Long gone are the days of ice sculptures and crepe suzette served up as a matter of course in first class cabins on airliners.
But what is presented to premium passengers can still rival some top hotels or restaurants, and can often act as a good barometer for the health of an airline's fortunes.
"When times get tough, food is one of the costs airlines can cut without jeopardizing safety," says Andreas Weber, general manager of airline catering company, Gate Gourmet.
"It has changed back and forth (over time); airlines go through crises," he says. "(Today) more airlines are investing substantially in their first and business class products. Making people comfortable in big seats, everyone is doing that already, but what is left is the catering experience."
What linked them, and other famous faces, was their promotion of Japanese whisky, each sipping it in TV advertisements like it was nectar of the gods.
Bill Murray's sardonic character in "Lost in Translation" may have mocked the image of sophistication that Japanese whisky manufacturers liked to portray from the 1970 to the 1990s, but since 2001, Japanese whisky has been steadily picking up awards and gaining the plaudits of international whisky connoisseurs without the need for a knowing smirk or wink.
A chopstick making company has whittled down broken baseball bats so sushi can be shoveled with a swing.
Hyozaemon specializes in traditional hand-crafted eating utensils and in 2000 introduced their "kattobashi" chopsticks. The name is a play on words combining the Japanese word for chopsticks, "hashi," with a familiar chant heard at Japanese baseball games.
About 20,000 bats, used and abused by pro and amateur players, turn up at Hyozaemon's workshop each year. So it's a good bet the bats of Godzilla himself, Hideki Matsui, in his pre-Major League Baseball days, will have ended up on a Japanese dining table at some point over the years.
During a Japanese tea ceremony, remember to slurp the last drops of tea from the bowl.
Among all the etiquette and quietude of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the slurping might seen out place, but it’s a more than acceptable way of saying thank you.
“Nosily drinking the last of the tea means that the guest has enjoyed it,” says Shirai Yayoi, a tea master for over 50 years.
Over that period she has perfected all the elements of “chado” that when translate to English is closer to “tea-ism” than tea ceremony. It’s more apt, too, as all the training of a tea master and the rituals of the ceremony date back to Japan’s medieval samurai society and are underpinned by four principles from Zen Buddhism: harmony, tranquility, respect and purity.
A sweet-tooth in Japan isn’t hard to satisfy. The country’s convenience stores are stocked with a range of intriguing confectionery, but often you’ve got to be quick to catch them.
A short shelf life isn’t because products like Hokkaido cheese chocolate are snapped up by hordes of roving umami-hunters, but because perpetual revolution of a product range is the key to survival for brands in Japan.
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