Is it too late for this coat for this year?

Good morning everyone,

It's going to be a bit warmer out there today with a  high of 15C and mostly sunny skies. The temperature will continue to climb through the weekend and into the new week with highs around 20C and blue skies.

Ever since the ol’ yawn-and-put-the-arm-over-your-date’s-shoulder became a popular move for awkward couples at the cinema, people around the world have been thinking up ways to surreptitiously get closer to their dates without appearing over-eager in the process.

In Japan, they’ve finally come up with an elegant solution to the problem, with a coat that works to keep you warm by capturing the body heat of you and your partner, which means you both have to be in it at the same time to reap its benefits.

Called the Sharecoat, this new garment is being described as a “couple’s sports-watching coat“, seeing as sports-watching is one of the top “shared” experiences that can be enjoyed outdoors. The sense of communal excitement amongst spectators at sports matches can heighten ties between friends who attend games together, so it’s a perfect opportunity to bring two people closer than ever before.

▼ The jacket’s appeal extends beyond the arena too, with opportunities for couples to use it for all sorts of outdoor activities conducive to snuggling.

The company behind the product, Adosu International, says a lot of research went into designing the perfect garment for enhancing ties between exisiting couples and maximising its romantic potential to turn friends into lovers.

The jacket’s dimensions are said to reflect the “Golden Ratio of Love“, and the company backs up its claims by citing powerful examples of the Golden Ratio, a special number approximately equal to 1.618, which comes as a result of dividing a line into two parts so the longer part divided by the smaller part also equals the whole length divided by the longer part.

▼ Confused? Here are some diagrams provided by the company for easy reference.

The Golden Ratio appears frequently in areas such as architecture, as seen in Egypt’s pyramids and the Parthenon in Greece, and also in art, like the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. It’s also been seen in busts and sumo wrestler throws, and now it’s being used to create the perfectly balanced jacket, with customers being asked to “try their fate” in this Golden Ratio.

And just in case anyone needs any more convincing, the company has also provided information from Edward T. Hall’s study into proxemics, which details the way people interact in daily life, with an emphasis on the organisation of space around them. The 0-45 centimetre range of proximity is usually only reserved for intimate friends and people you don’t mind hugging, so asking someone to slip into a Sharecoat with you immediately takes you into this zone in a fun and carefree way.

The only hurdle you’ll have to overcome is actually gathering enough courage to pose the question of coat-sharing with your love interest. Though with its crazy yet practical design, anyone with a sense of humour, and an interest in you, is likely to give it a try – if not for the novelty then for the chance to keep warm in the cold without the need for any awkward hugging or hand-holding.

The lightweight, waterproof jacket is currently available to purchase online for 12,000 yen. While it’s a practical garment for bringing people together during the coldest months of the year, after winter you'll have to think of something else...any ideas?

Have a great day!

7/11 makes shopping for a hanami party a snap

Good morning everyone,

It may have not felt like it yesterday or even this morning, but this weekend should be great weather for having a hanami  party. Daytime highs will be in the high teens and we can expect mostly sunny skies. The beginning of next week will see the mercury climb even higher and highs midweek will be around's great weather for a party!

As this year’s sakura trees begin to bloom, stores across the nation are welcoming the cherry-blossom-viewing season with a bevy of pretty pink products, and one of the most popular ranges at the moment comes from the 7-Eleven convenience store chain.

How to decide between them?

First up to the tasting plate is the “Haru no Gohobi Parfait” (“Springtime Reward Parfait“), which retails for 298 yen.

All the ingredients inside this colourful parfait are written out in detail on a sticker on the side of the lid, with a helpful diagram for easy reference.

On top we have two bite-sized pieces of chocolate gateau, or chocolate cake, which are placed neatly next to some beautiful swirls of plain and strawberry-flavoured whipped cream.

Underneath the fancy topping is a layer of custard, followed by a layer of strawberry mousse, and then a layer of strawberry sauce. Buried in the middle of it all is a delicate sponge, which adds a crumbly texture to each mouthful.

This treat is absolutely delicious, and the small servings of each flavour add up to give you a mouthful of different tastes and textures throughout. Though it doesn’t actually contain any sakura ingredients, this one makes the list for its pretty pink hue, and because it’s a great option for those who aren’t so keen on the flavour of sakura but still want to join in with the sweet pink springtime celebrations.

▼ Next up we have the Sakura Milk (100 yen), which comes packed with sakura flavour.

This delicate sweet is so small you could pop the whole thing in your mouth without any problem, but delving into it with a spoon reveals the goodness that lies within.

