The Deep Matcha Matcha of Matcha-Cha, an awesome green tea sweets cafe in an unexpected place

An amazing place for lovers of green tea in the City of Angels.

As much as I love living in Japan, I’m also seriously fond of my hometown. So whenever I get a chance to go back, I spend a few days immersing myself in the sights, and tastes, of Los Angeles.

And then, after a few days, I start craving Japanese food. On my most recent trip to California, I managed to make it exactly one week before literally having a dream about eating Japanese desserts, and so I found myself on the freeway speeding towards L.A.’s recently opened Matcha-Cha matcha green tea sweets shop.

Los Angeles is diverse enough that it has more than one Japanese enclave. While most of them are centered in Little Tokyo, on the east edge of downtown, Matcha-Cha is further west in the Sawtelle neighborhood, which sometimes gets referred to as “Little Osaka.” However, it’s actually Kyoto that plays a part in producing Matcha-Cha’s desserts, since the shop sources its matcha green tea powder from Japan’s ancient capital.

▼ We’re not sure what constitutes a “matcha problem,” but if yours is not having a green tea dessert in your hands, Matcha-Cha is here to help.

Aside from the stylish simulated sakura trees, the first thing you’ll notice when walking up to the store is a display window next to the entrance, filled with models of Matcha-Cha’s desserts and beverages. Food models like this are an iconic part of Japan’s restaurant culture, and their presence here is a reassuring touch for anyone who’s enjoyed Japanese cuisine in its homeland, much like the broth-appropriate noodle thicknesses as Las Vegas’ Monta Ramen.

Macha-Cha’s desserts come in three different varieties: matcha pancakes, soft serve ice cream cones (matcha, strawberry, or mixed), or “signature soft serve ice cream,” as the cafe calls its parfaits.

Colorful pictures of each can be found on the menu to help first-timers choose, but if you’re a hard-core Japanese sweets fan, it’s actually a pretty easy decision. You don’t go all the way to a green tea dessert shop to eat strawberry ice cream, and you can make matcha pancakes yourself pretty easily, so despite my usual indecisiveness in ordering food, to me the matcha parfait is a no-brainer.

Specifically, that’s the “Deep Matcha Matcha Signature Soft Serve Ice Cream,” which differs from the non-deep version by drizzling glistening matcha sauce on top.

▼ Matcha-Cha’s Deep Matcha Matcha wants to make absolutely sure you know it’s matcha-flavored.

Inside the cafe there’s only a tiny bench for customers to sit on while their food is being prepared, with nowhere to actually eat. This being Los Angeles, though, there’s a pretty good chance that whenever you stop by Matcha-Cha, you’re going to have the sort of warm, sunny weather that’s perfect for eating outside, and in front of the entrance are tables and chairs so that you can eat underneath the artificial cherry trees, making the experience feel a bit like a hanami cherry blossom viewing party.

Running through the cast of characters in the parfait, the star is, of course, the matcha ice cream. Sometimes overseas green tea ice creams skimp on the matcha and can end up with a strangly minty, almost toothpaste like aftertaste. That’s absolutely not the case at Matcha-Cha, though. It’s matcha ice cream is authentic and delicious even by Japanese standards, and as the matcha syrup melts and mixes in with the cream, the flavor becomes even more richly satisfying.

Accompanying the ice cream are a trio of Pocky sticks, which seem a bit like a concession to foreign Japanese sweets fans, for whom Pocky is often the gateway experience to the wide world of Japanese snack foods. It’s a little surprising that Matcha-Cha uses the ordinary chocolate version instead of Matcha Pocky, but a little contrast isn’t a bad thing, especially since chocolate and matcha go so well together.

▼ And if you really want green tea Pocky, you can always use the stick like a spoon and scoop up some extra ice cream before taking a bite.

There’s also a nice-sized serving of anko, sweet red bean paste, which is a bit more in line with what you’d find at a dessert place in Japan. As I’ve mentioned before, anko makes everything better, and that holds true here, with its smooth texture and hint of saltiness adding just the right amount of pleasing complexity to the taste and texture.

Oddly, the one component Matcha-Cha stumbles over are the shiratama mochi dumplings. Shiratama aren’t particularly hard to make (they’re even a common cooking class project for elementary school students in Japan), but the ones here had an unusual stiffness to their outer layer and were on the dry side. It’s possible they simply came from a bad batch, though, and at least they’re dusted with matcha powder.

