sweets

With autumn nearly here, we skip the beach and head to Starbucks for new caramel beverages

With autumn nearly here, we skip the beach and head to Starbucks for new caramel beverages

With the calendar now flipped to September, we’ve got to sadly admit that summer is winding down. Japanese society is always in tune with the changing of the seasons, and as autumn starts you’ll see fashionable Tokyoites sporting their fall coats, nature lovers heading for the mountains to appreciate the changing leaves, and Starbucks rolling out seasonal drinks like its new Caramel and Pudding Frappuccino and Shaken Caramel Custard and Espresso.

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Smash & Eat: We try a playful Korean sweet you have to hit with a hammer to enjoy

Smash & Eat: We try a playful Korean sweet you have to hit with a hammer to enjoy

They say girls love sweets because the endorphins released when eating them help to get rid of bad moods and make everything better. But if we’re being honest, most people of any gender want their foul moods to be whisked away by the delightful taste of sugary sweets! However, sometimes your problems can’t be solved with just cakes and ice cream and you still have so much pent-up frustration that can only be released by DESTROYING something. If you run into this kind of situation, we have the perfect solution for you: a popular sweet from Korea that must first be smashed with a hammer before you can enjoy it.

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Awesome melon bread with ice cream comes to Shibuya, so we do too!

Awesome melon bread with ice cream comes to Shibuya, so we do too!

Last spring, we spent an afternoon drooling over photos from a bakery in the city of Kanazawa that came up with the ingenious idea of combining melon bread with ice cream. Unfortunately, the four-and-a-half hour train journey from Tokyo to Ishikawa kept us from picking up some samples of the tasty-looking treats.

But now our dairy-based prayers have been answered, as the same bakery has opened a new location in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward. Since that’s just three stops away from the RocketNews24 offices in Shinjuku, as soon as we found out about the new branch, we were on the next train.

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Cute cat cakes captivate our culinary cravings

Cute cat cakes captivate our culinary cravings

Some people say if something tastes good, it has to be bad for you. We understand that they’re usually talking about sugary, salty, or fatty foods, and nutritionally speaking, they’ve kind of got a point.

But while we definitely wouldn’t classify any of them as low-calorie, diet-friendly snacks, we still can’t bring ourselves to use the word “bad” in describing these adorable cat cakes and lattes.

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Matcha Oreo McFlurries tempting us to forgive McDonald’s Japan’s lack of originality

Matcha Oreo McFlurries tempting us to forgive McDonald’s Japan’s lack of originality

When I was a kid, we never had Oreos in my house. This wasn’t because my parents had a no-sweets policy, but because the pantry was well-stocked with similar Hydrox sandwich cookies instead.

But while Hydroxes actually predate Oreos by a whole four years, it’s the latter that went on to international fame and fortune. It’s a pretty similar tale to that of Dairy Queen’s Blizzard, which has been largely overshadowed by McDonald’s McFlurry, a nearly identical dessert of ice cream mixed with cookies or candy that came out more than a decade after Dairy Queen’s original.

So while the double imitation of an Oreo McFlurry might seem completely derivative, starting next month in Japan there’s a tasty bit of innovation you can look forward to, as McDonald’s Japan is bringing back matcha Oreo McFlurries.

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Wagashi chef crafts amazing edible characters with leftover scraps 【Photos】

Wagashi chef crafts amazing edible characters with leftover scraps 【Photos】

Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets usually made from mochi, bean paste, or fruit.  If you’ve been to Japan or a nice Japanese restaurant, perhaps you enjoyed one sculpted to look like a flower, crane or some other very old-fashioned Japanese image.

Like most things in Japan, no matter how venerable, give it enough time and it will be kawaii-ified. Enter sweets shop Kuramoto Hinode, where a veteran wagashi chef has begun crafting anime and pop culture based sweets with leftover bits and bobs.

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Want to read manga and eat ice cream for free? Give blood in Akihabara

Want to read manga and eat ice cream for free? Give blood in Akihabara

When I was in high school, every year there was an on-campus blood drive. It always saw a pretty good turnout, with a large number of generous and socially conscious students willing to part with their home-brewed hemoglobin to help others. The organizers even sweetened the deal by holding the event in the middle of the day, meaning that you could get out of a period of class by participating. And while that’s a pretty nice incentive, I think it’s been one-upped by a blood bank in Tokyo that offers a bookshelf of free manga to read and ice cream to munch on.

