Monday, October 20, 2014

The (za) chocolate commercial

I really can't decide which is the more cringe worthy. The fact that Meji have decided to call this particular product "the"; or the woeful pronunciation of the word...."za"! 

 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis Commercials

I must say, I'm enjoying the new add campaign Kowa coffee are doing. It's always good to see the legendary Schwarzenegger in the spotlight. "POWAAAAAAAAA"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Japanese restaurant review - Ganko Tonkatsu


ganko
Time for another review, this time we'll be doing a tonkatsu restaurant, in this case Ganko tonkatsu.

Ganko is quite a large chain food store in Japan which specializes in traditional foods. It's probably most well known for it's izkaiya and sushi chains.

Ganko chains have a reputation of bring reasonably priced, yet pride themselves on offering top quality food. This is the first time I have visited one of their tonkatsu restaurants though so I was quite excited.

The menu was quite extensive, offering a wide selection of choices. After five minutes of considering what to order; I settled on the rosu katsu, ebi kaki fry (pork, shrimp, oyster) set (as pictured below).                                                                                                                                     







Each patron is served with a fresh glass of kocha that is readily topped up by friendly, helpful staff.


Waiting time is not so long, it took no longer than five minutes for my plate to arrive and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. This is one of those rare cases in which the real thing actually looks almost as good as the picture in the menu.



Each plate is served with a side order of tartar sauce, seaweed miso soup, a bowl of rice and the conventional shredded raw cabbage that accompanies most set menus in Japan. I'm not a huge fan of the cabbage as you need to add a lot of dressing to make it edible. Next to each table there are two large pots containing tonkatsu sauce and a jar of all you can eat pickles. The rice and cabbage are also on an all you can eat service, so you may order as much rice/raw cabbage as you wish. 

What is unique to Ganko tonkatsu, is the little bowl of goma (sesame) seeds that comes with every order. Essentially you are given a little bowl to crush down these seeds into a powder which then can be mixed into your tonkatsu sauce. like so-


Mixing the goma with the sauce made a very nice tasting combination. 

As for the actual tonkatsu-

It was dry and crispy, plenty of crunch when you bight into it. Some people prefer the heavy/greasy type of katsu. Personally I'd prefer mine like this. The shrimp and oyster also tasted very fresh. 

There was plenty on my plate, so I definitely got my fill without having to order more rice. The meal came in and around the 7000 yen mark, so plenty of value for money. Overall, a good experience. Ganko tonkatsu restaurants can be found in most city areas. I Would recommend hitting one up, so by all means; pop into one if you get the chance.



Wonder core commercials

So, I'm totally loving the new Wonder core commercial.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My top ten reasons for living in Japan.

 I'll never forget the first day I arrived in Japan. It would be hard to forget really, as I actually arrived on the same day as my birthday, my twenty fourth birthday to be exact. Seven years has passed now since that first day, and of these seven years, I have only made three trips back to my native homeland of Northern Ireland. I guess it's fair to say that at this point, I have basically settled in and will probably be here to stay. Often I get asked by curious friends and family members why I have chosen to set up camp so far away and in such a place as culturally obscure/different as Japan. True, it may seem a little puzzling to a lot of people; but all that obscurity tends to diminish after a while and there are a lot of reasons why Japan holds such grasp on expats such as myself. I really struggle to find any one defining reason why I chosen to live here, but I have managed to narrow it down to a top ten list. So, without further ado and in no particular order; here is my top ten list for living in Japan-

 1- The Food.




Food, I can talk about food all day every day. I bloody well love food. It doesn't matter what kind of food it is; usually if it's edible, I'll probably like it (with a few exceptions of course). Japan in particular hosts a whole range of foods that just about cover everything from the mouthwatering, to the exotically bizarre. The sheer amount of "traditional" Japanese dishes is staggering, there are simply too many to mention. It's not uncommon to find yourself spending forever looking for a place to sit down and eat, as there is so much choice to be had. The best part about the food in Japan is that it is very affordable. Personally I eat out here more than I ever did back home. The quality of food is also held to a very high standard. A restaurant serving mediocre food would probably not stay open for long regardless of how cheap the prices are. If there's one thing the Japanese take seriously, it's food. One of the most used words on a daily basis in the Japanese language is
 Oishii (おいしい), meaning "delicious". An added bonus to dining on Japanese food is that it tends to be healthy too.

