Sunday, February 5, 2017

Nissin Morizumi Limited Edition Cup Noodle

I noticed this cup of noodle at the Narita airport Lawson on the way to the check-in counter for Air Canada.  I hadn't seen it anywhere else, so I lucked out.  That Lawson was pretty well stocked as I'm sure a lot of Japanese travellers hit it before going through security for various items.  I knew I was under the weight limit for my luggage as my hotel had a digital scale so I stocked up on some extra noodles.

I had not idea who/what Morizumi was, but I just assumed it was another ramen shop tie-in product.  Later, I finally found it on the Nissin Japan website and I had to look up the restaurant online to find out what was so special about Morizumi.  It turns out Morizumi is relatively famous as it is run by a Michelin starred chef, Mr. Morizumi himself.

Harimazaka Morizumi (Morizumi Kitchen)
2nd floor of Tokyo Dome City LaQua,
1-1-1 Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Closest to Suidobashi Station (about a 5 min walk)

He runs a nice little cafe that doesn't resemble your typical ramen shop as it isn't a narrow space with one long counter.  His cafe is bright and roomy with tables and a nice casually decorated atmosphere.  It welcomes female customers and families apparently.  Anyhow, he's collaborated with Nissin to produce a very nice cup noodle that I give a two thumbs up to.
Nissin Morizumi Cup Noodle
Without the condensed chicken essence packet on the lid.
Side view.  The rich green colour and layout of the graphics gives it a elegant appearance that matches the deluxe ramen image it is portraying.  Green is also the colour of the ramen shop's exterior.
Picture of the ramen restaurant along with ingredients and nutritional information.
Mr. Morizumi I presume with some views of his restaurant on the lid.
Once the lid is peeled back you can see the powdered soup base along with some large pieces of grilled chicken.  It was dehydrated grilled chicken as there were even grill marks on the side of the pieces.  The green onions and menma (pickled bamboo shoots) were underneath the noodle blocks.  You can already see that the type of noodles from the way are appear are different from the regular noodles used in cup noodle.
The rehydrated noodles with the chicken essence pack added in.  You can see the broth has a nice rich colour and that the noodles are straight noodles.  It took a longer 4 minutes to rehydrate the noodles rather than the regular 3 minutes for regular noodles.
This Morizumi instant ramen was definitely one of the better cup noodles I've had in awhile with its soy broth and nice firm straight noodles.  The broth is flavourful yet light without harsh saltiness.  The broth was full of umami with definite undertones of chicken.  I don't know about the bonito and scallaps being used in the soy soup, but it tasted great. According to the Nissin website  the soy sauce oil from the gold essence packet was based on apple chicken oil (Chi Yu) to provide further scent and depth to the soup.  I just wish there were some more bamboo shoots and chicken in the soup, but I'm real happy I have another one of these to eat a little later.
Chicken with noodles.  Yum!!!

More Ramen and Japanese Pop Culture Posts

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Cup Noodle Fun With Pokemon and One Piece

Pokemon Cup Noodles
Pokemon cup noodles have been around for a long time.  I first saw these back in 2009 on my first trip to Japan.  The Pokemon Centers there usually have these in stock and you can also check the various supermarkets.  They're like half-size cup noodles as they are really intended for kids, but they taste pretty good for all ages.  They usually come in a soy flavour and a seafood flavour too.

Smiling Pikachu
Very colorful lid with some pokemon and a preview of the noodles inside.
Ingredients and nutritional information.  There is about 4.8 grams of fat, so where as a full noodle cup is usually in the teens.  There is always a fair bit of salt too, but that isn't something I worry about too much.
The flavouring powder is loose in the cup and the other noodle ingredients are below the block of noodles.
Cat for scale.  These noodles usually come with a little Pokemon sticker too.
After adding the boiling water and waiting for 3 minutes you get tasty noodles with green onion and some pikachu naruto (dried fish cake).  The little pikachus are the a great touch to the noodles.

One Piece Cup Noodle
These One Piece noodles are a limited edition cup noodle and once they're sold, they're gone.  By the time you read this they're sold out.  Various noodle manufacturers have different types of tie-ins with various anime or games all the time, so if you don't see One Piece, you'll usually see something else.  For example, right now as of February 2016 there is a Final Fantasy Bosses Cup Noodle promotion going on where there are like a dozen different noodle cups with different boss monsters on them.  There is also a Girls Und Panzer Cup Noodle from Nissin which I cannot get as it is sold in Japan only, and I think you have to order it from Nissin by the dozen.

One Piece continues to be a very popular anime over there and this noodle ties in with the Gold movie.  While the noodle doesn't contain gum gum fruit, which you can actually buy in the Shonen Jump stores, the noodles are a soy BBQ meat flavour.
The cup and lid are very attractive with a colourful graphic of the main characters.  This is a regular size cup noodle.
Nice looking lid.
Nutritional and ingredients information.  The little graphic show a ramen cart.
Closeup of the characters.
So here is a closeup of the noodles.  It contains little slices of BBQ meat with some meat cubes, green onion, and egg.
After adding the boiling water, closing the lid, and waiting for the eternity of 3 minutes, the noodles are ready to eat.
You get plenty of toppings with the noodles and the broth was pretty good.  I don't think anything really stood out, but it is pretty good for a tie-in.  Unlike the Pokemon noodles which have some character branding in the food elements, the only branding is on the cup.

