12/31/08

Wish You A Happy New Year

Greetings from the super foggy bay area.
Some parts of SF experience heavy fog every morning, but dense fog veiled an extensive area this morning. Looks like snow is piling up more in other parts of the country. Please drive safely if you are traveling!

By the way, we've recently added some more neat items.
Chirimen strap monkey, cell phone stand, mini and larger pig pouch
This is a set of two heat packs for shoes. These slim heat pads will keep you warm at feet for about 5 hours. We love these when working in the cold warehouse.
This is a tube storage pocket for spice tubes like the photo above. When laid in the fridge door compartments, these tubes slips around, so this is a cool storage place to keep your slim tubes organized.
For those who enjoy a warm bath, we have more bath salts. Two items from the "Bath Roman" series and Bathclin Cherry are now available.


Finally, we wish you a very happy new year.
Thank you so very much for becoming a fan of Ichiban Kan this year. We will keep bringing awesome products next year!

12/25/08

Christmas in SF

Illuminated Tree @ Union Square in downtown San Francisco.
Just for the record...

12/23/08

Hakoya: Re-Take

Hakoya is the brand by Tatsumiya Shikki (Japanese-only).
Tatsumiya is a lacquer ware manufacturer located in northern Japan.

While they've become well known for high end lunch boxes since 1991, they do produce other lacquered products, such as 2-tier Jyubako Boxes and Shokado Bento Box available at our store.

Hakoya 2-tier boxes have inner lids that close tight and prevent leaks.
In addition to elegant lacquered surface, plastic is stronger and durable as many of their boxes are dishwasher and microwave safe.
Some lunch boxes even come with food dividers! (we wish we had discovered this when we introduced the boxes a few weeks ago.)

If you haven't checked out Hakoya boxes on our web store, product photos have been changed to show the bento boxes better.

As we said repeatedly, we won't stop carrying inexpensive sets. :)

12/10/08

More Clarification

Just wanted to assure you that inexpensive items will not disappear from our store. :)

We decided to import high end Hakoya lunch boxes because those boxes are highly popular in Japan and perfect for someone who are interested in boxes of better quality than $1 ones.

Since most of our items are priced between $1 and $3, anything more than $5 stands out and looks expensive. However, we can assure you that we offer the lowest price possible on every item. For example, Rectangle 2-tier Box Cherry Pink is $14.50 at Ichiban Kan, and we agree that the box is pricey (yep, our minds are also used to dollar items!). In Japan this particular product is sold for ¥1400-1500.
Given the current exchange rate of $1 = ¥93, you would be paying a tad more dollars if you were to order the box from a store in Japan.
Well, you see our point...

We digressed, but the purpose of this post is to let you know that 1) the number of items will gradually increase and 2) affordable items are our specialty.

Finally, we are very grateful for your comments and suggestions. :)

12/6/08

Post Renewal Plans

It's a relief to hear that you are liking our revamped site categories!

Yes, as you noticed, the number of products has been significantly reduced.
Over the past half year we learned what our customers like on our web store, and we decided to shift the gear a bit to serve you better.
It's true that bento items have been our top sellers, but we will not become a bento-only store.
Ichiban Kan will continue to offer affordable, useful, and unique items from Japan.

We are aware that some popular products are still missing from the web store.
The following products are on our top list: storage baskets, Marry and Harry boxes, plastic food containers, more kitchen gadgets, gift wrapping materials, and snacks.

Thanks!

12/4/08

Renewal

It's not the best timing to close business temporarily, but the online store had to be offline due to warehouse reorganization that has affected web operations. The decision was made rather suddenly and we regret that we did not have enough time to notify you.

When we are back to normal business, you will notice that our item offerings are smaller and more focused than before. We also took advantage of this opportunity to modify category navigation.
Categories have been re-named or re-indexed for you to click less to reach items of your interest.

Please be advised that certain items may no longer be available if you had items in the cart before December 3.

Next week very beautiful and gorgeous bento boxes from Hakoya will be available!

Thank you very much for your continued support!

