New ad for Pepsi J-Cola is like a badass Mad Max Japanese festival 【Video】

The crazy big-budget commercial stars some of Japan’s most well-known musicians on flame-spewing monster floats.

When Pepsi releases an exciting new beverage in Japan, they don’t hold back on the marketing budget, going all-out with commercials that play out more like mini movies filled with massive sets, props and costumes, and big-name casts that include international stars like Jude Law.

Now with the Japan-exclusive Pepsi J-Cola set to arrive on the market this month, the beverage giant is out to get everyone’s attention with a stunning new commercial that plays out like a Japanese-style Mad Max movie. Given that J-Cola has been specifically designed to suit local palates, some of the country’s biggest stars have come out in force to help promote the new drink, with a cast of 150 dancers helping to recreate all the energy and atmosphere of a traditional Japanese festival, with a grungy post-modern big-budget twist.

See if you can spot the Japanese stars in the impressive 60-second commercial below:

We’ve been to a lot of Japanese festivals around the country but this is the first time we’ve ever seen a flame-spewing, lantern-lit float go by on the back of a rig and a monster truck!

Providing the music for the dystopian Pepsi J-Cola parade is Sugizo, Nyango Star, Sayuri Ishikawa, DJ Rena, and KenKen (pictured left to right in the image below).

Sugizo, who is well-known for being the lead guitarist and violinist for the rock band Luna Sea, and also for joining heavy metal band X Japan in 2009, arranged the music for the ad, along with Japanese composer Yoko Kanno (of Cowboy Bebop fame). Slapping it out on the bass is KenKen, who plays with RIZE, one of the country’s most iconic three-piece rock bands, while 13-year-old DJ Rena keeps the crowd entertained on the decks, showing us all why he became the youngest ever DMC World DJ Champion in 2017, at the age of 12.

▼ Providing the vocals in the ad is Sayuri Ishikawa, one of the most successful Japanese enka singers of all time.

And if you thought you saw a Japanese mascot in amongst all the action, you weren’t seeing things, because that’s Nyango Star, the Aomori mascot who has a penchant for belting out X Japan hits on the drums. While he’s usually decked out in red, in the ad he’s all in blue specifically for Pepsi.

One of the common motifs in the ad, which can be seen on the costumes, flags and instruments, is the image of a crashing wave, inspired by Hokusai’s famous 19th century ukiyo-e woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which appears on the J-Cola packaging to add a distinctly Japanese element to the region-exclusive product.

They’ve also released a behind-the-scenes “making-of” clip as well.

The new ad will be broadcast on national television from 17 April, the same day that the new Pepsi J-Cola goes on sale at stores around the country.

Source, images: PR Times

Coca-Cola releases world’s first frozen Coke slushie packs in Japan

Eight years in development, the new resealable pouch packaging is said to be a world-first for frozen beverages

After being the first in the world to try the surprising new Peach Coca-Cola, customers in Japan are definitely being spoilt when it comes to receiving exclusive products and limited-edition releases. And now it’s time to enjoy the spoils of Coca-Cola’s creative development team yet again, this time with a new product that’s been eight years in the making: Coca-Cola Frozen Lemon.

Despite the initial lukewarm response to the regular lemon-flavoured coke back when it was released in 2005, followed by a reboot in 2014, Coca-Cola is determined to make us fall in love with the citrus blend, this time by releasing it as a frozen slushie pack to go. According to the company, the new balance of flavours in this release is a perfect fit for the refreshing frozen drink, which can be enjoyed in a number of scenarios.

▼ The new ad campaign suggests trying the frozen coke as an afternoon pick-me-up, or after a bath or at the end of after-school club activities.

While the soft drinks giant has been making strides in the frozen slushie game, most recently with a special vending machine that dispensed beverages that turned to icy slush after being shaken, the new resealable pouch packaging is said to be a world-first for frozen beverages. The convenient new product will allow customers to massage the pouch pack to get the desired crunch, while also enjoying the taste of Coca-Cola with “a refreshing sherbet sensation”.

▼ More than 100 prototypes were devised over eight years during the creation of the new beverage.

▼ The product will be sold frozen and unfrozen, for those who want to pop it in their freezers when they get home.

The company is so confident with the new packaging that they’ll also be releasing two of their Fanta flavours in the same way.

The Coca-Cola Frozen Lemon and the Fanta Frozen beverages will go on sale at stores around Japan at a recommended retail price of 130 yen (US$1.21) from 16 April.

