Nestlé Japan to release sake-flavored Kit Kats this February

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RocketNews 24 (by Oona McGee):

Now you can enjoy a break with a Kit Kat and a shot of Japanese rice wine all rolled into one.

Japan is well-known for its huge variety of Kit Kats, with flavors ranging from wasabi to soybean and purple sweet potato to red bean sandwich. While most are developed as regional souvenirs, representing delicacies of the area, there’s one particular variety that says “Japan” like no other, and appears at the top of the must-buy souvenir list for many foreign visitors: the Green Tea Kit Kat.

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Nestlé Japan says the exclusive variety remains a popular choice with foreign tourists, with sales for 2015 up by 20 percent over the previous year. The product’s huge popularity encouraged the company to develop another Japan-exclusive flavour, this time based on the country’s well-known traditional brew, nihonshuu, or sake as it’s known internationally.

▼ Aimed at the foreign tourist market, the packaging features a beautiful pink sakura cherry blossom design, along with an image of the well-known liquor.

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The new Kit Kats contain sake powder which has been kneaded into the white chocolate-encased wafers, giving the chocolates all the flavor and aroma of a top-quality rice wine, while providing a light and refreshing aftertaste. Available from 1 February this year, the new variety will come in three-pack boxes for 150 yen (US$1.24) at convenience stores, while the specially designed nine-piece box will be available for 700 yen from souvenir stores around the country.

▼ The nine-piece packs feature a beautiful package in the shape of an Isshobin, 1.8-litre bottle.

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If you’re in Japan and would like to try a sample, Nestlé Japan will be featuring the sake Kit Kats at a booth at the upcoming event, which will  be held from February 5-14 at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo.

Japanese sweet sake found to have beauty benefits

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RocketNews 24:

It seems like every time you look, there’s some sort of new fad diet or superfood, all purported to be the best thing you can do for your health or to improve your natural beauty. But the good news is, this one’s actually fun to partake in.

Researchers at a university in Japan have now put sweet Japanese sake to the test, and have found it to have a number of positive beauty benefits, including improvement to under-eye health!

Japanese confectionery company Morinaga recently collaborated with Tokyo Engineering University to study the effects that amazake, or sweet sake, has on the drinker’s health.

Amazake, if you don’t know, is a traditional Japanese drink made from fermented rice, and is often sold at festivals, particularly around the new year period. Despite its name, “sweet sake” is actually a very low- (less than 1%) to non-alcoholic beverage, made using the lees leftover from sake production, and a type of mold – called kōji – used in fermenting miso paste and soy sauce. It may not sound very appetizing, but the amazake develops a natural sweetness as it incubates, and is really refreshing served chilled in the summer or hot in the winter.

▼Outdoor stall selling amazake (甘酒)

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Results from the study have led researchers to believe that the sake lees and kōji mold in amazake are beneficial to personal health and beauty. The study involved 17 participants, all females between the ages of 40 and 60. One group drank a prescribed amount of amazake every morning and evening for one month. The other group was given a placebo- an amazake-like drink, but without the lees and mold found in the traditional stuff.

After the trial month was over both groups were compared. The amazake group were surprisingly reported to have improved, brighter under-eyes than the placebo group. Members of the amazake group were also found to have a slight increase in the temperature of the surface of their skin, which researchers theorize helps promote the excretion of waste from the body, hence giving the test subjects brighter, healthier-looking under-eyes with reduced shadows and eye-bags.

In addition, members of the amazake group also reported having “glossier hair”, and feeling more refreshed when waking up in the morning, while the placebo group did not.

Sound too good to be true? Of course it’s difficult to believe there is a miracle beauty secret out there, and considering the size and short time-span of the study, the results should possibly be taken with a grain of salt, but if you wanted to test it out yourself at home, it would definitely be a tasty experiment. Kanpai!

Japanese sake brewers revive interest by using Western fermentation processes to create “Champagne Sake”

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RocketNews 24:

As imports of Western drinks increase, interest in Japan’s native alcoholic beverages has been declining. There have been efforts to bring drinkers back to traditional drinks such as sake and shochu, but they face tough competition from the likes of wine and champagne, which evoke fashionable, sophisticated images in the minds of Japanese drinkers.

One way to revive interest could be to apply Western fermentation techniques to Eastern beverages such as sake, Japan’s “rice wine”, to create unique twists on traditional drinks.Champagne sake” is an example of this done deliciously right.

Traditional or “real” champagne is sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France which, after the usual fermentation process, are fermented a second time in the bottle to produce the carbonation. In other words, it’s this special process of secondary fermentation that gives a glass of bubbly its bubbles. People all over the world, including Japan, like to crack open a bottle to celebrate special occasions. At other times, many Japanese people are partial to sake, or nihonshu as it’s known in its native land, a popular alcohol with a long history made from fermented rice.