▼ Have you ever seen a fluffier, lighter mousse than this?

The quality of this sweet is really remarkable, far exceeding anything you’d expect to find at a convenience store. With a well-rounded balance of salty sweet sakura and smooth whipped cream in every mouthful, this is hands-down our favourite item in the whole collection. But then again, we always have a soft spot for sweets covered in mochi sticky rice.

The Sakura Moko (140 yen) is the newest flavour to join 7-Eleven’s Moko range of oversized cream puff sweets, and this one comes in pale purple packaging with a gorgeous flurry of sakura petals spread out across the front and sides.

Inside, the cream puff pastry has an orangey pink hue to it, due to the addition of sakura flavour in the dough.

▼ Requiring two hands to devour it, this is one of the biggest treats in the collection.

Breaking this one apart reveals the pale pink rare cheese filling inside, which melts on your tongue with hints of salty sakura flavour. If you love the taste of cheese and sakura, this is definitely the sweet for you.

▼ Next up is the “Sakura Mon Blanc and Uji Machi Japanese Parfait” (298 yen).

This one also comes with a seal on it explaining the ingredients and their placement.

On top is a serving of sakura whipped cream, matcha whipped cream, and adzuki red bean paste, alongside a candied cherry and a dango sticky rice ball. Inside is a generous serving of matcha mousse, which comes with bite-sized pieces of chocolate cake to create a sweet counterpart to the bitter green-tea flavour.

The pièce de résistance here is definitely the salted sakura flower, which sits atop the swirls of sakura-flavoured whipped cream. Each tiny petal hits your tongue with salty floral flavours that will have cherry blossom fans swooning with delight.

There’s nothing like eating a cherry blossom while admiring their beauty on the trees.

▼ Next in line for a taste is the Strawberry Ganache Chocolate Gateau (180 yen).

This is another treat that uses strawberry instead of cherry blossoms to create its sakura-like springtime appeal. The white chocolate sauce decoration on top represents a flurry of petals falling on the breeze.

Chocolate-loving guests at any hanami picnic will go weak at the knees for this sweet, with its rich, brownie-like flavour standing strong against the sweet strawberry topping.

Now we move on to a more traditional Japanese sweet, the Sakura Mochi, which retails for 130 yen.

Containing red beans sourced from Tokachi in Hokkaido Prefecture, this type of sweet is very popular around Japan at this time of year. Containing pink sakura-flavoured sticky rice, this particular treat comes filled with adzuki red bean paste, which acts as a sweet counterpart to the bitter sakura flavours.

This one also comes topped with a salted sakura flower, which gives you an extra strong hit of cherry blossom, making this a good choice for fans of salty sweet flavours.

Next, we have the Strawberry and Chocolate Flower Cake (328 yen), which is one of the best-looking sweets in the collection.

 The explanatory seal on this one reveals its secret layers like a few of the other sweets.

This gorgeous treat looks too good to eat, with its decorations depicting a moonlit cherry blossom scene.

Its beautifully glossy appearance comes from a thin coating of fruit glaze, which sits upon a layer of strawberry cream.

Inside is a mound of chocolate cream and a couple of bite-sized brownie pieces, which will send chocolate lovers to heaven and back again with every bite!

▼ Rounding off the collection is the Softened Sakura Muretto (160 yen).

This treat is based on the traditional dorayaki, a Japanese confection that comes with a sweet red bean filling sandwiched between two round pancake-like pieces.

Here we have a soft and fluffy sakura-flavoured pancake wrapped around a serving of sweet red bean paste and whipped cream, which gives it an extra richness.

The addition of a pickled sakura blossom to the mix packs a big sakura punch on first bite, mellowing out to give you a more rounded balance of sweet cream flavours.

With sakura season expected to start this weekend, and full bloom to follow in the next 7-10 days, it might be a good idea to stock up on the limited-edition collection of sweets for your upcoming hanami cherry blossom-viewing parties.

And while you’re at the convenience store, don’t forget you can print out postcards of photos from your phone there so you can share your memories of the season with friends and family too. Happy hanami everyone!

Have a great day!

Good morning everyone,

If you're living in a northern or mountainous area, there's a chance you've got some snow on the ground. For the rest of us, it'll be a chilly, rainy day. Tomorrow will be cloudy and cold too, but it should warm up from Friday and by the end of the weekend, we're looking at daytime highs around 20C!

