Posts Tagged ‘drinks’

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.

Edo-era amazake is back to beat the summer heat

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Bottles of amazake for sale at Matsuya department store in Ginza, Tokyo. (Photo by Rebecca Milner)

The annual competition for the summer’s hit drink is as fierce as usual, and all the major manufacturers have their contenders. Will it be Asahi’s new Red Eye in a can? Or Pepsi’s latest oddity, the shocking-pink Salty Watermelon soda?

According to the morning TV show “Non Stop!,” the winner may just be a dark horse: amazake.

Though it literally means “sweet sake,” this fermented rice drink is actually alcohol free and has been around for centuries. In the Edo Period, it was commonly drunk to ward off the dreaded natsu-bate (summer heat fatigue). Apparently the combination of vitamin B and glucose provides an immediate jolt of energy. The rich ate eel; the rest drank amazake.

At some point  in history, that tradition fell out of favor. These days, amazake generally only shows up at traditional festivals, namely during New Years, or at cafes attached to Buddhist temples. Now, however, a savvy Niigata producer is looking to give amazake a little more everyday cachet.

In February, Furumachi Kōji Seijōjo opened a specialty shop in the fashionable Tokyo suburb of Jiyugaoka. Here you can get hot and cold amazake drinks spiked with matcha and shiso (perilla leaf) or health tonics that mix amazake with fruit-flavored vinegar. Boosted by plenty of media attention, they’ve since opened a second branch in the basement food court of Ginza’s Matsuya department store.

Continue reading about amazake →

Pulsations (07.06.12)

Friday, July 6th, 2012

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 . . .

  • Free at last! Starbucks brings easy to use free wifi to Japan (from La Vie En Tech): At long last, the wonders of easily-accessible free wifi may have finally reached Japan. Steve Nagata gives readers a run down on how to set up your devices to tap into this great power. Don’t worry, this service is much easier to understand than other “free” wifi services found in Japan. It’ll only take a few minutes and then the next time you’re asked to fork over too much cash for a caffeine fix, at least you’ll have wifi.
  • Make eco-friendly iced tea (from Being a Broad):  Of course, if you aren’t persuaded to venture out to your local Starbucks by their new Wifi, you can always stay home and enjoy a glass of home-brewed tea. Kirstin has some great tips on how to use the power of the sun (and your fridge) to brew the perfect summer teas. Eco-friendly, refreshing, and delicious? Count me in.
  • The Japanese Seasons: July (from Japan Navigator): With the rainy season (hopefully) behind us, it is time to enjoy summer in Japan. And just what does Japan have to offer in July? Festivals, mountain climbing, cloud watching, seasonal dishes, and that’s just the start. Pop quiz: do you know what the flower of July is?
  • Are Japanese Houses worthless? (from Tofugu): Japanese houses may have some flaws, but they are certainly balanced by clever architectural design and unmatched efficiency right? Apparently not. After 15 years most Japanese houses lose the majority of their value.

No video this week, but rather a comic from Lars Martinson‘s Kameoka Diaries. Click on the first one and scroll through, then head to his site to see them as they’re meant to be read.

Check out the rest!

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.

Today’s J-blip: Oronamin C 7/3 Facebook Campaign

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The vitamin drink Oronamin C, friend to hungover salarymen everywhere, launched a campaign today where one lucky person an hour, for 73 hours, will each win 50 bottles of the sweet and sour beverage. The catch? Contestants must install a Facebook app, ”like” the Oronamin C page, and fill out a simple form. Yes, it’s a marketing ploy for the company to gather information and boost its Facebook followers, but giving away that much Oronamin (3,650 bottles in total!) is still pretty cool.

What’s the deal with the number 73, though? It’s a play on the Japanese spelling of the popular drink, where 7= na(na) and 3=mi. By 1 p.m. today, they will have already given away 650 bottles. A lucky 60 people still have a chance to win, so if you’re interested, start by “liking” Oronamin C’s page, and then start thinking about where you’ll stash all those little brown bottles.

Pulsations (05.10.12)

Friday, May 11th, 2012

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 . . .

  • Visual guide to Japanese kaomoji (emoticons) (from Japan Sugoi): One of the sad things about coming to Japan is discovering that your phone is able to express more shades of human emotion than you. The only logical step is to start copying the emoticons — Japan Sugoi shows you how.
  • A Poppin’ Cookin’ Good Time (from Sake Puppets): “Where’s my flying car,” you might ask. “Where is that love-making robot I was promised?” If you feel a little sad about this future we’re living in, maybe this DIY ice-cream cone candy set will cheer you up.

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.

Will summer colas quench thirst for new flavors?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Just the thing when you're parched?

When it comes to beverages, the Japanese tend to mix it up a bit and are always thirsty for new flavors and innovations. To quench that thirst, this month three new colas are being launched on the market, just in time for the summer months ahead. As this year is going to be a particularly hot one, with general aircon usage severely curtailed, here’s a quick round-up:

We’re betting this year that the front-runner is going to be Pepsi Dry. Following on from the hugely successful limited-edition novelty flavors of shiso, baobab, Mont Blanc and azuki, the gimmick this time is that the drink is not so sweet. Half as sweet as normal colas, the Suntory drink is designed to be refreshingly dry on a hot summer’s day. On sale from May 24, Pepsi Dry will cost ¥140.

Bridging the gap

Asahi have countered with a healthy cola, which contains vitamin C, vitamin B6 and caffeine. A crossbreed of energy drink and cola, Dodekamin Energy Cola is made to give you a jump start when your energy is flagging. It’s definitely going to appeal to sweaty salarymen battling with the heat under difficult conditions. Launched May 17, the drink costs ¥140 for a 500 ml pet bottle.

Our final cola is a limited edition number sold exclusively at Family Mart and AmPm. Definitely coming under the novelty cola category, Sakuranbo (Cherry) Cola, is unlike any cola we’ve seen before and its shocking pink color almost seems to disqualify the drink from the cola category. We’ve not tasted this particular concoction yet but Colawp.com remarks that it does have an intriguing sweet and sour flavor. The drink, manufactured by Suntory, went on sale on May 3 and costs ¥147.

 

 

 

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