Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

J-blip: Face Chocolates

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers, using a 3D scanner and printer, at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Does it look like me? Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Valentine’s Day is big business in Japan. We’ve seen a lot of confectionery one-upmanship, but nothing quite like FabCafe’s jibunsei chocolates (self-styled chocolates).

A chocolate replica of your own face might look more kimoi (creepy) than oishii (delicious), but for the 15 people who participated in a two-day workshop the week before Valentine’s Day, the draw was the experience: getting to test out the 3D scanner and printer used to make the silicon molds. The workshop cost ¥6000, or about twice as much as an overpriced box of Godiva. To see more pictures of the process click on the gallery below.

FabCafe, a café-cum-workspace (with a laser cutter you can rent by the hour—or use to burn your own Valentine’s designs into macarons), is run by Loftwork, an “innovation consultancy;” it is also downstairs from 3D printer showroom Cube. “We were brainstorming together about how the 3D-printing technology could appeal to consumers, when we hit on the idea of Valentine’s Day chocolates,” explained Loftwork PR rep Kazue Nakata.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is for women to give chocolate to men; men return the favor on White Day, March 14. FabCafe is planning similar workshops for men in March. They haven’t officially announced it yet, but keep your calendar open if you’ve always wondered what you or your man would look like as a Gummi Bear.

Check out FabCafe’s own report of the event (in Japanese) and more great photos here.

Today’s J-blip: Otoshidama Kit Kat

Friday, November 9th, 2012

The snake and the Kat.

There are many perks to being a kid in Japan, and receiving money just because it’s New Year is one of them. As if that isn’t enough fun, Kit Kat will soon be releasing the otoshidama version for the fourth year in a row. Being an ’80s kid doesn’t seem all that cool now, does it?

Otoshidama is the money children get from adult relatives during the New Year. It usually comes sealed in a prettily patterned envelope. On this year’s otoshidama box, Kit Kat, in collaboration with Japan Post Holdings, features a cute snake on the package to represent the Chinese zodiac sign of the upcoming year and a message can be written on the back of the package to wish your addressee luck.

Kit Kat product collectors, take note: If you’re fortunate to get your hands on the special edition you’ll get Kit Kat gift envelope. Oooh.

And while we’re on the topic. Have you noticed that Kit Kat has been more saku saku (crispy) in recent years? This Japanese snack blogger lets you know what she thought of the otoshidama Kit Kat for the Rabbit year.

Crunchiness aside, you should purchase your own New Year money pack, which will be on sale at local post offices Nov. 1-Jan. 13.

Today’s J-blip: customizable Tirol chocolate

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Love those little ¥20 Tirol sweets that are konbini fixture, but get frustrated when they don’t have the flavor you want? Good news, control freaks: You can now customize them online at My Tirol. What better way to welcome trick-or-treaters than with Japanese chocolate made and packaged according to your own preferences?

Tirol, as you like it.

Tirol sweets are easily distinguished by their uniform square shape and varied, bright wrappers. They are offered in a wide assortment of flavors, including kinako mochi and creamy anmitsu, that seem to be made available on a rotational basis. Since one square is only 35 calories, they make great treats for dieters who can’t resist a confection after every meal. Can’t have just one? These little yummy blocks also come in packs of 8. Willpower? What’s that?

Create your own pack of Tirol chocolates by choosing the top layer, the filling and the bottom layer. Does caramel chocolate and gouda cheese chocolate filled with mochi gummy sound delicious, or at least intriguing? You’re in luck — with a few clicks, it, or any one of 625 combinations, can be on its way. A list of ingredients that can trigger allergies pops up after every combination. You choose the packaging, and one even gives you the option to include a message. Forget flowers; this is the new sweetest trick in the book.

Thirty cubes of three different customizations will set you back ¥2,680 plus shipping fees. Granted, it’s way more expensive than the off-the-shelf Tirols, but it’s not every day you can have a strawberry-almond-kabocha chocolate.

Searching for a soulmate? There’s an app for that

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Lots of ways to show your love

This Valentine’s day, that cold slab of glass and metal in your pocket could get you closer to real, warm love — that is, if you have the right apps.

