No need to knead! Philips Noodle Maker pumps out ramen, udon, soba or spaghetti in minutes

Written by: Japan Trends on June 30, 2014 at 9:00 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 4 Comments

Dutch electronics maker have stolen the limelight from local manufacturers with this new must-have home item, the Philips Noodle Maker. The automatic raw noodle maker can churn out ramen, soba, udon and spaghetti noodles in minutes!

philips noodle maker ramen soba udon spaghetti pasta machine raw automatic

How does it work? Well, it’s super simple, as the best home appliances always are. You just put in your choice of ingredients (flour, of course, and water and egg, though you could also add other things to give your noodles some color) and then press the start button. According to Philips, you can make 500g (17.6 oz) of pasta/noodles in 15 minutes.

There are four different caps that will shape the mix into the raw noodles shape you want (ramen, udon, soba or spaghetti). These can then be stored neatly in the drawer at the bottom.

philips noodle maker ramen soba udon spaghetti pasta machine raw automatic

Much better than dry noodles and no kneading needed!

philips noodle maker ramen soba udon spaghetti pasta machine raw automatic

The Japanese go mad over these handy home cooking appliances. Much like the excitement over the Gopan machine that could bake bread out of rice a few years ago, now everyone seems to be talking about this noodle maker.

Currently only available in Japan and some limited Asian markets like Hong Kong and Taiwan, JapanTrendShop is now offering it for global deliveries.

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Glico Papico White Sour ice cream re-design goes cute for summer with updated female moe mascot

Written by: William on June 16, 2014 at 9:16 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Glico’s Papico ice cream has upped the marketing for its summer campaign and this apparently means appealing to the inner moe in every Japanese consumer.

The frozen snack has relaunched with new packaging featuring an updated slinky female mascot in three designs, though we wonder if the results are little too much for non-otaku.

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

As the summer heats up, it’s the peak season for beer companies and ice cream bands.

It seems that otaku motifs are seeping into all walks of life now. The question is whether skimpily-dressed schoolgirls on the wrapping of a ice cream would make you buy it.

glico papico white sour ice cream

Papico is a tube containing ice cream that can usually be seen being sucked furiously on by school kids in the hotter months. One pack contains two tubes and there are multiple flavors.

The packaging for the “white sour” version has traditionally featured the Papico character Howaitosawa/Whitesawa (a joke on “white sour”), a sweet young girl — a sort of Japanese Milky Bar Kid — who has appeared on the wrapping in various forms since 1975. Glico found that without the girl, sales actually dropped.

This is how the packaging has changed over the years.

glico papico white sour ice cream design packaging history

Out with the old, as the adage says. Glico launched a contest in April and May to have people re-design the packaging and the girl by submitting illustrations via pixiv. The winners were then picked from these and have made their way onto the final product, which went on sale on June 9th.

Here are the three winners.

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

And here are some of the unsuccessful entries.

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

glico papico white sour ice cream contest otaku moe girl pixiv

In some ways we shouldn’t be surprised as Papico is the same Glico product that is currently running a campaign with idol group AKB48, including recruiting a new thirty-something temporary housewife idol into the band. We guess they really were intent on changing the image of the product!

Don’t worry. If you’re a fan of the original retro Papico White Sour design, it’s not going away for good. Once the moe-packaged Papico products are sold out, Glico says they won’t be making any more.

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Birds, Osprey aircraft and more: Kakigori Japanese shaved ice snow cone art from Okinawa

Written by: William on May 15, 2014 at 10:55 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

It’s nearly summer. The rainy season will soon be upon us, along with cockroaches, humidity and the usual host of great summer matsuri festivals.

And loads of summer food. One of the best is kakigori, or shaved ice snow cones.

These are best enjoyed at a festival stall, though there are plenty of great kakigori machines for making shaved ice at home too. (There is even a Hello Kitty one!)

We also spotted these great artistic kakigori “ice sculptures” by Kome Hachi Soba in Okinawa City. Some are very creative and even political!

kakigori japanese shaved ice snow cone art sculpture okinawa

There has been a lot of hipster nonsense with “3D latte art” in Japan in recent times, fuelled by social media users fairly easily impressed and baristas with arguably too much time on their hands between serving overpriced cups of the black stuff.

