Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Banana Vending Machine and Nissin Instant Ramen Diners At Shibuya Station

One morning, during my trip to Japan I went looking for that fabled banana vending machine from Dole.   At the same time I wanted to see if this wonderful 3D cat billboard with fur was still up at the station.  Well, the cat poster for the Kuroneko Yamato (Black Cat Yamato) shipping service was gone if the station attendant was correct, and I didn't see it, so I continued on my quest for the banana vending machine.  Well, I checked the main station, then referred to a single sentence from a blog post that I had copied down.  Well, the location was near a Book-off near exit 3.  I checked some maps of the station and figured it must be in the Tokyo Metro part of the station as it wasn't in the JR East portion which doesn't use numbers for the exits.  So I explored out in the metro part of the station and it turns out that you can go a pretty long way - all the way to Shibuya 109 underground.  No need to go above and brave the crowds at Shibuya Crossing.  I wandered around but didn't see it then realized it might be on another level as I looked at the Exit 3 on B1 and then I went down to B2 and there it was, the mythical vending machine!
I was all over the station looking for the cat poster first.

Some parts of the Tokyo Metro Shibuya Station were really nicely decorated.
B1 Level for Exit 3.  Looks very scifi-ish, but no vending machine.  I almost gave up here.
Then I took some other stairs down to the B2 level and there it was!  Dole!
Here is the Dole banana vending machine.  So cool to see it for real.
You can buy a banana for 130 yen (little over a dollar), bunches of bananas, banana chips, and dried mangos.  Mission successful.
During my searches I discovered that Nissin had two pop-up diners serving their instant ramen / udon on the Yamanote line platforms both on the direction North Platform and the direction South Platform.  I was there too early for one, and not hungry enough to try it the other time.  I've found that it is really hard to eat your way through Tokyo as there is too much to try and eat!!!  I don't know if these popup shops are still there, but they were there during the 2nd week of April and there were even short lineups for them.
Nissin Roah Seafood Soy Sauce Instant Ramen Popup Diner.  Get a bowl of ramen for 300 yen.
I like their deluxe Raoh line of instant noodles so I should have tried this new product.   I did another blog post about their classic Raoh instant noodle bowls here. I just wish their North American ramen products were this fancy.
It looked pretty nicely setup as a rail car for a quick cheap bite!
Meanwhile on the platform going the other direction for the Yamanote Line, they had their Udon shop set up.  This looks like a nice traditional shop instead of the rail car.  There is even a sign post out front and a ramen selection vending machine where you buy your ticket first as there are more choices to eat!
Ramen Bowl Vending Machine.  Pick your flavour and customize a bit.
Iive tried both the inari (fried sweet tofu) and tempura bowls and they are very tasty.  I was on the platform early so they weren't open yet.
This is a closeup of the Kitsune Udon Bowl.  I have a blog post about this and the tempura bowl here.

More Japan and Tokyo Pop Culture Posts here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Some Panoramic Views of Tokyo From My Trip

I made it back safe and sound and jet-lagged from Tokyo.  I just caught the tail end of the main cherry blossom season there and it was definitely not spectacular at that point.  Some torrential rain the night before I arrive pretty much washed all the petals off of the trees.  While I was there it rained 4 days out of 7 and all day for 2 of those rainy days.  I was damp and changed my schedule a lot, but I still saw plenty of good stuff.  Still had fun, but that rain puts a bit of a damper on mornings as stores and malls don't open until 10 or 11 and the parks and temples are pretty wet places to go.

Still, I have some interesting 180 degree panoramic photos from around Tokyo to share.   Some are iconic places you'll recognize and a few are not so well known.

