sweets

Got a beef with Japan’s Christmas shortcakes? Then try one made out of chicken

I like Christmas. I get that some people feel it’s over-commercialized, but for me, I’m happy to see some nice decorations and have an excuse to get together with family and friends. Really, the only complaint I’ve got is the cake.

See, in Japan, you can’t celebrate Christmas without a cake. Ordinarily, adding cake to just about anything makes it better, with “a mug of beer” being the sole exception I’ve found so far. But almost every Christmas party here features the exact same “Christmas cake.” It’s basically a strawberry shortcake, which, by my criteria, is sorely lacking in the three most important ingredients of a really good cake, which are, in no particular order, chocolate frosting, chocolate sponge, and chocolate filling.

So if you’ve also got a beef with the standard Christmas cake, maybe you’d prefer one that’s made out of chicken.

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Newlywed couple’s hearts beat to Beatmania with music game-themed wedding cake

A lot of times, the simulated situations of a video game are a lot more enjoyable than they would be in real life. For example, a Street Fighter or King of Fighters session is a pretty fun way to kill an hour, but it’d be considerably less entertaining to, in reality, spend 60 minutes brawling with a string of 10 or 20 dudes, one after another.

But what about music and rhythm games? Sure, dropping a few hundred yen into Konami’s DJ simulator Beatmania is cheaper than cover charge at a club, and arcade staff members are much less likely to give you an attitude than a front door bouncer, but the digital version doesn’t give you the same chance to form a connection with potential romantic partners, does it?

Actually, sometimes it does, as seen in this newlywed couple’s Beatmania wedding cake.

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Check out these cool ways to enjoy hot springs in Oita, including eating and breathing them

Oita, on the eastern coast of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, has taken to billing itself as Onsen-ken. And while that title loses a bit of its rhyming appeal once it’s translated into English, it’s hard to deny that it really is the Hot Spring Prefecture, as Oita boasts more hot springs than anywhere else in Japan.

As a matter of fact, Oita has so much geothermal water that it can get creative with its most attractive and relaxing natural resource, as shown by these unique ways locals and tourists can enjoy the prefecture’s hot springs.

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Japanese netizens show love for “English Toast” which is neither English nor Toast

With such a wide range of delicious and delectable (and, erm, shall we say unusualsnack foods available in Japan,  it’s a little hard to understand when people get whipped up into a frenzy over plainer options, such as toast and bread crusts fried with sugar. Now, twitter users in Japan are getting their tastebuds in a twist over the confusingly-named “English Toast”, a sweet snacklet that first became popular in Aomori prefecture and has now expanded into a whole range of conbini sandwiches. But what on earth is it?

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【TBT】Chocolate-covered squid, corn Kit Kat, and other anomalies of the Japanese snack food scene

Japan is a crowded country, and that goes for just about everything. Even store shelves are crowded. Most people do their shopping on foot, which means supermarkets and convenience stores tend to be on the small size, and shelf space is always at a premium.

As such, companies have to do something to make their products stand out. This is why so many Japanese beverages and snack foods have seasonal flavors that are only available for a limited time. Of course, taste engineers in Japan can only come up with so many normal flavors, and when they run out, the only thing to do is go on to the abnormal flavors.

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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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Snoopy and Woodstock, ordinarily inseparable pals, getting separate themed restaurant in Tokyo

Japan is always up for a little entertainment with its meals. As a result, dotted around Tokyo you’ll find restaurants where you can dine on food inspired by cute and cool characters from animation, video games, and the like.

Usually, these fictional icons are Japanese in origin, but it turns out that Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang have enough of a following for not just one, but two new restaurants collaborations in Tokyo.

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Kentucky Fried Café – New KFC in Japan to offer upscale coffee, tea, and sweets

Although I never met the man, Colonel Sanders doesn’t strike me as a hurried individual. Anybody who’s willing to add 11 different seasonings to his fried chicken can see the value in taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life. I like to imagine that rather than rush through his meals, the KFC founder would linger at the table, at least for a few minutes, and when his schedule allowed, for periods extending to “a spell.”

That’s why I think he’d approve of KFC opening its first full-fledged café this month in Japan.

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Japanese couple celebrates wedding with cake shaped like a sliced-up, possibly bloody tuna

When it came time for my wife and me to put together a menu for our wedding reception, I tried to sound out her opinions before jumping in with my own. That is, until we got to the cake selections, and I immediately blurted out, “Let’s get the triple chocolate one!”

Thankfully, by that point she’d already made her peace with my many flaws which extend far beyond my cake preferences, and she smiled and acquiesced to the non-traditional, pitch-black (and completely delicious) choice.

Somehow, though, I don’t think things would have gone so smoothly if I’d done like the recently married man in Japan who suggested serving a wedding cake shaped like a sliced up, possibly bleeding tuna.

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Sorry guys! Video of “sexy ice cream girl” in Taipei only delivers on half its milky promises

In marketing, it’s important to deliver on the various components of the expectations you create. For example, if I advertise an apartment as having a toilet and shower, but after you move in you discover it actually only has one of those, you’re going to be pretty upset, right?

Likewise, we imagine a lot of people were excited when they heard about this video spreading around the Japanese Internet, where it’s been described with the lead-in, “The sexy ice cream stand girl in Taiwan that everyone’s talking about!” After all, ice cream and sexy people are two of the most popular things on the planet.

