Japan’s exports in July jumped 37% from a year ago, the government said Wednesday, highlighting an overseas recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Imports also grew, rising 28.5%, according… Source Japan Today
It’s not so lonely at the top of this ranking.
Although a lot of major brands last for a long time, people’s opinions about them can fluctuate quite a bit. In the past decade alone, we’ve seen McDonald’s Japan go from a fast-food juggernaut to a veritable pariah and back to the McCock of the walk.
One way to help keep tabs on these changes is the Japanese Customer Satisfaction Index which is an annual survey that measures general impressions on how satisfying and useful a business is in a wide range of industries from credit card companies to hardware stores.
The first round of results, however, focuses mainly on the food service sectors “eateries” and “cafes.” This year, 12 restaurant chains known as “family restaurants” in Japan, nine fast food chains, and five coffee shops were rated and ranked by nearly 25,000 respondents, making this the largest survey of its kind in Japan.
The survey asked three questions which respondents were to assign a score out of 100:
1 – How satisfied with [business name] were you in the past year?
2 – Looking back on your use of [business name] this past year, how much to you think it was a good choice for you?
3 – How much has use of [business name] enriched your life.
These scores were then compiled, weighted, and processed through all that other statistician magic to come up with the three most satisfying eateries in Japan for 2021. Let’s run it down!
3 – Mos Burger
A solid entry for third place, Mos Burger has been a long-appreciated franchise in Japan often found at or near the top of most rankings. Though they do catch a little flack for relatively high prices and small portions, quality-wise they are consistently a cut above the rest.
2 – Oh, wait a minute…
It would seem there is no second place. Instead we have a tie for first! I suppose that would technically make Mos Burger second, but we’re just following the number system used by JCSI, so get off our backs already.
1 – Saizeriya and Gyoza No Ohsho
Both receiving the same rating on the Customer Satisfaction Index, the Italian-themed family restaurant Saizeriya and Chinese-themed gyoza shack Gyoza No Ohsho are sharing the spotlight this year.
Saizeriya really does an amazing job at treading along the razor’s edge of low cost and high quality. “High quality” is used loosely considering most dishes are just reheated, but they all somehow end up tasting way better than they should, and at prices that seem to defy the economy.
▼ We even sent a hungry four-man team to try their best to run up a 100,000-yen (US$906) bill, but they didn’t even come remotely close
On the other hand, Gyoza No Ohsho has striven to become the largest gyoza chain in Japan, which is no small feat. Here gyoza can be very divisive, with a wide range of subtly different recipes found in most restaurants, convenience stores, and supermarkets. Uniting enough people under one umbrella made of tasty rice paper and stuffed with garlic is a testament to how satisfying this place can be.
To see where your favorite restaurant did or didn’t rank, here is the top ten:
According to the researchers behind the survey, there were some rather large swings in the results this year caused by the pandemic’s disruption. For example, Gyoza No Ohsho shot up a remarkable eight places from the previous year, possibly due in part to their very take-out-friendly central dish of gyoza.
On the other hand, it’s surprising that McDonald’s didn’t even crack the top 10 this time. Regardless of opinions on the food itself, their app that allows you to order and pay before even entering the store has been a lifesaver in these especially germophobic times.
Meanwhile, Starbucks fans needn’t fret too much, because cafes were put in a separate ranking, with the top three as follows:
Once again, despite being the largest chain of its kind internationally, Starbucks was upset by Komeda’s Coffee. This is another chain that has thrived especially during the pandemic, something that has been attributed to their relatively wide floorspace compared to other coffee shops.
▼ Not only that but Komeda’s Coffee has a pretty killer line-up of food to go along with all that caffeine.
Even despite these results, in Japan you’d generally be hard pressed to find an eatery you could describe as “unsatisfying” so don’t worry to much about where to eat. However, if for whatever reason you still find that you can’t get no satisfaction, perhaps you should try one of these spots for a change of pace.
