Event: Chinese New Year

***THIS EVENT HAS NOW PASSED***

 

Event:  Chinese New Year

When: Sunday 10 Feb 11am – 5pm

Where: Stowell Street (and surrounding area) Newcastle City Center

Website: http://www.newcastlegateshead.com/chinese-new-year

Price: Free

Okay so it’s not Japanese, but it’s probably the biggest Asian celebration in Newcastle so we would be silly not to promote it! 2013 is the Year of the Snake and to celebrate there will be a parade and a host of events in Chinatown.

The events are as follows;

Chinatown Map

  1. Parade, Chinese Arch, Stowell Street, From 12.30pm approx –Traditional dragon, lion and unicorn dances.
  2. Chinese Exhibitions, North East Chinese Association, Stowell Street, 12.30pm – 4pm – The North East Chinese Association presents an exhibition of Chinese costume, food, arts and crafts.
  3. Chinese Market & Fairground, Bath Lane & Thornton Square – 11am – 5pm – Funfair and stalls featuring traditional arts and crafts and Chinese food.
  4. Various Events At The Bath Lane Stage – Bath Lane11.30am: Speeches – Speeches from key representatives of the Chinese Community and Newcastle City Council from 11.30am.
    1. b.      12noon: Eye Dotting CeremonyA unique opportunity to witness the auspicious Eye Dotting Ceremony of the new Chinese Dragon as he is awoken from his slumber to the sound of firecrackers.
    2. c.       12.30pm – 5pm: Performances An exciting spectacle of performances and demonstrations, with the lion dance arriving to distribute Lucky Money at 4pm approx.
  5. Chinese Activities, The Chinese Centre, Westgate Road,11am – 5pm – Chinese zodiac, calligraphy, foods, card and calendar making, fortune telling, lucky draw and games.
  6. Children’s Marquee, Thornton Square, 11am – 5pm –Traditional Chinese arts and crafts and fun for all the family.
  7. Chinese Activities and Games, Dance City, Temple Street, 11am – 5pm – The Chinese Students and Scholars Association and Newcastle University invite you to understand the real Chinese culture; come along and take part in Chinese activities and games old and new.

You can download the brochure with all the information in here.

Sake

 

 

Has it been one of those weeks? Job getting you down? Boss on your case? Maybe it’s time to hit the bar and drink away some of those sorrows!! But maybe if you fancy doing it in style, you could skip the beers, discard the alchopops, turn your nose up at the spirits and try your hand at sake. Sake as we know it in the West refers only to Ninhonshu (日本酒 – Literally ‘Japanese Drink’) where as in Japan in can also be used as a general term for any alcoholic beverage.

 

Generally though, if you ask for sake, you will get Ninhonshu. So what is sake? Well it’s commonly referred to on our shores as ‘Japanese rice wine’ and although not completely incorrect, the term misleads as sake is fermented and brewed from rice in a style closer to beer. Despite this sake is closer in its flavour to wine. Sake is made from surprisingly few ingredients; rice, water, yeast and a type of mould called Koji. These ingredients are then taken through a roughly one month brewing process (which is detailed here) by a Toji (杜氏 – sake brewer) before it is aged for a further six months. The average alcohol content is 15-17% and it is best drunk soon after it’s bought as after it peaks at the six month period, the sake will slowly deteriorate in quality over the next year.

 

There are five main types of sake (Thanks to Sake World for the descriptions);

  1. junmai-shu (rice only; no adding of distilled alcohol) – “Generic Sake”
  2. honjozo-shu (a tad of distilled alcohol is added)
  3. ginjo-shu (highly milled rice, with or without alcohol added)
  4. daiginjo-shu (even more highly milled rice, with/without added alcohol)
  5. nama-zake (refers to sake that is NOT pasteurized and basically is mutually independent of the above four)

 

