An anecdotal reference guide to fast and junk foods of Japan.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Tokachi-Nomu-Yogurt is a mildly melony slightly yogurty cooler that hit the Family Mart stores in late June. A seasonal refresher found in the cartoned juice and milk section, it has a nice milky mouthfeel and a generally pleasant and undemanding taste. All in all, the thing that the doctor sometimes orders. It comes from the York food division of Nissin Corporation, a mega-investment industry that spends much of its time and money on branding. The package itself has a strong word-graphic that simply says "melon." A farmer's hat, a melon, and the Sapporo Clock Tower complete the image of simple old-fashioned tastes and values (even though yogurt drinks are a quite modern addition to the Japanese food landscape and the clock tower was designed by Americans in 1878). The bold and straightforward package stands out amongst the rest of the noise on the shelf. Tokachi is a region of Hokkaido that is particularly famous for its melons, the Yuubari melon (夕張メロン), being a treasured treat from the area*. Whether the melons used in this drink come from there is unimportant. By making the relation in the consumer's mind, you've got them at least thinking that they are partaking in a gourmet experience.
*In summer, at Tokyo department stores, a single melon can sometimes cost up to 20,000JPY.
Of the more ubiquitous sights in the Japanese landscape are the konbini (コンビニ) - convenience stores. 7-11, Family Mart, Lawson's and Daily Yamazaki are among the most familiar of the many konbini. For the traveler, it is often the place that is most easy to navigate for basic nutrition, cash machines and that little bit of human interaction after a long day visiting shrines and museums.
My original intent in writing this blog was to make a reference guide of konbini offerings for the foreign traveler. However, as the writing commenced and the blog took form, the anecdotal often gave way to the critical, and the referential opened doors to a historical, political, and unsentimental look at corporate food and how it invades daily life. In more ways that just the consumption of snacks and sweets.
But let us take a good look at the bittersweet! If one casts a blind eye toward that of which we are critical or disapproving, one is merely being blind. It is only with open eyes can we move forward toward the light.
Remember that when you're gobbling down some chips or stuffing some candy down your throat.