Archive for April, 2009

I’m in Carb Heaven

Rice has become a topic of conversation among my friends these days. Reason being, with the influx of trading companies to Southern California, you can now walk into any Japanese market and choose among a dozen varieties of grain.

My grandma can’t get enough of Sukoyaka Genmai, a hybrid brown rice that’s far tastier than your regular health-food fare. Although typical brown rice is packed with nutrients, it’s also pulpy and tasteless (Think brussels sprouts.). Yet, somehow the makers of Sukoyaka Genmai figured a way to make brown rice tasty. It’s like white rice only healthier!

Musenmai (no-wash rice) is a newfangled product that caters to the lazy. Normally before cooking, you’d sift the rice under cold water for 5 minutes to remove the ‘sticky bran’ coating. But now with technological advances, you can skip the arduous step. Japanese mothers have a hard time adapting; many of them take great pride in their rice-washing skills.

Speaking of lazy (that’s me!), my favorite rice product of all time is a box of seasoning that you mix with your uncooked rice. It contains slivers of unique vegetables like bamboo shoots and Matsutake mushrooms, and the broth is stirred with soy sauce and dried fish flakes (bonito), turning the rice into a golden-dark hue. Skilled chefs take hours creating rice like this, but with an instant pack of rice seasoning you’ll have yours in minutes.

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Japanese rice is so much better than anything in the market today. At about $20 a bag, it’s far more expensive than a box of Uncle Ben’s, but it’s infinitely more tasty. In fact, sometimes I eat rice as my main meal. Scoop it into a bowl of tea, sprinkle over some furikake and voila, dinner is served! \(^o^)/

Himawari

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April 28, 2009 at 12:20 pm Leave a comment

Illuminate Your Life

Japanese toymaker Bandai has just come out with A.i.R. (Art in the Room) Project, a digital art lighting scheme for modern homes. I can’t imagine the likes of Play-Doh doing this; but in Japan, companies known for kids’ toys sometimes experiment with higher-end products and markets. I love the creativity that results!

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A.i.R. is a combination of sensors, artwork, and useful ambient lighting. The lightbox is about the size of a laptop computer and contains 25 small, separated, bright blue LED panels that pop with light in various patterns based on the wind or the movement of your hand (sort of like the electro-ball, the light gravitates toward you). You can also use a timer and freak out your guests when the lights suddenly come on.

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According to Gizmowatch, the gadget uses miniature fans and internal sensors that “help the air gush out of the squares to push up the cloth.”

A.i.R. was created by media artist Taro Suzuki. Retail price is around $570. At that price I doubt people will be buying one for each room — or at all, heh — but it sure looks awesome, doesn’t it??

Sarah S.

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April 24, 2009 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

Play with your food

Last night, I was at the Magic Castle watching magicians doing the most mind-bending tricks. One magician cut open an orange and pulled out a folded-up playing card. Of course, seconds earlier it was the same card that an unsuspecting woman drew from a full deck. How’d he do that?!

That orange reminds me the boiled-eggs my friend Pirikara cooked up a few weeks ago: watch this video.

Imagine your boyfriend/girlfriend presenting you with a lovely, homemade bento bento. Inside are rice balls, golden chicken nuggets, carrots…and what’s this? Boiled eggs with a heart-shaped yolk?? How?!

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I’m sure you’d be shocked if you didn’t see the video. It’s truly magical, yet at the same time you wonder, “Why the heck would you come up with a machine like that?”

If anything, it’s a way to get fickle kids excited about eating. You can tell them you literally stuck your heart into the meal so they should eat it all up. Haha, what a way to traumatize a kid.

What will those Japanese inventors think of next? Square-shaped watermelons?! haha….oh wait…

Himawari

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April 22, 2009 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

Handbags So Sweet Celebrities Are Lining Up to Endorse Them

What do Beyonce, Posh Spice (okay, Victoria Beckham, but I like typing “Posh Spice”), tennis hottie Maria Sharpova and Penelope Cruz have in common? They love Samantha Thavasa handbags. The Japanese company, founded by Kazumasa Terada, is a global powerhouse with several celebrity fans and spokeswomen. Paris Hilton also likes them, but don’t hold that against them 😉

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Never heard of Samantha Thavasa? A huge hit with college-age and young professional Japanese women, the high quality but affordable bags were created with 20-30-year-olds in mind and are known for their chic, pastel-colored fabric, often with heart design motifs. There’s a seemingly endless variety released per season — upwards of 200 — featuring different rhinestones, ribbons or fur as additional eye candy. At $150-450 a pop, there’s a bag for every mood and price level.

