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!
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.
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.
The Number Measuring Spoon are now available for international purchase via the JapanTrendShop.
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.
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.
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!
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?
First we had One-Man Karaoke in Kanda to meet the need of the thousands who want to sing solos, literally. (Be careful of the “acoustic howling” in the small booths, though.)
Then we had Hitori, the yakiniku (Korean meat grill) restaurant catering exclusively for solo diners.
Eating typically group meals solo needn’t be a dull or embarrassing situation. As Shigesato Itoi said, “Only is not lonely”.
Solitary dining just got a bit more exciting with the addition of nabe (hot pot), just in time for the colder months when it is tradition to eat it.
Yoshinoya, the biggest gyudon (beef and rice bowl) fast food chain, has opened up Ichinabeya (My Nabe Style), the first in what it hopes within three years will become a mini series of ten restaurants round Japan offering nabe exclusively for single diners.
The target for this Chiyoda Ward eatery are working men and women in their twenties and thirties. All seating is at counters and the interior has a western feel, much like gyudon or Japanese curry rice restaurants tend to have (a classic nabe restaurant, on the other hand, will likely be in a more traditionally Japanese style).
The menu includes the usual kinds of nabe — beef, pork, kimchi, tofu — plus some adventurous Chinese food-inspired dishes. There are seven types of hot pot to choose from.
As you’d expect from Yoshinoya, it is serving to customers at the lower end of the price scale, though with dishes as high as 830 yen — not that much less than a full set meal in a nice cafe or regular restaurant, and over double what a basic gyudon dish costs — prices aren’t as rock bottom as the image of a new venture from this brand might suggest. Saying that, rice is free at lunchtimes.
They have retained that other feature of the gyudon chain, though: Speed. Apparently, it should only take three minutes for your order to arrive.
Although it is more expensive that initial expectations, it is still reasonable in times of filling lunch tuck. And no doubt there will be many office workers in need of a quick nabe fix at lunch and who will be glad of the chance to satisfy their culinary cravings without feeling sheepish about dining alone.
No matter your income or status, instant noodles are a staple of any household in Japan. When all else fails, reach for the dried ramen and pour in the hot water… Bon appétit.
But it’s a cutthroat world out there amongst the shelves of instant noodles. There are dozens and dozens of choices of flavors and ingredients, so food brands really have to go the extra mile to stand out from the competition.
Industry leader Nissin knows this, as you might expect from the company that created the very first instant noodle product. That’s why they have not only created such gimmicks as the interactive Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama and even an instant noodle restaurant on a train station platform, but they also run campaigns like this one.
Now in its third incarnation, 10,000 customers have the chance to win a cute Cup Noodle Robot Timer.
This nifty little fella is one original way to time when your noodles are ready — though we also like the now classic color-changing Cupmen series. In the TV commercials the Robot Timer even dances to Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, since, after all, eating the most generic of snacks should be an experience with a classy soundtrack.
The Robot Timer can move his legs, neck and arms, and also features eight LED lights to give him personality, as well as lighting up the “40th” (marking the anniversary of Nissin) on his uniform. He is programmed to move in forty different ways, changing automatically every thirty seconds. Oh, and he talks too.
Unfortunately Nissin have very sensibly not uploaded the official TV commercial to YouTube so we cannot embed it here (go to their website to watch it), but we did find this video of an older model. No Tchaikovsky or dancing, though.
Japan is a country known for its great generosity when it comes to serving customers, both current and potential alike. The level of customer service can be seen in various forms of service, from marketing freebies you can collect on the street (such as packets of tissues and paper fans) to multiple layers of wrapping paper covering a gift you purchased at a department store, which make the final product look three times bigger than its original size.
Yet there is one thing we tend to take for granted: drinking water.
Whenever you dine at a restaurant, eatery or even a small food stall on the street, the first thing you expect to get is a glass of water or even tea. If you start to wonder, just a few minutes after taking your seat how hard it can possibly be for a waiter to bring you a glass of water and even ask “Why hasn’t my water come yet?” then that’s when you know you have fully developed the local “customer is god” mentality.
In Japan, drinking water is almost always expected to be free of charge. Growing up, I don’t remember ever buying bottled water or drinking water out of a container. At school, we just drank water directly out of the tap.
