food

We design and field-test a hands-free burger holder

Here at RocketNews24, we like to keep abreast of the pioneering developments in the separate but equally important fields of technology and hamburgers. Having already marvelled at the fries holder from McDonald’s and recently hearing that Burger King had developed a hands-free Whopper Holder, we were immediately filled with a level of avarice that usually makes people buy a pair of overalls and move to the Yukon to pan for gold.

Unfortunately, Burger King’s shoulder and neck-mounted hamburger holder is only available as a giveaway for customers lucky enough to win one, and since the promotion isn’t being held in Japan, we were left with only one option: design and built one of our own.

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We try 400-year-old Ghost Child Care Candy – so good it’ll raise the dead

In the Higashiyama area of Kyoto City stands a candy shop which boasts a unique regular customer, the specter of a woman who comes for their candy. The legend began in 1599 and has been handed down from generation to generation to the present day.

The shop, now called Minatoya Ghost Child Care Candy Main Office, only sells its legendary Ghost Child Care Candy. RocketNews24’s Kuzo decided to head down to Kyoto to investigate the bittersweet story behind this candy shop’s connection to the other side.

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Japan-exclusive Oreo Sticks – Can they compete with the real thing?

There are few things with the power to excite and abhor travellers more than foreign versions of sweets and cookies that exist back home. Even though we pass them by dozens of times a day in supermarkets and convenience stores in our own country, spot M&M’s, Doritos or even a Kit-Kat in a land where everything else is alien, and immediately we feel like home is not so far away; it’s like running into a friend from your home town during your first week of college where everything else is scary and unknown. What happens, though, if that same friend has a weird new haircut and is affecting some peculiar accent just because they’re in an unfamiliar town?

Oreo Sticks, a snack exclusive to Japan, will likely have the very same unnerving effect on snackophiles. With packaging familiar to millions, yet containing a snack entirely different to those we’re used to, Oreo Sticks have the potential to shatter cookie fans’ dreams, but with a little courage they could also be something quite wonderful.

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The restaurant that powered the team behind one of Nintendo’s biggest hits

Kyoto has a long-standing reputation as a center of traditional culture, justified by its numerous significant temples and shrines, not to mention the artwork they house and their surrounding gardens. However, the city is also home to a site of great importance to modern pop culture: the headquarters of video game maker Nintendo, responsible for many of the titles that shaped modern gaming.

There’s a saying in Japan, though, that you can’t win a battle on an empty stomach, and that goes for designing great games, too. We recently visited the restaurant that powered the development team of one of Nintendo’s biggest hits ever.

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Lotte releases gum for women over 50 that tastes like women over 50, it’s surprisingly good

Gum can be a great way to freshen your breath or relieve stress, but by the time you’re old enough to have huge amounts of stress and coffee-breath, chewing gum can look kind of immature.

But food and candy maker Lotte is looking to shatter that stereotype by producing a gum target directly at women over the age of 50. Oddly enough their strategy seemed to be making it taste like a woman in her fifties.

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Japanese gifts most wanted by foreigners

As a foreign resident of Japan, I take occasional trips back home. And on such occasions, I almost always find myself at a surprising loss for ideas when souvenir shopping for friends stateside.

Sure, there are obvious choices: Hentai manga makes a great gag gift, for example, but you’re bound to go on some kind of watch list if customs decides to randomly inspect your luggage. Yukata seem universally appreciated by new-agey aunts, and quirky Japanese toys are great for kids. But foolproof, sure-to-please-anybody gifts are surprisingly hard to pick out.

Luckily, a Japanese reporter at Excite Japan, who travels frequently and thus has lots of souvenir purchasing experience, has revealed the top Japanese gifts most likely to please friends and family abroad.

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Dragon Quest slime salt and pepper shakers ironically perfect for keeping your spices dry

Despite “dragon” being right there in the title, the Dragon Quest video game series doesn’t really have an iconic dragon. Japan’s most widely-loved role-playing franchise doesn’t feature a particularly popular protagonist either, as each installment features a new, mostly mute hero.

Instead, mascot duties fall to the weakest enemy in each of the games, the lowly slime. Because of its cuteness and the almost complete lack of threat it poses to the player, the slime has become a fan favorite, with a shape as instantly recognizable as a Coca Cola bottle.

The franchise’s numerous titles for home and handheld consoles allow gamers to get their fix from the sofa or on the train, but now there’s even a way to enjoy Dagon Quest at your kitchen table.

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Eat food from Osaka on your lunch break in Tokyo at Isetan’s special Naniwa food fair

Japan is a nation of unabashed foodies, and each major metropolitan area has its own culinary standards. Tokyo is the place for top-tier avant-garde dining. Kyoto cuisine is known for its understated yet complex interplay of flavors. And Osaka? Well, Osaka is the spot for good old-fashioned grub, and where the people aren’t afraid of something a little heavy on the palate or in the stomach. What less would you expect from a town where fans of the local baseball team jump off of bridges into the river after a big win?

Being situated in downtown Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, our offices are too far for us to sneak out to Osaka on our lunch break. They are, however, within striking distance of a branch of prestigious department store Isetan, which just so happens to be in the middle of holding a special Osaka food fair.

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Our reporter visits anti-aging diner in US, feels 20 years younger

The endless influx of American hamburger and pancake chains onto Japanese shores is perpetuating the stereotype that the American diet is basically nothing but an artery-clogging combination of grease and lard peppered with artificial flavors, but for American expats sick of being asked “Do you love hamburger?” by Japanese acquaintances, help may be on the way.

Rumor in Japanese foodie circles has it that the next American food chain to come to Japan may just be True Food Kitchen, an Arizona restaurant focusing on so-called “anti-aging” recipes made from healthy, natural ingredients.

