Eat healthy this summer with these foods.

Good morning everyone,

It's looking like we'll see some rain this afternoon and then it's going to continue off and on (or on and off) for the next couple of days. The next time we can see the sun is maybe Tuesday...

So, I know we are blessed with a ton of great foods for summer in Japan (although I have no idea why eel counts as one of them...ha ha!). However, here are some that you may not think of when it comes to good choices for the summer.

1. Cherries

Picked for their health benefits, these tasty summer superfoods do more than just satisfy your sweet tooth. Cherries are loaded with resveratrol, an antioxidant that packs some serious body-transforming powers. Researchers at Washington State University found that mice given high doses of resveratrol were able to convert the excess white fat on their bodies into brown fat, which can increase metabolism and help you burn more calories, and researchers at the University of Georgia, Athens, have found that resveratrol supplementation also reduced weight gain and bone demineralization.

2. Portobello Mushrooms

Bye-bye, burgers! This summer, the hottest choice for grillers is the portobello mushroom. A flavorful, low-fat substitute for meat that pairs well with heart-healthy ingredients like garlic and olive oil, the portobello is as good for your taste buds as it is for your waistline. Researchers at the University of Buffalo’s Department of Nutrition Science have found portobello mushrooms effective at stabilizing  blood sugar and minimizing insulin spikes, staving off cravings and keeping those unwanted pounds at bay. Need more inspiration for your next cookout?

3. Cucumbers

Tonight's dinner already lined up!

Good morning everyone,

Well, I suppose the farmer's will be happy about the forecast for the weekend, but those of us who are Carp fans won't be. They're calling for rain all weekend. Hopefully, it won't be too heavy and they'll get the games in. We've been without the Carp for about a week and we're going into withdrawal...ha ha!

Long ago, before moving across the Pacific, I heard someone say “In Japan, they use rice instead of bread for hamburger buns.” However, this turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration about life in Japan, much like the tales of orange juice costing 10 dollars a glass or Japanese people not liking desserts.

The vast majority of Japan’s hamburgers are served on bread-based buns. However, it is true that popular fast food chain Mos Burger also has lineup of “rice burgers” that use grilled discs of rice instead of bread, like the yakiniku rice burger pictured below.

But recently Mos Burger’s chefs began to wonder. If you don’t have to use bread to hold a burger together, why bother with any sort of plant-based bun? And thus was born the Niku Niku Niku Burger, which amazingly manages to undersell the amount of meat (“niku” in Japanese) that it contains.

To help visually process all that’s going on, Mos Burger has been kind enough to provide a schematic of how the sandwich is put together. Starting at the bottom, the Niku Niku Niku Burger ditches a bread or rice bun and instead starts with a straight-up hamburger patty. You know, the thing that’s usually supposed to be at the center of the burger, not it’s outermost parts.

Next comes a leaf of lettuce to keep the beef bun separate from the teriyaki chicken, more lettuce, a generous helping of yakiniku beef, one last lettuce layer, and, finally, yet another hamburger patty to top the whole thing off, making the Niku Niku Niku Burger actually four servings of meat. It’s basically a fistful of meat with some lettuce for color.

Now, while the idea of beef buns sounds like it’d be paradise for your taste buds, it might also sound like hell for your hands, since no one really wants to grip two slices of hot meat while they’re eating. Thankfully, the custom in Japan is to serve hamburgers wrapped in a paper sleeve, so you’ll be able to keep your hands cool and oil-free during your meal.

The 850-yen Niku Niku Niku Burger is on sale now and will be available until June 27. While most of Mos Burger’s items can be ordered to-go, the Niku Niku Niku Burger is available exclusively for eat-in customers, presumably to keep packs of carnivorous animals (otherwise known as poor English teachers) from forming and following take-out customers home as they smell all that meaty decadence.

What do you think? Is it tempting? It looks fun, but to be honest, I'm not that tempted. I don't think hamburger, teriyaki and yakiniku beef would taste that well together...that doesn't mean that I won't try it though...ha ha!

Have a great day!

We were due for another new flavour from Haagen Dazs

Good morning everyone,

Make sure you enjoy the weather today and tomorrow. They might be the last couple of days of sunshine we see for a while. It's supposed to be warm and sunny for the next two days and then it's going to rain on Saturday, Sunday, Monday...well, pretty much every day after that...

Häagen-Dazs has been serving up traditional Japanese flavours as part of their exclusive Japonais range of limited-edition ice creams since 2013, and now for their latest release they’re showcasing one of the country’s most popular ingredients: powdered green tea.

Called the Japonais Double Matcha – Condensed Milk Brown Sugar Syrup, this is the eighth Japonais release for Häagen-Dazs. A quick look at past releases shows this is only the third time for green tea to appear as one of the star ingredients in the Japanese-themed lineup.

  • Japonais Matcha and Red Beans (October 2013)
  • Japonais Vanilla and Roasted Soybean Powder with Brown Sugar Syrup (June 2014)
  • Japonais Strawberry and Azuki Red Bean (November 2014)
  • Japonais Matcha and Roasted Soybean Powder with Brown Sugar Syrup (June 2015)
  • Japonais Japanese Chestnut and Azuki Red Bean (October 2015)
  • Japonais Black Syrup Kinako Red Bean (June 2016)

This year’s first release lives up to its name by packing twice as much matcha into each small serving, not only in terms of quantity but flavour profiles as well, with both green tea ice cream and green tea sorbet contained in the mix.

