Japan Has Been Hit With A Major Chip Shortage (Photos)

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By Cooking Panda

This must be a testament to just how much I love potato chips, because I audibly gasped in horror upon reading this news.

Everybody has their vice, and for many, potato chips top the list of junk food snacks that are too hard to cut completely out of our diets. And it makes sense! They’re salty, crispy, savory and highly addictive … and unfortunately for Japan, in short supply (photos below)!

That’s right. Munchies reports that a massive chip shortage has swept Japan, due to the climate in Hokkaido’s northern location, where large quantities of root vegetables such as potatoes, onions and beets are produced. But because so many typhoons ravaged the area in Hokkaido in August 2016, major chip manufacturers were forced to halt production on 49 different chip products that otherwise would have graced Japanese shelves.

Calbee and Koike-Ya are two among many major chip manufacturers that had to take the hit.

“Many of the imported potatoes did not reach the required level of quality, and we could not cover our full production range,” a Calbee rep told The Manichi, per Munchies, and said that once levels of potato chip production could return to normal, then the company would begin to resume sales of chip flavors that will temporarily have to be discontinued.

Do you want to know what’s sadder than just hearing about the chip shortage?

All of the photographic evidence hitting social media! Doesn’t this barren snack aisle just hurt your heart?

And what about the photo of this lonely snack-size chip bag, the last of its kind to survive for a long while?

Say it isn’t so!

Are your hearts going out to Japan and their impending chip shortage? Or are you content to pretend you didn’t witness any of this disparaging news?

Source: Munchies / Photo Credit: Ashuu Neruzumin/Twitter, Rikatantan/Twitter, GTC/Twitter

Tags: calbee, Chip Shortage, hokkaido, japan, koike-ye
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Raw Meat Cakes Are Apparently A Real Thing (Photos)

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By Cooking Panda

If you’re watching your sugar and carb intake and following more of a protein-heavy diet, these meat cakes might be just the thing for you.

Metro reports that the citizens of Japan have bumped their birthday celebrations up a notch with the introduction of raw meat cakes. And no, this isn’t steak tartare we’re talking about … it’s a raw meat platter shaped like a birthday cake. They even put candles on top and everything.

Some are decorated with sparklers, and others even with flowers. The meats are top choice and, according to Kotaku, they’re appearing more and more at grilled meat restaurants all over the country.

When looking through these pictures (which are all over social media, FYI), you have to wonder who even came up with this? And why?

According to Bustle, in a country like Japan where most meals are dominated by fish and rice, high-quality meats are a luxury, which explains why they’re such a great birthday gift. If you receive a platter of meat shaped like a birthday cake or like roses (or both), you’re a pretty happy camper. If you’re at a grill-your-own-meat joint, it could just be like meshing your dinner with your dessert.

Take apart the beautifully crafted piece of beefy artwork and get to grilling, after snapping a picture, of course. Some of the “cakes” even feature high-quality cuts of sashimi.

Personally, this new trend is not my thing. If you say cake, I expect layers upon layers of chocolate and icing; I want my flowers to be full of sugar. However, I guess I can see the appeal. I’m sure the carnivores delight in this (probably very expensive) birthday treat.

Maybe if I could get past the look of it … I could give a meat cake a chance. Then again, I’d have to go to Japan to do so. Strange how this seems like it would be much more of a Western thing. I guess we’ve rubbed off on them some!

Sources: Metro, Kotaku, Bustle / Photo Credit: melogy5/Twitter, Kotaku/Twitter, kazu23kayo/TwitterTags: Birthday Cake, Happy Birthday, japan, meat cake, Raw Meat, Raw Meat Cake
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Would You Visit A Mayonnaise Cafe? Because It’s Real

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By Cooking Panda

Kewpie is a Japanese brand of mayonnaise that mayo fanatics apparently go nuts over. Not much of a mayo fan myself, so I wasn’t aware of this apparent obsession, but Kewpie fans will really love what’s happening in Japan.

Metro news reports that in Japan, mayonnaise-based cafes are becoming a fad. There are already two pop-up Kewpie mayo-themed cafes there — one in Tokyo and one in Nagoya. Imagine it! There’s even going to be an Easter Mayo Tree … whatever that means.

Menu items are expected to include omelets, sandwiches, chicken and even desserts. Mayo-infused desserts? No thank you. As surprising as it may sound to some of us, mayo actually gets this kind of hype from a loyal fan base. Kewpie has been ahead of the mayo market for about 92 years now, and according to Foodbeast, it’s even enjoyed by chefs from around the world. Who knew?

It’s said that the biggest reason chefs choose Kewpie is because, unlike other mayo brands, this mayo is made with just the egg yolks, rather than the entire egg. It’s also infused with a bit of MSG to give it an umami flavor. I had no idea mayo could be such a complex condiment — or that chefs liked it so much.

