- Japan’s Ikoma City prohibits using its elevators for 45 minutes after smoking
- Häagen-Dazs’ upcoming traditional Japanese sweets cafe in Tokyo has our mouths watering already
- Man spotted on train near Tokyo Disneyland with sticker saying he gropes women every day
- New Japanese Kit Kat raises funds for earthquake-damaged Kumamoto region
- Beautiful burger topped with a whole apple is one of trendy Tokyo’s best-looking sandwiches
- Are shonen manga anthologies moving away from their traditional “boy-centered” content?
Posted: 30 Mar 2018 06:00 PM PDT
City Hall refuses to go up in smoke any more.
Leading up to the 2020 Olympic games, Japan, once a haven for smokers among developed countries, has recently begun sweeping measures to make smoking increasingly inconvenient without outright banning it. While other countries have long ago banished the act from eateries and many other public spaces, Japan has only begun to gradually trim down the available smoking areas in the past decade.
However, as this latest development in Ikoma City, Nara Prefecture shows, the country is catching up with a fervor. Starting this April, Ikoma City Hall is prohibiting anyone from using its elevators for up to 45 minutes after having a cigarette.
▼ At least it appears to only be five stories.
According to posters hung in the building, “When coming indoors after smoking outside, it is said that it takes 45 minutes for the concentration of harmful substances in a person’s breath to return to pre-smoking levels.” Posters also advise smokers, “After smoking, you need to face downwind and take a deep breath before coming back inside.”
It is unclear what penalty awaits someone who rides the elevator without thoroughly decontaminating themselves, but last year Ikoma prohibited smoking around their largest station (Ikoma Station) except for designated areas under penalty of a 20,000 yen (US$188) fine.
This is just one of many moves being taken to curb smoking in Japan. On 30 March, major fast-food chain Mos Burger announced they will be phasing out smoking sections in all 1,300 of their stores nationwide by March, 2020.
Mos Burger is the latest chain alongside McDonald’s, KFC, and Saizeriya to take steps towards becoming completely non-smoking in anticipation of an impending government ban on smoking in major eating establishments.
It appears many online couldn’t be happier with the moves, the biggest complaint being: “What took you so long?”
Ikoma City Hall is a very specific location in the grand scheme of Japan, but with this tactic making news across the country the trend of 45-minute elevator lock-outs may catch on. Regardless of right or wrong, hopefully any place that does enact it keeps their AEDs fully charged, because there’s bound to be some “collateral damage” from making smokers use the stairs en masse like that.
Posted: 30 Mar 2018 10:30 AM PDT
Delicious-looking desserts make use of sake, mochi, and more.
To really succeed in Japan, foreign makers of snacks and sweets need to adapt to local tastes, and that's something that Häagen-Dazs has done with aplomb. The American ice cream brand regularly blesses Japan with amazing flavors and desserts exclusive to the country, such as Mochi Sakura, sesame walnut, and Matcha Green Tea Crumble (a.k.a. ice cream Jesus).
Now Häagen-Dazs is taking things one step further with its first-ever dedicated Japanese sweets cafe, a collaboration with the existing Sukibayashi Sabo cafe, in the high-class Ginza district of downtown Tokyo.
The kanji characters, 茶房, seen underneath the Häagen-Dazs logo, aren't how you write the brand's name in Japanese. Rather, they're the kanji for sabo, meaning teahouse, since the soon-to-open Häagen-Dazs Sabo will be serving classic Japanese desserts infused with Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
A total of eight deserts, making use of six different ice cream flavors, will be offered, starting with shiratama zenzai, mochi dumplings served in sweet beans, accompanied by a scoop of green tea ice cream, a crisp black sesame galette wafer, and mascarpone mousse.
The cafe's dorayaki places sweet beans, vanilla ice cream, and brown sugar whipped cream between two small pancake-like cakes, and gets further flavor from a plum strawberry sauce.
The final menu item revealed so far, the ichigo (strawberry) soup, uses sake lees and non-alcoholic sweet amazake mixed with strawberry puree as a broth for strawberry slices and strawberry ice cream, in an all-out effort to satisfy strawberry lovers and force people to use the word "strawberry" as many times as possible in describing it.
