Say What? Food Trends in Japan!?

This is an English blog entry about a special episode from the “Small Talk in Japanese” podcast series hosted by two young Japanese girls. The name of their podcast episode is “おまけエピソード! Japan Food Trends for 2019-2020“.

I document in English what the two hosts are talking about in the episode. This is to help podcast listeners to learn what these girls are discussing in Japanese.

The episode that I listened to was the following:

Let’s get started on learning what the two hosts talked about

The two hosts begin their podcast by greeting everyone. “Everyone. Good Morning. It is now the time for Small Talk news. However, today has been a very peaceful day so far, so there is no news to really share”.   They proceed to share that the episode they will be doing today is about trends (流行(りゅうこう). “So, we will present news about the trends that are occurring in Japan. What does everyone think about this? Our podcast is more like a parody for the news – in the way we do it. Maybe what we are doing is more like a News Stand up? ”   Kayoko says she thinks this is good and Mizuho says thank you.  

The two hosts start by saying that today’s episode will be a special one. The episode is a おまけ which means “free gift and giveaways”.  They are referring to giveaways or additions that people may find from magazines or toys that come with a packet of snacks and such. “Something like the snacks toys or the toys from the snacks”. They then say that today’s episode is sort of a giveaway episode (おまけエピソード!) which is a little different to what they usually do. They just felt like recording something like this and so that is why they have done this.

They next introduce the main theme of the episode which is 日本で流行ってるもの. So the episode is about the things that are trending or popular in Japan (at the time of their recording).  They share that tapioca has really become a big trend/popular thing happening in Japan. “Now, it is popular in Japan. “Tapioca はとても流行ってるよう”. They share with the audience again that tapioca has been surprisingly popular in Japan and there has been a really big impact, and discuss if there has been anything else that has come up with (思い付く(おもいつく)) such popularity in Japan. One of the hosts says that aside from tapioca, there doesn’t seem to be something with such a strong impact in Japan. They mention that where ever they go, they will see lots of shops that sell tapioca. They are quite shocked by how strong of impact tapioca has had in Japan. With this thought of trends in mind, they said they did a little research/investigation on trends or popular things in Japan right now. They came up with 3 things (food trends) and thought to introduce and share with the audience.

The first trend they touch on is called “Bazuku Cheesecake”.

In Japanese, this is called バスクチーズケー. It means “Burnt Basque Cheesecake” in English. Kayoko has no knowledge of this dessert and has never eaten it before. Mizuho, the other host, talks more about it, saying that she calls it “バスクチ” and that you can find it at the LAWSON convenience store. Apparently, this type of cheesecake dessert has become very popular and has grown to be a bit of a boom amongst people. Mizuho said she has eaten it before and that it was delicious. She commented that when it came to convenience (コンビニ) store sweets, she did not have much expectation ( 期待値(きたいち )). And rather saying whether she had an expectation level or not, it seems reasonable to not have a high expectation when it came to convenience store sweets. Nevertheless, whilst her degree of expectation was low or not set to a high standard, when she tried the cake, she thought it was delicious. Kayoko asks Mizuho if this cheesecake is different from normal cheesecake. Mizuho says there were layers to the cake, and that it had not a very soft nor firm (like a solid) feeling to the cake. Mizuho said the texture of the cake was sort of a middle soften for cheesecake and just thought it was very delicious. Mizuho shares that if there are people who pass by the LAWSON, she recommends people to give it a go and please try it out.

Next, they moved to the second trend which is the Akuma no onigiri. (流行2番目が悪魔のおにぎりです”). In English, this means the Devil’s Rice Ball.  

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Kayoko is asked if she has ever tried it before by Mizuho to which she answers that she has not. Mizuho giggles a little bit and then talks about going to the convenience store and that there may have been situations where they may see a product to which they then say to themselves “Maybe I should try this? “これ食べて見なよう” but end up not trying it. She also shared that usually, one would find they would end up choosing something that is “normal” or familiar to them. At this point, Kayoko says to the audience that she generally likes “normal” ones “普通な物が好きですな”。Kayoko shares that she does not like particularly spicy or sweet things; general “normal” flavoured things is her go-to.  “とても辛いものとか、すごく甘いものとか、あんまり好きじゃなくて。普通なものが、けっこう好きなのね。” And coming back to the rice ball they are discussing, Kayoko has not eaten it before. Mizuho then mentions 新商品 (meaning “new products”) is generally a term used at the stores and that it would be written or printed on signs in the store. She curiously asks Kayoko whether seeing the “新商品” sign would change her mind in terms of what she wants to try. Kayoko shares that she would not change her choice and would just eat normal options per usual. Mizuho is quite surprised by this answer and says that in terms of herself, she would buy it as a sort of self-challenge “チャレンジしてみたい”. Kayoko comments that if she paid with money for it and it turns out to be not delicious, she didn’t want that to happen, so always eat normal selections. Mizuho shares that for her, she would try it because in this case she was intrigued or general possesses a heart filled with curiosity “好奇心が旺盛”. As a result, she did end up trying it. It turned out to be delicious. Mizuho starts to give information about the ingredients inside this Akuma no Onigiri. There is rice “ご飯”, crunchy bits of fried batter left after cooking tempura “てんかす”, thin dipping sauce for tempura てんつゆ and green dried seaweed “あおのり”. So, there is the udon sauce and crunchy bits inside. When it came to the taste, she felt that it has a familiar 親しみ味 taste and thought it was delicious. For Mizuho, she found the rice ball to have a “big impact” on her where it felt like she could eat this forever “美味しい、ずっと食べられるって感じだった”. She explained that she can eat this whenever. Whilst she had just one, she just felt that it was something she could always eat. In some way, she saw this as an addictive thing. The two hosts somewhat discuss a little bit about the naming of the rice ball, which is “Akuma”. They say whether it is a term generally used and they reckon not really. They mention that in the past they may have been seen advertisements for beer or promotion that say that the taste of the beer is like the devil and it is really delicious. So, in the Japanese culture, to use the word “Akuma” in the naming of something, it is trying to give the audience an idea of it being addictive and being delicious. Some reason, there has been lots of other product campaigns that associate “Akuma” taste as a delicious thing. Generally, “Akuma” means devil but the angle of what the advertisements and campaigns for products are going for is that one will be possessed by the produce “とりつかれる”  if not captured by the delicious taste of the product. The naming of the rice ball aside, Mizuho says that the rice ball is delicious. This Devil’s rice ball can be found in Lawson convenience store and she says to the audience that if they go to the convenience store by any chance, they should try and give it a go.  

