Posts Tagged ‘food’

Hit the road: Japan’s 2013 trend forecast

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

'Long Trail' hiking is Trendy magazine's number one trend pick for 2013

‘Long Trail’ hiking is Trendy magazine’s number one trend pick for 2013.

In 2012 we got cat-ear hair-dos, an increasing appetite for salty mold, and a tower with a silly name. What wonders will 2013 bring? We’ve gone through Trendy’s predictions and came up with a list of themes that look good to us. Basically it boils down to this: smart phones continue to up the convenience factor, and people have to work harder to get away from convenience and to make up for all the energy it saves.

People will get moving – even more

Running and hiking have been big the last few years, and Trendy predicts that this will continue, and that people will invest even more in these hobbies. The magazine anticipates that hikers will head further into the hills, taking to what it calls the “long trails” that are dozens (possibly hundreds) of kilometers long, mostly in the Alps of central Honshu.

Naturally, these overnight trips will require more gear than the yama girls have acquired thus far, including camp stoves and camp stove-operated mobile phone chargers. Hikes deep into the heart of the country also fit in nicely with other growing interests that have been driving travel trends recently, like history and power spots.

Dieting will be more palatable, and fun

One of the biggest hits of 2012 was Kirin’s Mets Cola. Billed as the world’s first health-soda, the product claims to inhibit fat uptake. It got tokuho billing, the government-issued health food label usually reserved for products like bio-yogurt. Trendy anticipates that other ordinary edibles will ramp up their ingredients to qualify as tokuho products, and that 2013 will see more typically sweet things – from donuts to umeshu (plum wine) to teriyaki sauce – getting the low-calorie treatment with sweeteners like D-Psicose. Likewise, “water enhancers” like Kraft’s Mio Energy, which look like colored eye-drops but presumably have a Crystal Lite effect, look to make good, old-fashioned water more palatable to soda addicts.


Fujitsu’s “Wandant” dog pedometer automatically uploads data to the cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

Trendy also sees gadgets that gamify weight-loss and fitness, like Nike’s FuelBand and Panasonic’s EW-NK63 pedometer – both of which beam data to smartphones – as being likely hits in 2013.

And (sigh) it looks like Fujitsu has gone and made a pedometer for dogs, the “wandant” (“wan-chan” being the word for puppy). As the pampered puppies of years past are now overweight middle-aged pooches, we’re probably going to see more human-driven weight-loss and exercise trends trickle down to the canine population.

Smartphones work their way further into our lives

Now that we’ve confirmed that Japanese consumers are buying into smartphones, it is likely that we’ll see more crossover products on the market. Expect more digital cameras that allow you to upload photos to a smartphone over Wi-Fi – like Nikon’s new Coolpix S800C, which is also an Android device itself – to hit the market in 2013, says Trendy.

Last year Moleskin introduced its “Smart Notebook” series, which is designed to sync nicely with the popular smartphone app Evernote. According to Trendy, Japanese office and school supply manufacturer Kokuyo (they make those ubiquitous “Campus” notebooks) has now launched its own series of smartphone-ready stationary, CamiApp, along with its own app.

J-blip: Sweets Marathon

Friday, January 18th, 2013

So, for the past few years, running has been really, really big in Japan. How do you make something already popular even more attractive? Cake, naturally. We’re guessing that was the logic behind Sweets Marathon, a running race with baked-goods stations set up along the way next to the usual water stations. You can run – and eat – your way through the whole 10k, or do it in a relay with a group of friends. And you can eat as much as of the little bite-sized cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and pudding cups as you like. It sounds a like a recipe for disaster, but the event handlers seem to do a pretty good job of moving everyone along.

Since 2010, there have been 13 of these events held in cities around Japan organized by Tokyo-based International Sports Marketing, Inc. Last month two Sweets Marathons took place at Tokyo Summerland and in Osaka, drawing 3,000 and 4,000 participants, respectively.

Next up is the Gourmet Run, which is already on track to happen in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya early this year. It costs ¥4000 to enter, which is pretty decent for access to a huge spread of regional cuisine – though you have to work for it.

Today’s J-blip: Mangazara

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Ahahaha! Is that your salad laughing at you?

These manga-inspired plates are making it fun to play with your food again. Award-winning product designer Mika Tsutai created these plates (or zara) to look like frames straight out of a Japanese comic. They are designed so that when food is carefully positioned just right, it will seem to jump into a story. Always felt like you could hear your salad roaring with laughter? Or wanted to underline the satisfying thwack of your knife chopping up a tonkatsu? These plates bring the illusion to life and product website Comicalu has a list of their specifications. Dishes in the collection are priced at ¥2980 a piece and can be purchased at the Tsutaya entertainment chain in Japan.

