Delicate Customs:  The Art of Bonsai


bonsai03When people first learn about bonsai, they are often surprised that it is considered a form of art, rather than gardening. Bonsai, for many, is an object, a tiny potted tree, one that is cared for just like any other potted plant. But true bonsai is an activity, one that is undertaken for many years, with patience, sensitivity and nurturing.

Bonsai trees are not stunted or pruned into an artificial shape. Just as a painter works on a canvas or a sculptor works with bronze, bonsai artists work with the living structure of a tree, cultivating and coaxing it into its final beautiful form. Bonsai artists respect the dignity of each living organism, working with it over the years to help focus its growth and character.

Depending on the artist’s vision, the trees can grow to be a few feet tall or be shaped into the tiniest miniatures, and be cultivated into balanced, natural, shapes. The most popular varieties of trees and shrubs used in bonsai are pines, whose leaves are evergreen, maples, whose leaves change color in autumn, flowering cherry or plum trees, and fruit-bearing trees, like the quince and persimmon. Regardless of the tree chosen, a beautiful and well-suited container is always considered part of the entire piece.bonsai02

Bonsai cultivation has a large global following. While originally a Japanese art, the World Bonsai Friendship Federation has done much to promote the exchange of ideas, designs and culture across the globe. Every few years, they host a World Bonsai Convention, with the next one to be held in April 2017 in Japan, at the traditional birthplace of bonsai, in Saitama City at the Omiya Bonsai Village.

Bonsai has an interesting history. It was originally a hobby for aristocrats and priests during the 14th century. As bonsai art spread into mainstream Japanese culture, more bonsai01people began creating these small trees, and, in the early 19th century, when Japan opened its doors to the world, many visitors from Western countries began growing bonsai. After World War II, the art of bonsai spread even more, as large-scale exhibits were staged and the trees were given as gifts between nations.

In modern times, creating bonsai doesn’t require a visit to Japan. There are many resources for growing your own tree from seeds, learning how to develop the best environment for the plant with the proper mesh screens, how to reveal the trees’ most beautiful shape through pruning and wiring, and how to enhance its growth through watering, feeding and fertilizing. Bonsai clubs are a great place to start!

Do you have a bonsai that you love? Are you part of its creation, or was it handed down to you, generation to generation?

What’s for Lunch?

lunchjar01Salmon teriyaki with seasonal mixed vegetables over rice. Jambalaya with cornbread and sautéed greens. Chicken vindaloo with mint yogurt sauce and papadums. Japanese dry curry with rice and boiled eggs.

Sounds mouth-watering, doesn’t it?

More and more people have meals like this for lunch. They’re fresh, healthy and balanced. They satisfy the belly and the heart. They make us pause, enjoy lunch (even if it’s just for 10 minutes!) and feel refreshed. A meal like this feels like it was made with care, with attention to flavor, comfort and nourishment.

A meal like this deserves to look as good as it tastes, to be crisp and clean, not mushy or soggy or mashed together. The best way to bring these homemade lunches to work orlunchjar02 slxd school are to take them in a lunch jar, like the Classic Stainless Lunch Jar (SL-XD20) by Zojirushi.  The Classic Stainless Lunch Jar is perfect for transporting gourmet lunches, and has some remarkable features. The outer container is made of durable 18/8 grade stainless steel with superior vacuum insulation, which keeps food hot or cold for up to six hours. The jar also has three generously sized inner containers – one for a side dish, one for a main dish, and one for soup. The main dish container has an insulated lid that prevents room temperature items placed above it from becoming heated or chilled, while the soup and main dish containers are kept hot or cold by the insulated jar! Each inner container is microwaveable and BPA-free. The jar also comes with chopsticks, chopsticks case, and a detachable carrying strap. You can find out more on our product page.

We’ve got great ideas about what to have for lunch.  What are yours?

Beyond Fish: Roasting Indoors


Ah, summer! What a glorious time to be in and out of the kitchen! Seasonal ingredients are abundant and warm weather has us eating light all season long. We have as much fun hanging out on lazy weekends as we do eating, so why not make it that much better?

We have developed a product that takes all the fun and flavor of a summer roast, and s-EF-VPC40-NLcondenses it down to the size of your countertop; saving you on space, smells and clean up! Our Fish Roaster (EF-VPC40) is the perfect tabletop appliance for creating quick and delicious roasted foods. From omega-3 packed fish to protein-rich chicken, pork, and beef—just throw them in the roaster and you’re ready to go. Don’t forget to add vegetables, too! Delicious roasted vegetables make the perfect summer side dish.

This product comes equipped with a platinum catalytic filter that will eliminate up to 90% of smoke and odor components by chemically decomposing them. There’s no need to flip s-EF-VPC40_Openfood thanks to a powerful 1,300-watt heating element on top and bottom, and the heat reflectors ensure a crisp finish. An extra wide roasting rack can accommodate large fish, meats, and vegetables up to 13-3/4” in width, and a stainless steel roasting rack will direct excess oils and fats away from foods. Simple disassembly means clean-up is a breeze as well!

Come check out our recipe page and discover what you can cook in this wonderful fish roaster.  Make it your own and keep those summer vibes cookin’ all year long!

