Review: game center at Aeon, Nabari

Omikuji, a raffle tickets arcade game

I went shopping, like many do on their day off, and after buying my weeks produce, I suddenly discovered that the Aeon supermarket was more of an Aeon mall- which sells a large variety of products. The embarrassing thing about this is that I have lived in Nabari for quite a length of time and I had never noticed this before…..never mind.

On discovery of this, I ascended the building and on the 3 rd flood (UK 2nd floor) I discovered the gaming centre. Unlike the Sega gaming center, it offered a variety of games, prizes and seemed to attract more people to it.

The first “strange” game I discovered was the raffle ticket style claw machine. First thing to note, because getting a prize is not guaranteed, the claw is extremely strong. Secondly, you must open each ticket to check if you have won. Finally, is it 100 JPY for 2 plays- which is an exceptionally cheap price.

I spent 200 JPY (4 plays) and the results were:

2 winning tickets and an example losing ticket

2 winning tickets which were marked C賞 and numerous tickets marked はずれ. Winning tickets went from C to special (C, B, A, and special) and the rarity increases as the prize improves. I won twice and came away with Disney erasers, so I am quite happy with that.

In addition to this game, they have numerous UFO machines with official products including Anpanman, Disney, Doraimon etc.- which attracted the attention on children, and strange adults alike.

There was a small selection of more adult machines including pachinko and slots (only 10 in total). This game center is definitively more catered towards children rather than adults but was still extremely bit of fun and not too expensive as long as you keep a strict budget.

Anpanman

The other game strange game on offer was a ping-pong ball drop, if it entered the Takoyaki cooker with the colored spot, you can choose with prize you want of the corresponding color. I did not win as it is mostly down to change.

Please do checkout this arcade, or similar ones located around Japan.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Taiyaki Warashibe たい焼きわらしべ伊賀上野店

Got to have a treat or 2

When exploring Iga, I came across this little slice of heaven located opposite city hall. Warashibe Taiyaki is an extremely small store but its’ merchandice is fantastic.

Taiyaki are small pancake like treats in the shape of a fish often with runny center. Some of the flavors they offer at this store are red bean paste (あん), Chocolate cream (チョコクリーム), and green tea (抹茶). For those that are looking for an additional treat, they also have たい焼きアイス takiyaki ice-cream as well.

Taiyaki- green tea flavored

Each taiyaki is sold separately, with the taiyaki being 170 JPY (other flavors are about 20 yen either way) and the Taiyaki ice-cream is 360 JPY- all prices include tax.

I definitely recommend this shop and if you visit Iga, please do check it out.

For telephone orders (you will have to pick it up yourself), please call 0595-24-8818.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Product: Plus Balance

A short review of the “plus balance” health drink

A short review of a new health drink that has hit the market

As I was travelling to work, I came across a new health drink while I was looking for a tasty protein shake. As this new one had a good amount (8 g), I decided to try it and I have to say, its not bad.

Firstly, this was bought from Lawson and they offer the drink in banana and strawberry flavors. When opening the product, it looks rather like a milky coffee but without the expected caffeine hit- I was only slightly disappointed.

Surprisingly, it actually tasted like real strawberries and not artificial strawberries- which was a win- with a slight soy taste. The drink also contains added vitamins and minerals which I did like the idea of.

A slight negative was the amount of sugar in the product but as it was part of my lunch, I didn’t mind as much.

If you can, please check it out- I recommend it (as long as your not allergic to anything in it).

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Product: Koala Machi cookie

A sweat treat with an unexpected flavor

Ignoring snow packaging (which is extremely festive in appearance now that Halloween is over) and the name which translates to Koala city, this item was extremely eye catching and I had to try it.

Additionally, this company has donated money to help support koala foundations and has raised millions to support them.

Back to the product, they are koala shaped crunchy snacks with a soft, creamy filling and completely nourish. The usual flavor is a deep, rich chocolate filling encapsulated within a thin, crispy shell.

This is what I was expecting- I didn’t read the packaging nor look at the picture of a cheese cake like an intelligent human. When I initially tasted them, it did surprise me and the initial reaction was more of “what have I done”? The cheese cake flavoring is artificial, quite insipid and extremely strong- but somehow nice.

Japan has a thing for fake cheesecake flavored items- the worst of which was cheesecake Pokey- there were completely rancid (please don’t try) and somehow the koala crispy treats are not completely unexpected.

