The most awesome anime fan art is fan art that’s also traditional Japanese sweets【Photos】

From Pop Team Epic to Cowboy Bebop, this professional confectioner’s anime and video game dojin works are edible!

When talking about food in Japan, it’s often said that presentation is so important that meals are practically works of art. That’s true of snacks, too, as we’ve seen even convenience store-bought sweets that are achingly beautiful.

But today we’re looking at confectioneries made with traditional Japanese recipes that draw inspiration from a thoroughly contemporary form of visual art: anime and video game character design.

Japanese Twitter user Otakumi gets his name from a mashup of otaku and takumi, the Japanese word for a master of a specific skill. In his case that skill is making traditional nerikiri sweets, which are made from sweet bean paste, sugar and sticky rice flour.

▼ Currently airing breakout comedy hit Pop Team Epic continues to inspire dessert makers.

Because nerikiri is a paste with a fairly stable consistency, it can be shaped into a variety of forms. Flowers are common motifs, but Otakumi instead chooses to recreate characters from anime and games. While he’s not averse to modern muses, like Pop Team Epic’s surreal schoolgirls, he’s also got an appreciation for the classics, with icons from Cowboy Bebop and Studio Ghibli films among his creations.

▼ The last time Spike and Vicious got together, it didn’t end well for either of them.

▼ Ironically, Spirited Away’s No-Face has one of the most memorable mugs in anime.

When asked how he got started making anime candies, Otakumi says he was already a confectioner who’d been thinking about what sort of fan art project he could do to show his love for his favorite franchises. Then it dawned on him that he could simply meld that passion into his existing work making nerikiri. He estimates each takes about an hour for him to make, including the time spent thinking about the design, which seems like incredibly fast work to us.

▼ Even the complex hairstyling of characters such as Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress’ Ikoma, Free’s Makoto, and titular leading man Gintama pose no problem.

While he sometimes gets caught up in current trends and makes nerikiri of whoever the fan favorite of the current TV season is, Otakumi primarily makes candies of characters he personally likes.

▼ Otakumi was into Devilman before the thoroughly unexpected Devilman Crybaby made the series cool again, as this tweet from 2014 proves.

▼ Mascot-type characters get a lot of love from Otakumi, with Rayearth’s Mokona, Kodomo no Omocha’s Babbit, and Kemomo Friends’ Lucky Beast having gotten the nerikiri treatment.

▼ This looks like the tastiest Pokémon Magikarp since the taiyaki sweet bean cakes they sell in Yokohama and Akihabara.

▼ Fellow Pocket Monster Mimikyu is here too.

Oddly enough, Otakumi hasn’t used his talents to salute Nintendo’s Super Mario, but he has saluted Mario’s once formidable rival Sonic the Hedgehog…

…as well as lapsed face-of-the-Playstation-brand Parappa the Rapper.

Ordinarily, this is where we’d direct you to where you can buy these candies online. Unfortunately, while Otakumi may be a candy-making pro, these are strictly a hobby, as they’re not officially licensed, and therefore not for sale. Maybe that’s for the best, though, because we don’t think any fan of these characters would actually be able to bring themselves to eat their lovingly recreated heroes.

Top image: Twitter/@otakumi_wagasi
[ Read in Japanese ]

[ Read in Japanese ]

It’s a Japanese boxed lunch in the palm of your hand with the new bento rice ball

Convenience store’s deluxe onigiri is a bento boxed lunch you can eat with one hand.

Every Japanese convenience store has shelves of pre-made bento boxed lunches, which are a great choice if you’ve got an office desk or sunny park where you can sit down and leisurely enjoy your meal. On the other hand, if you’re in a rush and need something you can munch on the go without having to bother with chopsticks or other eating utensils, your needs are better served with onigiri rice balls, which are finger food that convenience stores also have ready and waiting for hungry, hurrying customers.

However, while bento are all about variety, onigiri are usually simple and single-minded, with one type of light filling such as flakes of salmon or a pinch of mixed mountain greens. So what if you want the myriad wonders of a bento, but only have time for a rice ball? Then you’ll want the new bento onigiri from convenience store chain Mini Stop, which attempts to pack a boxed lunch into a single rice ball.

Officially called the Nori Bento Mitai na Onigiri, or “Rice Ball That’s Like a Boxed Lunch with Seaweed,” the heavyweight-class onigiri features a piece of deep-fried whitefish, piece of thick-cut tamagoyaki Japanese-style omelet, and a length of chikuwa fish sausage. These three star ingredients are set in a bed of white rice mixed with bonito, wrapped with a piece of nori seaweed that gives you a place to grip the palm-sized combo meal. Mini Stop recommends warming it in the microwave before eating, just like you would with an orthodox boxed lunch.

