Don’t Piss Off Zac Efron

I spotted this ad in the paper yesterday. Looks like pretty standard “tug-at-the-heartstrings” fare, but this one quote stood out for me:

Maybe it’s the phrase, or maybe it’s the no-nonsense sans-serif typestyle, or maybe it’s the fact that they bolded “WILL MELT YOUR HEART” in all caps, but I just can’t help but read it as a threat.

No, Zac Efron, please noooooo!!!

Funny Pets

A little less than a year ago back I posted a YouTube link to a Japanese CG cartoon I love called Popee the Performer, a cartoon series that’s like a cross between the work of Jim Woodring and a Looney Tunes short.

I recently re-watched the whole series, and it made me wonder if the director, Ryuji Masuda, had done anything since. Above is an episode of his more recent series “Funny Pets”. It’s not as good as Popee, but it’s still worth a watch.

Reverse Culture Shock

I recently returned from a two-year stay in Japan. It’s the longest I’ve ever been outside of the U.S., so I was expecting the reverse culture shock to be pretty severe. But as it turned out, it wasn’t that bad. I’ve lived abroad on four separate occasions now, so I guess I’ve gotten used to the novelty of returning home.

That said, there were a couple small things that surprised me:

1) The large drinks in the U.S. are HUGE. A Japanese “large” soda is about the size of a US small or medium, only with no free refills. Japanese people just don’t drink that much; I usually would’ve finished my drink by the time my Japanese friends had taken a sip. I always thought the Japanese drink portions were too small, but I got used to them over the past two years. So when I ordered my first large soda at O’Hare Airport, I couldn’t believe how big it was. I couldn’t even finish it.

2) The roads in the U.S. seem obscenely wide after two years in Japan. A typical American suburban street is as wide as a four-lane highway. And two of those four lanes are just for parking. Again, this isn’t downtown, this is in the suburbs, where there’s virtually no traffic and everyone has a driveway. I guess I’m not arguing for narrower roads or anything, I’m just saying it sort of surprised me…

Japanese Snack Review: Horrible Caramel Flavors


Product Names: Genghis Khan, Sapporo Beer, and Magic Spice Soup Curry Caramels

One of my favorite stores in Japan is Village Vanguard, which is sort of like a cross between a raunchy mall gift store and an alternative book store. For months I’ve seen these horrible looking caramels on sale there, so for my final Japanese snack review I decided to bite the bullet and try them.

Genghis Khan (Mongolian BBQ) Flavor
These were probably the worst of the bunch. They tasted like a combination of slightly off meat, garlic, and caramel. I couldn’t even finish one piece.

Sapporo Draft Beer Flavor
According to the label, these actually contain alcohol; about 0.1%. They smell like a drunk’s breath, and tasted like really terrible beer with the sweetness of caramel thrown in. You could probably simulate the flavor by taking a Bud Lite and adding a few scoops of sugar to it. Again, I spit it out after a couple of chews.

Magic Spice Soup Curry Flavor

This one tasted the most like what it was supposed to, and I think curry lends itself to the combination of sweetness that the caramel brings. Still pretty terrible though.

I can’t understand how these got made. I mean, it’s not like some crazy guy mixing beer and caramels together in a blender in his basement; a major company developed, manufactured, and distributed these. They don’t sound at all appetizing, and they taste even worse. The only market I can think of for this product is snarky foreign bloggers such as myself.


Well, that will be the last Japanese snack review for a while, what with me no longer being in Japan. Next week: something different!!

Japanese Snack Review: Kit-Kat Soy Sauce Flavor

Product Name: Kit Kat Soy Sauce Flavor
Manufacturer: Nestle

The candy bar Kit Kat is huge in Japan. I’ve heard it’s because “Kit Kat” sounds a bit like “Kitto Katsu”, which is Japanese for “guaranteed victory”, so people would give them as gifts to students before exams as like good luck charms or something. I can’t be bothered to verify that, something about this ho-hum candy bar really seems to appeal to the Japanese. This flickr set shows over a hundred Kit Kat flavors, the vast majority of which were made for the Japanese market.

I guess when the number of flavors reaches triple digits it’s hard to come up with new ones, but I was still surprised to see a soy sauce flavored variety on a recent trip to Tokyo. This product is a Tokyo exclusive, intended to be bought by visiting tourists to give as omiyage (souvenirs) to colleagues when they return home.

At first I was baffled as to why they’re white, a color that doesn’t exactly evoke “soy sauce”. A quick taste test resolved the mystery, however: these taste more like white chocolate than anything. Maybe they had just the tiniest hint of saltiness, but even though I was consciously trying to detect that soy sauce flavor, I barely could. If someone handed one of these to me without telling me what flavor it was, I never in a million years would’ve guessed soy sauce.

That’s the secret to making a good soy sauce flavored candy; bury any hint of soy sauce under a mountain of white chocolate.

Japanese Snack Review: Doritos Gourmet

Product Name: Doritos Gourmet: Wasabi-Mayonnaise Flavor
Manufacturer: Frito Lay

I’ve previously written about oxymoronic “gourmet” junk food, as well as weird mayonnaise combinations, so it’s nice to see both come together in this product. The text in the red circle promises that the chips have been double dipped for an extra concentrated flavor, which is reassuring.


Nothing better expresses “gourmet” than repeating it over and over in all caps in a stencil font.

The chips definitely have been dipped twice, giving them a gross, chalky texture. But for all that, the flavor was surprisingly weak. Back to the drawing board, guys!