Kay

Writer / Translator

Kay is a native Japanese who has lived in Honolulu, Hawaii and Los Angeles, California. She currently resides in Tokyo and enjoys writing about a wide range of topics, including all things cute and glamorous. She also loves stories about any type of food, from gourmet cuisine to junk food. Her favorite pastimes include reading, going to the movies, watching American T.V. dramas and shopping. (Yes, she is painfully aware that she owns too many bags and shoes.) She also loves to travel and has visited over 25 different countries. Her favorite place to go on vacation is New York, an amazing city where you can enjoy the best of shopping, dining, art and theater.

All Stories by Kay

Wish you could check out Tokyo’s Christmas illuminations? Well now you can! 【Video】

We appreciate that while many of you are interested in Japan and Japanese culture, not all of you are able to visit the Land of the Rising Sun quite so easily. But Christmas is a great time of year here in Tokyo, what with all the lights, decorations and hand-holding couples, so in order to share the various seasonal sights with you we took the liberty of putting together a little slideshow.

Join us after the jump for a photo tour of Tokyo’s best Christmas illuminations!

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The cold getting to you? Have a warm drink — from a vending machine!

Much has been said on the subject of the ubiquitous vending machines in Japan. Yes, vending machines seem to be lurking around every street corner here in Japan. And while hot beverages may not be among the most unusual products available from a vending machine, they can certainly offer you great comfort when you’re facing the bitter cold during the winter months.

And it turns out there’s quite a variety of hot drinks out there that you can buy from a machine, as a recent post on Japanese trend and information compilation site Naver Matome shows us. Let’s take a look at their selection of beverage options that may come in extremely handy when you’re caught outside in freezing weather.

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Have a rice cake! Have a tangerine! Why not have both with the visually stunning mikan daifuku?

Eating sweet tangerines, or mikan as we call them here, while snuggled in a warm kotatsu table is a favorite winter pastime in Japan. (And believe us when we say it becomes a struggle to leave the comfortable warmth of the kotatsu for anything short of a grave emergency.)

Well, thanks to Japanese confection maker Akasaka Aono, you can now enjoy winter tangerines in a slightly unique form. They’ve wrapped a whole tangerine inside a soft daifuku rice cake! Now, that’s certainly an unusual presentation for a daifuku, so it’s not surprising that the Japanese public has taken notice, and since we’re always on the lookout for interesting foods, one of the reporters from our Japanese sister site Pouch promptly tried the cake to give all of us a first hand account. Let’s hear what she had to say about the unique tangerine and mochi confection!

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Celebrate Christmas with Kit Kat themed gift set and cake from the Kit Kat Chocolaterie!

Remember the Kit Kat Chocolaterie, the world’s first Kit Kat specialty store that opened in the Ikebukuro Seibu Department Store back in January this year? The shop sells limited edition Kit Kats produced by celebrity patissier Yasumasa Takagi, so it’s not surprising that huge crowds of Kit Kat fans have been making their pilgrimage to the store in search of unique Kit Kat products.

Since then, the Kit Kat bandwagon has apparently been going strong, as two more Chocolaterie shops have opened in Japan, one in the Daimaru Department Store at Tokyo Station and another at the Matsuzakaya Department Store in Nagoya. And now, they’ve announced that they’ll be coming out with a special “Kit Kat Chocolaterie Patissier Gift” set for Christmas, and we can’t wait to see what goodies it contains. Plus, there’s even a Kit Kat inspired Christmas cake created by chef Takagi that they’re now taking orders for — who knew that Christmas could be so much fun for Kit Kat lovers?

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Lotteria to give away another life-size tower burger gadget — this time a mouse!

Although it’s been some years since the Tower Burger made its first appearance at Japanese hamburger chain Lotteria, it seems the sheer visual impact of the massive hamburger still manages to captivate the Japanese public every time it goes on sale. We have to admit, the five-patty hamburger does make for quite an impressive sight, after all.

Now, Lotteria has once again come up with a full-scale recreation of the impressive burger … this time as a computer mouse! And they’ll be giving it away to one lucky winner in their “Life-size Tower Cheeseburger Mouse Giveaway Campaign” that’s currently on way. That’s right, there’s going to be only one winner, so we know the competition is going to be fierce!

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Love banana bread? Love ice cream? You can have both with this Banana Bread Ice Cream Sandwich!

We certainly seem to have an affinity for bananas here in Japan. We love bananas so much, in fact, that we’ve even seen them made into sushi on occasion. So we guess it’s not unreasonable to expect banana bread to also be popular in Japan, which is apparently what the folks at Japanese confection maker Morinaga are counting on with their newly released ice cream product. Yes, their new Banana Bread Ice Cream Sandwich lets you have both banana bread and ice cream at the same time!

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Anna and Elsa shine like never before – as million dollar platinum calendars and Christmas trees!

With the popularity of the Disney film Frozen still going strong, Anna and Elsa are sure to feature heavily among Christmas gifts this year here in Japan. Yes, the Japanese public can’t seem to get enough of the movie, with both the young and old singing “Let it go …” (or “Arino mama no…” in the case of the Japanese version) and endless books and tie-in products appearing on the market one after another.

