Hikari's Food/Japanophile and Other Interesting Stuff blog

Pre-Easter Cuteness! It feels like spring when…

Alright everyone, it doesn’t matter if it’s still snowing or if the blossoms are already falling off the cherry trees where you live, or even if you’re not religious, there’s something about Easter that just screams SPRING!

Thinking of spring makes me want to wear pinks and pastels, grow green things and open the windows. Easter is the perfect landmark holiday for all things cute and cuddly, with the bunny as it’s mascot and cute little baby animals in tow.


So why then have so few Japanese ever really heard of it? Almost every Japanese girl I’ve befriended at University typically has had no idea. Isn’t Japan the Land of All Things CUTE? I figured that at least Sanrio would have taken this golden opportunity to push bunny-themed merchandise at them! Or maybe it’s just us Westerners that reap the seasonal benefits?

Don't tell me these are just NORMAL in Japan?

Don’t tell me these are just NORMAL in Japan?

But then there’s the CUTE candies! I know every season has its own variety of custom candy, but how much cuter can you get than chocolate bunnies, chicks and lambs?

I couldn't find lambs in any stores nearby... shame...

I couldn’t find lambs in any stores nearby… shame…

In America, Cadbury is synonymous with the “clucking” bunny, creme eggs and other chocolate goodies.

Unfortunately, sometimes marketing can take the theme a bit too far… Not only are there “egg-laying” chickens…

At least it's "laying eggs"

At least it’s “laying eggs”

But there are also little noise-making “dispensers” that… poop out the candy…

Just what a parent wants... a child hyped up on sugar, making that annoying noisy dispenser go off... repeatedly...

Just what a parent wants… a child hyped up on sugar, making that cute but annoying noise making dispenser go off… repeatedly…

At least it can be a time to stock up on some cosplay items.

I can think of at least one non-spring use for bunny ears...

I can think of at least one non-Easter use for bunny ears…

I have one of my Japanese friends coming to visit this Easter and we’ll be decorating eggs. I wonder what creative designs we’ll have to show after?

Tune in Monday for the results and to see who won my Reader Appreciation” Giveaway!



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Creative Bento Strap: Repurposing hair ties (and a Reader Appreciation Spring Giveaway!)

Hi all, long time no post! At least not a real one. Well to make up for it, we have a two-fer.

First, the bento strap: You know what these look like, they’re those elastic, rubber or silicone straps that cost way too much and hold your lunch together.

The usual suspects

The usual suspects

My solution: Has anyone else seen this done? I poked around on the internet, but since most search engines are practically useless, I rely on you, the readers.

I can't believe no one's thought of this yet! Or at least posted it on the internet.

I can’t believe no one’s thought of this yet! Or at least posted it on the internet.

Here we go, easy bento strap with those hair ties called pom-poms or whatever. (You could also maybe use those rubber bracelets? (the thin round ones, not the wide inspirational kind)


I thought of this a while ago, as I had an enormous package of hair elastics and made a rope of them. Then I wondered: how can I link them together to form a big circle? This led to the bento strap idea, as I had considered making some nice ones for my bentos. You know, with wide elastic and maybe some cute character made of felt. But I digress.

I had remembered seeing many of those ball-and-elastic type hair ties just a few years ago, so they shouldn’t be that hard to find, right? Wrong. Dollar tree, no. Wal-mart, no. (Although a friend told me I was looking in the wrong spot) Rite-aid or Walgreen’s, no. grumpyno Luckily, I stopped by a family owned dollar store and found these! Woot! My star ones were there too, but I already have pix of those.

Multiple colors, and even butterflies? I wonder how well the fuzzy ones would work...

Multiple colors, and even butterflies? I wonder how well the fuzzy ones would work…

So, how do you actually make it work? Well, if you’ve never made one of these chains, here’s the scoop.

tying it1

Just pull one tie through another, loop it through itself and pull!

tying it 2

When it’s long enough, just loop the hair tie through, wrap the whole thing around the bento and attach! You can stop here,


Or pull the second bauble up to loop around the first. What’s great is they slide on the elastic, so they don’t have to get in each other’s way.


I like this because it’s completely adjustable. Too big, remove one. Too small? add one! I also found this idea for decoration using a brooch.

Any kind of large enough pin, brooch or button will do!

Now, on to part 2!

