Japan Eats

Kickstarter Campaign to Publish “The Shochu Handbook”

Hello foodie friends!

The Shochu HandbookI hope you’re having a fantastic day. For the past three years I’ve been pouring my energy into my first publication, “The Shochu Handbook.” Remember when I talked about the project while touring distilleries in Kyushu, and then again when I talked about the process of becoming certified as a Shochu Sommelier?

Yup, it was all part of the plan to get to this point.

Today I’m unveiling the fruit of all that labor, and I hope that you’ll take a moment to check it out:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pellegrini/the-shochu-handbook-an-intro-to-japans-alcoholic-s

It’d mean the world to me if you’d spread the word by simply clicking the Facebook and Twitter buttons under the video. Just two clicks will make a HUGE difference!

Many thanks,

Christopher Pellegrini

They say it’s your birthday

Japan Eats is now two years old. Huzzah!!

It has been two years since we unleashed the Japan Eats website on an unsuspecting public. In that time we’ve posted over 160 stories on every aspect of the Japanese dining experience: recipes, restaurant reviews and special reports. We’ve also featured video exploring such diverse topics as umeshu, Tokyo’s annual Thai Festival and how to prepare kabocha tempura.

Traffic to our site continues to grow, as do the number of visitors to our Vimeo channel and iTunes feeds. Moreover, our site stats revealed:

– The most popular search term is ‘negitoro‘, closely followed by ‘tantanmen‘. Other search terms used to find our site include ‘marunouchi fish domburi‘, ‘how to make kakubin highball’ and ‘work for a Japanese curry shop in japan’ (good luck with that).
– A majority of visitors to the site come from Japan followed by the United States, Canada and Australia. Quite a few of our Japanese guests read us through the magic of Google Translate.
– We also have a healthy following in China, particularly for our videos. People of China! 谢谢!

From the comments, tweets, and emails we’ve received, it’s clear a lot of people don’t just want to read about Japanese cuisine, nor do they merely want to know the best place in Tokyo to order yakiton (Akimotoya in Nogata, by the way). What they really want is to prepare Japanese dishes themselves. Naturally, we’ll do our best to keep the recipes coming. In the meantime, email or tweet us your recipe requests!

What’s next for Japan Eats?

As Chris wrote in the last Japan Eats update, our stories now appear as a regular feature on the Tokyo Weekender website. Please share the love by visiting their site and clicking on EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. Especially the advertising.

This month we published a story from new contributor Justin Potts, and we plan to introduce other writers in the coming months. Remember, we’re always on the look out for new authors. Contact lovitt@japaneats.tv for details.

For those of you in Tokyo, Japan Eats resident drink guru Christopher Pellegrini has started a shochu group on meetup.com. Called CAST (Curious About Shochu in Tokyo), Chris describes the group as “a group for shochu nerds and novices alike. It’s a beverage that is wholly under-appreciated, in all its many forms, and there’s a lot of sage shochu knowledge out there just waiting to be mined. Much of that knowledge is trapped in shochu specialty bars. If that’s where we have to go to find it, then so be it.”

Shochu and umeshu lovers outside Japan shouldn’t feel left out, however. You can join the conversation on our Facebook page, Twitter or our brand new Google+ page.

Japan Eats meets Tokyo Weekender

We’re pleased to announce that Tokyo Weekender has picked up some of our content and is featuring it exclusively on their site.

Click here to read the October exclusive which presents a list of healthy restaurant, supermarket and general dining options in Tokyo.

Marcus and I were also featured in this interview piece a couple of months ago in which we answered a bunch of questions about eating out in Tokyo and our culinary preferences.

Please swing by Tokyo Weekender and check out what they’ve done with their site. We’re hoping to get some more articles published over there, so feel free to share what you like on Facebook and Twitter.

Update: RSS feeds, iTunes and you

We’ve been working hard to make our audio and video shows easier to find and to subscribe to. To this end, Japan Eats has made some changes to the way in which we present and distribute audio and video content.

Previously, we had one RSS feed which was split into three categories. Those who subscribed to the feed received everything we released, whether it was a short video or a longer audio podcast. Nice, but not exactly good for those who only want the shows about Japanese food and have no interest in Japanese drink, or vice versa.