So it didn’t come as a surprise when we heard that a Japanese jeweler had come up with a collection of Frozen-themed jewelry and ornaments for the Holiday Season. What did catch our attention, though, was that the collection from this particular Jeweler, the GINZA TANAKA, apparently included a huge calendar made of pure platinum which came with a price tag of nearly US$1 million! And when we found out that the calendar was going to be displayed for a limited time at their shop in Ginza, we just had to go see it for ourselves — it’s not everyday that you get to see a million-dollar calendar, after all. Join us as we take a look at Anna and Elsa’s beautiful world recreated not in ice but in precious metals!

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Craving cheese? Try Burger King Japan’s hamburger cheese fondue!

In Japan, the New Years is traditionally a time for eating osechi cuisine, and while tastes and lifestyles may be changing, come New Years Day, many people will be eating at least some of these special new year foods. And once all the new years festivities have passed, it’s quite understandable if some of the Japanese public ends up yearning for something a bit more oily and rich. Well, Burger King Japan has just announced a new series of menus that just may fit the bill in such a situation. It’s Burger King Japan’s new “cheese fondue” menu, featuring items that allow you to create fondues out of … you guessed it, hamburgers!

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Get Disney treats at FamilyMart this winter — including Olaf-shaped chocolate steamed buns!

It looks like Disney fans may have something to look forward to when they visit Family Mart stores in Japan this winter — especially if they have a sweet-tooth. That’s right, for a limited time, Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart is offering some delightful-looking desserts in collaboration with Disney’s mega hit film Frozen and their newest release (or soon to be released in the case of Japan) Big Hero 6. And as if that doesn’t make us happy enough, they even have a campaign going on where you can win special goods tied in with the two movies.

Let’s see what Disney sweetness is being served up at FamilyMart stores across Japan!

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Chinese artist wows us with rendition of awesomely evil looking Dragon Ball villains!

As one of the most popular manga and anime series ever created, Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball has undoubtedly inspired fan art of every style and form conceivable from across the world. Indeed, the Internet is full of countless images of such works by both professional and amateur artists alike. But every so often we come across pieces of work that are so impressive that they grab our attention with their quality and originality, as in the case of these drawings of famous villains from the series. Join us for a look at the familiar evil characters of Dragon Ball reinvented into exquisite yet chilling illustrations — we think you’ll be impressed too with the vivid, colorful details that seem to bring the images to life!

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Japanese sweets maker’s edible zoo and aquarium is filled with creatures almost too cute to eat!

Okay, we know we’ve already introduced on our site countless Japanese treats which we think are irresistibly cute, but once again, we’ve found a little sweet something that we just had to share with you. Take a look at these lines of confectioneries sold by Japanese sweets maker Namikoshiken — they’re called the “Zoo” (dobutsuen) and “Aquarium” (suizokukan) series of  sweet steamed buns, and when you see the confections, we think you’ll understand why.

Yes, the zoo and aquarium packages are a collection of animals and critters alright, and the only problem is that they just may look almost too cute to eat!

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Cats, dogs, pandas & more! An irresistible collection of photos and videos of animals in the snow

It seems only a short while ago that we were complaining about how unbearably hot the summer is here in Japan. Well, time sure does pass by quickly, and we’re now headed into winter, with parts of northern Japan already seeing a bit of snow. And while you can always expect small kids to be thrilled with the idea of a winter wonderland, it seems they’re not the only ones that thoroughly enjoy playing with the snow.

We’ve found a collection of photos and videos on Japanese information compilation site Naver Matome which clearly show that animals too get a kick out of jumping and rolling in the fluffy white stuff, and we wanted to share the images with you because, well … they simply looked so “cool” (and not just because of all the snow involved). So, get ready to enjoy some adorable animal snow action!

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A Ghibli mystery solved — the identity of exotic looking food in Spirited Away revealed!

If you’re a Ghibli fan, chances are you’ve been fascinated on more than one occasion by the various colorful and tantalizing foods that appear in their films. Perhaps you’ve even seen some of the dishes recreated in real life. And then there are those mysterious looking foods, the identity of which we quite aren’t sure, like this stretchy, jelly-like translucent item that Chihiro’s father is seen eating in the film Spirited Away. Well, word on the Japanese Internet recently has it that the mystery as to what that food is has finally been solved.

Care to take a guess what it is? We’ll give you a hint: it’s not a Japanese dish!

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Rare ghost-white tuna caught off Bali — we go to see it on display in Shibuya!

It’s no secret that we Japanese love tuna. Whether grilled or marinated in soy sauce or served fresh as sashimi and sushi, there’s no denying that tuna, called maguro in Japan, is one of the most popular ingredients in Japanese cuisine. We’re so fond of tuna, in fact, that we have different Japanese names for the fish depending on how fatty the specific piece of tuna is (toro for the fatty part of tuna in general, chu-toro for medium fatty tuna, and ō-toro for the extra-fatty, extra-delicious tuna).

