Japanese food engineers have created a cabbage jelly that you can eat, if you want

No one asked for a product like this, but hey, now you can eat cabbage in jelly form!

Whether it’s shredded fine and mixed into okonomiyaki or stuffed into gyoza or cooked into a spooky soba, there’s a reason that cabbage has a top-three reputation in Japan. Not only is it crammed with leafy green goodness, it’s rich in antioxidants and helps with digestion. Depending on your taste buds, it’s a crunchy and delicious addition to your meal!

No one is more serious about cabbage than Mimatsu Foods, a gyoza and spring roll specialist. They’ve been working with local farmers to bring tasty delicacies to the people of the Gunma prefecture since 1970, and their passion for locally grown cabbage can’t be beaten. Sometimes this passion for their produce takes a decidedly weird turn, such as last year’s offering of “Cabbage Cider”.

▼ All the refreshing taste of cabbage in carbonated beverage form

The cabbage cabal is back at it again, and this time they’re marketing something even more bizarre: konjac jelly flavored with their homegrown cabbage extract. Konjac potato (or konnyaku, as it’s called in Japan) contains a naturally concurring gelatin, and it’s popular to use in many dishes or even to spice up drinks with a bit of added texture.

However, while it is a common staple in Japanese cuisine, konjac is usually either mixed with fruit juices, added to smoothies, or deep-fried so it can be served as oden. Eating it on its own merit is a little strange even for health nuts. Going one step flavor and making that konjac jelly cabbage flavored is something no one had ever thought to try… Until now.

▼ Mimatsu Foods’ online retailer boasts that the jelly is Gunma-exclusive and uses extract from Tsumagoi cabbages

On top of the inherent strangeness of cabbage flavored konjac, konjac itself can be dangerous to eat if your throat muscles are still developing or weakened. Young children and old people are warned not to eat much konjac, and if they do they should cut it into small pieces and chew thoroughly to avoid death by choking (just like with New Year’s mochi).

So it’s dangerous, unusual and tastes like cabbage. What’s the appeal? Well, for one thing it’s being marketed as a diet food – because konjac takes a long time to eat with all the chewing and swallowing, it stands to reason it might trick your brain into thinking you’re more satisfied and hence you eat less. The locally grown cabbage extract is presumably full of nutrition, too.

One of the nicest perks of the product is that it lets the company use up all the unused bits of the cabbage that don’t go into rolls and dumplings. The cabbage extract that goes into the konjac is extracted from cores and outer leaves left behind by the six tons of cabbage Minmatsu Foods uses every day.

▼ Just look at that exciting lime green color!

The cabbage jelly is sold in packs of six tubes for 197 yen (US$1.80), just like a Go-Gurt but with more nutrients (and a higher risk of death). You cut open a tube and slowly feed it into your mouth as you chew off the part that extrudes, taking care not to bite off too much at once. The cabbage flavor is intense but lacks sweetness, so you could theoretically mix it into a smoothie or toss it in a salad for a powerful leafy boost.

The internet’s responses to this product have been… mixed, to say the least. One comment said “Literally no one wanted this” while another said “It looks tasty! I am a caterpillar, though.” The one thing everyone seemed to agree on is that if you eat a lot of this you can expect some pretty impressive bowel movements. How healthy!

If you’re interested in sampling this chewy cabbage treat for yourself, you can buy a bulk order of cabbage jelly directly from the brand’s online shop. The gift shop Gunma Iroha in Takasaki Station also sells the jelly, which could make a great souvenir for someone next time you’re in the area. If you’re travelling through Yamanashi prefecture, maybe you could even scout out a bottle of cabbage wine to wash it down with.

Source: Livedoor News/J-Town via Jin
Featured image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Mimatsu Foods/RON-Gyouza (1, 2)


Can You Throw Our Ball Back?

Can you throw our ball back, Katie? Well? Can you? CAN YOU? HUH KATIE?

Can You Throw Our Ball Back?


Our male Japanese-language reporter gets a professional makeover, becomes pretty cheerleader

Football players might be surprised by what they’d find under this cheerleader’s skirt…

Our male Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko claims he doesn’t know much about women. How do they think? What makes them happy? What makes them mad? What kinds of troubles do they have? Right now, he can’t answer these questions, but at 32 years old, he feels like it’s time to find out. How will he do it? By dressing up as a woman.

Now, unlike one of our other reporters, Go Hattori, who regularly puts 100 percent into becoming his female alter ego, Rei-chan, Ahiru Neko has never cross-dressed before, so he decided to leave everything to a professional makeup artist. He chose a salon in Tokyo’s Ebisu neighborhood, called ZOOM, which specializes in gender transformation makeup.

