Latest News From Japan

Posted on Dec 30, 2016 in Hiroko's Blog

giftHere is some news from Japan on my latest stay just before the Christmas this year.


Christmas has become a popular annual event. It is a necessity. No religious connection. Christmas-featured pastry, goods, gifts, Christmas tree, street light illuminations, songs related Christmas is everywhere. Christmas Eve Dinner has decided to be chicken thanks to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s decades long campaign. Restaurants (eat-in and take-out) feature and promote chicken Christmas dinner. Who is promoting and benefiting from this new culture? Business. Not a surprise.

1. Oseibo: Japan once was a gift-giving country and one of the biggest gifts-giving was practiced at the end of the year in the form of Oseibo (the end of the year gift). I was raised during which this system worked at full capacity. My father as a doctor at the end of every year received over 200 gifts from his patients, neighbors, friends, colleagues and family members. A gift was diverse – from a pair of finest quality men’s sock and handkerchief, to quality bottle of shoyu, a bottle of fine sake, an assorted premier mixture of hams, sausages and cheese, a box of foreign chocolates, a box of French soap and so on. The practice of giving gift to doctors was abolished some time ago. Business corporations followed suit and banned the gift-giving practice inside the company. Gift-fiving at the end of the year has almost diminished to none. The companies depended on Oseibo practice – food and good producers and department stores & other stores – were hit hard. So, they came up with a good solution. They now promote the population a gift-giving to oneself……

2. Mu-kacho-ramen: I have tried many ramen in Japan in the past. To tell the truth this time I had the true ramen in Tokyo. Eating ramen is tricky anyplace. Some stores use already prepared, concentrated stock which may have chemical additives, including MSG. Look into the ramen shops’ garbage bins (well, it is hard to do so). If you don’t find any discarded bones in the bins, they are not making the stock from scratch. Do not worth a visit to such places. Here in America the food has becoming cleaner and cleaner (dropping chemical additives) and I appreciate that. I do not know how clean the ramen stores in America, though. My mission to find no-chemical added ramen shops in Tokyo was easy, but to my surprise the numbers are few. They call such places ‘Mu-kacho-ramen-ya’. I tried two fantastic places. Interestingly, both places do not advertise inside the shop how clean their ramen is. By doing so will they be harassed by other competitors? Mu-kacho-ramen tastes really great. After a bowl of ramen my body/stomach was very happy for long time. On your next visit to Tokyo, check out the below;

3. KitKat!: Why the Japanese are such obsessed with KitKat? This is the photo which I took at a souvenior shop at Haneda airport, Japan, before my departure. KitKat with diverse flavors – wasabi, sake (limited season), matcha tea, plum blossom, rum raisin, Hokkaido melon,…KitKat was introduced to Japan in 1980s. This January KitKat was the bestselling chocolate snacks in Japan. KitKat success story is only possible in Japan. Another interpretation – slightly tortured version – of KitKat is ‘Kitto-Katsu’. Kitto-Katsu means ‘ I/You surely win’. KitKat has become a good fortune item/snack to someone who is wishing a good luck.

I am preparing Osechi Ryori. Please come back to read the posts in the next 3 days.

Happy Holidays!