Ginza Cozy Corner, known for their wide range of attractive yet affordable cakes and pastries, are currently running an interesting campaign that combines western-style cake with Japanese culture in an unexpected yet delightful way.  To commemorate their 70th anniversary this year, the confection chain is now giving away gift sets of custom-made chopsticks and chopstick rests.

For a limited time, customers purchasing 1,200 yen or more at a Cozy Corner shop will be able to participate in a draw to win a set of Cozy Corner chopsticks and one of seven delightful original chopstick rests modeled on yummy-looking sweets.

But why chopsticks? Apparently, Cozy Corner is suggesting that eating cake with chopsticks might actually be a good idea!

▼ Cake with chopsticks? It's not that strange...I've done it before.

On their website’s “cake with chopsticks” campaign page, Cozy Corner explains that while using chopsticks to have cake may seem quite unconventional, it can actually be efficient. Strawberries or chestnuts placed on top of the cake, which may be hard to spear with a fork, can be picked up relatively easily with chopsticks, and any crumbs or wayward pieces of cake can easily picked up with chopsticks as well. When you have several small pieces of cake to share, it’s also easy to pick up and move the pieces if you use chopsticks.

Now that makes it sound like we should have every reason to be using chopsticks to eat cake already, but the fact is it simply isn’t the norm in Japan to use chopsticks for cake (except at my bbq parties), and you certainly won’t see it being done in Japanese restaurants or cafes.

Japanese people are happy to use chopsticks for a wide range of foods, as you can use chopsticks to eat most anything (including pizza and spaghetti), but sweets seem to be an exception for some reason. Even traditional Japanese sweets are consumed not with chopsticks but with utensils such as a small flat wooden knife or a thick wooden pick, so we guess it’s not surprising that using chopsticks for cake simply doesn’t come intuitively to the Japanese.

But as Cozy Corner’s explanations describe, there certainly seem to be advantages to using chopsticks to eat cake, especially when they’re giving out attractive original chopsticks and chopstick rests.

The special chopsticks created by Cozy Corner for their campaign are made of natural wood and decorated with Wakasa-nuri Japanese lacquer painting, in addition to being designed with a narrow square point to make the sticks easier to cut the cake and pick up small pieces with.

And sweets fans are sure to love the adorable dessert-themed chopstick rests Cozy Corner have also made for the campaign!

▼ They look so real!

The  chopstick rests come in designs that include Cozy Corner’s popular Strawberry Shortcake and Jumbo Cream Puff (Jumbo Cho Cream), as well as their eclair, Ginza Pudding, Strawberry and Chocolate Roll Cake, Baumkuchen cake, and Kitten and Puppy Cookies. They’re all handmade ceramic, created in shapes suited as rests for chopsticks, and as you can see from just looking at them, they should add a delightful bit of color and sweetness to your dining table.

The draw for the anniversary gift set is now being held at Cozy Corner locations across Japan, but only while supplies last, so hurry if you want to participate! You may also want to note that the draw doesn’t apply to dining and drinking purchases at their restaurant and cafes.

So the next time you have cake, why not consider using chopsticks? It might be fun and more practical than you think! And it works great at bbq parties!

Have a great day!

Will this tempt me to go to USJ? Hmmm...probably not...

Good morning everyone,

I hope the weather isn't too bad today. But it definitely will be cool, so dress warm. The rest of the week isn't too bad, but it's not feeling so much like spring anymore, is it? I guess we'll see the nice weather return from least I hope so...

As if there aren’t already enough reasons to visit Universal Studios Japan, they’ve been really kicking it up a notch with their the Cool Japan series of pop culture-related attractions in recent years. While major preparations for the as-yet unannounced Nintendo-themed area may or may not be underway, they’ve been satisfying our thirst for geeky attractions with rides featuring fan favorites like Attack on Titan, Evangelion, and Death Note.

Now they’ve capped off their level of awesome with the latest in the series: the Final Fantasy virtual reality coaster, Sailor Moon The Miracle 4-D Ride, and Monster Hunter The Real augmented reality zone. Since March 16 all are now open, and park visitors can feel like they’re actually a part of these popular anime and video game franchises by participating in the rides!

Monster Hunter’s augmented reality zone is not the first time the widely popular action video game has been featured by USJ, but it’s still an exciting tribute. In Monster Hunter The Real, you become a member of a team of explorers who were sent to learn more about unknown monsters on a new continent. You’ll walk through the world of Monster Hunter with a weapon in hand while fighting enormous beasts along the way in this eerily realistic experience.

