Sunday, April 25, 2010

Parfaits & Japanese Candy

Have you ever come across food that looks too good to eat? I sure have and most of the experiences occurred in Japan where presentation often takes center stage over flavor. Not to say the flavor isn't up to snuff, it rarely disappoints. The wonderful fact about Japan is that the picture on the menu or the plastic model in the store-front window looks exactly like what you will get after you order.

Plastic Food Models in a Sapporo Eatery (circa 2007)

Great pride is taken in the visual appearance of food. This especially holds true in the confectionery business.

One of my favorite Japanese works of food art is the Ice Cream Parfait. You don't have to walk too far to find a coffee shop that sells these gorgeous ice cream concoctions. The beautiful thick vase-like glass holds generous amounts of ice cream, pudding, and fruit with all sorts of confectionery toppings. Some of the more common ones are Pocky, Collon, Toppo, and Fran. These deluxe parfaits can put you back quite a few yen though depending on their size. So I suggest you make one of your own using some pretty and unique shaped products from our line-up of candy.

Some ideas for dressing up that plain vanilla ice cream at home:

Nature Scene: Combine some of the uniquely shaped cookies to create a 'living' parfait. We carry tree stump cookies, mini mushroom cookies, and bamboo shoot biscuits. The latter two often come in various flavors (and colors) throughout the year.

Zoo Parfait: Mini Koala filled cookies along side Panda heads, Pucca fish, and Rilakkuma bear printed caramel chocolates.

Colorful: Mix and match different varieties of Pocky, Fran, Karipoli, and Koeda sticks for easy ice cream scooping. Who needs a spoon when you have loads of edible ones?

Let me know about your favorite parfait ingredients! If napaJapan does not carry them we would be happy to try and source them for you.

And don't stop at the ice cream. If you are feeling really creative why not spruce up your bento lunch box with some cute candy items. We have a lot of bento accessories in store too. Click HERE to have a look.

Our next blog will be after the Japanese Golden Week holiday (April 29th - May 5th.) But our store is open every day of the year and we are always available to chat so please drop us a line anytime!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Candy, Characters and Crossovers

Colorful and unique packaging is always the first thing that stands out in the Japanese candy aisle. Some may complain that there is too much, an overkill, upset that their newly purchased box of Deluxe Pocky has 4 plastic bags in it each containing 3 sticks. Sure the volume of product is sufficient but what is one going to do with all this plastic and cardboard, never mind the plastic bag the sales clerk gives you.

Well, sometimes we have a reason to keep the package. Every year some really fun and interesting collaborations form between entertainment and confectionery. The offspring are beautiful over-packaged delicacies that become great collectors items. Of course napaJapan carries some of these products too! They are linked to four Japanese entertainment aspects I will call The 4 Cs: The Cute, The Comics, The Celebrities, The Cyber-Games.

The Cute (Characters)
 Kabaya and Sanrio team up for a yummy strawberry pretzel treat!

Sanrio is the most well-known Japanese character brand around the world due in large part to Hello Kitty. This popular kitten defines cuteness. And since the rise of Hello Kitty in the 1970s a number of other hugely famous characters were etched into the minds of another generation. The most recent star is Rilakkuma by San-X (*thanks for the correction Kelly*). There is no escaping this new phenom as there are products galore in every shopping mall you visit.

The Comics (Manga)

Japan has one book store for every five people, or at least it seems. What isn't an exaggeration is that the Japanese LOVE to read, especially comics. There are stories for every age and every personality (which is kind of scary.) One thing that many of them have in common is recognizable branding found amongst the daily goods the characters enjoy consuming. Three very popular brands synonymous to manga are Pocky, Cup Noodle and Pocari Sweat. Try them for yourself and see if it gives you that animate feeling.

Cup Noodle (Japan Style!) Pocari Sweat Sports Drink Mix and new 2010 Pocky Crush 

The Celebrities

Quiz Time! What products do you think these people endorse(d)? Match to the pictures below and let me know your answers. Try not to use the web for help ;)

1> Tommy Lee Jones (actor)
2> Mao Asada (figure skater)
3> Gackt (singer)
4> Kiefer Sutherland (actor)

The Cyber-Games

Product placement in video games has become big business. Metal Gear Solid 4 introduced two Japanese products to the world: REGAIN Energy Drink & CALORIE MATE Energy Bars.
There have been numerous cross-promotion campaigns and collectors from around the globe contact us all the time for "Snake's energy supply."
I am still waiting for a Mario Bros. game to be released where Japanese Kit Kat bars are used instead of the blocks.
Kudos to my web designer for the cool video game (MGS4) effects on this REGAIN photo. Snake is in the house!

Keep your great product suggestions coming! We are always open to hearing what is hot on the other side of the world. We will do our best to give you the greatest selection of Japanese snacks online. Our product catalog is growing weekly so be sure to bookmark us or follow our RSS feed.