While the desserts can be ordered a la carte, you can also request yours as a set with a cup of specially selected green tea provided by Tokyo tea merchant Ocharaka.
Häagen-Dazs Sabo will be opening on April 18, but will only be in operation until May 6, with the limited time giving you a fourth reason (after the three above) to eat dessert.
Posted: 30 Mar 2018 08:00 AM PDT
Warning label for other passengers seems to have been secretly slapped on.
Chikan, or train gropers, take advantage of the environmental conditions on Japan's urban rail lines, copping a feel on targets when they're distracted from being in a hurry and/or already being in such close proximity to so many other people. But one accused chikan in the Tokyo area looks to have let his own guard down.
On Wednesday morning, Japanese Twitter user @Yammer_1 was on the Musashino Line, which serves the suburbs of Chiba Prefecture that lie east of downtown Tokyo. After getting on the 10:22 train from Nishi Funabashi Station, but before arriving at her destination, Maihama Station (the closest stop to Tokyo Disneyland), @Yammer_1 snapped the following pictures.
Stuck to the back of the man's sweater is a sticker that reads "Kono hito mainichi chikan shiteimasu," or "This person is groping people on the train every day." Sure enough, in the first of the three photos, he can be seen extending his right hand, concealed by the jacket draped over it, towards the posterior of the woman standing next to him.
Some Twitter users speculated this might be a staged attempt at humor, or that maybe the man himself was the victim of a prank. It does seem kind of odd that someone would bother putting a sticker on the back of someone who's holding a jacket, which he'll eventually put on and cover up the warning/accusation. However, @Yammer_1 says the man indeed start touching the woman with his hidden hand, and kept it up for an extended period of time. Though @Yammer_1 initially thought the two might be acquaintances, the man and woman exchanged no words that indicated any sort of existing relationship in the 12 minutes @Yammer_1 spent on the train before getting off at Maihama, at which point the man in the photo and the woman next to him remained on the train which continued on towards Tokyo.
Twitter commenters have been nearly unanimous in their denouncement of the man's actions, but some have also expressed disappointment that whoever wrote the sticker apparently had the courage to stick it on the man's back, but not to contact the authorities after ostensibly witnessing him repeatedly grope women on the train. Similarly, more than one commenter encouraged @Yammer_1 to submit her photos to the police, since if the man is traveling on the same line frequently enough to have the sticker's author recognize him, it stands to reason that investigators should be able to track him down. One commenter even suggested that had @Yammer_1 recorded video instead of taking still shots, an even stronger case could be built against the man, like what happened when a man in Tokyo was arrested after being filmed taking illicit upskirt videos.
Meanwhile, this is a good time to remember that unfortunately not all chikan come with visible warning labels, so it's always a smart idea to stay aware of your surroundings when riding the rails.
Posted: 30 Mar 2018 07:00 AM PDT
The brand new flavour tastes just like a famous local specialty from the prefecture.
In 2016, Kumamoto, on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, was devastated by a series of earthquakes which were so severe they damaged parts of the region’s historic 400-year-old castle. With a large number of local residents displaced and living in temporary housing after the disaster, Nestlé Japan was quick to lend a hand, joining forces with Kumamon, the region’s red-cheeked, black bear mascot, to boost morale and raise funds towards reconstruction in the area.
The collaboration was an extension of Nestlé’s “Kitto Zutto Project” (“Sure to Continue Project”), which began supporting people in disaster-affected regions after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Following the disaster in Kumamoto, Nestlé came up with the idea for a Kumamon-branded “Kumamoto Tea” flavour Kit Kat, using local ingredients to help farmers, and last year they expanded the project with a yoghurt-flavoured Kit Kat to help a dairy damaged by a typhoon in Iwate Prefecture.
▼ The 2016 Kumamoto Tea Kit Kat raised 1.3 million yen (US$12,199.61) in funds.
Now they’re back with Kumamon at the helm for another Kit Kat release in aid of Kumamoto Prefecture, and this time the chocolate comes filled with the flavour of Ikinari Dango.
▼ Ikinari Dango (“Sudden Dumplings“) get their name from the fact that they’re so easy to make.