There’s more to it than just Japan’s everyday mind-boggling array of dating apps and love simulation games. With more Japanese singles now than ever before, the Koi Kuru proximity-detecting app from clothing retailer Beams is extra timely. It alerts you when someone else with the love-locator is nearby. You input your info (age, sex, blood type, etc.) and assign it to a funky little avatar you design in the app. It then alerts you when you cross paths with another user and what your percent compatibility is. (These close encounters are represented visually and updated constantly on the associated website Koi Kuru.) You can send little virtual gifts, like cyber-flowers or a generic “present,” to the other person. There are buttons for virtual flirty gestures, too — you can wink, blow a kiss or “drop your eraser.” It’s all anonymous, so there’s no giveaway of who the mystery match is, unless you catch someone else sneaking glances up from their phone, trying to look like they’re not looking around. This continues the trend of retailers putting out loyalty-building apps.

If you already know who your true love is, there are branded tablet and smartphone apps with recipes for making homemade chocolates and chocolate-covered baked goods from confectioners Meiji and Ghana. Meiji’s includes step-by-step instructions for creating fancy individual wrappings. Ghana’s app lets you choose recipes not only by ingredients, but also by “scene.” We’re guessing that’s referring to whether you want to whip up some “love chocolate,” “friend chocolate” or the least inspiring (but most purchased) chocolate of all, “obligation chocolate.” The app from Excite Japan Co. simply called Choco has lots of mouthwatering photos and English as well as Japanese for over 100 recipes. It also, somewhat cruelly, includes calorie counts.

For sending a little virtual love, Valentine Photo lets you plaster your cellphone photos with all kinds of hearts and then email them directly or upload them to Twitter or other social networking sites. There are also endless collections of “deco-mail” characters and icons to liven up cellphone love letters. Looking ahead, Starbucks would do well to release  the AR Valentine app that’s out in the U.S. here next year as well. If the buzz in online forums is to be trusted, it already has a fan club in Japan.

Guys can get greedy and girly on Valentine’s

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

According to the folks at Chocokure, the era of men patiently waiting for Valentine’s chocolates is over. Now they can stand up and be counted by demanding chocolates from the woman they love. If something seems a bit skewed about this picture, it’s important to remember that in Japan it’s customary for men to receive chocolates from their sweethearts or colleagues, not vice versa. (The favor is returned on White Day, March 14.) The idea of demanding chocolates via social networking platforms, however, is brand new.

Valentine's chocolate could be yours for the tweeting ... if you're lucky.

A witty little one-off service for Valentine’s Day, men type in the Twitter username of the lady they wish to demand chocolates from, then enter their address and telephone number. A cheeky tweet is then sent that roughly translates as, “Choco please. Pretty pretty please.” A link on the tweet takes the lady to a page where she can click on either the “Present” button, or “Sorry.” If she is obliging she can then pay ¥500 by credit card and, presto, the requested chocolates will be sent.

The ¥500 “one coin” choco is a pretty popular price range with women purchasing giri (obligitary gift) chocolates for co-workers, but when it comes to really satisfying the man you love, nothing beats posh chocs from a department store. So unless you’re sure your girlfriend is in danger of forgetting this important occasion, it might be wise to hold out and drop some heavy hints instead.

This year chocolate on a stick is trending as a Valentine’s Day gift for lovers. According to Nikkei Woman,  the modern man is apparently not adverse to receiving a chocolate lollypop like Savarin’s bitter chocolate or caramel flavoured numbers, available at Isetan Shinjuku. An interesting variation on this trend is the Chocolat-o-Lait milk drink by patisserie Aoki Sadaharu. Sadaharu, who has a shop in Paris no less, has developed this choco lollypop to melt once placed inside hot milk, producing a delicious drink, available in matcha, yuzu or noir flavors.

If lollypops seem a little too girly, how about the Mechasaurus, a chocolate mechanoid dinosaur to melt the heart of the most hardcore of otaku? Only available at L’eclat, Osaka, this incredible creation comes with the equally incredible price tag of ¥52,500. If your girlfriend presents you with this on Valentine’s Day, you’ll know it’s for real.

For more Valentine’s ideas, JT has some sweet somethings.