As you’ve probably noticed, Matcha-Cha’s parfaits are served in an edible waffle cone bowl. Unless you eat your dessert with blinding speed, you’re going to end up with a mouthwatering mixture of melted ice cream, matcha powder, and anko at the end, and thankfully the bowl doubles as a handy drinking vessel that you can thoughtfully sip from like you’re having a confectionery tea ceremony.

▼ The non-deep Matcha Matcha, on the left, leaves off the matcha sauce, but is identically priced at US$5.75.

As Japanese as Matcha-Cha’s desserts may be, the portions are American-sized, and the Deep Matcha Matcha left me happily stuffed, yet almost instantly looking forward to a repeat visit. The cafe is open until 11:30 on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 during the rest of the week, making it easy to get your matcha fix whenever the mood strikes.

Restaurant information
Address: 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., #122, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Open 11:30 a.m-11 p.m. (Sunday-Thursday), 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. (Friday-Saturday)

Photos ©SoraNews24

50-year-old otaku murders father who criticized his anime and game hobbies

76-year-old victim fought off first attempt on his life, succumbed to second.

It’s not unusual for parents to clash with their children over how much time or money they spend on their hobbies. Those arguments can be particularly heated if they’re about pastimes that the older generation is ready to write off as frivolous nonsense, such as watching anime or playing video games.

Often these issues resolve themselves either when the parent comes to accept that their child’s life is their own to live, or, alternatively, when the child becomes old enough to move out. Sadly, a family dispute over games and anime came to a much more violent end in Shiga Prefecture.

Since 50-year-old Toshio Ito’s mother passed away in 2016, it had just been him and his 76-year-old father, Kou, living in their home in the town of Otsu. Though Toshio had been acting as his father’s caretaker, the two had a strained relationship. The older Ito instituted a curfew for his son, and also repeatedly criticized him for his love of anime and video games.

Toshio became increasingly dissatisfied with the living arrangement, until the early hours of the morning on February 4. Entering his sleeping father’s bedroom shortly after 3 a.m., Toshio pressed a wet towel and pillow over Kou’s face and attempted to smother him. When he resisted, Toshio changed tactics and grabbed a length of electrical cord that was within arm’s reach and used it to strangle his father.

Toshio’s trial began this week, though since he has already admitted to killing his father, the proceedings are more to determine the extent of his legal culpability and the appropriate punishment. The defense has asked that the extenuating circumstances of the relationship be taken into account, claiming that Kou’s overbearing treatment of his son left Toshio desperate to end their cohabitation, but considering Japan’s customary hard-line stance against violent crime, the request is likely to earn him little, if any, clemency.

Source: Kyoto Shimbun via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso

Japanese cat lover has an ingenious plan to keep your cat from hogging your bed all night

Tired of sleepless nights from your cute kitty pushing you around the bed? Here’s a quick and clever solution.

If you own a cat, it’s because you want to have felines close by in your living space. However, it’s possible to have your animal friends be a little too close, especially in your sleeping space.

Sure, it might be kind of nice to have a kitty nearby as you drift off into slumber, or within arm’s reach for some post-wake-up, pre-get-up snuggling, But cats sometimes hog the bedspace you were planning to use for your human body.

▼ “Oh, did you want this spot? Well how about if I take it and give you some STINK EYE in exchange?”

Thankfully, Japanese Twitter user @pinkseed has come up with an easy way to explain to your cats that you’re sharing not ceding, your bed. Similar to the life-changing discovery of cat circles, @pinkseed’s plan taps into the common cat psyche in which the animals like situating themselves in territory of their own, but aren’t overly concerned how big said territory is.

“An announcement to all of you whose beds have been occupied by our feline lords! The rezoning project is complete!” @pinkseed tweeted, with some proud photos of her plan in action. By placing some soft-sided boxes along the edge of her bed, she created a row of cozy kitty cubbies in which a trio of her animal friends have curled up and gone to sleep. This lets them stay close to their human caregiver throughout the night, but also secures a well-defined section of the mattress for @pinkseed.

The clever strategy prompted comments including:

“Wow, this is great! I’m gonna try it with my cats.”
“Creating sections is a great idea! My cat always takes over more than half of my single bed.”
“Brilliant! My cat is always roaming about my part of the bed”
“Don’t you need a few more boxes?”

In regards to the last comment, @pinkseed says that a few of her animals like sleeping apart from the rest of the group, so the three is all she needs.

