Chipstar Chocolates

Chipstar Chocolates

Here’s another of those ‘only in Asia’ snacks which seem to defy logic. Maybe I am just too conservative in my tastes (although anyone who has been on a Julietours would probably dispute this…) but I find it very hard to enjoy snacks which combine sweet and savoury in the same mouthful.

But hey, I like Chipstar crisps, which are pretty much identical to Pringles and so dangerously addictive. And of course I cannot conceive of a world without chocolate. As I did not actively dislike some of the items I have previously tasted combining these 2 things, and I am unable to walk past bizarre new offerings like these when I spot them on a Japanese convenience store shelf, here they are…

What you get is exactly what you see in the picture on the packet – chocolate truffles coated in chocolate then rolled in crushed potato chips. Decidedly strange by Western standards, but not as ghastly as you might imagine. In fact, not that far removed from what the taste might be if you rolled these in crushed almonds or peanuts instead.

That said, these are not the nicest chocolate truffles underneath the chips, although no worse than you’d expect for the price. But having tried them once, I will be perfectly happy to leave them on the shelf next time.


Transparent Tea

This has to be one of the more disconcerting drinks I have sampled. It looks like water and yet… it is actually sweet, milky tea.

Now if I actually ever drank my tea sweet and milky, I would probably have enjoyed this very much. But I don’t, so let’s just say I was delighted and amused by the look of it and intrigued to know how Suntory had managed to produce a liquid that looks and tastes like this.

Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be a trade secret. Apparently the steam from boiling water is passed through tea leaves and becomes infused with their flavour. The steam is then condensed back into water that tastes of tea but is still clear.

The milk is a different story, but if you separate out and remove the milk fats and proteins, what you have left is the lactose and minerals which are transparent but still taste of milk. Put them together with the tea scented water and there you have it – Premium Morning Tea, a snip at $2.50.


Calbee Chocolate Sticks

I do not know where to start describing these, except to say I hated them.

Calbee is a Japanese firm famous for crispy potato snacks, many varieties of which are sold in small pouches or tubs like this. I rather like the ‘normal’ chipsticks, which are salty and crunchy, speckled with bits of vegetable so you could almost imagine they are good for you.

These are another story, however, and from the artwork on the tub may well be a Valentine’s Day special for this year. Although I am not quite sure what I was expecting, it certainly wasn’t this – they have a strong chocolatey taste and smell, but still manage to be salty and potatoey at the same time.

It is a disconcerting combination, and for someone who does not like mixing sweet and savoury, not at all pleasant. But I have Asian friends who think nothing of alternating bites of cake and curry, so presumably they are the sort of customers that Calbee hope will be wolfing down these treats.

I shall just chalk them down to experience and never buy them again!


Secret Flower Jelly Enchanted Lipstick

Alright, this product from Kailijumei Japan has a very silly name which has probably lost a lot in translation, but look at it – a gorgeous clear lipstick with flecks of gold leaf and a tiny dried flower set inside the jelly. It smells fruity, the clear gloss transforms into varying shades of pink on your lips, depending on your body temperature, and the case is shiny gold with pearls set into the base. Who could resist?

Certainly not me, when I spotted it amongst the girlie delights on sale in the basement arcade of Lumine, Shinjuku. At more than ¥5,000 a pop it was a bit pricey, but for entertainment value worth every yen.

It feels a bit sticky going on, which together with the strong scent reminded me very much of the roll-on lip gloss we all used to wear when I was a teenager, but in a good way. The blurb seems to say that the various different lipsticks all turn into the same colour on your lips, the only difference is in the colour of the flower inside the stick. I suppose that means you only need to buy the one, which considering the price, is just as well…


Security Luggage Racks

I don’t know about you, but I get very nervous on trains when I have to leave my luggage on those racks at the end of the carriage. When the train is full, or I can’t actually see my bags from where I’m sitting, I have to jump up and make sure they are not being ‘accidentally’ removed during station stops en route.

Of course it is possible to carry bicycle locks or similar, for peace of mind, but you never know when you are going to need one, and usually I never realise it would have been a smart idea until too late.

So I was very happy to see this locking device for suitcases, on the NEX train from Narita airport into Tokyo. It also made me laugh, because Japan is probably the last place in the world where you could leave your bags unattended without stress, but also probably the first place to think of making life that little bit easier and more convenient for travellers. The service is also completely free of charge.

Essentially, you heave your bag onto the rack, and use one of the curly cords to secure the handle to the rail. Set your own combination and you are free to relax until your destination. The only trick is remembering the code to remove the cord in time to get off the train. And as Japanese trains tend to stop for seconds only at most intermediate stations, there is no time to be messing about with this. If you forget the number or it is the 3rd possibility you try, you will probably find you have either missed your stop or need to continue to the end of the line before rail staff are available to help you unlock your bag.