Sake is intrinsically linked to Japan, Chinese records speak of an alcoholic drink drunk by the Japanese as far back as the third century, and it is confirmed that the drink was present in the seventh century. After becoming a firm part of Japanese life, when the Meji Restoration occurred it was written into the law that anyone with the money and the knowledge was legally allowed to set up their own sake brewery. This lead to over 30,000 breweries being established, although the government began to tax them heavily as the years went on, staggeringly in 1898 46% of the government’s tax income came from sake! During World War II sake production was hit hard as rice shortages were rampant and substitutes for rice were made, which kept up production but lowered quality. During post-war American occupation Sake was eclipsed by beer and spirit consumption, however sake brewers used new technologies to improve the quality and brewing process of the drink, before long sake was back on top. Now sake is drunk worldwide and is a cultural icon associated with Japan as it’s national drink.

 

So how do you drink sake? Well generally it is drunk from a wide variety of cups made for the specific purpose of drinking sake, these cups are called choko (猪口), or if in the box form called masu (枡). Sake is held, and poured from jars known as tokkuri (徳利). The most famous, and usually most confusing thing to those not in the know, about sake is if you should drink it hot or cold? As a general rule it should be served chilled. Hot sake is seen as a winter drink and was traditionally served warm; however the heating of the drink also forces aromas and flavours to be lost. Old or lower grade sake is often served warm however there are some less common sakes that are designed to be heated. Cool sake contains all the aromas, flavours and alcohol that the drink should. Sake can be drunk at room temperature as well.

 

So why not try some sake next time you have the chance? Sake can be purchased in Newcastle from HiYou, 7Days and Wing Hong, Sake sets are on sale in HiYou and Wing Hong. If you don’t fancy picking one out yourself, all of the Japanese restaurants usually have at least one sake choice on the menu.

 

 

Qoo (クー)

 

Yesterday I popped into HiYou, as I frequently do, in order to pick up a beverage before work. I was browsing thought the various interesting and unique drinks on sale such as Aloe vera juice, ramune and many others when suddenly I was stopped in my tracks when I caught eye of this…

What’s the big deal about that? It looks like any other juice carton, and perhaps to some it is, but a flood of memories suddenly washed over me at the sight of this drink. I will tell you why, before I tell you why you should try it for yourself.

 

One of my overwhelming memories of Japan is the heat during the summer; it’s humid, hot and drains all of the water from your body in no time. For this exact reason no matter if you are in the middle of Tokyo or halfway up a mountain, you are never far from a vending machine, they’re are as common as road signs and are a glorious sight to anyone being ravaged by the sweltering summer heat. The vending machines of Japan are another topic for another day, but the sheer variety and services provided by them are nothing like we get here in Newcastle. While I was in Japan I took it upon myself to try as many different types of drinks as humanly possible, and it was one day in Kyoto just outside the Kiyomizu Temple that I stumbled across a vending machine that served an odd looking drink named Qoo. The first major difference between Qoo and every other drink I had sampled up to that point was that it came in a metal bottle which was utter heaven to hold against your forehead before drinking. The drink itself was a glorious apple juice which not only quenched my thirst but was the perfect drink to re-energise me for the long walk ahead. From that point on if there was nothing new and interesting to try in a vending machine I would go for Qoo. Since my return to England I have looked out for the drink but much to my chagrin there was not a sniff of it anywhere…until yesterday.

So What Is Qoo?

Qoo (クー) is a beverage produced by Coca Cola in association with Minute Maid and was launched in Japan in 1999. The drink is based in Japan but has been exported to many other countries in Asia and a few countries in Europe. The term ‘Qoo’ is said to be an exclamation of refreshment that many Japanese will utter after a refreshing pint, or so the official site claims. The name has the good fortune to translate in Chinese to 酷兒 (kùér) which literally means ‘cool kid’; unfortunately it has the bad fortune to also be a slang phrase comparable to the word ‘queer’ as in homosexual. The drinks are non carbonated fruit juices available in the following flavours; Acerola Lemon, Fuji Apple, Blackcurrant, Fruit Punch, White Grape, Grape Lemon, Honey Lemon, Honey Quince, Lemon, Mandarin Orange, Mango, Mango Milk, Mango Orange, Orange, Peach and Peach Plum. Currently only White Grape and Mango have been spotted in Newcastle.