Recently I was struck by the advent of a new summer “water jello” (or “water jelly”) sweet. Water jello and other jelly drinks have been around for a while, but this is one step further. On June 21st, Cozy Corner, one of the biggest sweets chains in Japan, launched the sale of its own water jello made from pure natural water from Hokkaido.
Four cups of water jello are sold as a set priced at 1,050 yen and come with four packs of fruit sauce: lemon, orange, grapefruit and shikwasa (Okinawan citrus).
Here this lady is showing how to make water jello at home. Simply dissolve gelatin in hot water, pour it in containers and chill them in the fridge. The first 28 seconds is making the sauce, which in her case is kuromitsu (black sugar syrup).
Although Cozy Corner’s water jelly is only available for the summer (the sale will end at the end of August) it’s probably not the kind of summer sweets that you would expect to eat in a sweat. I can easily imagine people eating such jello in a perfectly air-conditioned room, yet if I had to choose between tap water (no matter how lukewarm it may be!) and water jello on a typical summer day under the sun, I would definitely run for the tap water and be forever grateful for its supply.
Kagawa prefecture on Shikoku island, famed for its udon noodles, has found another way to turn its popular food to good use — power.
Chiyoda Manufacturing in Takamatsu City has announced “udon power generation” in which waste udon noodles are fermented to make methane gas, which is then burnt as fuel to drive electricity-generating turbines. This will be sold on to Shikoku Electric Power Company from September. In a year it is planned to make around 50 households’ power, or 180,000 kilowatt-hours. The generation facilities will also be available for purchase by other would-be noodle electricians.
The same company has already been manufacturing biomass ethanol gas from waste noodles from Kagawa and the methane gas plan emerged when they wanted to utilized the leftover materials from their previous bioethanol operations.
Using around 1 ton of raw garbage collected from restaurants and 1.5 tons of udon used in ethanol production, this then forms one day’s worth of fuel that is placed in the fermenting tub to be burnt. This produces methane gas, which drives turbines that generates electricity.
The plant can be operated for twenty-four hours a day and then sell its output for some 7 million yen a year. This value almost doubles when you add in the income the company receives for supplying waste disposal services to udon manufacturers and restaurants to take their waste noodles off their hands. Now that’s what we call an ace renewable energy business model.
Why be boring in the kitchen?
The Nejicco borrows the idea of a pencil sharpener and adapts it for peeling or slicing vegetables.
There are three color-coded types in this set. Each slices or peels in a different way, so you can then create slices in all kinds of thicknesses and shapes with radishes, carrots and other veggies.
The makers are marketing it as a super convenient kitchen tool, but we reckon, given the colorful design and how it makes salads and cooking creative, this will be popular with families where kids like to get involved in the kitchen. (The pencil sharpeners are totally safe.)
The Nejicco also stack on top of each other in a mini tower so they can be kept out of the way on a counter, rather than cluttering up drawers that are already packed with utensils you’ve used once and never since.
This is a nice video illustrating the different things you can do with the three “pencil sharpeners”.
It also reminds us of the heart-shaped and star-shaped cucumber molds that proved a sleeper hit a few years back, though in that case you actually grow your salads into the unique shapes you want them to be served as.
As clichéd as it might sound, in everyday life we really do take too many things for granted. The virtual world of the Internet makes it seem as though everything can be done instantly at no cost. Take music, for example. I remember that I used to make a call to a nearby record store weeks before the release date of a new album of my favorite singers or bands just to make sure that I could get a copy of my own that day. I believed that the value of the album was worth more than the 3,000 yen I spent on it, and I listened to every single one of the songs repeatedly until I had memorized all the lyrics.
Now, music or just any form of intangible entertainment which used to be sold in tangible CD cases or DVD packages as the only access point available for consumers has become an easily shareable link on the Internet at the click of a mouse. Whether or not it has degraded the value of entertainment itself is up for debate, yet there is really no way to stop this movement in the years to come.
What can’t be turned into a link on streaming sites online, though, is a product that calls for more perceptual experience, especially that of taste, smell and touch.
With over 80 years of experience in making fake food samples, Iwasaki Co., Ltd. has successfully turned the “fakeness” of their products into an art form which now has an established brand of its own. Such food samples are displayed in the windows or outside restaurants and eateries to show potential patrons what dishes are available on the menu. Although less common than they used to be, the plastic food models are still frequent sights at certain kinds of restaurants in Japan.