Today’s J-blip: Mannan Rebā replaces beef liver sashimi

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

fake liver

Mannan Rebā, “liver” made from konnyaku, stands in for the real thing. Photo courtesy of Haisky

As of July 1, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare banned Japan’s restaurants from serving rebā-sashi — beef liver sashimi — a raw dish popular at yakiniku restaurants. It was only a matter of time, of course, before someone began promoting a substitute. After all, Japan is the country that brought the world kanikama — fake crabmeat.

Enter Mannan Rebā. It’s made from sheets of konnyaku (arrowroot jelly), a traditional gelatinous foodstuff commonly found in oden. Haisky, the Kagawa Prefecture konnyaku manufacturer behind the product, introduced the imitation liver last fall — before the ban was announced but after the deadly food poisonings that prompted it.

It seems to be hitting the spot. The company has so far sold over 300,000 packs of Mannan Rebā — over half of them since the ban kicked in.

It all stacks up: tumbler bento

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The latest trend in lunch boxes does away with the box all together. Slender, attractive and easy to put together, the “tumbler bento” is the new shape of lunch on the run. The idea, which is finding favor with career women, is to pop your lunch into an insulated coffee cup before dashing out to work in the morning. The cup keeps your lunch cool (or warm) and saves space in your bag.

According to Get News, the trend was kickstarted by a story featuring model Shizuka Kondo in the May issue of women’s magazine CanCam. The charm points? Sloppy ingredients won’t spill; it fits easily into a bag; hot meals retain their heat better; cool meals stay cool; and if you skip breakfast you can always stick in your cornflakes before dashing out of the house and eat them at your desk with fresh milk. Another tumbler trick: Throw in some dry pasta in the morning and pour in hot water, and it’s cooked by lunch time.

The idea was picked up by morning TV show “Sukkiri!” which ran a segment on tumbler bento featuring enthusiastic women who’d embraced the idea. Another reason the idea is attractive is that, if you like, it allows you to be secretive about the contents of your lunch box. On the other hand, if you go for a transparent tumbler, you can show off your lunch to decorative effect with layers of rice interspersed with layers of veggies and meat. The whole thing looks a little bit like a parfait. Apparently the ideal way to eat it is with a dainty long parfait spoon.

While the kyaraben (character bento) trend still seems to be going strong with competitive housewives who’ve got the time to sculpt their children’s food to resemble cartoon characters, the tumbler bento could appeal to busy career women who are short on time but still want to show off their cooking chops. Another plus is that they’re a useful way for dieters to keep an eye on how much they’re consuming.

Check out the video above for a quick guide in English to making your own tumbler lunch. Warning: Contains rice mixed with pasta. If the very thought of that turns your stomach, please step slowly away from the keyboard.

Today’s J-blip: robot-made inari-zushi

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

While the nation’s robots might not have been up to the task of nuclear-diaster reconnaissance, Japan’s androids are making strides in the kitchen. Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd. has unveiled a robot capable of creating 2,500 inari-zushi rolls an hour. All the user (read: human) has to do is fill the rice hopper and place fried tofu rolls on a turntable. While we doubt anyone will be consuming that much inari-zushi any time soon, that type of efficiency is indeed impressive. Of course, this isn’t the first robot capable of dishing up Japanese food; in fact, robotics engineers seem to have a fair amount of pride in the national cuisine and program their creations to prepare all sorts of dishes,  from ramen and sushi to the potentially messy okonomiyaki. Yes, half the fun of this savory pancake is preparing it yourself, but watching a robot make it, and sing at the same time, is pretty cool, too.

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.

Pulsations (04.27.12)

Friday, April 27th, 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  . . .

  • On Making Ice Cream Out of Plastic in Japan (from This Japanese Life): Japan is world-famous for its varied cuisine, and pictures just aren’t enough.  This Japanese Life goes through the history and production method of Japan’s fake plastic foods.
  • The end of the line (from The Adventures of a Foreign Salaryman in Tokyo): In an unexpected break, Mr. Salaryman finds himself in a park alongside a homeless guy and another salaryman, who is looking sad. From this, the author draws an extreme conclusion.
  • Turntable Rider lets bike riders be DJs (from Spoon & Tamago): You know the feeling — you’re riding through Yoyogi Park, doing kick flips on your BMX, but it’s just not enough street cred for you. Why not DJ at the same time? Leave it to the Japanese to make “being cool” more time efficient.
  • Japanese astrology and warrior robot condoms (from Japan Sugoi): Some people choose their partner based on his or her zodiac sign. Of course, if you go this far, you might as well go all the way and choose your birth control by zodiac sign, too.


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