Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Japan Finds

Every few months (ok, probably more often than that) I find myself in Marukai, a local wholesaler specializing in Japanese goods. They've got normal grocery stuff too, but usually I just go for the cool things you can't find in the supermarket. I wanted to share with you my favorite finds from my latest trip.

Homare Strawberry Nigori - If you're not familiar with sake (rice wine), it's a Japanese liquor made from rice in a brewing process similar to that of beer. So why's it called "rice wine"? My guess is because it's not hoppy like beer is and shares more properties with wine (aside from preparation)? Not totally sure. There are several varieties, but my favorite is nigori, which usually has an opaque appearance since it is unfiltered. I also find nigori to be sweeter than other sakes. And I like sweet. I'm also a sucker for anything strawberry-flavored, so when I saw this on the shelves I needed to get it. 

It's a pretty small bottle, about the size of dessert wines, but whatever-- who cares, it's strawberry! Sake generally runs about 20% ABV, but this one's only 7% so guess what I did? I ditched the ochoko (seriously, I'd need like 10 of those to start feeling happy) and poured the chilled wonder liquid into a wine glass. It has the same milky texture and consistency of other nigori, and I guess you can taste some alcohol, but you can REALLY taste the strawberries! And there's even some seeds still in there. I don't care that I paid the inflated $12 price tag for this tiny thing because it's that yummy. Think alcoholic strawberry smoothie. That about sums up this awesome find.

Hair Gum Hair Elastics - Sorry, I really don't know what brand this is, but if I had to choose one beauty product from Marukai that I would want unlimited quantities of for the rest of my life, it'd be these elastics. I stopped using rubberbands with the metal strip for two reasons: 1) they always snapped and gave my hand a good whipping, and 2) they were banned from judo tournaments when I was 8 years old due to the potential of the metal scratching opponents. I needed to find an alternative and these were my answer. This is the type of hair band that you cut and tie yourself so you can make it as big or as small as you want. You may have seen similar elastics in the drugstore, but most likely they were the thinner ones that are about 1/8" thick. I haven't seen this thick version since 1998 (yes, I've been looking since then) when the local drugstores decided to replace it with the cheaper, thinner, less durable version. 

THEN I stumbled upon these. They're really only about 1/16" thicker than the other ones, BUT THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD!! I actually bought the pack on the right (in the above picture) about 5 months ago, and decided to pick up the one on the left during my last trip in case Marukai decided to play with my feelings and stop carrying them again. As I mentioned, I like these because they have no metal, and if they do break they don't snap like the other hair ties. The fabric covering keeps it from totally snapping, and you're left with a stretched-out band that still holds up until you get home. These thick ones are my favorite because they are far more durable and don't get stretched out every time you make your ponytail too tight. I do contact sports so I double up on the hair tie, but it's not necessary. The one you see in the picture has lasted me 5 months so far and no sign of any breakage whatsoever after countless wrestling and judo practices. Yes, I wash it so it's not that gross. If you're looking for a hair tie that's durable yet cheap (one pack is about $1.50), I suggest giving this a shot if you ever stumble upon it.

Nikkoh Strawberry & White Chocolate Panache - As I mentioned earlier, I love strawberry and sweets. So *gasp* another perfect gem nestled among the hundreds of unique Japanese merchandise! Every time I wander inside Marukai I make a beeline to the candy section. We all find ways to keep the little kid in all of us, don't we? This is how the little kid in me chooses to live on. The Japanese really seem to love their flavored chocolates, especially strawberry chocolate, so it's no wonder I always end up spending $20 on candy alone every time I visit this place.

The first thing I liked about this candy is that it looks exactly like the picture on the bag. Really, how often does that happen? And how cute are those checkered chocolate squares?! A layer of milk chocolate covered with another, more awesome, layer of a strawberry/white chocolate combo!! (which is apparently what gave rise to "panache") It's like sweet + sweeter dancing on your tongue for a blissful three seconds before you're left frowning with no more chocolate in your mouth. So you grab another one and get giddy all over again. :) If you're not a sweets fan then obviously you won't enjoy this. But if you are...OHMYGOSHTHISISSOAWESOME!!

Thank you for joining me in my latest Japan finds. I always have a blast when I visit Marukai, and if you have a store that carries Japanese goods in your area (or any foreign goods store, really), I highly recommend you walk in and take a look. You can find the cutest and sometimes most impractical stuff ever, but it's just so interesting that you have to take a second look. And more often than not you may end up buying something. So it's actually a very effective way to blow your hard-earned money as well. Go, prodigal status!


  1. please tell me I can buy those candy online!! :D chocolate & straberries!!! omg!!!! :D amazing find!! :D

    1. I'm not sure where you can purchase that exact one, but there's another more popular strawberry-chocolate called Meiji Apollo Strawberry Chocolate. But I haven't found an online distributor for it yet.

    2. I just saw this and thought of you! Freedom Japanese Market subscription box ships free worldwide and I'm sure they'll have strawberry chocolate! Here's a review on their latest box which has strawberry cheesecake KitKat!