That's pretty much it for the two character branded cup noodles for now.  There are plenty of other noodle reviews below.

More Noodle Reviews and Pop Culture.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Anime With Shrine Maidens

Shinto Shrines appear in anime fairly often.  If an anime runs long enough you are going to get a visit to a shrine for new years, or after school, or just a place to walk through, or maybe a scene will be even set in one.  They are part of the Japanese landscape and play an important religious role.  When I was visiting Kyoto in 2016 my hotel was near Yasaka Shrine and I wandered through it early in the morning and in the late evening when I was back from touring around.  In the morning, people on the way to work or kids going to school would cut through the grounds, sometimes stopping to offer a prayer or make a wish.  In the evening it was quite dark, even with the lighting on, and the place took on an air of mystery.  There were fewer worshippers and tourists, but you never really felt unsafe, and there was a security guard patrolling the grounds.   
Front Gate, Yasaka Shrine
When a Shinto shrine with shrine related characters is in an anime, the focus is usually on the shrine maiden (miko), rather than the priest of the shrine.  It is usually an opportunity to show a cute female character in the traditional white and red miko garments.  I have to say I kind of find this phenomenon fascinating myself and one of  my favourite characters out of Love Live is Nozomi who is a part time miko at Kanda Myojin Shrine in Akihabara.  Miko help out with shrine operations by cleaning, performing ceremonial dances, and selling fortunes (omikuji) or charms.  This isn't usually a full time job and it is for younger women and teens.  I also like foxes which really helps out when watching anime about Inari shrines which have fox guardians.
You can see how green it is around Yasaka Shrine
Shinto is an interesting religion with deep connections to nature, nature dieties, and especially the Inari shrines relating to good crops.  The religion has also taken quite a beating in Japan during the Meiji era as the central government set out to control Shinto as a way of controlling the deification of the Emperor.  They eliminated thousands of small family run shrines via consolidation and even set up their own administration.  After WWII these restrictions were dropped.  Shinto shrines do not receive government support and are supported by visitors and worshipers, so buy a charm or make an offering.  I've even read some interesting stuff about how some shrines even use an anime affiliation to attract visitors - like Kanda Myojin for Love Live! and Washinomiya for Lucky Star.
Torii Gates
Below is a brief listing of anime which have shrine maidens or have a shrine as a significant setting.  It is by no means comprehensive as there have to be dozens of shows. 
  • Aria
  • Stein's Gate
  • Lucky Star
  • Love Live
  • Sailor Moon
  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • Tayutama
  • Shrine of the Morning Mist
  • Kannazuki No Miko
  • Kannagi
  • Inu Yasha
  • Gingitsune
  • Lucky Star
  • Kamichu
  • Inari Kon Kon 
Out of these anime, there are three which I really like as they really feature shrines, and I'll cover them below.

Fushimi Inari

I really like this anime about the relationship between a teenage daughter of the priest of a small Shinto Shrine and its resident fox guardian.  The fox is a little cranky, ancient, but rediscovers some of the joys of living when Makoto (the daughter) involves him with some of her adventures.  Makoto is the true successor of the shrine as she has the sight to see Gintarou the giant white fox spirit.
A young girl, Yurie, becomes a kami (kind of like a Japanese god) and learns to use her powers.  The whole show is pretty closely tied to Japanese mythology with kami and of course a local Shinto Shrine where one of her best friends is a shrine maiden and daughter of the priest.  Some of the explorations about the world of the gods and how they interact with us on our plane are pretty good.

Inari Kon Kon
This one is a recent favourite and a great deal of it happens at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.  After visiting the shrine, it is one of my top attractions in Japan as it is just pretty amazing with its thousands of torii gates.  The main character is a girl named Inari Fushimi and she gains the power of being able to transform into another human shape from the resident goddess, Uka, who also happens to like playing dating sims.  The granting of the transformation power eventually gets both Inari and and Uka into trouble and they need to venture into the realm of the gods again to resolve everything.

More anime related posts.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016 Was a Pretty Good Year For Anime Shows

Looking back on 2016, I have to say it was a pretty darn good year of anime viewing for me.  A number of very memorable shows were on, some of which will be classics in the years to come.
Most of these shows were on Crunchyroll, with a few on Netflix, but Netflix has some awesomely great shows in their catalog.
Love Live Sunshine Display in Akiba
When I thought about what I really liked, these shows really stood out for originality, art, and even their openings and endings.  Great stories and characters sure helped too.  My top three anime (as in what I like) from last year would have been:
  • Izetta: The Last Witch - great story and a witch that flies on an anti-tank rifle that is set in an alternate WWII historical environment.  Izetta and the duchess were great characters with some great scenes of magic versus tech.  Well imagined world and a nice portrayal of magic. 
  • ERASED - great story about a 29 year old guy name Satoru Fujinuma who has the ability to jump slightly back in time (rewind) to save a life.  He gets involved in events that take him back into his 10 year old self to save the life of a girl and fix something that has haunted him since.
  • Re:ZERO Starting Life in Another World. A shut-in named Subaru Natsuki finds himself transported to a fantasy world where he meets a silver haired, half-elf named Emilia.  Their fates are now linked and he finds out that there are some pretty dark forces at work in this world, but he has the ability to restart the day after dying.  Why and how he does this is a mystery, but the story is pretty good, and it is a lot like restarting from the last save point in a video game.
Out of these shows, only Re:ZERO is a longer running one.  When I was in Tokyo in November, it was pretty hard to find any merchandise for any of these shows.  I did notice that there was plenty of merchandise for shows like Gintama (super popular) or a few other long running shows that are still airing, but some shows like Bleach which are done, there was very little to buy.