Goya: The Bitter Melon

Goya, or the bitter melon, is a favorite in Japan this time of year. With its pebbly surface and long green shape, it resembles a prickly cucumber or summer squash more than it does a cantaloupe or honeydew melon. Don’t be fooled by its cute name, either. “Bitter melon” is not a playful title for the latest Jolly Rancher. This unusual fruit really is bitter.

So why is Goya so popular despite of its bitter flavor? Well, it’s because these funny little fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals and healing properties that might just help you fight through the hot and humid summer in Japan. It’s also believed that they may help improve your skin texture and digestion since they are high in Vitamin C and fiber. With that bitter taste, they are almost like a medicine!

bittermelon01Although you can find them pretty much in any supermarkets in Japan during this time of year, you can also grow them in your own back yard! With seeds purchased online, mulched soil and plenty of sunshine, these funny fruits will be abundant in no time.

Scared to try? Don’t be! You can pair this ingredient with savory bold flavors like soy sauce, bonito flakes, and onion. You can also add it to a noodle or fried rice dish for an unusual treat. Be adventurous and let us know how you like this funky ingredient!

Katsuobushi Kezuri

Photo by Sakurai Midori

Photo by Sakurai Midori

Katsuobushi or bonito flakes are a staple of the Japanese cuisine. These salty-smoky, light as a feather, umami packed flakes are often sliced so thin, they dance or wiggle on the surface of the dish. It is also the main ingredient in umami rich dashi stocks, a key ingredient in many Japanese dishes. The inimitable bold and slightly fishy notes of katsuobushi will add depth and complexity to any ingredient.

These days you can find a bag of bonito flakes in just about any Japanese/Asian supermarket for a few bucks. So why shave your own you ask? Well, you know the difference between freshly shaved Parmesan cheese and the kind that comes pre-shaved and lives on the shelf for eons? That’s why!

Katsuobushi on top of udon

Shaved katsuobushi garnishing udon

Shaving your own katsuobushi requires a little bit of finesse, but will yield you a finished product that is so far superior to the pre-shaved ones in the bag that you will never want anything else. All you need is a block of dried katsuo (bonito) and a katsuobushi kezuri, or shaver.

The katsuobushi kezuri is a small box made of wood or steel with a small blade on top. The dried bonito block is shaved over the box and the shavings or flakes are caught inside. It will take practice to shave off a long, thin piece of katsuobushi, but the finished

product will be well worth your time! We found this beautiful video of a master at work here to help inspire you. Enjoy!

Furin: A Japanese Wind Chime

fuurin02In Japan, our wind chimes are quiet, small and made of glass. First introduced to Japan by Chinese monks in ancient times, these chimes were originally used to watch the strength and direction of the wind. Their soft and peaceful sound was quickly given new meanings in Japan. Adopted by Japanese temples to ward off evil and keep people safe, they were hung on all four corners of the temples. It was said that if you hear the furin, no disgrace will occur.

These chimes were originally made of copper, later glass and today, even pottery. Over the centuries we have become more creative with the design of furin, making them in unusual shapes and sizes. You can even find branded furin with popular Japanese characters like Hello Kitty. Their peaceful sound and small size make them a favorite in Japanese homes and apartments, and help people relax during the hot summer months.

Staying Hydrated with Our New SM-YAE48 Travel Mug


Whether you’re en route to work or hanging out by the pool, we know it’s important to you to stay hydrated in style.  That’s why we’ve developed the SM-YAE48, a travel mug designed with your lifestyle in mind.  Enjoy up to 16oz. of your favorite hot or cold beverage in a new and improved style that maximizes capacity while minimizing space.

Treat yourself to a comfortable drinking experience with a wide spout mouth and tapered lid cover that won’t block your line of sight when you’re on the go.  With a stain-resistant smyae03SlickSteel® interior, easy-to-fill wide opening, and partially disassemblable lid, this mug is also a breeze to clean.  And, no matter how bumpy the roads you travel, or jumbled your backpack or purse, its leak-proof lid and safety lock guarantee your drink gets wherever you’re going spill-free.

It gets even better!  The SM-YAE48 is available in four stylish colors: Stainless, Dark Cocoa, Cherry Red, and Lime Green! So, what are you waiting for? Fill this mug up with today’s piping hot black coffee or iced fruit tea, and savor your drink at one of your favorite places. We’ve got ya covered!

Your Sushi Party Awaits: Working with Makisu!

 If you do one thing this summer, it should be throwing a sushi party! No, seriously–it’s a great way to get together with friends, get creative, and enjoy some good food while you’re at it. In addition to the usual essential ingredients (fresh fish, wasabi, soy sauce, nori seaweed and lots of sushi rice), you’re going to need a makisu mat.

A makisu is that tan-colored mat made of woven bamboo sticks and cotton thread that you often see at the sushi bar. Sushi chefs use the makisu to shape sushi rolls, and sometimes egg omelets. They aren’t very expensive, and are simple to clean and store. Just be sure to completely scrub off any food bits, and dry completely after washing to avoid bacteria growth.