We now have three separate shows on iTunes, each with its own dedicated RSS feed. They are Japan Booze Blind, our flagship drinks show, Tokyo Bites, our show about eating out in the Japanese capital and the Japan Eats Podcast, our panel show where we discuss the latest in Japanese food and drink news.

What does this mean for you?

All our shows are available to watch here on our site. If you wish to subscribe to the shows, the easiest method is to search for the particular show in the iTunes Store and hit the subscribe button. If you use a different subscription service, you will probably have to enter the new feed’s URL manually. They are:

The Japan Eats Podcast can still be found at:

Obviously we encourage you to subscribe to all of our shows, but if you’re only interested in one particular show, that’s great too.

Help promote Japan Eats

We welcome your feedback and encourage you to review our shows on iTunes, like Japan Eats on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. The iTunes reviews are especially helpful as they reach the widest audience of podcast-savvy viewers.

Thanks for taking an interest in what we’re doing here at Japan Eats.

Update: Why We’re Having Hanami

In April of 2003, near the beginning of a trek through China optimally-timed to coincide with the outbreak of SARS and the resulting hooplah and chaos, I paid a visit to Nanjing and, being a resident of Japan, to its massacre memorial and museum. The effect was striking: the setting was bare and bleak, sculptures of hands and cowering mothers dotted an unbroken expanse of white gravel. The first indication of oversell was the need of Chinese museums to drive in nails with sledgehammers: piped in scary music. Wordless choral wails over an ill-fitting drum beat emerged tinnily from behind every large rock.

I chided myself for approaching such a memorial from the perspective of a film critic and braced myself for the excavation site, where the remains of tens of thousands of victims have been and are still being uncovered. As I descended the stairs, I noticed that not only had the music not stopped, stage directions flanked the doors. In Chinese and English, signs directing visitors to be somber, respectful, and more were placed periodically in front of the glass walls of the corridor.

What I realized then was that the government agency that built and laid out the memorial had blown it by trying to dictate how people experienced it. They had taken an event that would elicit sadness and sympathy from anyone and then taken responsibility off the visitors’ shoulders and blunted the discomfort, fear, sorrow, and sympathy people would naturally feel by telling them how to feel and when to feel it, then how to show it.

What on Earth does this have to do with Japan Eats?

Well, as one of Japan’s most-celebrated seasons begins its all-too-brief roll up over the country, Governor Shintaro Ishihara asked Tokyoites to refrain from the centuries-old custom of picnicking under the city’s sakura trees and from drinking alcohol in public.

“Why,” you might reasonably ask, “would he make such a recommendation when so many voters have been cooped up indoors, upset by the relentless news of the country’s worst recorded natural disaster, or even worse? Don’t people need some icon of normalcy?”

Well, the 78-year-old Ishihara, never known to have considered another person’s feelings before, has decided that Tokyoites need to show that they are in mourning for the dead and missing and in sympathy with the bereaved in Tohoku.

See where I’m going?

Ishihara, who was quick to call the earthquake and tsunami divine retribution upon a selfish, greedy people and slow to insincerely retract his remarks, needs such instructions. Ishihara, who has a decades-long record of boastful ignorance and gratuitous offense seldom mitigated by any expression of sympathy or human decency, needs to be told how to feel, when to feel it, and how to display it. The people of and in Tokyo do not.

Governor Ishihara, I shall hold my metaphorical tongue.

In addition to celebrating the coming of Spring and the beauty of nature, hanami has long been also a collective appreciation of that beauty’s ephemerality and the fragility of that which we all love and admire. Hanami is marked not only be the enjoyment of the season and the moment, but by nostalgia for the seasons past and wonderings on the seasons yet to come.

What better symbol could there be for our present moment?

No one (except the Governor, who may be trying to make up for his gaffe in hopes of being reelected) needs to be reminded of the suffering of our compatriots in Tohoku. It holds a prominent place in almost every conversation, it dominates all media, it tugs with an awful weight in every heart.

Hundreds of Tokyoites are volunteering every day to go to the stricken areas to help. Thousands more are helping from Tokyo. Millions more are donating money, blood, and supplies. Everyone is in mourning. Everyone sympathizes.

It helps no one to focus on your own appearance, to make a show of how sorry and sad you are. That is self-centered.