Kumamoto is famous for these palm-sized steamed sweet dumplings, which usually contain a big round chunk of sweet potato, covered in a red bean jam and wrapped in a thin layer of dough made from rice flour. The new limited-edition Kit Kats promise to deliver the same flavour of ikinari dango inside their famous chocolate-covered wafer bars.
There are four different package designs to collect, with 10 yen from the sale of each 11-piece pack going towards reconstruction in Kyushu’s Kumamoto region.
▼ Coy Kumamon
▼ “Itadakimasu!” (“Thanks for the food!”) Kumamon
▼ Hungry Kumamon
▼ Happy Kumamon
The same images of the black bear mascot appear on the individually wrapped bars inside each pack, with the addition of an adorable version showing him with his hands in the air, getting everyone excited for the new treat.
In 2016, it was estimated that it would take around 20 years and 60 billion yen (more than US$550 million) to fully restore Kumamoto Castle, so purchasing the new limited-edition Kit Kats is one way for us all to pitch in and help with the reconstruction efforts.
The Ikinari Dango Kit Kats will be available at stores nationwide from 2 April at a recommended retail price of 540 yen (US$5.06).
Posted: 30 Mar 2018 06:00 AM PDT
Sure anyone can plonk an apple on a hamburger, but can they make it taste as sweet as it looks?
Our most gluttonous of reporters, Mr. Sato, lives by a simple code: All food is made to be eaten. From the moment it is born at the hands of its creator, its fate is to enter his (or failing that, someone else’s) stomach. However, sometimes there exists a food so beautifully prepared, that Mr. Sato’s prime directive is threatened and he hesitates to immediately cram it straight into his gullet.
One such food can be found the Tokyo neighborhood of Yoyogi, about a minute’s walk from Minami Shinjuku Station on the Odakyu Line. Called the “Ringo Burger” (Apple Burger) it is rumored to look more like a luxury dessert rather than a greasy old grilled meat sandwich.
But the Ringo Burger would only be available for a limited time, so Mr. Sato hurried down to the 10-seat burger shop that serves it to try one.
The restaurant’s name is Icon, and since its opening in March of 2017, it has steadily built a reputation among burger connoisseurs for its high-quality, original offerings. Word has it, that their best burger is the Macamburger which is a hamburger topped with macaroni and cheese for 1,500 yen (US$14). The visual impact of the massive amounts of cheese oozing from the bun is said to heighten the burger-eating experience considerably.
Mr. Sato would be totally down with that, but his mission on this day was to try the Ringo Burger. So, he placed an order for the 1,700 yen ($16) special item crafted in celebration of Icon’s first year in business.
Prior to the main dish, our reporter was given a small cup of thin-sliced beef tendon soup with a kick of black pepper.
Up to this point, Mr. Sato hadn’t even seen a picture of the Ringo Burger, only talk that it resembled a luxurious dessert. This was hardly his first burger with apple on it though. Many restaurants had done it before.
Suddenly, Mr. Sato was taken aback by the bold flavor of the soup. With his mind on burgers he wasn’t expecting much from this appetizer, but was impressed with the effort that went into making it really flavorful.
Then the Ringo Burger appeared…
It was nothing like he imagined. Rather than some slices of apple, there was an entire apple on top, thinly sliced but relatively in its original shape.
The vivid red color of the apple with its fine yet deep contours shone brightly atop its protein-rich throne of cheese, bacon, and beef, like a beacon guiding wayward ships to its bounty of deliciousness.
Also impressive was the bun, which was custom-made by Icon to accommodate this particular arrangement of toppings. Most restaurants attempting this would probably just toss an apple onto a currently existing sandwich and let it fall apart into a disappointing mess upon eating. Not Icon, though. They cut the bun in an uneven 3:7 ratio for optimal eating.
These guys knew what they were doing.
But we weren’t paying Mr. Sato to sit there and stare at the thing. It was time to dig in…
Mr. Sato found himself frozen by the burger’s beauty, but after a moment his infallible professionalism kicked in and he picked up the sandwich.
On first bite the bun gently yielded to Mr. Sato’s teeth but was also crispy, which helped lead the way down into the crispy apple slices nicely. There was also a slice of red onion on the bottom to balance out the texture. They really thought of everything!