You might think it sounds a bit sketch that MSG is added, but it turns out that MSG is a natural compound that forms on its own in different food products and is safe for consumption in small amounts. The weird part is that it gives the mayo an “addictive” flavor. What?

This all sounds very strange to me, but I’m sure it sparks the curiosity of many others. So if you’re interested in visiting one of the Kewpie pop-up cafes, you might like to know that the one in Tokyo is open for all of March 2017, and the one in Nagoya is open for all of April.

Menus will likely be similar, if not the same, and pricing will range from $3.50 for mayo pudding, to $14 for mayo-marinated chicken. Have fun learning all about that. I’ll stay out of this one.

Sources: Metro, Foodbeast / Photo Credit: Kate Foura/Instagram

Tags: japan, Kewpie, Kewpie Mayo, Mayonnaise, Pop-up Cafes
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There’s A New Health-Minded Coca-Cola Drink

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By Cooking Panda

It’s no big secret that carbonated and sugary drinks have seen a decline in popularity in the recent years, due to companies and health boards alike deeming the beverages poor for our wellness.

However, that has not stopped Japan from releasing a new Coca-Cola drink that, compared to its predecessors, is being billed as relatively health-oriented… or at the very least, not a health hazard.

Rocket News 24 reports that in the past, when a soda-pop beverage was being marketed as “healthy” in Japan, that usually meant that the soda contained less overall sugar than a typical beverage of that type would.

Now, however, this new Coca-Cola Plus is being marketed as a drink that may actually benefit the drinker’s overall health, which could be a plus for Japan’s aging population.

For one thing, Coca-Cola Plus has no sugar and calories, which is standard for any kind of “diet” soda you might pick up at your local grocery. However, this diet pop is definitely billed as beneficial to a consumer’s health.

What makes Coca-Cola Plus stand out is that each bottle contains 0.18 ounce of indigestible dextrin and other dietary fibers. What that means, according to Rocket News 24, is that if a consumer was to drink one bottle of Coca-Cola Plus per day with meals, the beverage could help reduce the absorption of fat from the food and moderate the levels of triglycerides in the blood following food consumption.

Obviously, for the drink to give you its full health benefits, you would only be able to drink it while you were eating a meal. Since only one bottle is recommended per day, you’d be limiting yourself to a third of a bottle at each meal, assuming you eat three square meals per day.

Coca-Cola Plus is being given an official “Tokuho” rating from the company. For those who don’t know, Rocket News 24 reports that “Tokutei Hokenyo Shokuhin” is a Japanese legal term that classifies products that have not actually passed the official tests legally required to be labeled a “health” product, but still claim to have health benefits.

Source: Rocket News 24 / Photo Credit: Coca Cola Japan, R. Alvarez/Instagram

Tags: coca cola plus, Coca-Cola, health drinks, japan, tokuho
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Would You Pay For This Gold Covered Sushi Roll?

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By Cooking Panda

This sushi roll is $96, and for a reason. It’s covered in gold. Do you think you’d pay for it? Are you curious about whether the taste is worth that price tag? I certainly am.

Rocket News 24 reports that Japan has recently celebrated a holiday in which participants throw beans to ward off evil and welcome good fortune into their homes. That celebration is apparently becoming outdated, and is being replaced by a much tastier tradition of indulging in giant sushi rolls.

These sushi rolls are called ehomaki (lucky direction sushi roll), and the most expensive one is wrapped in gold. This roll is called Tokusen Kaisen Jyuni Hitoe Maki, and the name describes the contents of this extravagant roll. There are 12 main ingredients in the roll, chosen from all different areas of Japan. These ingredients are as follows:

  • Tuna from Oma, Aomori
  • Japanese puffer fish from Hyogo
  • Red sea bream from Nagasaki
  • Longtooth Grouper from Nagasaki
  • Oval squid from Nagasaki
  • Kuruma prawn from Ehime
  • Steamed abalone from Miyazaki
  • Boiled conger eel from Miyazaki
  • Boiled horsehair crab from Hokkaido
  • Salted herring roe from Hokkaido
  • Salmon roe pickled in soy sauce from Hokkaido
  • Raw sea urchin from Hokkaido

Whew. I don’t know if the golden wrapper is the only thing that makes this intense roll so expensive. There’s a lot to taste there. The wrapper is gold leaf, said to have no taste, but who can really say unless you’ve tried it?

One of Rocket News’ own staff members had the opportunity to taste-test the roll, and of course he said it was delicious. What’s not to love there? It’s a bouquet of delicious seafood specialties all wrapped up in rice and gold.

Now, is it actually lucky? I’m not sure anyone can say for certain, but I would consider myself lucky to have gotten to try it, so you tell me. Next stop, a basement cafe in Japan!