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Kichijoji’s Kotori Cafe serves up adorable bird-themed desserts, serenades you with birdsong

Kichijoji’s Kotori Cafe serves up adorable bird-themed desserts, serenades you with birdsong

Where once felines reigned supreme, themed cafes featuring a wide variety of animals are popping up all over Japan, from countryside hideaways to cafes in high-end shopping districts. So far we’ve seen cat, rabbit, and owl cafes and they are becoming increasingly common sights.

But what if you’re not a fan of those particular animals? Fear not! The latest addition to the cafe scene gives you yet another option – to enjoy your afternoon latte in the company of cute little birds!

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We take Doraemon home and eat him (in cream bun form)【Taste test】

We take Doraemon home and eat him (in cream bun form)【Taste test】

To get an idea of just what a huge cultural icon Doraemon is in Japan, all you have to do is take a look at the theatrical versions of the anime robot cat’s adventures. The first Doraemon movie was released in 1980, and a new film in the franchise has hit Japanese theatres like clockwork every year since, with the lone exception of 2005. Perhaps in apology for the tiny break in the streak, Doraemon’s producers gave us two films this year. The second just premiered this month, and even though Stand by Me Doraemon is the 35th movie in the series, it still breaks new ground by being the first to be computer-animated.

CG isn’t the only new frontier the beloved character is challenging though, as he’s going one more place he’s never been before: our bellies, in the form of the Doraemon cream bun.

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We drown and freeze our troubles at the same time with alcoholic shochu shaved ice

We drown and freeze our troubles at the same time with alcoholic shochu shaved ice

We were feeling a little blue yesterday. You see, the RocketNews24 office is just a short walk away from the Isetan department store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku. Earlier in the week, we’d stopped by to see the ferociously cuddly stuffed Godzilla that had been on display, but sadly, August 5 was his last day at Isetan.

It was sad to be parted from the King of the Plush Monsters, but as the saying goes, God never closes a door without opening a window. Or in this case, a bottle, because Isetan also has something that can drown the sorrow in our hearts while cooling us off in the oppressive summer heat: alcoholic shaved ice with shochu.

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The fantastic feast of festival food in Japan

The fantastic feast of festival food in Japan

During the year of college I spent studying at Waseda University, I lived with a Japanese family in the suburbs of Tokyo. They were extremely hospitable and took great care of me, guiding me around the neighborhood and helping me improve my language skills.

Still, looking back, there’s one thing they did that I still can’t wrap my head around. One night we were headed to a local festival, and before we left, my host mom prepared a huge dinner, so that we wouldn’t get hungry and have to buy anything at the food stalls there.

Honestly, in my mind, buying munchies on-site was half the fun of going to those kinds of events. An additional decade of living in Japan has only strengthened my opinion on the matter, and as proof, here are 18 of Japan’s best festival foods.

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Fermented soybean shaved ice pushes the envelope of summertime sweets

Fermented soybean shaved ice pushes the envelope of summertime sweets

One of Japan’s favorite summertime treats is a bowl of shaved ice, or kakigori, as it’s called over here. While the most popular and common flavors are things like strawberry, melon and lemon, every now and again someplace will get really creative, like the restaurant in Kyoto that’s offering shaved ice covered with whiskey.

So now that we have nightcap-style kakigori covered, how about the opposite: a bowl of shaved ice covered with the Japanese breakfast staple natto, also known as fermented soybeans?

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Unagi pastries contain no eel, tons of cuteness

Unagi pastries contain no eel, tons of cuteness

Even though I was an extremely finicky eater growing up, my palate has broadened quite a bit since moving to Japan. In the years I’ve spent living in Tokyo and Yokohama, I’ve become convinced that cooking a cut of tuna is the quickest way to ruin its flavor, spicy cod roe makes an excellent pasta sauce, and that chicken cartilage isn’t just something you can eat, but should.

Still, I’m not entirely sold on unagi, or freshwater eel. Honestly, the flavor is surprisingly mild and not unpleasant, but I still have a hard time getting past the mental image of the snake-like appearance for something that, in my opinion, tastes just OK and is a little on the expensive side.

On the other hand, unagi-shaped chocolate pastries make a much more compelling argument.

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Baked Kit Kats now showing up in cakes, parfaits, and crepes across Japan

Baked Kit Kats now showing up in cakes, parfaits, and crepes across Japan

In the four months since we got our first taste of baked Kit Kats, we’ve been enjoying as many of them as we can. Still, sometimes our sweet teeth are at odds with our lazier tendencies, and we can’t be bothered to cook the things ourselves. Plus. Lately we’ve started feeling a little guilty for neglecting all the other desserts we love.