It may seem easy, but it’s actually a bit tricky to roll sushi using makisu. Have you had those floppy rolls that fall apart when you try to pick up with chop sticks? That’s a bad example right there. A properly rolled sushi should hold its shape when you pick them up. But don’t worry, we can show you how to roll sushi! Check out our maki sushi recipe here to learn how.


Full disclosure: Creating a sushi roll is not as easy as it might look, but that’s part of the fun! Throw yourself into it, and don’t be afraid to make a mess. Sushi parties can get a little messy, but we guarantee it will be well worth it!

Go to your local Japanese market to get all the ingredients you might need. Be adventurous and fill your rolls with your favorite ingredients—how about tuna, sriracha, Japanese mayonnaise, crab, octopus, cucumber and salmon? Don’t forget pickled ginger and sesame seeds for garnish, and plenty of nori (seaweed) or soy paper to wrap! We’ll do what we can to help you get that sushi rice just right, and the rest is up to you and your friends. We promise, it will be a party to remember. Enjoy!

Doyo-no Ushi No Hi, A Day for Eating Eel!

One of our favorite summer holidays is called Doyo-no Ushi No Hi. It falls late in the month of July when the weather is hot and humid, and it is all about eating eel to beat the heat! Sound crazy? It has been a tradition in Japan for hundreds of years.


Japanese summers are hot and humid, and it can become quite exhausting when you are slogging through those sticky humid days! We call this “summer fatigue” natsubate, and in Japan we believe that eating vitamin and mineral rich eel will help us get through the heat. If you ever find yourself in a Japanese supermarket this time of year, you will see eel being sold quite often.

sansho02 (photo by Didier Descouens)

Sansho Pepper plant (photo by Didier Descouens)

One detail to note is that Japanese eel or unagi is always served with a topping of sansho pepper, which is similar to Sichuan pepper, but with a citrus note.
has a number of uses in Japanese cuisine, but the most famous is definitely with eel. This spice has an effervescent cooling sensation when you eat it, as well as a slightly lemony and earthy quality, which complements the rich eel very well. In fact, most store-bought eels come with the sansho prepared in a small packet on the side.

Sansho pepper is a perfect pair with eel, but throughout the year it can be enjoyed with a number of other items such as chicken, tofu, and fish dishes. It is also one of the ingredients for the popular seven spice blend called shichimi togarashi, which goes great with yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers), soups, and noodles. Sansho pepper by itself may be a little bit overwhelming, but you will probably appreciate it in shichimi togarashi. Give it a shot!

Have you ever tried to cook with sansho pepper? We’d love to hear your recipes and uses for this amazing spice!

Soak in Summer with Zojirushi

summer02Warm days that seem to never end. Enjoying outdoor activities with your family and friends. The best fresh produce your local growers provide… these are just a few of the reasons we love this time of year!

With so many things going on, you probably wonder how many meals you have time to make at home each week. We believe that it’s both lack of time and inconvenience that keep us from the simple homemade fare we crave. We’re here to help! Our rice cookers, stainless food jars, bread makers, and various other gourmet products lend themselves to quick and easy meals at home. Our appliances are designed to help you create a delicious meal easily and save you time when cleaning up. So spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your summer!

Shiso, a Complex Flavor in the Kitchen

It’s shiso season shiso01and we couldn’t be happier. Shiso is just one of those unique ingredients. For those who aren’t familiar with it, shiso is an herb with a texture similar to mint. It has bright, slightly bitter, earthy flavor that brightens up your favorite summer dishes. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s used in a way similar to parsley or cilantro.

Of the five tastes, shiso definitely falls under bitter. So if you’re looking to ‘grow up’ or try something new on the plate, why not play with shiso–after all, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

shiso03The cool thing about shiso is that you can use it in endless ways. Throw it in a fresh veggie salad, serve it with fresh fruit, float it in soup, or garnish a cocktail.  It’s so versatile! It’s not expensive, and even a small amount will leave you with plenty to play with. We suggest chopping it fine to sprinkle over vegetables or using it as a garnish for meat dishes. You can even puree shiso into a pesto, or wrap it around fish.

Go ahead and be adventurous, and have fun with this versatile herb. If nothing else, it will make an interesting conversation starter. We are pretty confident that you will enjoy its unique flavor profile!

The Only Knife You’ll Ever Need

In Japanese, santoku literally means the “three virtues.” In this case we mean chopping, cutting and dicing, of course! The santoku knife is world famous for its fabulous capabilities in the kitchen.

This rather large knife might be compared to a ‘chef’s knife’ in the states. They range from a 5” to 7” blade size with a sharp point. These indispensable tools are designed for a firm grip while allowing for full blade use. They are known for their sharp edges and their “dimpled” blade, which helps to release food slices stuck on the blade. This knife is a perfect multi-functional tool.santoku

You can find santoku knives across a wide range of prices and materials. You can even find ceramic varieties in stores and online these days. If you take good care of yours, store it correctly and have it professionally sharpened, it should last, well, forever. Keep in mind that a sharp knife is a safe knife, and as they dull they become more dangerous, since you have to use more pressure.

If you are looking to add to your collection, or looking for the perfect all-around chef’s knife, a santoku is a must-have item. You will be amazed by their function and versatility.  Please be kind to all of your knives, treat them with respect and above all else, keep them out of the dishwasher!

