YouTuber conducts social experiment to test Japanese people’s legendary honesty

Japanese YouTuber Zenim at the channel Monkey Python decided to carry out a little social experiment.

He walked around the Harajuku area and intentionally dropped his wallet immediately after passing by some people. He then kept walking and waited to see if anyone returned the wallet, of if they kept the leather treasure for themselves.

How many of the 15 tests ended in honesty? Watch the video to find out:

Medicom Toy (Japan) x Oakley Frogskins Bearbrick for BEAMS

Longstanding Japanese toy label Medicom Toy outfits its hallmark Bearbrick model with a pair of Oakley’s Frogskins sunglasses for a new release for compatriot retailer BEAMS. The collaboration embodies Oakley’s slick vibe on an equitably smooth translucent Bearbrick, featuring the brand logo on the chest alongside a screen of the silhouette on the toy’s face.

Arriving as a special, limited-edition gift at BEAMS locations in Harajuku, Nagoya, Yokohama and Shibuya, pick up this iteration of the Bearbrick beginning April 17.

Monjayaki, the popular Tokyo dish you’ve probably never heard of

monjayaki

RocketNews 24:

When people think of Japanese food, most think of sushi, sashimi or even some of the more popular Japanese comfort foods like okonomiyaki or udon noodles. If you’re a tourist, however, you’ve likely never experienced one of Tokyo’s most popular dishes:monjayaki. But don’t feel bad; even some Japanese people who don’t live in the Tokyo metropolitan area (75 percent of the population) have never tasted it. This is one reason why Tsukishima Monjadori, a street with over 100 monjayaki restaurants, ranks in the top five sight-seeing spots in the capital for Japanese tourists (FYI, the other four are Harajuku, Tokyo Disneyland, Odaiba and Tsukiji Fish Market).

Monjayaki is simple but complicated: it has just a few easy ingredients and can be made in under three minutes yet it requires instructions to make, and even eat, properly. It helps to know, for example, that monja is not usually eaten with chopsticks, and that there’s a good reason why.

Read on to learn more about this unexpectedly delicious fare: watch a how-to videoshowing you how to make it, check out photos that show you how to eat it, and get tips from a master monjayaki chef.

I first met monjayaki chef Yasutami Ōhashi (who goes by “Tommy”) when I came to Japan in 1994. At that time he was running a restaurant in Okayama City called “Hibachi,” where he served a varied menu of Japanese izakaya favorites such as braised fish, gyoza, and edamame, accompanied by lots of draft beer. Tommy cooked in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by a counter which could seat up to 20 customers. Whenever you went into Hibachi, he’d immediately introduce you to the person sitting next to you giving both parties just enough information about each other to pique a conversation. Tommy knew that getting people to talk to each other was central to creating a friendly atmosphere where people would want to come back not just for the great food, but also to socialize.

▼Master chef Tommy Ōhashi is going to teach us how to make monjayaki.

Tommy

In November of 1999, Tommy became the first person to introduce monjayaki to Okayama through his restaurant called Taiyo no Jidai (太陽の時代). It was so successful, he now has four restaurants, (two in Okayama City, one in Kurashiki, and one in Takamatsu) all specializing in monjayaki.

Taiyo no jidai means “sunny era” and refers to the new century we were about to enter when he started his endeavor. “People were trepidatious about the new century,” said Tommy. “They were worried about Y2K and some thought the world was going to end! I wanted people to be happy and optimistic about the future so I called my restaurant Taiyo no Jidai so people would have something bright to look forward to in the new year and the 21st century.”

Ingredients:

Although the ingredients for monjayaki vary, Tommy treated me to three different dishes he makes at Taiyo no Jidai: 1. mentaiko (cod roe) & mochi 2. seafood & green onions 3. eggplant & cheese. These each arrived in separate metal bowls.

ingredients

Underneath the main ingredients in the bowl were shredded cabbage and a liquid made by combining wheat flour (komugiko) and fish broth (dashi). “Monjayaki first became popular after WWII, ” Tommy explains, “because during the war when food was scarce, the easy mixture of flour and dashi was a cheap way for families to eat.” He then gave me his first tip to making tasty monja.

Tip #1: To make the best monjayaki, use the highest quality flour.

▼Tommy uses the same flour used to make cakes.

flour

Next, he gave me a plate and one special utensil: a tiny spatula.

▼Plate and small spatula, called a moji-bera which means “word spatula.”

plate

▼The teppan grill, the same as is used for okonomiyaki, is embedded in the middle of the restaurant table.

teppan

“Pencils and paper were also hard to come by during the war so children used the grill like a chalkboard to practice writing their letters in the flour and water mixture” Tommy said while pouring the mentaiko and mochi mixture onto the heated plate. “They’d draw letters with the small spatula. This is why the spatula is called moji-bera, or ‘word spatula.’”

