Review: the mystery bag

A luck dip bag

Japan has a strange relationship with convience stores. Many are closing due to lack of business, may are changing their opening hours to allow the store to stay open and others are just opening: case and point: Family mart in Matsuharamachi, Nabari (松原町).

This store is, to be honest, located in a rather rural area with no footpath to the store, and it’s surrounded by small business and farmlands. In other words, not a viable business location (to my mind at least). But with its opening today (22/11/19) there were several higher-ups there to advertise the T card ( a point card or a credit card that collects points as well).

The problem with this is that everyone in Japan knows what the T card is and more importantly knows what services family mark offers. Ignoring this and enjoying the ‘new’ store, they offer something on opening day that is a little treat- the lucky bag.

These bags are extremely common in Japan especially around anything seasonal (New Year’s, Golden week, Obon etc) and whenever a store opens. The sign stated that over 1000 JPY worth are products were in the bag for just 600 JPY and being the month of trying new things, I had to buy on. One of the big wigs knew English as well he told me: “Japanese luck lag. Very, very discount”. It was extremely nice of him to try- so thank you. Moving on to the product.

My mystery selection came in a bag marked lucky bag or 福袋 and inside was a rather nice selection.

The mystery selection

The first thing to note is that all of the products are family mart branded products- which are also the cheapest treats they offer (but not the healthiest though) but that is not to say they are the worst- some of my selection was a welcome Friday treat.

Firstly, the 2 cakes (the Baumkuchen and the waffeln didn’t last- they were consumed within 5 minutes of this picture (ignoring my diet for the moment). The ingredient for which is everything you would expect in a mass-produced product.

The salt popcorn is standard popcorn- nothing to write home about and tastes exactly how you would expect; moving on. The chocolate peanut bites were nice but forgettable- they’re sweet, crunchy, nutty and at least they’re cheap.

The nicest products from this selection were the crystallized pineapple and the green tea. These are items are something I would actually buy because they are a small treat and relatively healthy. However, these products together are about 300 JPY.

You may be wondering about the instant ramen: I an not going to consume it because a: there are a tonne of ingredients, b: include shell fish (I cannot stand the taste) and c: I have some self-respect (some).

Was it worth it? Price wise yes I can see why someone would buy this. Would I recommend this: jein. If you have not bought a similar bag in the past it is worth the experience. If you have, don’t other wasting your money- just buy what you want.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Sanyodo, book store

Look at all those cheap books

Sanyodo is a chain book store that offers a range a large range of books, stationary and other products. Let’s take a look.

Upon entry, you are greeted with a large selection of stationary products some cheap and others not so much. If you interact with children during your time in Japan, it is likely that their stationary came from either an 100 yen store or this one.

Currently, like many shops, there is a large display of 年賀状 products (new Year’s card)- from stamps to stickers and other products- to allow full customization of the cards which the Japanese are very keen to do.

The other current main seasonal section is the Christmas section. It is here that I came across some brilliant examples of the Japanese update and modification of western tradition i.e. Christmas.

So many Christmas books

My favorite example here was an Anpanman book where he has to help Santa deliver gifts and save Christmas.

Moving on from this section, Sanyodo offers quite an extensive range of non-fiction books from health books, to PC help books, history (mostly Japanese history), a large section for middle and high students etc. Taking into account to the stores size, they have a good range of books and magazines on offer.

The final major section (disregarding the small snack selection) is the magazine section. This section offers a wide range of magazines on a wide selection of topics and as always there are many magazines which offer a special gift with the magazine- but you do have to pay more for theses magazines.

Final thoughts, I definitively do recommend this store due to the range of products on offer and the brilliant selection of stationary.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Christmas: Advent calendars in Japan?

Advent is a christian festival where they count down until Christmas and this idea of counting down to Christmas was made into the advent calendar. Each and every day, you open a card window and enjoy a little sugar rush of delicious chocolate (which is so much better than the advent candle approach where you watch a candle burn).

Traditionally, advent calendars are only found in countries with a strong christian history. Even though it could be argues that Japan has a long history of Christianity (of about 400 years), Japan is mostly secular.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I saw these advent calendars in Aeon of Disney characters and (even more surprisingly) a traditional Christmas scene.

An extremely typical advent Calendar design

The product features German, French and English but not Japanese. To ensure that I wasn’t going mad, I asked my Japanese colleague about advent calendars and they gave me a look of confusion and asked what it was (well more I told them what it was).

I have previously reported on this sort of product only being featured in Japan once it had been changed to reflect more of the culture, but this seems to be an complete abnormality in this area. I will need to look into this further, but advent calendars are as strange as I in Japan it seems.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Blanchul chocolate mint bites

It’s time for another strange mint chocolate flavored review that I found while shopping.

