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Filler

This isn’t entirely what I intended to do today, particularly just after another food review, but the planned post is proving to be tougher and more complicated than expected so here is a quickie for you.

For the past few years Pepsi has been producing a special limited edition drink each summer. When I arrived they released a cucumber soda that I sadly didn’t get the chance to try. Last year they brought out a bright blue “Blue Hawaiian” flavour that tasted almost entirely of chemicals.

This year they have something completely different, Shiso Soda.

Shiso (also known as perilla) is a kind of Japanese leaf that is related to mint. It has a really unique flavour, sort of a cross between basil, mint and sprouts with something wholly unique thrown in. Said flavour is really incredibly strong and Shiso tends to be one of those herbs that completely overwhelm a dish. Consequently I do not use it much (although I do know a nice pasta recipe using it). It is not, however, in the slightest bit sweet. Furthermore it has a texture pretty much identical to a stinging nettle and stings your mouth a little when you eat it.

An odd choice for a bottle of pop, wouldn’t you say.

But what really makes the Shiso soda worthy of a blog entry is that this year Coca Cola have seen fit to try and directly compete in the weird summer drink market with their own entry. Green Tea Diet Coke plus catechin (and no, I’m as in the dark as to what a catechin is as you are).

So how do they stack up?

Well being the slightly more normal entry I thought I’d try the coke first.

It smells pretty much exactly how you’d expect. It smells of Diet Coke and faintly of green tea.

But it tastes just like Diet Coke. Now, in fairness I haven’t drunk diet coke in a while no do I have a bottle here to compare and contrast but from memory this is just Diet Coke. If there is a green tea flavour then it is subtle in the extreme.

What about the Shiso Pepsi?

Well first strike against it, it is a violent green colour. That never bodes well and puts me in mind of that Final Fantasy Potion I had last year.

The packaging is much nicer than the coke bottle though. In fact for a soft drink it is almost understated. Look at the sheer amount of text Coca Cola has to cram onto the bottle. That is astonishingly ugly even before the design, horrible clashing colours and clashing styles are factored in. I count at least five different fonts on that bottle which is simply unforgivable.

The Shiso bottle is much simpler in design. All laid out in a simple line format and with less fonts and a nice design that complements rather than clashes with the font.

Can you tell that I am trying to put off drinking it?

It smells unmistakeably of Shiso too. To try and convey that imagine some nettles, cucumbers and plums left to sit in a box together. Shiso is almost like that.

And it tastes, entirely of Shiso. The flavour is pure Shiso to the extent that it isn’t even sweet. It even makes the roof of your mouth tingle in the same way Shiso does.

I’m not certain that is a good ambition for a soft drink to aim for though. The flavour is nice enough but it distinctly savoury and the notion of a savoury drink is more than a little bit off putting. Even most beers are sweeter than this.

Ultimately I don’t think it works. The taste isn’t bad as such but it is so odd that is pretty much impossible to drink a whole bottle of the stuff.

No, I think I shall be sticking with my Pocari Sweat thank you very much.

I mentioned in my post about the ninja museum that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of advertising standards law in Japan preventing exaggerated or false claims made by products. Or if there is then it probably doesn’t apply or get enforced to claims made in English because some of the English blurbs written on products in Japan are unbelievably grand.

I think I have discovered the finest example of this in the form of Starbucks Japan.

Starbucks Japan sells a Chicken club sandwich that contains no chicken.

None.

It does contain crab, salad, mayonnaise and prawns and it is a very tasty sandwich but seriously Starbucks; what’s that all about?

No post tonight, my brain is tired. 

Instead you get this.

A deer attempting to eat metal.

A totem pole of robots.

A misogynist bar.

An actual record found in an actual shop in Shibuya.
(Obviously German beer drinking music was popular enough to warrant a sequel)

The most unappealing Italian restaurant ever.

RanDOM ENglisH CapitALIsAtioN

Something highly disturbing from Shinjuku.

And the most excited shoe shop you have ever seen.

and frankly you should be thankful you even get that.

I’m back.

Sorry for my absence. My parents came to stay with me for three weeks and that coupled with the need to clean the house before their arrival has meant that I have had absolutely zero time for blogging whatsoever.

However, I am now energised with hundreds of pictures and stories and the amount of content on this site is set to skyrocket.

Not today though, today I am tired, so we’ll be going back to an old favourite.

Yes, it’s time for me to review some kit-kats.

First up is the most normal of today’s contenders a dual pack of kit-kat minis; white peach and peach.

The packaging is nothing particularly special and not particularly well done although the peach illustration is nice. Having said that; peach kit-kats don’t seem as out there as watermelon or tea so they probably need less eye catching packaging.

So how do the flavours stack up?

Well peach is delicious. Even the smell is really overtly peachlike. Like all the fruit kit-kats the initial taste isn’t too fruity but there is a strong peach quality to it and the after taste is very strong. It’s a nice complex flavour too and not too sweet. Overall I’d say this was a real homerun for kit-kat.