With the monja on the grill, it is now time to use two bigger spatulas to beat it up! With a spatula in each fist, you cut up the ingredients rapid-fire by pounding the spatulas onto the grill thereby cutting up the ingredients (see video for action shot).

And Rocketeers, you can rejoice because this is one time when it’s okay to play with your food–in fact, it’s encouraged! Monja is surely the only Japanese food that allows you to get rid of stress, practice your drumming, and hone your culinary skills all while at the dinner table!

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 5.17.36 PM

When the ingredients are chopped small enough to make the monja a runny liquidy paste, let it rest to cook on the grill. After several more minutes, it’ll still be gooey but this time it’ll be ready to eat.

▼Monja on the grill, finished cooking and ready to eat!

IMG_6251

You’ve probably noticed that monja is not very aesthetically pleasing: it would not win a culinary beauty contest. You could even say it looks kind of, well, sick. If you’ve ever gotten drunk on shots of tequila, you know what I mean. This unappealing visual was a big barrier for me the first time I ate monja. So I tried eating it with my eyes closed, which helped. But I eventually overcame the association with drunken tequila nights by thinking of dogs. Yes, dogs. When dogs throw up, they eat their vomit. Some people say this is instinct, but I don’t think so. I think dogs eat their vomit because…it’s delicious!

Monjayaki tastes best when it is piping hot, so eat it straight off the teppan plate with themoji-bera. There is a special technique, which brings us to Tommy’s second tip.

Tip No. 2: The proper way to eat monja is to pull off a portion with the moji-bera and press down on it to get the piece to stick to your spatula…

IMG_6241

Then turn over the spatula and put it straight in your mouth.

IMG_6242

The plate is there only if you need it, such as when the monja has been sitting too long on the grill and is burning and you want to get it off the grill quickly. Speaking of burning, Tommy has another tip for us now.

Tip No. 3: Don’t waste the okuge! It tastes good with beer.

▼Okuge is the burnt stuff on the hot plate, located around the perimeter of the liquid.

okuge

The fun in monjayaki is definitely in the creation of it on the grill and sharing the food among friends and family.

Tip No. 4: You can make dessert monja!

This is a specialty of Taiyo no Jidai restaurant, and isn’t available anywhere else that I know of, but Tommy shows us that the same technique can be used to make a delicious strawberry dessert.

▼Strawberries and cream is just one of the dessert monja served at Taiyo no Jidai.

dessert

▼Yep, you’re gonna throw that beautiful concoction straight onto the grill!

IMG_6267

▼And mix it and beat it up just like regular monja.

IMG_6272

All that’s left to do is eat it with the moji-bera. The warm dessert melts in your mouth and tastes just like it has been baked in the oven–amazing!

There you have it, straight from the master chef who brought monjayaki to Okayama and started us all off with a sunny monjayaki 21st century. So Rocketeers, get to work making your own monja and be sure to let us know if you come up with something original and amazing that we just have to try!

Taiyo no Jidai has four restaurant locations in Western Japan:

Okayama Prefecture:
3-13-56 Omote-Cho, Okayama City 700-0822
1-17-2 Aoe Kita-ku, Okayama City 700-0941
619-2 Shimosho, Kurashiki City, 701-0112

Kagawa Prefecture:
4-20 Kajiyamachi,
Two Feet Bldg,
2F, Takamatsu 760-0028

SOPH. Opens A+S Sneaker Store in Tokyo

STORE by NIGO® set to open in Harajuku’s Laforet

Coming soon from NIGO is the polymath’s latest retail endeavor. Simply dubbed STORE by NIGO, the brand new space is set to open by the end of April at Harajuku’s Laforet department store and follow’s NIGO’s latest work with the likes of UNITED ARROWS, adidas Originals, Tetsu Nishiyama, and UNIQLO.

For those interested, job openings for the new endeavor can be found over at honeyee.com.

 

NEIGHBORHOOD (Japan) 2015 Spring/Summer Editorial by END.

NEIGHBORHOOD (Japan) x adidas Originals 2015 Spring/Summer Lookbook

Hiroshi Fujiwara presents the “Once In A Lifetime” concept collection at the POOL aoyama (Tokyo)

Hiroshi Fujiwara and his contemporaries of the Harajuku scene are as revered collectors as they are innovators. In line with this, famed Japanese concept store the POOL aoyama has announced a new(ish) concept coming to the store: ”ONCE IN A LIFETIME.”