The ingredients are just what you would expected- all highly processed and nothing completely natural. But strangely they are called chocolate sweets but only contain coco butter as the chocolate component but they do contain cream cheese so that makes up for it I suppose.

If you get the chance, please do try them but be aware of the slightly strange flavoring.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Product: soy”meat” jerky

Random product review: soy’meat’ jerkey

A strange product in concept but quite good

If you happen to go shopping in Japan, either for food or to see the strange items on offer- there are quite a few, you will notice a few things:

  • Meat is expensive
  • alcohol is everywhere
  • anything which has not been assimilated into the Japanese Zeitgeist is ridiculously expensive

Case and point: beef jerky. Most jerky products in Japan is made from squid or seafood. It is sometimes flavored and has helped create some rather humorous YouTube videos, with more than one you-tuber freaking out at the taste/ texture.

However, beef jerky is hideously expensive for what it is. A 25 g serving will set you back 500 JPY (4.62 USD/3.57 GBP/ 4.13 EUR) which no matter how you look at it is expensive- there’s note even a “it’s cheap for Japan” because it quite clearly is not.

Enter stage left: soy-meat jerky. This product was 150 JPY and is actually a reasonable tasty (and vegetarian alternative if you were looking for one) and cheaper alternative. Opening the packet, there are flakes of soy- quite a few of them all coated in teriyaki flavoring.

Now the important question: does it resemble actual jerky? Yes it does with one exception: it’s a bit softer and therefore, in my correct opinion, much nicer. It’s a slightly chewy, teriyaki flavored flake of joy and it has little fat, a good amount of protein and little added salt.

If you are curious, they are available at Aeon stores in the health food section.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Product: a sweet treat

An introduction to the world of Japanese treats for only ¥69

A small treat cheap treat

When looking for a sweet treat most people look at chocolate, or ice cream, or something else that is usually at least ¥100, but here’s a tip- look at the cheap treats occasionally you come accross a gem.

We’ll start with the gaburi-chew. Thing of a 10 cm high chew andcyou have the taste and the texture of it. It’s a chewy berry flavoured bar and was ¥32, not a bad start.

This product immediately caught my attention with Felix the cat on it and they were ¥9 each so I bought them blindly. They were as packet does say bubble gum, cheap artificial strawberry flavoured straight from my childhood. They are identical to the cheap hubba bubble, the cheap 20p (0.20 GBP) bubble gum and I enjoyed every one.

The game inside is a Japanese classic called あみだくじ(amidakuji). The rules are simple, start at either 1,2,3,4 or 5 and follow the line at each intersection to see if you end up at the strawberry. Be careful, you could end up releasing a snake or a bear etc. Its a bit boring but a bit of fun for kids.

Finally, we have the corn snack which is teriyaki flavoured. With these you must be careful because some of them are just horrible. My favourite so far is the teriyaki one and at just ¥10, I recommend trying multiple to find which ones you prefer.

I have dipped my toe into the world of Japanese snacks, and will do so again soon.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Opinion: Warning hell inbound

Advertising for frozen 2 has started… dear God

Its comming and I don’t mean the C word

After a long day at work, I go to the conbini to find a small treat and this…item jumped out on a bottle of green tea.

For those that cannot read Japanese, it says “Anne and the Snow Queen 2” aka FROZEN.

When I was last in Japan, “ありのままの自分になるの” was everywhere- shops, arcades, TV, all over campus ( I was a student) etc and now as a teacher of all ages….dear God not again.

To the parents who will buy items for their little ones, please keep it out of the classroom I don’t want to be a bit more insane thank you.

It’s coming…..

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Vending machines, a return

Coca Cola: is it as healthy as you don’t expect?

How does the giant of the drink World compare to smaller vending machine companies? Let’s have a look….

“there is one coin coffee” but what about your sodas?

The first thing to note is its’ size, there are only 15 drinks offered–but it does sit next to a larger model, without the one coin coffee. But what about the drinks?

On the top line, there are 3 Aquarius’- a sports drink which is reasonably healthy (and brilliant in hot weather or while doing physical activity), 2 teas and water- not a bad start.

Next, we have the line that should be forgotten: 2 Cokes (do I really need to explain?), grape Fanta, fizzy grape juice and real gold- think of a ‘healthier’ Redbull with added vitamins.