Granted, this plan still leaves you with less than 100-percent of the bed for yourself, but laying out easy-to-understand ground rules about what space belongs to whom should cut down on jostling and pushing in the middle of the night. And if setting up cat sleeping boxes cuts into too much of your mattress realm, you could always buy a bigger bed…just as long as you also don’t also go out and acquire more cats.

Source: Twitter/@pinkseed via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@pinkseed

Haneda Airport’s awesome sea bream ramen restaurant is the perfect way to end your trip in Japan

Make Japan even harder to leave by finishing your vacation with one of the most unique, satisfying ramen meals in Tokyo.

When traveling, the last day of your vacation usually ends up being the least enjoyable. By the time you get up and pack, there’s usually not time to do anything really fun before heading to the airport.

That can be especially frustrating if you’ve come all the way to Japan, and even more so if making your way to the airport means having to skip having lunch or dinner in Tokyo, the greatest city for dining out on the face of the Earth. But if you’re flying out of Haneda Airport, we’ve got good news for you, because the complex is home to one of the most memorably unique ramen restaurants we’ve found in quite some time.

We’ll get the one bad point out of the way first. Ramen restaurant Hitoshinaya is located in Haneda Terminal 1, not the International Terminal. However, the two buildings are just three minutes apart by train, and there’s also a free shuttle bus that runs between them, so a side-trip to Terminal 1 isn’t prohibitively time-consuming as long as you give yourself a little leeway.

While the most common types of ramen in Japan are soy, miso, or pork stock, Hitoshinaya’s specialty is something special: ramen with its broth made from tai, or sea bream. On our visit, we ordered the Tai Dashi Tai Kunsei Ramen (Sea Bream Broth with Smoked Sea Bream Raman), plus a side of ochazuke (usually meaning rice with green tea, but here referring to seasoned rice to pour ramen broth onto). The combo set us back 1,278 yen (US$11.70), which is just a bit on the pricey side for ramen, but the classy surroundings made it seem like a fair price, and if you’re looking to cap your Japan travels with a meal here, a shade over 10 bucks is definitely an affordable luxury.

After a five-minute wait, our order was ready, and we took a moment o admire its elegant presentation.

While the piece of smoked sea bream was the first thing to draw our eyes, we also spotted mizuna (potherb mustard) along with slices of red pepper, tomato, and sudachi, a refreshing lime-like Japanese citrus fruit.

Ramen-tasting always starts with the broth, though, so we scooped up a spoonful and took a sip. Hitoshinaya’s sea bream broth is also seasoned with kombu kelp, resulting in a rich, refined flavor, free of the heavy greasiness found in some varieties of ramen.

Ramen culture traditionally pairs certain thicknesses of noodles with certain broths, but having never had sea bream ramen before, we weren’t sure what to expect. Hitoshinaya uses moderately thick noodles that are straight, smooth, and a little on the soft side, allowing them to soak up plenty of the broth’s flavor.

Leaving the biggest impression on our taste buds was the smoked sea bream. While we’ve enjoyed Japanese tai as sushi and sashimi on numerous occasions, this was our first time to ever eat it as a ramen topping, and the enticing aroma only adds to its deliciousness.

Once we’d finished all our noodles, it was time to pour our remaining broth onto rice (an option also offered by Tokyo’s poisonous blowfish ramen restaurant).

▼ The ochazuke is additionally flavored with kombu, thin-sliced nori seaweed, wasabi, and fragrant leaves of mitsuba herb.

If we have one regret, it’s that since we only have one stomach, we didn’t get to try Hitoshinaya’s other star menu item, the Roasted Smoked Sea Bream Ramen. Given the restaurant’s location, odds are a lot of customers won’t be able to come back anytime soon (though we should mention that Hitoshinaya is outside the security checkpoint, meaning that even non-passengers can easily et there), so we recommend going with a friend so that you can order both types of ramen and share. And when the time does come to hop on your flight home, at least you can take heart knowing that it actually is possible to find great ramen overseas too.

Restaurant information
Hitoshinaya / ひとしなや
Address: Tokyo-to, Ota-ku, Haneda Kuko, 3-3-2, Terminal 1 North Wing 2nd floor
東京都大田区羽田空港3丁目3−2 第 1 ターミナル 北 ウイング2F
Open 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (non-ramen breakfasts available from 5:30 a.m.)