11/28/08

Perfect Gift from Ichiban Kan

Introducing Ichiban Kan web team's new project...

Clickety Click Gift Box!
Eleven popular items are packed in a gloss black box with three colorful tissues for void filling.
There will be Bear, Monkey and Rabbit sets.

Each set contains

  1. Clickety Click 2-tier Box
  2. Clickety Click Seal Lunch Box
  3. Clickety Click Square Seal Container
  4. Clickety Click Lunch Bag
  5. Clickety Click Lunch Box Belt
  6. Clickety Click Fork
  7. Clickety Click Spoon
  8. Animal 3D Food Picks
  9. Penguin Sauce Bottle 2P
  10. Silicon Food Cup 3P
  11. Glico Pocky
A lovely assortment box for friends, your family members, neighbors and colleagues! Nice and useful for both bento starters and experts.

The initial available quantity is limited to 10 sets per type. If these sets are popular, we will be happy to increase the quantity or expand the variety to Putifresh and/or Tenmari (depending on available stock).

After Thanksgiving Deal

We cannot lower our already super low prices, but reduced shipping fees will be offered for three days until 9:00pm PT on Sunday, November 30.

Here's the reduced fees!
$0.00 - $14.99: $5.00
$15.00 - $29.99: $7.00
$30.00 - $59.99: $8.50
$60.00 - $99.99: $9.50
$100.00 - $149.99: $12.00
$150.00 - up: $10.00

Although we try to have enough popular items in stock whenever possible, we may sell out certain items during these three days. If the warehouse has those items in stock, they will be replenished on the web between Monday and Wednesday next week.

11/26/08

Takoyaki Pan

We made real takoyaki balls and waffle balls using takoyaki pan. We actually did half of this a few weeks ago and procrastinated completing everything until now...

Since octopus isn't everyone's favorite, we wanted to create fluffy balls out of waffle mix.

(The lighting for photos are not so great and consistent as cooking was done in our own kitchen.)

========================================
Wisdom of Experiences to avoid burning the batter on the pan
(we received a wise tip on 11/27!)

  1. Apply plenty of cooking oil all over the pan. There should be a tiny pool of excess oil in each hole.
  2. Prepare a kitchen cloth/dishcloth well-soaked with water.
  3. Heat the pan with high heat until it starts smoking.
  4. Turn off heat.
  5. Cover the pan with the soaked cloth to cool down the pan.
  6. Remove excess oil from the pan.
========================================

Here's our first attempt!

First apply plenty of cooking oil on the pan. It's hard to tell in the photo, but you should apply enough so you have a tiny pool of excess oil in each hole. Prepare one bamboo skewer for flipping. Use low heat.
The batter started rising! woo hoo!
We tried to flip waffle balls, but it was either too early or not enough oil on the pan. We think this resulted from trying to flip too early.

Disappointed yet optimistic, we then tried making real takoyaki.
We bought flour for takoyaki and a piece of boiled octopus at a Japanese grocery store.
We tried to flip too early again, resulting in loss of the prime spots. (the top 3 center holes)
A lesson learned. Look at the photo below. We had to wait very patiently to cook the balls in this golden brown color. If the batter does not come off easily when trying to flip with a bamboo skewer, just wait. When the batter is ready, balls flip easily.
When you re-use the pan, don't forget to re-apply plenty of oil.


OK, here's our another (hopefully final) attempt to create delicious waffle balls!

We blended 1/2 cup of Krusteaz waffle mix and little less than 1/2 cup of cold water just like before. Just follow the instruction on the waffle mix bag to make your batter.
1/2 cup of waffle mix was a perfect amount for filling all 12 holes.
So far so good.
We flipped one of them. Look at that beautiful brown color!
All of them were flipped successfully.
This was the pan after removing waffle balls to a plate. Pretty clean, isn't it? Patience paid off.
Pour waffle syrup on top for flavor. Very delicious!

In general, the pan gets better at cooking waffle balls after a few attempts.

