Booze in a 'juice' box

In Japan, you don't have to drink your sake from a cup or a glass or even a bottle. If you're in the mood for a little imbibing on your walk home from work and don't want to worry about having to recycle a bottle or a can, or maybe you would just rather sip your booze from a straw, then these neat, one-serving cartons of sake are for you.

Onigoroshi (Demon Slayer) is the brand I find in every convenience store I've ever entered in Japan. Shelved with the wine and other spirits are these cool cartons, 180 ml of 13-14% alcohol goodness with a straw.

While picking up a couple mini cartons for research, I noticed a new one I'd never seen before. It's bigger, holding 270 ml of sake and touted as ureshii ookisa or Fun Size!

I like the idea, just make sure you don't slip one into your child's lunchbox.

Photos by: Thersa Matsuura Read the rest

What Japanese frozen meals are like

When we spent 5 weeks in Japan this summer, we bought a lot of prepared meals from convenience stores. They were really good. In this video, we see how a family who moved from Canada to Japan makes great dinner spreads using frozen meals. Read the rest

Artist creates miniature replicas of the rooms of Japan's "lonely deaths"

Japanese artist Miyu Kojima's dayjob is cleaning up apartments whose occupants have died "lonely deaths" (kodokushi/孤独死), where someone socially isolated declines unnoticed for months or years; the scenes of their death are both sad and grisly, as often they lie dead behind closed doors for a long time before they are missed. Read the rest

Ooey gooey DIY candies

These candies have been around for awhile in Japan, but I can't help but think that with the slime craze that's been all over Youtube for the last few years, kids in other countries might truly appreciate the ooey gooey goodness of Japanese Nerunerunerune candies.

The company Kracie was established in Japan in 1887 as the Tokyo Cotton Trading Company. It produces everything from pharmaceuticals to cosmetics to -- you guessed it -- candy.

But what is special about Kracie's super cute sweets is that they are actually do-it-yourself treats. The two I made are called Nerunerunerune (kneading, kneading, kneading). Powder is shaken into a plastic receptacle, water is measured and stirred in, beautiful colors are made (lavender and yellow in my case). Next, a second package is added and the vigorous kneading or stirring occurs. The goop changes colors again. It fluffs up and turns into very fragrant slime! Finally, the dollops of sticky goodness can be dipped into either rainbow-colored crushed pop rocks or tiny sweet tarts and eaten.

It feels a bit like child alchemy. Yummy, yummy, sweet and sticky child alchemy. Read the rest

Flavored eel bones: a crunchy yummy snack

I’m no stranger to eating bones. As a child I was like a cat hearing the lid being peeled off a can and flying into the kitchen to see what’s for dinner. Every time my mother opened some canned salmon, there I’d be, standing by her side waiting for her to drop some of those soft, greasy, salty fish bones into my hands. But I haven’t done that in years.

Fast forward to the other day, when I came across a bag of similar-looking bones in my local supermarket here in Japan. A quick look and I noticed they weren’t salmon bones, nor were they soft or greasy. They were eel bones.

Dry roasted eel bones, in fact. The package tells me they are chock full of calcium, vitamins A, B2, D, and E. Who needs potato chips when for 200 yen you can get 26 grams of eel bones to nosh on? Not only that, but Kyomaru makes several different flavors, too: spicy, salt, soy sauce, wasabi, and sweet sesame seed flavored.

Photos by: Thersa Matsuura Read the rest

Little Green Terracotta Army Men

Forget Little Green Army Men in Yoga Poses; they're totally 2016; the contemporary Little Green Army Man is a mashup with the terracotta warriors: they're $41 from Hobbylink Japan. (via Super Punch) Read the rest

Architects redesign Japanese tunnels into artworks

The Kiyotsu Gorge lookout tunnel is a huge engineering marvel amidst spectacular beauty. Artists and architects recently repurposed it as an art installation replete with reflective surfaces, colored lights and sculptures. Read the rest

Self-serve beer machine in all-you-can-drink restaurant

It's in a Japanese "all-you-can-drink" restaurant, which sounds like a splendid idea. Note how it performs a correct angled pour, with headspit finish, to provide a superior pint. Read the rest

Profile of Japan's female bonsai master

Chiako Yamamoto is the first and only female sensei of Japan's revered bonsai masters. She shows trees of various sizes and ages, including those she inherited from relatives generations ago. Read the rest

Tokyo street interviews: Should Japan accept more foreign workers?

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently implemented a goal to introduce 500,000 foreign workers to Japan -- which is experiencing an aging and declining population -- by the year 2020. Currently about 2% of residents in Japan are foreigners. Asian Boss hit the streets of Tokyo to get reactions to the program. Opinions range from positive to dead set against it. One of the most cited reasons for not allowing a large influx of foreigners is because they do not understand Japanese culture and will have a hard time fitting in. One woman said Japanese in general like Americans but dislike non-Japanese Asians. Another woman said she was "scared of foreign drugs coming to Japan."

Read the rest

Senko hanabi: Japanese sparklers light the summer nights

Summer in Japan isn't summer in Japan unless there are fireworks—and lots of them. Cities and towns, temples and ports; somewhere near you, on one of these hot and outrageously humid summer nights, there will be a fireworks show. It will be loud, and it will be incredible.

The quiet side of summer pyrotechnics, though, is called senko hanabi. Senko in Japanese meaning an incense stick, and hanabi (literally flower fire) is the word for fireworks. The senko hanabi is one cool little dude with a lot of meaning and charm packed into a very short and very serene ten seconds.