White peach doesn’t fare quite so well. It doesn’t smell or taste as strong as peach. In fact it is a little bland. It is very creamy though and there are definite fruity notes to it. On its own this wouldn’t be too bad but it stacks up poorly next to peach.

Next we’re onto a pair of drink based kit-kats in the standard Japanese packaging (i.e. 4 finger split into 2 packs of 2) Espresso coffee and Jasmine Tea.

Espresso Coffee has great packaging with a delicious and inviting looking picture of an espresso and some funky swirls and dark notes. It all seems very jazzy. I approve.

I can’t really make up my mind about espresso. On the one hand it in no way shape or form tastes as strong as an espresso coffee. In fact the first few bites are almost totally tasteless. However once you get into it a really, really strong coffee flavour starts to emerge with a lovely aftertaste. I wouldn’t call this an espresso coffee, unless you drink espresso with about 4 sugars, but it is nice.

Jasmine has really cool packaging that is very over the top. Not only is it green and pink (the Japanese colours of spring) but it has tiny flowers on it and an inviting cup of jasmine tea complete with pot! Totally irony free this one, it wants you to feel all springy and by god you will feel springy. I should also mention that I am not allowed to throw away this packet because it has the kanji for jasmine written on it and these are the same kanji that appear in my girlfriend, Mariko’s, name. So she wants to carry it around and show it to random Japanese people.

I was surprised at the colour. Rather than being a white or off-white tea colour it was in fact chocolate coloured. And the taste is distinctly odd. Not unpleasant but very odd. It tastes of both chocolate and jasmine tea at the same time. In fact the jasmine tea flavour is uncanny, particularly the aftertaste. The flavour is a little bit too busy for me personally but they delivered exactly what they promised.

Now onto the truly oddball offers. These are a pair of kit-kats that can only be bought at Tokyo station. They come in a special kind of display package so you can give them to co-workers as gifts, a common practise in Japan known as omiyage.

The writing is all in Japanese in florid letters that I cannot decipher so the flavour could in fact be anything. In fact our brief attempt at decoding it came up with the flavour “shoyu,”… which means soy sauce.

Soy sauce kit-kats? Well, I’ll try anything once.

It is white.

The smell I cannot place.

Ah, it is soy sauce.

Technically it is sweet soy sauce, which is still soy sauce but Japanese people do use it as flavouring for sweets such as dango. I’m not hugely keen on it and my first bite of this was a little weird but actually they’re rather nice. They taste mostly of burnt caramel with a slight sour note and a little bit of a salt note. This means they have a really rich and complicated flavour that hits all the areas of your mouth at once. They’re sweet but not too sweet, a little bitter, a little sour and a little salty. Consequently they are really, really more-ish. A surprising success I’d say.

The next one we literally had no idea what to expect. Our best guess was mushroom but we weren’t nearly as sure as with the soy sauce guess.

I literally have no idea what it is meant to taste like but it does taste nice. It is mostly chocolaty and very, very salty. In fact it is the saltiest kit-kat I think I have ever eaten. There is also a very strong umami feeling (the fifth taste and a big focus of Japanese cooking) and a very complicated rich indefinite note as well. Curiously it lacks a strong after taste, something that flavoured kit-kts tend to have. Frankly I find it too weird and ephemeral to be a big hit but it isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.

You know, I think this sight has been running long enough now that I should actually show you the Mummyboon T-shirt.

Sadly the shirt has shrunk a bit in the wash and has some major bobbling issues on the back, so I can’t really wear it anymore.

I’m going to keep it forever though. It is my first and still my favourite example of an Engrish t-shirt.

The slogan that inspired a site ladies and gentlemen.

Gragh! Blogger isn’t letting me upload pictures from my P.C. tonight (although the problem appears to be with my internet connection rather than blogger) and my promised massive post requires a vast amount of pictures. So, sorry guys it’ll be delayed yet another week.

In place of that lets start a new feature.

Japan: The Good and the Bad (and the occasionally ugly)

The aim of this feature is for me to present two short essays, one bitching about some little irritating feature of life in Japan and the other offering ecstatic praise for something in Japan.

So lets see how this works.

The Bad Number 1: Oil Vans

Staying warm in Japan in winter can be a massive challenge. Homes in Japan have almost no insulation, there is no central heating at all and there are no carpets on the floors. This is not so bad in summer when all anyone wants to do is escape Japan’s tongue-drying heat for just one second, please is that so much to ask!!

Sorry, got a bit carried away there.

But anyway it gets cold in Japan. Not hugely cold but the winter temperatures are certainly comparable to winter in Britain. The lowest extremes in Britain are much lower than in the part of Japan I live in but nonetheless it is cold. In fact it feels even colder because going indoors offers no relief from the cold.

So most people have some kind of free-standing radiator, such as a space heater or an arger. I myself use the heating function on my air conditioner and it is wonderful thank you. Many of these heaters use gas or oil and so of course they need to buy gas or oil.

Enter the oil van.