Rise and Shine!

Waking up in the morning can be a bummer! Kids, summer day camps, breakfast, work- it can sometimes feel like an endless list of tasks. Some days, don’t you just want to stay in bed with a newspaper and a cup of coffee? Maybe some homemade coffee cake?

ecysc01We’re sorry that we can’t remove all the weight and worry of everyday life, but we can try to make it a little bit sweeter. That’s why we’ve spent the last year perfecting the Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker (EC-YSC100). We thought the smell of a perfectly brewed cup might be just the thing to get you going and on your way…

Now, this is not your regular drip and go machine. The carafe is constructed with Zojirushi’s advanced vacuum insulation technology that helps keep coffee as fresh and great tasting as when it was first brewed. By utilizing a thermal carafe instead of a burner, coffee can remain hot for hours without burning. The Fresh Brew Plus brews coffee at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimal temperature for the best tasting coffee. It also features a 24-hour programmable timer so you can have a delicious cup of coffee ready in the morning.

The Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker is also remarkably easy to clean! The removable water tank is fully washable and the swing and filter baskets lift out easily for thorough cleaning. In addition, this unit has a “clean light” indicator that illuminates when cleaning is recommended. So, rise and shine- your coffee is ready!

Wedding Season cross Cultures

Is it us or does wedding season feel longer and longer each year? March through October seems to be filled with weddings, both in our lives, and on social media. During the spring and summer months we are inundated with images of string lights, mason jars and rustic floral arrangements. Beautiful brides glide through outdoor venues decorated with dessert tables and photo booths. What has social media done to the modern American wedding?

wedding01A similar shift is happening across the Pacific Ocean. The traditional Japanese style wedding is becoming less and less of the norm, and couples are opting for ‘western’-style affairs complete with white gowns, tiered cakes and the toss of a bouquet! Some couples even have ceremonies where both wedding traditions are combined. In this situation the bride and groom will perform one part of their wedding in a western style dress and tuxedo. Then, they will have a change of wardrobe and wear traditional Japanese wedding kimonos for the reception. That would make for one elaborate wedding!

But what is a traditional Japanese-style wedding, you ask? Well, that’s a longer story…Japanese weddings are typically all-day affairs beginning early in the morning and stretching out through the night. Both bride and groom don classic wedding kimonos as wedding03they make their way to a shrine. The bride’s kimono will be white with a large white headdress called tsunokakushi. The headdress is meant to be a symbol of both submission and protection from jealousy. Sound familiar? Tsunokakushi is not unlike a western-style wedding veil!

Japanese wedding ceremonies are performed by a Shinto priest in a shrine. Instead of opting for the long walk down the aisle in front of a large crowd, these ceremonies are often intimate with only the couple’s parents in attendance. Drinking sake is an important part of the ritual and symbolizes getting through the many challenges that will arise within the marriage.

Then at last, the reception will commence. Japanese style wedding receptions are held in tatami rooms where husband and wife sit on a stage to see their guests. At this point, the bride might change into a more colorful kimono, or in more recent years, a western-style gown. Food and drink will be served, and people will eat and drink to their hearts’ content. People dance and sing, and give speeches to the new couple. Money is the gift to give at a Japanese wedding. The standard amount is about $300.00, wrapped nicely in an envelope.

As we look at both eastern and western-style wedding traditions, we can’t help but see many similarities. Both versions begin with a ceremony and end in a reception, both require lots of food and drink, and there is some sort of gift giving in each situation. Couples celebrate with close family, friends and colleagues, and it is not uncommon for the couple to take a honeymoon when it’s all said and done.

So perhaps we aren’t that different after all. Have you ever been to a Japanese-style wedding? If so, we would love to hear your reactions and thoughts on the matter! Happy wedding season!

May Brings Long Spring Days

bbq02Welcome to May! The days are stretching longer, weather is warmer, and we are seeing celery, shallots, apricots and pluots at the market. This time of year is always filled with
excitement. Vacation is just around the corner, and summer barbecues are so close that you can almost taste them!

This month, we celebrate a number of spectacular eating holidays, from Cinco de Mayo, to Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. There is always an excuse for dinner, brunch, or a backyard BBQ. We have been planning ahead for this month, and have set aside a few recipes that you just might find useful.

We are excited to share our fabulous new rice cooker with you this month, and introduce you to a few of our amazing recipes. We would also love to know what you have been cooking in your kitchen. If you have any kitchen miracles you would like to share, please send them our way.


Children’s Day

On May 5th we celebrate Kodomo no Hi, known as Children’s Day, in Japan. It is a day when older family members and friends recognize and honor their little ones, and wish for their well-being and happiness.kodomonohi02

This is a visually festive holiday. Japanese households and schools (mostly kodomonohiyoroielementary schools) display carp streamers, also known as Koinobori, during this time of the year wishing for good luck and promising fortune for the children. In Japanese culture, the carp has long been associated with strength and determination. It serves as a metaphor for children to strive hard to reach their goals and to overcome obstacles encountered in their personal pursuits. Inside homes, people display samurai helmets and armor as a symbol of strength and prosperity.