In summary, here's what we learned.
  1. Preferably, prepare the pan for cooking using the wisdom written above.
  2. Apply plenty of oil.
  3. Wait
  4. Wait
  5. Wait
  6. Never scrape the batter off the pan. Wait until balls easily separate! If you try to scrape the burned batter, the pan might get damaged.

11/25/08

How We Created the Gorgeous Platter

We wanted to express our holiday spirit in the bento box this time.
Lacquered Shokado Bento Box was chosen as the box for this deluxe meal.

1) The upper right compartment contains snowmen rice balls, sausage reindeer, macaroni salad and chicken & broccoli salad from grocery store deli.
The left snowman wears a scarf made of imitation crab meat. He also has Poker pick hands and face and button created by seaweed.
The right guy has a cone-shaped carrot nose. (Yes, that was a meticulous work!)

The reindeer is created from fish sausages with a carrot nose and black sesame eyes.


2) In the small center compartment, a small bird, colorful stars and raspberries are placed.
The cute birdie is again created by cutting fish sausages and carefully shaping carrots into a tiny heart, oval and isosceles triangle. The eye is a black sesame seed. Yep, this was another challenging piece!
American slice cheese is cut into small stars using Cookie Cutter - Stars 6P and then a few are dyed with red food coloring. The yellow cheese turns into beautiful orange that resembles fresh carrot.


3) The right bottom corner houses two teriyaki chicken drumsticks, heart-shaped ham, and cheese birds.
The drumsticks are so tasty when served warm right out of the wok.
Regular sandwich ham become pretty hearts with the help of Cookie/Food Cutter - Heart. Again the red food coloring is used here. Cookie Cutter - Bird come in handy for those birds.


4) We forgot to take a picture of the left bottom corner. It has "pan asian" slaw from deli, Thai style shrimps and spaghetti, rain shoe, and a gift box.


5) Moving up to the upper left container, you can see star shaped sandwiches and blue berries.
To make these multi-layer sandwiches, Cookie Cutter - Stars are convenient. Butter milk bread appears to be another key for having a clean shape. Long food picks like Ocean Food Picks hold these sandwiches very well.


Well, how do you like it?
It took two people a few hours to make this box (many attempts to cut carrots & seaweed into presentable shapes), but the results were so worthwhile!

Your holiday meal/hors d'oeuvres in a Shokado box and Party Food Container would be a nice surprise for your family and guests this year.

We wish you all a warm, delicious and nutritious Thanksgiving day!

11/24/08

Out of Control Blown Up Images

We started seeing very large images at random on our web store on Wednesday, although the image setting had been kept the same since the store opened in last April. We haven't utilized any irregular digital camera features, either.

Initially the problem was only seen in some of the new items. We immediately contacted the tech support and a support person asked us to change the setting a bit, which adversely resulted in many more huge images... *sigh*
We went back to the original image size setting and hoped that the system was whimsically and temporarily going nuts. However, as you can see, there are a lot of blown-up images.

The e-commerce service provider has just acknowledged that this is a defect and their quality assurance team is working on it.

We sincerely apologize for the ugly appearance and thank you for ordering with Ichiban Kan under this circumstance.

-------------------------------------
In the meantime, get ready for Ichiban Kan's Black Friday Special!

Amazon Universal Wish List Button

We've added the Amazon Universal Wish List Button on each product page for those who have wish lists on Amazon.com.

Amazon.com has developed a really cool tool bar for you to consolidate your wish list on one place.

Using either the button on Ichiban Kan's web store or the Wish List Tool Bar, you can easily list your favorite Ichiban Kan items on your Amazon list.

We had trouble installing the button everywhere on our site, so you see the button only when you click to see each individual item page.

Enjoy holiday shopping!

11/20/08

Fun Videos

Thought it would be fun to share these videos and show how these new toys run around! What a great stocking stuffer for kids!

Backflip Car/Plane (4975887565347)


Energetic Insects (4975887565316)

11/18/08

Time For Something New...

