Dominique Ansel Tokyo opens in Omotesando with new Japan-inspired menu

Written by: William on June 25, 2015 at 8:42 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Dominique Ansel, the acclaimed Parisian-style New York bakery, has opened its first overseas outlet — in Tokyo.

The new bakery opened at the plush Omotesando Hills complex on June 20th, joining the growing ranks of high-end global food and drink creators, especially third-wave coffee roasters like Blue Bottle and Fuglen, or craft beer makers like BrewDog, who have opted to expand overseas with a first outpost in Tokyo.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

The menu features all the Dominique Ansel Tokyo favorites like Cronuts (the Dominique Ansel-trademarked croissant and donut hybrid), Frozen S’More, and Cookie Shot, plus many Japan-exclusive items developed and inspired by local cuisine elements.

Dominique Ansel Tokyo is a standalone three-story affair, with two dining spaces and an upstairs kitchen. The ground floor offers take-out and eat-in, while the second floor is a restaurant with waiters and a separate menu.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

The first floor interior is inspired by Paris and New York subway stations, with a seasonally changing photo diorama. The subway theme continues with custom art by Vahram Muratyan that shows a mashup of the two cities’ train systems. Observant visitors will spot that the “stations” are actually various chefs’ names.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

Clearly, the Japanese obsession with lining up outside stores for hours, or even overnight in advance of major releases, also extends to Cronuts. Two men started camping in front of the Tokyo bakery 12 hours before the doors opened on Saturday morning.

The Japan-only food items include a special Cronut, made with Hokkaido milk honey and yuzu cream.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

There is also Paris Tokyo (“A twist on the traditional Paris Brest with matcha ganache and a soft passion fruit curd”), Monaka Cookie (“A fun texture twist with a crispy monaka shell and a moist matcha financier cookie”), Mr Roboto (“Our take on the melon pan filled with a caramel black truffle custard”), and Mont Blanc Wagashi (“Chestnut cream, meringue, and orange confit done in the style of a wagashi pairs perfectly with tea and is only offered in our private Japanese tea room”).

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

There are even yuzu- and vanilla-filled cream puffs stacked and shaped to look like Maneki Neko cat figures.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

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Mount Shindake volcano erupts on Kuchinoerabu island, residents evacuated

Written by: William on May 29, 2015 at 1:47 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Mount Shindake has erupted without warning on the island of Kuchinoerabu, 130 kilometers south of Kagoshima. Boats have been sent to the island to evacuate the population of 147. So far there are no reports of damage or injuries.

mount shindake eruption-volcano japan kuchinoerabu island

Here you can see videos of the incredible plume, which reached heights of over 9,000 meters.

 

As often is the case with volcanic activity, the results are a strange mix of the beautiful and the terrifying.

The eruption has implications for air traffic in south Japan.

Mount Shindake is located about 650 metres above sea level and last erupted in August 2014 for the first time since 1980.

There has been a flurry of volcanic eruptions in Japan recently. Mount Ontake erupted in September 2014, killing 57 hikers. Sakurajima also erupted again in 2013, sending ash over Kagoshima City, followed by another eruption in April 2015.

japan active volcanoes map

Though feted as a tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage site, Mount Fuji is also an eruption-in-waiting. Such a disaster would displace 470,000 people due to ash fall and potentially cripple the Tokyo-based national government.

The resources to monitor Japan’s 110 active volcanoes have also been decreasing in recent years, meaning the Japan Meteorological Agency keeps round-the-clock watches on only 47 peaks.

jts_may2013

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Otouto no Otto (My Brother’s Husband): New Gengoroh Tagame manga raises issue of same-sex parenting and marriage in Japan

Written by: William on May 25, 2015 at 2:46 pm | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Contributing further to the continuing public discourse in Japan about gay rights and same-sex marriage, the first volume of Otouto no Otto (My Brother’s Husband) was published as a paperback on May 25th.

Published by Futabasha, Otouto no Otto is written by Gengoroh Tagame, whose website says he creates “gay erotic art”. Clearly that also includes manga too and this new bara manga seems relatively mainstream compared to his more risque other titles. It is currently being serialized in Gekkan Action.

otouto no otto my brother husband manga gengoroh tagame gay marriage parenting

Otouto no Otto not only raises the timely issues of gay parenting and same-sex partnerships, it also examines interracial couples too. The story revolves around Yaichi and his daughter Kana, who are visited by Mike, the Canadian husband of Yaichi’s twin brother.

Tagame, who is openly gay, has a growing reputation overseas and his work has been translated into French and English. He is arguably the most influential gay manga-ka today.