But it turns out that breathless description is only half-true.

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Gunma-chan candy is adorable, probably as sweet as the mascot’s national championship

Gunma-chan, Gunma Prefecture’s regional mascot, or yuru-kyara, may not have the most creative name. The cap-wearing horse more than makes up for that shortcoming with cuteness, though, and was recently named the winner of the nationwide Yuru-Kyara Grand Prix popularity contest.

The championship is the culmination of a long campaign for Gunma-chan, who finished in 18th place in 2011, before spending two years stalled in the number three spot.

Having now reached the top of the yuru-kyara world, it’s time for Gunma-chan to savor the sweet taste of victory, and time for everyone else to savor the sweet taste of Gunma-chan candy.

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Sweet Holidays! Cupcakes and doughnuts bring in the festive season at Mister Donut Japan

Now that Halloween is over, and without Thanksgiving being celebrated in Japan, shops here are already getting ready to bring in the Christmas season in earnest. Yes, that means the lights, the ornaments, winter landscape displays … the works.

And of course, there are the holiday sweets to look forward to. In that department, you can certainly have your pick of expertly created luxury cakes from celebrity pastry chefs, but for more casual occasions, Mister Donut Japan is offering a selection of beautiful Christmas cupcakes and doughnuts that promise to be just as delightful. Let’s see their newest line of treats that look festive enough to be displayed under a Christmas tree!

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Can we have a parfait? Pretty please, with fried shrimp on top?

Let’s say you’re designing a menu for a restaurant, and you want to serve parfaits. More precisely, you want to serve as many different kinds of parfaits as you can think up. How far do you think you could make it towards that goal before things got completely crazy?

Apparently the tipping point to culinary weirdness is about 195 varieties. How did we calculate that? Well, on a recent visit to Kyoto, we found a café that has about 200 different types of parfaits, including five that’re topped with things like corn dogs and deep-fried prawns.

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Funny ad shows new apple product that’s still prone to bending, compatible with our stomach

We’re still pretty happy with our new iPhone 6, but if we’re being completely honest, just a bit of our euphoria has faded. Sure, we were all giddy smiles on launch day (especially since we were first in line, again), but truth be told, we’re already on the lookout for the next big thing.

So imagine our excitement when we saw a print ad for a new apple product, and yes, that’s apple with a lowercase “a.”

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Ho ho ho! Merry Krispy Kreme Christmas donuts are here!

Japan has really started embracing Halloween over the past few years, but that doesn’t mean the country has adopted every Western holiday. For example, no one really has American-style Thanksgiving celebrations here, which means there’s no reason to wait until December to get into the Christmas mood.

So as soon as Halloween is over, you can start expecting the signs of Christmas, and along with Christmas lights and Christmas trees, this year you can look forward to some sweet and adorable Christmas donuts from Krispy Kreme.

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Pink strawberry milk Pepsi set to return to stores in Japan this winter

We’ve talked before about all the cool Kit Kats Japan gets, but the chocolate-covered wafers aren’t the only sweet indulgence with exclusive-to-Japan versions. Once a year or so, Pepsi releases a special flavor for the Japanese market, too.

This winter the soft drink maker is bringing back a popular hit from a few years ago, with the return of strawberry milk Pepsi.

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Oh, crepe! We discover a pastry vending machine at the airport

You might think there’s no reason to fly to Fukuoka. After all, the Shinkansen line now stretches all the way to the biggest city on the island of Kyushu, and those spiffy new first-class long-haul bus seats are about ready to make their debut. Why bother taking to the skies when you’ve got two perfectly good terrestrial travel options?

Simple: so you can get a crepe from a vending machine at Fukuoka Airport.

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Brilliant use for the almost expired milk in your fridge: It’s time for some milk jam!

Have you ever opened your fridge and were faced with just a carton of milk? How about going to the pantry and only finding a few slices of bread? What are you supposed to do for breakfast, lunch or dinner? If you thought the only thing you could do was soak the bread into the milk and call it a meal, you are in for a surprise, a sweet surprise! Turns out with just a bit of sugar and a microwave, you can turn that boring old milk into something incredibly delectable.

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Less is more as bakery starts selling bags of delicious melon bread crusts minus the bread

It hasn’t made its way to the same level of international culinary stardom as sushi and ramen, but I don’t think I’ve ever introduced a foreign visitor to Japan to melon bread who didn’t fall in love with it. Despite containing no actual melon (the name is thought to come from the pattern scored into the bread’s upper crust), the Japanese bakery mainstay is a definite winner thanks to its sugar-dusted, crisp outer layer. Melon bread delivers just enough flavor and crunch to satisfy your craving for something sweet and stimulating, while at the same time hiding its one undeniable weakness.

The center is just plain white bread.

Bakery Yamazaki Pan seems to have accepted the treat’s shortcoming, and has responded in a temptingly logical way: selling bags of just the crust.

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Ultra-premium green tea pudding costs more than a steak, is probably worth it

One of the first English lessons I taught in Japan was about how to use words like “everywhere” and “nothing.” As part of the class, the students had to practice making sentences with “everyone,” and one woman stood up and gave hers, which was “Everyone likes pudding.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a truer statement. Pudding is universally popular. Even the very wealthy love it, which is why one company in Japan is now selling matcha green tea pudding made from such high-quality ingredients that it costs more than most meals that could precede the tasty dessert.

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