The attraction features a large, realistic Monster Hunter field stage that visitors can walk through on foot, the random appearance of huge and terrifying monsters (including Nergigante, one of the toughest opponents in Monster Hunter: World), and a sweet photo-op for you and your friends to pose fighting monsters, which looks like a screenshot from the game itself, and which you can, of course, take home.

To add to the excitement, USJ dropped a tantalizing tweet the other day about a “super rare secret weapon” that potential Hunters can use:

“Top Secret Information Release Part 2: An Emergency announcement!”
A shocking secret weapon has appeared! For details, check the site!
Hint: Moon”

Can you guess what it is? Okay we’ll tell you: Monster Hunter is teaming up with Sailor Moon so that you can choose to use the Cutie Universal Rod to defeat monsters! That’s right! Now you, too, can use the power of love and justice to protect the world from evil monsters!

The rod that will be used on the ride is a virtual reality one, but if you find you’re in love with it after using it, you can buy it near the Sailor Moon attraction, and can actually use it in the “Sailor Moon The Miracle” ride. This is probably a great way to coax your reluctant girlfriend along for the Monster Hunter ride (provided you go with her to the Sailor Moon ride too), though of course we encourage men to proudly wield their Cutie Universal Rod too!

▼ Not everyone might be super-excited about this “secret weapon”, but let’s be honest: The Cutie Universal Rod is a serious improvement on the last super secret weapon, which was an enormous well-cooked hunk of meat on a bone (which is sadly no longer available).

The Cutie Universal Rod will only work against the monsters for one month, until April 15, and the Monster Hunter ride will only be in operation until June 24. So get to USJ soon to get your Cool Japan fix! Or be like me and hope that all the crowds head there and all the places around here won't be so crowded...ha ha!

Have a great day!

Do you eat cup noodles? Don't waste the vegies!

Good morning everyone,

Will it rain today? It might, but either way it's still not a very nice day. Tomorrow and Wednesday won't be much better and they'll both be cooler too with daytime highs in the mid teens and overnight lows around 6C or 7C.

Not surprisingly, the star ingredient of a bowl of instant noodles is the noodles. But that’s not all you get, as any proper pre-packed instant noodle meal will also contain meat and vegetable toppings.

Cup Noodle maker Nissin’s popular line of U.F.O.-brand instant yakisoba, for example, comes with a generous helping of shredded cabbage. However, even though Japan as a society strongly discourages people from wasting food, a staggering 4.17 metric tons (9,193 pounds) of U.F.O. cabbage ends up in the garbage every year, according to the company’s estimates.

Even worse, this waste is occurring by accident. See, like just about all instant noodles, you make U.F.O. yakisoba by opening up the container’s lid, pouring in hot water, closing the lid back up, then waiting for the noodles to cook. Of course, before you eat the noodles you have to peel the lid off, and what a lot of people fail to notice or give much thought to is that……some of the cabbage ends up sticking to the underside of the lid due to the heat and steam that occurs during cooking, and a ton (4.17 tons, in total) of those veggies end up getting tossed in the trash along with the lid.

Unfortunately, the size of the lid means licking the food off, like you’d do with a pudding or yogurt cup, would be a tongue-tiring task. Alternatively, you could use your chopsticks or fork to pick off all the clinging cabbage, but considering that this is instant noodles we’re talking about here, it goes without saying that the target market is people who don’t really have much time or energy to spare. Thankfully Nissin has an extremely quick, and easy, solution.

Before you peel the lid off and throw it away, give the top of the package two firm taps with your palm. This should shake off any cabbage that’s stuck to the lid, ensuring that the tasty veggies end up in your stomach instead of your trash can or garbage disposal.

The method is almost exactly the same as the one the recommendation animal welfare groups and automobile manufacturers make to drivers to tap their car’s hood twice before starting the engine on winter mornings, just in case a cat has snuggled up under the vehicle to enjoy the fading warmth from its engine bay. To help people remember, Nissin has even put together a series of video clips showing heads of cabbage doing some of the adorable things Japanese cats do on camera, such as being confused by fusuma sliding doors and relaxing under kotatsu heated tables.

▼ The company has even put together a crossover reminder image, changing “neko ban ban” (“cat knock knock”) to “kyabe ban ban” (“cabbage knock”).

While the awareness campaign is focused on Nissin’s U.F.O. yakisoba, the principal applies to any variety of packaged instant noodles, so don’t forget to give that lid a pair of taps, lest you miss out all the cabbage, mystery meat, or other toppings you’ve got coming to you.

I'm not much of a cup noodle eater...maybe once or twice a year at the most, but I won't be wasting any more vegies, that's for sure!

Have a great day!