189-year old Kyoto tea merchant creates matcha pizzas

But the non-tea toppings are the even bigger surprise.

Being in business for 189 years gives you a chance to experiment with your product lineup, and that’s exactly what tea merchant Itohkyuemon has been doing. Sure, Uji matcha is still the company’s flagship product, but in recent years it’s also offered green tea ice cream, curry, and white wine, and next month it’s set to embark on an all new culinary endeavor with matcha pizza.

With the special pies going on sale right around Valentine’s Day, you might assume they’re dessert pizzas, given how popular matcha sweets have become. But nope, these are main dishes with mozzarella cheese and two different sets of additional topping to choose from.

The major matcha content comes in the crust, which is made with a mixture of Uji matcha powder and Sacco Rosso flour from Naples. Considering how common herbal seasonings are on pizzas, and if you broadly define an herb as an edible leaf, matcha pizza actually doesn’t seem that crazy. What’s likely to be a bit higher hurdle, though, are the other toppings, which are pickled Kyoto vegetables made in the local Kyo-tsukemono style. The Gobo Hakusai Pizza is a non-tomato sauce pizza with crunchy burdock root and crisp Chinese cabbage, while the Suguki Hirona Pizza uses two different types of Japanese turnips.

Unexpected as the combination may be, Itohkyuemon, which spent seven years tinkering with the matcha pizza recipes to get them just right, says the resulting combination of rich, tart, and bitter flavors is a stimulating treat for the taste buds. Both matcha pizzas go on sale February 13, priced at 2,990 yen (US$29) for a bundle of three through Itohkyuemon’s online store.

Related: Itohkyuemon …continue reading


Nissin develops instant-yakisoba-flavored instant yakisoba UFO【Taste Test】

The alpha and omega of special-edition flavors.

Japan has a long tradition of making certain foods taste like other foods, from sake-flavored KitKats to yogurt-flavored sake to yogurt-flavored-sake-flavored KitKats. It’s beginning to feel like it’s all been done before.

However, Nissin, the makers of UFO instant yakisoba, have shown time and time again that they refuse to be confined by the limitations of common sense. The culmination of this philosophy has been their latest creation: normal-UFO-flavored UFO.

Seems simple at first, but when you think about it, the fundamental dilemma becomes: How do you make a normal-UFO-flavored UFO that’s not just a normal UFO?

▼ A normal UFO

The answer is their latest creation White Rich Rich Rich Sauce UFO, which is just Rich Rich Rich Sauce UFO…but white! It even has the slogan of “Pointlessly white!”

▼ Left: White Rich Rich Rich Sauce UFO, Right: Rich Rich Rich Sauce UFO

The package has a colorless manga-theme to go with the food’s new off-white look and promises the exact same taste as normal UFO on the package.

In a press release, Nissin said that it took them over 100 attempts to get it just right. The sort of makes sense since us humans possess a sense of taste that’s easily swayed by our other senses. So radically changing the color of the food might create a bias in the eater’s mind and make an otherwise normal-tasting UFO taste differently. This means they would have to actually adjust the flavor to compensate for that mental bias and thus make it taste normal again.

Or they could just be joking. It’s really hard to tell with these people.

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Weekend Relaxation: 7 Easy Trips from Tokyo to See Snow This Winter

Tokyo only sees snowfall once or twice a year, and the snow usually melts before you can fully enjoy it. Coming from a place where snow carpets the ground almost all winter long, around this time of year, I start to miss the fun of fluffy snow drifts. Fortunately, there are plenty of day (or weekend) trips you can take from Tokyo to find a winter wonderland. Here are seven of the best, listed in order of proximity to the city.

Snow Town Yeti, Shizuoka Prefecture

From Shinjuku Station you can take either the 新宿~箱根桃源台 bus (¥1,710 one way, 1 hr 46 min) or the Romancecar (¥2,860, 1 hr 33 min) to Gotemba Station. From Gotemba Station, the ぐりんぱ線 bus takes you to Snow Town Yeti (¥1,190, 55 min). You can get a discount on the bus from Gotemba if you purchase a set ticket online from Snow Town Yeti in advance, or at the window of the Gotemba bus stop, on the day of.

Right on the slopes of Mt. Fuji, this is one of the closest day trips you can take to go skiing, snowboarding or to just enjoy some snow. Even if it’s not actually snowing on the slopes of Fuji when you go, they make fake snow starting in October. The resort offers three slopes of varying difficulty, and a special snow play area. Plus, it is truly incredible to be able to see the summit of Mt. Fuji from the ski lift.

Access: Around 3hr, ¥2900 – ¥4050

Fujiten Ski Resort, Yamanashi Prefecture

From Shinjuku station take the Chuo line, (1hr 54min, ¥4,130 one way) to Kawaguchiko Station. Then, from Kawaguchiko take the official Fujiten bus, which costs ¥1500 one way, but comes with a special ¥1000 souvenir coupon.

