Posts Tagged ‘food’

Get a taste of spring with cherry blossom-inspired goods

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

sakuracombo2All of Japan will soon be in the pink as the country celebrates the sacred sakura with picnics and drinking sessions underneath the cherry trees

Part of the hanami tradition includes eating cherry blossom-flavored snacks, including classics such as sakura mochi. Now the number of sakura-themed goods are blossoming as more and more major corporations jump on board with their own snacks and items. Here’s a taste of some of the items on shelves now.

Starbucks

This season Starbucks isn’t roasting just coffee beans but cherry petals with its sakura chiffon cake. You can also wash down the sugary treat with even more sugar — either strawberry sakura lattes or strawberry sakura frappuccinos.

If you want to experience spring all year round, you can also pick up Starbucks’ cherry blossom-themed mugs and tumblers. Get a move on; these sell out fast.

Kimura Drink

Now that you have your sakura mug, why not fill it up with Kimura Drink’s sakura cola? This fizzy concoction contains the extract of real sakura leaves for an authentic taste of spring.

Worth noting that Kimura Drink has previously launched sodas with curry, tomato and wasabi flavors so they clearly know what they’re doing.

Suntory Chu-hi

If you want something with more of a kick, Suntory has got you covered with their sakura flavored chu-hi (a canned alcoholic drink consisting of shochu and fruit juice.)

Suntory’s chu-hi drink is made with real Sato Nishiki cherries and sakura liqueur. At 4 percent alcohol, it’s about half as strong as most shochu drinks, giving it a light, sweet and fragrant taste.

Sanktgallen beer

If sake or chu-hi is a little strong for your taste, you can always go with the more refined option of this sakura-mochi beer. This beer uses much less hops than your average beer and balances it out with flavors inspired by sakura-mochi — a traditional spring treat consisting of rice cake and bean paste wrapped in a cherry leaf.

This delicious beer is produced by Sanktgallen, a microbrewery based in Kanagawa Prefecture, who insists on using only the famous Takato cherry blossoms from Nagano Prefecture in its sakura beer brewing process.

McDonald’s

In the past McDonald’s has released a sakura burger, but this year they are keeping it simple.

Available now are the sakura soda, sakura float and ume fries. While the soda is just what it sounds like, the fries are more interesting. Probably inspired by its successful chocolate fries, the side comes with plum powder, which should be put on the fries and liberally shaken.

Kit Kats

It’s well-known that Nestle saves its wacky flavors for Japan. In the past the company has created a variety of Kit Kat flavors ranging from pumpkin to, yes, cherry blossom.

This year it is trying something new with pistachio and raspberry-flavored Kit Kats that come in a spring-themed box along with a sakura keychain. The company says, naturally, that the new flavor is the “perfect” hanami treat.

Lindt Chocolate

For a more sophisticated sakura treat, Lindt is rolling out its sakura macarons. The treat is filled with a cherry puree ganache. Its special macarons are available until April 12 and the company’s Lindt Chocolate Cafes.

And if that wasn’t sweet enough, Lindt also has a white chocolate cherry ice drink. Its topped with white chocolate shavings and cherry syrup.

Calbee’s sakura butter chips

Sakura butter might sound like an odd flavor, but if you’ve ever had sakura shortbread cookies, then you’ve already experienced it. What does it taste like in the form of a chip? That’s for you to find out.

Calbee has never shied away from strange flavors as it has produced shrimp, pizza and okonomiyaki chips in the past.

Red Bull

In case you need some pep in your step at the hanami party, Red Bull has a Japan exclusive for you.

Its “spring” drink, featuring a bright pink can, will keep you out of a food coma. Grab a couple of these in case your party heads off to an izakaya once the sun sets.

Baskin Robbins

Baskin Robbins is doing something really special this time around. After a 24-year hiatus it is finally bringing back its sakura salted ice cream.

The ice cream contains real sakura leaves and a hint of sea salt to contrast the light, sweet floral taste. It’s available till the end of May, so stop by your local Baskin Robbins and scoop it up.

But wait! There’s more …

You’re sure to be a hit at the hanami parties if you show up in Nike’s sakura shoes. The modern kicks have a traditional look with prints that somewhat resemble suibokuga (Japanese ink wash paintings).

The sakura line is available as skate shoes, sneakers and even high tops. So whether you’re on a short jog or taking it to the courts, you can do it while decked out in your sakura swag.

Need to have that spring feeling wherever you go? You can bring sakura experience with Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

This sakura toilet paper is covered with sakura print, making your trip to the bathroom almost as great as a hanami party.

Happy hanami!

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.

J-blip: Cornered by strong men and sweet pudding at ‘kabe-don’ cafe

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Ah, the classic kabe-don move.

Many young women daydream about having their school crush pull them aside and slam his arm against the wall to create an intimate scene. Kabe- (wall) don (the onomatopoeia for a loud thud) has become so established through numerous TV shows and manga series that the move itself has spawned a spin-off meme and its own Wikipedia page.

Girls tired of waiting for their own kabe-don moment can now take matters into their own hands. Morinaga Milk has concocted a promotional campaign that involves a suave man for the coffee shop Cafe Marriage in Harajuku posing for perfect photo kabe-don photo opportunity. Mind you, the said man is silicone based, but for those wanting a good laugh or curious to experience the magic of kabe-don, he’ll do.

Morinaga Milk installed the mannequin to help promote its new line of pudding treats so visitors can melt over (or is it melt under?) the handsome statue while tasting its melted treat.