Japan has been unable to shift its economy into higher gear as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, a fact that has often overshadowed some of the country’s chronic labor challenges, including worker shortages and job mismatches. (Japan Times)
Japanese Diet exclusive can now be part of the Japanese diet.
As Japan’s biggest gyudon (beef bowl) chain, Yoshinoya’s branches across the country have a pretty standardized menu. However, out of all of its 1,183 domestic locations, there’s a luxurious special item that you can only get at the Nagatacho Ichome branch in Tokyo.
But hey, a lot of people live in Tokyo, so a pretty large portion of the nation’s Yoshinoya fans can just mosey on over an order it, right? Nope, because the Nagatacho Ichome branch is located inside the National Diet Building, and this “Diet” doesn’t refer to the foods Japan eats, but to the country’s parliament, which is called the Diet.
▼ Exterior view of National Diet Building/Nagatacho Ichome Yoshinoya
Basically, unless you’re a politician or have some other sort of official business within the halls of power, the branch, and its exclusive Kuroge Wagyuju, is off limits. That’s about to change, though, as Yoshinoya has announced that it’s expanding its availability to branches nationwide.
So what exactly is the Kuroge Wagyuju? Well, for starters, it’s a -ju, not a -don, which indicated that it’s served in a rectangular container, not a round bowl. Ju usually carry the connotation of fancier ingredients as well, and the Kuroge Wagyuju delivers on that implied promise by using Japanese Black wagyu beef, a premium domestic breed that’s prized for its flavorful marbled meat.
The Kuroge Wagyuju is made with Japanese Black chuck roll of A3 or higher grade, which is pan-grilled to order, not stewed and waiting like with ordinary beef bowls. The meat is sprinkled with salt and pepper then treated with a ginger garlic soy glaze specially crafted to pair with the Japanese Black’s richness, then served over rice and topped with sliced white onion, accompanied by sides of miso soup and kimchi.
At the Diet, the Kuroge Wagyuju was priced at 1,389 yen (US$12.63), but for civilians eating elsewhere in the country the price has been knocked down to 1,290 yen (US$11.73). Not only does this make it a little easier on the wallets of us common folk, it also works as a pun, since 1 and 29 can be read as ii niku, or “nice meat.”
Those of you with a deep sense of loyalty to SoraNews24 and/or beef might recall that we actually taste-tested this rarified dish a while back, when it was being offered at one Yoshinoya branch at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, and loved it. However, with the number of travelers passing thorough Haneda severally reduced during the pandemic, it was taken off the airport branch’s menu back in the spring, and has only been available at the Diet location since. Yoshinoya says that it’s also reformulated the glaze and seasonings to bring out even more of the delicious wagyu flavor, and we can’t wait to try it for ourselves after it goes on sale on August 12.
Source: Yoshinoya via Yomiuri Shimbun via Yahoo! Japan News
Top image: Yoshinoya
Insert images: Pakutaso, Yoshinoya
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Nagoya politician also attends harassment awareness workshop, says comments he made about dating and marriage to medalist were inappropriate.
Following the Japanese women’s softball team’s gold medal victory over the U.S.A. at the end of July, left-handed pitcher Miu Goto returned to a hero’s welcome in her hometown of Nagoya. The celebration included meeting Nagoya mayor Takashi Kawamura, who wanted to convey his congratulations in person, but picked a very poor way to do so.
During their meeting Goto naturally showed Kawamura her gold medal, and the 72-year-old politician promptly stuck it in his mouth and bit it, imitating the common photo-op pose struck with the Olympic hardware. What Kawamura apparently failed to properly understand, though, was that it’s supposed to be the athletes themselves biting their medals, and that not only is slobbering all over someone else’s belongings gross, doing so in the middle of a pandemic is dangerous too.