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Tokyo restaurant staying one step ahead of big eaters with its continually growing tempura bowl

A while back, we paid a visit to Fukugawa Tsuribune, a restaurant in Tokyo’s Kunitachi City famous for its fried foods and tempura. We engaged in a delicious battle with its gigantic tempura sea eel rice bowl, coming away victorious but full to bursting.

But believe it or not, that actually wasn’t the most colossal offering on Fukugawa Tsuribune’s menu, which is home to an even more terrifying titan of a meal.

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Gut-busting 6kg ramen destroys stomachs, self-esteem

There’s a ramen noodle shop in Akasaka, Tokyo, appropriately called Akasaka Ramen, that’s been around for ages. One of the reasons it has lasted so long is a menu item that gets a lot of press: the Jumbo Spare Rib Challenge. If you can polish off this bathtub-sized bowl of ramen in 20 minutes or less, you will get 10,000 yen (about $100), and probably a stomachache.

Think you’ve got the guts to get the glory? Well, you probably don’t.

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Get paid 10 bucks an hour to sit and take naps at Kyoto pickle shop

Nestled in the mountains of Sakyo, Kyoto lies Yasehieizan-guchi Station. Expect for the autumn when tourists from neighboring cities flock to see the changing foliage, it’s an almost eerily quiet corner of Japan.

Rumor has it that a small shop selling pickled eggplant is offering a rare part-time employment opportunity.  For a wage of 1,000 yen (US$10) or more, they will pay someone to do nothing but sit around. Hours are flexible and benefits include arranged transportation to and from the jobsite along with naps.

Mr. Sato headed for the hills of Kyoto to verify this job and possibly consider a change in occupation himself. What he found, however, was the sad but touching truth behind the Mata Tora pickle shop and their weird job offer.

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We live the high life with McDonald’s two most expensive Quarter Pounders ever

For those of us born without trust funds, there will be precious few purchasing decisions in life where cost is no object. As a result, it’s important to take advantage of, and savor, that rare opportunity to purchase the very top of the line, whether it takes the form of preferred parking or double-ply toilet paper.

Or, as it did for us at RocketNews24 recently, McDonald’s most expensive Quarter Pounders ever.

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McDonald’s to get fresh at breakfast time, the little scoundrel

McDonald’s Japan is getting fresh with us this summer, and they’re not even waiting ‘til noon.

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Scientists suspect eating more fish may help to curb anxiety

There’s a lot of talk about omega-3 fatty acids and their controversial health benefits ranging from cancer to joint pain and even mental disorders. And now it looks as if a team led by Masayuki Sekiguchi at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry (NCNP) in Tokyo have found another thing omega-3 possibly cures: lingering fear.

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Super Mario Brothers: the final cake tier

“Dear Mario, please come to the castle. I have baked a cake for you!” reads the letter from Princess Peach during the opening sequence of Super Mario 64. Well thanks very much, Peachy-hime, but we’ve actually had a better offer from Australia where – spiders, jellyfish and marsupials with the power to kick your face off included – it’s probably safer than a land populated by mushrooms with teeth, hammer-throwing turtles and a fire-breathing king.

Besides, this is without a doubt the cake of our 8-bit childhood dreams.

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Lotteria’s new Twin Burger is not to be confused with a double burger

With so many hamburger chains in Japan, each has to find a way to differentiate itself from the others. For example, MOS Burger prides itself on its high quality ingredients, and Freshness Burger tells diners right up front where its priorities lie.

With Lotteria, there are two things we’ve come to expect; multiple patty sandwiches, like the nine-layer Evangelion Q burger, and unconventional ingredient pairings, as seen in the chain’s ramen burger. But Lotteria’s newest offering combines both of the restaurant’s signature sales points.

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One brave young woman’s fight to replace shark fishing with ecotourism – We talk to Kathy Xu

Born and raised in Singapore, 31-year-old Kathy Xu had been a secondary school teacher all her adult life, including a brief stint in Japan in 2009. Despite her love of teaching, Kathy recently made the bold decision to dedicate herself full-time to helping stop the exploitative shark finning trade in Southeast Asia, having visited the island of Lombok three times and witnessed the grim situation first-hand. She is now working to provide those same fishermen with an alternative form of income: ecotourism.

With the long-term goal of replacing shark fishing with environmentally friendly tours operated by locals, Kathy hopes to change the way we think about sharks, as well as help maintain the delicate ecosystem that exists in the seas surrounding Lombok, potentially saving their sharks from extinction.

We sat down with Kathy to talk about her inspiring venture: The Dorsal Effect.

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Add interest to your homemade dishes with the help of this ‘vegetable pencil sharpener’

The kitchen can be a dangerous place, full of intense heat and sharp, pointy objects. For people who lack the culinary skills to so much as peel a potato, ambitious kitchen exploits can result in a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears. The thought of thinly slicing a carrot puts fear into every fingertip. Thankfully, there’s a new product on the market which makes the act of cutting thin strips of vegetables quick, safe, and easy. Anyone who’s ever owned a box of colored pencils can now use those grade school pencil sharpening skills to use on their favorite veggies, adding some healthy flair to any dish.

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Giant sea eel: fearsome monster or delicious lunch?

The restaurant Fukugawa Tsuribune is famous for tempura, especially its anago don, tempura saltwater eel served over a bowl of rice. The restaurant’s version of this Japanese standard draws fans from all over the Tokyo area to its location 35 minutes by train west of downtown.

Needless to say, the restaurant must be doing something right, and once we heard the rumors that the anago portions are extremely generous, we couldn’t keep ourselves away and made the trip out to the restaurant to try it for ourselves.

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