Photos ©SoraNews24

Clear near beer is here! We taste test Japan’s new zero-alcohol, zero-color brew【Taste test】

Suntory wants us to drink its new All-Free All-Time at work, so that’s just what we did.

As demonstrated when Shinkansen delays caused an impromptu drinking party on the platform of Tokyo Station this week, just about any time is considered a good time to crack open a beer in Japan. But that “just about” is an important qualifier, because even in Japan there are times when people don’t want to get liquored up, which has resulted in a rise in non-alcoholic beer sales over the past few years.

Most of these brews make great efforts to mimic the beer-drinking experience as closely as possible, with matching the color of ordinary beer being a major objective. But this month Suntory has gone in the other direction entirely by releasing a non-alcoholic beer that’s totally clear.

Called All-Free All-Time, it’s the newest member of Suntory’s zero-calorie, zero-alcohol All-Free beer line. As soon as it hit store shelves on Tuesday, we sent our Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko across the street to our local convenience store to pick up a bottle. Why Ahiru Neko? Because the man loves to drink. When we ask for volunteers to cover a new all-you-can-drink deal at a Tokyo restaurant, his hand is consistently the first to go up, with a speed belying the amount of alcohol he consumes.

▼ Despite being completely alcohol-free, All-Free All-Time is still stocked in the alcoholic drink section of the cooler. It’s a convenience store-exclusive, and priced at 147 yen (US$1.335).

Clear soft drinks have been steadily gaining in popularity over the past few years, with one theory why being that their transparency makes them look more “mature,” and so Japanese office workers feel more comfortable sipping them than brightly colored sodas while at their jobs. So with working adults being the primary market for clear drinks, Suntory figured there’s latent demand for a version of Japan’s favorite adult beverage that can be drunk while on the clock. All-Free All-Time even comes in a plastic bottle, as opposed to the bottles or cans of other non-alcoholic beers, to make it appear extra-innocuous.

And when they say All-Free All-Time is clear, they mean it. Peel off the label or pour the drink into a glass, and it’s visually indistinguishable from sparkling water or a clear soda like Sprite.

Suntory is specifically pitching All-Free All-Time as a drink to enjoy during mid-workday lunches or meetings. Ahiru Neko, though, chose to drink his bottle at his work desk, so after saying a quiet “Kampai to himself, he twisted off the cap.

Before opening the bottle, he was worried about how it might smell. After all, even if what you’re drinking contains no alcohol and doesn’t look like beer, if it smells like it, you’re not going to be projecting a very professional image. To his relief, All-Free All-Time’s aroma is very faint, and smells like something between beer and citrusy soda. He couldn’t even really notice the scent until he held the open bottle right under his nose, so while you might want to pop a breath mint afterwards for maximum stealth, the scent of All-Free All-Time shouldn’t attract significant unwanted attention.

As for the flavor, Ahiru Neko found it especially satisfying for a non-alcoholic beer. He says there’s just a tiny bit of citrus in the flavor profile, something he’s notice with other zero-alcohol brews, but this is one of the best-tasting beverages in its class.

With no alcohol, limited bitterness, and a crisp finish, All-Free All-Time is more of a thirst-quenching beverage to pound on a hot summer afternoon than a substantial sipping stout. Ahiru Neko admits that it didn’t entirely eliminate his desire to stop off for an alcoholic beer on his way home from work, but as a way to tide yourself over until quitting time, it does an impressive job, provided your boss is OK with you drinking near beer in the office.

Photos ©SoraNews24

One Piece manga creator’s joke about World War II soldier prompts official apology from publisher

Anime/manga legend Eiichro Oda’s joke about fried chicken touches a raw historical nerve.

When you create the best-selling manga franchise of all time, with close to double the sales of your closest rival, you’d think you’ve pretty much earned the clout to say whatever you want. Nevertheless, a message from One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda has prompted an official apology from publisher Shueisha.

On June 4, One Piece Volume 89 went on sale. It’s customary for collected manga volumes to include a brief comment from the author on the inside flap of the cover, usually, a light, breezy message of thanks or a silly anecdotesfrom the creator’s personal life. For Volume 89, Oda went with the following:

Under a drawing of a haggard-looking man wearing an Imperial Japanese Army cap and giving a salute, Oda wrote:

You know how sometimes, when you’re sharing a plate of karaage [fried chicken] with people, there’s that one last piece that gets left on the plate? I’ve decided to give it a name: Sergeant Yokoi.

