Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Pulsations (8.7.13)

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Here are the latest 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, they are . . .

Wonder Festival 2013 [Summer]: Quick Report (from Neko Magic): On July 28 Makuhari Messe transformed into an otaku paradise full of both pro and hobby figures. This post provides a random whirlwind peek.

Beat the heat with cute and cool kakigori! (from RocketNews 24): Using a lunch box as a canvas for cuteness is  a well-documented practice by now, but have you ever seen shaved ice like this?

Dog Salon by Horibe Associates (from Dezeen): There are probably not that many people who need a combination house and dog-grooming salon, but anyone can appreciate these somehow calming photographs.

Comic hiragana series made from paper by Makoto Sasao (from Spoon & Tamago): To see the “point” of these characters, you’ll have to change your “point” of view!

The Best in Japanese Craft Beer Design (from Ping Mag): Don’t judge a beer by its cover, but feel free to judge their covers on their own. These brews are stylin’!

Video pulse

OK, it’s a 150 gigapixel, 360 degree panorama of Tokyo, but what does that really mean? Try thinking about it in terms of the iPhone 5′s camera, which is 8 megapixels. Or let the creator of the photo take you on a tour:

When is a beer with lunch not a beer with lunch?

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

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.

Cool heat-blockers for summer 2012

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Though Japan is still experiencing rainy season, the country is bracing for a super-hot summer. Predicted power shortages and another season of setsuden are raising the demand for products that can help beat the heat without electricity. Here are a few of the more unusual ones.

Forget icy glasses, frozen foam is where it’s at

Frozen beer: Kirin has invented a machine that creates frozen suds on top of your pint. Working rather like a softserve ice cream machine, the device adds a frosty froth to a glass of draft beer. The froth is actually made from beer so that it doesn’t dilute your drink as it melts. According to Kirin, there are currently 252 establishments serving it nationwide, and 91 of those are in Tokyo.

Chilled foods: It’s unsurprising that manufacturers are casting around for unexpected foods to stick in the cool box. Chilled doughnuts have been around for a few years now and have proven to be more than a passing fad. Last year we had chilled Hiroshima okonomiyaki and cold curry. This spring snack giant Calbee brought out Potato Chips Zeitaku (Premium) Vanilla, which, the company claims, taste much better after being chilled in the fridge. There’s even a chilled instant ramen from Nissin (which, strangely enough, was launched in February).

Fans: Old-school paper fans have enjoyed a bit of a revival 0ver the last few years, but why waste all that energy flapping your hands around when you can get your hands on a Kurukuru Eco Fan? This environmentally friendly toy fan from Takara Tomy has been so popular that the company has had to double the shipments of the product. Thanko, our favorite store for wacky gadgets, put out this petite little fan that resembles bladeless household fans and comes in at a very affordable ¥980. Thanko has also got a product for cooling the insides of your shoes. The USB Shoes Cooler produces a cooling breeze when inserted into footwear, promising to prevent your feet from getting all sweaty.

I’m too sexy for my sutras

Thursday, May 17th, 2012


Kansho Tagai, the rapping monk.

Cute young monks are apparently gaining in popularity among young women in Japan. Whether the draw is the sage advice or unadorned good looks, an event held by young monks at Ginza Modern Art gallery in Tokyo has been attended by eager crowds of women in their 20s and 30s. Furthermore, the popularity of “The Illustrated Picture Book of Beautiful Young Monks,” published last month, seems to indicate that some women are focusing on the physical, rather than metaphysical, attractions of the Buddhist religion.

This illustrated book features hunky monks

The Ginza event is called “Be Healed by Young Monks.” The idea of the monthly gathering is to create an easy-going atmosphere in which members of the public can chat with young Buddhist monks. To encourage an informal atmosphere, beer and snacks are consumed by both lay people and monks. Though sutras are read at the beginning, guests are not necessarily limited to consulting the monk hosts about matters of religion. According to an article in Sponichi, women also ask for advice on matters of the heart, posing questions such as, “Is it bad that I feel so jealous of my boyfriend’s platonic friendship with another woman?”

The event was created last year as a way for members of the public who have been under stress since the quake to get stuff off their chests. The rather salacious article in Sponichi, however, suggests that the women attending have other motives in mind. “The monk held my gaze as he talked to me. He was really adorable,” a 20-year-old university student tells Sponichi. “He spoke beautifully, completely different from the guys I know.”