During this season, it is also customary to make Kashiwamochi, a special rice cake dessert wrapped with an oak leaf. It is filled with some kashiwamochisweet Adzuki bean paste, and the fresh scent from the oak leaves transfers to the rice cake, adding a subtle, yet pleasant herbal taste to the dessert. Children all over the country look forward to receiving this special treat on Kodomo no Hi.

In the United States we celebrate holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparents Day to pay respect and love to our elders, but there isn’t a special day to celebrate and embrace the young generation. What do you think about implementing something that resembles Children’s Day in the western world? Wouldn’t it be a nice way to connect the young with the old?

Wasabi – An Insight into This Amazing Condiment

 As mawasabi03ny of you know, wasabi is one of the most recognized of all the Japanese condiments, and is in the same horticulture family as horseradish. The history of wasabi has noble beginnings dating back over a century ago, when people first started utilizing it as a medicinal ingredient to kill harmful bacteria. It was about 400 years ago when people began to enjoy wasabi as a condiment, and around the same time that the cultivation of the plant also began.


Today, the number of Japanese wasabi farmers has decreased to only a handful, as growing it is a very time consuming and labor intensive process. As a result, it has become very difficult to purchase genuine wasabi, and the majority of it we find in the general markets and restaurants is just a mixture of Western horseradish and green food coloring.

Don’t be disappointed though, because there are a few wasabi farmers in the U.S. They are mostly in the state of Oregon, where they have the cool climate and the clean water necessary for growing it. So if you really want to try some real wasabi, you can visit those farms in Oregon!

wasabi04For an authentic Japanese meal, try adding genuine wasabi paste to our traditional Nigiri Sushi recipe: Real wasabi can hold its flavor for
up to 15 minutes only, and it must be graded immediately before serving. Compared to the imitation one, the real wasabi is a bit less spicy, but its fresh aroma is just beyond description! Try it, and let us know if you can tell the difference!

Otoshibuta, Your New Best Friend

 If you don’t have an experience cooking in a Japanese kitchen, you have probably never seen otoshibuta before. Literally meaning, drop lid, these round cooking lids are slightly smaller than the diameter of the pot, and sit directly on top of the cooking ingredients.  Otoshibuta helps the cooking liquid move towards the lid, and coats the top of the food creating a more concentrated flavor. It also reduces the likelihood of the cooking liquid boiling over on the stove, and allows food to cook quickly and evenly.otoshibuta

Otoshibuta are typically wooden and soaked in water just before use. This will prevent the tool from soaking up the cooking liquid, or worse, cracking. You can also find plastic, silicon or metal varieties, but a bit of tin foil or even paper towel will serve as a makeshift otoshibuta in a pinch. In fact, tin foil ones serve better than the wooden ones when you are cooking delicate ingredients because the lid will not crush the ingredients while simmering.

This tool is great for simmering hardy root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins, as well as fish. Perhaps you can find an online tutorial or a recipe, then experiment for yourself. Just when you thought you knew it all, right? There’s always more to learn!

Product of the Month: Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-HCC10/18

NPHCCWe are over the moon to be sharing our newest rice cooker with you! The NP-HCC is one of the most advanced and innovative so far! We have continued to perfect and enhance our cutting-edge induction heating technology to bring you perfectly cooked rice every single time.

This rice cooker is equipped with a variety of settings including GABA brown, porridge, sushi and now, Jasmine rice! We cater to the rice you choose, while you simply enjoy! Did you know that our GABA brown function actually cooks brown rice low & slow to activate and increase the nutritional value of the rice? We are always thinking about you and how best to serve…

The best feature of this product just might NPHCC03be the easy to read orange back lit LCD control panel. We have changed it from the green to be easier on the eyes. It’s always fun to switch up the colors!

We’ve kept your busy schedule in mind with a delay timer & automatic keep warm. The rice will be made around your schedule and can be kept warm for up to 12 hours. Yes, that’s about 3 meals folks!

With a sleek stainless steel interior and a thick non-stick inner pan, this product is easy to clean both inside and out. We thought a detachable inner lid would help with those tough to reach corners.

From delay cooking to keeping warm, cooking to cleaning up, the NP-HCC has got it all going on. We sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

A Time for New Beginnings

springtimeDid you know that in Japan the school year begins in April? It’s an unusual concept to those of us accustomed to a September ‘back to school’ season. Seasonally speaking, April is the perfect time to begin something new. The dead months of winter are long gone, new life is all around, and the opportunities for new beginnings are just about endless.

In true Japanese style, the practice of heading back to school would not be complete without some kind of ceremony or ritual. After all, it is a very special moment for children, and can be quite scary! Don’t you remember?

Nyuugakushiki or school entrance ceremonies are held across the country in the beginning of April.  It is a time for upperclassmen to welcome incoming students and for all to think about what kind of year they’d like to lead. Older students and parents will take their seats in the school gym as new students march in to be welcomed by a round of applause. It is a wonderful way to join students together

During this ceremony, the school principal might talk about what’s ahead and introduce the teachers. An older student or two will typically say a few words to help ease the nerves of younger children. The ceremony would not be complete without singing the school song to bring all children together!

