Sunday, July 21, 2013

Yamashiroya, A Big Ueno Toy Store To Visit

I have another toy store to add to anyones bucket list of places to shop at in Tokyo today.  Yamashiroya is another big toy store like Kiddyland that is well worth a visit.  Hunt for the name and you'll find videos on Youtube if you want a more detailed look.  This store would be a good place to visit if you were seeing Ueno Park, the Ameyoko shopping district, or any of the wonderful museums in the area such as the National Museum.  I blogged about a visit to the area here on my last trip to Tokyo.  Also of note is the Just below is the front of the store from Google Streetview.

View Larger Map
Yamashiroya is near the main Ueno Station south exit.  You come out, head east under the train tracks and it is just there on the other side.  There may be toy displays outside, but look for the sign too.
It occupies the most of a small building with six floors of toys, figures, model kits, character goods, stuffies, and games. The store is packed with glass cabinets displaying an amazing assortment of toys and you can find something for any anime or Japanese toy brand in the store. This makes the store crowded, but a wonderful place to browse and shop. You'll be able to spend money here without thinking too hard.

View Larger Map

Tel: 03-3831-2320
東京都台東区上野 Address:6丁目14−6 ‎Tokyo, Taito, Ueno +81 3-3831-2320 〒110-0005
Closest subway station: Ueno (on the JR Yamanote line)
Store hours: 10:00 AM - 9:30 PM

My blog post about my 2016 visit to Yamashiroya

Amazon e-book available.
Follow me on Twitter a @Tostzilla or my feedburner for this blog.

Other Tokyo Anime / Otaku Highlights Worth Visiting


Hobbylink Japan (HLJ) Carrying Cup Noodle Instant Ramen Now

Just this morning I was browsing the old Internet (I should have been working on my SF writing, but I'm working on that next right after this post).  Anyhow, Hobbylink is now selling non-perishable food in the form of certain snacks and instant ramen.  This caught my attention as finding Nissin products in Calgary or Edmonton is pretty hard and not very reliable.  The prices were reasonable and the shipping via SAL (surface, air, land - the cheapest form) isn't too bad even if it takes longer.

I've bought many an item from HLJ over the years and they have been very reliable for charging and reasonable shipping.  They seem are good at packaging and shipping estimates, something that many other vendors are not good at (they estimate only at the point they pack your order rather than in advance).

UPDATE: May, 2014
HLJ doesn't carry noodles any more.  I'll post a followup about where to buy instant ramen on the web under my Pop Culture Page when I have a chance. 
UPDATE: Feb, 2016
HLJ seems to be back in the noodle business again. So check them out.

After I browsed what they had available I put in an order for instant ramen and a few other items.  They had the deluxe Raoh, Kalbi, Sio, and some more limited Italian Curry Ramen too.  You'll see updated posts with some more instant ramen reviews in the future!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nifty Japanese Cat and Train Coin Banks

These coin banks are pretty nifty and require batteries of course.  I have some photos of the kitty cat coin bank and of the Yamanote Line coin bank.  These can be found in Japan at the toys section of Yodobashi Camera or possibly Tokyo Hands.  Some online stores may have them too.

The Itazura Cat Coin Bank -- Orange Tabby Cat
This is a cute coin bank. A poor kitty lives inside a replica of a carboard box and when you put a coin on the fish skeleton plate, the cat reveals itself and sticks a paw out to collect your money.  Of course it buys sushi with its share of your savings.  It also makes a meowing sound.  This bank is for cat lovers and it comes in different colours of cat.
Cat Coin Bank 1
Cat Coin Bank - peeking!
Cat Coin Bank - Your money is mine!
Yamanote Line Train Car Coin Bank
On my last trip to Tokyo, I was looking for this coin bank and found it at the Yodobashi Camera in Akiba.  There were multiple train lines available.  This coin bank doesn't have the glitz and glamour of the cat bank but it tells the time! But not only that, it flashes the lights when you put a coin in.  Unfortunately Canadian Loonies and Toonies do not fit down the slot, but our quarters do.  The bank will play through three different train station tunes and generally looks pretty cool on your desk.  It was a nice souvenir.  There is also a manual button to trigger the music and light show.

If you've spent any time on the trains in Japan you'll notice that many stations have a unique musical tune that plays on the train as you approach.  I'm not quite sure how this tradition originated, but I'm sure that more than one dozy rider was awakened by the unique sound of their station coming up and was warned to get off.
Yamanote Line Coin Bank.
The lights were flashing here, but you really can't tell unless you look really hard.
Back of the box with the station tunes listed.

Visit my Evangelion canned bread article where the can becomes a coin bank afterwards!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Free Calgary Stampede Breakfasts

If you Google "Free Calgary Stampede Breakfasts" you'll find a fair number of guides to this free food phenomenon that takes place in Calgary during the ten days of the Stampede Rodeo.  It is part of the western hospitality tradition up here in Alberta and both locals and visitors partake.  I managed to make it to one myself this last trip down there and had a blast.
Breakfast country music.  They were pretty good.
Nice big crowd.
I used to go and catch one a day every day during Stampede Week when I worked downtown.  There were good ones and bad ones, but some were pretty deluxe with coffee, juice, pancakes (aka flapjacks or hotcakes), bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, and of course syrup for the pancakes.  Businesses put them on, community associations, churches, the Stampede Board, and even the Provincial Government.  You might have to wait in a long line, but there is often music and other entertainment to go along with the Yahoo! spirit of things!  A visit to Calgary to the Stampede isn't complete without one.

