If there’s one thing I don’t like about Japan, it’s that everywhere you go, there are constant reminders to do this, don’t do this, go here, go there, and so on. When you’re going up or down an escalator, a high pitched polite (usually female) voice tells you to watch your step, hold your kid’s hand, stay within the lines, don’t put pointy things like umbrellas between the steps, and whatever you do, don’t get your long hair caught somewhere (!). On a bus, not only does that high-pitched female voice (probably not the same voice, but they sound alike) tell you what the next stop and the next next stop are, but the bus driver usually repeats that information right after it’s been announced. The female voice also tells you to not stand up until the bus comes to a full halt, don’t smoke at the bus stop, give up your seat to the elderly…blah, blah blah, every 3 minutes. And as for the trains… it’s enough to drive one batty. You just have to tune it out, if you can. I’m sort of trained to listen to and obey public transportation announcements (since they actually mean something in Switzerland) so I’m having a hard time.
Which somehow brings us to today’s Cool (or in this case, wacky) item: Mammoth meat snack!
This is a snack made by Tohato called マンモスの肉！？ (Mammoth Meat!?) - the !? are part of the name. (The subtitle is “A Prehistoric Period Experience Snack”.) It’s available at any konbini. As you can see, the front of the packet shows a cartoon piece of meat, as seen in caveman anime and manga. (Some one even recreated this cartoon meat in um, meat form .)
The snacks themselves are small round (a bit less than 2 inches / 5m in diameter) wheat based crunchy crackers with artificial coloring, flavors and something called “pork paste”. They are meant to look like slices cut from that round of mammoth meat. They rather resemble flattened, dessicated coils of sausage. They do not taste that spectacular, though they are not totally disgusting either. There is a much more thorough review of the actual taste of this thing on the always entertaining Japanese Snack Reviews  blog.
But you know, with some food, taste is really just an afterthought. This thing is all about the joke. This little disclaimer on the corner of the packet really cracks me up:
It says, “(This is a) snack food that is inspired by mammoth meat, and does not include real mammoth meat.”
Umm yes, right, especially since mammoth have been extinct for a few million years!
Maybe it’s aimed at innocent kids who might think it’s real mammoth meat - but I prefer to think it’s tongue in cheek, almost a parody of all the warnings and stuff you get all around you in Japanese society.
Given the obvious World of Warcraft connotation and the sheer fun factor, I am quite surprised that this has not shown up on the J-List snack section  yet (Peter, are you listening?). Have you seen it at your local (not-in-Japan) Japanese grocery store? I mean, just imagine the WoW parties you could have with this.
Mammoth Meat?! comes in four flavors: Wood Smoked (bright pink bag), Onion (negi) Salt (light green bag), Siberian Salt (yellow bag), and Yakiniku Sauce (red bag). Frankly I could not taste much of a difference between them. Product page in Japanese .