Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Chocolate Instant Yakisoba

In case you’ve somehow forgotten, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day which means it’s once again time for Japanese food companies to make their best (or, in some cases, their worst) effort to capitalize on the season.  Case in point:  This limited edition chocolate-flavored instant yakisoba.

Now, I’m told that this particular strange food concoction was also in circulation last year but I evidently didn’t notice or at the very least didn’t care so it’s all new to me. Continue reading

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Clam Chowder Cup Ramen

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these but while I’ve neglected the whole try-weird-Japanese-food-product-and-talk-about-how-zany-it-is thing, it hasn’t been for a lack of Japanese food companies throwing odd things at the wall to see what sticks (or, probably more accurately, get free publicity from people going “isn’t this weird?” online).

But then, a few weeks back, I started hearing about 7-11’s newest special “LIMITED TIME ONLY” cup noodle creation, a “clam chowder” ramen developed in collaboration with every aging American urban hipster’s favorite chain ramen restaurant, Ippudo.  The clam chowder, they claimed, was a speciality brought over from the New York outpost.

Being a guy desperately trying to find things to write about that won’t bring me the wrath of my corporate overlords, I decided to give it a try.img_8008

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Five Things You Should Know Before You Come to Japan

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Stereotypical Tokyo Tower picture.

I know, I know.  This is a horse that’s been particularly beaten to death over the years and there are like five-thousand other articles out there on the internet with the exact same title, most of them probably better than this one.

But, ever since What’s Manzai?!!! went live on Netflix, I’ve started to receive a steady stream of the typical “Hey, I want to come to Japan but totally don’t know where to start so I just randomly decided to contact a dude that I saw in a random TV show on the internet” message (most of these for some reason landing in my personal email account, Facebook Messenger, and, in one case, through text message on my phone).  Rather than answering each query one by one (while I appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time out of your life to contact me, I don’t have the time or resources to come up with a satisfactory response that doesn’t make me seem like the total asshole that I probably am), I thought I’d kill thirty birds with one stone, something that should totally be an Olympic sport by the way, and start answering some of these questions somewhere everyone could see them.

Which brings us to our main course for today:

Five Things You Should Know Before Coming to Japan

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Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Mountain Dew Cheetos

Got a doozy for you guys tonight.  If you’re like me and have lived the typical life of a 18-24 year old American, you have revelled in many a night of eating way unhealthily and generally being up to absolutely no good.  In other words, there were many Cheetos and Mountain Dew type nights.  Well, in that case, I’ve got great/terrible news for you:  In Japan, some genius marketing department has decided to combine the two into one gloriously disturbing package.

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Behold, the chalice of misery

Me being the nice guy that I am, I decided to take one for the team and sample this strange exotic delicacy.  The result will not surprise anyone with any rational thinking skills:

It was absolutely disgusting, plain and simple.  While texturally Cheetos-y, the flavor of the corn puffs simply screamed “chemical disaster!”  I’d imagine that the genesis of this latest Japanese masterpiece was that one day a janitor at the Frito-Lays plant accidentally dumped his mop water into a vat of otherwise normal Cheetos and thus forced an entire nation to endure a simply dreadful snacking experience.

On the Mount Rushmore of arbitrary Japanese ingenuity, Mountain Dew Cheetos go up next to kendamas, washlets, and robot dogs.  The Mount Rushmore of arbitrary Japanese ingenuity would then promptly implode, leaving nothing but odd vaguely Mountain Dew-ey Cheetos dust in its wake.

If you encounter a cup of these things in a dark alley, I’d suggest that you run.  Run as fast as your stubby legs can take you.  And don’t look back.

-STEPHEN

 

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Special Valentine’s Day Edition!

It’s another stormy, cold day in Mito, which of course means I’m spending all my time indoors.  Additionally, it happens to be Valentine’s Day, something which I usually just ignore.  But fret not, the conditions were perfect for a special Valentine’s Day Edition of Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan.  Dashing into my nearest convenience store (pretty sure I deserve some sort of frequent buyer discount considering all the stuff I buy from them), I scoured the sweets aisle for something interesting to eat that is also somewhat related to the choclatiest holiday of the year and found these two beauts.

booze chocos

Two different kinds of chocolate with alcohol contained inside them without any sort of marker denoting that fact (in other words, “Hey kids, wanna get drunk?”).  I’m pretty sure Americans would lose their poo if that were the case in US convenience stores.    One caveat/ potential kid deterrent is the price point.  At 300 yen, the chocolates cost roughly 200 yen (2 dollars) more than your typical bar of convenience store chocolate, probably because of the booze, though you couldn’t tell from the taste.

So in order to make the video taste test more palatable (pun intended) for the casual Youtube viewer, I have split the Valentine’s Special into two exciting parts.

In the first part, I test out the Rummy chocolate, containing, you guessed it, rum soaked raisins in a relatively normal bar of chocolate.  Sounds alright right?  Watch to see what I thought of it:

 

Then, in the second part, I tried out the green Bacchus bar, containing what was supposedly cognac but really tasted more like rubbing alcohol mixed with hand sanitizer.  The chocolate itself was alright if not more heat resistant than normal chocolate in order to keep the liquid alcohol encased inside.

 

So overall, the Rummy beat out the Bacchus in the booze chocolate Olympics.  If you’re in Japan and in a relationship with an alcoholic, you finally have a chocolate to get him.  Then again, Valentine’s Day is over in half an hour so you should probably get right on that or just buy some to give next year.  If you want to tell your significant other you’re breaking up with him or her, then the Bacchus chocolate is for you.  Nothing says “This relationship is over” more than chocolate with rubbing alcohol inside it.  That said, I can’t seem to stop eating it even though it’s probably burning a hole in my stomach.