These mint chocolate biscuit bites are made by Bourbon and are just that- a bite. However, when you first try them, you do get a great taste of Coco and mint accompanied with a plastic after-taste; which is not normal. After reading the ingredients, I can only assume that such an after-taste comes from the use of butter and shortening.

If this product was made within the EU, there would be a list of E-numbers a mile long. In Japan, however, you just get the full ingredient list. A tip for those who are health conscientious: if the ingredient is in katakana, it is probably something you should avoid. For example, マガリーン (margarine), and ショートニング (shortening) are heavily featured on the packaging along with ホエイポウダー which is whey powder. This product is fine and thus has a kanji (which was not used on this occasion) which is 乳清 which literally means pure milk.

Would I recommend the product- considering the fact that I did eat all of it, consuming a pointless 225 kcals- I’ll use the German word Jein (yes and no). It tastes okay but doesn’t leave an impressions and passes without comment.

For this product, try it if you want, but don’t expect to love it.

Thanks for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Palika Chocolate mint sticks

As I am trying new things this month, a small sweat treat is exactly what I wanted (but not according to my diet).

In this packet, there are only 6 sticks included (the downside) but to combat this, they taste amazing. Each sticks is covered in a crunchy wafer and is filled with chocolate mint and crunchy puffs.

Now the downside, they are mostly taste and there is noting much in them. Each sticks is only 38 kcal and have 4.8g of sugar- or put put it another way, a nice flavor but nothing nutritious.

Do check them out if you get the chance, they are a tasty treat.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Opinion: Christmas is coming

Japan has taken to the profit making market of Christmas

Within many supermarkets throughout Japan, the Christmas section is starting to bloom into a eye-sore of a seasonal isle. Aeon is no different in that respect.

Aeon offer many different types of products, some of which just look like the 七五三 products but re-branded for Christmas, most of which seem to be targeted to children and the stocking is no different.

Stockings, traditionally be hung by the fire place, are a place to put small treats to enjoy on Christmas day have in this case been pre-filled with 5 treats and have a slightly different design.

In regards to Christmas products, 1080 JPY is not a bad price but it is still expensive for what you get. It’s a good product for children or as a decoration piece but that’s about it.

There will be more Christmas related products to come, but for now, thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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.

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.

Review: Hattori stationary story

Review: Hattori stationary story

A small local business that caters to all needs

In Ueno-shi, Iga and within sight of Ueno castle (review to come), is a small shop with many hankos outside of it. The shop is located next to a cram school (塾 in Japanese), and opposite the city hall and it is a brilliant place to explore.

Firstly, they do have information available in other languages so strict Japanese in not required to shop here. Upon entry, you are greeted with a multitude of products- a small slice of heaven.

When you explore further, you can clearly see the displays of traditional Japanese stationary alongside more modern western stationary. The Japanese stationary is a brilliant display of materials for calligraphy with a wide choice of inks, brushes and paper/ writing boards.

In addition to the obvious displays, the back-wall is covered with small Japanese knickknacks of dolls, kami, and calendars- ensuring that the shop caters both to the local community and to tourists alike.

This is a shop where I have spent quite a bit of money as they have brilliant sketching supplies along with a lovely selection of traditional Japanese paper which is brilliant for gifts.

If you ever get the change, please do check this place out (and they currently offer a 50 yen off ticket for your second visit), I highly recommend it.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Seria

A review of the 100 yen store Seria.

A brilliant 100 JPY store

Seria is a national 100 JPY store with locations from Kyuushu to Hokkaido that offers a extremely wide range of products. Each store is set up specifically for that location so there is a slight variation in products offered at each store.

They are very proud of a number of things ranging from products that are produced in Japan (which is 国産 in Japanese), listening to customers’ feedback about what products they would like, and offering their own branded products which increases quality and allowing them to be sold.

Interestingly, Seria comes from Italian which means “beginning” , which just like this post, where we shall begin.

Firstly the range of products is immense. They offer seasonal items from Halloween, summer camping supplies, Valentines/ White’s day crafts in a specially designed display to attract the eye and help encourage patrons- which seems to be a rather un-Japanese marketing strategy.

Next their range extends from storage and stationary products to kitchen supplies and food items. There is a good selection and the quality in the multitude of items I have bought has always been brilliant and I have not yet had any problems.

For those of you who love character products including main western and Japanese characters: including Disney, Anpanman, Doraimon, the yellow tick-tacks that love bananas, Snoopy etc, all for 100 JPY. These products are smaller and usually only offer a singular item (1 fork for example) rather than a set.

There is also a health and make-up which sells basic necessitates such as shampoo, eye liner, lipstick, toothpaste, toothbrushes etc. Of course, they also offer a wide range of masks as well.

In regards to their food products, they have a basic range- from oil and seasoning to snacks and crisps.

The only thing to note is that due to consumption tax increase, food items are 108 JPY and non-food is 110 JPY.

If you get chance please check it out, you may find something you’ll love.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.