Posts Tagged ‘food’

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Cup Noodle and Gundam: Boil Japan (?)

July 18, 2011

Nissin Foods has just released a new ad for Cup Noodle as part of their 40th anniversary campaign this year. This one features a giant Gundam robot rising to its feet holding an enormous kettle of boiling water, then ends with a somewhat unexpected tagline.

“Boil Japan.” This raised an eyebrow the first time I saw it. After all, between radiation fears in Tokyo and further north, and having to suffer through one of the hottest summers ever with minimal air conditioning (part of the electric belt-tightening made necessary by Fukushima accident), people around here are probably feeling pretty well boiled already.

There is, however, an explanation. According to Nissin, their Cup Noodle campaigns all year have centered around the idea of “this country has hidden strength” (which is the Japanese copy that appears on-screen just at the end) and of rebuilding the spirits of people. They describe the ad as taking some of Japan’s coolest imagery and “using them in a way that boosts up the energy and imagination of the Japanese people by heating up their courage and passion.”

Ok, but why “Boil Japan”? It’s actually a play on words. It doesn’t appear anywhere in the ad, but the answer can be found in the description on their website, where they use the word “Wakasu”, written as 沸かす(to boil), but which can also be written as 湧かす(to boost or raise up).

I have to wonder how many in the target audience will get the pun, since it requires them to understand the word “boil” (not a big hurdle), then recognize that one of the many ways to translate it into Japanese is a homophone for “boost or raise up”. Had the voice-over actually said something like “Nihon wo wakasou!” it would have been a lot clearer.

The Gundam model used in the commercial is most likely all CG, but it’s very similar to an actual full-scale Gundam statue in Japan. Built in 2009 to commemorate the manga/anime’s 30th anniversary, the 18-meter statue originally stood at Odaiba, where it overlooked Tokyo harbor.

Via Pink Tentacle

At the end of 2009, it was dismantled and moved to Shizuoka, where it now stands near Higashi Shizuoka station with Mt. Fuji in the background. This version of the giant robot doesn’t have nearly the same range of motion as the one in the commercial: far from being able to crouch down and stand up again, the one here can only move its head back and forth.

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Sexy Swordswoman Slices Calories for Cup Noodle

July 10, 2011

Nissin Foods has recently released a series of commercials for the low-calorie versions of their popular Cup Noodle instant ramen. This latest version, for the Curry flavored noodles, features model/actress Yoko Maki as a veggie-slicing samurai.


 

This commercial shares some similarities with another samurai-themed ad also run by Nissin this year (the 40th anniversary of Cup Noodle), in which artist Takehiko Inoue (perhaps best known for writing and drawing the popular basketball manga Slam Dunk and samurai-era manga Vagabond) paints a larger-than-life (3 meters tall, to be exact) portrait of an Edo-era samurai.

 

 

According to Nissin, the ad, which was released after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, was intended to convey a message that “this country has hidden strength” and “to inspire the hope and courage to move forward”.

 

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Okayama Research Lab Unveils their Newest Breakthrough: Turd Burgers

June 17, 2011

Note (22 June 2011): Story seems likely to be a hoax. Contrary to the claims in video below, however, there is a Mitsuyuki Ikeda, and he does work Okayama. Specifically, in the Environmental Assessment Center‘s Education for Sustainable Development Group.

 

[original post]

I feel like I’m behind the curve posting this, as I’ve already seen links and brief on several aggregator sites, but since this does fit my Japan, science and offbeat criteria, it would be remiss of me not to post it. So here goes:

Researchers at the Okayama Environmental Research Center have recently gained international attention for their work in producing artificial meat. Specifically, by recycling it from human feces.

My apologies for not citing this video properly, I’ve been searching around for the original source, but haven’t been able to find it yet. The youtube video was posted in April (CNN iReport ran what looks to be the same video around the same time), but for whatever reason the story’s waited until just now to go viral.

Anyway, head researcher Mitsuyuki Ikeda describes how he was contacted by sewage treatment facilities, who were facing a supply of ‘sewage mud’ that would eventually outstrip their ability to process and dispose of it all. They asked if he could come up with any alternative uses for the stuff, and his solution was to turn it into steaks. That wouldn’t exactly have been my first idea (what about cement for construction? Fuel? Fertilizer?), but the professor has a point: our feces do still contain a good deal of nutrients, especially protein, so it makes sense (in theory at least) to try and recover these proteins for possible re-use.

Mitsuyuki Ikeda holds up samples of his unconventional meat

The heat used in the reclamation process kills all the bacteria, so the meat is perfectly safe to eat. It’s also much leaner than most meat coming fresh off the animal, making it healthier as well. None of the news sources mention how much energy it takes to produce turd burgers (or how much it would take once the process reaches mass production levels), so it’s too early to say how it stacks up environmentally against beef or pork. Currently, the meat industry is the source of almost 20% of all greenhouse gases, which in addition to factors such as clear-cutting forests for grazing land and raising crops to use as feed, places a burden on the environment that will only get heavier as nations like China and India adopt more meat-rich diets.

Just when we could expect this meat to be ready for consumption by the general public, and more to the point, when the general public would be ready to ever give it a try, is anyone’s guess.

Some thoughts:

  • Ikeda correctly notes that a lot of people are going to have qualms about eating meat made from re-processed feces. However, if he wants to help them get over their squeamishness, he really needs to stop labeling it, “SHIT BURGER”. Just send a memo around the lab asking for alternate suggestions; I’m sure someone will have a good interim name that can be used until it’s ready for commercial release.
  • He also says that once the research costs are recovered, the meat should be about the same price as regular meat. News flash for Mr. Ikeda: given a choice of regular meat and ‘recycled’ meat at the same price, absolutely nobody is going to select your product. If you want anyone to even think of giving it a try, it will have to be significantly cheaper than any readily available alternative. Maybe in some post-apocalypse future where regular meat is impossible to come by.
  • I could see this as a possibility for long-distance space flights, where the questions of “how do we stock X years of food into Y cubic feet?” and “what do we do with all the crap astronauts produce?” outweigh “where can I get a good quality steak at a decent price?”
  • If the equipment could be miniaturized, I could also see mini-processors becoming a feature in emergency survival kits.

I have to admit feeling a bit skeptical about this whole story. Things like Ikeda having everything labeled ‘Shit Burger’ and him posing squatting over a toilet, just make it seem like it’s a put-on. This whole thing could be one big piss-take, and we’ve all fallen for it. I’ll see if I can’t look further into it, and try to dig up some original sources.

If it does turn out to be real, my bet is on Ikeda to take home an Ig Nobel Award this year.