The balance of flavors was intricately crafted as well. Although overpowering to the eye, to the tongue the apple’s supportive sweetness served to bring out the inherent savoriness of the beef. The flavors of the bacon, cheese, and onion were all present as well, contrasting each other but in perfect harmony.
So it can be said that the Ringo Burger is not just a visual gimmick, but a culinary beauty through and through. And as it marks only the first year of Icon’s existence, it seems we can look forward to much more in their bright future, shining from atop the burgerscape of Tokyo.
Posted: 29 Mar 2018 10:00 PM PDT
Almost half the titles published in a recent Shonen Magazine issue are considered "romantic comedies", which made netizens wonder.
In Japan, there are three top weekly manga anthologies intended for boys: Shonen Jump, Shonen Sunday, and Shonen Magazine. These magazines are called “shonen”, or “boy”, magazines because they have traditionally featured stories about young, typically school-age boys that center around themes of manliness, coming of age, and getting strong. Most are action-packed sci-fi, fantasy, sports, or adventure stories, and many times, when female characters are included, their existence is centered around the male characters in a “harem” where all of them lust after the main character, or they are drawn as big-breasted beauties with regular gratuitous cleavage and pantie shots. Some popular shonen titles include Dragonball, One Piece, Detective Conan, and Great Teacher Onizuka.
▼ Remember classic harem manga Love Hina?
But things appear to be changing. Nowadays, it seems as if shonen manga anthologies are featuring more independent female characters, and are moving away from their traditional “manly” or at least “boyish” content. They’re also publishing stories that might appeal to a wider audience. In fact, Shonen Magazine‘s most recent volume includes, in addition to the still ongoing Hajime no Ippo and several other standard shonen titles, 11 manga that are considered “romantic comedies”. That accounts for almost half of Shonen Magazine’s weekly serialized titles.
“Romantic comedy” of course means comedic stories about love, which is not entirely unusual for shonen manga, but the latest comedy titles in shonen magazines do not include harems, and even lack fantasy elements like time travel or alternate universes. Two of Shonen Magazine‘s rom-com stories include Domestic Girlfriend and Fuuka, both of whose main characters are male, but which are most definitely love stories, set in modern Japan. Tsuredere Children, which is a series of stories about young love, is also another example that doesn’t have any of the twists of a typical shonen story.
▼ Domestic Girlfriend
And Shonen Magazine is not the only anthology whose content is changing; Shonen Sunday and Shonen Jump have recently also featured more neutral or even more “shojo” content. Slice-of-life stories, which are traditionally led by female characters and thus are typically considered more shojo fare, appear to be taking the reins in all three shonen magazines, but with a male lead instead. For example, Dagashi Kashi and Silver Spoon from Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine‘s Seitoukai Yakuindomo are centered around school life, building relationships, and growing up, which are themes that would typically be combined with some kind of sci-fi or fantasy element in a shonen manga, or at least with a “manly” sports theme.
Stories with female lead characters like Shonen Jump‘s The Promised Neverland are becoming increasingly common, and while shonen titles are typically written by men, Shonen Sunday even features several female manga artists, including Yu Watase, an iconic shojo writer of Fushigi Yugi fame.
▼ This clip of Seitoukai Yakuindomo looks nothing like your standard shonen story.
These aren’t entirely new changes, but rather an evolution that seems to have occurred slowly over time. A list of Shonen Sunday’s best-selling titles revealed that some of the most popular manga published in the magazine over the last several decades included romantic stories, and some of the manga mentioned above have been serialized in shonen magazines for several years. This could be the reason why they have been gaining more and more female readers over the years, but could it be the opposite? Perhaps the publishing companies have been responding to increased demand from female fans instead.
Either way, it seems like the differences between shojo and shonen manga are becoming smaller and smaller. In the eyes of some fans it may not be a good a thing, as the traditional tropes of shonen manga and shojo manga don’t always match up. But if you really think about it, the tropes, themes, and stories from each genre really aren’t that different.
Besides, the terms “shonen” and “shojo” are really referring to the target demographic, and not the genre, and since “shonen” publications seem to be aiming to include the female demographic now, there may not be that many differences between “shonen” and “shojo” stories after all.
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