Sources: PR Times (1, 2)
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: PR Times (1, 2)

Japanese knife craftsman transforms an everyday roll of aluminium foil into a super sharp blade

Samurai-style swordsmithing techniques can be used to create a professional knife from just about anything.

It’s a widespread belief that Japanese knife makers are arguably the best in the world, drawing on centuries of tradition that include hand-sharpening and hammering techniques used by samurai swordsmiths more than 1,000 years ago.

For Japanese YouTuber Attoteki Fushinsha no Kiwami, these traditional methods are perfect for making knives out of just about anything, and it’s a point he’s set out to prove with a number of impressive knife-making tutorials, where he shows us how to create blades from surprising everyday materials like dried bonito fish pieces.

Now the resourceful craftsman is showing us all how to transform a simple roll of aluminium foil into a super sharp knife, and the results are so professional that it’s hard to tell the difference between the end product and a store-bought item.

Take a look at the video below:

The 11-minute long clip shows just how much elbow grease and determination is required to transform ordinary kitchen foil into a spectacular kitchen knife. So let’s take another look at the intriguing step-by-step process.

The first step requires flattening the roll of foil and then removing the cardboard roll from inside it. Then it’s time to hammer the metal sheets down to flatten them, and the rectangular piece of compacted foil begins to resemble hard metal already, even giving off a metallic sound when tapped, as shown at the 2-minute-45-second mark in the video.

After compacting the foil, it’s time to trace the outline of a knife onto the metallic surface, and then get to work with a handsaw to cut out the shape of the handle and blade, before sanding the rough edges down for smoothness.

The blade then receives its first of many grindings on its way towards a sharp edge, with the #150 Diamond whetstone, followed by some time over a low flame, which separates the two main pieces of compacted foil.

The forging process continues, with more hand-hammering to harden the utensil and create an even surface. Then there’s some sanding to smooth things out, and it’s back to the grindstone again, this time with the #150 Diamond whetstone followed by the #1,000 Diamond. In between, the craftsman takes a moment so we can all admire the water-pouring cows used to wet his whetstones, with different-sized spouts creating optimal water flows.

Then it’s time to whip out the whetstone #2,000, which begins the journey towards giving the blade its sharp edge, followed by some time on the 6,000, 8,000, 12,000 and then the 30,000 for more and more fine sharpening.

Every good blade deserves an equally good handle, so Attoteki Fushinsha no Kiwami spends some time crafting one by tracing the handle of a store-bought kitchen knife on some wood.  After attaching it to the aluminium foil blade with a couple of screws, everything is sanded down meticulously to achieve a professional finish.

The final step is “stropping”, which takes the edge from sharp to super sharp, and then the results are revealed towards the end of the video, where the blade can be seen slicing through cucumbers with ease.

The materials might be simple, but the time and skill involved in this magical transformation is truly impressive. After mastering the aluminium foil blade, anything is possible, and if you’re out of foil but have some spare pasta in your pantry, the good news is you can make a knife from that too!

Source: YouTube/kiwami japan via Gizmodo
Featured image: YouTube/kiwami japan

We try the Lawson chicken nuggets that Katy Perry went nuts for on Japanese television

What makes a fried nugget so good that it causes a songstress to cram her mouth full with them and create international headlines?

Katy Perry is no stranger to TV audiences in Japan, appearing on a number of popular shows to promote her tours in the country and stepping out as the face of a popular room fragrance on national commercials for Laundrin’.

On her most recent visit to the country, the American singer appeared on TV once again, and this time the hosts of the show had a surprise in store for her, bringing out what they knew was one of her favourite local snacks: nuggets of fried chicken called Karaage-kun from Japan’s Lawson convenience store chain.

What the hosts didn’t know, though, was that Perry had a surprise in store for them, because as soon as she laid eyes on the platter of nuggets she stepped up to the plate, eyes wide, and immediately started popping the fried morsels into her mouth, one after the other, until her mouth was packed full with chicken.

Despite the hosts hilariously calling out, “Katy, stop!“, she persisted until she couldn’t fit any more in between her lips, and after the hosts saved her from herself she said, “I love them so much“, specifically mentioning “the ones from Lawson” with a groan of delight.

Take a look at the clip below:

So what makes these fried nuggets so good that they can send even a world-famous songstress into eye-rolling raptures? Eager to find out, we headed down to our local Lawson to get a taste of the nuggets for ourselves, and when we arrived, we found that there were five varieties available.

We picked up one of each to go, starting off with the mainstay lineup of Regular, Red, and Cheese varieties that appeared on Perry’s TV segment.