Source: Rocket News 24 / Photo Credit: Trend Hunter

Tags: Gold Covered Sushi Roll, japan, sushi
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Would You Eat These Sushi-Inspired Kit Kats? (Photos)

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By Cooking Panda

There are some pairings that work so well together, we’re sure the first person who thought to combine them knew they’d come up with an instant classic.

We’re talking the fusing of peanut butter with jelly; dipping cookies into milk; cheese and macaroni; coffee dunked into donuts; pita bread dipped in hummus.

But we’re struggling to think of how anybody could think that sushi and Kit Kat bars combining forces would be a good idea.

However, we’re not the boss of Kit Kat Japan, so its decision to launch a limited-edition range of sushi-flavored bars is beyond our control.

If you’re interested in trying out one of these new concoctions, you’ll have your pick between tuna, sea urchin and egg sushi-flavored Kit Kats at your disposal.

Yummy? 

Actually, maybe. It turns out the Kit Kats in question aren’t actually infused with, like, essence of tuna, or dusted with any actual fish parts at all.

Rather, the new Kit Kats are inspired rather aesthetically by the sea.

For example, the tuna Kit Kat? It’s nothing but a raspberry Kit Kat placed upon some decadent-sounding white chocolate puffed rice.

Next comes the egg variety, which is really pumpkin pudding flavored (yes!) also atop some white chocolate-covered rice.

Last but not least is the sea urchin flavor, which actually uses Hokkaido melon and mascarpone cheese-flavored Kit Kats.

The Kit Kats can be purchased, per Kotaku, at about $26 per set at the Ginza shop in Tokyo between Feb. 2 and Feb. 4, 2017.

They are limited edition, though, so if you’re in Tokyo, get there early, because these novelties will probably fly off the shelves!

Source: Kotaku / Photo Credit: Kit Kat Japan via Kotaku

Tags: japan, kit kat, kit kat sushi, limited offering, sushi
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Watch This Tiny Woman Eat 4,307 Calories Of KFC At Once (Video)

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By Cooking Panda

It’s always surprising to see how much food a tiny person can actually put away, especially in the world of competitive eaters. Japan’s Yuka Kinoshita can personally eat an entire KFC Christmas Pack in one sitting, but don’t take it from me. You can see for yourself in the video below.

Let’s just take a second to understand what goes into the KFC Christmas Pack, shall we? Yuka begins her video by reading off the list of what’s included in her family meal for one: 5 KFC original chicken pieces, 4 chicken tenders, 10 nuggets, 2 orders of barbecue chicken nuggets and 3 medium orders of the Colonel’s coleslaw. To top it all off, Yuka also bought a premium roast chicken. As Yuka states in the video, the Japanese celebrate Christmas by eating KFC, so it’s probably safe to assume that the amount of chicken consumed here is somewhat festive in nature.

According to Metro News, the 31-year-old competitive eater makes a living from eating large quantities of food in front of the camera. As you watch her down all 4,307 of those calories, you’ll notice she enjoys eating all of the food just about as much as we enjoy watching her do it. I have to admit, I’m a bit envious, since I’d love to be able to enjoy that much food at once, and I’d be especially happy if I could remain that small while doing so.

You’ll also notice that the video’s title contains the word “Mukbang.” This mean’s “social eating,” and it’s how competitive eating began in South Korea. Clearly, it caught on and grew big enough for food-lovers like Yuka to make a living off of eating on-screen. Social eating was first meant for audiences who don’t love eating alone, so they could watch a video in which someone is eating with them. That way, no one has to feel lonely while enjoying a good meal. How cute!

Anyway, take a look at the video to watch Yuka chow down, and be sure to have some chicken handy, because you’ll absolutely grow hungry.

Sources: Metro News, Yuka Kinoshita/YouTube / Photo Credit: Yuka Kinoshita/YouTube

Tags: Christmas, competitive eating, japan, KFC
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Japan Is Using Ramen To Make Roads Safer

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By Cooking Panda

Japan has thought up a new tactic for keeping unsafe drivers off the road. The idea is to sway drivers 75 and older to give up driving in exchange for cheap ramen. Points for creativity!

According to The Guardian, the new idea is in response to a rise in accidents involving older drivers in the country. How cheap are the noodles? About 15% off the normal cost, at 500 yen. The question is, will drivers feel that it’s worth it?

Traffic accidents among the elderly have risen from 7.4% to 12.8% over recent years, even though accidents in general have been on a steady decline. What’s worse, about 17 million of people ages 65 and over have driver’s licenses, so it’s probably safe to assume that most of them are on the roads. Accidents seem to be consistent with age-related problems, since many of them are a result of the driver mixing up which pedal is gas and which is the brake, and/or driving on the wrong side of the road.

The way the deal works is that these drivers can hand over their driver’s licenses to police and get a driver’s record certificate in exchange. Other perks include discounts at public baths, barbers and chemists and for taxi rides. Sounds like a pretty decent deal, especially if you know you aren’t seeing or remembering as well as you’re used to.  According to Rocket News 24, the record exchange is what’s considered a “Driving Graduation Certificate.”