The last and third item they talk about in the podcast is 生食パン(なましょくぱん/生ショックパン).

The word “生” means “raw” (in the English language). The term “ショックパン” or what the host recognise this as is just normal bread. They refer to this as the most standard bread in Japan. Apparently in England, that is what they call it as well. Anyways, the two hosts start the discussion with their thoughts about the name of the product. Kayoko and Mizuho are not sure why “生” is a word used in the name as it means “raw” by the English definition. In fact, they describe the bread as “しっとりしている” which means the bread is sort of rich and moist. The two hosts struggle a little bit here to find the correct English word for “しっとりしている” and they are thinking “humid” or “wet”. Regardless, it is not dry bread – so basically, think the opposite of dry textured bread. In Japan, they share there are places that sell this sort of bread. These are called 専門店 which is just a specific shop that sells this type of bread. They comment that recently there has been a large growth in popularity across the country with this product. Compared to a normal bakery, these 専門店 are the places that only sell this type of bread. Mizuho had tried eating the bread. At the store where she purchased the 生食パン, she thought it tasted rather sweet. Not only this, she thought it was a little expensive. Mizuho called it “高級食パン” which if you translate this, it means “High-quality bread”. The podcast continues where Mizuho shares with the audience saying that apparently they have heard people say that the bread is delicious if you don’t apply jam or butter, and she agrees with this statement but she thinks it was a little too sweet. Kayoko then comments that normal ショックパン is generally not sweet – according to them – not salty or sweet; though they would usually eat it with jam. Mizuho shared that honey is heard to be an ingredient that is added to the bread. She thinks that this is a type of food that potentially foreigners will not like.

The Japanese word “生” according to them, they feel that if this word is used in the name of a food, they reckon the food is going to be delicious; even though, 生 means raw. The two hosts identify a number of different foods with this character in the name such as 生 パスタ and 生 castella. For them, when they see the name 生 パスタon the menu, they will choose it because they know it is delicious. In terms of生 castella, they describe it as a rather soft textured cake like a soft boil egg (半じく = half cooked) where it’s just soft-like the middle way. Kayoko shares that for Japanese people, hearing or the usage of the term 生 with food names, it will imply or give them the idea that it will definitely be delicious. Mizuho shares a theory behind as to why Japanese people like foods is are “しっとり”. She shares that with rice “お米” and bread “パン)”, Japanese people like it because the texture of these foods is chewing “ももちもちみたい”. Hence, when it comes to bread, because it is not too dry nor too soft, the texture is thought to be moist and chewy hence people think it is delicious. They further comment that they know of foreigners who do not particularly like Japanese bread as they prefer their bread to have a firmer texture and not too soft “ソフト過ぎってやだ”

As a summary of this podcast, Mizuho and Kayoko recommend people to try the cheesecake, bread and onigiri if they get a chance. Before the podcast finishes, Mizuho mentions that she wants to try カレーめし (like curry version rice). This isn’t a trend or anything, but she is interested to try something like a curry rice version of cup ramen, were similar to preparing cup ramen you pour (を注ぐ) hot water on the rice to prepare your meal. Kayoko gives a comment that she doesn’t like to cook so she likes to eat cup noodles. And she definitely wants to try eating a cup of curry rice if the opportunity presents itself.

Mizuho asks Kayoko about what other types of foods she wants to try. Kayoko answers saying she generally doesn’t change her choices but if possible she wants to try Hot Dogs at Costco. Apparently, people have told her (or she has heard people say) it is delicious. Kayoko has never been to Costco before though her parents have a membership. They mention that one cannot enter Costco if you are not a member.

But anyhow, as the last thing to mention on their podcast, they just comment that they have talked about trends today and they will finish it at that point. バイバイ.

The last 4 minutes of the podcast is for pronunciation practice “ボキャブラリーリストをみながら、発音を練習しましょう!”

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