And we couldn’t resist trying out the current limited-edition flavours of Ume Katsuo (Plum Bonito) and Prawn Mayonnaise.

When we got home we were able to admire the cute packaging – one of many things that makes this product so great – and read up a bit on the history of this Lawson bestseller. First off, Karaage-kun takes its name from karaage, the Japanese word used for small pieces of fried chicken, mixing in a dash of personification at the end with the addition of “kun“, a suffix used to address younger men (and sometimes women).

▼ Konnichi wa, Karaage-kun!

Although Karaage-kun nuggets were first introduced to the market back in 1986, 11 years after Japan’s first Lawson convenience store opened, the Karaage-kun character seen on the packaging didn’t appear until 2003. Now these nuggets are one of Lawson’s most popular items, with over 100 flavours introduced over the years and half a million sold each day.

Japanese customers can be fickle, so for Karaage-kun to stay on the market as long as it has is a testament to its taste and quality. Plus, there are nice little touches for the consumer to enjoy, like a small toothpick that comes inside a pocket on each pack, designed for easy nugget-eating.

Already impressed with Karaage-kun’s neat packaging and 30-plus year history, we eagerly opened up the packs and saw that no two varieties looked the same, as each came coated in different seasonings.

Starting off with the Regular, which is based on the original Karaage-kun flavour, we upended the contents and immediately started salivating.

Given that some fast food outlets in Japan have had problems with imported meat, it’s good to know that all Karaage-kun products are made from domestically reared chickens.

The golden coating, lightly seasoned with locally sourced salt, is just the start of of the flavour sensation that hits your taste buds, as a cross section reveals the true reason for the popularity of these fried snacks. Rather than being made from fatty pieces of chicken, like karaage, or ground chicken, like nuggets, these are made from slices of chicken breast, which make them light and easy to eat, as well as being healthier than other options on the market.

The five-piece pack was gone in an instant, but luckily for us we had plenty more to come, with the “Red” variety up next to the tasting plate.

These had a distinct red-hued coating to them, due to the fact that they’re covered in 11 different spices, including cumin and red and green peppers.

Just as delicious as the regular variety, these had the added bonus of a mild spicy heat. Packed with so many different spices, these are a great option for those wanting a big flavour hit with their nuggets.

Moving on to the Cheese variety, these looked similar to the regular variety, only with a slightly more golden appearance.

The cheese mix in this variety was absolutely delicious, adding a creamy texture to each mouthful, with umami flavours spreading out all over the tastebuds. While these were perfect on their own, they were begging to be paired with a big cold glass of beer.

With more than a dozen limited-edition flavours added to the main lineup of Regular, Red, and Cheese every year, when we visited Lawson we picked up two of their current specials as well, with Plum Bonito being a perfect partner for the springtime’s flowering season.

If you love the flavour of Japanese plums, you need to run out now and buy these before they disappear for good! Packed with the distinct salty flavour of plum, this is a genius flavour to pair with chicken, and when combined with the taste of bonito, which is a key component used in Japanese soups and stocks, the umami flavour level intensifies, making us wish it could be plum season all year long.

Perhaps the cutest Karaage Kun currently available is the limited-edition Prawn Mayonnaise flavour, which comes with an image of the gang from hit anime Doraemon, showing the blue-and-white robotic cat and his pals dressed as sea-faring pirates on the hunt for treasure.

There’s definitely treasure hiding inside this pack, in the form of prawn mayonnaise-flavoured nuggets of chicken.

It’s an odd mix to pair the taste of prawns and chicken together in a fried nugget, but it works wonderfully, with the familiar taste of mayonnaise tying it all together into one neat parcel of flavour.

Using local ingredients and healthy cuts of chicken, Karaage-kun is one of the most popular must-try snacks for visitors to Japan. And you don’t have to have Katy Perry’s superstar income to enjoy feasting on these; each five-piece pack of nuggets costs 216 yen (US$2.02), which is a bargain for a snack with this much flavour and quality.

Photos © SoraNews24 

Rivalry between mushrooms and bamboo shoots in Japan as people vote for their favourite chocolate

Jun Matsumoto from boy band group Arashi is leading the new campaign.

Ever since they first rode over the horizon and into the hearts – and stomachs – of customers in the 1970s, Kinoko no Yama (Mushroom Mountain) and Takenoko no Sato (Bamboo Shoot Village), have been battling it out in the supermarket aisles, competing for everyone’s attention.

It’s a rivalry that’s been continuing for decades, with some customers pledging their allegiance to the dome-tipped mushroom-shaped sweets and others falling head over heels for the pointy-ended baby bamboo-shaped chocolates.