I hope they don’t think they’re fooling the elderly by calling it this. They probably know better. But, as long as the perks are worth it they probably don’t mind, either. Discounts on buses and monorail stations can be up to 50%, after all. Talk about convenience.

Then again, it’s tough to give up your car. Driving brings you a certain amount of independence, and you might have a hard time giving that up over a bowl of noodles, even if they are tasty. They were never really expensive to begin with. I guess we’ll see how this plays out as the plan develops further.

Sources: The Guardian, Rocket News 24 / Photo Credit: Oppa Korean Kitchen/Instagram

Tags: japan, ramen
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Would You Eat This Sushi Burger?

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By Cooking Panda

Japanese restaurant Sushiro has decided to try something very new and very interesting: the Saba Burger.

Saba means mackerel, so basically it’s a mackerel burger, but the mackerel is in sushi form, and the burger includes rice and wasabi, so you’ll feel like you’re eating sushi on a bun. This would be especially fun for the sushi-loving carbo-loaders, right?

According to Kotaku, “it’s shime-saba nigirizushi, or cured mackerel hand-pressed sushi, slapped between two buns and slathered with mayo-wasabi sauce.” Sound appetizing? Personally, I think it looks a little too much like a fish (see photo below).

Then again, I’m no sushi fan, so that’s probably a biased opinion. As we know the Japanese love their sushi, and that they are better at making healthier food choices, the sushi burger honestly should have hit sooner.

CNet reports that this burger (can it really be called a burger, or would you consider it more of a sushi sandwich?) is only available for a limited time, so if you’re in Japan and happen to be in Sushiro’s vicinity, I’d recommend at least stopping by to try the new sandwich. Sushi fan or not, at least you can say you gave it a chance.

It’s available throughout November, but if you are dying to try one and you know you won’t make it to Japan any time soon, you can always try making one yourself. Sure, you have to be pretty skilled to make sushi from home, but if you’re a big fan, having that skill can only help you. Then again, you could probably buy the sushi and put it on a bun with your sticky white rice and mayo-wasabi, and voila!

Maybe you can even tweak the recipe some to suit your personal tastes. Personally, I might prefer not to see the skin, or maybe I’d rather just have a sandwich with cooked fish. But, I guess you can’t knock it til you’ve tried it!

Sources: Kotaku, CNet / Photo Credit: Tomaki/Twitter

Tags: japan, sushi, Sushi Burger
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In This Museum, You Create Your Own Cup Noodles Flavor (Video)

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By Cooking Panda

If you’ll recall, we recently discussed the 45th birthday of Cup Noodles, and we talked all about its history. Most of that history is celebrated within the Ramen museum in Yokohama, Japan.

Also part of that museum is an exhibit where you can make your own Cup Noodles. As you’ll see in the video below, it features a bar where you can take your cup and go through and add all of your favorite ingredients. If you loved Ramen as a kid (who didn’t?) this could possibly be the yummiest trip down memory lane…ever.

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A video posted by Haruka Kurebayashi (@kurebayashiii) on

According to Foodbeast, it costs only 300 yen ($2.89) to create your own Cup Noodles flavor. They’ll even wrap it for you so that it looks like you just bought it right off the shelf.

According to Japan Guide, you can also make your own Ramen at the “My Chicken Ramen” station in the very same museum. This takes 90 minutes and requires reservations ahead of time. It costs 500 yen and I’m sure it’s well worth it.

Also within the park is a Cup Noodles children’s playground. I knew the noodles were versatile, but this is crazy!

Finally, another area of the museum worth mentioning is the Noodles Bazaar, set up to look like a night market, and allowing visitors to taste all kinds of noodle dishes for only 300 yen. It even comes complete with the sounds of hawkers and traffic so you can have an almost real experience of what it would actually be like to visit an Asian night market.

If I haven’t said it before, this is definitely a place worth checking out if you’re ever in Japan. And besides, everyone should travel out of their own country at least once. Why not make a trip just to see this place?

Sources: FoodBeast, Japan Guidebcontrol/YouTube / Photo credit: Jackie Ako/Instagram

Tags: cup noodles, japan, ramen
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Sushi Spot In Trouble For Giving Guests Too Much Wasabi

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By Cooking Panda

A sushi restaurant in Osaka, Japan, is in hot water over giving out extra wasabi to foreign guests.

Rocket News reports that an outlet of the Ichibazushi restaurant chain, located in Osaka’s Namba District, has been getting a lot of negative attention lately, especially online. Foreigners, many from South Korea, who’ve visited this restaurant and ordered the sushi, complain that they are getting nearly twice as much wasabi as Japanese guests on a regular basis.

Many took their complaints to Twitter, showcasing pictures of the wasabi offense. For those of us who can’t read the script, I think the picture speaks for itself. Way too much of that nose-stinging, eye-watering, spicy green wasabi.