But what do you get when you apply the fermentation process used to make champagne to sake? Well, you get an effect similar to champagne, but with that special rice wine flavor!

Because of the in-bottle fermentation process, as with champagne, you get the fizz of fine bubbles jumping out at you when you open the cap. It’s different to “sparkling sake“, which has recently seen a boom in popularity, which is simply sake with added carbonation and is more like an alco-pop with around 5% alcohol content. When using the champagne secondary fermentation process, the resultant drink has a fruity flavor and is around 12% proof. It’s very easy to get carried away drinking too much of it but, since it’s made from only rice and natural water, if you’re going to drink alcohol then this is probably a reasonably healthy choice! Apparently it goes well not only with Japanese food, but with Chinese and Western cuisine, too.

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Shusen Kurano is the oldest sake brewer in Nagano and the seventh oldest in all of Japan, and they are extremely proud of their “champagne sake”, called Kawanakajima-Fuwarin, which is different to all the traditional sake they produce. Founded in 1540, Shusen Kurano has over 470 years of history and it’s even said that the famous daimyo Takeda Shingen drank their sake at the Battles of Kawanakajima. While champagne sake may not have been around at the time, if it had been he surely would have enjoyed cracking open a bottle after a win on the battlefield.

Kawanakajima-Fuwarin retails on the brewery’s website at 450 yen (US$3.70) for 180 ml, 750 yen ($6.20) for 300ml, and 1,250 yen ($10.30) for 500ml. If you do pick any up, be sure to let us know what you think.

Outdoor apparel label Snow Peak introduces custom Titanium Sake Bottle

Portland-based outdoor apparel label Snow Peak introduces its custom Titanium Sake Bottle. Boasting a lightweight titanium construction, the Snow Peak sake bottle weighs less than half a pound and is able to carry 540 mL of fluids, making it ideal for storing spirits at cold temperatures at home or on the road.

Made exclusively in Japan, the titanium sake bottle also features a practical black stopper, which complements the bottle’s utility and portability. Matching sets of titanium sake cups and a bottle case add to the outdoor-inspired sake experience. The Snow Peak Titanium Sake Bottle is available now at the brand’s online store.

ZOZOTOWN collaborates with Japanese sake distillery Ohmine Shuzou with 10th Anniversary “Ohmine Junmai” Pack

Drinking sake just got more convenient with convenience store Family Mart’s new canned brews

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RocketNews 24:

Like with wine, there are variations in flavor between different types of Japanese sake. However, it can be kind of tough to pick up on the subtle differences unless you’re drinking them back to back. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for prices for anything other than the house sake at restaurants to start at about 800 yen (US $6.75), so putting together your own sampling set can get pricey.

But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to dip you toes in the wide, wonderful world of sake, convenience store Family Mart is here to help, with its new lineup of affordably priced canned sake.

While convenience stores selling individual-sized servings of sake isn’t anything new, there are two unique points to Family Mart’s Sake Bottle series. First, while most cheap convenience store sake is of a quality as low as its price, Family Mart’s four exclusive brews are produced by respected sake maker Nihonsakari.

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Second, the Sake Bottle series is sold in 200-mililiter (6.8-ounce) oblong cans with resealable tops. There’s no pressure to drink any more than you feel like at that exact moment, unlike with other brands which come in glass containers whose tops have to be completely and irreversibly removed in order to get at the liquid refreshment inside.

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The least expensive of the quartet is the josen karakuchi, which comes in a black container and is priced at 260 yen ($2.17). Family Mart says this dry, 15-percent alcohol sake goes down smooth and can be paired with a wide range of foods.

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Ponying up 280 yen will get you a can of the refreshing junmaishu, which is just a tad less dry than the josen karakuchi but also has an alcohol content of 15 percent.

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Identically priced at 280 yen, the rich-tasting namagenshu provides the strongest kick of the bunch, with 20 percent alcohol and the sweetest flavor of the four.

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Finally, there’s the dry, aromatic, and elegant 16-percent-alcohol daiginjo, for 300 yen ($2.50).

All of the Sake Bottle varieties are currently available at Family Mart branches across Japan, which is also a handy place to pick up some snacks to munch on while you sip them. Even better, until January 12 they’re all 10 yen off, meaning that even if the top-of-the-line daiginjo turns out to be your favorite, right now it’s buy-30-get-one-free.

Norse Hutchens Sake Making Kit

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For those fascinated with the often mishandled craft of home brewing, Norse Hutchens provides the correct kits needed to explore the ancient art and science. Alongside wine, moonshine and gin making kits, the label’s latest kit allows you to explore the production of Japanese sake.

Equipped with a manual, all the necessary ingredients (rice, yeast, sake additives) and utensils — jugs, plastic tubing, rubber stoppers and muslin bag — you can now bring a piece of traditional craft to your kitchen without venturing to Kobe’s breweries.

Priced at $60 USD, head to uncommongoods for more information on the kit.