Fujiten Ski Resort is another resort on the slopes of Mt. Fuji …continue reading


New apartment price in greater Tokyo hits 30-year high in 2020

The number of brand-new apartments released for sale across greater Tokyo in 2020 hit the lowest level in 28 years after the coronavirus pandemic saw showrooms shuttered and developers delay sales. A total of 27,228 apartments went on the market, down 12.8% from 2019. Sales are expected to recover in 2021 with 32,000 units forecast to be supplied.

Meanwhile, the average sale price hit the highest level seen since 1990. The average increased by 1.7% from 2019 to 60,840,000 Yen. The average in 1990 was 61,230,000 Yen.

The average price in Tokyo’s 23 wards was 77,120,000 Yen, up 5.8% from 2019, while the average price per square meter was 1,251,000 Yen, up 11.4% from 2019.

Tokyo’s 23 wards saw a 20.6% drop in supply. Saitama Prefecture saw a 26.5% drop while Chiba Prefecture saw a 28.8% increase.

High prices have been the result of sustained construction costs, labor shortages and the high cost of acquiring land for residential developments. Buyers continue to seek convenient, centrally located apartments, with remote work yet to result in any noticeable change in demand for Tokyo properties.

The increase in the average price across the greater Tokyo area may also be due to developers focusing their efforts on sales activities within Tokyo’s 23 wards where they see the strongest demand. The comparatively higher property values in Tokyo are pulling up the average across the greater Tokyo region. New apartment prices in Chiba Prefecture actually dropped 0.5% from 2019, while Saitama (+1.2%) and Kanagawa (+2.7%) saw mild increases.

The most expensive apartment to go on sale was a 183 sqm (1,970 sq.ft) 2-Bed, 1-Bath penthouse in Proud Daikanyama Front that was listed for 690,000,000 Yen. The sale price works out to around 3,769,000 Yen/sqm (approx. US$3,375/sq.ft). Non-penthouse units in the building were priced from 2,100,000 ~ 2,900,000 Yen/sqm (approx. US$1,880 ~ …continue reading


A striking Japanese woman looking into the light

Source: Tokyo Times
A striking Japanese woman looking into the light

My favourite photo from this location is in black and white — the composition and subject matter seemed best suited to an absence of colour. This young woman’s striking eye shadow, on the other hand, and the vivid splash of red from the inside of her coat, made the inclusion of colour a similarly obvious choice. Two images that have such a lot in common, and yet at the same time feel absolutely worlds apart.

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Celebrate 50 years of McDonald’s Japan by walking through history, from 1971 to today【Video】

McDonald’s Japan takes a look back on the last half-century while saying thank you to customers.

Can you believe that McDonald’s Japan is 50 years old this year? The company founded in May 1971 as Nippon McDonald’s Holdings, Inc., and since then it has grown exponentially to offer its delicious staple and limited-time-only menu items all across the country, as well as to supply us at SoraNews24 with endless opportunities for quality journalistic content.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, they’ve dedicated a section of their website to commemorating their 50-year history, and also posted a time-hop video retrospective.

The video covers the company’s history from the opening of the first-ever Japanese branch in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district, shown here.

From there, the video takes us past other milestones for the chain in Japan, such as opening its first Japanese drive-through location (in 1977), the introduction of its beloved Tsukimi “Moon-Viewing” Burger (1991), the start of its home delivery service (2010, seven whole years before Uber Eats could bring you your McDonald’s fix in Japan), and the introduction of mobile ordering in all branches (2020).

McDonald’s Japan’s 50th anniversary website also features a section titled “Memories,” with a photo-enhanced a timeline of important moments in the chain’s history. For example, did you know that the first McDonald’s branch, which was located on the first floor of Ginza’s Mitsukoshi shopping center in Tokyo, had to be constructed in 39 hours, in between the shopping center’s operating hours so as not to …continue reading


PS5 chaos at Akihabara as customers rush to grab new consoles【Videos】

Police called due to out-of-control crowd, sparking a heated debate on resellers in Japan.

Ever since Sony’s PlayStation 5 was released in November, gamers around the world have been struggling to get their hands on one of the long-awaited next-gen consoles.

So when people in Japan heard news of a retailer in Akihabara possibly releasing a batch in a surprise “guerilla sale”, word soon spread around the Internet, and scenes of chaos ensued on sale day.

▼ On the morning of 30 January, hopeful customers lined up outside electronics retail giant Yodobashi Camera well before it opened.

アキバヨドバシ、やばい。めっちゃおるやん!#ヨドバシ #アキバ #ps5 pic.twitter.com/3gpSSFWR7E

— LOPE-CHIÑO (@LOPECHIY) January 30, 2021

This video shows people milling about the store before the release, on standby to race forward as soon as the PS5s became available.

