Japanese Drinks – Beer!

Long, hot days, summer vacation and baseball are the hallmarks of summer and in Japan, are best enjoyed while drinking an ice cold beer!

Japan ranks among the top beer consumers in the world, selling an estimated 718.5 million gallons in 2015 according to the Brewers Association of Japan. Five companies dominate the beer market in Japan, including Asahi, Kirin, Suntory, Sapporo and Orion. These five companies, along with craft breweries, produce the majority of beer in Japan, everything from traditional lagers and ales, happoshu or low-malt beers to new genre beers, which are brewed from non-malted crops.

And those beers are the siren song of summer.

Beer is enjoyed throughout the year, but the warmer days of summer inspire Japanese people to enjoy their beer in large mugs after work at Japanese izakaya pubs, at beer gardens with savory delicacies and served by beer girls at baseball games. Everywhere you can enjoy beer has a story… and the most unique experiences!

Enjoying cold, frosty mugs of beer at beer gardens is a uniquely Japanese experience. Open only during the summer, department stores host beer gardens on their rooftops in the evenings. Customers purchase entry tickets, which entitle them to as much beer and food (and sometimes dessert!) that they can consume during a specified time. Sometime these beer gardens even have themes, like the “Genghis Khan Beer Terrace” at the Odakyu Department Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Here they serve Genghis Khan Barbecue and all-you-can-drink Hokkaido beer. The highest beer garden in Japan–Beer Garden Patio 28—is located at a height of 453 feet on the 28th floor of the Osaka Rinku Gate Tower building. This beer garden caters to the exclusive gourmand, serving food prepared on order by famous chefs and a varied selection of drinks, not just beer. And one of the largest beer garden in Japan is held in Hokkaido’s Odori Koen. This beer garden can seat 13,000 people and has even more standing room! A few hours in the open evening air, with views of the city lights and airplanes taking off from the neighboring airport, enjoying a cold beer and good company sounds amazing!

If you are interested in learning about the beer making process, some of the major breweries have opened up their facilities to provide educational opportunities and to allow visitors to taste the full line of beers they offer. One of the popular destinations is the Asahi Beer’s Kanagawa Brewery, where you can get an English guide service. The factory tours dive into the process of brewing beer, and end with tastings!

The big breweries have also helped spawn the craft beer movement in Japan. Since the mid-1990’s small-scale breweries throughout Japan have begun making specialty beers, often using traditional methods and uniquely Japanese ingredients. One such brewery is run by brewmeister Momoyo Kagitani, the brewer of Loco Beer, and multiple award-winning brewer of craft beer. Ms. Kagitani has developed a Japanese version of the German kolsh beer, suiting it to local tastes and creating an international sensation. She carries on the tradition of brewing that reaches back to the mid-1880s, when Dutch traders setup their own mini-breweries in Nagasaki to serve their shipmates.

The next time you’re in Japan, enjoy a cold one at your local izakaya, beer garden or baseball game! And don’t forget to share your photos with us!

Ho’olaule’a


Pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled, just don’t get confused by the apostrophes (they’re meant to help). Ho-oh-la-oo-lay-ah is a Hawaiian festival that celebrates the culture, the dance, and its food. If you ever want to feel like a kama’aina (local native), go out to a ho’olaule’a and stuff yourself with da kine ono grindz. Luckily for me, there’s a pretty large festival near my area that’s been going strong for 39 years! Our family would participate in this festival awhile back, when my daughter used to dance the hula on stage at this event. She doesn’t anymore, but recently we decided to go to the park to check it out again. Perfect for a hot summer day!


Like most festivals, the longest lines are the ones at the food booths—and local food is “da bess kine”. Manapua (stuffed bread dumplings), teriyaki, shave ice, Kalua Pork (shredded roast pork), spam musubi, and more! And what kind of fair would it be without meat on a stick? At the Hawaiian kine fair, it’s Korean Kalbi (short ribs) on a stick. We sat on the grass and ate our plate lunches while we watched the dancers perform on stage.

This is a 2-day weekend festival that takes place in the city of Gardena, California; today being the second day, it wasn’t as busy as the first—but still a good crowd came out to watch the festivities. Many halaus (hula dance studios) come from all over to perform here, so it’s a pretty big deal for all us expatriates living on the mainland.