 

Probably the most defining and popular feature of the drink is it’s mascot, Qoo, who is a blue creature vaguely resembling a cat whose most recognisable trait (aside from being insanely cute) is spouting a long refreshed “Qooooooooo” after downing a glass of Qoo. The drink is well known for its easily recognisable theme tune and short cute advertisements following the adventures of the Qoo character in it’s pursuit of a refreshing Qoo juice drink.

 

 

Click on the video to begin a playlist of Qoo adverts.

So next time you are in HiYou pick one up from the chilled fridge and try one for yourself, they are priced currently at £0.69 and they are worth a try! Let us know what you think of them, they are best drunk ice cold.

 

I’ll leave you with an amusing official profile of the ‘Qoo’ character from it’s official site.

Sex: No one is really sure, from its behaviour it appears that it has both masculine and feminine traits.

Family: Since it appeared unexpectedly one day its origins are unknown, but is thought to be an only child.

Age: It is rumoured it is, in human years, between seven to ten years old.

Characteristics: Only says “Qoo!”. Whenever it drinks Qoo, its cheeks inflate.

Special Ability: Likes Dancing, Baths, Qoo, friendly children, and tasty drinks

Dislikes: Children who bully others

Character: Although it is a child it thinks like an adult. Optimistic and easily elated. Relaxed, a little sensitive and a bit of a narcissist.

Favorite pose: Left hand filling a cup to the brim with Qoo, right hand resting gently on hip, head tilted slightly skywards drinking the cup of Qoo and expressing delight by saying “Qoo”!

 

Interactive Map

 

 

Here at Geordie Japan we are always looking for ways to make it easier for you to visit Japanese establishments and events in and around Newcastle. So after a bit of testing and hard work we are proud to announce the Geordie Japan interactive map!

You can click here to see the map or the link will always appear on the right hand side of this page.

 

So far there are 30 markers on there covering 5 different categories 1) Asian Supermarkets 2) Japanese Restaurants* 3) Specialised Japanese Stores 4) Japanese Cinema 5) Japanese Attractions and History.

 

*Sometimes this is a bit of a grey area, I have included on this first version of the map explicitly Japanese restaurants and Asian fusion restaurants with a large Japanese menu selection.

 

But here’s what we want from you! Firstly feedback on the map itself, but also on additional venues that we may have missed (the map is very much a work in progress) or in the future, venues that have opened or closed. Are there any other categories you would like to see on there? Would you like to see all the Asian restaurants in Newcastle included on the map? Please let us know by either leaving a comment here or tweeting us!

 

So we hope you enjoy it and find it useful!

Karaoke

 

When most Westerners people hear the phrase ‘karaoke’ it evokes one emotion…fear. It conjures the image of a crowded bar, everyone’s eyes on you, watching, judging as you attempt to summon the courage to begin singing publically. Sweat pours down your brow as you hope and pray that you won’t clear the place out. It seems that the phrase ‘I couldn’t sing in front of people!!’ follows on from the notion of karaoke like a Pavlovian response.

 

My rendition of 'Sex Bomb' seems to be winning them over!

My rendition of ‘Sex Bomb’ seems to be winning them over!

 

Fortunately in Japan, most of Asia, and increasingly the rest of the world karaoke is done in a different way to the stereotypical neurosis educing nightmare scenario described above. Of course those public karaoke establishments still exist all over the world but often more popular are the ‘karaoke boxes’ (カラオケボックス) or private karaoke rooms. Before we delve into these though, let’s take a look at the history of karaoke.