Introducing a few new additions to the web store.
Wine Gift Bags (Blue or White) will come in handy when you visit someone for a holiday party.
More cute key caps will be added along with popular Black Cat and Frog.
Large Eco Bags with "ethnic" or "map" (not pictured) design. Folds very compactly when not in use.
Gift Cake Box with a clear bag and message card. Great size for cup cakes and muffins.
Beautiful chirimen pouches. Due to various fabric designs during manufacturing processes, we import them in assorted packs. One of these will arrive when ordered.

Many items that have been out of stock will be also replenished.
Can't guarantee the exact time, but everything should be updated by the end of tomorrow (Wed).

11/12/08

More Wrapping Items for This Holiday Season

Two new wrapping papers have been added.

Hello Kitty Wrapping Paper 2 sheets
These Hello Kitty papers are available in 3 colors. (A photo for the white one will be up soon)
Great value for two sheets of papers.
Japanese handmade papers
These handmade washi papers are commonly used for arts and crafts. These particular wrapping papers are relatively thicker than other wrapping papers.

11/11/08

Now it's easier to track UPS packages on Ichiban Kan Store

Now you can check your package status on our web site by entering the last four digits of the order number and the destination zip code after receiving email shipping notifications.

The web query will open tracking information on a different window or tab, depending on your browser setting.

If you see a list of multiple packages like the image below, narrow the Ship Date Range by clicking "Modify Reference Criteria" (circled in red).
Hope this makes your life easier. Let us know how you (dis)like this function!

11/10/08

Stuff Your Stockings For Under $3

Beautiful winter illuminations have been already set up in many metropolitan areas of Japan. The photo shows gorgeously adorned Roppongi Hills with Tokyo Tower in the background.

Scenes like this reminded us of a quickly approaching holiday season. While we do not have fancy electronic gadgets, we carry a great selection of stocking stuffers for everybody.

Go to For Men
Go to For Women
Go to For Boys
Go to For Girls

Don't forget to browse the entire store! You may find more knick knacks not listed in these stocking stuffer ideas.

10/31/08

Happy Halloween!

We heard some SF store staff are dressing up in fun costumes, but office and warehouse staff are spending the day as usual.

Introducing a few ceramic items...

Ceramic Tea Pot with a tea strainer

Have a fun Halloween night!

10/28/08

Paper and Peanuts

We use crumpled brown paper and styrofoam peanuts as void fillings and cushioning.

Brown paper is our preferred material because it's environmentally more friendly and easier for you to clean up when opening packages.

Then why do you occasionally receive packages full of peanuts from us?
Our vendor of cosmetic items delivers products using tons of peanuts. Why not give them another use?

If you accumulate lots of peanuts from online orders, you could probably make an indoor snowperson!

Otherwise, please bring peanuts to UPS Stores, Mail Boxes, PostNet or one of Loose Fill Centers for recycling.

10/27/08

Back to the Old Setting

The "remove out of stock items from the web store" function worked fine for several days. Then the setting started acting up and stopped displaying items in the associated product categories when we replenished out of stock items on Friday.

Initially we thought the server needed some time to catch up with all the updates, but in a long story short, we are back to the "not accept back orders and show out of stock messages" setting.

We hate being flaky like this and apologize for the trouble you had to go through if you were shopping on our web store this past weekend.

10/23/08

Bobbin, Rinda, and Mink are back!

Did you know the animals in the Clickety Click series had names?
This is Mink, the Monkey.

Clickety Click, Putifresh, Men's Lunch (also known as Simple Modern Design Set), and Tenmari goods will be replenished tomorrow late afternoon. :)

A high quality bento set called "Bitter&Milk" will be also in stock. This is a great set containing a two-tier box, belt and drawstring bag. Chopsticks & case are separately sold.

As usual, we do not have an infinite supply of items, and we highly recommend you to purchase items if you see something you like on our web store.
If you wait until the 2nd week of December for Christmas gifts, we probably won't have a complete set of anything.

Also, we've learned that Clickety Click and Tenmari will be discontinued by the manufacturer in the near future.