Shibuya ward recently gave tacit legal recognition to same-sex couples and the “marriage” of lesbian celebrity couple Ayaka Ichinose and Akane Sugimori also attracted a lot of media attention.

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Tokyo planetarium develops “grass lawn” and “cloud” seats for gazing at the stars

Written by: William on May 22, 2015 at 9:28 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Konica Minolta Planetarium Manten in Sunshine City is set to undergo renovations in September and reopen in December with special “grass lawn” and cloud” seats.

The idea is that you can lie back and pretend you are watching the stars from your garden or while floating in the air.

tokyo ikebukuro planetarium sunshine city grass lawn cloud seats konica minolta manten renovation

Located in Ikebukuro, a neighborhood in northwest Tokyo, the planetarium will still have regular seats but for anyone who has ever dreamed of riding a cloud to watch the heavens, now is your chance. The lighting is also going to be adjusted so it resembles candle light.

Hoping to benefit from the kind of renaissance east Tokyo has seen thanks to the Tokyo Skytree, Ikebukuro is attempting a face-lift ahead of the Olympics. While it’s not quite the Hikarie, the oddly named Wacca complex opened in the famously rather run-down district last September. The local Toshima ward government also pours lots of funds into arts projects in the area, including Japan’s largest theatre festival that takes place mostly at venues around Ikebukuro.

tokyo ikebukuro planetarium sunshine city grass lawn cloud seats konica minolta manten renovation

Japan has a fondness for planetariums (or planetaria, if we want to be formal). There are a surprising amount of planetarium facilities tucked away inside malls and even public libraries.

Back in the 1990’s, Takayuki Ohira designed the Megastar, the largest ever planetarium with over a million stars.

He also helped developed the Sega Toys Homestar series of home planetariums. Though they have stopped releasing new entries in recent years, this was a phenomenally successful series and testifies to the interest in planetariums among Japanese consumers.

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Japanese couples celebrate “Kiss Day” by smooching through acrylic plastic panels

Written by: William on May 21, 2015 at 9:15 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Get ready for “Kiss Day”.

Yes, this Saturday, May 23rd, is apparently the day of smooching, at least in Japan at any rate.

And Edition, a club in Akasaka, central Tokyo, is celebrating by asking couples to kiss, though not in the way you’d think.

kiss day japan acrylic plastic panel event club edition tokyo couples

May 23rd is “Kiss Day” because it’s the day that saw the release in 1946 of the first Japanese film with a kissing scene, Hatachi no seishun (20-Year-Old Youth). Not surprisingly, the scene was a decorous one by the standards of today but at the time it was a big deal.

Directed by Yasushi Sasaki and starring Kaoru Aikawa and Michiko Ikuno, the actors actually kissed each other through a gauze to protect their modesty.

Borrowing this concept, Edition’s plan is to get several hundred couples to kiss through acrylic plastic panels of see-through plastic.

kiss day japan acrylic plastic panel event club edition tokyo couples

The party event is expected to attract around 250 people, though you have to be aged between 20 and 35 to join in. Oh, and it costs guys ¥5,500 ($45) and girls ¥3,000 ($25). That’s an expensive kiss and we’re not even sure if this counts as getting to first base.

Who says romance is dead?

In 2011 there was also this “kiss transmission” device. While the “acrylic kiss” is certainly more low-fi, we’re not sure if it’s any less weird.

Japan actually seems obsessed with anniversaries of late, from “Condom Day” (May 6th) to “Ninja Day” (February 22nd). Every month seems to bring another oddity, though the possibilities they present for promotional events are interesting enough.

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Japan’s “napping seats” on trains offer hammock, futon service to sleepy passengers

Written by: William on May 8, 2015 at 9:57 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

The Japanese are an overworked lot.

This is why you can see them always trying to grab forty winks on the train.

And it’s why you get such a fantastic array of sleeping products.

The spring in Japan brings cherry blossom, Golden Week and clement weather.

It also brings entrance exam hell for high school students looking to get into that tough college. They spend all night studying and all day rushing around strange cities to visit campuses for stressful tests.

All this means there isn’t much time to sleep.

japan napping seats train hammock futon carriage transport

In April, Recruit put together a tongue-in-cheek campaign suggesting ways to help students get more sleep during the exam season.

This includes a funny “history lesson” designed to send you to sleep. They also included genuine advice about making sure you take breaks and get sleep.

But our favorite was this parody “prototype” offering a new way to get some rest on public transport in Japan.

japan napping seats train hammock futon carriage transport

These “napping seats” are not very pleasant for other passengers, perhaps, but you can’t knock their originality.