However, these kakigori sculptures by Yoshirou Nagayama are pretty cool. Of course, they only last a few minutes so your time to appreciate them is limited.

See what you can spot here. Are these eagles?

kakigori japanese shaved ice snow cone art sculpture okinawa

kakigori japanese shaved ice snow cone art sculpture okinawa

kakigori japanese shaved ice snow cone art sculpture okinawa

There are even Osprey aircraft versions, referencing the controversial accident-prone US V-22 Osprey military aircraft whose presence in Okinawa has been fiercely contested by locals.

kakigori japanese shaved ice snow cone art sculpture okinawa

Hat tip to Kotaku and Another Tokyo for the pictures.

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Dance with idol Ayami Muto with this Ezaki-Glico Seventeen ice cream Shibuya vending machine

Written by: William on April 10, 2014 at 11:51 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Vending machines come in all shapes and sizes, and seem to sell everything from books to snacks, drinks, used panties and more.

But how about a vending machine that lets you have a private dance with an idol?

For one day only, Shibuya’s Marui City will let fans do just that.

It’s being organized by Ezaki-Glico, one of Japan’s biggest sweets makers, and especially as a promo for their long-standing Seventeen ice cream brand. While it is common to see Seventeen vending machines all over Tokyo, this is a whole new kind of experience.

ayami muto seventeen vending machine glico ezaki dance idol shibuya ice cream

The idol in question is a newbie, Ayami Muto, who is making her debut this spring.

On April 26th, brand ambassador Ayami Muto will be dancing on a big display on the Seventeen Ice Original Vending Machine, which changes depending on the flavor of Seventeen ice cream you choose. Ayami’s costume colors will also be different in each video to match the flavors, of which there are, not surprisingly, seventeen.

Dancers will have their movements digitally regenerated as computer graphics, to be put together later as a special animated video. If you dance correctly matching Ayami’s choreography then you can get yourself a complimentary ice cream — perfect as the weather turns hotter.

ayami muto seventeen vending machine glico ezaki dance idol shibuya ice cream

Vending machine boffins will probably have already spotted that this ice cream idol vendor is very similar to the Dance Dance Revolution vending machine from Coca-Cola that was a big hit in Korea in 2012.

Dancing with Ayami is free and Ayami herself is expecting to turn up in Shibuya as well at around 14:00, though we expect a dance with the physical idol might be asking too much.

Check out the vending machine from 11:00 to 19:00.

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McDonald’s celebrates spring with sakura cherry blossom burgers, drinks

Written by: William on March 13, 2014 at 11:11 am | In LIFESTYLE | 2 Comments

Spring always brings a flurry of sakura (cherry blossom)-themed products, from sweets to stamps, phone apps and more.

But we never imagined there would be a pink cheeseburger any time soon!

As the cherry blossom season kicks on from around March 20th, the bloom making its way up the archipelago of Japan till it hits the capital and creates mad hordes of picnicking drunk weekenders in early April, McDonald’s is celebrating the real arrival of the warmer spring climes with a sakura burger.

Yes, you read that right.

mcdonald's cherry blossom sakura teritama spring burger

What could a cherry blossom burger be like?! Well, in a nutshell the Sakura Teritama is a pink bun with sakura mayonnaise sauce. Inside you taste buds will experience a fried egg, ginger teriyaki pork, lettuce and cherry blossom radish mayo. It first went on sale in 2012 but this year’s version is apparently slightly different.

In addition to the Sakura Teritama burger, there are also cherry blossom cherry soda and float drinks and desserts.

mcdonalds sakura cherry blossom float soda spring drinks desserts

You can get your first taste of the Sakura Teritama burgers from March 21st (the spring equinox) and the Sakura Cherry float and soda from March 14th.

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Top Trends in Japan in 2013

Written by: Japan Trends on December 27, 2013 at 11:20 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Another year, another packed calendar of trends.

What were some of the main ones that caught our eye throughout the past twelve months?

Olympics

tokyo olympics 2020 abe reuters

Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympic Games amidst great controversy, not least the continuing plight of Fukushima and Tohoku, PM Abe’s lies to the IOC that the situation was “under control”, an already ballooning budget, a non-Japanese architect handling the stadium design, and a rather bizarrely pronounced presentation by Christel Takigawa (whose bank balance — along with Dentsu’s — has done very nicely out of the Olympics, of course). Oh, and the man celebrating in the center of the picture above is Naoki Inose, the Governor of Tokyo who has lost his job over a financial scandal.

TV Drama is Big Again

amachan nhk drama series

After years of flagging TV ratings, the year scored some major television hits, not least NHK’s morning drama Amachan and Hanzawa Naoki.

Mascots (official and not so)

japan mascot character yuru-kyara

Everyone knows that Japan loves mascots. Now even the Communist Party has some cute characters. In particular, the year has seen the meteroic rise of “unofficial” pear mascot Funassyi from Funabashi in Chiba.

Ghibli strikes golds

the wind rises hayao miyazaki

Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises was a phenomenal hit in Japan, not least because it was announced as Miyao Miyazaki’s final anime film… but he has said this before. While the Ghibli/Miyazaki brand is formidable, the success of the movie is pretty incredible when you considered how uncommercial its subject matter (fight plane design!) is. The jury’s still out on its overseas reception, though.

Meanwhile, Takashi Murakami’s first anime feature film appeared to make zero impact.

Coffee

starbucks coffee japan meguro traditional japanese design

From the ascent of Starbucks to become the nation’s second largest chain — along the way opening a special traditional crafts branch in Meguro — to the fashion for convenience stores to offer their own drip coffee products, Japan has become one of the biggest consumers of coffee in the world. It also comes with its own generous portion of snobbery and hipster-dom, aided by a constantly renewing library of magazines and books about which espresso bar to go to in which area of Tokyo at which time.

Twitter Idiots

prank_photo_lawson

Bakattaa is a new word that was coined to describe one of the biggest online trends this year. It means the idiots (baka) who tweet pictures of themselves doing silly stuff. This has proved particularly problematic when the said fools are doing unhygienic stunts at their part-time jobs in restaurants and shops. This has led to bankruptcies and job losses, but the trend seems to show no sign of abating. The news today mentioned a man in Osaka who stupidly tweeted that he had stabbed someone. If you’re going to do a crime, don’t tell social media! The current generation in their teens and twenties are digital natives, and thus are still negotiating the new rules of caution and courtesy when tweeting a selfie. This is worldwide, of course. Remember the idiots who tweeted questions asking who Osama bin Laden was when he was killed? This took the same amount of typing time as they could have used to answer their own question if they had bothered to think before “sharing”.

UNESCO

mt fuji unesco world heritage site japan

Mt Fuji was given designation as a World Heritage site by UNESCO earlier in the year, while washoku (Japanese food) was also registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. However, this was soured by the continuing controversy over contamination in Fukushima and how it was affecting crops, as well as a food mislabeling scandal engulfing many noted restaurants and hotels.

Rise in Nationalism

japan state secrets bill protest

Japan is going backwards. Prime Minister Abe is set on reversing history. He has passed a massively controversial state secrets bill, forged ahead with returning to nuclear power, purchased drones and a raft of other military equipment to “protect” contested territories, announced his intent to change the pacifist constitution, and now capped off the year by visiting the most sensitive place in Japan, Yasukuni Shrine. Good job, Mr Abe. A lesson in diplomacy for the world.

Coupled with the rise of regional right-wingers like Toru Hashimoto in Osaka and the unstoppable juggernaut that is Shintaro Ishihara (when will the octogenarian die?!), these are very, very troubling times for the country. Is this Cool Japan?

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Let Them Eat Cake: World Vision Japan charity project shares cake aid with Africa

Written by: Mina on December 23, 2013 at 2:40 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Since 2009, World Vision Japan, a non-governmental organization, has been hosting Love Cake Project, a seasonal charity program to provide food aid for kids in Africa.

world_vision_japan_charity

In this project, participating pastry chefs are asked to make a whole cake with one missing piece. Customers then pay the price for the whole cake, and the money that they paid for the missing piece will be donated to World Vision.