10/22/08

Out of Stock Message Malfunction

All of sudden the "out of stock" message display disappeared from our web store last Thursday or Friday (we noticed it on Friday). If you placed an out of stock item in the cart, the system showed a message in red and didn't allow you to buy it, but we could foresee every customer's frustration.

Since our service provider could not give us any solution on Friday, the system was set to turn off all out of stock items.

From now on, when available quantities reach zero, items disappear from our web store whether you like it or not (!). Guess it gives a cleaner store look...

Sorry we couldn't inform you of this issue sooner.

Happy Shopping!

10/21/08

What Happened to Thermal Lunch Box Sets?

When we took a poll in April, we received fairly overwhelming responses from you. We did go through many catalogs from Japanese vendors to look for affordable thermal lunch box sets which would be comparable to, but not as expensive as Zojirushi ones.

Unfortunately, thermal lunch sets we found appeared too small for adults. That's why we haven't offered any thermal sets.

We will keep it in mind, though. Just thought we should keep our loyal fans updated on this!

10/14/08

Extra-Tight Food Container E 3P

Just wanted to show you the size of Extra-tight Food Container E 3P.

In Natural Lunch Tight Seal Box
In Putifresh Tight Seal Box
In Tenmari Tight Seal Box

You can close these bento box covers with the lids of the containers on.
Hope these photos are helpful!

10/8/08

All Set!!!!!

FINALLY! Our account was updated. :)

Thank you so very much for your patience.

To thank you, we are offering reduced Ground shipping fees for one week.

The adjusted fees will automatically show according to your order total.
For your information, here are the fees.

$0.00 - $14.99: $5.00 (normally $6.49)
$15.00 - $29.99: $7.00 (
$8.49)
$30.00 - $59.99: $8.50
($10.49)
$60.00 - $99.99: $10.00 (
$12.99)
$100.00 - $199.99: $14.00 (
$16.99)
$200.00 - Up: $28.00 (
$39.99)

Inventory of new items will be added soon has been added.

10/7/08

Melamine Contamination

To the best of our knowledge, no food sold at Ichiban Kan (both retail locations and online) has been found to contain melamine.
However, Koala Cookies (aka Koala's March) manufactured in Japan were cleared from the shelves as a precaution after Chinese authorities detected melamine in Koala's March made in China.

Our staff in charge of food will continue to keep tabs on this issue and ensure that we do not carry any contaminated food items.

Here's the most recent FDA announcement on melamine contamination.

South China Morning Post has compiled a helpful chronological list in pdf format.

10/6/08

So sorry that we are still closed...

We've been making phone calls and doing everything we can.
Sorry the store is not open yet. We are also very anxious about re-opening and tired from waiting.

A PayPal rep at least confirmed that they got our faxed documents... The rep said it could take them anywhere between 24 to 48 hours.
It took them only a few hours when we had to do the same thing about 6 months ago, though.

Well, we took photos of new products today and getting ready to release them on Wednesday or Thursday.

We will keep an eye on our account status all day again tomorrow.

10/3/08

Sadly, not until Monday...

All right, many of you must have been wondering what was going on.
To be honest with you, our credit card processing company has been keeping us offline.
We are switching processing services, and they did not handle the change well.

We finally got them straighten things up on their side and faxed a change of service document to PayPal, another party of the credit card transaction this afternoon. The PayPal service department did not reach the document to update our account information by 6pm today. Thus, everything is postponed to Monday.

We've been peeved about the initial error that caused this big delay and really disappointed at having to remain offline this weekend.

Hopefully, PayPal people get to our form early on Monday. Fingers are crossed...

Exciting Updates

We are hoping to open the site by the end of today. Thank you very much for your patience!


While you are waiting, we have good news for you!

1) New Pockys and chocolate-coated snacks have been added. (well, being added now)

Regular Pocky and Men's Pocky are also re-stocked.
If your area gets still hot during the day and your UPS driver leaves packages on the front porch, please be advised that chocolate may melt.

2) Awesome new stuff from Japan has arrived at our warehouse! They will become available online as early as Wednesday late afternoon.

Highly popular "Pink" series and Fun Molds (all five types) will be back along with new food picks, reusable mayo containers and sauce bottles.

