19 Sep 2008
Bad news for rice in Japan -- the recent tainted rice scandal has dulled the public's appetite for the staple, and kids these days are consuming less than ever. In an attempt to revive interest in the grain, agricultural cooperative JA Ugo (based in Ugo, Akita prefecture) is enlisting the help of a sweet, doe-eyed anime rice farmer girl.
Designed by eroge illustrator Aoi Nishimata, the original moe character will appear on 10,000 bags of locally grown "Akitakomachi" rice, which will go on sale September 22. Some Tokyo department stores have reportedly said the bags seem out of place on their shelves, but JA Ugo believes young people will embrace the design. The moe rice will undoubtedly sell well, provided it's free from mold and pesticide.
In recent weeks, consumers have been shocked to learn that moldy rice tainted with the pesticide methamidophos was served to thousands of people at schools, day-care centers and nursing homes and included in a variety of commercial food products. The tainted rice was originally imported from China for use as a raw material in industrial products such as glue, but was instead distributed as food. There have been no reports of people getting sick from the tainted rice.
[Source: Asahi // Image: Aoi Nishimata]
03 Mar 2008
This 1979 photograph shows the teary-eyed Our Lady of Akita statue at the Seitai Hoshikai (The Institute of the Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist) convent in Akita prefecture. In January 1975, 12 years after a local sculptor carved the statue from the wood of a Japanese Judas tree, it began to cry. Over the next 6 years, around 2,000 witnesses reported seeing the statue weep 101 times. The quantity and frequency of the tears varied each time -- sometimes the statue cried a few times per day, and sometimes it went months, and even years, without crying. The statue, which is still housed at the Akita convent, shed its final tears in September 1981.
26 Feb 2008
Fresh on the Akita prefecture promotional gimmick scene is a unique and decidedly male mascot modeled after the region's famed kiritampo grilled rice cake skewers. "Kirichimpo" (kiri means "cut" and chimpo is slang for the male organ), a lovey-eyed kiritampo stick with a conspicuous protuberance dangling from its lower end, is the brainchild of Fruru Co., Ltd., an Akita-based souvenir designer and wholesaler.
The company came up with the idea for Kirichimpo last year after witnessing the far-reaching success of Marimokkori, a happy, well-endowed green monster mascot from Hokkaido, whose name is a play on the words marimo (a type of giant algae ball found in Lake Akan) and mokkori ("erection"). Marimokkori's popularity extends far beyond Hokkaido's shores, to as far away as Chiba, the home of his younger peanut-headed cousin named Mamemokkori (mame means "bean"), and Tokyo, where mounds of the popular Marimokkori can be found inside UFO Catcher claw vending machines at game centers.
While Kirichimpo has yet to rise to Marimokkori status, it appears to be enjoying a measure of success. Last year's initial shipment of 6,000 Kirichimpo keychains sold out in a matter of months. And with demand still strong, the company is rolling out a Kirichimpo ear pick and other new gimmicks, which are soon to appear at souvenir shops and train stations throughout Akita prefecture at a price of 350 yen ($3) each.
[Source: Akita Keizai Shimbun]
22 Jan 2008
A unique chocolate made to look like a beetle larva has captured the fancy of candy aficionados in Japan. Produced by the Komatsuya confectionery and bakery based in Akita prefecture, the bite-sized Larva Chocolates (Youchu Choco) have a grub-shaped body made from milk chocolate and corn flakes, a layer of skin made from white chocolate, legs made from tiny strips of dried squid, and a dainty mouth made from orange peel. Komatsuya, which is struggling to keep up with demand, hand-produces about 400 per day and sells them online (shipping in Japan only) for 210 yen ($2) each. The company also offers up the repulsive-yet-cute candy grubs at product fairs, where they tend to get snapped up in a hurry. Larva Chocolates are now available in Tokyo at the Chocolate and Sweets Expo, which is being held at Sunshine City (Ikebukuro) until March 9.
[Source: Akita Keizai Shimbun]