First, one of these delicate sparklers looks like a roughly 20 centimeter long, tightly twisted, rainbow-colored piece of tissue paper, with one end not so tightly twisted. That’s the top. There’s no stick inside, so the way to burn one is to pinch the top, holding the senko hanabi vertical, while you light the bottom. After a second or two, a molten bubble will form. Here’s where you have to have a steady hand. If you’re not careful, that tiny shimmering ball of fire will drop off and the show is over. If, however, you can hold it very still, you will be able to enjoy the serene, mesmerizing, indeed almost hypnotizing beauty of a Japanese senko hanabi.

This beauty is divided into five stages that go like this:

1. Bud. The fire bubble looks like the bud of a flower. 2. Peony. When the first burst of sparkles appear, breaking the surface of the tiny molten ball, the shape is said to look like a peony. Read the rest

Instant noodle action figures

Graphic designer Taishi Arimura creates all sorts of delightful and whimsical work, including these cool instant noodle action figures. Read the rest

Japan's 6.7 earthquake swallows homes in landslides, kills at least 9 people

Japan was struck with a magnitude 6.7 earthquake at 3:08am local time in Hokkaido, causing several landslides that swallowed a number of houses.

According to The Japan Times:

A landslide along a long ridge in the rural town of Atsuma could be seen in aerial footage from NHK. The 3:08 a.m. quake also cut the power supply to nearly 3 million homes in the prefecture while grounding flights and disrupting train services.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put the death toll at nine while the Hokkaido Prefectural Government said about 300 people were injured in Sapporo and other cities.

The government said later in the day that about 340,000 homes had regained electricity.

Aftershocks have already hit, one of them a magnitude of 5.3 just minutes after the earthquake, according to Business Insider. Residents have been warned that more may follow in the next few days. A tsunami is not expected. Read the rest

Lactic acid bacteria chocolate, another delicious treat from Japan

It’s not like I need another reason to eat chocolate. But if I were looking for one, I think the South Korean company Lotte might have found it. Probiotic chocolate. Or more specifically, Lactic acid bacteria - (lactobacillales) fortified chocolate.

In Japanese it’s called nyuusankin, and I’ve seen the characters written on all kinds of foods throughout the years. But it was just recently, while poking around the impulse item shelf of my local supermarket waiting to check out, I spotted this box. Of course, I bought it with very little internal debate, even less guilt. I mean, chocolate, right? Healthy chocolate.

I went home and searched around online to see what I could find out about Sweets Days Nyusankin Chocola Almond. It only gets better folks. These little chocolate covered almond nuggets of goodness also contain polyphenols and fiber.

Lotte, you don’t have to try so hard, you had me at lactic acid bacteria.

Photo: Thersa Matsuura Read the rest

"U.S.A." music video, by Da Pump, is all the rage in Japan

Why? Read the rest

Chaos Soup: Japanese tomato smoothie with cream cheese

Kirin Sekai no Kitchen has recently started selling a product they call Melting Chaos Soup. It's sold beside the bottled water and teas. Now, I'm not a fan of tomato soup or juice, but I liked the label so picked one up. I noticed the small pictures of tomatoes, cheese, and what I thought was basil running around the bottle. But it wasn’t until I got home and read it and then really looked that I noticed the basil wasn’t basil, it was mint, and there was one item I missed. Peaches.

Yes. Melting Chaos Soup boasts a brand new genre in drinks. It says it’s like a smoothie soup that changes flavor from moment to moment. Shake well, open and give it a sniff, then bottoms up. It’s a mix of tomato (55%) and peach juice (12%), cream cheese, and mint.

After opening and tentatively smelling, it actually took me a few minutes to get up the nerve to take the first swig. It really did smell exactly as promised, like tomato mixed with peach juice then throw in a hint of mint. I did finally take a sip, and then another. Another. I'm not sure if chaos would be how I’d describe the taste, although it did changed from moment to moment. The surprising thing was I didn’t hate it. I kind of liked it. If I could change one thing, though, it might be they add more cream cheese.

Photo: Thersa Matsuura Read the rest

Bee spit is the special sauce in this Japanese Voice Care Candy

Are you one of those people who use your voice a lot? Work, home, a side hustle like a podcast perhaps? If you are, then I've got the candy for you. While searching for chocolate one day, I ran across these Voice Care Throat Lozenges (by the Japanese company Kanro). The Japanese is fine, but I love the English tagline: "Let's Sing in Your Best Voice!".

Now I'm like you and just guessed these are like any other cough drop or hard candy. The package tries to tell you differently though. The front boasts that the candies were developed jointly with the Tokyo College of Music (Ongaku Daigaku), and it sounds like they spent a lot of time trying to develop a product that really does do wonders for your throat. The back notes they are for people who “talk a lot, sing a lot, people who want a clean throat or just want to feel refreshed.”

Along with various unidentified herbs (the ingredients only mention "herb extract" along with orange, apple, and olive leaf essence), propolis seems to be the special sauce of Voice Care Candy. Propolis, if you don’t know, is sometimes called bee glue, think bee spit mixed with beeswax. It is used by bees to seal small gaps in the hive. Traditionally, it was also used as a medicine to treat cold sores, genital herpes, and mouth pain after surgery, not that there was much evidence showing that it worked for any of those things. Read the rest

More posts