Following all of this criticism, Fujii Shokuhin Co., operator of the restaurant chain, made a public statement to dispel rumors of racism and anti-Korean sentiments. According to The Japan Times, the gist of that statement was that yes, workers were a little too liberal with the wasabi, but no, there was no racism behind these actions.

“There was no discriminatory intent involved here,” the statement reads.

Wasabi was simply added by chefs of their own accord, and so any additional wasabi was through over-generosity based on what they thought customers might like. Of course, this didn’t go over all that well, as you can probably imagine. Again, criticism came in the form of Twitter, and also in the form of harsh reviews via TripAdvisor and Google.

Fujii Shokuhin, however, says it will take measures to ensure that this kind of thing stops happening, and that employees will be put through a training program to teach better service. As angry as everyone is, Japanese observers included, it’s likely this will take a while to blow over.

Sources: Rocket News 24, The Japan Times / Photo credit: Charlene Cabailh/Instagram

Tags: japan, Osaka, sushi, Wasabi
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This New App Rewards You For Safe Driving With Free Coffee Coupons

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By Cooking Panda

While most people probably don’t want to admit their own susceptibility to a bribe, the truth is that the right leverage is an incredibly convincing tool.

Some people can be persuaded by money; others by luxury items; but when it comes to me, this new app offers everything I want and more, all for the price of driving more safely: free coffee.

Per Rocket News 24, Japanese telecom provider au and car manufacturer Toyota have partnered together to create a smartphone app called Driving Barista that encourages its users to drive more safely.

Essentially, users of the app are asked to activate Driving Barista before stepping on the gas at the beginning of their voyage. Next, they place the phone face down on a flat surface and begin to drive. The smart app then tracks how far you’ve traveled; if you manage to drive 62 miles without fiddling with your phone, you will receive a coupon for a free cup of coffee at popular Japanese chain Komeda Coffee. Users will also earn coupons for each additional 122 miles they drive after that first 62.

Of course, while this app obviously subscribes to a positive reinforcement ideology, it’s not above chastising its users for underperforming. After activating Driving Barista, if a user’s phone detects that it has been flipped back over during the journey, not only does it reset the distance travelled, it serves up a giant ‘FAILURE’ message with a picture of a spilled coffee cup.

For now, the app can be used only in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, which is where Toyota’s global headquarters is located. Per Rocket News 24, it is also the region that has had more traffic fatalities than any other prefecture in Japan for an astonishing 13 consecutive years, with 213 fatalities by auto accidents on Aichi’s roads in 2015.

“In line with contributing to the ultimate goal of achieving zero traffic fatalities and zero traffic accidents, Toyota has implemented automobile safety measures as one of its top priority management concerns,” Shuichi Murakami, managing officer at Toyota, told Oddity Central. “By carrying out a new traffic safety education initiative together with Komeda and KDDI, we hope to further reduce traffic accidents.”

Sources: Rocket News 24, Oddity Central / Photo credits: Driving Barista via Oddity Central, Rick's Professional Auto Detailing

Tags: apps, free coffee, japan, safe driving
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Boo! Japan Releases Halloween Burger With Bacon Tongue Sticking Out

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By Cooking Panda

Plenty of vegans and vegetarians alike refuse to eat meat because they don’t like the idea that their meal once had a heartbeat. But whether you’re a meat eater or not, do you want to eat a meal that mocks you as you tuck in?

Japan’s Lottery has created a new sandwich that actually looks like it’s sticking its tongue out at you — its bacon tongue, that is.

According to Rocket News 24, the burger is the centerpiece of this year’s Halloween menu and is officially called the Purple Magic Bacon Double Excellent Cheeseburger.

Say that nine times fast.

For $8, customers in Japan will be able to purchase the waggling-bacon-tongue sandwich with fries, starting Oct. 6.

Just in case you didn’t get that this entire thing is a promotion for the Halloween season, Lottery is packaging the burger in a box shaped like a coffin, which comes decorated with a spooky font and vampire teeth.

As for the sandwich itself? It’s just your typical bun holding multiple layers of meat and cheese, an oversize sheet of bacon, and then a mysterious glob of pink goo that is purported to be a cheese sauce made with purple-potato powder.

Dig in, folks!

Source: Rocket News 24 / Photo credit: Lotteria via Rocket News 24

Tags: bacon tongue, burger, Halloween, japan, Lotteria
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McDonald’s Japan Hops On The Bandwagon With Pumpkin-Spiced French Fries

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By Cooking Panda

It was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

Actually, now that we’re thinking about it, all of the clues were there.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s Japan released its chocolate French fries to customers, which have likely been doing extremely well, because on Sept. 20 the chain took to Twitter to unveil its newest seasonal offering: Pumpkin-Spiced French Fries.

Oooooh!