For example, here’s the hammock train.

japan napping seats train hammock futon carriage transport

japan napping seats train hammock futon carriage transport

Or you can really take up more than your fair share of room by laying out a futon on the floor of the carriage.

japan napping seats train hammock futon carriage transport

japan napping seats train hammock futon carriage transport

All right, so all of this was created in a studio. There are no “napping seats” (or hammocks) on Japanese trains… yet.

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Saitama creates “Saitama pose” to promote much-maligned prefecture

Written by: William on May 7, 2015 at 10:27 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Pity Saitama.

A prefecture so unoriginal that it shares its name with its capital city.

A prefecture confined in the popular consciousness to being an extended suburb of Tokyo.

A prefecture usually only visited by Tokyoites when they go to see a concert at Saitama Super Arena.

Even women suffer for the ignominy of being residents of Saitama: a few years ago they were revealed (not literally) to have the smallest busts in Japan (*NSFW).

While we thought Ibaraki already had the dubious honor of being Japan’s “least appealing” prefecture, apparently Saitama is a closer runner for the title too.

Hence some creative residents have manufactured the “Saitama pose”.

so!da saitama soda pose meme prefecture tourism pr campaign website mayors girls celebrities

To go with the meme-waiting-to-happen (or not, as the case may be), they have also launched a website, So!daSaitama.com (“That’s right, Saitama”).

so!da saitama soda pose meme prefecture tourism pr campaign website mayors girls celebrities

In a nutshell, you put your fingers together in an “okay” sign and cross your arms.

Media reports claim it is “buzzing” online, though we suspect this is a pure fabrication at this point. There is a golden rule in the digital age: call it a meme and it will become a meme. Things are announced as “trends” by the Japanese media often long before they genuinely become a “thing”.

After prefectures like Kanagawa and Saga successfully used online platforms to promote themselves and Shibuya hijacked Pharrell Williams, every region in Japan is competing to be next to go viral.

so!da saitama soda pose meme prefecture tourism pr campaign website mayors girls celebrities

So!daSaitama.com features pictures of currently 21 mayors (over half the cities in Saitama) and young local girls (a guaranteed way to get clicks) all adopting the signature pose, which is apparently inspired by the Saitama official bird, the Eurasian collared dove. Your hands become the bird’s “wings” while the linked fingers form a ring (a reference to the “tama” of Saitama, which means ball).

It all started last September with this music video. The lyrics play on the prefecture’s reputation for being dasai (uncool).

The video features 837 people from 46 local businesses and organizations.

It was marketed in the same vein as the Kanagawa Prefecture “Koi suru Fortune Cookie” AKB48 video that was a hit with netizens (4 million views), though ultimately Saitama’s is stuck at a so-so 75,000. Close, but no cigar, as they say.

The whole PR campaign is the brainchild of Tenka Jaya, an online design agency based in — you’ve guessed it — Saitama.

so!da saitama soda pose meme prefecture tourism pr campaign website mayors girls celebrities

While we can’t help raising our eyebrows at the earnestness of the campaign, it is certainly a welcome change to the usual yuru-kyara strategies.

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Get Your Tour and Pour On at Suntory Brewery

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on May 1, 2015 at 8:53 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Angela Schnabel first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

For just an hour of your time you can enjoy a free factory tour and beer tasting at Suntory’s Musashino Brewery in Fuchu, Tokyo.

Get off at Bubaigawara Station, catch the factory’s free shuttle, and you’re on your way to getting an up-close and personal look into beer giant Suntory’s Premium Malt brewing process. After about a 5-minute shuttle ride you arrive at the lobby and are promptly greeted by the friendly staff.

Your eyes are immediately drawn to the center wall that features the hallmark blue and gold Suntory logo, but before you go anywhere be sure to check in at the reception desk on the right side of the lobby.

suntory beer musashino brewery fuchu tokyo visit tour

If you have some time to kill before your tour starts be sure to check out the gift shop and the beer-themed photo props next to the logo wall so you can make your very own Suntory factory souvenir photo. If your tour begins right away don’t worry, you can visit these areas again at the end of the tour.

suntory beer musashino brewery fuchu tokyo visit tour

When it’s time to begin, you’ll take the elevator upstairs where you’ll be shown a short video about the quality of the spring water they use in their brewing process.

The first stop after the introduction is the hops display where you’ll learn about the type of hops that Suntory uses. You’ll even get to taste and smell a sample!

Next you’ll be led through a long hallway to the vat area where you can look inside a port-hole window that allows you to see what the vat looks like.

