Rachel & Jun present a helpful introduction to Japanese apartment living. Includes tips on cleaning your tub every day, preparing for earthquakes, and caring for your easily-destroyed tatami mats. Read the rest
Many Westerners equate ramen noodles with the cheap dried stuff that poor students and young adults eat, but Criterion Collection is doing their part to change that. They put together this wonderful documentary to support the 4K restoration of "ramen Western" Tampopo, one of the greatest food films ever made. Read the rest
Over at the Japanese culture website Tofugu (where my wife Carla is on staff), there's a great article by Kanae Nakamine on Japanese bug eating traditions, complete with tasty recipes like bee larva omelets, baby ant minestrone, and rice grasshopper granola bars. There are also vending machines in Japan that sell edible bugs.
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If you’re too lazy to hunt for bugs and cook them, don’t worry! There are other options. Japan is a land of convenience, and this extends to their tasty, tasty insects.
You can buy edible bugs anytime 24/7. In Tokyo’s Inokashira park, there’s a vending machine with two kinds of bugs that come in cans: Rice Grasshopper Kanroni and Hanakuyouniis Brand Bee Larvae. Both of these products are kinds of tsukudani, which is the traditional way of cooking with soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Kanroni is similar to tsukudani, but has more sugar and tastes sweeter. Hanakuyouni is a certain brand of tsukudani food in Japan. It uses its original recipe to stew the bee larvae for this product. So next time you’re going for a jog in this Tokyo park, swing your sweaty self over to this vending machine and start guzzling bee larvae. Nothing prepares you for long distance running better than a belly full of insect babies!
Isao Echizen, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Informatics, told a reporter from the Sankei Shimbun that he had successfully captured fingerprints from photos taken at 3m distance at sufficient resolution to recreate them and use them to fool biometric identification systems (such as fingerprint sensors that unlock mobile phones). Read the rest
In Japan, people eat more than one hundred thousand tons of eel per year. In the last 30 years, overfishing has caused the wild eel population to decline by 90 percent.
From The New Yorker:
At Tsukiji, wholesale prices for farm-raised unagi imported from China immediately surged to a record high of around forty U.S. dollars per kilogram, and remained there for much of 2013. Prices for the wild-caught, “natural Japanese” eels served at upscale restaurants like Nodaiwa climbed even higher, by as much as fifty or sixty per cent.
But the government had been late to recognize the extent of the problem, which had already taken a toll on many famous restaurants specializing in kabayaki, a signature unagi preparation. In March, 2012, a year before the species was declared endangered, the beloved unagi restaurant Suekawa closed its doors, after sixty-five years of business, and it was followed a month later by the popular restaurant Yoshikawa.
Bo-taoshi (pole toppling) is a contact sport in which two teams each try to keep a large pole upright. Half of each team is on defense, and the other half plays offense. There's a player who stands on the top of the pole and kicks everyone in the face till they yank that player off the top. Read the rest
Around Christmas, many KFC restaurants in Japan see 10 times their average daily sales. Customers order their KFC special Christmas dinner weeks in advance or wait in line for hours to score a Kentucky Christmas dinner package including chicken, side dishes, cake, and even wine. WTF??! Marketing, that's what. From the BBC:
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According to KFC Japan spokeswoman Motoichi Nakatani, it started thanks to Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country. Shortly after it opened in 1970, Okawara woke up at midnight and jotted down an idea that came to him in a dream: a “party barrel” to be sold on Christmas.
Okawara dreamed up the idea after overhearing a couple of foreigners in his store talk about how they missed having turkey for Christmas, according to Nakatani. Okawara hoped a Christmas dinner of fried chicken could be a fine substitute, and so he began marketing his Party Barrel as a way to celebrate the holiday.
In 1974, KFC took the marketing plan national, calling it Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii, or Kentucky for Christmas. It took off quickly, and so did the Harvard-educated Okawara, who climbed through the company ranks and served as president and CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan from 1984 to 2002.
The Party Barrel for Christmas became almost immediately a national phenomenon, says Joonas Rokka, associate professor of marketing at Emlyon Business School in France. He has studied the KFC Christmas in Japan as a model promotions campaign.
“It filled a void,” Rokka says.
A couple of weeks ago I linked to an article Carla wrote at Tofugu about the Japanese word, tsujigiri, which means "to cut someone down to test out a new / newly sharpened katana." Today, Tofugu posted a video that goes into a bit more detail, with a real life demonstration of tsujigiri. Read the rest
Presentation is usually the last thing on my mind when I’m making dinner, but if I had more patience, this rice bear would make for an adorable dinner companion. Read the rest
Shinzō Abe, the xenophobic, autocratic prime minister of Japan, has been dismantling Article 9 of the constitution, which forbids acts of war by Japan. Read the rest