▼ Miu Goto
— 工藤彰三（愛知4区） (@kudoshozo) July 17, 2021
With the bite caught on camera, the mayor has been facing a wave of criticism not just for his oral infraction but also for asking Goto if members of the softball team are allowed to date and encouraging her to “Find yourself a good husband.” During his regularly scheduled press conference on Monday he spoke of how he’s trying to make amends, saying that on August 13th he attended a course on harassment awareness and that he’s come to understand that his remarks to Goto were inappropriate. Kawamura will also be forfeiting three months of his salary, which works out to 1.5 million yen (US$13,640).
While voluntary resignations often follow political scandals in Japan, Kawamura stated that he wishes to continue serving as mayor of Nagoya, while reiterating his previously made apology, saying “I have caused discomfort to Goto and the people of the country, and will practice greater self-discipline.”
It’s unclear whether Kawamura’s forfeited salary will be donated to a charitable cause or simply remain in the city’s coffers. Using it to pay for a replacement medal for Goto would seem like the most natural application, but the athlete herself seems to be attached to the one that was presented to her as she stood with her teammates at the Olympics, even if it’s spent some time in Kawamura’s mouth since then.
Cut the calories and the carbs, even at a fast-food chain!
Let’s face it: delicious as they may be, beef bowls are not exactly the healthiest meal. Juicy, meaty goodness slow-cooked in a savory-sweet broth and served over rice, often topped with delicious things like cheese or even yakisoba…well, that’s a high calorie count if we’ve ever seen one. But Japanese beef bowl chain restaurant Matsuya is making sure that even health-conscious individuals can enjoy their food by allowing their customers to choose to replace their rice with a salad.
The option is called “low-carb change” (ローカボチェンジ), and applies to gyudon beef bowls, teishoku set meals, curries, and bento boxes (so long as they have the regular size rice). You can do it for takeout orders as well as dine-in, so any time you order from Matsuya, you can choose to go low-carb.
By choosing the low-carb change, the salad you get has 95 percent fewer carbohydrates than the rice it replaces, and 93 fewer calories too, so for the health-conscious, this is an excellent option.
You might be wondering if, by replacing the rice with salad, the Matsuya staff ends up turning your beef rice bowl into a beef salad, but the answer is no. They put the vegetables on the side, so you get a bowl of beef, a bowl of salad, and a bowl of miso soup. And in the case of teishoku set meals, since they already come with a salad if, you chose to do the low-carb change you’ll get an extra salad, so you can get not one, but two helpings of delicious veggies.
The best part about it is that the low-carb change is a free option. Oftentimes such substitutions cost a little money, as it did when they offered customers the choice to exchange their rice for tofu. But not so with this deal–you can cut the calories and the carbs at no cost to yourself, so you don’t have to use the cost as an excuse to eat healthily.
As big beef bowl fans we can’t imagine ever eating a beef bowl without rice, but it seems like an easy and healthy switch to make, so we might try it out on days when we feel like we’ve been eating too much ice cream, bread, and sweets.
The change comes after multiple years of deliberation.
Unlocking your cellphone provides an assortment of advantages. From being able to switch phone carriers more easily to staying out of device debt, folks who move overseas are especially familiar with the process. In Japan, however, while unlocking your smartphone isn’t illegal, the nation’s three big phone companies, Docomo, Softbank, and AU, make it extremely difficult to do. From contract stipulations to essentially forcing customers to purchase a brand new smartphone along with a network plan, getting a cellphone can be a real headache in Japan. Luckily for all smartphone users, though, Japanese phone companies will soon be banned from locking cellphone SIM cards.
Decided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication on August 10, the new policy is in effect starting from October 2021. Previously, if you wanted to go through the hoops to unlock your phone, your phone would have to technically be paid off whether you bought it from the phone company with a lump sum or finished all your monthly payments, and your contract with a network carrier fulfilled. Now thanks to this new upcoming policy, smartphone users will have more freedom to switch network carriers and reuse their devices, which will certainly save them some money.
Now what if you just happen to purchase a cellphone along with a more restrictive plan from one of Japan’s big three network carriers before October 2021? In that case, your contract will be liable to last until October 2023, though after that time period phone companies are legally obligated to dissolve it for free if requested.