Japan’s chocolatiers search for the sweet spot

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Left to Right: Sapporo's Chocolat Brewery Bitter beer, Suntory's Chocolate Sparkling soda and Asahi's Chocolat Cocktail

Left to right: Sapporo’s Chocolat Brewery Bitter beer, Suntory’s Chocolate Sparkling soda and Asahi’s Chocolat Cocktail

With weeks to go until Valentine’s Day (and its younger Japanese cousin, White Day), the barrage of new chocolate products and chocolate marketing has begun. Japan’s 285,000-ton-a year habit pales in comparison to western consumption, but the sweet stuff plays an major role in the country’s snack and dessert markets, as well as in societal traditions such as the o-chugen, o-seibo and omiyage. What was once considered a yearly social obligation for many women is now changing, but people continue to buy cacao products (including luxury items), if for no one else but themselves.

Recipes are not restricted to candy, however. A variety of chocolate-flavored beverages are now available at convenience stores. Japan Pulse’s independent and unscientific taste test found that the flavor of Sapporo’s Chocolat Brewery Bitter beer fits the winter palate quite well (although some disagree), but the brew loses points for being happoshu instead of proper beer.

Suntory’s Chocolate Sparkling soda was surprisingly drinkable, but the sensory equivalent of a trompe-l’œil for the tongue: How could something that goes down like Perrier taste like a Cadbury? W. David Marx over at CNNGo postulates that the drink might be have been engineered this way to appeal to the sweet tooth who watches their weight. Clear as club-soda with an equally clean finish, Chocolate Sparkling lacks the viscous, creamy texture one associates with chocolate beverages.

Continue reading about chocolate in Japan →

Meiji & Yamanote celebrate with a wrapper’s delight

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Commuters on the Yamanote line will be able to enjoy a nostalgic sight this autumn as the train line celebrates its 100th birthday by discarding its modern silver and green livery for an old-fashioned brown exterior. The clever folks at Japan Railways have collaborated with Meiji, whose 100th birthday is also coming up. The sides of the train display the company’s logo in gold, and carriages are also embossed with images of Meiji milk chocolate bars (click the play button for the full-on trainspotting experience).

Ad campaigns on train exteriors are a common sight in Japan, possibly in part due to the fact that trains are almost never defaced by graffiti artists. Pokemon trains are a firm favorite and have appeared on many different campaigns, namely the annual stamp rallies. Trains are not necessarily decorated to advertise a product either. Pink Tentacle has a nice gallery of trains decorated with anime and manga characters. It’s not only exteriors that enjoy creative ad campaigns; last year Ikea replaced seats on Kobe trains with comfy, funky sofas.

To tie in with the decorated Yamanote trains there is currently a rather sweet Meiji ad campaign on TV showing four girls aboard an old-fashioned train, the décor mimicking the frilly cluttered aesthetic of the Meiji Era (though it might be more appropriate to dub it the Victorian era as the train appears to be in Europe). Out of the four girls, who are all well-known singers and actresses, only one actually looks like she regularly eats chocolate. This particular advert shows her chowing down on a bar while she talks about her dream, “To fall in love and become beautiful, also to like myself . . . ” The beautiful girl next to her says, “I was thinking the same thing!”

It’s times like these a girl needs to reach for a giant bar of Meiji chocolate.

A pinch of salt and a pound of chocolate

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

ChipChopCruising the shelves of our local conbini (convenience store) this week, we struck gold by purchasing a box of Meiji’s new “Chip! Chop.” Described on the box as being “chocolate and delicious salt, totally addictive chips,” we completely dug the unusual salt and choco combination. A thin filling of chocolate is sandwiched by two slender slices of salty chocolate biscuit. These were so moreish we finished the entire, rather large bag, in under 10 minutes and were left panting for more salted chocolate goodness and curious about where the concept for this divinely unhealthy snack came from.

It seems that the idea of combining salt and chocolate originated in Germany in the 1500s when the salty pretzel was first covered in chocolate. Chocolate pretzels have long been popular in the States with similar products appearing in Japan in recent years. Salted chocolate bars have also proved popular in Japan and seem to have been inspired by European bars such as Lindt’s “A Touch of Sea Salt.” Meiji brought out the “Salty Praline” bar last summer and chocolatier Ek Chuah sell a rather more up market version simply named “Salt Chocolate.”

“Chip Chop” is the first brand we’ve seen that combine salt with chocolate in its biscuit form but another strange “chip” combination caught our attention. Royce’ Fromage Blanc Potato Chip Chocolate is really testing the barriers of unusual taste combinations as well as the rules of punctuation. Sadly we aren’t really prepared to risk our digestions by sampling these oddities. The curious can read this account by a brave taste-tester at 3 Yen News.

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