Per Grubstreet, the Pumpkin-Spiced French Fries are actually just an order of McDonald’s Japan’s shoestring fries, which are then squirt with lines of chocolate and bright-orange pumpkin sauces, but you gotta hand it to em: they sure look cute.

As always, the pumpkin-spiced offering is only available for a limited amount of time. So interested patrons need to visit a McDonald’s Japan location between Sept. 28 and Halloween to get their spooky French fry fix.

Source: Grub Street / Photo credit: McDonald's Japan/Twitter

Tags: French fries, japan, mcdonald's, pumpkin spice, seasonal
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Say It Ain’t So! Japanese Wagyu Beef Could Soon Be A Food Of The Past

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By Cooking Panda

If you’ve never heard of Wagyu beef before, you don’t know what you’re missing. Based on the bad news I’m about to deliver, that could be a good thing.

Wagyu beef, literal translation “Japanese Beef,” is a delicacy and a treat among even the foodiest of foodies. What makes it so special is how it’s raised. For Wagyu beef, genetics is everything, and the bloodline should be kept pure for the best taste.

This beefy treat is known for its heavy marbling, which gives it a much more savory flavor than regular Angus beef. According to CNN, Wagyu are generally bred upward of 30 months to get that evenly distributed marbling that makes it so flavorful.

Even in Japan Wagyu beef dishes generally cost anywhere from $40 to $140, with the cheaper ones being mixed with Angus beef, and the most expensive purely consisting of Wagyu. Popular dishes made with Wagyu include beef tartar, thinly sliced Shabu-Shabu and the most familiar way: grilled steaks.

The common misconception is that this beef is fattening because of the presence of, well, all that fat! But it’s actually a much healthier meat, since it’s only high in the good fats and Omega-3’s. 

So, here’s the bad news. The Nikkei Asian Review reports that Wagyu beef may be nearing its end. Prices are climbing at an alarming rate and high prices do not mean better quality meat. On the contrary, poorly bred and mixed bred cattle are being sold at top prices because demand is high and supply is low.

If I’ve talked you into trying the delicacy, you might want to consider doing so as soon as possible. Wagyu may not be around much longer, and if it is, it isn’t likely to stay pure.

Sources: Nikkei Asian Review, CNN / Photo credits: Voyagin, Nikkei Asian Review

Tags: japan, Japanese Beef, Wagyu beef
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If Normal Alarms Don’t Wake You Up, This One That Makes The Sound Of Mom’s Cooking Will (Video)

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By Cooking Panda

Alarm clocks may be effective at startling you out of slumber, but unlike the smell of coffee brewing or bacon sizzling, they do little to lure you out of bed.

That’s why Japanese company Nanka created an alarm clock to wake you up with the sound of mom’s cooking (video below).

Before you get too excited, no, the clock doesn’t emulate the aroma of fresh pancakes or scrambled eggs. But it does emit the sound of chopping and the sensation of steam, according to Munchies.

The Jikkalarm looks nothing like a clock; it’s a wooden cutting board topped with a knife and a faux bowl of miso soup. It also doesn’t ring. Instead, the knife begins to chop against the board, and a mister blows steam over the soup and in the direction of the sleeper. That way, it feels just like steam from hot broth is wafting at your face.

Say you’re used to mom’s expert chopping: quick and steady. Set the alarm on “mom mode,” and the knife will chop just like she does. If irregular knife motions sound more like home, there’s also a “newlywed mode” to mimic novice chopping sounds.

According to the video below, you can operate the clock from the convenience of your phone.

The sensations of a fresh Japanese breakfast to tempt us out of bed each morning? Sign us up. There’s just one problem: the knife is real, real knives are sharp and having a blade so close to your head and hands when you’re groggy could be slightly dangerous.

Or as Munchies puts it, “alarming.”

Jikkalarm is for now just a prototype, so it could go through some changes for improved safety before possibly becoming available for purchase. And maybe, we hope, Nanka will figure out how to make the steam smell like miso soup.

Source: Munchies / Photo credit: Stacy Spensley/Flickr

Tags: alarm, alarm clock, cooking, japan, miso soup, Technology
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Could It Be? Japan Has Created An Onion That Won’t Make You Cry

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By Cooking Panda

No matter how much formal training you have, or how developed your palate is, there are a few culinary equalizers out there that keep novices and professional chefs alike level on the playing field. One age-old example has to do with a cornerstone of countless cuisines: onions — they make you cry.

But do they have to? According to RocketNews 24, Japanese researchers have spent the past 20 years developing a weep-free onion. Adorably called the Smile Ball, the onion is said to be stripped of the sulfuric gas normal onions release upon being sliced or crushed open (which causes our eyes to tear up).

Eaten raw, Smile Balls contain a similar sweetness to Asian pears, or apples, which is giving me major flashbacks to that scene in Holes where Stanley and Zero start munching on onions picked straight out of the ground.