So we were happy to find out that Nestle Japan is currently recruiting restaurants to combine baked Kit Kats with cakes, parfaits, and crepes, and the results are already hitting plates and bowls across Japan.

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Whiskey shaved ice: A frozen treat for adults in Kyoto

Whiskey shaved ice: A frozen treat for adults in Kyoto

One of the most popular ways to cool yourself off during a muggy Japanese summer is with a bowl of shaved ice, known as kakigoori. However, not everyone has the sweet tooth or enduring connection to their inner child that’s necessary to enjoy the brightly colored, syrupy sweet frozen treat that’s usually flavored like strawberry, melon, or lemon.

Thankfully, if you’re looking for a chilled dessert that’s a little more adult, a restaurant in Kyoto has just the thing: shaved ice with whiskey.

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Crepe made with Kyoto sweets and green tea is the perfect treat after a day of temple hopping

Crepe made with Kyoto sweets and green tea is the perfect treat after a day of temple hopping

With its quiet gardens and tranquil temples, you might think that Kyoto is strictly the domain of serious ascetics. Japan’s former capital is a city with well over a million residents, and attracts visitors from all over the world. With so many people milling about, there are plenty of people looking for a little indulgence, and while for some that means a stiff drink served by a monk, others are looking to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Japan has a long-standing love affair with crepes, and during our recent visit to Kyoto we found a uniquely tantalizing version of the rolled pastry that incorporates both green tea powder and Kyoto’s most famous traditional Japanese sweet, yatsuhashi.

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Honey-sweet Winnie the Pooh cakes now on sale — and you’ll love the packaging! 【Taste Test】

Honey-sweet Winnie the Pooh cakes now on sale — and you’ll love the packaging! 【Taste Test】

Winnie the Pooh definitely loves his honey, doesn’t he? Well, here in Japan, August 3 is apparently “Honey Day” (Hachimitsu no Hi),  based on the fact that the numbers eight (hachi) and three (san, or sometimes pronounced mittsu when counting objects), sounds like honey in Japanese (hachimitsu) when combined. And in honor of the day that celebrates his favorite food, Pooh bear has teamed up with Japanese confection maker Ginza Cozy Corner to offer the sweets-loving Japanese public some  honey-flavored goodness this summer. It’s the Honey Lemon Madeleine featuring adorable Winnie the Pooh packaging,  and of course, we had to try some ourselves!

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Japan’s Glico lets snackers turn their empty boxes into augmented reality sets for Doraemon!

Japan’s Glico lets snackers turn their empty boxes into augmented reality sets for Doraemon!

Famous Japanese confectioner Glico has been bringing us iconic Japanese sweets like Pretz and Pocky for decades. Now they have a real treat in store for us, thanks to an extra-special line-up to celebrate the upcoming 3-D movie, Stand By Me Doraemon.

The new specially marked packs include a hidden secret: 3-D moving images of Doraemon that come to life in your home. But these aren’t just any images. They’re created by you, with your very own colours and designs transformed into unbelievable, moving images, each with Doraemon acting out a fun scene before your very eyes! Check out all the different designs after the jump.

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We wait almost two hours for a rum parfait in Hokkaido, and it’s totally worth it

We wait almost two hours for a rum parfait in Hokkaido, and it’s totally worth it

Running a restaurant is tough work, as anyone who’s ever worked as a server, cook, or manager can tell you. Especially in Japan, a country where a good meal is considered one of the best things that can happen during your day, we try to give the staff the benefit of the doubt that they’re preparing our food as quickly as they can, while still maintaining the levels of flavor and presentation customers expect.

Still, we have to admit our patience was tested when we walked into a restaurant in Sapporo and ordered a single parfait. We were pretty surprised when well over an hour later, it still hadn’t come.

Then we were even more shocked when we finally got to eat our dessert and found out it was well worth the wait.

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The top 10 sweet souvenirs in Tokyo

The top 10 sweet souvenirs in Tokyo

If you’re lucky enough to take a trip over to Tokyo, it’s best to bring a little slice of Japan’s capital back home for those who missed out on your trip. But with all the delectable sweets and beautifully packaged treats, it can be a little overwhelming to choose the right one. So before you leave, be sure to take a look at this list of the top 10 omiyage you can only buy at Tokyo Station.

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