Though this might not be exactly the kind of attention they are craving from Japan’s youth, some Buddhist monks seem to be willing to employ radical methods to get people interested in the religion.  According to the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, since 2000, hundreds of temples have closed every year.  Monks serve up both alcohol and sutras at the bar Vowz in Shinjuku. Though the bartenders here aren’t specifically chosen to be easy on the eye, the monks of the Jodo sect who run this bar do have an easy-going approach to religious instruction. Hip hop is another unlikely weapon being used to entice young worshipers. According to CNN World, Kansho Tagai has doubled attendance by rapping sutras and holding hip hop events at Kyoouji Temple.

Can we expect Buddhism to be coming back into style? Perhaps. One reviewer on Amazon of “The Illustrated Picture Book of Beautiful Young Monks”  pointed out that monks might be on the cutting edge, since the shaven head (non)hair style is “gentle on the purse and the environment.” Word.

 

Rich Japanese flavors for lean times

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

You might have heard that Japanese food is all about delicate flavor; that seasoning tends to be muted to allow the flavors of the main ingredients to shine. Despite this, according to J-Cast, the current food trend is all about rich, strong flavors. These days packages of instant ramen, potato chips, happoshu (a beer-like beverage) and puddings are often emblazoned with the words “noukou” (rich) or “koi” (strong flavored).

Rich cream stew

Rich cream stew

A recent program on TV Asahi presented by Yohei Onishi demonstrated that in supermarkets there are now 38 products labelled noukou or koi. Out of these Koi Stew, by S&B Foods, has been a hit among consumers. There are two varieties of Koi Stew, one beef flavored and one béchamel cream. Dense, creamy sauces are the reason many Japanese shy away from French cuisine, citing the fact that they are just too rich and difficult to digest, so it’s interesting that S&B’s product has been so successful.

Richer flavors are found not only in processed foods. There’s been a trend in restaurants in recent years for ramen broths to be thicker and richer. We asked Brian MacDuckston, author of the blog Ramen Adventures for his thoughts on this trend: “It’s true, there has been a recent trend to make stronger flavors in ramen. In the past, the soup was simply a vessel to keep the noodles hot. Now, the noodles are a vessel to deliver the soup, often motor-oil-thick, to your mouth. Chefs have a difficult task, though, as the long boiling times required for thickness can easily result in a bitter broth.”

So why the change in attitudes? Economic analyst Kazuyuki Hirano states that in this bad economic climate when salaries are taking a hit, people want to indulge in small luxuries or small extravagances. In summary, the recession is pushing this boom for richer flavors. Consumers on the Asahi show commented, “If it costs the same, I’d prefer a rich taste” and “I feel deep flavors are tastier.”

 

Photo by Mekkjp via Flickr

Prizes for every picnic as spring campaigns blossom

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Pretz Party Box “men-only” edition contains cute actress Umika Kawashima

Spring is the season of fresh beginnings in Japan. As the financial and school years draw to a close and the cherry blossoms begin to bloom at the end of March, farewell parties, graduation parties and, of course, hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties get underway. During this time a ton of food and booze gets consumed, making spring the perfect season to launch special campaigns to lure potential customers.

Our pick of this year’s campaigns is the “Pretz Party Box” campaign by Glico, the makers of Pretz (a popular savory stick-shaped snack). Those who enter the competition get the chance to win a special box that will be delivered to their party. There are five kinds of boxes available for five different kinds of party and each appears to contain human cargo ready to burst out and liven up your party. The hanami version, for instance, offers drummers in bear suits and cheerleaders shaking pom poms. (Those who like quiet contemplation beneath the blossoms need not apply: Applicants must submit a picture of themselves having fun at a party, and the wilder the party looks, the better the chance of winning.) The birthday box is packed with “human candles” and the “men’s only” party box contains cute actress Umika Kawashima. The website is worth a look for its animation alone.

