Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays in Tokyo

Christmas is almost upon us.  I've been blogging about anime, Tokyo, and a few other things since November of 2011.  I think I had 96 page views in my first month and now I average around 25,000 a month give or take a few thousand.  It has been an interesting three years and I still plan on keeping this blog going for a few more years at least.  I've never really been able to get a handle on my regular followers for this blog as there are very few comments, but if you're a regular follower of this blog, then a special Merry Christmas to you!

Anyhow, Christmas in Japan is pretty interesting as it is obviously an imported tradition for most of the Shinto / Buddhist population there.  While much of Christmas is a commercial enterprise there and even back here at home, it is nice that is is pretty much celebrated around the world.  It is an especially spiritual time for people who celebrate the birth of Christ, and we should all remember the message of peace on earth and goodwill to all people at this time of year.  I've had a pretty tumultuous year this year and have found support from family, friends, and even co-workers, so we all have to count our blessings and believe that most people are fundamentally good in some way.

Now, back to Christmas in Japan.
I've never been to Japan at Christmas, and I wouldn't really want to go unless I had my family with me, but there are some awesome displays of Christmas lights and decorations their to help set the festive mood.  There are also some great Christmas traditions there too.
Christmas Light Shows
Tokyo Midtown and Roppongi have some really nice decorations up at this time of year and often have fantastic displays of lights.  However, there are also many other streets and site that are all lit up at night.  It is something that you want to go and see!
Christmas Traditions
There usually isn't any real snow on the ground at Christmas in Tokyo, but here are some snowy shots from around Edmonton.  Happy holidays everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Culture of Ramen: Instant Ramen to Ramen Shops

Instant noodles or instant ramen.  This is a food item that is comfort food to untold millions of Asians. Nissin even invented Space Ramen for its Japanese astronauts.  Ramen soup is an ancient dish that traces its roots back to China, but it was handily adopted and localized into Japanese cuisine post WWII.  It is a cheap filling food that could be customized with your available ingredients, something the Japanese did very nicely.  Then, Momofuku Ando, invented instant ramen in 1958 as a food that could be stored at room temperature and prepared quickly.  This instant chicken ramen he invented had a rocky start but won over the masses and was soon copied by many other manufacturers.
Instant ramen has now been a staple in many Asian nations like China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea for decades now.  I grew up on the stuff myself too in Canada, and the Hong Kong style of ramen has you add in some choy, often a spam-like slice of meat, and a pan-fried egg.  Doll Brand Ramen is popular in Hong Kong.  In 1970, Nissin introduced instant ramen into the United States, and it took off from there.  In North America it is often thought of as starving student food, but there is a cult status around it as there are thousands of individual recipes to make it better.  Just Google instant ramen recipes - there are plenty involving weiners and many other exotic ingredients :)
A selection of Nissin Instant Ramen.  The original Japanese Chicken Ramen in the top left, Japanese Shoyu Ramen in the top right, Hong Kong Nissin Tonkotsu Flavour botton left, and Hong Kong Nissin Shoyu bottom right.
Ramen can also be found frozen in asian supermarkets with fresh noodles, not deep fried.
Instant ramen localized for Eeast Indian tastes.
Mama noodles from Thailand.  Quite tasty and very good when doing hot pot as they cook quickly in the broth.
Ramen shops have now sprung up in many cities in the USA and Canada, making ramen a restaurant specialty food.  In Japan, there have been ramen shops for a long time and I know that I wanted to taste authentic Tonkotsu (pork bone) and Shoyu ramen the first time I landed in Tokyo.  Even in my home town of Edmonton, there are couple of ramen shops (Nomiya) and even a popup ramen (Prairie Noodle Shop) restaurant that I hope becomes a permanent fixture.  Meanwhile, if you don't have a noodle shop handy, you can always make your own and eat them at home while watching the movie Tampopo or the Ramen Girl!
Shio Ramen from Nomiya
Simple home style ramen with green onion and spam.
There is also a great deal of real research on ramen and ramen history.  See below if you want to keep reading!

Taking Ramen Seriously: Food, Labor, and Everyday Life in Modern Japan

Japanese Food Culture from Web Japan

Hello Kitty and Ramen Culture in the 21st Century

Ramen Noodles and Spam: Popular Foods, Significant Tastes

Oodles of Instant Noodles

More Ramen Posts and more on my Japanese Pop Culture Page
More Tokyo Highlights

Attack on Titan Movies, Second Season Anime, and Popup Stores

Wow.  Attack on Titan has been blitzing Japan since early this year and well into the next year of 2015.  Just released into the theatres is the first Attack on Titan anime compilation movie.  Coming up for summer next year is the 2nd season of the Attack on Titan anime, streaming in North America via Crunchyroll when it is released.  There is also a live action Attack on Titan movie for summer 2015 with an all star Japanese cast, and Universal Studios Theme Park is has a limited time "Cool Japan" attraction that will feature full scale 15 metre high statuess of Eren and the female titan battling it out.  Lawson has ran special Attack on Titan promos, and Namco Amusement has Attack on Titan prizes at their arcades.
Attack on Titan Chocoball Candy.  I like how the Titan peeks out of the dispensing slot at top!
If that wasn't enough Attack on Titan for you, there is a pretty good Attack on Titan Exhibit that will be starting at the Ueno Royal Museum on November 28, 2014 and will run through January 25, 2015. Apparently there will be some type of Oculus Rift VR experience, a life-sized titan of some sort, plenty of artifacts and art on display.  Last year, the museum hosted the Evangelion Sword Exhibit - something that I would also have loved to have seen.   