And if its popularity in grocery stores shows anything, it’s that the Smile Balls aren’t a gimmick. RocketNews 24 reports that nearly five tons of the bulbous root sold out almost immediately when put up for a trial run in department stores and online shops in Tokyo.

Though there is no specific start date for when the Smile Ball will be available in U.S. stories, the onions are said to cost around $4.30 for a pair — approximately double the cost of your standard set of onions.

Source: RocketNews 24 / Photo credit: Joburg West

Tags: cry, japan, onion, smile ball
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Pokemon Fans In Japan Are Catching ‘Em All At McDonald’s

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By Cooking Panda

The power of Pokemon truly knows no bounds.

As much as I’d like to say that this news is shocking, if I’m being honest: it isn’t. Not at all.

How many times in the past two weeks have I been walking down the street, only to spot large gaggles of people standing in the middle of my path, frantically trying to catch the first non-Pidgy Pokemon in their path? Too many times, folks.

Ash Ketchum, we have a problem.

Now Japan is getting a sample taste of what it’s going to be like when Pokemon Go finally launches. Bloomberg reports the launch has been delayed, by the way, due to fears that Japan’s server capacity won’t be powerful enough to keep up with the expected demand, which is massive. As a result, some McDonald’s locations in Japan are offering Pokemon toys.

As expected, the promotion is a huge success. Per Bloomberg, McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) reports a share jump of as much as 23 percent, which is the largest daily gain since it started giving away Pokemon character figurines with sales of Happy Meals one Friday in July 2001. 

“Investors are flocking to Pokemon-related stocks and McDonald’s Japan is one of those benefiting from the boom,” said Mitsushige Akino, a Tokyo-based executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. “The boom came at a time when McDonald’s business has already started recovering and there’s expectation that the Pokemon toy offering will further increase customer traffic to their shops.”

I’ve got to hand it to them — if anything was going to help the hamburger chain recover from a series of food safety scandals, Pokemon is it.

According to Bloomberg, shares in the Japan unit of McDonalds Corp. have risen 9.9 percent as of 11 a.m. in Tokyo trading July 19, which helped make the benchmark Topix index rise .2 percent.

Source: Bloomberg / Photo credit: Mmosite

Tags: japan, mcdonald's, mcdonalds japan, pokemon, Pokemon Go
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This All-Naked Restaurant Wanted To Enforce A Weight Limit For Its Customers

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By Cooking Panda

The Amrita, a Japanese restaurant set to open in August, has made some serious adjustments to its all-naked dining experience following backlash about its body-shaming policies, according to Grub Street.

The Tokyo restaurant — where, yes, everyone is indeed naked — was originally a place only for the young, thin and smooth-skinned. The maximum age was 59, tattoos were prohibited and diners’ weight could not exceed 30 pounds above the average for their height. 

But how would they know how much you weigh? THEY WERE GOING TO CHECK. On a scale. If your figure looked sub-par and you fell above your weight limit, you’d be shown the boot.

Plus, you have to pay for your experience — which will be at least $112 — ahead of time. You just had your weight publicly criticized by a hostess, but still no refunds. 

People, oddly enough, aren’t fond of ageism and fat-shaming, so The Amrita’s original idea didn’t last.

The joint posted a revised door policy stating anyone from ages 20 to 120 would be admitted, according to The Telegraph. They did away completely with the scales and weight restrictions. There was really no getting around that. No guarantees that they won’t look at you funny if they don’t like your figure, though. 

Tattoos, however, are still not OK. 

It seems that all else, such as the all-male, G-string-wearing wait staff boasting “the world’s most beautiful bodies,” will remain according to plan. 

Those eating at the Amrita (which is Sanskrit for “immortality”) can find comfort in paper underpants, provided by the restaurant to keep things squeaky clean. While eating an all-organic meal, they will be entertained not only by the “muscle waiters,” but by a dance performance featuring American and European male models.

Despite backlash, the pop-up restaurant’s opening night is sold out, and its creators have revealed plans to open it in two other cities. 

Source: Grub Street / Photo credit: Amrita

Tags: japan, naked restaurant, weight limit
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Square Watermelons Are Real; Your Argument Is Invalid

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By Cooking Panda

The future is now: Hundreds of square watermelons are being grown each year in Japan, and they are just as visually shocking as you might imagine.

Apparently, the fruit is cultivated for upscale markets across the island nation, where they regularly sell for upwards of $80. Before you die of sticker shock, however, you should know that square watermelons have been bought for as much as $860, demonstrating the financial lengths that some individuals are willing to go to for the novelty fruit.

According to The Huffington Post, square watermelons were originally cultivated to fit more efficiently into refrigerators. Baby watermelons are placed inside of special boxes, forcing the fruit to take the shape of its container as it grows, resulting in a cubic adult melon.