A curated selection of streetwear gems from around the world, “ONCE IN A LIFETIME” will act as a survey of apparel and found goods from the canon of our beloved culture. If in the Tokyo area, be sure to check out the concept when it opens on February 15.

NEIGHBORHOOD (Japan) 2015 Spring/Summer Lookbook

Steam Garden: Tokyo’s steampunk festival

TSP (1)

RocketNews 24:

Though it sometimes feel a bit like bragging, when people ask what we like best about Tokyo, we can’t help answering that it basically has everything. Now, don’t us wrong, there are some things you can’t find in Japan’s capital city, but just about everything we’ve gone looking for, we’ve been able to find. And we’ve even discovered some things without knowing we were looking for them! Case in point, about a week ago, we found out that Tokyo has its very own quarterly steampunk festival!

Dubbed Steam Garden, the first event of the year will be held next month in Harajuku, but we were dying to know more about it, so we reached out to the Tokyo Inventors Society to learn more about steampunk in Japan.

Check our exclusive interview and get information about joining the fun below!

TSP (3)Rioru

The world is overflowing with unique subcultures, but steampunk is perhaps one of the most interesting–though we have to admit it can be somewhat difficult to pin down exactly what it is! Fortunately, we were able to get a pretty satisfying answer from Luke, one of the founders of the Tokyo Inventors Society, which run Steam Garden. “Steampunk is a kind of re-imagining of 19th century science fiction, like a punk-attitude version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. We like the cool 19th century aesthetic, the sense of adventure, the DIY aspect of crafting and building things, and the satirical, playful approach to history.”

Of course, generally steampunk evokes images of Victorian culture, but it actually seems to work very, very well in Japan as well, thanks to the country’s blend of traditional and contemporary culture during the Meiji era.

Kenny, one of the other founders of the Tokyo Inventors Society, had this to say about steampunk in Japan. “I think Japanese ‘mottainai’ (“don’t be wasteful”) culture is a good influence on re-making and creating things from junk. I like that part of streampunk a lot.”

TSP (4)Taro Irei

Adding to Kenny’s comments, Luke explained that certain aspects of Japanese steampunk are still very new. “Aesthetically, Steam Garden really pioneered what we sometimes call the ‘wild east’ style of Steampunk, a more intense version of the Wa-yo-setyuu style of fusing East and West, and this seems to be inspiring a lot of the younger steampunks now to be proud of Japanese steampunk style, rather than copying a Victorian or American look.”

Now you’re probably wondering just what Steam Garden is. The event is actually only a few years old–it began in 2011 as little more than idea in a bar. As Luke put it, “We were sitting in a hookah bar sometime in 2011 and complaining about the lack of  decent steampunky, gonzo-historical kinda festivals in Japan.”

Most of our great ideas come in hookah bars,” Kenny quipped.

▼Kenny

TSP (2)

Regardless of where the idea came from, it looks like Steam Garden has developed quite the following. It even got started with a bit of a bang! When asked about the festival’s growth over the last four years, Kenny told us, “I thought the first one was going to be a small salon-party. Maybe 40 people. But we packed out a small nightclub. So we picked a bigger place next time, and filled it again. Every time it gets a little bigger. We are on the eighth one now.”

The next event, which is called “Meiji Democracy” is due to take place in just under two weeks on February 7 at Laforet in Harajuku from 2 pm to 7 pm. Admission isn’t exactly cheap at 4,000 yen (about $34) per person, but it promises to be quite the show.

If you’re on the fence about the price, this description from the Steam Garden FAQ should get you excited.

“During DJ and Salon time you can enjoy Hookah, sit and talk with the best-dressed, classiest and friendliest crowd of any event in Tokyo, and dance to adventurous neo-retro sounds from our DJ’s.

The entertainment, music and even booths at each event are carefully selected to match the theme of the episode, whether it is rodeo girls at a ‘Wild Wild West’ fashion show or Katana-wielding samurai and live Japanese traditional music for ‘Meiji Steam.’ The performers are always of top quality including Cirque du Soleil registered acrobats, professional swordfight choreographers, champion Shamisen players and more.”

Now, if you’re worried you don’t have anything to wear, Luke assures us that you don’t have to wear full-on steampunk or historical costume. It’s not entirely necessary, but he did add that “most of the attendees make one hell of an effort to look awesome,” so it may be worth at least throwing something quick together to really get into the spirit.

It’s all about having a sense of adventure!” Kenny added. “If you’ve got that, you’re 99% ready to go!”

Sounds good to us!

If you’re not going to be in Tokyo in two weeks but you really want to see the event, we have good news! We’ll be there taking photos, so you can look forward to a full report…as long as our time machine doesn’t break and leave us stranded in the Meiji period.

For more information about the event be sure to check out the Steam Garden website.