Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Nice package!


It's been too hot to travel much recently, so I cheated, and visited the Kotsu Kaikan building in front of Yurakucho station. It has a bunch of shops dedicated to different regions of Japan. The biggest is the Hokkaido shop, which has a very popular Hokkaido Soft Cream stand, but I followed the sweet scent of barbecue sauce and found the Osaka shop, where you can buy freshly made okonomiyaki and takoyaki. I've been to Osaka a few times, and it has a great Showa-era atmosphere, especially in the area around Dotombori. You've probably seen the famous Glico neon sign, Kuidaore Taro-kun (the slightly spooky clown fellow with a drum), and the giant crab, not to mention Osaka's retro Tsutenkaku tower.

Retro Osaka

Osaka is famous for its food ("Kuidaore" basically means "live to eat"), but today, it was the packaging that really got my attention. First up, we have Taro-kun starring in his own dessert: "Cui-daore Taro Pudding". The packaging design reminds me of French illustrator Alain Gree's work - very cute, 1960s style. Inside, you'll find 3 rather small puddings (basically creme caramel), packaged with Taro-kun's stripy hat and his face, each with a different expression. You also get a sachet of caramel sauce and a sachet of yummy, crunchy toffee to approximate the experience of eating creme brulee. At Y1,050 it's a bit expensive (the puddings are seriously small!), but they'd make a great gift for a design fan. They're made by Dojima Sweets. Check out the website for a very cute animation of the puddings:

Inside: the spooky face contains instructions, the sauce and the crunch.

I now have 3 very small hats, about the right size to perch on a cat's head.

The next item is Marufuku Coffee, from Osaka Sennichimae. The coffee shop has been around since 1934, and you can visit the original shop, just near Nambu station. They claim to have a "secret brewing method", but it's basically a nice, rich, drip coffee. I'm not sure why, but the Kansai area seems to be really good for coffee. Kyoto also has great coffee brands like Ogawa and Inoda coffee. If anyone knows about the history of Kansai's coffee culture, I'd love to know! I think I need to do another trip to Kyoto sometime, just to check out all the awesome cafes. Marufuku Coffee has a great logo - like the coffee shop, it seems unchanged since the 1930s. You can find some nice vintage images and a list of all the Marufuku branches on their website:

The original staff

Founder Sadao Ibuki

The original shop, which hasn't really changed

Marufuku ground coffee, perfect for filters.

Finally, I had to pick up a bottle of this "Daikoku Sauce". You can get sauce for okonomiyaki and takoyaki, but I decided on yakisoba sauce. Daikokuya has been making these rich, piquant, typically Osaka style sauces since 1923. According to their website, they're "obsessed" with sauce! It's a popular brand at a lot of local restaurants, too. Yes, it's delicious, and inexpensive (like most things in Osaka), but I couldn't resist the trademark, which is Daikoku, the jolly god of wealth and also god of the kitchen. Osaka folks are renowned for their skills at making money and love of food, so it seems a very appropriate symbol. Here is the Daikokuya website:

Rich, dark, sweet and salty... it's Osaka in a bottle!


  1. I've been to the Kotsu Kaikan a number of times, but (me being me) I only visited the bookshop. You've just persuaded me that I should correct that oversight and splurge on food, too. When I go, I'll probably feel morally obliged to support mostly Niigata goods! ^^

  2. The bookshop and the occasional farmer's market are great! But I was surprised how many interesting regional shops they have inside, too. And there's a whole basement I haven't explored yet...