According to Otsuka, his stylist, Ahiru Neko’s oval-shaped face is a standard male trait, so the key to his successful transformation is to disguise it. But even with such a complex concept, it only took 60 minutes to complete his transformation.

First they had to cover his light facial hair.

Then they had to widen and brighten his eyes.

Next was to apply fake eyelashes.

At this point, Ahiru Neko looked more like an actor in a traveling theater group than a girl, so he began to worry that he wasn’t really going to be able to be transformed after all. Once Otsuka drew on feminine eyebrows, though, he began to look at lot more feminine.

▼ Never underestimate the power of the eyebrow.

Finally, Otsuka-san applied some lipstick, and the process was finished!

…But Ahiru Neko was still worried. “Do I really look like a girl?” he wondered as he looked himself over in the mirror. “Something is missing…”

Then Otsuka-san brought out the linchpin: the wig! “The wig has a tremendous influence,” she said as she settled it on his head. And voila! With this final touch, Ahiruneko’s manly oval face has been transformed into the sweet, soft features of a pretty girl!

Somewhere along the line (Ahiru Neko doesn’t remember where exactly), he was put into a cheerleader outfit. Cute, isn’t he?

Ahiru Neko was beyond impressed by the power of makeup, and especially by the skills of professionals. But does he understand women a little better now? Well, just by having someone turn him into a girl, not really. What he does understand, though, is a little bit of the trouble women go through every day to look beautiful.

Why? Because he had to shave his body hair. We’re not just talking face and armpits; they shaved his legs and arms too. Ahiru Neko quickly learned what a pain that is. It takes a very long time. He finds it terrible that women have to do that on a regular basis!

What was also time-consuming was removing the makeup afterwards. “Do women really have to do this every day after work?” he wondered as he painstakingly wiped layers of makeup from every corner of his face. “Seriously?”

He now really respects women who take the time to do it before going to bed, especially after going out drinking after work. Even knowing it’s bad for your skin, he thinks he would be too lazy to take it off every night, and end up going to bed with it still on.

▼ Welcome to the daily struggle, Ahiru Neko. That’s why there are scores of cosmetics for lazy girls.

Though it was only for a short time, Ahiru Neko was glad to have tried out becoming a girl. He learned a lot and gained a new appreciation for the struggles of women. He would even recommend that all men give it a try!

If you’re a man who’s not ready to take the leap, though, try starting with a makeup tutorial video. At least that way you’ll know how time-consuming putting on makeup is.

Images ©SoraNews24


We try 7-Eleven Japan’s latest fancy desserts: ice cream macarons【Taste test】

Meringue meets ice cream in convenience store chain’s latest summer-themed dessert offering.

While the temperature and humidity is still bearable, at least here in Kansai, summer is coming. While frantically fanning yourself and putting a bag of frozen edamame beans down your T-shirt are both excellent ways to try to beat the heat, cold drinks and ice creams are a rather more enjoyable way to fight off the high temperatures. To that end we decided it was high time to sample the luxurious new macaron ice creams available from 7-Eleven. It’s practically a public service announcement.

The new macaron ices, as they’re officially known, come in two different flavours, chocolate mint and mixed berry, each sandwiched in the crisp, sugary meringue goodness of two differently coloured macarons for desserts that hopefully taste as good as they look.

Chocolat, because it tastes fancier when you spell it the French way.

With Herculean effort we were able to artfully place the first of the two ice creams on a plate to take a photo before snaffling it down, in the interests of a proper food review, you understand. Our first impression when we opened the cool-green packaging was the refreshing smell of mint that poured out. Our appetites were well and truly whetted.

The mint-flavoured ice cream is capped by a vivid blue mint macaron on one side, and a rich brown chocolate macaron on the other. Despite the notorious fragility of meringue-based macarons ours seemed to have survived their frozen journey intact. As for the taste, the mint of the ice cream was cool but not overpowering and the macarons were sweet yet thanks to the ice cream not sickly.

Next up was the Mix Berry and its gaudy pink and purple macarons. Again, opening the packet released a strong summery fragrance, this time of berries. The pink macaron was strawberry-flavoured and the purple one tasted of blueberries, while the ice cream is also strawberry for a full berry blast. The slight citric tang of the berry flavour and the creaminess of the strawberry ice cream complement the macarons nicely without being too much. The two elements also add to the sated feeling you get from eating just one of them, not too bad when they come in at a not-unreasonable 153 calories each.

Seven Eleven clearly have an eye on capturing the taste buds and shutter clicks of the Instagram generation, as these sweets definitely have photogenic good looks, seemingly designed to grace a fair number of profile and background pictures across social media, with the delicious mix of sweet macaron and creamy ice cream.