Cherry blossoms are as certain to turn up on packaging in the spring as they are to bloom on trees. Confectionery makers, Lotte, for instance, began selling special sakura-themed sweets from March 6. They’re also running a tie-in campaign with Rurubu, JTB’s travel magazine, to encourage customers to travel to scenic cherry blossom spots. The back of each package has information from Rurubu editors on choice cherry blossom spots. Lotte is also running a competition to win branded picnic sets plus a copy of Rurubu for a destination of your choosing.

Picnic sets and crates of beer are the standard cherry blossom season prizes on offer from beer companies and this year is no exception, with Kirin offering all of the above for their Nodogoshi campaign and Suntory offering 1,000 12-packs to those who bookmark a webpage for a hanami spot on the associated Yahoo! Japan app.

Last year’s hanami was a rather gloomy affair as the country mourned the huge loss of life caused by the tsunami and experienced ongoing unease over the nuclear crisis. Many took their cue from the authorities who advised citizens to practice self-restraint and cancel rowdy festivities. The start of these spring campaigns signals a return to normality for this year’s hanami, which looks set to be a significantly more joyful affair.

Say cheers to these limited edition beers

Friday, October 14th, 2011

The appearance of a rather special Tokyo Sky Tree commemorative beer can from Asahi got us frothing at the mouth and thirsty to find out more about this season’s crop of limited edition beers.

Asahi Sky Tree Tower Cans: The miniature Tokyo Sky Tree on the side of this can changes color with a change in temperature. At room temperature it’s blue but once chilled, it darkens to purple. In the run up to the opening of the tower in spring next year, Asahi will be giving away a load of Sky Tree Tower related goods and 50 lucky people who buy one of these six packs of Super Dry or Clear Asahi will win a Sky Tree Tower themed prize. The cans are on sale until Oct 25.

Kirin Ichiban Shibori Toretate Hoppu: Though Asahi’s cans are cool, the product inside is still your standard dry larger, but this one ought to tickle the fancy of beer connoisseurs. Made from hops that have just been harvested in Iwate this beer has a clean finish and a fruity scent. Kirin reopened their Sendai factory, which was damaged in the quake, just in time to get this beer made. The company points out that buying this beer is a way to show your support for the beleaguered farmers in the area. On sale from Nov 9.

Yebisu Kokaku: A seasonal favorite, this beer comes out each autumn and is quickly snapped up. It’s got a rich, hoppy taste that appeals to those who like a richer beer and, though made by Sapporo, is bound to appeal to those who favor microbrewery beer. On sale now.

Sapporo Vegalta Sendai: Sapporo is also getting behind the movement to support Tohoku and have produced some limited edition Vegalta Sendai cans on restricted sale in six north eastern prefectures for just that purpose. The cans have a picture of the J-league team’s mascot printed on the side. On sale now.

Beer campaign stirs up the ire of working wives

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The nostalgic ad campaign for Suntory’s hugely popular drink Kin Mugi has proved a hit with middle-aged men who are pining for the simple charms of yesteryear. The campaign depicts a smiling wife played by actress Rei Dan who, while waiting for her husband to return home from work to down a few refreshing glasses of beer-like Kin Mugi, passes the time by enjoying fireworks, running through clouds of cherry blossoms and posing cutely in a yukata. Though men are lapping up the nostalgic picture of the carefree, stay-at-home cutie, some women of the same generation find the whole thing deeply offensive.

“Every time I watch that actress playing the wife wait for her husband to return from work with a big smile on her face, I get the sense that something’s deeply wrong with this picture. If I think about that carefree spoilt woman, I get really irritated. These days households that can survive on only a husband’s salary are in the minority,” a woman in her 40s wrote earlier in the year in Tokyo Shimbun newspaper. She’s not the only one, journalist Yuzumi Yamashita raised the issue again in an article written on Oct. 3 in News Post Seven. Yamashita writes that she’s heard the same opinion from other people and that economic realities these days mean that it’s typical for Japanese wives to take a job.

The (what seemed to be mostly male) response to the article on 2ch News ranged from the juvenile: “You’re just jealous,” to the more reasoned, “If women read young boy’s manga it seems odd to them, if men read young girl’s manga it seems odd to them. That’s all there is to it.”

Personally, I have to doubt a scenario in which men who are drinking cheap beer substitutes (called dai san in Japan) are able to afford the luxury of having a stay-at-home wife. What do you think? Does this advert raise your hackles or make you go all warm and fuzzy?

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