Patrons can be wooed starting Oct. 11 at Cafe Marriage in Sweets Paradise on Takeshita-dori. Visit Morinaga Milk’s website for more information.

Japan by the numbers (8.9.13)

Friday, August 9th, 2013

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:

Next stop: French toast?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

So what is it with Japanese and “konamono sweets” (sweets made out of flour)?  Be it crepes, doughnuts, waffles or honey toast, they seem to move up and down the trend chart on a fairly regular basis.

French Toast

Prosciutto and pickles top this French toast at Yocco’s in Nakano.

Over the past few years, upmarket and imported pancakes have been a booming food trend in Japan. Some of the more famous outlets, such as the chic Australian chain bills or the more down-to-earth Hawaiian Eggs ’n Things, are still attracting long lines of pancake lovers. Perhaps the best illustration of pancake mania came this past May in the form of a mobile app called Minna no Pankeiki-bu (Everybody’s Pancake Club), which allowed users to locate the closest flapjack cafe.

While the usual syrup-and-butter variety is still a mainstay, variations far off that theme are emerging. Anyone up for pancakes covered in hiyashi chūka (cold Chinese noodles) or shirasu (baby fish and radish)? Anyone at all?

Keep in mind, there is a precedent here for this flour power: okonomiyaki, the savory pancake-like dish made popular in Kansai, has its origins in  an Edo Period item called sukesoyaki, which consisted on a pancakes and a sweet bean (anko) paste.

While it’s hard to say whether the days of the pancake renaissance are numbered, we couldn’t help but notice the rising popularity of another Western breakfast favorite: French toast.

The new trend is all about shokuji French toast —  it’s a meal, not a dessert.  While French toast isn’t new to Japan, “Haru and Haru” called itself  Tokyo’s first french toast cafe when it opened in May last year. Not long after that came Sarabeth’s, a breakfast restaurant from New York,  famous for “fat and fluffy” French toast.” A 30-minute wait to get in isn’t uncommon.

Lobros relaunched its cafes this past March as Yocco’s French Toast Café, with locations in Jiyugaoka, Kichijoiji and Nakano. Yocco’s serves both a sweet and savory versions, with emphasis on the latter. If you’re adventuresome, you might want to try with a tall glass of cauliflower juice.

In Tokyo’s Yurakucho, the Cafe Chou Chou serves daily non-sweet “pain perdu” (French toast in French). If you’re looking for savory French toast for less than ¥1,000, try Pain Petit Pas in Harajuku. For lunch it serves French toast topped with cured bacon and smoked salmon.

Will shokuji French toast rise the heights of the pancakes and crepes? It’s hard to say. We’ll keep our eye out for an app called Minna no furenchi-tosuto-bu . .  .  hope no one decides to combine them with hiyashi chūka?

The latest funky food flavors, coming soon to a konbini near you

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Japan is known for its seasonally flavored foods. Swing by your local konbini in the fall and you’re likely to encounter limited-edition beverages, snacks and candies that weren’t on the shelves a few months earlier.  Some companies pump out more flavors than others, with Nestle’s Kit Kat chocolates alone having dozens of varieties. This summer, manufacturers are debuting a number of interesting flavors to entice convenience store shoppers.

  • As if summer needs to be any hotter, Tohato will begin selling habanero pepper and lemon-flavored corn chips in late July. We’re excited about this one, despite the sinister face on the bag. The company will also be debuting yogurt-honey Caramel Corn and arrabbiata-flavored chips, which arrive in Japan this month.
  • A few weeks ago, we reported on our taste test of the Pepsi-flavored cheetos, which hit the shelves Monday.
  • More directly on the beverage front is Suntory’s Boss Black Sparkling. Best served cold, this carbonated coffee hopes to refresh and awaken those gulping it down on a hot summer afternoon. (Note: If you preferred your fizzy coffee hand-poured, Excelsior Caffé has begun offering a “Perriespresso,” which combines Perrier sparkling water with the chain’s espresso over ice.)
  • The average konbini has a pretty impressive array of instant noodles, but how many of them would satisfy a hankering for Italian? Maruka Foods is now selling peperoncino-flavored instant yakisoba, which combines the convenience of instant noodles with the Italian pasta sauce made form garlic, oil and chillies.
  • A few weeks back, Luna began selling its mint-flavored yogurt. This seems like it could be a crowd-pleaser, with the soothing mint and cooling yogurt making for a perfect way to fend off afternoon drowsiness during the dog days.
  • For dessert, check out Kabaya’s ramune-flavored chocolate  that fizzes just like the soda pop.

J-blip: Scorpionfish on the menu in Shizuoka

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Fancy a slice of scorpion fish?

Fancy a slice of scorpionfish?

It’s come to our attention that some truly bizarre looking creatures are being served up in seafood restaurants in Shizuoka lately. Ever since a new deep sea aquarium opened up in Numazu just over a year ago, deep sea seafood has been all the rage in the area. Monkfish, scorpionfish, lumpsucker and rosy seabass are being served up as sushi, sashimi or simply on a bed of rice, in local restaurants.

Pioneering this local trend has been Uoshige Shokudou, a restaurant that serves up a weird and wonderful deep sea sashimi platter that varies according to the season. The most expensive item on the menu, costing between ¥10,000 to ¥15,000 ($101 to $151), is the Japanese spider crab that lives at depths of 600 meters.

Photo courtesy of Wikicommons

RSS

Recent Posts