Merchants, vendors, brewers, cooks, and people in blue plastic tarp factories still have and need jobs. Tokyo is not dead and won’t be dead until its people decide to make it so.

The people of Tohoku are in our hearts and on our minds. We are giving all we can and we urge all of you to do the same. However, we are going to the park, drinking sake from Tohoku, eating delicious Japanese fruits and vegetables, and appreciating another hanami season, just as people throughout Japan have done, in good years and bad, for centuries. We might even attempt some bad poetry. We hope you’ll do the same.

After the Disaster: How You Can Help

Everyone reading this knows, probably far better than they’d like, that the Eastern coast of Japan’s Tohoku region was devastated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami with waves in excess of ten meters on the afternoon of March 11th. In the aftermath of this unprecedented disaster, Japan has endured roughly 600 further quakes, of which nearly half have been of magnitude 5.0 or greater, ranging from the area surrounding the epicenter of the original temblor, off the coast of Sendai, in the North, to Shizuoka, southwest of Tokyo.

First and foremost, thank you to all of you who have been kind enough to ask after our well-being and to offer help. All of us here at Japan Eats and, as far as we have been able to ascertain, our friends and colleagues, were spared the worst.

As of this writing, on the evening of March 24th, Tokyo is inconvenienced more than anything. Insofar as you worry, do so for the people up North who are no different from us but that they are undergoing a trial that even their friends and compatriots but a short distance away can barely begin to imagine.

Readers outside of Japan may have come close to having the worst natural disaster in Japan’s recorded history pushed out of their minds by one of its pernicious side effects: the extensive damage to and ongoing emergency at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Despite what you see on TV, it is inarguably the horrific loss of life, livelihood, property, and peace of mind in Tohoku that is the larger tragedy.

Japan, as anyone reading, watching, or listening to the Anglophone media knows, was just about as well-prepared as it could have been and is a wealthy country with the infrastructure and know-how to get back on its feet as fast as any other place on Earth. The earthquake itself was a triumph for Japanese engineering. It is safe to say that the time, money, and effort spent designing buildings and infrastructure to withstand earthquakes saved thousands of lives and allowed for a better response to those areas in which the truth that mankind will always be smaller than the inexorable forces of nature was brought so relentlessly to bear.

Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of people need your help. Young and old; men, women, and children; rich and poor – they have lost, in some cases, everything, and in nearly all cases are suffering through the bitter Tohoku winter without power, without water, without sanitation, without privacy, without creature comforts and, in far too many cases, without information about their situation and prospects, or even all of their friends and relatives.

Japan Eats is a food and drink site and we, as much as anyone, know the value and rewards of seeking quality, but in these extreme circumstances, we join many, many others in asking everyone who is able to give as much as possible. People in Japan’s Kansai region are cutting down on power consumption and donating the savings to disaster relief. Bars and restaurants in the country’s more fortunate locales have hosted parties and donated the entire day’s takings, and more, to the people who need it most.

Right now, aid organizations say money is the most effective gift as transportation is difficult and needs change from place to place, day to day. There are things most of us can do to squeeze a bit more out. Maybe the reverse-Jesus, for example. Pass on buying that lovely bottle of wine you’d been dreaming of and turn that money into clean water for the people who need it. Or a change of (warm) clothes. Or a book to read to stave off the tedium and fear. Whatever you can do, it will help.

Here’s a list of groups doing good work in Japan who could use your help:

  • Japanese Red Cross Society – Primarily focused on disaster relief, emergency medical treatment, and health and sanitation issues.
  • Oxfam Japan – Primarily focused on mothers and children, as well as on getting assistance to foreigners/non-Japanese speakers.
  • Second Harvest Japan – A foodbank distributing food to shelters and serving meals to disaster victims and the homeless.
  • The Salvation Army – Primarily focused on the provision of basic needs and coordination with other groups to get victims’ more specific needs taken care of.
  • Rescue Japan – A specific relief coordination effort begun by a group of Tokyo-based small businesses. Primarily focused on getting daily necessities, such as drinking water, toiletries, and clean underwear to shelters in addition to distributing items such as books and toys.
  • Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support – A coordination effort between three established animal protection groups in Japan. They do just what it sounds like.