Now, Meiji is pledging to find out which one is the best loved chocolate of them all, with a national election underway to decide the most popular of their two iconic brands. Called the “Kinoko no Yama Takenoko no Sato People’s General Election 2018“,  Arashi’s Jun Matsumoto is leading the campaign with a new promotional video and website dedicated to the cause.

Customers are being asked to vote in the election, with each side presenting their own manifestos with the aid of a number of celebrities, on the official website. Currently, the Bamboo Shoot Village Party is in the lead, with 2,213,981 votes. Trailing behind them is the Mushroom Mountain Party, with 1,362,443 votes, while undecided voters, who love both parties, have been adding their votes to the “Either Party” pile, which currently stands at 552,662 votes.

With the polls set to close on 31 July, there’s still time to vote in the chocolate election. Head over here to make your vote count, and if you want to show your support for another iconic chocolate, don’t forget to nominate your dream flavour in Kit Kat’s New Flavour World Summit too!

Source: Livedoor News via Hachima Kikou
Featured image: © SoraNews24
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Japan’s top sakura cherry blossom viewing spots littered with trash after hanami picnics

People in Japan are appalled at the piles of rubbish left behind by visitors this year.

Every year, the cherry blossoms unfurl their pretty petals in spring, and every year local and overseas visitors gather under the sakura trees to admire the beauty of the flowers with a hanami flower-viewing picnic.

However, with so many people laying out tarps and platters of food and alcoholic beverages for large groups of friends and coworkers, these picnics can turn into messy drunken parties by the end of the night, and by the time the sun comes up, it shines a light on the darker side of hanami: unsightly piles of left-behind trash.

Japanese netizens have been sharing images of the garbage situation at various sakura spots throughout Japan, saying they’re appalled at the amount of trash people leave behind after admiring the blossoms. In a country where people are taught not to litter from a very young age, and are used to taking their trash home with them when they can’t find a trash can, these photos showing leftovers strewn about some of the country’s prettiest sakura spots have angered people in Japan. And now they’re urging everyone to mind their manners and show more regard for other people wanting to share these popular public spaces.

This twitter user shared an image of a “trash mountain” at his local park. Though it might look like a neat pile, @arigatohappynes comments that uncovered trash like this attracts birds, who get into the plastic bags and throw their contents around, making a huge mess which annoys locals.

“After enjoying yourselves, please take your trash home with you!”

Even if you think you’ve done a good job of placing your trash-filled bags in a neat pile, once the crows arrive, they’ll dig their beaks into the bags and throw a hanami party of their own.

Instagram Photo

The Tokyo Parks Association sent out this tweet, asking people to be more careful about taking their garbage with them when they go home.

At Nakameguro, trash was seen near the trees and on the bridges which spread across Meguro River. Not only are revellers polluting the streets here, they’re polluting the waterways as well.

Park staff at Kokura Castle in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture shared images of broken sakura branches, abandoned barbecue grills and scattered trash. Although they say this is an improvement on conditions from last year’s hanami season, they are urging visitors to be more considerate in future.

Twitter user @rireki114514, who snapped a photo of the morning-after scene at Tsuruma Park in Nagoya city, Aichi Prefecture, didn’t hold back his disgust, saying that seeing homeless people clean up the mess in the park was heartbreaking and made him feel a deep sense of shame.

While many might argue that it’s up to the city council to provide more trash receptacles and better systems to help prevent the problem, even at Ueno Park, where there are a large number of waste areas for groups to dispose trash, the piles of garbage are still overwhelming.

Even when there are bins, like these ones at Tokyo’s Koganei Park, some people don’t seem to know how to use them.

Instagram Photo

People online were appalled to see the images appearing on social media, leaving comments like:

“It’s terrible that people don’t consider the next person who’ll be using the space. What if they were the ones who had to use the space after themselves? They’d be disgusted.”
“This is what happens when people get drunk and forget their manners.”
“Pictures like this make me feel sick.”
“I saw on the news that a fire broke out after someone flicked their lit cigarette into a pile of rubbish like this.”
“If this keeps happening, parks might ban hanami parties on their grounds in the future.”
“This happens year after year. Someone needs to come up with a better plan to prevent this from happening.”

While it might be feasible for individuals and small groups to take their garbage home with them, it’s less likely that those in larger groups, especially those dealing with the hierarchical kohai/senpai dynamics of a workplace hanami picnic, will be able to lug big bags of trash home with them on the train.

