Japanese Soda Review: Coca Cola’s Sparkling Tea Royal & Suntory’s Love Mode Ginger Zero (vs. Itoen’s Sparkling Pink Ginger)

lovemodegingerzero Beverages were in order after an hour of shoe-shopping with the girls tonight.

Yesterday, Leah started referring to her month-old footwear as her “stupid shoes”. I would have, too, if my little 17.0 size feet were being constricted in even smaller size 15.0 shoes!

Tags clipped and new, pink Hello Kitty sneakers comfortably in place, we walked a short distance to the grocery store.

With their enticing packaging and promising flavors descriptions, these two sodas were chosen for the coveted spot in my minty-green two-handled plastic JusCo shopping basket.

Studded with pink faux rhinestone lettering and a shiny zipper reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers (perfectly placed along the perforation to “unzip” label for recycling, of course), on appearance alone, Suntory’s Love Mode Ginger Zero had me salivating like a Pavlov dog.

However, this “sweet and dry ginger ale” proved all bark and no bite. The flavor is overpoweringly diet-sweet and only jests of ginger – weaker than plain-old store brand ginger ale. After a few obligatory sips to be sure I really hated it, I put down the bottle.

If you’re looking for a bitter-sweet, pink Cadillac alternative, I highly recommend Itoen’s Sparkling Pink Ginger, which combines bold ginger with a hint of apple cider vinegar. The ginger-vinegar flavor is true to pink gari, the tsukemono served at sushi restaurants to refresh and cleanse the palate.


One of my favorite delights of living in another country is to experience other-world flavors created by familiar brands. As I think about it, there are rarely special flavors of soda available back home, and, while Coca-Cola has come a long way since Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs, the folks back home will never know.

Sparkling Tea Royal is one of these delights. Although misspelled due to translation (there is no “V” sound in the Japanese alphabet), the “nable orange” is tartly recognizable upon first taste, followed the delicious roundness of tropical pineapple with a perfect black-tea finish.

Best of all is the understated carbonation in this drink that makes this beverage both a tea and a soda.

The combination is sort of what you’d expect if a bottle of delicately bubbled Gerolsteiner made love to an exquisitely flavored summer tea, blended so perfectly that consumers would argue over which parent their child resembled more.

Finders Keepers November Giveaway : Hello Kitty Flags, Chopsticks and Tote

The Kiddyland in Harajuku was one of the highlights of our trip to Tokyo a few years back. It was the children’s first trip to Japan, and each of them was allowed to choose a souvenir.

After a day of sightseeing on foot, the children were tired. We walked from the toy store to the Meiji-Jingūmae Station to take the train back to our apartment.

As we organized our belongings into backpacks to prepare for the train ride, Tabitha began to cry. Her newly purchased pink vinyl Hello Kitty wallet was missing. She tearfully said that she had set it on the floor while looking at some dolls, and had forgotten to pick it back up.

Tom sat down on a yellow, metal platform bench with our four other pumpkins. “The kids are worn out,” he said. “You take Tab and I’ll wait here.”

I nodded. The trains ran every few minutes. If we missed one, there would be another.

Taking Tabitha’s hand, we headed back for the store. We rode the escalator together and then exited the station out into the busy sidewalk. To move more quickly, and so as not to lose her, I picked her up and carried her.

“Will they still have my wallet, mom?” she whispered right into my ear. The windy night breeze whipped her curls.

“I don’t know the answer to that question, Tab,” I said skeptically. “I hope they do!”

With hope, we went entered the beautifully bright, loud Japanese toy world.

As smiling lady in a Kiddyland uniform walked right over to us, as if expecting us. She was holding a familiar blue bag. “Hai! Dozo!” she bent down and gently handed the bag to Tabitha, who opened it and looked inside.

“It’s my Hello Kitty wallet! My favorite!” Tab shrieked happily.

I bowed and thanked the lady.

As Tabitha and I ran back to the station, she said, “I just knew it would be there, mom. I prayed and asked God to help me get my wallet!”

Do you have a favorite story of finding something you thought was lost forever? Maybe you found something and helped it find its way back to its owner. I want to hear about it!

Please share your story in the comments of this post to be eligible to win these eight, really cute Hello Kitty flags (approx. 12″ x 18″ ), a red tote just the right size to store the flags, and three sets of Hello Kitty chopsticks!

The flags say “Open”, “Yakisoba”, “Takoyaki” (one of my favorite “junk foods” – see the little red octopus peeking around HK’s hat?), “Ramen”, “Bath Room”, “Closed”, “Thank You Always,” and “Udon”.

From the list of comments (and yes, you have to leave a pertinent comment in order to qualify!) my children will draw the winning name.

My hope is that this giveaway will inspire others to be honest and to do the right thing when something that doesn’t belong to us is found. I would to hear some great stories to pass on to my children — who have a bad habit of first saying, “Finder’s keepers, losers weepers!” … but are always sad when someone says that to them!

BONUS: If you mention this giveaway in your blog (send me a “proof” link) or Tweet (via @mrsalbrecht), you will get ONE extra entry. (C’mon! I know some of you get a little carried away with this stuff and I can’t keep track of THAT many tiny pieces of paper!!) PLEASE do me a small favor and post a “proof link” or copy of Tweet so I’m sure to not to miss your extra-entry qualification. (Thanks!)

Please leave your comment by 9PM EST, Friday, November 30th.

The winner will need to provide their mother’s maiden name, social security number, and a valid US credit card number + three digit secret code. JUST KIDDING! I will, however, need their name and mailing address which will be kept strictly confidential.

If they’re agreeable, I’d like to interview the winner and feature them in a future post. I would consider including links in the post to the winner’s blog, favorite cause, home business, etc.

Winning contestants may not enter my subsequent monthly giveaway contests for a year following their win. In other words, if you win in November, 2009, you cannot enter again until November, 2010.

Hello Ohashi



kitty case

Do You Have Money to Burn?

If you do not have money to save, you do not have money to burn.

Saving vs. spending and the health of the economy was the topic of my conversation with @sethsimonds today.

I punctuating this pondering by watching Ron Paul at today’s Financial Services Hearing, where he essentially accuses Goldman Sachs of fraud. (Remember my pre-election / bailout post at Nolan Chart, Bad Assets and Band Aids?) :

Just finished reading Paul’s book, “End the Fed”. A review is on my to-do list!

One of the things I miss about living in the US is helping with the nitty-gritty of grassroots politics. Being a precinct leader for Paul’s 2008 campaign and then attending his rally in Philadelphia with my husband, our children, and over 5,000 other supporters, is one of my fondest memories.

Photo Credit: Piggy Bank by Alesa Dam via Flickr

October Giveaway Winner!

In this vlog, I talk about Japanese Nabe soup, *meeting woodblock artist Yoshiko Matsuno and author Chizuko Okabe, the first snow of the year, and choose the winner for the my October bloggy giveaway, an obento set!

Congratulations to Michelle Carter! She is a single mom raising her three-year-old grandson. Michelle is in the process of opening a daycare. She also helps with her town’s “Secret Santa Project,” which provide gifts to over 100 needy kids in town. Inspiring, eh?


Please take a moment to check out the blogs represented in the comments!

Josue Diaz
Lost in the Feed
Corgi Pants
Knitting Zeal
Half-Pint House
Knowledge House Academy
Fighting Chimeras
Eleanor Joyce
On The Journey
Frugalities & Life
Kooky Culinary
The Fragrant Hand
Double Bravo

*More to come on this — have some pics to upload and I’ll write a complete post about this fascinating visit soon!