みんな待機中 pic.twitter.com/aTwZ9T1Se5

— ひよこぉぉぉぉ!🐥 (@uetyan01) January 30, 2021

As soon as staff appeared, with a sign often used at events to mark the end of the line in a queue, everyone sprang to action.

一瞬最後尾札持ったスタッフが出てきてたけどほぼ暴動だったからやめたっぽいww pic.twitter.com/mhjzjDIY0G

— シエル (@CIEL_00) January 30, 2021

Photos showed people shoulder-to-shoulder, forming a crowd that eventually ended up surging forward dangerously.

少なくともこのご時世にこのなかに踏み込んでまで買うもんではない pic.twitter.com/DCJ1fqdUKt

— シエル (@CIEL_00) January 30, 2021

左上の日向坂が収入面では格上なの社会の構図っぽくて好き。 pic.twitter.com/Qs3Qa8jBWT

— YAMATO (@yamato__1234) January 30, 2021

▼ Witnesses say the crowd surge was so strong it pushed the registers back.

SwitchのSDカード買いに来ただけなのに#ps5 pic.twitter.com/l8iT4GmdZa

— たけ (@gttae63) January 30, 2021

Twitter user Dave Gibson got caught up in the crowd, and he says the store gave no clear instructions to customers about a possible PS5 release, so as soon as about 15 new staff arrived and …continue reading


The Manga Life over the Suburban Life

Witch Hat Atelier art

As a kid-to-early teenager growing up, I was enamored by Highlander: The Series. I was fascinated with the idea of immortal beings who went through notable historic periods that are alive today and fighting one another in modern urban settings. Out of that love, I went into other series/franchises with a modern fantasy element.

One of those series was BLEACH. I was impressed with the idea of a evil-spirit hunting modern-day teen hero fighting to protect his home, Karakura Town. However, I was more enamored with the introduction and exploration into Soul Society, a world that’s more in-line with an ancient world and with fascinating characters to boot compared to Karakura Town’s suburban vibe and cast.

So what am I getting at here? I read something fascinating of note last year regarding children’s literature. The article in question was about why the setting in most children’s books don’t take place in suburban areas.

There’s some good arguments on why that’s the case. One argument is that cities, when compared to the suburbs, have more things to do and different types of people to see. Another argument suggests that suburbs aren’t ripe for exploration as they’re not surrounded by nature, but by houses/garages/malls/etc. I do think the best explanation for why suburbia isn’t that popular for a children’s book setting is because it’s just downright boring.

Now back to BLEACH. Imagine if the entire story took place in Karakura Town. While seeing more Hollows and Soul Reapers duke it out at a local high school is cool, it feels limiting because fans will start to wonder where did all these spiritual beings come from and what those worlds are like. Fans want to see what those areas are like.

The human mind loves to come up …continue reading


Mangaka Are Flawed People Like You and I

If Shonen Jump is considered to be the “World’s Most Popular Manga,” then you can bet that the creators behind the magazine’s landmark series are some of the most popular people in the world today.

Of course, with the attention Shonen Jump series get, there always comes the chance of a big problem that gets exposed.

And recently, this was the case as Nobuhiko Watsuki, creator of Rurouni Kenshin, had a big exhibition for the series in Japan. This comes off his conviction of having child pornography in his possession and not having to be in jail for an indefinite period of time (compared to what he would face in the West). What got many fans talking was the fact that 14 notable mangaka with ties to Shueisha wrote congratulatory messages for Watsuki and causing (mostly Western) fans of those mangaka to have conflicting feelings over their favorite creators for celebrating someone who’s a convicted pedophile.

Eiichiro Oda, Masashi Kishimoto, Hideaki Sorachi, Yusei Matsui, Takeshi Obata, Hiroyuki Takei are just some of the familiar names many manga fans will recognize that praised Watsuki. Seeing Sorachi’s name does worry me a bit since I know he’s done jokes about lolicons and such. I think what it comes down to is how close-knit mangaka are with each other. The manga industry is extremely rough and insular. There’s little room for social interaction outside of work, so it’s usually your co-workers that you talk to the most at times. I know Oda was an assistant under Watsuki before creating One Piece, so there’s also the senpai-kouhai relationship in play here as well.

This doesn’t excuse Watsuki for what he did. I’m not sure if he’s truly apologetic for his actions. I did hear that one of the major reasons that Watsuki was …continue reading


Shunkoji Temple Yatsushiro

After four days of following the Kumagawa River downstream, on day 44 of my walk around Kyushu I emerge from the mountains onto the estuary and coastal plain of Yatsushiro.The city is still some miles distant, but its skyline is dominated by the multiple, belching smokestacks of the giant papermill. However, along the edge of the mountains are numerous shrines and temples and the first I visit

…continue reading