Japan is known for its’ peculiarities. Here are some of my encounters during the Christmas season. I have earlier mentioned the Japanese love for (Christmas) cakes and maybe their sweet breads as well, but it’s hard to believe until you see for yourself.


I can only imagine the flavor
I can only imagine the flavor of these elves

Christmas trees, elves, houses, snowmen and basically everything else can be formed as pan, which is the Japanese equivalent to bread, which is nothing like what we call bread in Finland. If you buy bread in Japan thinking it is the same stuff you get back home, you’ll be in for a surprise. You never know if there’s spaghetti, curry, sausages or cream inside the fluffy pillowy dough.

Japanese version of a gingerbread house
Japanese version of gingerbread houses

After a while, it is not so weird to see the different characters made of food: the beloved animation character Anpanman has a nose made of pancake, and the super popular bean-paste filled dorayaki pancake gets its’ name from another anime character, Doraemon! The Japanese do love their sweets. And they are big on seasonal treats and specialities.

Individual packing is more a norm than exception
Individual packing is more a norm than exception

After Christmas, no snowmen can be found outside the sale boxes, since now it’s the time for snake everything – this is the year of the snake, so decorations in food and everything else are of course matching the theme. I even found special shop dedicated only for snake year stuff!


Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!
Special limited edition Pepsi White, oh I am so lucky!

Example of the speciality craze: Pepsi co. launched a special seasonal drink, Pepsi white, to be sold only during this season. This mikan (mandarine) flavored drink is/was available in 6 different snowman style for a limited time – gotta catch ’em all, eh? I had a sip, and that was it for me. Drinking something that was a) pepsi, therefore carbonated but b) white and c) mandarine flavored was just messing with my brain a bit too much. I do feel special now, and less disappointed for missing the summer’s Salty Watermelon Pepsi! I wonder what’s next, both on the beverage field as well as in the “bread” section.

PS: I have discovered the Japanese fondness of KitKat chocolate bars. In Finland, we only have the basic version, but after doing some research, I found quite many different kinds during my trip. So, maybe I will get into the chocolate bar craze later on. I also have interesting omiyage (souvenir) package pictures and texts to share.

“Little by little you will be filled with happiness when relaxing with these delicious sweets.” Who could say no to those Cheese cookies from Yufuin?


Another tea ceremony

There are so many ways to drink tea.

Tea set, some of the tea selection and mikan fruit

More chilled atmosphere than the previous time, this tea sampling was followed by a delicious Vietnamese-Korean dinner (pictures of which I accidentally deleted). No rules, no cup turning, and no bowing included. Just friends, chilling and talking.

Master at work

If you buy tea that’s worth 200yen for 52grams and import water recommended for tea, I guess you are a tea master?

Special water for special drinks

Drinking tea does not have to be in perfectly harmonized environment, it can also be harmonized with the atmosphere.

Drinking from small cups allows room for more tea varieties

We sampled some 7 different teas, including Chinese green tea, Japanese sencha, Chinese black unflavored, and white tea (my favorite).

Delicious Vietnamese ice coffee was also sipped and sniffed (ahh, the aroma!)

Japanese delicacies

Interesting product encounters from Beppu:

Monkey snot candy, a regional speciality
Poop gummy
Nice stick. Probably has a filling, too
Deli heart sandwich filled with spaghetti, mayo, potato salad and ginger – maybe seaweed, too
Powdered beer

The last one is from China, Beijing airport.

Rather almondy walnut crunch

Unfortunately I have to admit that I have not tried any of the pictured above.

Kalakukko – Fish rooster

When our family gets together, it always happens around the table. Usually, the table is filled with some of the traditional delicacies my grandmother (pictured) masters. This time we were treated to the best-known local delicacy of Kuopio, Savo, where my family originally comes from.

Traditionally, Kalakukko (Fish Rooster, rooster deriving from the old word kukkaro which means purse) is made of one sort of fish: vendance, lax or perch, layered on rye dough base with pork. The rye dough is then used to cover the stuffing, and the purse is put into the oven overnight. Kalakukko can be enjoyed warm or cold, and the crust also tastes good with butter.

The rest of the family enjoyed their kalakukko the traditional way, but mine was made without meat – in stead, it had rutabaga and carrots in the filling. I prefer my kalakukko this way, without the lard and with some freshness! The kalakukko was so good I could have eaten it all at once!

Usually people buy their Kalakukko from the central market square in Kuopio, or from some of the country markets that are around Finland. This dish is a bit expensive, the price per kilo is easily from 15 to 30 euros, probably because it is hand-made. When making the Kalakukko yourself, it takes a lot of patience and caution, since you have to make sure that the crust doesn’t leak the stuffing. Baking the Kalakukko in the right temperature for the right time takes skills that you learn by time. I would not dare to make Kalakukko myself, but I have had few rather successful attempts together with my mother.

People from Savo region in Eastern Finland have a funny dialect and a quirky sense of humor. I am proud of my Savonian roots even though I have lived my whole life in the Western Häme region, and my dialect is far from my grandparents’. It is fun to visit Kuopio, and hear how people talk totally different from what I hear in my daily live. It is also interesting to hear my mother talk on the phone to her sisters or parents – she somehow subconsciously always changes the way she speaks when speaking to someone in Kuopio.

Spring is coming, happy Easter!