But recently, a rare tuna with an appearance so unusual that has left even experienced fishermen agog with surprise was sold at the famous Tsukiji fish market, causing quite a buzz online in Japan. What made the tuna so special? It was magnificently white, from head to tail! And not to miss the rare opportunity, we went to see the fish on display at a department store in Shibuya.

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What’s that on the ground? Ad for Japanese TV drama wows us with its clever use of space!

In today’s age, advertisements in all shapes and form — from posters to TV commercials to internet ads — are a part of life, whether we like it or not. Indeed, they surround us to such an extent that it’s hard for any single ad to stand out. But ad agencies try to grab our attention anyway, using ever changing techniques, don’t they? And sometimes, it seems they do a pretty good job, as in the case of this interesting ad that we happened to stumble upon recently. And when we say “stumble upon”, we mean it quite literally. We nearly stepped all over the ad — because part of it extended onto the floor!

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Japan serves up yet another weird pizza, this time topped with cookie-filled chocolate bars!

No one ever said pizza couldn’t be sweet, right? Well, certainly no one in Japan! We’ve already introduced to you the high-sugar Kit Kat pizza and caramel marshmallow pizza, and now we’ve heard that Aoki’s Pizza, a chain based in Japan’s Tokai Region, will soon be offering up a unique creation of its own: the Pizza Black Thunder!

Could this chocolate and cookie laden creation be the ultimate sweet pizza?

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Green tea ramen? Of course we had to give it a try!【Taste Test】

There’s no denying that we love our ramen here in Japan. The dish is so well-loved, in fact, that it can be called one of the national comfort foods of Japan, and one of the factors that make ramen so intriguing is the fact that there are so many variations of it across Japan, from the miso-based ramen of Hokkaido in the north to the pork-stock based tonkotsu ramen of Kyushu in the south.

Surrounded as we are by all the different ramens served at countless shops throughout the country, it’s rare that we see a ramen that surprises us with its originality, but when we heard about a ramen with a soup containing stock made from green tea — and expensive gyokuro tea at that —  we have to say we were positively fascinated, and we knew we had to try it ourselves. Green tea ramen, here we come!

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A truly sweet affair — high fashion meets high dessert at the Tokyo Sweets Collection!

We’d like to think that all things sweet and beautiful have a certain universal appeal, regardless of country and culture. Japan is no exception, and the Japanese public certainly loves sweets in all shapes and sizes, so much so that the word pâtissier, French for “pastry chef,” has become an established part of the Japanese language. From that viewpoint, an event that brings delectable desserts, beautiful fashion and entertainment all together in one package is something of a dream experience, at least for this writer. And just recently, we were fortunate enough to attend exactly such an event — the Tokyo Sweets Collection 2014!

Join us as we take you along on a sweet journey through this unique show in which six renowned pastry chefs serve up heavenly plates of desserts in a fantastical setting complete with lights, music, dancing and models in beautiful clothes, all designed to tantalize not just your taste buds but all of your senses!

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Celebrating washoku and rice — an evening with master chefs and sushi roll creators (Part 2)

We recently had the opportunity to attend the delightful reception “Celebrating Worldwide Recognition of Washoku and Rice” aimed to present the appeal of rice and its importance in Japanese cuisine (washoku). In our first article covering the event, we gave you a round-up on the talks and demonstrations made by three guest speakers during the first part of the evening’s program, including the serving of a traditional Japanese meal prepared by a master chef. Now, it was time for us to get active and try our hand at a bit of sushi rolling!

In this, the second and final article in this two-part series, we’ll attempt to create a special futomaki sushi roll  known as Futomaki Matsurizushi (“thick roll festival sushi”) like the one made by Ms. Eiko Ryuzaki, president of the Chiba Traditional Local Cooking Study Group, in one of the presentations earlier that evening.   

Okay, so we weren’t going to be able to create an entire plate of colorful festive futomaki rolls like the display in the picture above, but we were excited about the chance to make even just one pretty little roll! So, were we ready to get our hands sticky with rice? You can bet we were!

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Celebrating washoku and rice — an evening with master chefs and sushi roll creators (Part 1)

All of Japan was thrilled when traditional Japanese cuisine, or washoku in Japanese, became a registered UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in December last year. And one thing that is for certain when it comes to Japanese food is that we Japanese love our rice with a passion. We have various brands and classes of rice, with differing flavors and prices depending on where it’s grown, much like what you might expect with fine wine, and we all have our favorites. It’s simply an irrefutable fact that rice holds a very central place in Japanese cuisine and in the hearts of the Japanese as well.

Yes, there’s nothing quite like the sensation of inhaling the scent of steaming hot freshly cooked rice when you open the rice cooker, and as fond as we are of rice, we were delighted to have the opportunity this week to attend a reception for foreign media titled “Celebrating Worldwide Recognition of Washoku and Rice“. And when we heard that it included being served a traditional Japanese meal by a master chef from a renowned Japanese restaurant and also a chance to try making some unique sushi rolls ourselves, we knew this was definitely a reception we couldn’t miss!

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