2- Low crime.

"Japan is a safety country". Bad grammar aside, this is something that you are very likely to hear the locals
say on a regular basis. Statistically speaking, Japan is one of the safest countries to live in. I can't think of any one particular moment in which I have felt threatened or in fear for my life. Violence isn't something generally witnessed in public and people tend to avoid confrontation. Murder rates are some of the lowest in the world and generally speaking, your belongings tend to be safe. As a matter of fact, I have misplaced my cellphone and had it returned twice, and in one case, my wallet returned (intact with cash inside). Of course Japan is not completely crime free. The Yakuza are still a powerful presence in the underworld and Japan is notorious for crimes of a bizarre sexual nature, the most common of these being pantie thieving, public groping/molestation and public masturbation.Personally I have witnessed public masturbation on several occasions; to which I didn't hang around to see the grand finish for any of them. Generally speaking though, you should be safe.

3- I learn something new almost everyday.

Nope, I'm not just saying this. Even after seven years of living here I am still learning something new almost every day. If you are purposely making an effort to take in the culture and learn the language you will almost certainly be learning new stuff on a frequent basis. Knowing that there is always something I was unaware of keeps my time here fresh and exciting.


4- 24 hour lifestyle   


There really is a culture of the 24 hour lifestyle. I can literally walk outside my door and do all my errands at any time of the day. The 24 hour convenience store is still something that I find hard wrapping my head around. I can walk into a 7/11 and buy some beers at 2am if I pleased. The bad point about this is, I can walk into a 7/11 and buy a beer at 2am! (You see what I did there; right?) Convenience stores aside, ask most establishments what time they close at on a Saturday night, and theanswer you are likely to get is "whenever the last customer leaves."

5- There's always something to do

I never really struggle with boredom here. Some people do, but I always find myself having something or another planned for a day off. There are 101 things to do where I am located, and all I have to do is go outside my door and walk for a bit. Even if I don't have anything planned, I usually end up doing something. Part of this may just be due to living in a large city of course, but I do believe the choice of things to do vast outnumbers that of where I grew up. It also helps that Japan has an amazing outdoor activity scene too. When bored of the city, the option is always there to go hiking, skiing, rock climbing or simply venturing to a forest to take in some peace and quiet. Japan also boast a large number of national heritage sights and has a vast amount of temples or shrines to visit. If you fancy a bit of shopping, no matter what particular item you are looking for, chances are, you'll find it somewhere.

6- Opportunity/Work

Being a native speaker of English is a huge advantage not only in Japan, but all over the world. In Japan there are so many jobs available with the requirement of "native English speaker". Being in Japan, one really is a minority in this respect; so immediately there are a lot of opportunities. Knuckle down and learn the language and that's an added bonus. For myself, Europe is looking somewhat bleak when it comes to the job market. By contrast in Japan, I have always been able to land a job with a decent salary. Sure, there are limitations/restrictions to us Westerners at times (the Gaijin-glass ceiling). In general though there is a fairly decent job market here.

7 - Customer service  


In Japan there is a saying, "The customer is GOD!". A huge amount of pride goes into the customer service here. In Japan, everybody has a particular role to play and this shines through the form service. It is very rare to come across a disgruntled waiter/waitress and people genuinely try to bend over backwards to help you with your needs. This only really rang true with me after my first visit home from being in Japan for three years. Talk about reverse culture shock! As soon as I arrived in Heathrow airport I was met with unhelpful staff when asking for directions and had a store clerk bark at me for only having large notes when wanting to make a purchase. It took me a while to get used to the fact that not giving a shit about your job, or talking back to customers is the cultural norm back home. It  certainly did make me appreciate the service in Japan a lot more. Again not everyone here treats the customer in such high regard and there are exceptions to the rule. Some might even complain that the customer service is somewhat "fake" or "put-on". Personally I'd prefer good service (fake or not) as opposed to honest/rude service.

8- Seasonal events


All year round, Japan celebrates the seasons in very distinct ways; mainly through means of festivals. There are so many festivals all over Japan that it would be simply impossible to mention them all here. A lot of them involve wearing traditional garb such as kimonos, yukatas or jinbei. Most (especially in summer) host huge, spectacular firework displays and almost all of them have various festival foods that can be bought from street vendors. In Autumn it is very common to have food festivals,as the food is said to be at it's most delicious at this time of year. Spring is the season for cherry blossom and it is a beautiful sight to behold indeed. Whole parks can be seen awash with pink sakura trees as people crowd underneath them to have picnics. Winter is the perfect time to go skiing or snowboarding. Japan has a wide variety of mountains and it has been claimed that some of them  get the best snow in the world.