Then I had a bunch of shows that were super good, really entertaining, and maybe even really close to the top three so they should have been up there.  In this set, there was some mecha love from Mobile Suit Gundam and Schwarzes Marken.  I got to see my home city of Edmonton get some Gundams fighting down on Jasper Avenue (main street).  Schwarzes Marken was pretty cool with the alternate Cold War and having mecha action set in East Germany with the Stasi (secret police) and politics of the time.  GATE just rocked with modern tech versus fantasy as the Japanese Self-Defence Forces fight medieval invaders.  Food Wars! has got to be my favourite food anime, with the tasty food related plots and cooking.  Konosuba was a pretty hilarious take on an otaku trapped in a fantasy game world and who doesn't only practice Explosion magic!  March comes in like a lion was a great character show based on the backdrop of the Japanese chess game Shogi.  Yuri!!! On ICE was a pretty good story with fantastic skating animation.  Inari Kon Kon was an anime I wish I had seen prior to visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine as it makes it a pretty magical place with the red torii gates even more magical.  I always like the stories about kami and shrines.  Finally, Love Live Sunshine was a nice successor to Love Live, but my first love will always be Love Live!
  • Mobile Suit GUNDAM Iron Blooded Orphans
  • Schwarzes Marken
  • GATE
  • Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma
  • KONOSUBA -God's blessing on this wonderful world!
  • March comes in like a lion
  • Yuri!!! On ICE
  • Inari Kon Kon
  • Love Live Sunshine
A bunch of the other stuff I managed to watch and thought was pretty good included:
  • Drifters
  • Brave Witches
  • High School Fleet
  • ReLIFE
  • Flying Witch
  • Alderamin on the Sky
  • Adventures of Sindbad
  • KuroMukuro
  • Heavy Object
  • Yuki Yuna is a Hero
  • Qualidea Code
  • Amanchu!
  • Garakowa -Restore the World-
  • The Ancient Magus' Bride
  • The Lost Village 
  • Myriad Colors Phantom World
  • BAKUON!! 
  • Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon
  • Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Then there was the stuff that I think I'm only going to watch a few episodes:
  • Kaiju Girls
  • ClassicaLoid Beethoven, Mozart
  • Cheating Craft
And finally some stuff I need to watch or have on my to do list.
  • Twin Star Exorcists
  • Blue Exorcist
  • Durarara
  • Lostorage incited WIXOSS 

It is always interesting to look back and see what you watched over the year, even if it was for only one episode.  I probably missed a few too, but this is already a pretty long list.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I Finally Visit Yamashiroya, A Great Tokyo Toy Store

I blogged about Yamashiroya years ago, but I never managed to visit it until this trip.  One night, we were nearby at Asakusa and decided to drop in as we had a mission.  We were actually looking for the Cardcaptor Sakura Wand (looks like it has a beak) that she uses in the first half of the anime to capture the Clow Cards, and now I've heard that they are releasing the Sakura Star Wand (with the star in a circle at the tip) in the spring of 2017.  These are big, life-size wands and while we saw a display model earlier in the trip at Kiddyland in Harajuku, they were sold out like most of the places we checked. 

Yamashiroya has 5 floors of toys, not counting the basement, but it is a cramped and narrow building that isn't very deep.  I really liked it as it reminded me a bit of the old Radio Kaikan building in Akihabara with its cramped little hallways and shops.  It is not as decorated or spacious as Kiddyland, but it has a gritty old school toy store charm that I really liked and they have an amazing number of toys packed in there.  It was quite warm inside despite it being quite cool outside too, just like the Radio Kaikan building.

To get to the store, go straight out the south exit at Ueno Station, and cross the street.  It is on the east side of the rail tracks and pretty much right in front of you.
 The big Yamashiroya Sign out front.
Looking across the street from Ueno Station.  Yamashiroya is on the right.
This cool musical dance cat toys.
And yes, we found the Cardcaptor Wand!!!
Some Cardcaptor Figmas.
Batman and predator masks display.
Hogwarts model.
Monster Hunter
Dragon Quest slimes
Pretty Cure wands
Yes. It is staircase.  A panda's worst enemy.
Robot cat and dog toys.
Around the corner was this cool looking vending machine with a Marvel Wrap.
 If I'm in the area again to visit the Ameyoko Market or going to Ueno Park or the museums, I'll make some time to swing by the shop for sure.