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 . . .
School Lunch for October 25th, 2012 (from Lunch Break Japan): Does a lunch of nikujaga, rice and natto with miso soup appeal? But what if it’s locally made or comes in a clever package? No? OK … then how about a KitKat?
おたより Exhibition (from Hello Sandwich): Does a visual feast of crafty things make you happy? If you missed the exhibition of envelopes designed by school kids and adults in Ginza, Hello Sandwich gives a big taste of what was on display.
Akaoni Design (from Japanese Design): Pay detailed attention to the packaging of food products? Check out some of these by Akaoni Design, a creative studio that was honored with the Yamagata Excellent Design Award twice last year.
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.
Western fast food chains are opening, re-opening and getting fancy in Japan. With over-the-top takes on familiar menu items, the country might want to start counting those imported calories. Sink your teeth into these Japanese twists on American fast food, and tell us if you still think food in Japan is healthy.
But that’s nothing compared to Burger King’s “Bacon Bomb Burger.” During a special campaign, you can add 15 slices of bacon to your sandwich for ¥100. They list the basic Whopper at 660 calories. Fifteen slices of bacon, at 40 calories a slice, doubles that. The Double Whopper with cheese is 985 calories before the bacon bombing even begins. The low price seems as much like a dare as a PR stunt, and people have been taking them up on it and posting the results online — see the video below if you’ve ever wondered what a thousand slices of bacon on a burger looks like. But don’t watch if you’re hungry — or if you’ve just eaten.
Speaking of double, the KFC Double Down made a big push in Japan, too, as the “Chicken Filet Double.” The original has become renowned even in the United States for its heart-stopping excess: two slabs of fried chicken sandwiching cheese, bacon and sauce. Not to be outdone, Japan created a campaign around modifying this monster. The basic sandwich is almost 600 calories. And KFC in Japan will see America’s buttery biscuits and raise them a layer of melted chocolate on top.
Now, you may be reading this while chomping on a stuffed-crust Pizza Hut pie somewhere in another time zone, smug in the satisfaction that Japan will never out-pizza the U.S. Yawn. Pizza Hut in Japan has had the sausage crust since at least 2006 and the pizza chains have been innovating ever since. At Japan’s Pizza Huts, you can get a ring of crispy sausage baked in around the edge of most pies. The “melty camembert” comes with bacon, camembert sauce and evenly spaced wedges of camembert cheese. It’s about 300 calories a slice. But while the toppings are big, the slices are small. Guaranteed you’re not going to stop at one.
Dominos’ Giga Meat pizza sounds like the ultimate in home-delivered indulgence. And four kinds of meat is only the beginning. Dominos’ Japan pizzas can be ordered with the “Triple Camembert Millefeuille” crust. It has two layers of camembert cheese spread between three layers of crust under whatever else is on your pizza. If that happens to be potatoes and mayo, the highest calorie option, a 1/12th slice tops 400 calories.
With national attention to a rising rate of obesity and metabolic syndrome, or “metabo” as it’s known here, perhaps it’s no wonder that the death at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas got a lot of buzz in Japan. Could it be that the story feels like a glimpse into a fat, frightening future?