Then you’ll move on to the filling and packaging area. You’ll watch a short video about their process and you can look through the large windows that allow you to see the factory floor.

suntory beer musashino brewery fuchu tokyo visit tour

And now for best part of the tour: the beer tasting. You get to wet your whistle on some freshly brewed Suntory beer straight from the factory. After all, you worked hard learning all about the process on the tour, so you deserve a few cold ones!

Each guest can savor 3 frosty beers from Suntory’s selection of the day. You’ll also find Suntory-branded salty snacks on the table to pair with your brew.

suntory beer musashino brewery fuchu tokyo visit tour

After everyone gets their beer your tour guide will show you how to properly pour it so you get a nice foam, just like in the Suntory commercials.

True to Japan’s affinity for convenience and customer service, Suntory even offers a mail-order option where they will deliver fresh Suntory beer to your doorstep if you live in Tokyo.

After the tasting you head back down to the lobby where you can check out the gift shop and souvenir photo wall if you didn’t have time before the tour. At the gift shop you’ll find a variety of their beers, handmade glassware, t-shirts, key chains, and other gift ideas.

If you buy nothing else I highly recommend the Fujiyama beer glass, designed to resemble the iconic Mt. Fuji when a beer is poured into it. The Fujiyama glass won a Tokyo Midtown Award for its design and level of craftsmanship. It’s a little small (and a little pricey too at about ¥5,000), but its hand blown glass from a master glass blower and comes in an elegant bamboo gift box, making it a fantastic souvenir for yourself, or a unique gift for someone back home.

suntory beer musashino brewery fuchu tokyo visit tour

Important points to consider:

  • Cameras are welcome, just know that there are some areas of the factory where photography and recording are not allowed. You’ll see signs advising where you can and can’t take pictures.
  • The tour, handouts, and display placards are all in Japanese, so be sure to bring a native Japanese speaker if you want to learn about all the nitty-gritty details involved in beer brewing. Even without a native speaker to help you can still get the general idea, after all, beer is a universal language.
  • Children and non-beer drinkers are welcome, as there are soft drinks and water available in the tasting room in lieu of beer.
  • If you’ll have more than 10 people in your group you’ll need to make a reservation, which can be done over the phone, or on their website. Be sure to use Google Translate or the Google Chrome browser to help with making an online reservation.

Access: It’s about a 1.6-km walk from Bubaigawara station, or you can take the free shuttle on the south side of the station near the horse-mounted samurai statue.

Tour times: Monday-Friday 10:00 am-4:00 pm. Saturday, Sunday, and Japanese public holidays 10:00 am-11:30 am.

And if you really love free beer (and sake!), you can also check out the free tour at Ishikawa Brewery — the “Disneyland for beer lovers”.

Images by Angela Schnabel

Read more and see a map on Tokyo Cheapo

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Halls Delivery Bear Service sends polar bear to “heal” stressed Japanese women

Written by: William on April 24, 2015 at 9:15 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Last year there was a lot of buzz about a strange thing that happened in Shibuya. A Russian-looking woman was apparently leading a live polar bear through the crowds of Center Gai and then across Scramble Crossing. This obviously drew a lot of attention from people in the area, who weren’t sure what was taking place.

The LALASH campaign succeeded in getting lots of global press and online chatter about whether it was a real bear, who was the Russian chick, and what “LALASH” meant.

Of course, it wasn’t real and, also of course, it was a marketing stunt — for Halls (rearrange the letters “LALASH” and you’ll get it).

Now comes the follow-up: Halls Delivery Bear Service.

halls delivery bear service polar white animal campaign

Since Halls’ sweets deliver a cooling menthol sensation and since their icon is a polar bear, it makes sense that they play on the two. And Japanese consumers are suckers for anything cute, as we know.

This “service” offers you the chance to meet a bear, whose cuddly charms will relieve you of your stress. One lucky winner will win the unique experience with the huggable bear.

Applications are being accepted from April 20th to May 18th, 2:59 p.m.

halls delivery bear service polar white animal campaign

halls delivery bear service polar white animal campaign

Halls will dispatch their “animal therapy” to anywhere in Japan for free. As we can see from the marketing, this is being aimed squarely at kids and women in need of some iyashi (healing).

The “delivery service” has been launched to celebrate the release of two new Halls products into Japan’s packed FMCG market.

halls delivery bear service polar white animal campaign

Halls demonstrated what the lucky winner can expect with voice actress Yoshino Nanjo.

The question everyone wants to know the answer to is: Will it be a real polar bear or this fake one?

There is a disclaimer at the bottom of the campaign site saying the polar bear “feels handmade”, which is an ambiguous way of saying it is a guy in a furry suit.

Still, such gripes aside, compared to most Japanese marketing that predominantly resorts to lazy advertising with a pop star or celebrity, this is a cool idea.

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