While most of our ‘back to school’ days have long passed, we can still take time to think about what’s to come in the approaching spring and summer months-and what a fantastic time to ponder! A new project, a family vacation, or a blow out party just might be the inspiration for new beginnings! Whatever it is you decide for the next few months, we are sure it will be filled with food, friends, and happy memories. Welcome to spring!

Randoseru: Not your Mamma’s Jansport

Japanese school children have the coolest backpacks! In fact, they’re not even called backpacks; they’re called randoseru. See, they even sound cooler! If you have ever been to Japan, read manga, or seen an episode of Pokemon, then surely you have seen the stiff leather bags strapped to the backs of kids in Japan.


The name randoseru actually comes from the Dutch word ransel, which means backpack. These sturdy leather varieties were brought to Japan in the 19th Century and became a must-have item in the later half of the 20th. Kids receive their first randoseru at age 6 and are expected to keep the same one until 6th grade! It’s not exactly the same disposable mentality over there, eh?

That longevity does come with a price however. Randoseru cost anywhere from $350-randoseru02$600! They are mostly expensive because of the high quality leather. If you are looking to save you can find synthetic varieties at lower prices. They are becoming quite popular these days! Kids love to add accessories, covers, and charms to their backpacks, and you can find endless bits and bobbles in shops around Japan.

If you are intrigued by these long-lasting backpacks, we have good news for you. They can actually be found easily online these days. How is that for a fashion statement?

Myouga, a Delicate Early Summer Herb

It looks like a baby onion, tastes like a mild ginger, and will add extra zing to any dish! We are talking about Myouga or Myoga ginger. These delicate little guys are best enjoyed when they are soft and young. Cultivated year round, we recommend enjoying in the myougamonths of June to September. That’s when their flavor is best!

If you haven’t noticed these guys around, it’s probably because you didn’t know to look. Myoga ginger is widely available at most Japanese markets and online. That’s good news because Myoga ginger goes with just about everything.

Our favorite way to enjoy this punchy ingredient is raw and thinly shaved over noodles, tofu and salad. We also recommend it finely chopped in salad dressings and marinades, or finished with pan sauces. You can even dry them in an oven at low heat for crispy ginger chips or pickle them in vinegar for a sour snack. Happy cooking!

Must-Have Item of the Month: Ohitsu & Shamoji


This month, our must-have items are just about as old as rice! They are the kind of tools you didn’t know you couldn’t live without. Once you start using ohitsu & shamoji, you will use them every single day. Now, what are they?

Ohitsu means rice tub. They are the old school covered rice bowls that come in a variety of materials from the classic wood to plastic, and even ceramic. You can keep your rice in ohitsu for serving at table. This will keep rice warm, moist, and fluffy just how you like it!


The largest shamoji in the world, located in Miyajima.

And you won’t have any luck serving your rice without shamoji or rice paddle. This paddle can be used for serving, cooking, and mixing. The wooden varieties even work for stir fries and scrambled eggs! (That’s our little secret!) We advise mixing rice, immediately after it completes cooking, with a shamoji. Mixing rice will allow excess moisture to escape, and keep the consistency throughout the bowl of rice.

Don’t believe us? Treat yourself to a starter kit online and see how you like it. Don’t forget to report back to us with your kitchen stories!


Celebrating March and the Spring Equinox

Happy March! Ah, where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating Christmas and New Years! Suddenly, spring is upon us, and we are already looking ahead to summer.  Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! There are several exciting things happening at Zojirushi right now. We’ve got new recipes, new announcements, and some fantastic new products to share with you this season!

This is a magnificent time of year to be in the kitchen, and we are overwhelmed with the variety of fruits and vegetables coming through our doors. We are still seeing beautiful winter produce from tart and crunchy granny smith apples to spicy winter lettuces. At the same time, Spring produce is just starting to bud with items like fresh artichoke, baby asparagus and the labor-intensive fava bean! Our kitchens are overflowing with inspiration, and we hope yours are too!


As we straddle the timeline between winter and spring, we can’t help but look forward and back simultaneously. The Spring Equinox is the best time to let go of whatever it is you’re still holding on to from winter, and give life to dreams and goals for Spring. If there is anything you are still hoping to change or achieve this year, now is the time to set that intention. The Equinox will fall on March 20th. You might want to take time that week to sit in silence and quiet mediation. We are planning on it!

Please read on for fun tips, recipe inspiration and product information. We hope that your Spring is filled with happy memories and delicious cooking. Here’s to you!

Hinamatsuri, a Treasured Japanese Holiday Celebration

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAEvery year on March 3rd, we display beautifully crafted dolls in celebration of Hinamatsuri or Doll’s Day. The dolls are meant to represent the emperor, empress, attendants and musicians of the Heian Court. While the dolls do a wonderful job showing off the style of the period, they represent much more than just ancient royalty. The dolls are a powerful tool used to ward off evil and bad spirits.hinamatsuri3

Back in the Heian period (794-1185), people actually believed dolls had the power to hold evil or negative spirits. They would gather the dolls up, and send them out to sea on small wooden boats, hoping that the dolls would carry their troubles with them, and clear them of worry and anxiety. How does that sound for catharsis?