Unfortunately, though, despite the food’s hefty price tag, square watermelons are not good to eat. In order to produce the most aesthetically pleasing fruit possible, growers harvest the melons before they are ripe, rendering them almost inedible.

If you are left wondering why anyone would ever pay $80 for an inedible fruit, you’re not alone. While expensive fruit is a customary gift in Japan, we can’t imagine the disappointment of receiving purely ornamental food as a present.

We suggest that you feast your eyes on the stunning images below, before heading to the grocery store for a cheaper watermelon — on which you can actually feast. We’ll stick to crowding our refrigerators with edible fruit for now, thank you very much.

This is a bizarre night lol square watermelon lol #squarewatermelon#toypoodle

A photo posted by ?? (@pekingannie) on

Watermelon squares. Yum. #WatermelonWednesday #squarewatermelon #watermelon #wednesday #square #fruit #cube #green

A photo posted by Javin Stanley (@javinwatermelon) on

It really is SQUARE!! #squarewatermelon #?????? #shikoku

A photo posted by John Daub (@onlyinjapantv) on

Source: The Huffington Post / Photo credit: Cardston Payne/Instagram

Tags: japan, square, Watermelon
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Guess How Much Money This Person Paid For Rare Grapes

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By Cooking Panda

In Japan, something is selling for $350 a piece and $11,000 in bulk.

The thing is not Apple Watches, not used Yeezys, not small pieces of your soul.

It’s grapes. The thing is grapes. Like the fruit.

But the grapes, of the Ruby Roman variety, aren’t just fruits; they’re a status symbol, according to The Guardian.

They’re grown in only one district on the Japanese island Honshu, and they weigh 20 grams and are 18 percent sugar. They’re often referred to as gems, as they attract wealthy consumers and shop owners looking for lots of business.

They’re also the product of a 14-year government-funded program, according to Epicurious. This isn’t too unusual; Japan, like other East Asian countries, has a fancy fruit-buying culture.

This Ruby Roman auction season, shop owner Takamaru Konishi made the winning bid. He plans to give a few lucky customers a sample before selling them for big bucks.

They’re grapes. The most expensive grapes in the world.

Sources: The Guardian, Epicurious / Photo credit: First We Feast

Tags: expensive, grapes, japan, rare
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Japan Has Found The Key To Teen Voter Turnout: Ice Cream

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By Cooking Panda

Companies and politicians across the world use all sorts of enticements to get young people to vote, but things are getting extra creative in Japan.

In the eyes of Japanese tea company Tsujiri, the idyllic get-a-teen-to-vote situation looks like this:

Japanese teen: I don’t really feel like voting right now. Idk where my patriotism is.

Tsujiri: OK but if we give u discounted ice cream will u vote?

Teen: OK yeah.

That’s right, Tsujiri is encouraging teens to vote in the Upper House election in July by offering them discounted Matcha soft-serve, according to Munchies.

As long as teens present a proof-of-voting form to a Tsujiri location, they’ll get ice cream for the low cost of 98 cents. 

The ice cream deal is part of a larger effort to attract Japanese teens to vote, since the bill that lowered the voting age from 20 to 18 took effect in June. 

The larger promotion is called “Senkyo Wari,” or “Election Discount,” and offers teen voters deals on things like food, beauty treatments and tire services.

Similar deals in the U.S. should present themselves promptly.

Source: Munchies / Photo credit: Megumi/Flickr

Tags: discount, ice cream, japan, vote
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Would YOU Try These Ghoulish, Ghostbusters-Themed Burgers?

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By Cooking Panda

The Ghostbusters movie reboot is hitting theaters next month, and one Japanese fast-food chain has launched a limited-time specialty menu in honor of its release.

With such Ghostbusters-themed creations as the “G.B. Burger” (a black-bunned sandwich which boasts a ghoulish topping of black-olive-and-anchovy-paste, according to FashionSnap), we wonder if Bill Murray would dub JS Burgers Cafe’s new offerings the honor of being called a “swell” idea?

G.B. Burger

Take a closer look at the three additional spooky menu items below:

The Marshmallow Mad Burger

This syrup-laden dessert burger trades in meat for a hearty serving of roasted marshmallows instead; next, it’s liberally topped with Oreos and what appears to be some kind of gelatinous red sauce. It’s a treat truly inspired by the O.G. Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Black Chili Chips

In my humble opinion, these look like nothing more than your standard side order of chips (albeit ones that have been subjected to a black food-dye bath).

Slimer Smoothie

Likely a stand-in for Ghostbusters-themed ectoplasm, this green smoothie appears to include Kiwi chunks, some kind of blended green base, and a smattering of burger-shaped snacks and additional candies as a garnish.

Sources: FashionSnap / Photo credit: Ghostbusters & 2016 Columbia Pictures Industries via FashionSnap (2) (3) (4)

Tags: ghostbusters, japan, js burgers cafe, limited menu
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