Here in the UK winter hasn’t quite faded away and there’s a battle of the season. Is it going to be spring today, or will I need my coat? The indecisive weather can lead to confusing time in the world of food and it has me reminiscing about Oden.
Oden (おでん) is a popular winter dish in Japan that is often sold at the many convenience stores (コンビニ) around the country. However, I sadly live in a village in the North of England, so when the cold is here and the cravings hit for a delicious, warm, comfort food, Oden is sadly nowhere to be found. So I was very excited to find a can of Oden for sale online!
Featuring all the Oden staples of radish (大根 daikon), eggs (in this case, small quail eggs), konjac (こんにゃく), fishcakes (竹輪 chikuwa), meat (牛すじ gyuusuji) and noodles. It was a perfectly mini-sized traditional Oden I could enjoy at home!
缶 meaning can, or tin (for food) is simply pronounced かん/kan
Baby Star Ramen is a 60-year-old dagashi snack from Japan with humble beginnings as being a byproduct from the instant cup noodle industry.
Created by Oyatsu Company in 1959, the idea for Baby Star was formed when employees noticed the number of small, and unusable broken noodle pieces during the manufacturing of Chicken Instant Ramen and instead of allowing this food to become waste, they used it as a snack for internal use. The snack was a huge hit with employees as being a “re-born” food as well as a noodle based snack that could be eaten without cutlery or utensils. This eventually led to the sale of Baby Star Ramen to Japan’s general public.
Being a dagashi gave Baby Star Ramen a core audience of children and so their packaging was designed with them in mind, using colourful designs and introducing a mascot named “Baby” to help encourage sales. In 1988 the mascot was changed to “Bei-chan”, who would often dress in different costumes on the packaging where different flavours were used, to show the cultural diversity of taste influences. Bei-chan remained the star mascot of Baby Star Ramen for 29 years until a recent 2017 rebrand brought in “Hoshio-kun”, a new and ‘hip’ mascot to update the long-lasting snack into current times.
Baby Star Ramen holds a special place in my heart as being one of the first dagashi I ever ate. I was sent a packet of the original chicken flavour ramen as a gift from my penpal back in 2004, and I have fond memories of snacking on it during a walk home from school as treat for sitting some intense GCSE exams.
It’s rich, flavourful and crunchy noodles will always bring a smile to my face and a sensation of 懐かしい. This snack shaped my love and appreciation for Japanese snacks, and without them, this blog may never have begun!
Have you tried Baby Star Ramen? If so, what is your favourite flavour?
Valentine’s Day was introduced to Japan in 1936 via the luxury confectionery and cake company Morozoff, who sparked the tradition through advertisements aimed at foreigners living in the country. However the big day comes with it’s own set of traditions differing to those in the West.
Unlike England or America, where a couple may go on a lavish date and exchange gifts such as flowers or jewelry, in Japan Valentine’s Day is ruled by chocolate. You may also be surprised to find out that on this day the chocolate is only given to men and not to women. In Japanese tradition Valentine’s Day is when women typically give handmade or decorated chocolates to their sweetheart, and may even use this as an opportunity to express admiration to their crush. However many women also partake in the giving of inexpensive 義理チョコ (Giri Choco / Obligation Chocolate) to their male co-workers and others they do not harbor romantic feelings towards.
Japanese food giant Glico are often at the forefront of Valentine’s Day with their popular chocolate snack Pocky taking centre stage in holiday campaigns. This year in addition to boxes of Pocky with a special Valentine’s flair, is a campaign to encourage the sale of multiple purchases so that the boxes may be used to create several heart shapes. Participants are encouraged to share their hearts on social media using #ハートポッキー (#HeartPocky)
In recent years Glico have teamed up with beverage giant Kirin for special Valentine’s Day collaborations and in 2019 have continued this tradition to bring a set of products that when consumed together will create the taste of Tiramisu. This year is headlined with a mascarpone cheese milk tea edition of 午後の紅茶 (Gogo no koucha / Afternoon Tea) and special edition coffee chocolate Pocky. This particular campaign is often celebrated via Japan’s LGBT+ community as the products offer various characters who can be combined to create pairs featuring same sex couples.
How does Valentine’s Day in Japan differ to your home country?
Thanks for joining me! My name is Jo and I’m here to talk about Japanese snacks.
I fell in love with Japanese food and snacks as a teenager and they have continued to be a huge part of my life ever since. Growing up in a small UK town has often limited my experiences with Japanese foods, but through the magic of Internet shopping I have been able to feed my addiction and try many different types of snacks over the past couple of decades.
I’m starting this blog mostly as a sidekick to my Instagram page which I started in November 2018, and I hope that it can help to improve not only my minimal grasp of Japanese but also help to refresh my English writing skills.
From this blog you can expect: someone with a second stomach made for Japanese food, someone with a passion for the snacks of Japan, an enthusiastic look into the world of Dagashi and a place where you can hopefully discover your new favourite snacks or food along the way.
Please know that this blog isn’t: a place for serious reviews, a serious business venture, an academic project, a place for perfect Japanese, or a place for perfect photography. I’m just here to have fun and I hope you will too!