The funny thing is that, eventually, the dolls would become caught in the nets of local fishermen. This became such a huge problem, the ritual had to be changed! These days, people still send the dolls to sea, but pull them out after some time. Finally, the dolls are burned– destroying evil spirits once and for all. At least for that particular year! It is believed to be bad luck to leave one’s dolls on display past March 4th!

Like all great Japanese holidays, Hinamatsuri would not be complete without a very particular kind of food. On this special day we drink a fermented rice wine with sweet notes called shirozake. In addition to this unfiltered sake, we enjoy bite sized rice crackers called hina-arare, hishimochi, a diamond shaped tri-colored rice cake, and our personal favorite, chirashizushi.


Chirashizushi is a mixed “sushi cake”, if you can picture it. It is a celebratory treat, and fun because you can really make it your own! We wanted to share our special recipe for “Gomoku-sushi”, which is a type of Chirashizushi – just in case you wanted to try! Enjoy!

Fukinoto, a Spring Delicacy


Fukinoto, or Fuki, is one of the things we miss most about Japan! This unique plant can actually be found growing wild throughout the country. Sadly it is difficult and almost impossible to find and grow here in the states. Often foraged from the wild and always enjoyed once prepared, the stems of this vegetable taste kind of like celery. They are prepared in the same traditional way throughout Japan– the shoots are cooked in miso soup, while the buds are fried in a tempura batter.

The sight of Fukinoto throughout Japan is a sure sign of spring’s start! We like to think that the bitter taste helps cleanse the body of winter’s heavy fare – preparing us for the lighter fare of the season. If you have ever heard Fukinoto we would love to hear where and how. It is an unusual item and wonderful conversation starter! Happy foraging!

Saibashi, Not your Grandmother’s Tongs

Saibashi is not a subway stop in Tokyo! For those of you “un-initiated” into the cooking tools of Japan, prepare to be impressed! Seemingly simple and unassuming, Saibashi can be described simply as, ‘really long chopsticks’. They are much, much more than that.

Saibashi are widely considered one of the most important tools in the Japanese kitchen. Saibashi are so incredibly useful that most Japanese chefs can’t live without them.


Although they resemble chopsticks in shape they are much longer and serve a different purpose. From sautéing hot dishes to plating small ones, there are countless ways to use these beloved tools. Because of their length chefs are able to reach the bottom of a pot as well as using saibashi to stir stews and soups. The best part is, you can buy them online for about a dollar a pop! So go ahead, and prepare to be impressed. Grab yourself a pair of really long chopsticks and see how they enrich your kitchen life! Enjoy!


This month we are celebrating one of our favorite and cutest products in the catalog! The Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker is perfect for singles, small families and those of you looking to “lean in” to making bread at home. This no fuss product makes tasty 1 lb loaves of bread in less than 2 hours. It also makes dough for cookies, & pasta, as well as homemade jam and even bakes a cake. Now you can say goodbye to chemical additives and artificial preservatives, and enjoy fresh bread at home! Here’s to you!


The Food Jar, a Moveable Feast

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we have sharing on our minds. After all, aren’t all relationships about sharing? We share experiences, memories, meals, homes. Some of us share expenses, kids and responsibilities! We can’t think of one thing worth having, but not sharing. This Valentine’s Day, we wanted to steer away from the usual chocolate and flowers, and offer you something more to share.

If you are not yet familiar with our Stainless Food Jars, we invite you to get to know them. With state of the art stainless steel, vacuum insulation technology and gasket seals, these puppies are built to last! We have spent years perfecting these jars to create a product that keeps food warm and delicious with minimum spills. Now, we offer a wide variety in shapes and sizes for every occasion.

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So, why not give the gift of a homemade meal this V-Day? Whether you bring lunch to share with that special someone or offer a meal made with love to a friend or colleague, a hot meal is a wonderful way to show that you care. We have developed several romantic soups for this particular occasion. Check our recipes for ideas and inspiration, and make it your own! We promise, that special someone will not be disappointed! Cheers!

Nanohana, A Japanese Delicacy

This time of year green nanohana take on bright yellow blossoms and a fresh taste. The vibrant yellow buds on this favorite veggie are a sure-sign that spring has indeed sprung. Nanohana or canola plant is actually one of the oldest vegetables cultivated in Asia. With a look and flavor similar to broccolini, you will see nanohana in many Japanese meals as a side, kaiseki course, or pickled and served in a small dish. It is well loved wherever it lands on the table!


Nanohana is a multifaceted veggie that can be served in a number of ways. High in vitamin C and other nutrients, every morsel is edible from flower to stem. You might find it in the states this year under the umbrella of “broccoli”, and you will be able to identify it straight away by its yellow flowers. Keep in mind that nanohana flowers can be very small in size sometimes making them a challenge to find.

If you are fortunate enough to stumble upon nanohana, you will have no problem making it taste delicious. You can boil, steam, sauté in a stir-fry or dip in tempura batter for a seasonal treat. If it is young, you can even enjoy it raw and thinly sliced in a hearty rice salad. Traditionally, nanohana is blanched, dipped in dashi and sprinkled with bonito flakes this time of year. Try it in the traditional sense if you get a chance!