9- I'm a lot healthier

It is a known fact that people live to a ripe old age in Japan. In fact, over 23% of the whole population is over 65 years of age. That's a staggering statistic; it means Japan ranks second in the world for those that are of the age of retirement. Japan also ranks number one in the world for those over the age of 100. It could be argued that a lot of this may be down to genetics; I personally believe that a lot of it may also be down to diet and lifestyle though! A look at the average Japanese diet reveals dishes rich in vegetables and fibre laden nutrition. Culturally, junk food is usually eaten a few times a month and is not really considered "food". The Japanese are obsessed with freshness and seasonal vegetables. Meat also comes secondary when compared to seafood which is the favored source of protein. Things such as soft drinks also take a back burner to the preferred drink of choice which is green tea. I was (pleasantly) surprised when I first arrived in Japan to see kids clutching bottles of green tea over bottles of cola. Kids as young as 3 bring their bottles of tea to school. Personally I feel relatively less stress here than I did back home. I work longer hours and more days than most back home, but I honestly can say that my days "feel" a lot less stressful.

10- It's a challenge

This might seem like a negative, and to be honest, it definitely is for most. I know that when I first arrived, I honestly was questioning what the hell I was doing leaving my home to come here. There are so many challenges to living in Japan that it sends one's head spinning at times. The most obvious of course is the language barrier. Japanese, indeed is not an easy language to grasp at all, but it does come with time. Even after seven years of being here though, there are times that I still really do struggle. Particularly when doing complicated paperwork associated with government bodies and the likes. Another less spoken about challenge is that of trying to change hearts and minds of the local people. The Japanese still have strange notions about those that are non-Japanese, and it can be very frustrating at times being a foreigner and wanting to live long term in the country. For the most part people will treat you well and with respect, and often times (I've found) genuine curiosity is mistaken for rudeness. Stereotypes do run quite rampant here though and you may find that people will often be dismissive of you, treat you with suspicion (especially the police) or sometimes outright panic at being in the same room as you. I have found though that Japan has been getting better with internationalizing itself within the past few years. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue with the years to come. Though it can be frustrating at times, living in Japan is certainly colorful and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now we have the good points covered,  I will be doing a follow up soon, on my top 10 most difficult things about living in Japan. Don't forget to subscribe.

- Sam Johnston



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Japan review - Paprika Chips (パプリカチップス)



Time for another Japan review; this time Paprika Chips. Keeping the theme of dried/fried vegetable snacks I decided to give these bad boys a go. Purchased from my local 7/11, this packet cost  2.99円 which is considerably more expensive than the Vegips; however this packet was a lot larger in size.

The first thing to notice here is the quality of the packet. The plastic is quite sturdy and contains one of those resealable things at the top of the pack. Similar to the Vegips, the claims of lots of vitamins and a super delicious tasting product is plastered all over the packaging. This product is from Yokoyama brand, and is the first time I've tried any of their products.

See video below for a full review.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why are Japanese people so scared of rain?



I'm sitting next to my new co worker Eric, when all of a sudden, the head of our department Mr.Kobayashi walks past us in a bit of a mad dash. He's headed for the exit it would appear, and he's sporting a raincoat the likes of which I've only ever seen jungle commandos wear in Hollywood movies. It's the kind of thing that might be appropriate on-board a boat from the turn of the century; wading through some hellish storm. He has knee high fisherman boots to match his getup. Eric's eyes widen as Mr. Kobayashi's final words before leaving are, "Rain is coming, please take care!" Stunned by these Yoda-like words of wisdom, Eric appears to have a mini internal panic attack as visions of some tropical tsunami probably cloud his vision. As he is only new to Japan by a matter of months, this all seems slightly unnerving. I try to assure him as best I can, that although Mr.Kobayashi has prepared for the flood that almost destroyed mankind during the time of Noah; there is no such need for alarm. I try to explain that the Japanese tend to overreact somewhat to rain. Due to the dramatic nature of Mr. Kobayashi's gear though, Eric is not easily persuaded. An hour passes however and the only significant downpour that occurs is what I would be inclined to describe as drizzle. This doesn't stop other co-workers scrambling to pick up the spare umbrellas that happen to be laying around though. As the day ends and it is clear that no storm is coming; Eric finally sees that there is nothing of cause to worry about. "Why the hell is everyone stressing over this drizzle?" he asks. Strangely, I don't really have a definite answer. I know that culturally, Japanese people avoid the rain like it's pure corrosive acid, I'm not sure exactly why though. Coming from a country that should be used to Tropical downpours for weeks on end, I often find myself bemused by the stress and panic.