Convenience stores in other countries might not be known for their quality or taste, with a stereotype of convenience that makes up for other shortcomings, but here in Japan a trip to a convenience store and a look at the limited-edition goodies on sale will soon have you reconsidering that, with delicious offerings from all of the main chains.

On the packaging the words FROZEN TREATS apparently warrant capitalisation, and they’re not wrong, they are both frozen and a treat that satisfies both our sweet tooths and our dislike of overheating. The new ice cream treats went on sale on 12 June and sell for 248 yen (US$2.30) each including tax and are our latest weapon in the fight to keep cool, and happy. Also, if you need more tips to survive the four-month long heatwave that is Japanese summer you’re in the right place.

Photos ©SoraNews24


Haneda Airport’s awesome sea bream ramen restaurant is the perfect way to end your trip in Japan

Make Japan even harder to leave by finishing your vacation with one of the most unique, satisfying ramen meals in Tokyo.

When traveling, the last day of your vacation usually ends up being the least enjoyable. By the time you get up and pack, there’s usually not time to do anything really fun before heading to the airport.

That can be especially frustrating if you’ve come all the way to Japan, and even more so if making your way to the airport means having to skip having lunch or dinner in Tokyo, the greatest city for dining out on the face of the Earth. But if you’re flying out of Haneda Airport, we’ve got good news for you, because the complex is home to one of the most memorably unique ramen restaurants we’ve found in quite some time.

We’ll get the one bad point out of the way first. Ramen restaurant Hitoshinaya is located in Haneda Terminal 1, not the International Terminal. However, the two buildings are just three minutes apart by train, and there’s also a free shuttle bus that runs between them, so a side-trip to Terminal 1 isn’t prohibitively time-consuming as long as you give yourself a little leeway.

While the most common types of ramen in Japan are soy, miso, or pork stock, Hitoshinaya’s specialty is something special: ramen with its broth made from tai, or sea bream. On our visit, we ordered the Tai Dashi Tai Kunsei Ramen (Sea Bream Broth with Smoked Sea Bream Raman), plus a side of ochazuke (usually meaning rice with green tea, but here referring to seasoned rice to pour ramen broth onto). The combo set us back 1,278 yen (US$11.70), which is just a bit on the pricey side for ramen, but the classy surroundings made it seem like a fair price, and if you’re looking to cap your Japan travels with a meal here, a shade over 10 bucks is definitely an affordable luxury.

After a five-minute wait, our order was ready, and we took a moment o admire its elegant presentation.

While the piece of smoked sea bream was the first thing to draw our eyes, we also spotted mizuna (potherb mustard) along with slices of red pepper, tomato, and sudachi, a refreshing lime-like Japanese citrus fruit.

Ramen-tasting always starts with the broth, though, so we scooped up a spoonful and took a sip. Hitoshinaya’s sea bream broth is also seasoned with kombu kelp, resulting in a rich, refined flavor, free of the heavy greasiness found in some varieties of ramen.

Ramen culture traditionally pairs certain thicknesses of noodles with certain broths, but having never had sea bream ramen before, we weren’t sure what to expect. Hitoshinaya uses moderately thick noodles that are straight, smooth, and a little on the soft side, allowing them to soak up plenty of the broth’s flavor.

Leaving the biggest impression on our taste buds was the smoked sea bream. While we’ve enjoyed Japanese tai as sushi and sashimi on numerous occasions, this was our first time to ever eat it as a ramen topping, and the enticing aroma only adds to its deliciousness.

Once we’d finished all our noodles, it was time to pour our remaining broth onto rice (an option also offered by Tokyo’s poisonous blowfish ramen restaurant).

▼ The ochazuke is additionally flavored with kombu, thin-sliced nori seaweed, wasabi, and fragrant leaves of mitsuba herb.

If we have one regret, it’s that since we only have one stomach, we didn’t get to try Hitoshinaya’s other star menu item, the Roasted Smoked Sea Bream Ramen. Given the restaurant’s location, odds are a lot of customers won’t be able to come back anytime soon (though we should mention that Hitoshinaya is outside the security checkpoint, meaning that even non-passengers can easily et there), so we recommend going with a friend so that you can order both types of ramen and share. And when the time does come to hop on your flight home, at least you can take heart knowing that it actually is possible to find great ramen overseas too.

Restaurant information
Hitoshinaya / ひとしなや
Address: Tokyo-to, Ota-ku, Haneda Kuko, 3-3-2, Terminal 1 North Wing 2nd floor
東京都大田区羽田空港3丁目3−2 第 1 ターミナル 北 ウイング2F
Open 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (non-ramen breakfasts available from 5:30 a.m.)

Photos ©SoraNews24


McDonald’s Japan offering Calpis shakes this summer with new-and-improved recipe

Yogurt-like beverages combine McDonald’s shake know-how with one of Japan’s favorite summertime flavors.