Oh, and as this is Japan and the status quo hinges on everyone being polite and considerate to everyone else, do please remember to reset the lock to zero for the convenience of the next user…

 

 


Pikachu Deco Latte

Coffee has been a decorative art form for quite a while now. It is pretty routine for your barista to hand over a latte skilfully topped with a heart, leaf or (if s/he’s an expert) bear or swan. Track down the right café and it is perfectly possible to have a 3D foam kitten nestling into your mocha, or your photo spray painted in edible ink onto the cream topping your frappuccino.

All these treats require a professional hand, or even an expensive piece of technology, so it is nice to see a cute and amusing alternative which you can easily create at home.

Fresh from the Mega Pokémon Centre in Tokyo, here are Pikachu Deco Latte toppers for hot drinks (although I don’t see why they wouldn’t work just as well with cold). They come in packets of five different designs, and there are four different packets to choose from, all featuring your favourite pocket monster. At Y540 a packet, these are incredibly cheap for the entertainment value.

Just open up one of the individually wrapped sachets inside and – using the special lift up tab – carefully position the design of your choice onto your coffee. The discs are made primarily of gelatine and will dissolve into your drink if you leave them long enough, but mine lasted perfectly well for as long as it took me to finish my coffee.

These make a great souvenir, or gift for the Pokémon Go fan in your life!

 


Belly Button Cleaner

Obviously, this is the product you have been crying out for. I mean, who does not need to spend $30 on a special kit to clean their belly button?

Suffice to say I did not buy this, only snigger with amusement as I took photos. If your regular bathing routine does not leave you with a clean belly button, I am not sure you are the sort of person who would spend this much money on a fancy gel to do the job instead. The kit does come with a ‘soft stick’ but honestly – a disposable cotton bud really ought to be just as good and is probably more hygienic.

If you really want one of these, I suggest you get down to Tokyu Hands before they sell out…


Mouthwash Sachets

‘Experience this innovative mouthwash!’ boasted the packet – ‘The latest oral hygiene etiquette product!’ Who could resist?

This Propolinse mouthwash comes in a box of 6 handy 12ml one-use sachets. They are rather convenient as something to keep in your bag for after lunch, or if you are still scarred by that time your travel-sized bottle of mouthwash leaked and turned everything in your toilet bag blue and minty.

The name and package design suggests that it contains honey, but a swift glance at the ingredients reveals that this is quite low down the list, below the likes of artificial sweetener and citrus extracts. There’s menthol and castor oil in there, too, which probably explains why it tastes more like cough syrup than actual honey.

This is a Japanese product (although apparently made in Korea and packed in Singapore) and is tagged as especially suitable for smokers and to prevent bad breath. It also has an unnerving way of rinsing way more from your mouth than a regular brushing seems to do.

The blurb on the packaging says it all: ‘I’m surprised to see, detergent in the new sense mouth’, not to mention: ‘All the dirty microbes are now visible’. I love the sachet idea, but definitely prefer the regular minty version. As for my husband, he thought it tasted “sour and fruity, almost like vinegar”, which isn’t much of a recommendation. I don’t think I’ll be buying this again…


Penguin Cool Bath

Category : Beauty

Sometimes I have to try things even though I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like them much, and this particular product falls firmly into that category.

I love a bath, but definitely prefer the water to be as hot as possible. The last time I willingly stepped into a cool bath was shortly after moving to Tokyo for the first time, many years ago – the air con wasn’t working and the temperature in September was so hot and humid after autumnal London that I thought I was going to expire. Keeping the tub full and taking regular dips seemed the best way of staying cool…

This sachet of Japanese Cool Bath Liquid, spotted in Tokyu Hands, brought back a few memories, and although these days I am more than accustomed to constant heat and humidity, I was curious as to how the contents would work.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the bright blue colour and fresh minty smell made it feel very much like I was bathing in mouthwash. Possibly the menthol in the product is supposed to have a cooling effect on the skin, but the only thing I could really feel was a decidedly uncomfortable prickling sensation in certain delicate areas.

To be honest, this was a bit of a waste of a good bath.


Ninja Ice Cream

You know you always wanted to try ice cream ‘based on ninja stealth and invisibility technique’…. Here was my chance, with the exclusive ‘black gold’ cone from Kyorollen, at Emporium in Bangkok.

It comes at the premium price of 159 Thai baht, but for that you get a creation which is put together by hand like an artistic masterpiece and served in its own wooden stand.

Everything here is black – the cone made with sumi bamboo charcoal, the kuromame black soya beans, the sticky ball of mochi, even the ‘raw’ chocolate cube. Well, I suppose the ice cream itself was slightly on the grey side, but considering it is made with the famously creamy milk from Hokkaido, this was not surprising.

I could probably have done without the soya bean and mocha components of this treat, but they looked great and I very much enjoyed the rest. Japanese ‘raw’ chocolate is always delicious and this one had a fudgy texture which I particularly enjoyed.

It was an expensive indulgence but definitely worth it.


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