McDonald’s may close hundreds of restaurants across Japan

McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) may shut hundreds of outlets next year to boost profit margin after the power shortages following the March 11 earthquake crimped demand for fast food.

"We want to close a few hundred stores next year and we expect to increase sales the year after that," Chief Executive Officer Eikoh Harada said Thursday.

Japan’s largest fast-food chain also intends to renovate larger stores as it increases profit relative to cash flow, Harada said, after eliminating more than 400 unprofitable outlets last year.

Read the rest of the story: McDonald’s may close hundreds of restaurants.

Tokyo-based Food Company Claims Additive Can Help You Lose Weight

An additive that claims to help people lose weight is set to be used in food and drinks for the first time, The (London) Sunday Telegraph reported.

Tokyo-based food company Ajinomoto wants to use an extract from chilli peppers that makes the body burn more calories in a range of foods including desserts, confectionery, cereals and drinks.

The extract called dihydrocapsiate [DHC] is a chemical compound that boosts the body’s metabolism, and is already sold in the U.S. and Japan in the form of diet supplement pills.

Read the rest of the story: Food Additive Claims to Help You Lose Weight –

Wendys to Try Luck in Japan Again

Wendy’s/Arby’s International Inc., a subsidiary of Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. WEN recently announced that it has entered into a development agreement with Higa Industries Co. Ltd. to expand in Japan. Per the deal, Higa Industries will develop and operate Wendy’s restaurants throughout the country in the coming years. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The first location is expected to open in Tokyo later this year.The latest deal with Higa Industries will mark Wendy’s return to the Japanese market after it called off its franchise agreement in that country back in 2009. Wendy’s had decided against renewing its contract, citing its franchiser’s tardy development. This resulted in the closure of 71 restaurants in that country.Higa Industries, led by Ernest Higa, boasts of local market knowledge and has a proven track record of venturing into industries as diverse as lumber, medical and the restaurant, within the Japanese market. It had owned and operated 180 stores of Domino’s Pizza Inc. NYSE: DPZ – News in Japan before selling this business in February 2010.

Read the rest of the story: Wendys to Try Luck in Japan Again.

Japan’s Sushi Chains in Price War

Japan’s largest sushi chain restaurants have started a price war that is making dining out on the nation’s most famous delicacy more reasonable than ever before.

With the economic downturn continuing to bite and fewer people opting to eat out, operators of "kaiten-zushi" restaurants – where small plates of sushi roll past diners’ tables on conveyer belts that are constantly replenished by the chefs – are looking to appeal to a new consumer base by cutting prices.

The three largest restaurant chains in Japan – Kappa Sushi, Akindo Sushiro and Kura Sushi – have reduced the cost of most platters to Y100 (€0.90) in a bid to attract families to replace the high-spending businessmen of the past.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s most famous cuisine becomes more affordable.

Japan: A nation that demands perfection in food

Japan is a country of beauty, simplicity and perfection.

From the snow-capped Mount Fujiyama to the vibrant emerald green rice and tea plantations of Fukuoka, Japan is rich with colour.

Last month, I had the chance to explore Japan’s vibrant culinary and cultural heritage.

Tokyo, with its population of nearly 13 million, amazed me with the punctuality of its rail system.

I was also impressed by Japan’s distinctive style, design and architecture as well as the cornucopia of restaurant offerings.

Tokyo now surpasses Paris in Michelin-starred restaurants, and its citizens are certainly fanatical about food.

Go to any of their department store food floors and you’ll experience some of the world’s best foods, so good they would make even England’s famed Harrods blush.

The Japanese are demanding about quality and freshness, and it was impressive to wander down their food aisles, marvelling at the beautiful produce and stunning packaging.

Even the simplest of izakayas (Japanese pubs) where I dined had superb cuisine that showcased regional and seasonal cooking at its best.

Although Japan is a tiny country compared with Canada, it has wonderful regional cuisine.

Read the rest of the story: A nation that demands quality food: Japan.

It’s All “Cho-co”

This season you can find sushi, beer, curry, green tea, shochu, and baseball in their chocolate incarnations.

A variety of Japan’s tastes and trends are made into “cho-co” versions for the Valentines Day boom.

Check the label on your favorite beer, curry or sushi package before purchasing to make sure if it’s the ‘real’ thing or the chocolate version!

beer chocolate

Curry Chocolate

If you hear this music playing in the background at the shop, you’re most probably looking at the cho-co.

Crush, crush I’ve got a crush on you,

Sweet, sweet I’ve got a thing for you.

Boom, boom my heart is beating for you…

You know I can’t stop Love.*

*(lyrics and photos from the “LOFT” Valentines Day display)


Aikawarazu Life in Japan

Changing Colors of the Season: look for the red in Ji-do-han-bai-ki

There are two signs of fall where changing colors let you know you are entering into the colder seasons in Japan. One  is  Ko–yo (pronounced ko-u yo-u,紅葉), the glorious changing colors of the fall leaves; and the other is the changing of  the colors on the  Ji-do-han-bai-ki (自動販売機), the ubiquitous vending machines which are now announcing the addition of hot drinks.

The former can be seen subtly as the famous leaf-peeping areas from Hokkaido to Kyushuu are anywhere from zero to 100 percent at their peak.  The latter are not tracked on television news so it is not clear what percent of the vending machines have already changed, but certainly by now they too are at their  peak– you should be able to see the red strips which say either “attatakai” or “HOT” taking over the amount of blue “tsumetai” or “COLD” strips on most machines.

The leaves changing color can seem to happen overnight.  One day the leaves are green and the next you notice autumn reds, oranges and rusty browns.  In the case of the drink machines, it truly must happen overnight.  I mean, have you ever seen the strips being changed?  One day the cans are all cold, marked by blue strips and then suddenly, just as the first chill sets in, there are the strips of red,  letting us know that from now there will be hot drinks to warm our hands and our hearts.  Until, of course, spring approaches and of course the two signs of spring in Japan are…

You guessed it– pink cherry blossoms, and the abundance of blue coming back to the ji-do-han-bai-ki.

But lets enjoy those reds while they are here, after all ’tis the season to savor a freshly vended hot can of your favorite drink.Japan Vending Machine


Found in Japan

White Tai-Yaki!

White Tai-Yaki
White Tai-Yaki

Down in the south of Japan, in Oita, white tai-yaki is BIG news.

Is this happening where you live?  New stands, stalls, and small shops are opening up all over advertising the sweet yet fishy phenomenon.

The traditional style tai-yaki are waffle-like golden brown  fish shaped treats filled with red or white bean paste.

The new white tai-yaki are made from tapioca and have a mochi-like consistency.

You can find white tai-yaki filled with anything from the traditional red beans to custard, chocolate, and even mentaiko.

The real fish eggs (mentaiko) inside of a fish-shaped sweet can be startling at first bite.  It is  an unusual gastronomic moment where the boundary between food types becomes blurred.   It is one of those inventive and rare juxtapositions of taste found only in Japan.

Make your own tai-yaki at home.



Calpico Lychee is My New Drink

If, you haven’t tried the new lychee flavored clipico, then you are missing out. This stuff is great! It’s my new drink. I found it at my local Japanese market and have been going back for more almost everyday. Is it in Japan?

– Kara