Posts Tagged ‘keeping cool’

Doing your bit for setsuden? Here’s your discount

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Save energy, save money

Online restaurant guide Guru Nabi (short for “gourmet navigator”) has introduced a series of mobile coupons linked to power-saving efforts this summer. The coupons are in effect from June 30 to Sept. 30, the period during which businesses have been asked to reduce power consumption by 15%. In a first for Guru Nabi, the discounts are available for smartphones as well as Japanese keitai. (The coupons are only available from the mobile version.)

Some bars have half-price drink specials when the temperature (outside, we hope) goes above 35 degrees.  Restaurants have been encouraged to come with topical and fun discounts. A sushi place gives a free piece of sashimi to customers who say “I don’t need any air conditioning!” Another will take 10% off the bill for a rallying cry at the cash register of “Gambare, setsuden [Let's do our best to save power]!” Others reward customers for coming in in super cool biz attire, like Hawaiian shirts or open dress shirts with no necktie. That freebie paper fan you got handed on the street could actually be worth something, too — some places will take ¥1,000  yen the price of the meal for patrons carrying them.

Some seem playfully unconcerned about applying to a wide audience. For one, people with the syllables or kanji for “setsu” “den” “natsu [summer]” or “toku [value]” in their names get a discount. That’s great for the Setsuko’s and Natsumi’s out there, but people with non-Japanese names might be at a slight disadvantage. There’s still a chance  — anyone named Denis out there? Try your luck and let us know how it goes.

The latest and greatest gear for keeping it cool

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Despite early predictions of a mild summer, almost 7,000 people called ambulances for heatstroke this June across Japan — three times more than the same time last year. Some spots in the country hit record high temperatures they hadn’t seen in 50 years, Kyodo News reported. Official advice is to drink plenty of fluids and to be sensible about setsuden. But there’s only so much water you can drink. Manufacturers are to the rescue with products for every inch of the body and home.

This year sees an expansion of the sprays, gels and lotions that we saw last year, as well as a burst of subtle variations on the cool wraps that were spotted wrapped damply around necks last year. The use of high-tech fibers means the wraps can stay cooler with less dripping. At the same time, there is a return to basics that pre-date air-conditioning: Wooden screens, wicker pillows and bamboo sheets remind us that there were plenty of cool ideas in Japan long before microfibers and rechillable elasto-polymers. Start waving your paper uchiwa and check out our finds.

Found any yourself? Tweet your photos to @japan_pulse.

Cool drinks and eats to beat the heat

Monday, July 11th, 2011

From cold curry sauce to garlic sweets, this summer sees the launch of weird and wonderful products aimed at beating the season’s intense heat. Here are but a few:

Chilled Hiroshima okonomiyaki: This revolutionary product developed by the Tokugawa restaurant chain has been making waves on the web as Japanese get their heads round the mindboggling concept of cold okonomiyaki. Made in the Kansai style, it contains strips of meat and cabbage with a special ponzu-based sauce and dried bonito flakes on top. It has a lighter texture than your average stodgy okonomiyaki, making it easy summer eating. Because you don’t need to use a microwave to make it, it also helps you do your bit for setsuden (power saving).

Chilled curry: This chilled sauce is designed to be poured on top of cold noodles. The concept of chilled curry sauce for noodles was introduced by Yamasa last year, so the fact that House Foods has jumped on the bandwagon this year proves that the concept has staying power.

Stamina candy: Containing plum, salt and garlic, we’re guessing these candies are not for the faint of heart. However, the ingredients are purported to counteract the effects of heatstroke, so I suppose it’s worth sucking on one of these when temps become unbearable. We love the picture of a burly builder on the front of black packaging that gives the product a macho vibe.

Ring Jelly: Released by Mister Donut in June, these doughnut-shaped jellies come in four refreshing flavors: strawberry, coffee, pineapple and grape. Alongside these wobbly treats, Mister Donut is also really pushing the chilled doughnut concept this season (normal doughnut stuck in a fridge), which we’ve seen gradually gathering momentum in Japanese donut outlets over the past few years.

Menthol Shock: Despite the fact that refreshing menthol products are trending right now, This Nihon Life gave this beverage a test run and came back with the verdict that the experience of drinking it is “akin to swallowing 350ml of carbonated Listerine.” Have you given it a shot?

Women sound off on Super Cool Biz fashions

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Where are the lines drawn with super cool biz fashions?

This summer, encouraged by the government’s Super Cool Biz campaign, Japanese men are daring to bare a bit more flesh. As neckties and heavy blazers are discarded, almost anything goes, and many braver businessmen are now sporting calf-length trousers, polo shirts and “aloha shirts.” For the first time female colleagues are seeing their male coworkers in a whole new light, but according to a poll by Nikkei Woman Online, there’s a fine line to be drawn between kakui (cool) and kakkowarui (unattractive).

The poll, published in Nikkei Trendy, reveals that too much flesh in the office can be a bad thing. Revealing tank tops were the most objectionable office-fashion item, with 90 percent of 409 respondents rating this “NG” (thumbs down). Shorts came in a close second, at around 80 percent NG. While most women did not object to plain short sleeve shirts, if the material is sheer, around 60 percent of respondents preferred men to wear a vest underneath to cover up exposed nipples and chest hair.

Continue reading about super cool biz fashions →

Cool foods for a chilled-out summer

Friday, July 1st, 2011

For obvious reasons, many of the summer’s food trends are being geared to beat the heat, from unusual sauces for somen (cold noodles) to original recipes for chilled seafood ramen.

Kagome's tomato somen tsuyu serving suggestion

According to Nikkei Trendy, the somen tsuyu (sauce) trend, which began back in 2008, has really caught on this year. While somen has always traditionally been served with shiso (green perilla) as a garnish, Yamasa was the first company to incorporate that flavor into a somen tsuyu. These new readymade sauces, which fall somewhere between salad dressing and soup, are designed to be splashed on top of somen and go well with salad, vegetables or meat. Since the product’s launch, Yamasa has brought out different flavors each year (this year’s is yuzu and pepper), but  according to Nikkei Trendy, the most popular product by far has been their chilled curry sauce; the novel idea of cold curry is said to appeal to young and old.

Yamasa isn’t the only food company riding the trend.  Kikkoman launched their first Salad Men Tsuyu in 2010 (shredded onion, vinegar and olive oil flavor) and this year have added an extra yuzu ponzu flavor to the range. Mizkan, Kagome and Marumiya also launched similar sauces in 2010. Kagome’s tomato tsuyu was particularly popular, echoing the success of their tomato nabe sauces. The trend definitely echoes the winter nabe soup trend we wrote about late last year, in that both give a Western twist to traditional Japanese cuisine.

In restaurants, Tokyo Walker has spotted  new types of chilled ramen being served with seafood, such as eel, snapper and shrimp. Though “traditional” chilled ramen has been a specialty of Yamagata since the 50s (and is served there no matter the season) it’s really took off nationwide in recent years as a cooling food for summer months. Eel too is seen as a cooling food, so the idea of using it instead of slices of pork to ease our woes during an especially difficult summer is a no-brainer.

Foodies might want to take note of the Tokyo Walker’s seafood cold ramen restaurant recommendations for the summer: Chilled sea bream soup ¥780 from Shinmen Shirohachi; chilled seafood soup ¥900 from Menya Busashibukots; and conger eel and green tea soup ¥980 from Men Yashiyouno.

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