink tongue sticking out at you till you eat it whole. If you want to ingest this selection of ingredients in one meal, enjoy a stacked-up visual presentation and can reign in expectations of cohesion, by all means give this a shot. It’s fun that it exists, but there are other, better and more lasting reasons to eat at this cafe.

Most Eggs Benedict: Sarabeth’s Classic Eggs Benedict, ¥1,400

写真

Sarabeth’s is a New York bakery and restaurant that opened its first Japanese outpost in Shinjuku last year. Recently, another has sprouted up in Daikanyama, and since Eggs Benedict is an American breakfast, it seemed appropriate to sample their version. Note that it’s ham in there, not bacon. They also have a smoked salmon version, which in retrospect might have been more interesting. This version was delicious, just in an unmemorable way. I’m not sure if that means it transcended the classicism in its name and arrived in a realm where it is indistinguishable from some daydreamy archtype (“Oh yeah, Eggs Benedict, not bad.”) or if it was just average. The sauce did not stand out to me as either “Quite lemony!” or “Rather sweet!” It just was. Sarabeth’s gets best marks for presentation and I credit a lot of that to the stoutness of the muffin.

Shout-out to Bacon (Most . . . American?): Eggcellent’s Original Eggs Benedict, ¥1,200

hillz1

I promise the reason I’m mentioning two from Eggcellent is not because The Japan Times is currently tied up with them and offering morning English seminars (consider this your disclaimer); as a breakfast-lover at any time of day, I’ve been staking out this place out since before they even opened. No, the reason they receive this special attention is because they have great bacon! It’s not fried crispy, but neither is it a wet noodle of pork fat — just solid and meaty. Maybe the exuberance of the lemon in the Hollandaise sauce is a frustrating if you’re more of a bacon person than a Hollandaise person, but nevertheless, bacon. It comes in some of their other meals uninhibited by the sauce, too.

Most DIY: “Grand Hyatt Tokyo Totteoki no Chōshoku Reshipi” 

book hyatt

Intrepid Japanese-speaking home chefs may want to look into the new cookbook from (¥1,600 from Parco Publishing) that unveils the Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s Eggs Benedict recipe, along with other breakfast specialties. In the end, it might be that nothing beats a cozy brunch at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sauce guide

Here is approximate (and subjective, not to mention subject to my powers of memory — or lack thereof) ranking of the Hollandaise sauces in a range from sweet to lemony (*Mugi-miso and Grand Hyatt Tokyo are not listed):

  • Royal Host [Bonus! I ate this before starting the project proper so I don’t have a picture, but the Hollandaise sauce is sweet and has texture reminiscent of shaving cream.] 
  • Freshness Burger [It might be tied with Lawson, but is possibly sweeter, so I put it here.]
  • Lawson
  • Sarabeth’s [even-keel]
  • Denny’s
  • Eggcellent [the bacony original]

All photos by Emily Balistrieri except book cover. 

Pulsations (11.19.13)

November 19th, 2013 by

Here’s a new batch of Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order . . .

This Volkswagen Beetle’s Backseat Has Been Converted Into A Japanese Bathtub (from DesignTaxi): One man’s dream to drive a Beetle packing an open-air bath is coming true.

A Neighborhood Transforms (from Tokyo Art Beat): This post features great photos from Trans Arts Tokyo 2013, which took over multiple locations in the Kanda area.

Pinkly Ever After: Cute and Magical (from japanese streets): “I wanted to become a designer who makes magical clothes for girls,” says Robin JooBin, who is inspired by fairy tales and Japanese magical girl anime.

ryue nishizawa places fukita pavilion amongst the trees (from designboom): What do you think of this unique outdoor space in Kagawa?

How to peel an orange: Is mikan art the new origami? (from RocketNews24): Every time you careless rip off a mikan peel and toss it, you are denying yourself an artistic opportunity. Dragons, bunnies, snails, all spawned from a healthy snack.

Keita Sagaki Covers the USA in Doodles (from Spoon & Tamago): A doodle master unleashes his brand of busy on famous landmarks of the United States.

Video Pulse

The time-traveling cat robot Doraemon claimed the number one spot for the fourth year running in a recent survey on popular characters among children. His boundless popularity makes it no surprise that his debut in 3D is a major event. What do you think of the trailer for “Stand By Me: Doraemon”?

J-blip: Tsutaya launches one-stop ‘lifestyle’ bookshop

November 18th, 2013 by

Tsutaya's new book store meets all your lifestyle needs

Tsutaya’s new book store meets all your lifestyle needs

Following on the success of Daikanyama T-Site, an upmarket complex targeted at an older demographic of book lovers and one that included satellite boutiques for cameras, bikes and pets,  bookselling behemoth Tsutaya has opened  a new similar envelope-pushing book store in Honjō-Waseda, Saitama.

By offering objects for sale related to a particular hobby or interest, the concept of the new store, which opened its doors on Nov. 2, is to sell not only books, but also a new lifestyle and, of course, to maximize profits.

Make no mistake, though. The lifestyle being hawked here is a far cry from the tony Daikanyama T-Site. Catering to a more suburban and middle-class set, the store is divided into seven zones: cookery, interior decorating, beauty, kids, business, the arts and travel. In the cookery zone, cooking utensils and tableware are laid out next to cookbooks and in-store cookery demonstrations should further whet consumer’s appetite for purchasing more than just a recipe book.

As more entertainment content — be it books, DVDs or games — becomes digitized and downloadable, could this mark the final chapter of the bookstores? The writing is on the brick-and-mortar wall.

Autumn crop of pumpkin, purple potato and pear products

October 30th, 2013 by

JT's new pear juice contains pulp with the distinctive flavour of Japanese pear

JT’s new juice contains pulp with the distinctive texture of Japanese pear

This autumn sees the shelves of convenience stores throughout Japan groaning under the weight of a bumper harvest of new flavor sensations. Here’s our round-up of this year’s crop:

Pumpkin is of course a classic autumnal flavor and true to form, this year Nestle has released a limited edition pumpkin-flavored Kit Kat for Halloween. Häagen-Dazs, too, has jumped aboard the pumpkin bandwagon by releasing pumpkin-flavored ice cream earlier this month along with a murasaki imo (purple potato) flavor. Purple potato has also popped up in Kinoko no Yama’s roster of seasonal flavors this year, along with maple and roasted chestnut.

According to Mainichi, crunchy Japanese pears (nashi), as opposed to the differently shaped and softer-textured European pears, are quite literally the flavor of the autumn months this year. Last month Japanese pear-flavored Fanta went on sale for a limited time only and beverage maker JT also brought out a pear juice with a pulpy texture that’s distinctive to the Japanese pear. In addition, Gari-Gari Kun’s pear-flavored ice pops have also proved so popular since their initial release in 2010 that this year they’re being sold in packs of seven.

As surely as the trees will soon be bare of leaves, many of the limited-edition items mentioned about will be sold out by the end of autumn, so those who don’t want to miss out on these novel nibbles and drinks ought to hurry.

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