 

Karaoke (カラオケ), which literally means ‘empty orchestra’, is the practice of amateur singers singing over backing tracks to popular songs that have had the lead vocals removed. The origin of the karaoke machine is debated, with Japan and the Philippines both claiming to have invented the practice, it appears karaoke developed almost simultaneously in both countries. The Japanese originator of the practice was Daisuke Inoue (井上 大佑) who invented the karaoke machine and began renting them to bars around Kobe, Japan in the late 70s. Since then the practice caught on like wildfire across Asia and began making an impact into Western culture in the late 80s through to the 90s; when it became common place to find bars holding karaoke nights. This is where the often cited nightmare at the beginning of this article developed. So what are these karaoke boxes and how do they differ from the karaoke bars of old?

Typical Karaoke Room

Typical Karaoke Room

 

Karaoke boxes (also known as KTV or K) are private karaoke rooms which often hold between 6 and 20 people, although 6-10 is probably the standard size of a typical room. There are usually multiple rooms within a single establishment so you and your friends can sing in private without the embarrassment of having to sing in front of strangers. The room itself usually contains sofas, a table, the karaoke equipment and microphones. Drinks and food are normally available as well to encourage a social atmosphere and to help with any anxiety you may have about singing, even if it’s just in front of your friends.

 

We at Geordie Japan can’t get enough of karaoke, it really is that much fun and once you get into it, you’re bound to be singing well into the early hours of the morning. It can look expensive at first but when you consider you will be splitting the cost probably at least 4 ways it becomes much more affordable. But where can you try these private karaoke rooms in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne?

Here are a selection of the karaoke rooms in Newcastle, let us know what others you would recommend in the comments below!

 

Moji Restaurant

Nagomi 

Cosy Joes

Hanahana

 

So why not give it a go, you never know, you might just enjoy it!

 

 

 

Okay, so we know what you are thinking, “I’m not drinking anything called Sweat”….but hear us out.

 

Pocari Sweat (ポカリスエット) is a Japanese health/energy drink marketed as an aid to replace ions, electrolytes and nutrients lost during workouts, heat waves or generally anytime you sweat. It tastes highly unlike any of the energy drinks we are used to here in the UK such as Red Bull, Monster or Lucozade. Pocari Sweat in non carbonated, tastes very sweet and has a somewhat mild grapefruity aftertaste, it’s not for everyone but it’s certainly worth a go. Especially when you consider that a similarly sized can of Red Bull costs £2 or over and you can pick up so Pocari Sweat for about 70p.
.
Pocari Sweat was developed by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. A company that markets health based products related to nutrition. It launched its Pocari Sweat energy drink in 1980 and it has gone on to be the company’s best selling product worldwide. On the cans and bottles Pocari Sweat is stylised in English and the humours aspect of having a drink named Sweat is lost to the Japanese. The company chose to call their drink Sweat because supposedly it replaces everything you lose during sweating, the word Pocari has no real meaning an instead was chosen for its sound.

 

I’m sure this needs no explanation

 

The current spokesman for Pocari Sweat in Japan is the internationally renowned actor, director and comedian ‘Beat’ Takashi Kitano. If that name dosen’t ring any bells you may know him from Takashi’s Castle on Challenge TV as the guy who drives around in the little cart at the end. Kitano’s adverts for the brand are typically rather odd and don’t particularly sell any real aspect of the product, but when probably the biggest name and most well known Japanese face is endorsing your product, perhaps you don’t need too. As an aside, before Beat took up the role, Cindy Crawford was one of their spokespeople.

 

Kitano commands you to drink Sweat

 

You can purchase Pocari Sweat in pretty much any supermarket in Chinatown and it’s sold in small (tin), medium and large (plastic) bottles. Much of the Pocari Sweat avalible in Newcastle is emblazed with Korean writing, but this is simply where the product is imported from. If you can get past the name, give it a go, and let us know what you think!

 

 

Takeaway Sushi

 

 

Sometimes it can be hard to get a variety of food in the city centre of Newcastle when it comes to lunch time. If sandwiches become boring after a while and Prêt don’t have the latest combo in stock, there’s always sushi.