This combination promises to deliver both a dense and creamy dose of matcha, while also providing a lighter, refreshing aftertaste of powdered green tea. Two types of sauce are also woven into the dessert, with condensed milk and brown sugar syrup said to work in “exquisite harmony” with the green tea flavours.

While the mix doesn’t actually come in scoops in a fancy glass, the beautiful design on the tub gives us an idea of what to expect from the flavoursome dessert.

Available only for a limited time from 4 July, the Japonais Double Matcha – Condensed Milk Brown Sugar Syrup will be on sale exclusively at 7-Eleven convenience stores around Japan.

If you’re looking for more green tea-flavoured offerings from Häagen-Dazs, the Adzuki Matcha Ice Cream Sandwich can currently be purchased at supermarkets and convenience stores around the country.

If you know me, you know I'm the first one to complain that 'macha' is so overdone as a flavour in Japan, but you can also bet that I'll be buying a cup of this ice cream on July 4th. Won't you?

Have a great day!


Good morning everyone,

It's going to start out rainy today, but it should stop raining and just be overcast. Tomorrow may see some sun, but it'll be mostly cloudy. Friday will see the overcast weather return and then we're looking at rain again on Saturday and Sunday.

Who among us hasn’t gazed upon a brick of dried instant ramen and noticed its resemblance to a human brain?

No one? Only me?
 Fine. Be that way.

Nevertheless, novelty item dealers Village Vanguard and Panda Hole have teamed up and gone ahead with this concept anyway to bring you No-Men (Brain Noodles).

Some of you might be familiar with this collaboration, known as Villepan, from their previous innovations like pink army women featuring “Combat Queen Jennifer” and “Rocket Bitch Amanda.”Or who could forget their line of hypocritical T-shirts which say one thing but show another?

▼ (Left) “Square” / (Right) “Edison”

With this product line, it’s easy to see that this is a company that very serious about mental well-being.

The noodles are colored pink just like a brain is… as far as I know, using Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as my medical reference. These tender neuro-noodles are soaked in a “brain broth” which according to the makers tastes just like miso and salt in a wonderful coincidence. And for advertising purposes, it is best served fresh out of a teenage girl’s parietal lobe.

But that’s not all! No-men contains vitamin B1, which helps the body get energy so that the brain can function more efficiently.

Sure you could argue that most food contains vitamin B1, but don't think about that now. Give your brain a rest until you eat some delicious No-Men, sold for 400 yen a pack at Village Vanguard, then think about such matters.

Have a great day!

What makes you feel 'Japanese' when you travel?

Good morning everyone,

Well, it looks like 'rainy season' is finally here. We can expect rain at some point later tonight and continuing through most of tomorrow. Then, we can expect mostly cloudy or overcast weather for the rest of the week, with a chance of rain again on Saturday and Sunday.

Whether we like to admit it or not, where we were brought up has a huge impact on the person we become. From our way of thinking to what foods we prefer, it’s hard to deny that our environment shapes our personal identity.

While some people come from nations that are veritable melting pots of backgrounds, languages, and cultures, others come from a country with much more homogeneity. Japan is one such country, and its people have a strong sense of identity.

Especially during a trip to a foreign country, there comes a moment of self-realization where they become aware of just how Japanese they really are. A recent survey asked Japanese travelers to identify the four moments they felt most Japanese when abroad. The results are really quite telling.

4. Finding the sweets or beverages too sweet (174 votes)

Japanese confectionaries are distinctive for their subtle sweetness, so as to allow the consumer to enjoy the distinct flavors of the ingredients without being overwhelmed by a huge punch of sugar in the palate. As for beverages, though, I have to disagree. Coca-cola and Pepsi are just as widely sold here in Japan as they are anywhere else, not to mention all the super sugar-laden teas, coffees, and fruit drinks, which are to me, personally, just too sweet, so it surprises me that so many Japanese people would be shocked by the sweetness of food and drinks outside their country.

3. Not being able to handle the big portion sizes at restaurants (78 votes)

I’m not too sure about other countries, but America at least is known for serving rather large portions-Canada and Australia are guilty of it too. Yes, this all depends on where you go for your meal, but in general, when compared to the average size of a meal you’d receive at a restaurant in Japan, in those countries, customers do tend to consume quite a bit more.

2. Being shocked at the poor customer service (212 votes)

What constitutes “good” and “bad” service is entirely subjective, as each individual has their own idea of how they want their dining experience/ hotel stay etc to be. Cultural differences also determine what is expected of an employee towards customers. In Japan, the interaction is much more formal than what you would expect back home, where more casual, friendly interactions between customers and employees are desired. For the average Japanese patron, however, customer service outside of their homeland undoubtedly comes across as rather lacking, since Japanese store clerks are trained to follow set scripts and carry out actions in a very specific way. (Which is why I think Japanese service is way overrated...sorry.)

1. Longing for a bowl of plain white rice (341 votes)

By a landslide margin, the number one instance when Japanese tourists overseas realized, “Yep, I’m Japanese after all,” was when they wished they had a steaming-hot bowl of plain white rice to accompany their meal. It’s not so surprising when you think about how much importance rice has played throughout their country’s history, and how much it is still consumed by each individual every day (it wouldn’t even be unusual to be served rice at every meal of the day). Some Japanese will insist that the rice grown in such-and-such region tastes the best, or that using good water when cooking rice really enhances the flavor, so don’t try to tell them they can substitute Japanese sticky white rice for the inexpensive plain white rice you generally find in US supermarkets either. It’s just not the same!

And there you have it: things that make the Japanese feel Japanese when they are travelling abroad. Have you had a similar experience? 

Have a great day!