The bento rice ball is on sale as of February 20, priced at 260 yen (US$2.35), which is about twice what normal, single-ingredient onigiri go for in convenience stores. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it turns out to be a hit for Mini Stop and convinces rival chain Sunkus to bring back its bacon cheeseburger onigiri.

Source: @Press via Entabe
Images: @Press

Starbucks Japan’s new sakura donuts look so good it’s like cherry blossom season is already here

Sakura sweets lineup also includes mouth-watering cherry blossom cake with two sakura-sourced ingredients.

Spring is truly a magical time in Japan. After months of biting cold and long nights, nothing lifts your spirits like seeing bursts of beautiful pastel pink suddenly appear across the whole country in the form of cherry blossom…desserts.

Sure, the actual sakura flowers are pretty nice, but if you’re the type that prefers your seasonal wonders to be of the edible variety, the real appeal of the season is the way Japanese cafes add a flurry of sakura desserts, which combine sweet and salty tastes, to their menus. To that end, Starbucks has two new menu items that are sure to make your day (or days, if you’re sensible enough to resist the urge to eat them both in one sitting).

Up first is the Sakura Donut, a tempting combination of Eastern and Western confectionery skill which takes a thick cake donut and adds a sakura-colored glaze dusted with salted cherry blossom petal powder.

For those wanting even more sakura-sourced ingredients, there’s the Sakura Chiffon Cake, which mixes the leaves of the cherry blossom tree into the flour used to make the dessert. Each slice also comes topped with a salted cherry blossom, providing a splash of color on the field of creamy frosting on which it sits.

The sakura donut is priced at 250 yen (US$2.30), while the sakura chiffon cake is slightly more upmarket at 380 yen for a slice, though both remain such affordable luxuries that pairing them with one of Starbucks’ new Sakura Strawberry Pink Mochi Frappuccinos won’t bust your budget. And best of all, even though we’ve got a few weeks to go until the actual cherry blossoms start to bloom, both of these sakura desserts are available right now.

Source: Starbucks (1, 2) via Entabe
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Starbucks (1, 2)

McDonald’s Japan profits soar out of 2017 and well beyond their best year ever

Japan’s version of the fast food giant has surpassed an already optimistic forecast and landed in a Big Mac truck load of cash.

In the fall of 2017 McDonald’s Japan already had some happy news that they were well on track to their best year ever, surpassing 20 billion (US$187.8 million) in net income.

Now, their year-end report shows that they considerably undershot the last forecast and actually pulled in a whopping 24 billion yen ($225.4 million). This also drawfs their 2016 earnings of 5.3 billion yen ($49.8 million) by four and a half times.

Many may scoff at these figures showing an already huge multinational corporation getting huger, but the comeback made by this clown-backed brand in Japan over the past years has been nothing short of amazing.

After getting rocked by back-to-back scandals involving tainted food, McDonald’s fell into a massive tailspin so deep in the red that James Cameron wouldn’t be able to find it – right down to a rock bottom loss of 34.9 billion yen ($327.7 million).

However, under the stewardship of CEO Sarah Cassanova, the organization began to focus on improvements in the quality of food, promotions, service, and employee treatment to pull McDonald’s out of the abyss and into the stratosphere.

As such, be prepared to find more McDonald’s opening up around the country as they try to capitalize on this upward momentum.

Even online – where anti-McDonald’s sentiment is usually at its most visceral – people have softened somewhat but still aren’t confident that the restaurant’s fortunes are well-founded or long for this world.

“If they open more branches, it’ll just go back to the way it was before. They should focus on what they have currently to keep it going.”
“I think the economy overall has been doing well. McDonald’s is just riding that wave.”
“It’s because they stopped the 24-hour service like most places recently. You can’t make money in the middle of the night these days.”
“It’s just an illusionary profit from cost-cutting.”
“They shouldn’t open any more branches.”
“Getting rid of Harada (previous CEO) helped. He had bright ideas like hiding the menu.”
“Great! They’re making enough money, so I don’t need to go there.”
“Everything in McDonald’s just tastes like pickles and ketchup.”

You might not notice, but this is a huge improvement compared to comments people made about McDonald’s only a couple years ago.

However, just to dispel a few of the comments’ reasons for this success: After Harada was replaced by Cassanova, the organization reportedly pivoted from cost-cutting to a spending strategy, closing branches so they could afford increases in employee wages, cleaning crews, and food such as the higher quality and higher priced “Gran Menu.”

▼ Then again, those cheapskates wouldn’t even spring for a lousy “d”

The economy certainly hasn’t done anyone anyone in fast food any favors recently either, as other restaurants like Mos Burger and KFC, are showing relatively little signs of improvement to their bottom line.

These are important factors because the accomplishments of McDonald’s are, at least partly, the result of practices that focused on treating customers and workers better and should be seen as an example for other businesses to follow.

Source: Yomiuri Online, Golden Times
Images: SoraNews24

Making instant green tea pudding in the snow, just like they would have had to in ancient times

Meg decides to get back to basics by using the natural cooling power of snow to create a delicious matcha dessert.

With much of Japan gradually thawing itself out of an unusually heavy snowfall, our writer Meg was finding herself coming down with a case of snow-bound cabin fever and tried to find ways to pass the time.

Her first idea was to make some delicious frozen oranges by taking regular oranges and burying them in the snow. In was a fun experiment and made her feel like she was living back in olden times when people rode horses everywhere and only had 56k dial-up modems.

However, she soon learned that despite being frozen itself, snow didn’t dish out much freezing power. It was more like nature’s fridge than freezer. In the end, she just had some slightly chilled oranges to munch on.

Then it dawned on her: she could use the snow as a fridge to make something!

That something was Tsujiri Uji Matcha Pudding. In these fast-paced modern times filled with social media and smartphone-powered nose-hair clippers, to make pudding you’d just mix the powder with some hot water and milk and then pop it in the fridge for two hours to set.

Meg had other plans though. She was going to make instant pudding like they must have done 500 years ago, by mixing the powder with some hot water and milk and then burying it in snow to set.

Unsure of what kind of tupperware they used back in the dawn of the Edo period, she decided to split it into two shapes to ensure at least one would have the proper heat transferring properties for making pudding in the snow.

The snow had already begun to melt, but there was still a good one meter (3.3 feet) of it in some places, so Meg picked a spot and started digging.

She went down about 60 centimeters (two feet) and placed her pudding mix into the hole.

After that, she buried them and made sure the snow was packed tight.

It was getting late so Meg decided to turn in for the night and check the pudding in the morning. That night she dreamed of those long-gone days when openly gay samurai snacked on freshly congealed instant pudding plucked straight from the snowbank…or at least the way it would have been had Japanese people actually eaten pudding or green tea-flavor desserts in the samurai era.

When she awoke, Meg went to the window but was startled by what she saw…

▼CROW PRINTS!!!

Apparently, with their heightened sense of smell, birds had come overnight in search of her buried bittersweet treasure. Meg hurried outside to dig it up hoping that some boisterous beaked bandit hadn’t gotten there first.

The pudding was safe! Furthermore, it was fully solidified! Pulling a spoon out of her pocket and peeling off the lid she patted the top to find it had just the right surface tension for some scrumptious pudding.

Then she dug in and confirmed that the pudding had indeed stiffened throughout. It was perfect!

Thrilled, Meg immediately began to devour the dessert then and there. It had been a long and hard journey fraught with manual labor and predators, but in the end, it all made the pudding taste that much more sweet. It tasted like…victory.

She dubbed her fruits of her labor “Yukimuro (Snow House) Pudding” and savored each bite. It actually did seem to have a smoother texture that fridge-made pudding. Perhaps it was the chilling method, or the fact that she kept it in the snow for 18 hours in total compared to the two hours usually spent in the fridge. In hindsight, two hours probably would have been enough, maybe even less.

So, if you find yourself stuck at home and surrounded by snow, Yukimuro Pudding is a great way to pass the time. It’s great especially if you have kids hanging around the house and you want to peel them off their phones and monitors for a bit.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Tokyo cafe offers all-you-can-eat pie, makes us wonder why we should ever eat anywhere else

Yeah, all those boutiques in Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district are nice, but this is our new favorite place in the neighborhood.

A while back, we made our first visit to Tokyo’s all-you-can-eat cookie buffet restaurant, which was unquestionably a life-changing moment for all of us here at SoraNews24. But nutritionists say it’s important to have a varied diet, and so this week we switched things up with a trip to a Tokyo cafe that’s offering all-you-can-eat pie.

The Harajuku neighborhood is best known for fashion shopping, with high-end international brands’ flagship stores along the sides of the wide Omotesando boulevard and trendy teen-oriented boutiques packed into the narrow corridor of Takeshitadori, a street right across the road from Harajuku Station. On Takeshitadori you’ll also find one of the three Japanese branches of The Pie Hole, a bakery that started out in Los Angeles before making its way across the Pacific.

One of the most important words for diners in Japan to know is tabehoudai, meaning “all-you-can-eat.” As of February 14, though, the Takeshitadori Pie Hole is offering a “pie-houdai” deal, with unlimited pie for 80 minutes, and so we rolled up on the first possible day, arriving at about 2:30 in the afternoon.

As we expected, there was a line. With about 10 people in front of us, we ended up waiting 45 minutes for a table, which was actually a shorter time than we’d braced ourselves for. Maybe we got lucky with it being Valentine’s Day, when most of Japan’s collective sweet tooth is biting into chocolates.