Sushi is vinegared rice combined with neta which is most commonly seafood. Sushi sometimes contains raw slices of fish, known as sashimi. Sushi or nare-zushi was first developed in Southeast Asia, spread to south China and then Japan, where we now commonly associate sushi with.

There are a few places in the city centre to get your hands on some sushi and don’t fret you won’t have to run all the way to China town for it!

 

Prêt A Manger

Prêt have some sushi trays consisting mainly of salmon and tuna. The trays and sushi themselves are a bit bigger than most places, but so is the price.

There are several Prêts in town. The first is on Grey Street, opposite the Monument. The second is on Northumberland Street, near to Haymarket Metro Station. The third is in Fenwick on Northumberland Street, close to Haymarket Metro Station.

 

Marks & Spencer

M&S probably has the best array of sushi, ranging from fish and meat sushi to oriental rich balls in different colours! There is something to please everyone and the trays prove a decent size; so if you want to fill up at lunch time you can do so!

Though the sushi packs are £3 each, or £1 for the vegetable snack boxes, M&S has the best range of sushi!

Marks & Spencer is situated on Northumberland Street.

 

Some of the Sushi on sale at Marks and Spencers

 

Boots

Boots has a pretty basic set of sushi range, as with all their lunches. They have a single pack that provides two salmon and two tuna sushi rolls with rice or seaweed. As with Tesco they get snapped up pretty quick, as it’s fresh light food that still fills you up!

There a few Boots in the town. The first is situated on Blackett Street, next to the Monument Metro. The second is in Eldon Square, opposite the Blackett Street Boots, you can cross the Green sitting area, towards Nandos and Starbucks and follow the stairs just to the right of them up to Boots. The third is situated on Northumberland Street, opposite the Haymarket metro Station.

 

Tesco

Tesco has a number of sushi trays available on the meal deal section, all at very decent prices. However whether they’re all out there, and you can get your hands on them is another question. The sushi gets snapped up pretty quickly, as they have a pretty good variety at affordable prices on offer.

There is a Tesco on Express on Percy Street, east of The Gate, near Magic Box.

 

Yo Sushi

Yo Sushi specialise in sushi, so thankfully they have been so kind and boxed some up for us to take away. Even though the amazing Doriyaki pancakes are not on sale, Yo Sushi has every kind of sushi combination you could ask for. They also stock books on how to make sushi, sparkling water and eastern chilli nuts.

Yo Sushi is situated on the ground floor of Fenwicks, in the food department, on Northumberland Street.

 

Tesco Sushi

Tesco stocks some nice pre-packaged Sushi

 

Hi you

Hi you is the new oriental supermarket which has opened up no Newgate Street. It’s a vast space and contains a huge variety of food and drink, all from the far east.

Hi You also provides an exciting take away buffet on the right side of the entrance and has a brilliant selection of sushi. Hi You provide fresh sushi, rather than pre packaged, so though the price might be a little higher than your normal eatery, the sushi is worth it for the fresh quality. Ranging from meat, fish and vegetable sushi, you’re guaranteed to find something you’ll like.

Hi You is situated on Newgate Street, on the opposite side of the road to The Gate.

 

 

If you know anywhere else that sells takeaway Sushi please let us know either in the comments or via our twitter.

 

–Aisha Din

Daifuku & Mochi

 

Continuing on our series of articles on Japanese sweets available in Newcastle’s Chinatown, today we will be looking at the Japanese confectionary Daifuku.

 

Pictured: Red Bean Daifuku, the traditional favouring of the confectionery, many different flavours can be found in Chinatown.