Last row: 2 black coffees, and 4 milk coffees.

Healthy total: 8 drinks. Unhealthy total (including milk coffee): 10 or 44% are unhealth- a lower total percentage than last time. Now what about the big boy?

Please note, you can pay with 1000 JPY notes

As you can quickly see, there are quite a few unhealthy drinks available. Let’s make a start

Firstly, 2 cokes and 2 real golds, Georgia black coffee- really good coffee by the way-, Georgia milk coffee, 2 more real golds, apple juice, and the newest addition to any unhealth drinks selection- coke energy (yes this does exist, no I don’t know why). The first tally is 2 out of 10 (20%) are healthy, let’s see this improve.

The healthy row is as follows: 2 green teas, 2 mineral waters, 2 flavoured mineral waters, 2 milk coffees, and finally 2 smaller green teas. This time, the healthy tally is 8 out of 10 (80%)- much better.

Finally, the coffee row. This row has different ‘mixes’ but applying the same approach i.e. with extra calories (milk or sugar) its’ classes as unhealthy. This makes the healthy total 3 (black coffees) out of 7.

Out of 30 drinks, 13 are classed as healthy. This is a final percentage of 43%.

If we look at both vending machines: out of a total of 48 drink options, 21 are healthy which is a total of 44%- it’s a bit strange how this specific number crops up in regards to coke vending machines- I may need to look into this further.

Final note, as you would expect, most drinks offered are not the healthiest available, but all can be enjoyed at times. As a personal observation, these machines are rarely used as there is a convenience store 3 minutes away in foot- with the same selections.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Health food in Japan

The world of extreams

How long does it take to spot CC lemon?

I have talked about buying protein in Japan very recently, but what I have not yet mentioned is suppliemts, more specifically added vitamins and minerals.

If you were to go to a convience store and go to the drinks section, ignoring the sugar content, there would be quite a few healthy looking options. Admittedly one of my favourites is CC lemon which it’s selling point (on the front and highlighted) is that it contains the same amount of vitamin C as 60 lemons or 200 mg. The body cannot process this amount and a lot of it is lost via urination.

You may think that is a crazy amount, but it’s nowhere near the highest amount. Available at most stores are health tonics in small glass bottles that contain upto 2000 mg of vitamin C.

To put this into prospective, the daily recommended intake for most adults is upto 90 mg a day. If that is the case, does excess vitamin C cause any ill effects?

Yes! Regular amounts exceeding 2000 mg cause gastronomic distress i.e. Diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps etc.

However Japan doesn’t just have products with excess vitamin C, there are products with excess anything.

You may buy wafers with added calcium, wafers with added iron, wilk with added calcium, health drinks with collegen etc. It’s sometimes amazing what extras Japanese producers add to products.

It sounds a bit morbid but: health warming! Be aware of what you are consuming, an excess of a vitamin or mineral for you may have a completely unintentional side affect or may cause you harm. If in doubt either do further research (scientific papers etc), ask a doctor or dietitian or simply avoid it.

After all there’s only one you (and you read my blog, so stay safe)

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Consumption tax: environmental consequence

The 2% increase has a knock-on effect

A set meal (with added plastic…)

 On midnight on October 1st, consumption tax in Japan increased by 2% for some products. This has mostly affected ‘luxuries’ including alcohol, tobacco and sit in meals.

The last one has had strange effects, Japan Today reports that supermarkets have removed benches as they don’t want to be seen as a sit-in eatery and thus people are required to pay an extra 2% (how this would work after checking out I don’t know).

While watching a daytime talk show at the gym (strange I know), they were reporting that many people are now getting food to go rather than sit in. Personally, this seems a bit petty. For example, if you order 牛丼 (ぎゅうどん-gyuudon) or a beef bowl with rice, it may cost 380 JPY to go or 387 JPY to sit in. That saving of seven yen has resulted in more and more people getting their food to go instead of sitting in. This has resulted in further use of single use plastics as bowls, wrappings for chopsticks, wrappings for serviettes etc.

Or simply put, a saving of seven yen may help your wallet, but it may further destroy the environment.

What can be done? There would need to be a change of customer service culture in Japan and an attitude change towards sustainability i.e. allowing the use of reusable containers. Such changes are coming extremely slowly- so don’t expect miracles.

For the moment, plastic is king in Japan- the environment is second.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring