Flying Fish Soup Vending Machine

Sergio Lorenzi sends me these photos of a vending machine he found in Nagoya with flying fishes inside a bottle. The text say that the flying fishes have been grilled and are ideal to use as a soup (dashi) to give flavour to udon, nabe, oden or any other slow cooked recipe.

Each bottle, in addition to a flying fish, also has some konbu 昆布 algae, one of the essential ingredients to be able to obtain the umami flavor when cooking.

flying fish soup
The ones on the top left side contain only algae and are cheaper than those that include also a flying fish.

flying fish soup

Other posts about vending machines in Japan:

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Water Offerings in Meiji Jingu

In Meiji Jingu there’s always a lot of barrels donated as an offering by many distilleries around the country. The funny thing is that last weekend I also found water bottles as offerings. In addition to being a donation to the Shintoist shrine, they are useful so that the kami-gods bring good luck and good business to the water bottlers.

Water bottles in Meiji Jingu

Water bottles in Meiji Jingu

Water bottles in Meiji Jingu

Water bottles in Meiji Jingu
Alcoholic beverages offerings

Water bottles in Meiji Jingu
Other offerings

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Coffee Art Evolves

The popularity of the art of “drawing” on coffee foam has quickly spread all over the world. There’s already a World Latte Art Championship (which is usually won by Japanese artists). The coffee foam art techniques are evolving fast; now artists can create 3D coffee foam art and some artists can even add colors to their designs (watch the video at the end of this post).

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

Coffee Art 3D

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Source: Global Voices

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Oi Ocha – 伊藤園お〜いお茶

The Oi Ocha brand was launched by ITO EN in 1989, following the success of its “Canned Sencha” brand that debuted in 1985. The brand is derived from the Japanese phrase, “Oi, ocha!” brand which is a way of calling out, “It’s tea time!” or “Tea, please!”– part of the warm, everyday conversations heard in Japanese homes. The Oi Ocha beverage brand is now one of the most familiar brands in the Japanese beverage market. It is the number one brand among green tea beverage products, second-highest sales among all beverage brands.

The Oi Ocha brand is also used in the marketing of tea leaf products. ITO EN’s roots as a specialist tea company may also be seen in its position today as Japan’s largest tea company, handling over 20% of all the green tea grown in Japan, and the Oi Ocha brand is also ITO EN’s main brand for tea leaf products.

The bottle in the picture is the strong-tasting variation of the Oi Ocha (Ryokucha). I like its balance between astringency and full-bodied flavor as well as the green tea fragrance.

More about tea:

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Pocari Sweat

The first time I tried Pocari Sweat I thought it would be some kind of copy of Aquarius by The Coca-Cola Company. Pocari Sweat has a somewhat milder taste than Aquarius and if you fill two glasses with both, Pocari Sweat is more transparent; but in general they are very similar.

Pocari Sweat

Pocari Sweat

But it turns out it was the oppositte, The Coca-Cola Company copied Pocari Sweat. In this screenshot of the movie Back to the Future you can see a Pocari Sweat (down to the right) during year 2015, suggesting that the drink would become very popular in United States in the future:

Pocari Sweat
Pocari Sweat!

Zemeckis was partly wrong, Pocari Sweat was never released to markets outside Asia. What happened in 1983 is that The Coca-Cola Company released a similar drink to Pocari in Japan, called Aquarius. During the 80s they were both drinks exclusive to the Japanese market. The next country that was able to enjoy Aquarius was Spain in 1991 to make the most of the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. Nowadays Aquarius is known in many countries around the world and Pocari Sweat is sold in over 10 Asian countries.

This is one of the most well-known Pocari Sweat commercials (I think it was shown during 2005-2006), in which Ayase Haruka chases a Pocari Sweat train:

Since then, actress Ayase Haruka is one of the models used by this brand.

Ayase Haruka. Pocari Sweat

Ayase Haruka. Pocari Sweat

Ayase Haruka. Pocari Sweat

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Most Popular Teas in Japan

One of the first things that caught my attention when I arrived for the first time to Japan was that many people drank bottled green tea:

Ocha
Suntory and Coca-Cola are two of the largest bottled green tea producers in Japan.

Soon, my curiosity lead me to a drinks vending machine in Shibuya, and instead of buying the usual Coca-Cola or Aquarius I pressed one of the buttons that gave me one of the green teas offered. I was expecting a flavor similar to Nestea, but my surprise was that my first gulp tasted bitter, very bitter, it had no sugar at all…. “Yuck!!”

After a while, after having drunk a lot of green tea and having “learned” how to appreciate its flavor, I was on a trip to San Francisco and I decided to order some Nestea. I tried it and… “Yuck!! This is water with sugar!”. And that’s how I became a fan of unsweetened green tea.

Japanese green tea plantation with Mount Fuji
Photo by Ippei Janine

Green Tea, Ocha お茶

In Chinese as well as in Japanese the character 茶 means “tea”. In Japanese it is pronounced “cha” and in Chinese I think it’s something similar. The word ocha お茶 is used to refer to green tea. The kind of green tea depends on the season the tea is harvested, how the leaves are dried and the time they are exposed to the sun:

  • Sencha (煎茶): it is the most drunk kind of green tea in Japan. If the leaves are from the first harvest (April-May) it is shincha (a lighter kind of green), if the leaves are from the Summer harvest it is bancha. A very popular kind of bancha is hōjicha (ほうじ茶); which is differentiated from normal bancha by its roasting process, it’s one of the softest green teas and it is usually served at midday along meals. It is the tea usually served for free in Japanese restaurants, it has a light brownish color.
  • Gyokuro (玉露): it is considered a kind of green tea of great quality and considerably more expensive than sencha. During the weeks before the harvest, tea plants are covered so that they are not exposed to sunlight, in this way the amount of theine and caffeine in the leaves increases. It has a darker color than sencha.

    ocha

  • Matcha: green tea in powder form that is soluble in hot water. It is the one used in the tea ceremony. It has a much stronger taste than sencha and gyokuro. Some people can’t stand such a strong flavor but I love it.

    green tea

  • Ulongcha

    It is a kind of tea originally from China which has much less caffeine than green tea. It is usually drunk as a refreshing drink in summer. Due to its low caffeine content it is one of the drinks chosen during nights for those that want to go to sleep soon.


    The darkest bottle is ulongcha.

    Cereal Teas

    Mugicha (barley tea) is exclusively made out of barley, so it doesn’t contain caffeine. Genmaicha is made mixing roasted rice and green tea leaves. Both have a yellowish color.

    Black Tea, Kocha (紅茶)

    It is the kind of tea that we drink in Europe and it is the only one in Japan in which it is allowed to put sugar or sugar substitutes.

    Other kinds of Tea

    In coffee shops many different kinds of international teas are offered. Lately an African tea, ruibos, is becoming really popular. Chai, jasmine tea and camomile tea are also widely known; being chai one of the favorite teas of Japanese girls.

    tea in japan

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Pepsi Pink strawberry and milk flavor

I have just tried the new Pepsi Pink with strawberry and milk flavor. I can feel the strawberry flavor but I don’t really taste any milk in the drink. Reading the label it turns out that the main ingredient of the drink is… grape juice!

Pepsi Pink strawberry and milk flavor

Almost every year Pepsi launches a new “weird” drink in Japan, most likely as a strategy to try to attract attention. Up until now I think the weirdest of them all is still the Pepsi Cucumber.

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Power Squash, the Dragon Ball Kai drink

The other day my friend Zordor recommended me to try the new drink “Power Squash”, whose can designs are based on Dragon Ball Kai. He told me that the taste is similar to “Lifeguard”, another one of those unique weird Japanese drinks. Yesterday I finally gave it a chance and bought one can, I got the Krilin one:

Power Squash

Power Squash

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Coffee foam art

Coffee foam art is a really good example of how much importance Japanese people give to details in the presentation of food and other services. Sometimes more time is spent taking care of the presentation than the preparation. Some of these coffees look so beautiful that it’s a pity to drink them:

Coffee foam art

Coffee foam art

Coffee foam art

Coffee foam art

Coffee foam art

Tea foam art
That’s not coffee! It’s tea foam art.

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New solar-powered Coca-Cola vending machines with LED lights

There are nearly 6 million drinks vending machines in Japan; more or less one vending machine per every 20 people. Coca-Cola, which currently owns almost 1 million vending machines in Japan, has recently announced that they are going to replace all of them with a new ecological model that will be powered by solar panels and will be lit by low consumption LED lights. They will also be equipped with a payment system that uses electronic money and is compatible with almost all the smartcards used in Japan.

Coca cola vending machine

Coca cola vending machine

Source: Cocacola.co.jp

Other posts about vending machines in Japan:

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