Daifuku (大福) is a Japanese rice cake eaten year round in many Asian countries. Daifuku’s outer later is made of Mochi (餅) which is made by cooking glutinous rice and leaving it to soak overnight, the next day the process of Mochitsuki begins. This is where the mixture is pounded with mortars or mallets until it becomes the right texture. Mochitsuki can be perfected to amazing precision and even sumo wrestlers have been known to partake! The Mochi is then wrapped around a filling, traditionally red or white bean paste, although in modern times many different fillings are available including pleasant fruit flavours. The Daifuku is then completed by being covered in a thin layer of starch to prevent sticking.

 

The name Daifuku is a shortened form of Daifukumochi which literally translates to ‘big belly rice cake’ but due to the similarity in the pronunciation of belly, ‘fuku’, and luck, also‘fuku’, the spelling of the kanji was changed to mean ‘good luck rice cake’. Since then Daifuku has become associated with wishing good luck in Japan and thus have become a popular traditional gift

 

Some typical types of Daifuku that can be found in Chinatown's freezer section.

There is a large selection of Daifuku/Mochi confectionary available across Chinatown; probably the most impressive selection is in HiYou (The first isle you come to as you enter, opposite the chiller fridges). They are available in ready to eat boxes or in frozen form in the freezer section (advised to let it warm up before chomping down though). Daifuku is also vegetarian and vegan friendly, although you are always advised to check the packaging just in case. If you are feeling like experimenting you can sometimes find mixed boxes of Daifuku, which are handy for trying out many types at once.

 

Daifuku can be anywhere between cheap and expensive in Chinatown depending on what type and how many the packages contained; we managed to pick up a nice box with about 15 mini pieces for about £1.30.

 

So if you’re thinking of expanding beyond Pocky and into other forms of Japanese confectionary why not try Daifuku or some form of Mochi? The fruit flavours are recommended for those unsure about the bean paste options; although you should defiantly try those once you’re feeling adventurous.

 

 

Pocky

 

 

Sometimes when you visit one of the Asian supermarkets in Newcastle it can be a bit of an overwhelming experience for those unaccustomed to the brands and the types of food available. In this series of articles we hope to profile some of the Japanese products available in Newcastle’s Chinatown, we have previously covered the drink Ramune.

 

Pocky (ポッキー) was introduced in 1966 by the Japanese company ‘Ezaki Gilco’ and is supposedly onomatopoetically named after the sound that the biscuit makes when you bite into it. Pocky is a thin biscuit finger covered for the most part in a flavoured chocolate. Pocky is a good place to start your quest into Japanese sweets as it has a very familiar taste to those unaccustomed to Asian sweets and, more importantly, Pocky is damn delicious!

 

You may be thinking that Pocky sounds awfully familiar to the Mikado product line available in many UK supermarkets, and that’s because it is the same. In the UK and Europe it was deemed that Pocky needed a rebranding (which included an ad campaign featuring a woman accidently photocopying her genitalia,  much to her bosses delight) and thus the Japanese Pocky biscuit became Mikado. So why should you bother buying Pocky instead of Mikado if it is essentially the same product?

 

A Typical Dreamy Japanese Advert For The Pocky Brand

Firstly Pocky is usually much cheaper than Mikado, selling from as low as 70 pence in the Asian supermarkets compared to the standard retail price of £1.35 for Mikado. Next, the variety in pack sizes of Pocky.  From mini-packs all the way through to novelty sized jumbo packs (which make great gifts, by the way) are for sale in Chinatown. Finally, the flavours available! Mikado currently only has 5 varieties (milk/dark/white chocolate, hazelnut and Daim bar) where as you can seemingly find a different flavour  in each store you visit! There are too many flavours to list here, but include milk, banana & chocolate, strawberry and green tea.

 

Pocky is one of those products that can be found in almost all of the Asian supermarkets, but they are easiest to find in 7Days, where the Pocky display is literally opposite the main door, Hiyou and Wing Hong Supermarket stock a respectable selection in their sweet isles as well. You may also find next to the Pocky display the ‘Pepero’ brand, this is a similar product of Korean origin.

Next time you are passing by, why not pick up some Pocky to have during your lunch break at work? Try to avoid photocopying your genitalia though…