Nanohana with small yellow blossoms is a magical sign of early spring in Japanese culture. If you do find this vegetable in your local farmers market, it will be a sign of good luck for the months to come. Happy hunting!

Donabe, Japanese Earthenware

If you would like to give your one-pot dinners a rustic, country flavor, then treat yourself to a Donabe pot this year. Donabe are clay or earthenware pots for cooking in Japan. You can set them directly on the fire or pop them in the oven for a simple and delicious meal! This was actually one of the oldest tools used to cook rice. They were used in Japan before the invention of electricity. It is a uniquely traditional way to prepare rice.

Most Donabe that are crafted with quality are incredibly durable, and should be able to survive through years of use. There are Donabe in Japan that have survived for centuries! Occasionally however they do chip or crack. Do not leave Donabe empty over the heat. Make sure it is full of tasty food or rice before cooking!

donabe2If you do make the jump and decide to purchase a Donabe, then please keep us posted with pictures and recipes! We would love to see how you make these beautiful pots your own!

Product of The Month: Tuff Sports SJ-SHE10

The Product of The Month we would like to feature in February is the SMTuff Sports SJ-SHE10. Perfect for those who are active, this vacuum insulated bottle holds up to 32 oz. of your favorite beverage, hot or cold, for hours. With a lid that conveniently turns into a cup, the Tuff Sports is perfect for soccer practice, tennis matches, even your kids’ Tee-ball game!


Finding Home in the New Year!

Finding Home in the New Year!

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Happy January! With a new year and a fresh start on the horizon, the possibilities to make this year a great one are simply endless! We have countless new products, recipes and tips to share with you. From rice cookers to stainless products, we are delighted to unveil the fruits of our labor. We spend years testing recipes and fine-tuning products to ensure they are just right for you – our number one inspiration!

While our office is located in sunny Southern California, our hearts and much of our inspiration still hails from Japan. It’s amazing just how much of Japan is available locally and all around us. From Japanese farmers and nurseries that specialize in native plants and produce, to Japanese markets filled to the brim with memories of home. There always seems a way to add familiar flair to whatever it is we do.


This year, we would like to focus on coming home. If you’re like us and have two places that you call home, you’ll understand what we mean. Maybe it’s that jar of market jam on your turkey sandwich or east coast lobster as a special treat! We keep a tub of homemade pickled plums in the office just in case we get that little craving for a taste of home! There are so many ways to create a feeling of “home” while staying local, it is just incredible!


We would like to share some inspirations from our home through Japanese produce, products, and equipment. In turn, we ask that you share your favorite kitchen secret from home. Pickled shrimp? Patty melt? Fish tacos? Whatever it is, we want to know! Share your kitchen secrets and memories with us on Facebook and here on the blog.  Cheers!



Mitsuba: An Unusual Dinner Guest

Looking for a new green to add to your repertoire? Mitsuba could be just the thing to bring a little something to the table this month. Mitsuba, also known as Japanese parsley is known for its three leaves, fresh taste, and versatility. Somewhere in between shiso and celery leaf, mitsuba is bright and herbal with a fresh edge. You can eat every last bit of the plant including the stems, roots and seeds! And it’s a cinch to grow. If you have a garden box or a backyard plot, your mitsuba should be abundant in no time!


Enjoy mitsuba raw in a fresh salad or in your morning green machine. Garnish freshly chopped mitsuba over steamed clams and other fish dishes for a fresh finish or add to soups and stocks for an exotic edge. Mitsuba would also be great tossed in a rice salad with other fresh herbs and some lemons. Needless to say, there are many delicious options for this happy three-leafed plant!


Tell us how you like to use this magical little plant here on the blog. Who knows, it just might end up in one of our new recipes! Happy cooking!


Homegrown Pickles: Using the Tsukemono Ki

No Japanese table is complete without a little pickled something. Daikon, plums, cucumbers, cabbage — you name it! We love a little salty/sour something during mealtimes. And we’ve got some good news – you can DIY your own pickles with the help of a Tsukemono Ki! Can you say it three times fast?


The Tsukemono Ki is a handy little tool made for pickling vegetables fast. In ancient times, pickles were made in giant wooden and ceramic tubs with large stones. This was a messy and time-consuming process that has been made more convenient over the centuries. The small and easy to store Tsukemono Ki is a little pickle pot that sits on your table, counter or in the cupboard with a lid that has a screw attached to an inner plate that applies pressure to make Tsukemono.

It will make crisp and crunchy pickles out of just about anything in a matter of hours. And they are widely available online and in Japanese markets!


Go ahead, experiment and mix a little bit of your home with ours. How about pickled Washington Apples? Napa Cabbage? Bell peppers? You be the judge! Pickle away and let us know what you find. Here’s to a little something sour! Cheers.

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PRODUCT OF THE MONTH – Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-GBC05

We are delighted to share with you what just might be our cutest product yet…

Our little Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer is all dressed up in a beautiful new stainless dark brown color! This gem pairs the latest Zojirushi technology with streamline design to create the ultimate appliance for singles and young couples featuring…


  • Superior induction heating (IH) technology
  • 3 cup size ideal for singles and smaller families
  • Detachable and washable inner lid
  • Automatic keep warm
  • Made in Japan