Of course, another way to help that might appeal to our readers is to remember that the people in unaffected areas of Japan are doing all they can to help their stricken compatriots and, while they don’t need charity per se, normalcy helps them. So, if you were considering a trip to Tokyo or anywhere West of Tokyo, or to Hokkaido, please come – it’s still one of the safest, cleanest, best-functioning places in the world. The hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops still have employees and Japan’s economic recovery will only be helped.

We will be back very soon with more specific information about the situation in the Tokyo area, particularly as it relates to safety and, our favorite, food and drink.

Update: Japan Eats wants YOU!

So you think you have what it takes to write for Japan Eats?

We’re currently looking for food and drink obsessives (even casual ones) to contribute recipes and restaurant reviews as well as feature articles (e.g., a story on the changing Japanese diet, a brief history of Japanese whisky). The only rules are that articles must be related to Japanese cuisine/food or drink in Japan and that they be well-written.

Agedashidofu

Join us on a journey through the world of Japanese cuisine

While we’d love to hear from people in every tower and hamlet of the country, we’re especially seeking writers living outside metropolitan Tokyo – especially those from such culinary capitals as Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, or Sapporo.

While the ability to speak Japanese is helpful, it’s not mandatory. You should, however, be able to negotiate a menu and have a basic knowledge of Japanese food-related terms.

If this sounds like you, please email us with a sample of your writing: lovitt@japaneats.tv.

Japan Eats is also looking for people to help us produce our video content. If you think you’re the next panelist on Japan Booze Blind or could operate a camera on Tokyo Bites, we want to hear from you. The only requirement is that you live in or near Tokyo (unless of course you’re willing to pay for us to come to you!) Again, contact lovitt@japaneats.tv if this sounds like you.

Unfortunately, we’re not in the position to pay for articles or your skills as a videographer. You’ll be doing it for love, people. You will, of course, get credit and the invaluable esteem of your fellow food and drink aficionados.

Update: Facebook, flickr and your photos

We want your photos!

Your Japanese food and drink photos, that is. Whether they’re of your homemade curryrice or that inarizushi you snapped last week on the flight to Los Angeles, we want you to share them with the world.

There are now two places to post your images. First, you can upload your photos to our facebook fan page.

Takikomi gohan

Takikomi gohan - just one of the images you will find in our flickr group

Then there’s our brand-spanking-new flickr group.

If you’re not a member of either service and would like to take part, start by signing up – it’s free. Join us and start contributing.

You can also initiate discussions about all things food and drink related on both sites. Have a question about where to buy quality shochu or which Tokyo supermarkets sells imported Iberian jamon? You know where to ask.

So what are you waiting for? Sign in and show us what you’ve got!

Special Event: Japan Booze Blind LIVE

It’s almost hanami season!

Every year, Japanese throw outdoor parties beneath the sakura (cherry blossoms). Known as hanami, these flower-viewing parties are really just an excuse for families, co-workers or groups of friends to meet and drink together.

To celebrate the arrival of the cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan Eats is hosting an exclusive LIVE event. Hosted by Christopher Pellegrini, Japan Booze Blind will go out live Sunday, March 28th at 3 p.m. (Tokyo time) on Livestream. We know you’ll have questions about hanami season – what it is, and how best to celebrate it. We invite you to submit them via email (pellegrini@japaneats.tv) or in the chatroom during the show.

This is your chance to get involved. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Japan Eats on Livestream

As part of our neverending quest to bond with you over food and drink as much as possible, we here at Japan Eats are expanding into live broadcasts (or, rather narrowcasts) as well as our existing recorded shows: Japan Booze, Blind and the forthcoming Tokyo Bites.

For now, it’s just fun and games, though. Join us early Thursday afternoon (exact time TBA) to participate in the first ever Japan Eats Live Throwdown, or whatever we end up calling it – everything is up in the air and open to your suggestions at this point.

So, please come around and join JBB Host Christopher Pellegrini, Japan Eats video Director Marcus Lovitt, and Producer Garrett DeOrio  for some food and drink and, more important, to help us decide what should come next in the future of live video for Japan Eats.

So come visit our Livestream page.

We’ll be talking about what’s coming up for the site and taking questions and comments about all things food, drink, and Japan. We hope to see you there.