While we waited, we looked over the menu of all-you-can-eat options, which included nine varieties of sweet pies. There are also a few savory options to choose from, but we were here for dessert, and resolved to eat as many of the sweet pies as we could.

For the pai-houdai, The Pie Hole allows you to order up to four types of pie at a time, and once you’ve cleaned your plate you can order another batch. Since the restaurant charges 1,620 yen (US$14.70, after tax) for the all-you-can-eat deal, and single slices are ordinarily priced at around 450 yen, we decided to go all in and four slices to start, thereby instantly recouping our investment.

As our server went to get our pies, we walked over to the self-service drink station that’s part of the pie-houdai package. Customers can pour themselves a cup of orange juice, coffee, or tea (the latter two either hot or cold) to help wash down all the pie, and refills are free.

Soon enough, our server was back with our first round of pie. We decided to go straight down the menu, starting with the Salted Honey Custard, house-specialty Mom’s Apple Crumble

Earl Grey Tea (with white chocolate mousse), and Chocolate Raspberry pies.

Each and every one of them was deliciously satisfying, but we actually found ourselves wishing we’d saved the chocolate raspberry for our meal’s finale, since it’s also extra-filling. Still, being the pros we are, we enjoyed every last bite, and then put in our second order.

The Salted Caramel Pecan was a taste of the Deep South in the Far East…

…and the Pumpkin Pie was so good that we wondered why it isn’t eaten more often outside of Thanksgiving. Finally, the half-moon shaped Strawberry and Lavender was elegant in both appearance and flavor.

Sadly, the Matcha Green Tea pie had proven so popular that it was already sold out for the day. To compensate, our server brought us a second type of apple pie that’s not supposed to be part of the all-you-can-eat pie lineup, so we were pretty pleased about beating the system, so to speak.

Speaking of extra goodies, the all-you-can-eat pie deal doesn’t automatically include ice cream, but if you follow The Pie Hole’s official Twitter or Instagram account, then upload a photo of your pie-houdai experience, you can get some free scoops.

Having polished off eight different pies, we’d saved ourselves some 2,000 yen, and that’s not even counting our drinks. The Pie Hole’s pie-houdai promotion continues until March 28, offered on the Wednesday of every week, and is definitely worth taking a weekly break from all-you-can-eat cookies for.

Restaurant information
The Pie Hole Los Angeles (Takeshitadori branch) / ザ パイホール ロサンゼルス(原宿竹下通り店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 1-5-12, Ito Building 2nd floor
東京都渋谷区神宮前1-6-12 ITOビル2F
Open 10 a.m,-8 p.m.
Website

Photos ©SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]

[ Read in Japanese ]

This Valentine’s Day, tell him you don’t love him with Japanese women’s “chocolate maggot” recipe

A tasty, clever way to say “We’re just friends” in a country where women give chocolate to both lovers and platonic male acquaintances on February 14.

In Japan, it’s customary for women to give chocolate to men on Valentine’s Day, and that Valentine’s Day chocolate gets subdivided into two categories. The first is honmei choco, which loosely translates to “real target chocolate” and refers to sweets given to a serious boyfriend or a guy the girl has genuine romantic feelings for. The other is giri choco, “obligation chocolate,” which is given to male friends and coworkers to say thank-you for general consideration and kindness throughout the past year.

In general, gourmet, expensive chocolate (or home-made chocolate, if a women really wants to pitch her woo at the strike zone of a guy’s heart) gets used for honmei choco, and mundane, cheaper sweets are chosen for giri choco. After all, if it looks like you spent too much time or money on it, a guy might mistake your platonic giri choco for amorous honmei choco…unless, that is, your home-made giri choco looks like something completely unromantic, like Japanese Twitter user @4MuiMui’s does.

@4MuiMui started with a bag of Tohato Caramel Corn snacks, though you could use any bite-sized snack food with a similarly bulbous or curved shape. Using the cream filling scraped from a pack of Oreo-like cookies, she attached a single piece of chocolate-covered puffed wheat to their tips, then covered the rest of each piece in the cream. Finally, she strategically added a few dots of the crumbled-up biscuits to create chocolate maggots.

“Let’s have some fun with Japan’s giri choco culture!” tweeted @4MuiMui, who finished her disgusting yet delicious edible art project by placing her creations in plastic trays atop a cocoa powder habitat. Among those who heeded the call was Twitter user @TxbNFkLBQczGndA, but she wasn’t the only one.

Of course, you could always just select chocolate that’s so pedestrian that there’s no way anyone would ever think it’s anything other than giri choco. But if you’d prefer to give something that’s absolutely not boring, but by no means more meaningful than just a simple “Thanks for being a good friend,” maggot chocolate is a repulsively attractive choice.

Source: Jin
Featured image: Twitter/@TxbNFkLBQczGndA