3) $9.99 USB Engine Hub Sale!
No, we are not kidding about the price!
This fun UBS Hub is a great gift item. Don't wait. It will be gone quickly.

9/30/08

Show off your skills!

Though many of you might be interested in this contest:

Ajinomono Lunch Box Photo Contest

Show off your bento-making skills, using Ichiban Kan items!

* we have no affiliation with Ajinomoto or Zojirushi.

9/27/08

Potluck Idea

Spam Musubi Mold is not limited to making spam & rice sandwiches. We actually tried making spam and vegetarian versions.

Pink one is spam & cucumber and yellow one is a squared egg omelette & cucumber in the photo. Looks delicious, doesn't it?
It was quite easy to make this colorful sushi-like rice dish.

Our ingredients were steamed rice (plain, non-flavored), seaweed sheets for sushi, spam, cucumber and egg.

The following points are probably no-brainer for our readers who are bento-making & cooking experts, but here are our suggestions:

  • Keep the mold a bit wet. Rice sticks too much to the mold, otherwise.

  • Do not fill up the spam mold. If you fill it up, the result is too much rice or fillings.

  • Prepare a sheet of seaweed sized to the mold on a separate plate. After pressing down the mold cover and keeping everything together, move the entire mold swiftly on a sheet of seaweed. Then remove the mold and wrap the rice sandwich with seaweed. Seaweed does not get too moistened this way.

Making rolled sushi with a bamboo mat can be messy, but using this square mold was easy. By the way, sushi roll mold will be restocked sometime soon.

For vegetarian options, you can use a variety of fillings, such as cream cheese, avocado, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, daikon radish, spinach, zucchini, etc.

These colorful rice sandwiches will be great for potluck and home parties!

9/26/08

Gatsby Hair Wax

Two notes about Gatsby Hair Wax products:

Gatsby Grunge Mat will be discontinued by Mandom.

Gatsby Spiky Edge, Wild Shake and Air Rise are back in stock.

Site Maintenance - resolved

Looks like our web service has been interrupted.

We were not notified of this, either. *sigh* We are not even allowed to log in the system.

Unfortunately, no information about the duration of this maintenance is available.

If you submitted an order and received a confirmation via email, please do not worry. Your order went through.

------------------------
UPDATE: everything appears to be working properly at 10:00am

9/20/08

Introducing Spam Musubi Mold!

Spam Musubi Mold Now Available!

Alternatives to Food Cups



If you are not a big fan of paper food cups, Extra-tight Food Containers R 4P and S 4P are sturdier alternatives. These plastic containers are small enough to fit inside bento boxes with covers.
These are microwave safe, but make sure to remove the covers.

Containers E 3P also fits in many of the bento boxes, but currently out of stock.

9/14/08

Look For Natural Lunch and Clickety Click on Monday


Natural Lunch and Clickety Click series will be replenished along with a few new accessories on Monday. :)

Other notable replenishments are Tabi Socks, Rice Ball Mold Tawara Shape, Musubi Mold 2P (Heart & Star), Seaweed Cutters, Eco Bags, and Lucky Cat Straps.

9/13/08

Full-time Position at San Mateo Store

We are looking for a full-time employee to join a friendly team at our San Mateo store.

This person will be progressively responsible for all aspects of store operations.
Must be comfortable with using Word and Excel.
Prior retail experiences plus.
Japanese skills plus.

* No visa support.

Email your resume to info[at]ichibankanusa.com

9/10/08

High Quality Glass Container is In Stock Again

GlassLock containers 400ml and 715ml are in stock again!

GlassLock is made of tempered glass with an airtight cover. These food storage containers are very sturdy and keep your food fresh longer than other containers do. Glasslocks are easy to take care of and safe to use.

Due to its tempered glass construction, it might be a bit too heavy to carry around as a bento box, but it surely protects your food in case you drop it and prevents sauce from leaking inside your lunch bag.

Biggie @ Lunch in a Box has written an excellent review on Glass Boxes and Microwaving.