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.

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: 芭蕉翁記念館 or Basho Memorial Museum

A extremely nice outside

While walking around Iga, I saw the Basho memorial museum and decided to visit and it was an interesting visit but I need to make my first warming:

If you are not proficient in Japanese, please do not visit.

The entire museum is in Japanese, both old and modern, and it the hall offers no help for non-Japanese speakers.

The displays did show some of Basho’s writings, along with pre-modern renga and haikai literature along with giving the modern Japanese equivalent nearby and was quite interesting. The problem was the display. Tickets cost 300 JPY and there is only on room which you can enter.

The books and small items on display were extremely good, better than they had any right to be. The concept of Basho is extremely important to Iga, as he was born in Iga. The park grounds do offer 2 more basho sites, which are a lot more interesting to look at.

Final thoughts, a good place to visit if you are good at Japanese. If you are not, consider purchasing a book or item- you will get more enjoyment out of it.

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: Okuwa supermarket

As I travel throughout Japan, it sometimes seems that I have seen every major shop possible and ocassionally, I’m wrong.

Okuwa is a smaller supermarket than Aeon but is extremely Japanese in its’ design. Upon entry, you are greeted with fresh fruit and vegetables and an extremely overpowering smell of fish. As a very quick tip, if you can smell fish, don’t buy- something has gone wrong; although the fish section didn’t smell at all.

Following on from this was the general produce section, tins, packets, etc and then the fresh bento section appeared. Everything was freshly made that day and they have a brilliant selection from rice and veg, to gyudon (beef strips and onions with rice), Italian inspired bentos, alongside extremely Japanese cuisine featuring fish, okura, and other admittedly tasty snacks.

Another feature of this supermarket is the off brand products, by favorite being the off brand Tony the tiger in the last photo.

Final thoughts: it’s not bad but it’s just a supermarket. However they offer an extreamly good bento range and there are some gems but you do need to find them.

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.

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.

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.