Last year, 89 stores participated in the project, selling 798 whole cakes, and raising a total donation of 382,295 yen. Working in partnership with the World Food Programme, they delivered various food supplies to approximately 13,000 people in the Turkana region, Kenya.

charity_project_world_vision_japan

In total, they have sold 3,268 cakes so far, raising 1,477,672 yen and helping about 100,000 people in the northern part of Kenya. This year, they are planning to send food aid to Zimbabwe.

world_vision_donation

These special cakes (or “Love Cakes” as they call them) can be purchased at participating stores all across Japan, which you can search for on their website.

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Number Measuring Spoon makes measuring out cooking ingredients unique

Written by: Japan Trends on October 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Number Measuring Spoons are a set of brilliant measuring utensils for the kitchen that are both visually and functionally different.

Transparent and ergonomic, the three resin spoons are for measuring our salt and sugar and other ingredients. Nothing unusual about that. But the unique part lies in how they do the measuring. It’s through the numbers!

number measuring spoon set atsuhiro hayashi

Designed by Atsuhiro Hayashi (of the Polar Ice Molds fame), the idea came to the creator when he wanted to visualize ingredients and recipes. Now with the Number Measuring Spoon you can really see how much liquid or powder you are about to plop into your dish.

The spoons were made by an kitchen goods company, Toyo Aluminum Ecko Products, though the stylish spoons will be feel right in any modern domestic food station. They measure out the standard Japanese sizes: 15ml (1/2 fl oz), 5ml (1 teaspoon), 2.5ml.

number measuring spoon set atsuhiro hayashi

They look the same and can be stacked, but in fact the thickness varies and thus, the amount of ingredients that can be measured out. The spoons stay looped together by a ring and one of them even has a built-in pasta measuring hole at the other end.

First released in 2012, the design was selected to be included in the recent book Made in Japan: 100 New Products by Naomi Pollock.

number measuring spoon set atsuhiro hayashi

The Number Measuring Spoon are now available for international purchase via the JapanTrendShop.

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Sweets Marathon for runners with a sweet tooth

Written by: Mina on October 9, 2013 at 10:02 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

For some people, the best reward in life are sweets. Pleasure-seeking as we all are, marathon runners are no exception. Sponsored by International Sports Marketing, Sweets Marathon might sound like a contradiction in terms but it started in August, 2011 as a one-of-a-kind marathon that encourages runners to complete the race with a wide variety of “sweet” rewards.

sweets_marathon

Runners can taste more than 200 kinds of bite-size sweets at the aid station while completing either a 10 kilometer (solo) or 42.195 kilometer (relay) round race. There are some rules to follow (they can’t give sweets to non-participants, carry them around with them on the race, or take them home), but runners are free to try everything.

sweets_buffet_marathon

The basic concept is the same as regular hydration points where runners stop to supplement energy just enough to get to the next point, so they are advised to consume the sweets the same way. In other words, it’s not an all-you-can-eat buffet, though it may certainly look like one!

sweets_buffet_chocolate_cake

The entry fee varies a little at each venue, but is around 5,000 yen for anyone above high school age and 3,500 yen for kids. The best part of the sugary marathon is that runners can actually purchase their favorite sweets at retail booths, established near the race route. Admission is free, so both participants and non-participants alike can get a real taste of featured sweets at each marathon in merchandise forms.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, girls apparently make up over 50% of the participants in these saccharine sports, and overall 30% are first-time marathon runners.

Here’s the video clip from the 13th Sweets Marathon which took place in Osaka in December, 2012.

The next Sweets Marathon takes place in Chiba in November, followed by other events in Aichi and Osaka. The next Tokyo race is in January at Odaiba.

The ever growing popularity of Tokyo Marathon which will take place at the end of February, 2014, shows that marathons are now big public spectacles. The results of the lottery were announced just a few days ago, and applicants had approximately a 1-in-10 chance of winning!

Sweets Marathon might seem more like a fun and relaxing event as compared to a hardcore, full marathon race, but why not use this opportunity to promote business?

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