Pancakes coming right up!

Pancakes, sausage, and Starbucks coffee courtesy of the local neighbourhood shop!
Edmonton has K-Days, which used to be Klondike Days, a smaller celebration than Stampede, but it has the same type of festive feel.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Calgary Stampede 2013 and Post Flood Pics

The Calgary Stampede is pretty much an annual visit for me and my family.  If I can visit, I do so.  I actually lived for a few years when I was a kid just across the street from the old front gate where the LRT platform on 17th Avenue is now.  Way back then I'd watch the nightly fireworks by just stepping outside onto the front sidewalk of the family restaurant that my parents operated.  I've always liked Stampede and I have to say that this is one event that most of the city gets behind to support in some form.  All the businesses and malls put up western themed decorations, there are free Stampede breakfasts, and dress codes become casual.  Everyone dresses up in cowboy attire or at least a pair of jeans and if they have a cowboy hat, then they are wearing it.  There are people who hate the crowds and don't like the event, but I'm not one of them.
Front Gate Area with Bronco Rider
Stampede Midway
The Stampede started out as a rodeo over 100 years ago (101 years this year) and grew to be an agricultural and livestock show along with a carnival that visits once a year.  There are carnies with prizes to win from, midway rides for the brave or those with stomachs of iron, and there is country music and dancing and drinking and partying and all that.  You can pick what you want to see and do.  I like to try a few fairground foods every year like mini-donuts, potato chips on a stick, and CORN DOGS!  Lots of high calorie food to try.  This year I visited on the slightly stormy Saturday on the opening weekend.

Carney Game Prizes
Ring Toss Game - where do they get glass bottles?
Corn Dogs!
Mini Donuts!
Chips on a stick!
There is also an art galley with tons of western and contemporary art.  Wine bar too!
This year Calgary had the worst flooding in modern memory.  The flooding was so bad that pretty much most of the Stampede grounds and a massive chunk of downtown Calgary was flooded.  Just two weeks later, an army of volunteers and heavy equipment from contractors cleaned up the grounds so the Stampede could be held.  The fair attracts about 1,000,000 people a year and it would be a blow to the local economy if it couldn't be held.  There are also a fair number of international visitors who come for the Stampede and a visit to the Canadian Rockies / Banff / Lake Louise which are only an hour and a half outside the city.

I was also curious as to how some of the areas looked like post-flood near the Stampede and did just a little walking around to see what state things were in.
This street Macleod Trail up to the hill was under a foot or two of water.
Macleod Trail looking north towards City Hall was again under water.
People are still tearing up their flood damaged basements and main floors.
You can see several inches of mud from the river in this alley.  There were pump trucks operating even when I was taking the photos on the opening weekend of Stampede.
Restaurant that was water damaged.
The cleanup job was pretty amazing with plenty of muck removed.  Plenty to do still.  There were also places on the ground that were spray painted to indicate they were slumping and I hear there were sink holes appearing in some places.

Other Calgary Posts

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Help! Early Readers Needed For My Neo-Ace Academy Scifi at Wattpad

Hi!  If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you have my thanks for following.  If you're new to this blog, welcome!  My blogging has slowed down as I've been busy writing my Exocrisis Blue science fiction.  Right now I'm working on the core story to the series titled "Neo-Ace Academy," and I'm looking for science fiction fans to read it over at Wattpad for free.   I'd like to get your impressions about how the story is and what you like about it.  If you aren't interested, and you have a friend that might be, please forward this to them.  I've also received some good reviews over at Amazon so my work is alright.

Update: July 8,3013 - Still looking for early readers. I've have about 15 or 16 people have a look.  Please consider popping by Wattpad which doesn't cost you anything and leaving a comment!

Saltwater taffy is yummy, and so are my Exocrisis stories.
I'm just over halfway through writing the short novel and I'm at 23,000 words so far.  I definitely enjoy writing this, but it is taking awhile to do.  I'm trying to post one chapter a week over at Wattpad and there are 8 chapters up right now.  If you like it, please consider being a follower over there or leaving some comments please.

So, what is "Neo-Ace Academy" about?
Mayumi and Jake are cadets at the Neo-Ace Academy where they are part of a new generation of combat pilots on robotic units called HARMs. They are being trained to be the best pilots ever on the newest machines. HARM robots and their advanced weaponry saved humanity in the Alien War against the Blue Newts. It has been 17 years since the end of that brutal war that changed the geopolitical face of the world. The invading Newts are here to stay in the territories they won. New alliances have sprung up and the world is now at an uneasy peace. These cadets will become involved in a crisis that will engulf the world. (it's free)

The story is set in a mecha academy, but my writing is hard SF oriented with anime mecha influences.  I'm trying to blend the best of everything together and write a realistic mecha SF story where the characters are the focus.  I hope to appeal to all science fiction and anime fans. If you're an Evangelion, Gundam, Stellvia, Ender's Game, or Starship Troopers type fan, you should like it.

Anyhow, thanks for listening to me and have a great day.  If you're here looking at Tokyo travel tips, have a great time as it is a wonderful city to visit.