Naturally, this is a blow for Japan’s big network carriers as they can no longer “lock” in customers to their cellphone plans, and certainly folks will be saving money in the long run by not having to change their smartphone device every time they change carriers. Or if you really want to, you can still be like one of our reporters who happens to not only switch their smartphone every few years, but willingly waits three nights to do so.
Encounter leaves rail fans shouting into the night in seaside town.
Some of the hardest of Japan’s hardcore otaku are the train otaku, or “tetsu-ota” (from testudo/”railway”), as they’re called for short. While taking photos of public transportation infrastructure could be a relaxing, low-key hobby, some tetsu-ota take it very seriously, with the latest example being an incident that took place on Thursday night along the Enoshima Electric Railway in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Because of its picturesque location on the fashionable Shonan coast and unique streetcar configuration, the Enoden, as the line is also known, is particularly popular among tetsu-ota. So when word got out that test runs were going to be performed for a new model of Enoden carriage, tetsu-ota showed up in the middle of the night with the aim of securing bragging rights to be the first fans to photograph the upgraded rolling stock.
But as the train came around a curve near an intersection where a particularly large crowd had gathered, so too did a non-Japanese bicyclist. Pedaling up the street, his bike was between the train and the cameras, and his left arm was raised high. This instantly enraged the tetsu-ota, who began shouting “What are you doing?” and “Get out of the way, you moron!”
Video of the incident can be seen here, and it’s hard to tell if the man was raising his hand to wave to the crowd, or to signal that he wanted to turn up the street that several of the tetsu-ota seem to be blocking the entrance to in positioning themselves to photograph the train (at least one person seems to have set up a folding chair in the intersection). Either way, the crowd continues shouting as the train continues on, with a handful of the tetsu-ota approaching the man after he stops his bike. “This is seriously bad news,” someone says, while another shouts “Pay up!” and the “bad news” voice can be heard seconding the motion, agreeing “Pay up. Yeah, for sure. It’s logical that he should pay up.”
It’s unclear whether the suggested shakedown eventually took place or not, but the incident has divided opinions online. On one side are those taking the cyclist to task for what they see as intentionally spoiling the tetsu-ota’s photos, with the fault-finding going so far as some saying the man should be punished for the dangerous behavior of riding a bicycle with (gasp!) only one hand on the handlebars. On the other side are those who find the reaction of the on-site rail fans completely out of proportion with the perceived impoliteness, leaving comments such as:
“Totally laughing at what happened by the Enoden.”
“I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the video of that foreigner getting right in the way of the shot, but I’m still not tired of it.”
“Personally, I’d be satisfied with having that guy in my photo.”
“Instead of getting mad at him for messing up their pics, shouldn’t they be working on their own manners and not making so much noise in a residential neighborhood?”
With Japan currently closed to international tourism, it stands to reason that the bicyclist is likely a Japanese resident, and thus someone you’d expect to be at least aware of how passionate Japanese rail fans are and how disappointed they’d be by someone photobombing their train shot. On the other hand, he’s using a public road, and not under any obligation to alter his route simply to help someone better indulge in their otaku hobby. Really, the only thing that can be said for sure is that if a group of strangers start yelling at you and talking about potentially robbing you, probably the best thing to do is to keep on pedaling.
As most cosplayers know, any place can be suitable for a photo shoot. I have taken pictures in abandoned buildings, streets, parks, and even in a pool; any area that fits my Cosplay. Why not take advantage of your trip to Japan to take some fantastic Cosplay pictures in and around Nagoya?
As someone who has been cosplaying for over six years and taking pictures of Cosplayers for even longer, I would like to share the top locations I have found in Nagoya and Aichi Prefecture for Cosplay photoshoots.
Source Nagoya is not boring
Japan’s population has fallen for a 12th straight year. The population stood at over 123.84 million on January 1. That’s down about 428,000 from the previous year. (NHK)