Which makes us hope that the mesh-covered garbage system seen at Tokyo’s Komazawa Olympic Park will become more widely used by other busy hanami spots in future.

When thousands of people in Japan come together to celebrate seasonal events like cherry blossom viewing or Halloween, it’s truly alarming to see just how much trash piles up in their wake. Personally, we’ll be carrying as much of our trash home with us in these 100-yen trash bags, to help keep the environment clean and ease the workload on these litter-fighting samurai warriors.

Source: Hachima Kikou
Featured image: Twitter/@ParksToneri

Japan turns the confectionery world on its head with stretchy mochi-covered chocolates

Japanese company reinvents chocolate by adding sakura and sticky rice to the mix.

For years, people in Japan have been enjoying the taste of mochi, a Japanese treat made from glutinous rice that’s been cooked and pounded to give it a delectably smooth and chewy consistency. Usually eaten as a traditional food for Japanese New Year, mochi has also been used in the world of confectionery, wrapped around fillings of sweet paste in the form of daifuku, paired with ice cream like Häagen-Dazs, and used in the ever popular Yukimi Daifuku mochi-covered ice cream balls manufactured by Lotte.

As the love for mochi-covered ice cream continues to spread around the globe, here in Japan, they’ve been experimenting with more new partners for the gelatinous star ingredient, and Japanese company Bourbon has been leading the way with one of its most innovative ideas: mochi chocolate.

Marketed as Mochi Mochi Chocola, the unusual sweet has flown under the radar for several years as it’s one of the hardest products to find at the supermarket. This year, though, the chocolate is on everyone’s confectionery wish list, as they’ve just released an exciting new sakura mochi flavour to accompany its regular ganache chocolate staple.

Curious to find out more about the taste, and texture, of sticky-rice covered chocolate, we tracked down the special sweets online for a taste test of our very own.

Starting off with the Ganache Chocolate variety, we opened up the pack to find two individually wrapped four-pack trays, complete with a two-pronged plastic fork, which the company says is ideal for eating the soft sweets.

The chocolates were absolutely gorgeous to look at; their soft, pillowy mounds, and the fork used to eat them, closely resembled the contents of a Yukimi Daifuku ice cream pack.

We pierced one of the pieces with a fork and picked it up, our hands trembling a little as we hoped it wouldn’t fall off the small eating utensil.

Surprised by its light weight and softness, we decided to play with the chocolate a little, to really test out its malleability.

▼ That’s one stretchy piece of mochi-covered chocolate!

Taking a look at a cross-section lets us see exactly what’s inside the sweet: a small mouthful of rich Belgian chocolate ganache, all covered in a thin layer of chocolate-flavoured mochi.

Biting into this was abosulutely heavenly, as the chewiness of the gel-like rice coating made the whole morsel expand in the mouth, releasing the soft ganache and making it ooze out to impart its rich chocolate flavour onto the tastebuds. This was definitely one of the most satisfying close-your-eyes-and-moan chocolate experiences we’ve had in a long time.

▼ Next up to the tasting plate was the Sakura Mochi flavour.

Sakura mochi is a traditional Japanese sweet commonly eaten during the spring months when the cherry blossom trees bloom around the country. Rival cities of Osaka, in the Kansai region, and Tokyo, in the Kanto region, each have their own version of the well-known sweet, which can be seen on the right of the box here.

▼ Kansai-region version top right and Kanto-region version bottom right.

▼ The beautiful little chocolates inside looked just like ripe peaches, but the scent was distinctly sakura.

Like the chocolate variety, these were incredibly light and soft, yet solid enough to be picked up by the fork.

If you’ve ever had a traditional sakura mochi confectionery, you’ll know how the pickled cherry blossom leaf wrapped around it gives it a salty sweet punch of flavour. The sakura mochi-flavoured ganache chocolate inside these sweets has that exact same flavour profile, filling each bite with floral-scented salty notes that pair perfectly with the chewy sweetness of the mochi coating.

▼ These soft little mouthfuls are as fun to play with as they are to eat!

We’ve tasted a lot of sweets in Japan, but for us these are definitely one of the best and most unusual treats you’ll find here. The high quality of the ingredients, the superbly balanced flavours, and the unique texture of the chocolates all combine to create a deliciously memorable indulgence that you won’t find anywhere else.

The Mochi Mochi Chocola can be purchased at stores around the country and from online retail sites like Rakuten or Amazon for 216 yen (US$2.03) each. They really are the best thing since sliced chocolate, which is a great thing, because the makers of these actually made that too!

Photos © SoraNews24