It’s spring, I’ve got a week before having to go back to classes for my last quarter in University. I’d like to give my readers some appreciation, as my blog has been relatively steady in it’s viewership. What shall I do? How about a nice giveaway? Would you like one of my hair-tie bento straps? How about a bento start-up kit?

I’m giving away one starry hair-tie set, you pick the color: Orange, Clear or Blue. It will come with four clean, unused, matching color hair ties, like in the picture. I will also include a starter bento kit with all you see here: (plus some other small things like a small box I forgot to take a picture of, maybe some miso paste if you like that, or some candy, whatever I feel like throwing in there towards the end, when the package is being put together.) (^_^)

We have: some picks, some cups, a couple of sauce containers, silicone and paper side-dish cups.

We have: some picks, some cups, a couple of sauce containers, silicone and paper side-dish (cupcake) cups.

PLUS!: One furishiki (Bandana size) for wrapping your lunch. I don’t know what it will look like as I will be buying it after the winner is chosen because I don’t want to give someone a used cloth (seems kinda rude). If you like you can tell me your preferences and I’ll keep it in mind when picking one from what’s available.

What to do: Just comment below, note the star color preference, what kind of cloth you’d like, and… what’s your favorite thing to have for lunch? You can also comment on Facebook and that will count as an entry as well.

On Monday, April 1st, (NO April’s Fools joke!) I will use a random number generator to decide the winner. The winner will be contacted via email for shipping details.

Good luck everyone, thanks for reading, and feel free to share!


*Edit update – Just to let you know: If you’re a blogger, your posts will help me choose the proper cloth to send you. For instance, if you have a favorite box or if you absolutely adore cute things, that will be taken into account when I pick one out.

*Winner Update!: The official Winner was #4, Eclectic Lamb. Congratulations!


Guest Blogging: How to pretend like you know what’s going on in another language!

Okay everyone, this will be Melissa’s last blog post for now. This was meant to be the first post, but they kinda got posted out of order.  We hope you’ve enjoyed her lovely tales of adventure. Hopefully we’ll get some more if we ask nicely!

Hello Everyone! My names Melissa and Hikari asked me tell a story or two about my experiences in Japan. To start off I am with the JET program, which is a program for foreigners (yeah us!) to teach English in Japan at nursery, elementary, junior, and high school level. This will be my 2nd year in the JET program and I am loving it!

But not all of my experiences have been rainbows and unicorn poop. Like any person traveling to a different country there were many cultural misunderstandings. In this neck of the woods of Japan, the elderly speak a very special kind of Japanese called “Kuma-ben” which is a nice way of saying that they speak hillbilly. My Japanese skills have never been superb but I thought I could get by. That was until I ran into my first obaa-chan (granny). She stopped me in the street and just kept chattering away. I tried to watch her mouth to perhaps garner a small kernel of what she was saying but alas nothing was making sense. This is where I discovered that all foreigners in Japan can get away with having an entire conversation, not understand a single word, using only 5 words.

Now there are the usual yes/no, nod/guttural sounds (for example `はい` (hai) or `そう、そう` (so, so)) all Japanese people make, but there are a couple of responders that work wonders with the elderly. `honto/honto-ni`(本当/本当に) is an expression showing your shock or surprise towards something. Kind of like the English “really?” response we do. `So-nan-da`(そうなんだ) is used to show that you understand something, sometimes but not always the situation is explaining something more serious or perhaps sad (not ALWAYS but sometimes). This would be the Japanese equivalent to “I see…” or “Is that so?” in English. Then there is `naru-hodo` (なるほど) which, like `so-nan-da`, is used to express understanding but in this case you are expressing your understanding towards something that was only recently clarified in the conversation. This would be our “ok, I got it” in English. Then there is the ever wonderful `majide`(まじで!). This, simply put, is “no way!”. An exclamation of surprise or disbelief, and for a foreigner there are plenty of things for you to `majide` about. With these wonderful words in your tool belt you are ready to go.

This is where I return back to my story. As I watched the obaa-chan’s face I looked to see what kind of expression she wore. I also paid attention to her tone of voice. I matched her tone of voice with my responder. If it looked like she was trying to say something interesting or perhaps shocking, I responded with a `majide` or `honto-ni`. If she looked to be saying something more serious or somber then I responded in kind with a `naru-hodo` and did minimal responses. Small head nods and hmms here and there will be enough for that person to think you understand. So the most important thing to remember is to always read the other person and go from there. Read their reactions to your responses and run like the wind when you finally come up with a viable enough of an excuse.

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