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With hundreds of locations in Japan, a store on Madison Avenue in New York City, a new ad promotion starring Beyonce and Japanese pop star Takuya Kimura, and million of dollars in sales, Samantha Thavasa is sitting pretty.

Sarah S.

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April 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm 1 comment

You’re a Stone’s Throw Away to Good Luck

Need a little romance? How about some extra beauty? Want to give your boyfriend a boost in health? Why not try a power stone? It’s the latest ‘must-have’ in Japan. Amethyst, rubies, topaz, you name them, people are collecting these little guys like Pokemon cards. Gotta have ’em all!

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The theory is that each stone correlates to a certain ‘power’, for example:

Love: Moonstone, ruby, garnet

Healing, relaxing: Citrine, peridot, kyanite

Health: Topaz, Herkimer diamond

Money: Tiger’s Eye

Work: Strawberry quartz, crystal, rutile quartz

Beauty: Opal, rose quartz, tourmarine

Luck: Inca rose, lapis lazuli

These days in Japan, you’re sure to see both men and women wearing bracelets or rings strapped with any of these precious stones, some of the most popular being rose quartz (beauty) and tiger’s eye (money). A popular store called Stone Market carries rows and rows of baskets with both loose stones and beautifully crafted jewelry at reasonable prices. A cute pair of aquamarine(love) earrings are only $15. A turquoise necklace is only $12. Who said Japan was too expensive?!

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Power stones have become so popular, hotels are offering them as their token of appreciation for staying with them. One hotel in the town of Hakone offers the rose quartz to visiting couples as a boost of good luck. Let’s hope it brings up the birthrate. (^o<)

Of course, these days when times are uncertain, it’s nice to have something to believe in. A good ol’ fashioned rabbit’s foot is hard to come by these days so power stones come in handy when you want to be both chic and damn lucky. (Though personally, I’ve never been able to grasp the idea of paying money in hopes of earning money. Counterproductive?) So what if they never work out for you. Half the trick is just in believing. \(^o^)/

Himawari

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April 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm Leave a comment

Pamper Yourself Like a Princess

Remember when putting on makeup was fun? Less about hiding flaws or adding folds to our eyelids and more about playing dress-up and experimenting with new looks?

Several weeks ago I blogged about collagen that was good enough to eat. Now comes makeup that’s cute enough to display as art! (Well, almost.)

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Popular Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido has released a series of vibrant eyeshadow shades in the Majolica Majorca line. They look like retro-chic perfume bottles or glass containers filled with pretty, colorful sand. Peach shimmer is my favorite.

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The blush is also a sight to behold. It comes in an elegant, faux-antique case(“majolica” traditionally refers to tin-glazed, European earthenware) and gives off a princess royalty vibe. It makes a great gift for teens or anyone who wants to feel girly and pampered. MM prides itself on providing affordable, super-cute alternatives to the classic Shiseido look.

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As with many items in Japan, packaging is as important as product — especially in the beauty business. Why else would face blotting paper, which is the definition of plain, get the royal treatment so often?

Sarah S.

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April 10, 2009 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

It’s You, Only Better!

At game arcades across Japan, you’ll find girls ooh-ing and aah-ing about how fabulous they look in the photo booth pictures they’ve just taken with friends. Like with any ‘print club’ machine, a.k.a., purikura, you can decorate your image with digital glitter and tiaras, making yourself look so delectably cute you’ll wonder if it’s really you.

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A while back, I wrote about the number of ways Japanese girls enhance the size of their eyes (yes, eyes, not breasts). The latest method is a non-evasive procedure at the purikura booth. Just step inside, pose, and voila!, your eyes will look 120% bigger. At least, that’s what Namco Bandai Games attests with their ‘Jewella Eye’ machine, which they’ve dubbed the “120% Giant Eye Revolution!” (120% Dekame Kakumei).

In the past, popular print club machines were sold on gimmicks like “Beautifully white skin” and “Make your face look smaller!” — pointing out a demand for fantasized self-images. Looking at some of these sample shots, they’re almost unreal — like porcelain dolls at a toy store.

And now with the added bonus of sending your newly stylized photos to you email or cell phone, you can show everyone a picture of the girl who’s supposed to be you, only ten times cuter. It’s a great way to attract boys online. Though when you actually meet, make sure it’s in a dimly-lit room. (^_<)

Personally, I think you’re stepping into dangerous territory, posing as a model when in fact you’re chubby and pimple-faced. Maybe for their next purikura machine, Namco Bandai should have one that increases blemish sizes. That way, when boys meet the real you, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief!

Himawari

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April 8, 2009 at 11:39 am 2 comments

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