Everyone’s favorite is always the fast moving Tahitian dance, which gets the crowd going with its hyper drum beat and shaking grass skirts. But the beauty of the much slower Hawaiian hula is that the graceful movements of the dance transcends age, and can make anyone look like poetry in motion. Dancers visually tell stories with the movement of their hands as they sweep across the stage, set to the lyrical, falsetto vocals of the music. I mean, talk about stress relief—just watch hula for an hour and chill, man!

At the booths you can buy almost anything that has to do with island culture. Pictured here are (from upper left clockwise) Uli Uli, the feathered gourd rattles used in dancing, and Poi Balls, the string tethered balls also used by dancers as they skillfully whip them around like yo-yos. The giant Gourds are rapped and pounded in rhythm to Hawaiian chants, and you can also see Plumeria stalks—another popular item that people buy to start their own trees at home. Handcrafted jewelry is always in demand—the rings are a traditional Hawaiian design, while plumeria shaped earrings never seem to go out of style. Hawaiian print lunch bags are one of my favorites—I always get a new one every year because I bring my own bento to work and it’s way better than a brown paper bag.

Most of the decorative garlands, wreaths, necklaces, hair ornaments, and ankle & wrist bracelets that you see on the dancers are made by hand with natural materials like flowers and leaves, as was crafted by the ancient Hawaiians. Here’s an award-winning lei designer displaying her skill. Aren’t the flowers beautiful?

That’s my tour of a little bit of Hawaii on the mainland, for a day. If you get hungry for local food, try your hand at all the recipes available everywhere online—they’re really not that complicated. Zojirushi also has a few on their recipe page that are traditional favorites. Jump to their Loco Moco, Spam Musubi and Butter Mochi pages and let me know how you like them!

 

All photos by Bert Tanimoto
Recipe photos by Zojirushi

A Food Lover’s Tour of Japan – Hokkaido Prefecture with Rich, Savory Genghis Khan

We’re exploring Hokkaido Prefecture this month on our Food Lover’s Tour!

Hokkaido Prefecture is the northernmost prefecture in Japan, covering the entire island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido Prefecture is home to incredible natural landscapes, thriving metropolises and the ancestral home of the indigenous Ainu people.

Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido, and serves as the prefecture’s capital. Sapporo is located on the island’s west coast, serving as a center for the academia, finance, government and trading companies in the northern part of Japan. More popularly, Sapporo is known of its beer and festivals. One of the highlights of a visit to Sapporo includes Odori Park, which stretches from east to west along the city center. Odori Park is the perfect representation of Sapporo, and Hokkaido as a whole, full of art, nature and culture.

One of the best ways to experience Hokkaido is to travel around the island, and in our post this month, we take a virtual trip along the coast. The natural landscape has defined Hokkaido Prefecture for hundreds of years. One of the most volcanic areas in Japan, lakes that never freeze and onsen hot springs abound, along with fertile areas inland and off the shores. Traveling up the west coast of the island leads us to Wakkanai, the northernmost city in Japan. Wakkanai is sandwiched by the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk, serving as a port city and launching point to Hokkaido’s outer islands of Rebun and Rishiri, as well as Cape Noshappu and Cape Soya. These areas, all the way southeast to Mombetsu and Abashiri, are where ice floes float in the ocean. Inland is Asahikawa, where both traditional and modern arts and crafts are practiced, and where travelers can launch their explorations into the surrounding Furano and Sounkyo Gorge areas, is lush with wildflowers, forests and mountains. Japan’s unique fauna can also be experienced in the Kushiro area, along the eastern coast of the island. And as we travel to the southern areas, visitors can view seals frolicking along foggy and windy Cape Erimo. The southern coast of Hokkaido is an area full of volcanic activity, especially onsen hot springs, and the Noboribetsu Primeval Forest. Visiting Hokadate is a must when in Hokkaido, as this trading port is a showcase of Japanese, British and Russian culture and architecture.

If a trip around the coast isn’t possible, then visiting the Matsumae area, where feudal history abounds, and the Shakotan area, where you can see down to the sea bed, are highlights. The Notsuke Peninsula offers ghostly landscapes of fir straw woods, and the central region of Biei, famous for landscapes full of multicolored flowers, trees, and hills.

Spending time in Hokkaido means enjoying the bounty of nature… and of eating well. Ramen, cod roe and other dishes are expertly prepared in this prefecture, but it is also famous for its signature dish, the Genghis Khan!