The oil van sells all kinds of fuel for heaters and drives around residential districts to sell fuel and collect empty canisters.

So far so enterprising and useful.

And of course in the fine tradition of all Japanese mobile businesses the driver sings.

Theoretically.

It is wonderful and charming to be walking down the street at night and hear a man cycling past pushing an oven full of hot potatoes and singing a song about how great his potatoes are. It is like being transported into a bygone age, and it makes you really want a potato.

Such a technique is sued by pretty much every Japanese businessman that has some kind of motorised stall, including the oil van.

But the oil van doesn’t sing. Instead it has enormous speakers mounted on it which blare out the song at roughly the same volume as your average death metal concert. I swear I have been to gigs with quieter speakers than this sodding van. Big gigs too, not ones in pubs, full blown concerts that makes less noise.

I have to turn my television up to almost its full volume to drown out the noise.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the van just used it to announce it’s presence and then got on with it. No, instead the speakers blare every time the van moves so I can be expected to be treated to a cheerful blast at any point for 2 to 3 hours.

Do you know that there are no laws limiting noise pollution in Japan?

What is the oil van man accomplishing with this sonic terrorism? He certainly isn’t attracting any new customers as I and everyone I know have sworn to boycott him. Maybe he is using the speakers in an attempt to oust all the rude gaijin that have moved into Gakuentoshi.

Regardless the oil van man is something BAD about living in Japan.

The Good Number 1: Safety and Honesty

Everyone knows that Japan is a very safe country. Violent crime levels are astonishingly low here. I know of people that have left the country for a holiday and left their front door open whilst they did so with no ill effect. Murder is very uncommon so that single murders still make the news in a way that they simply do not in America or Britain. Drug use is very low and so the associated dealing and gang culture is non-existent. Basically bar a few genuine nutters there just isn’t much crime.

However more important and more surprising than that is the honesty of the Japanese people. British people, on the whole, are not lawbreakers. Very few of the people I know would give serious consideration to breaking and entering, ram raiding or a spot of mugging. Yet, under certain circumstances nearly everyone I know has committed theft. Few would steal a video, but what about download it? What about nicking a pint glass from a pub, trying to use an expired coupon or dodging the fare on a train for a short journey? We’ve all done some kind of small crime like this.

Japanese people don’t though. It wouldn’t occur to them to. Rules are sacrosanct here. In fact in many aspects of life the Japanese positively adore having some extra rules. The more rules there are the less decisions have to be made and the more likely everyone is to act the same and reach a consensus.

In western nations the highest ideal is individual freedom and expression. Rules impose a barrier on this, a restriction on freedom. It is in our nature to enjoy breaking rules. Some of our most revered artists are appreciated because they broke rules (think of any popular punk band for example) and we’ve all broken the rules once or twice and enjoyed it.

In Japan the ideal is harmony. Everyone getting along fine and the whole functioning well. This is why there are so many rules, both official and unofficial. Whilst we have punk Japan has art forms with thousands of rules (such as the tea ceremony) and the finest exponents of it are those which can adhere must strictly and perfectly to the idealised method (or way) laid down in the rules.

So there is very little violent crime, there is an appreciation of rules and restrictions and there is also a tremendous generous impulse towards others.

Take the example of a wallet left on a train. Lose your wallet on a train in Britain and you will likely never get it back. Many people wouldn’t bother making the effort because they assume it to be futile. Either it has been nicked or nobody bothered to give it into lost property and it can now no longer be located.

But just last week a friend of mine lost his wallet and found it the same day. It had been turned in at a police box near the station he obviously dropped it in.

To give a quick comparison here are some things I have lost in Britain and never seen again.

A bag containing a collection of CDs I was using for DJ work.

A camera (pre-digital).

A model tank used for the wargame “warhammer” with a retail value of about £20.

In contrast stuff I have lost in Japan only to have it be returned to me the very same day.

A travellers backpack I was using to go on holiday containing probably about
£400 worth of stuff.

A replica air-soft assault rifle worth about £60.

I can say that living amongst such trusting and thoughtful people is definitely a GOOD thing.

Huge apologies for the lack of updates guys.

I’ve had several irons in the fire recently re: extra-curricular projects and it has reduced my ability to blog.
Ordinarily I’d squeeze out something small and insignificant but the problem is that I’ve been sitting on an absolutely massive blog post that will take a lot of work. It’s also something very original and special and I want to get it right.
I should get it posted tomorrow.
After that and starting from next week I’m going to set myself a target of doing a post 5 days a week. This will likely mean many shorter posts and I don’t expect I will hit this target but I am nonetheless going to try and see what happens. Hopefully I can get some more work out and re-establish a routine.
Until then please enjoy some more brilliant engrish from my students.

I was able to spend the winter break very enhanced.  It said to the New Year’s day visit to a shrine in the sinto shrine at the New Year, the sealed lucky bag was bought, it went to play, and it played with the cousin. It was very happy. I want you to come at the sprng vacation early.

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