In 2011, Iwasaki launched their first retail shop of fake food samples called Ganso Shokuhin Sampuru-ya (Original Food Samples Shop) in Kappabashi, Tokyo, and the following year opened the second branch in Solamachi, the shopping complex at the base of the Tokyo Skytree.
On the website they encourage people to take their time when visiting the shops and to touch the actual products themselves. Every product is different because they are all handmade. Take it in your hand and choose the one you like the best.
Their marketing strategy goes against the norms of this increasingly digitalized business world, yet that’s exactly where the company’s pride lies.
In 1932, Takizo Iwasaki, the founder of the company, made his first product, an omelet which, according to his wife, already seemed to exceed the quality of just being a resemblance — she almost couldn’t tell the difference at all. The company vision stems from his belief in the possibility of what initially started as a fake sample dish. Their pride is represented in the “fake” which cannot be appreciated on computer screens. If it can, they have failed to serve the purpose of making fake food that looks real — so real that one can only tell the difference by its touch.
In fact, it’s hard to find any field of business where the imitation is valued (at least financially) more than the original. Would you be surprised that the dome of hamburgers and French fries below is priced at 189,000 yen — nearly $2,000?
Again, the fakeness of work is key to their business. Perhaps no one would argue against me if I stated that anyone who sells a hamburger, let’s say, for 1,000 yen would go out of business before they even got a chance to experiment or challenge the current fast-food market. (McDonald’s recently announced high-class hamburgers, priced as high as 570 yen each, has already created a big buzz in the news. Only time will tell if it succeeds.)
This year Ganso’s summer campaign titled “We Love Handmade! 2013″ offers participants a do-it-yourself experience where you try making food samples, and a guided tour at the Amuse Museum, where you get to see the special exhibition of traditional fabrics and a collection of some famous ukiyoe prints in digitalized forms.
For the hands-on experience, you can choose from two options, a tempura bowl or a set of tempura and lettuce.
It hasn’t been very long since the handmade concept became a marketing phrase that most effectively appeals to the authenticity of merchandise, and perhaps it won’t be too long before we see the phrase stand as a brand on its own. And money will remain the only medium by which we can show our appreciation and support for the creators.
Now I’m not sure if we as consumers are getting dumber or smarter in recognizing the value of something.
Nissin’s Shibuya Station Platform Cup Noodle Eateries: serving everything from udon, ramen to summer noodlesWritten by: Mina on June 21, 2013 at 11:50 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments
If someone asked me to name Japan’s greatest invention, I might say it’s cup noodles. Although some people consider it to be more of junk food rather than a meal, I’m sure we all love it not only for its convenience but for its taste as well. In fact, cup noodles have greatly evolved from being an easy replacement for a full meal — to being a product available with a wide variety of taste which may or may not surpass ones served at actual ramen shops.
No matter how much I love cup noodles or instant noodles (which I do), though, I would think twice if someone asked me, “Hey wanna go out to eat some cup noodles?”
While it definitely looks like a restaurant, you should probably be aware that they serve cup noodles, exactly as you would eat them just about anywhere else. Then why would anyone bother to eat cup noodles in a restaurant? Perhaps the biggest reason is that they have a wide range of Donbei udon and soba noodles on the menu, including some local flavors not available elsewhere.
First you buy a ticket (priced at a bit more than regular shop prices) and hand it to the server at the counter. Depending on what you choose, they either give you an almost-ready cup of noodles with a sand glass and ask you to wait for three minutes — or if your choice requires microwave cooking, they’ll probably ask if you could wait a bit longer.
I ordered one when I went there about half a year ago and was asked to wait at the table. The noodles were very tasty, but all the time I felt like I was overly spoiled, since I could definitely have done self-service and prepared everything myself. But for promotional purpose, serving cup noodles or any other product at one of the busiest stations in the world is certainly an effective way to get people’s attention.
Actually there is another Nissin eatery on the other side of the platform, called “Nissin Rao Fukuromenya” and which serves packaged ramen in its cooked form.
From June 17th to 23rd for one week only, Nissin’s hiyashi-chuka (chilled noodles with toppings) will replace the regular ramen, both in the menu and the exterior of the place, presumably to promote the retail product for the upcoming summer season when the demand for such cool taste is expected to grow substantially.
We probably need to wait for a few more weeks before its actual arrival, but Nissin’s hiyashi-chuka is definitely a good sign that summer is just around the corner!