The Genghis Khan is a grilled lamb or mutton dish, made in dome-shaped grills reminiscent of Mongolian warrior helmets. The meat is sliced and cut to grill well, and is basted in a special sauce. Onions are usually grilled with this dish, and all of it is washed down with pints of beer.

Summer is a great time to for barbeque, and we highly recommend adding the Genghis Khan to your repertoire. Check out our recipe, which can be easily made using our indoor electric grills.

We hope you enjoyed learning about Hokkaido Prefecture and as always, share your comments below!

Product Inspirations – Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-YGC120)

Want a tall glass of delicious iced coffee today? With cream added just the way you like it? And a touch of cinnamon or chocolate powder just the way you want it? And brewed fresh with your favorite coffee?

With our Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-YGC120), you can brew your favorite coffee, iced or hot, at home, just the way you like it.

This stylish coffee maker can brew a minimum of 2 cups up to 12 cups of hot coffee or up to 6 cups of iced coffee. It has smart, versatile features that ensure coffee is brewed perfectly. Brewing temperature is set at 200°F to maximize flavor, and the HI, MED, LOW and OFF settings for the warming plate keep coffee warm or let it cool to make iced coffee. The filter basket swings out and is easy to load with ground coffee with the included measuring spoon, and the removable water tank with two sets of markings for hot or iced coffee makes filling the machine with fresh water easy and accurate. The glass carafe comes with an included Ice Basket. And the machine lets you set a timer for brewing.

The Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker also comes with convenience features like a drip prevention mechanism so that when the carafe is momentarily removed, the machine inhibits messes. The clean spout design of the glass carafe makes pouring smooth and easy, helping to avoid dribbles and dripping. The Clean Indicator notifies you when cleaning is recommended, and the filter basket is easily removed for washing in the sink. All surfaces that come into contact with water and coffee are BPA-free.

The best thing about this coffee maker is that you can use it to make more than just hot or iced coffee. Summer wouldn’t be summer without ice cream, and this machine is great to brew coffee for Creamy Coffee Ice Cream. Milk, sugar, iced coffee and even a favorite liqueur of your choice… blended all together and frozen for a few hours… and voila! Ice cream!

We know you’ll love this new coffee maker as much as we do, and you can find out more at our website. As always, we’d love to hear about your favorite recipes… and don’t forget to post pictures!

Japanese Bento – Kyaraben!

We’ve saved the best for our final post in our Japanese Bento series… kyaraben!

Character bento, or kyaraben, are famous for their style, originality, fun and creativity. Initially created to entice children to eat their lunch, kyaraben focus on the concept of “kawaii”, or cuteness, to present a well-balanced meal in a convenient, portable bento box.

Kyaraben come in an endless variety, all depending on the creativity and wherewithal of the maker. The simplest kyaraben showcase cars, trains, airplanes, stars, hearts and flowers. As the kyaraben artist makes more sophisticated bento, they add cute animal shapes to the bento, including grinning panda bear patties, smiling penguin rice balls, octopus-shaped sausages with flapping arms, porky pigs and small rabbit-eared eggs.

The most popular types of kyaraben, in Japan and internationally, are ones that showcase characters from Japanese anime and manga as well as from Western animated TV shows and movies. Imagine eating a nutritious lunch with Hello Kitty or Gudetama! And how about Doraemon and Pikachu, stacked with fried chicken and sausages! And let’s not forget Totoro and Anpanman on a bed of fried rice surrounded by colorful carrots and edamame! And for kids who love American cartoons, Disney’s Tsum Tsum characters and Winnie the Pooh are big favorites!

Kyaraben artists use both everyday kitchen tools along with special tools made for creating character bento. Plastic wrap is generally used to shape rice balls, but special shapes can also be made using rice molds. Vegetables can be julienned with a sharp knife and also cut into flowers, stars and clouds using miniature veggie cutters. And meats, poultry and seafood are served in bite-sized pieces. Rice and other items are decorated with cutouts of nori seaweed or with designed using powdered seaweed sprinkled through stencils. So elaborate are kyaraben designs that numerous books have been published and popular blogs such as Little Miss Bento are visited by foodies from all over the world!

Ready to try your hand at kyaraben? Check out our ideas for these beautifully-shaped fun bento. And as always, be sure to share your pictures with us!