After sitting in the morning sun enjoying a nice cup of espresso, I went to do my Sunday morning shopping at the ever expensive Meidi-ya Hiroo department store. The arctic temperature in the store was a nice change of climate from the 30 degrees celcius and suffocating Honshu humidity levels present outside. Purely by accident I stumbled upon a rare endemic dish that I had needed to try: the tokoroten.

Why wouldn't people want to buy a living blue jelly for ¥100?

Originally I was introduced to the obscure stuff by the equally bizarre Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo tv-show. Unfortunately, all relevant videos on Youtube are Spanish dubs so I won’t be linking any here. Considering the character of Tokoro Tennosuke, who was made entirely of tokoroten, failed to sell himself at the supermarket for a mere ¥10, I was surprised I needed to pay ¥315 for a batch of three small cups in the real world. Then again, it was Meidi-ya whose slogan is “We love overpricing”.

3-pack of un-snacks

Tokoroten is a weird beast, which, besides the anime reference, was the main reason I needed to try it. Consisting practically only of water, the dish has lately been advertised in Japan as a diet food for the very same reason, because it’s water (Japanese wikipedia indicates the water content to be 98-99%). To water is added agar, and the gelatinous end result is shaped into “noodles”. Therefore stuffing yourself full of tokoroten before a meal can fill your stomach with water jelly, thus decreasing your hunger and making you eat less actual food. That wasn’t really my goal, but I had no option but to try the stuff nevertheless.

Maximum texture, no taste!

The pack I bought also contained a vinegar dipping sauce as well as small bags of sesame seeds for seasoning. A few slurps and it was gone. Being as the tokoroten itself doesn’t taste like anything, it was exactly like eating textured water with vinegar, an experience best described as unproductive. According to the Japanese, tokoroten is great in the summer as you can cool yourself down while having the illusion of eating. I personally prefer to keep my water as a liquid and my food as an energy source. No wonder Tennosuke was so unpopular in Bo-bobo. It’s not really worth much more than ¥10 a cup. I won’t be buying it again but I still have two cups left in the fridge so it seems I’ll be eating some more water in the days to come.

-Antti

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