With that, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and I hope all you chicks are getting your loves chocolate like any self-respecting Japanese girl.  (I could get started on the intricacies of Japanese Valentine’s Day but that’s practically an entire book’s worth of stuff.)  Anyways, feel free to contact me through the comments section either here or on YouTube or hit me up on Twitter.  I’m pretty bored most of the time so I’ll probably get back to you about a second after you post, maybe even a second before if it’s a real slow day.

Happy headhunting!

-STEPHEN

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Hokkaido Potato Butter Steamed Buns

Sometimes I see something and plan and plan to try it.  Sometimes things randomly appear in the hot container while you’re waiting in line at the convenience store and you decide on a whim to try it.  Tonight, while waiting in line to buy something that I also intend to test later, I came across a rather interesting choice for the contents of a Chinese-style steamed bun (bao): Hokkaido potato butter.  Hokkaido, for the uninitiated, is the northernmost main island of Japan and known as the bread basket of the nation.  Potatoes are tubers that grow in the ground and are in everything and apparently make you fat.  Butter is the stuff you put on bread.

Anyways, quickly shelling out the 126 yen cost for the little round bread thing, I quickly dashed (okay, I walked) back to my apartment and dug into the surprisingly tasty vegetarian (as far as I could tell) bun.

The potatoes were somewhere in between mashed and cooked, some in a more solid state that others and tasted strongly of pepper and butter.  There were also bits of minced carrots in there and, the theme of this bun being Hokkaido, a couple kernels of corn (Hokkaido cuisine in Japan is usually generalized as being butter and corn in everything).  But the prevailing flavor was the unmistakable starchiness of taters which actually was a good combo with the sweetish bun bread.

So my final verdict on this one is a buy.  Is it mind-glowingly awesome? No.  Is it good for odd convenience store steamed buns?  Yes.  In fact, I think it’s better than the standard Sunkus niku-man (pork bun) that they usually put out there.  So if you happen to find yourself in Japan and in a Sunkus convenience store, go ahead and try the Hokkaido Potato Butter Bun.  There are tons of worse things you could spend your 126 yen on.

-STEPHEN

P.S. Any suggestions, comments, inflammatory comments?  Please share them with me, either here in the comments section, on my youtube channel, or on twitter @STEPHEN_TETSU.  Thanks!

Me Versus the Japanese Cockroaches (Not a Racial Epithet)

Pictured: An infant Japanese cockroach (photo taken from Rakuten)

So one thing that they don’t really cover in most of those fancypants English-language living in Japan guides is the fact that there are crazy bugs here.  Like nasty, gnarly, size of your fist monster insects that are probably capable of surviving five nuclear winters.  They’re absolutely ridiculous and apparently resistant to the frigidly cold climate of Mito, the northeastern Japanese city I now call home.

When I first came to my apartment one month ago, things seemed pretty hunky-dory aside from the lingering stench of cigarette smoke left behind by the last tenant of my place.  Sure the bathroom seemed exceedingly dark and the ladder up to the loft where my bed was was crooked but, hell, I could get over those little things.  I’m a manly man, after all.  But this manliness would soon be put to the test.

Life on my own in a small apartment in a relatively alien city with a climate much colder than I’m used to (snow expected on Thursday) went relatively well for the first day or two.  But then my new friend decided to crash the party.  Cockroaches aren’t uncommon in Sacramento but they’re usually pretty small, die off whenever the thermometer dips below forty degrees fahrenheit, and still afraid of the usual bug deterrents (bugspray, traps, the bottom of a boot).  Japanese cockroaches, on the other hand, are like the hardened ex-cons of the insect world.  If you saw one of these things coming at you in a dark alley, you’d be best off just throwing your wallet at it before making a run in the complete opposite direction while screaming like Chekov in the Wrath of Kahn. Seriously.

My new friend is probably the size of my fist with a shell that’s probably thick enough to be bulletproof.  He smokes three packs of cigarettes a day and runs a drug cartel from my closet.  On occasion, I have seen seen him open the fridge and feast on leftovers.  You may not always see him or hear him, but you know that he’s there.  Watching.  Waiting.  Planning his next move, thinking of new ways to make your life a living hell.

I’ve tried a number of proactive measures but he’s too smart for any of them to work.  The dude just walks right through the sticky cockroach traps and someone in the administration staff of my household appears to be leaking the details of my planned bugspray raids.  I’ve heard cold temperatures are supposed to kill this things off but I’m pretty sure my friend has somehow been altered by Fukushima radiation, resulting in some sort of super-roach capable of breathing fire and devouring entire villages of unsuspecting people.  Nothing is going to get rid of this thing, nothing can stop it.  Like the aftermath of an unfortunate night of drunken antics, all you can really hope to do is try to contain the damage.

In the battle of man versus bug, the bug has emerged victorious.  I give up.  Resistance is futile.  There’s nothing more to be done.  I accept the rule of my new insect overlord.  All I ask is that he chip in for rent every once in a while.

-Stephen

P.S. His cousin Larry’s getting out of prison in a few weeks so if anyone wants to volunteer to take him in, just drop me  a line.  Even if you don’t, he’ll come to stay anyways.  Cockroaches aren’t really big on courtesy.