Over the years I have heard some plausible ideas to this phenomenon of damp inducing terror. One of the first and probably more likely reasons is the whole idea of general good manners. Simply put, it is considered somewhat rude to enter a house wet. This would be understandable, however the reaction to rain at times appears to be intense panic. It's not so uncommon to see office workers sprinting for cover, as if avoiding bomb shrapnel. Those that have been unfortunate enough to forget their umbrellas clutch briefcases or handbags to their head, as they have morbid visions of damp roots. Sacrificing a leather, Louis Vuitton limited edition bag is well worth the comfort of a dry scalp! The strangest sight I've seen was an old lady wearing a makeshift plastic-bag for a rain hat. Ridiculous, though innovative non the less.

One of the more vexing phenomenas of this phobia is the phantom rain. This is when one can see a whole street full of people with umbrellas raised, however there is no rain falling. Usually the ground is wet, however the skies are dry. Is this a precaution maybe, to intercept the rain before it has had a chance to fall on anyone? A recent fashion trend has also seen the general public wearing wellington boots in place of shoes. That's right, people are now wearing their boots to go to the office or do their shopping on the high street. Maybe I'm just not up with the current trends, but I thought wellington boots were for wading through the mud on a farm? Anyhow, if anyone can shed some light on this fear of rain; please let me know.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

harrojapan - Vegips review

Whats that you say? They are vegetables, but they are also chips? Oh my, they are even called "Vegips"!?

Welcome to the latest craze in the Japanese snack industry (which is huge); drying out vegetables and turning them into a (supposedly) healthier alternative to the traditional potato chip. 

I've seen these type of products around for quite a while here now, but haven't quite gotten around to trying any of them. Today, out of curiosity, I have decided to take the plunge and review a packet. Vegips appear to be one of the most popular brands around, so a good starting point; I presume.  

Vegips come in various flavors. Some of which include- onion and Japanese pumpkin, sweet potato and pumpkin, carrot and mushroom and a host of others. The packet I've decided to review today is sweet potato and Japanese pumpkin. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Osaka Facebook Group





Mokka Osaka is an online resource set up for those who live in and around Osaka. It is set up for those wishing to share and find out more information on daily life within and around the city.

It's specifically useful for expats and long term residents.

Their new facebook page can be found HERE

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comical Japanese sushi commercials

A collection of amusing "gin no sara" (銀のさら) commercials.

Few old classics here; enjoy!

Downtown batsu - The ass game

Another Batsu game. This one is quite a retro edition as the crew are looking kind of young. Matumoto still has hair!

The rules are simple, both contestants must reply with the same answer to each question. If they answer incorrectly, the one baring his ass moves closer to his partner's face!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Unique Japanese Foods- Ice Cream



















Of the six years I’ve spent in Japan thus far, it never ceases to amaze me every time I come across a new and bizarre flavor of ice-cream; and trust me when I say, there are plenty!


Each prefecture tends to have it’s own popular brand, for example in Kyoto I’ve had green tea ice cream and tofu milk ice cream. Both of which are nice.

I’ve also tasted wasabi, lavender (foul stuff), wild berry, sweet potato, and goma. Some of these tend to be slightly more savory rather than sweet.

Some ice creams I’ve run into though I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot barge pole. These flavors would include 


1-Caviar ice cream


2-Octopus ice cream


3- Shark fin ice cream


4- Cows tongue ice cream


5- Curry ice cream


6- Pit viper snake ice cream



7- Raw horse meat ice cream



8- Squid ice cream




9- Whale ice cream

ABOVE - Sign advertising whale meat ice cream























10- Chicken wing ice cream




I'm sure there are a ton I haven't heard of yet just as bizarre and disturbing. No doubt I will eventually run into them however.

-Sam Johnston