Japan hasn’t quite gone into full-on hot and steamy summer mode, but those sweltering days are coming soon. So the timing of McDonald’s Japan’s announcement of a new cold and delicious beverage really couldn’t come at a better time.

The fast food giant, which is always eager to offer fare that makes use of local Japanese flavors, has put the word out that at the end of this month it’ll start serving Calpis shakes. For the uninitiated, Calpis (or Calpico, as it’s often marketed overseas in an attempt to sound more appetizing to English speakers), is a yogurt-like beverage. It’s usually mixed with water, sometimes carbonated, and occasionally even used as a cocktail mixer, pleasing palates both young and old with a unique balance of sweet and tart notes.

Loyal SoraNews24 readers and/or lactic acid bacteria enthusiasts may remember that there was also a Calpis McShake available last year. We tried it for ourselves and came away more than satisfied, but McDonald’s has still decided to tinker with the recipe, and promises that this year’s Calpis McShake has had its sweetness toned down ever so slightly, allowing the tartness a little more of the spotlight in order to make the 2018 version even more refreshing to sip on the hottest days of the year.

▼ The 2017 Calpis shake, with a reversed color scheme compared to the 2018

While yogurt-like shakes might seem a little unusual to the uninitiated, McDonald’s Japan has previously sold yogurt granola smoothies, and yogurt Frappuccinos have also graced Starbucks’ menus in Japan. And for even more historic precedent, there’s lassi, the Indian yogurt drink that’s often enjoyed at the end of a meal of spicy curry, so maybe there’ll be some similar synergy between the Calpis McShake and McDonald’s Japan’s new spicy chicken McNuggets.

The new Calpis shakes go on sale June 27, priced at 120 yen (US$1.10) for a small and 200 yen for a large, and will be available for a limited, undisclosed time.

Source: McDonald’s via Entabe
Top image: McDonald’s
Insert images: McDonald’s, SoraNews24


Anthropomorphized menstrual cycle is Japan’s newest comic book star

Seiri-chan is a heartwarmingly absurd manga for the modern period.

Like a lot of manga, Ken Koyama’s Seiri-chan is named after its protagonist. However, even longtime fans of anime/manga may be struggling to remember another franchise with a character named Seiri in it.

That’s because Seiri isn’t a traditional Japanese name. Instead, it’s the word for “period” or “menstrual cycle.”

Yes, Seiri-chan is the latest, and arguably most unexpected, entry in Japan’s ever-lengthening list of anthropomorphized characters, following colleagues drawing inspiration from mushrooms and Japanese swords. Rather than trying to render the liquid state of monthly lady flow, Koyama draws Seiri-chan as a pink, vaguely heart-shaped entity with full red lips and a white cross for a nose.

While Seiri-chan can be seen punching a woman in the midsection on the back cover of the first collected volume, she’s generally presented as a more benign figure in the manga. Each chapter has Seiri-chan spending time with different women during her once-a-month visit, often as they’re experiencing some sort of personal crisis or emotional dilemma. For example, in the scene below, Seiri-chan makes her long-awaited appearance in front of a woman named Kaori, who recently slept with a married coworker with no contraceptives being used. “Men who don’t use a condom are the worst,” Seiri-chan declares, while giving Kaori a reassuring hug.

“I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t shown up today,” says Kaori, relieved that the night of passion hasn’t resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.

In a later chapter, Seiri-chan gives a pep talk to convenience store clerk Riho, who’s always had an inferiority complex about her less-than-glamorous looks and thus is unwilling to believe the handsome man who confessed his love to her is serious about wanting a relationship.

Seiri-chan also takes time to console Momoko, a cafe waitress and aspiring novelist who’s been sent into a spiral of depression after discovering that her coworker Ippei, who she had a secret crush on, has started dating the beautiful half-Japanese Chloe, yet another of her coworkers.

Sometimes, though, instead of being quietly supportive, Seiri-chan is psychotically violent, like when she punches this man in the face while shouting “Menstrual Punch!” before injecting him with a drug that causes him to have periods as well.

Through written and illustrated by a man, Seiri-chan has quickly built up a sizable female fanbase, including our own female Japanese-language reporter Anji. “Koyama’s a guy, so how does he understand women’s feelings so well?” said Anji after reading through the volume. “Whether I’m laughing or crying, I can always identify with the women Seiri-chan visits.”

With its outlandish premise and episodic nature, Seiri-chan seems like it’d be a perfect fit in the world of late-night short anime programming, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see an adaptation in the near future. Who knows, maybe the franchise will become a big enough hit that we’ll see a brand-new batch of anime-themed menstrual pads go on sale in Japan.

Photos ©SoraNews24