So I’m like, ‘Sergeant Yokoi is still in the field! Somebody, end the war!’

Little kids who don’t know who I’m talking about, look him up.

It is with much embarrassment that I start Volume 89!

If Oda’s assumption that not everyone knows who “Sergeant [Shoichi] Yokoi” is applies to you, he was a Japanese infantryman who fought on Guam during World War II. However, when the U.S. military wrested control of Guam away from Japan in 1944, Yokoi avoided capture and went into hiding in the island’s jungle interior, where he remained until 1972, despite Japan surrendering, and the war ending, in 1945.

▼ Yokoi

The then 57-year-old Yokoi was eventually discovered by two locals, who subdued him after he attacked them. Upon his return to Japan, he said “It is with much embarrassment that I return,” which seems to be what Oda is referencing by saying “It is with much embarrassment that I start Volume 89!”

Yokoi (who was actually only the third-to-last Imperial Japanese soldier to surrender) passed away in 1997, at the age of 82, from a heart attack. Like many prominent figures from Japan’s militaristic past, opinions towards Yokoi can be sharply divided, with those who embrace Japan’s ostensibly pacifist modern political policies seeing him as a symbol of an ill-advised past, and others treating him as a folk hero for his determination and loyal patriotism. There’s even a Yokoi Shoichi Memorial Museum in his home prefecture of Aichi, with a reproduction of the cave in which he spent his past-war decades on Guam, and which also maintains a simple English website to promote itself to foreign visitors.

Given the complex and controversial feelings associated with Yokoi, the editors of Weekly Shonen Jump, the Shueisha manga anthology in which One Piece is serialized, decided an apology was in order for Oda’s Volume 89 comments. On June 14, a message was placed on the official Weekly Shonen Jump website, reading:

“In the author’s comment section of One Piece Volume 89, which went on sale June 4, there was an inconsiderate message. The editors, together with the author, regret our actions, In the future, we will take greater care in such matters.”

▼ Volume 89’s front cover

Shueisha has not said that it will be recalling the books, though it seems likely that Oda’s comment will be removed in any potential reprintings of the volume.

Source: Sponichi Annex via Otakomu via Anime News Network/Jennifer Sherman
Top image ©SoraNews24
Insert image: Wikipedia/Unmaokur

McDonald’s Japan offering Calpis shakes this summer with new-and-improved recipe

Yogurt-like beverages combine McDonald’s shake know-how with one of Japan’s favorite summertime flavors.

Japan hasn’t quite gone into full-on hot and steamy summer mode, but those sweltering days are coming soon. So the timing of McDonald’s Japan’s announcement of a new cold and delicious beverage really couldn’t come at a better time.

The fast food giant, which is always eager to offer fare that makes use of local Japanese flavors, has put the word out that at the end of this month it’ll start serving Calpis shakes. For the uninitiated, Calpis (or Calpico, as it’s often marketed overseas in an attempt to sound more appetizing to English speakers), is a yogurt-like beverage. It’s usually mixed with water, sometimes carbonated, and occasionally even used as a cocktail mixer, pleasing palates both young and old with a unique balance of sweet and tart notes.

Loyal SoraNews24 readers and/or lactic acid bacteria enthusiasts may remember that there was also a Calpis McShake available last year. We tried it for ourselves and came away more than satisfied, but McDonald’s has still decided to tinker with the recipe, and promises that this year’s Calpis McShake has had its sweetness toned down ever so slightly, allowing the tartness a little more of the spotlight in order to make the 2018 version even more refreshing to sip on the hottest days of the year.

▼ The 2017 Calpis shake, with a reversed color scheme compared to the 2018

While yogurt-like shakes might seem a little unusual to the uninitiated, McDonald’s Japan has previously sold yogurt granola smoothies, and yogurt Frappuccinos have also graced Starbucks’ menus in Japan. And for even more historic precedent, there’s lassi, the Indian yogurt drink that’s often enjoyed at the end of a meal of spicy curry, so maybe there’ll be some similar synergy between the Calpis McShake and McDonald’s Japan’s new spicy chicken McNuggets.

The new Calpis shakes go on sale June 27, priced at 120 yen (US$1.10) for a small and 200 yen for a large, and will be available for a limited, undisclosed time.

Source: McDonald’s via Entabe
Top image: McDonald’s
Insert images: McDonald’s, SoraNews24