Tokyo Skytree from the south side to the east of the tower.  Kind of cloudy this day, but you can see they've tried to spruce up the area around the canal a bit. Very residential here.
Tokyo Skytree from the Asakusa Tourist Center.  You can get help in English here and it is right across the from Gate to Sensoji Temple and the shopping street.  This is shot from the 8th floor deck where you can see the temple grounds and have a coffee on a nice day.
A rainy Shibuya morning at Shibuya Crossing.  The big screen over at Q Front doesn't come on until 10 or so.  I was heading to the Gontran Cherrier bakery by the Hikarie Center and had a coffee and some great pastries there.
Kanda Myojin Temple made famous overseas to anime fans by Love Live!  They have piles of ema here with anime illustrations and the Love Live! characters are kind of like mascots to the shrine as one of the characters was a shrine maiden here.  To the right of the picture are the stairs they ran up and down when they were training to be idols.
The famous view of Akihabara from the Electric Town exit of Akihabara Station.  Gamers, the Radio Kaikan Building, and Volks can all be seen here down the street in the middle.
The seemingly endless tunnels between Yurakucho Station and Ginza Station.  You may as well walk above ground.  The stations are pretty far apart even if it shows as connected on the subway maps.  It is a cool walk and you'll think you're a mole person.
A little park that still had cherry blossoms falling (so yes, I did have cherry blossoms fall on me) that I passed through on the way to Tsukiji as I didn't check the maps more carefully and had to take a bit of a walk as I was on the wrong line.  Tsukiji Station is not near the old market, but you can get there with a 15 minute walk through some residential neighborhoods.
The rooftop patio and Inari shrine on top of the Matsuya Ginza store.  I had a nice break here to have a drink and eat some pastries, even though it was raining.  There are sheltered seats.
The famous Shinjuku Eye or Eye of Sauron at the NE tunnel just outside Shinjuku Station on the way to Tokyo Metropolitan City Hall.  All underground and at the basement level of the buildings around here.
Inside the Gundam Front Gunpla model exhibit area at Divercity.  A modelers dream.  This part is free to visit along with the gift shops.
View of Tokyo Station from the rooftop of the KITTE Building.  You can watch trains come and go from the station here and the park is nice too.  There are even places to sit!
The Shiodome walkways and the buildings of the area.  All of this is at least two stories above ground level.  The Shiodome is an amazing urban development.
More Tokyo Pop Culture Posts

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Some Snacks To Try In Tokyo and My Pinterest Board

 Hi Folks!

I started up a Pinterest board about Japan last week just to try out the service and I kind of like it so far.  If you're looking for a broad selection of pretty pictures and interesting articles across many many interests, then check it out and give me a few likes!  I'm at over 600 items now on the board, with plenty of cool stuff on it.

So many folks interested in Japan on Pinterest, and the interest in the country has been there since that 19th century.

I'm heading to Tokyo for a week pretty soon.  There are also so many places to see just in the city and I originally wanted to do some half-day trips, but no time!  I think I'm just going to see the last vestiges of cherry blossom season as they keep blooming early too.  The first bloom opened on March 25, 2015 and it seems it is always on the early side for the last few years.  I've also noticed that beginning of April seems to be the change over point for museums and the Japanese school year.  So if you're looking for special exhibits, last part of March and until the 3rd week of April seems to be a no fly zone in general.
In Ginza

Here are some of the things, mundane as they maybe, that I'm looking forward to trying out for snacks and such. 
  1. Giant Cup Noodle Chicken Karaage Edition
  2. Calbee KFC flavoured potato chips
  3. Some of the Starbucks Spring Drinks (missed sakura already)
  4. The new Carrot Kit Kat and the gourmet Kit Kats with fruit.
  5. I'm going to hit a bunch of restaurants and shops for tempura, beef bowl, sushi, tonkatsu, lots of ramen, taiyaki, anpan, check out the excellent bakeries, and more. 
  6. Of course there is also all of the anime stores, cafes, and exhibits.
  7. I'm also going to poke around in all the neighbourhoods looking for cool stuff happening for the sakura season. I'll take a look at the Meguro Canal but suspect I've missed the show, but I noticed that the Coredo in Nihonbashi has some special Sakura light up (I'll definitely look at that when I'm checking out Tokyo Station). Nihonbashi Sakura Street
For a rough itinerary, check out my other post here, and everyone stay safe!