In Akihabara, there is an Attack on Titan popup store in the a department store just outside the Electric Town exit of Akihabara Station.  This store has lots of Attack on Titan merchandise and it runs until the end of November 2014.  1-17-6 Soto Kanda , Chiyoda-ku Tokyo

There was also an Attack on Avengers english supplement that ran in Brutus a Japanese manga magazine where the titans attack Manhattan.  It is in color, in English, and can be found if you search the nets. Spidey and Iron Man take down the massive invaders.

That's a lot of Attack on Titan news, and maybe I'll catch Cool Japan if I get to Japan and Universal Studios there next year.

More Japanese Pop Culture Posts
More Tokyo Highlights Posts

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fall 2014 Japanese Candy / Snack Treats

I placed a couple of orders with Candysan awhile back in October and they both arrived last week.  I'm going to be snacking all the way until Christmas, not including any Halloween candy.  Getting treats from Japan is never cheap.  However, I've found that Candysan has reasonable prices like you would pay at a Japanese konbini / market (not double or triple), and then you using SAL Shipping to keep freight charges down.

Seasonally available items, cuisine, and snacks are the status quo in Japan, whose corporations have also mastered the art of the limited edition item.  Life revolves around the seasons in Japan, and the people embrace the changes with the all the accompanying cultural events from festivals to food.

Let the treat photos begin!
I have to love how full the boxes get packed full of yummy goodness.  There is a variety of treats here that are both limited edition and just regularly available.
Snacks from the first box.
Snacks from the second box.
Fall edition. These are chestnut flavoured chocolate covered bamboo shoot cookies.
Fall edition. Pumpkin chocolate mushroom biscuits.  I tried the strawberry ones before and boy were they good.  The Japanese always do a great job on the strawberry flavour.
Strawberry cream chocolate mushrooms caps with a chocolate biscuit stem.  Wish I had another box of these as they were really good.
Fall edition. Mochi balls with chestnut filling.  Nice delicate chestnut flavour and good if you like the chewy mochi type thing.
Mochi balls with chocolate filling.  You get two foil packs of four mochi in each box.
Fall edition. Almond slivered chocolate in a caramel on a chocolate base.  Looks great!
Fall edition. Sweet yam flavoured cream on the thick type of midi Pocky stick.  Had a delicate and very tasty flavour to it.
Fall edition. Sweet potato Calbee sticks.  Very much like eating sweet potato / yam fries.  Intense yam flavour.  Good stuff.
Fall edition.  Almond Kit Kats.  Boy are the individual Kit Kat sticks tiny, but they are very tasty with the ground up almonds. 
Fall edition.  Kumamon the bear chocolates with sweet potato and yam flavours.  Nice chocolate, but you have to like yam and sweet potato!
Strawberry Kit Kat, with some type of specialty strawberry flavour.  Japan gets quite a few different varieties of Strawberries and they are usually so sweet and with intense strawberry flavour (unlike the more industrially farmed berries from here which look like strawberries but are often bland).
Japanese Pumpkin Flavour Kit Kat for Halloween as you can tell.  The flavour of this was very mild, mostly white chocolate.  Somewhat disappointing, but that's what you get for trying something new sometimes.

Chocolate covered chips.  Looking forward to trying this later.
Mini green tea Oreos.  Can't wait to try these!
These looked intriguing.  I've never tried these katsu type snacks before.  We''ll see how good these thin snacks are!
Attack on Titan Choco Balls!
Lemon centre Choco Balls.
Corn Potage chip sticks.
Vegetable potato sticks from Calbee.
Pumpkin stew flavoured potato sticks.
Peko Milky x Hello Kitty vanilla and strawberry cream chocolates.
These are great tasting cheese crackers with an intense imperial cheese type flavour.  If you like strong cheese flavours, they are good.
Chocolate filled Taiyaki biscuits!  Very good with an airy filling.
Strawberry filled Taiyaki biscuits!
Chocolate covered mini marshmallows.
Pear and lemon gummies.
These are pretty darn good little melon pan cookies.  They have a green and cantaloupe flavour to them and are a good facsimile of melon pan!
Mount Fuji Peko salt/milk candies.  These are pretty good little candies that remind me an awful lot of Chinese white rabbit milk candies, which I happen to like too.
Ice cream cone candy treat.  Very sweet warning....
Strawberry gummies.

That kind of concludes my pics of treats by mail order.  Now onto some photos of treats from the local Asian supermarkets!  Been an interesting variety of stuff available recently.
Orange and Green Tea flavoured Pretz.  The orange tastes like creamsicle.
Roasted and dried mackeral jerky.  Very fishy and my cat loves it and to play with it.
This is a nice find.  Giant chocolate Dairy Milk with gummy and pop rocks mixed in.  Was good!
Vanilla filled Areo.  I llike what they have been doing with Aero limited editions.  Kind of reminds me of how Kit Kats are in Japan.
???  flavoured Pretz.
Takoyaki flavoured Pretz.
Ramen flavoured Pretz.  They were pretty good with a soyish savoury flavour.
Cheese flavoured Pretz.  Looking forward to this one!
This is a nice product from Nutella.  Little biscuit sticks you can dip in Nutella that come in a package that looks like half a jar.  Cool design.

Well, that's all for now.  Have a great day everyone!

More Posts, Including Snacks and Japanese Pop Culture.
Tokyo Travel Posts