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.


Monday, December 19, 2016

I Try Big Cup Noodle Mystery Meat Festival

Celebrating 45 years of instant noodles, Nissin rolled out a special cup noodle called Big Cup Noodle Mystery Meat Festival.  If you've have the regular Cup Noodle from Japan, you get these little cubes of dehydrated ground pork with every cup.  In the imagination, you're never quite sure what kind of meat it is, so mystery meat it is with every Internet rumour.
Mystery Meat 45 Anniversary Cup Noodle
Anyhow, they loaded up these large size big cup noodles with 10 times the number of cubes of meat to celebrate this anniversary, playing along with the popular culture myth of mystery meat.  When I went to Japan, I went looking for this as it was supposed to have been re-released in early November after selling out in September after the first release.
Very nice looking packaging with a big 45 on it.
It is quite festive looking from the side view with colorful little figures climbing on cubes of meat.

Back of the cup.
Lid
Once you peel the lid back you can tell it is full of the meat cubes.  That's a lot of meat!
I poured in hot water and waited the three minutes for the noodles to rehydrate.
The top of the noodles was just covered in meat cubes.  The was a great aroma of soy broth and the meat cubes in the air when I peeled the lid back.
One of the things I did was really mix up the noodles and meat as I wanted to make sure that everything was hydrated.
Finally I dug in and it was good.  Tastes like a more intense, meaty version of their regular cup noodle and I think there were more green onions added too.
I'm glad I managed to find this special cup noodle.  It was just fluke I was in Japan when they were out, but it was still a bit of a search.  I managed to find it most consistently at Lawson convenience stores, but only a few at time as I think it was still pretty popular.  Other convenience stores don't seem to stock these special noodles as much.  For 205 yen (around $2) it was a cheap souvenir.

More Noodle Reviews and Pop Culture.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Dragon Quest 30th Anniversary Lawson and Goods

Dragon Quest hit the big 30 this year.  While there wasn't a huge huge party or anything, they did release a bunch of Dragon Quest games this year.  North America gets Dragon Quest VII for the DS for the first time along with  Dragon Quest Builders.  We also will get Dragon Quest Heroes II and Dragon Quest VIII in 2017.  In Japan they released more games too, ones we'll have to wait awhile for in English.  There is a Dragon Quest Museum moving around Japan too this year.

I remember playing Dragon Warrior on the original black and white Gameboy, but only got back into it playing Dragon Quest VIII on the PS2.  I loved this game and it holds a special place in my heart along with Tales of Symphony on the Game Cube.  When I was in Japan in November, I ran across this Dragon Quest 30th Anniversary branded Lawson store.  It's got slimes everywhere and there was some Dragon Quest merchandise and branding inside too.  I wasn't into the special merchandise they had, but I have some other Dragon Quest related pictures below.  Enjoy!

Dragon Quest Lawson in Akihabara.  No idea how long it'll stay.
The inside of the store.  Mostly a regular Lawson, but you can see some of the special goods on the right.  Big King Slimes smiles upon you from the back wall.
Outside the store was a pretty cool looking vending machine with a Dragon Quest wrap.
In some of the other stores I visited I saw some other Dragon Quest stuff.  Almost all toy stores and such have a bit of Dragon Quest merchandise and the blue slime is pretty common.
The arcade card came for Dragon Quest.
Slime plushies.
More DQ merchandise.  I picked up a slime t-shirt.
There were big pushes for Final Fantasy XV when I was there too, but I found it pretty hard to say if any one game was more popular than the others for merchandise.  There is just so much stuff.  The only thing I'd say is that only the popular shows or very long running shows have more merchandise than the others.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Eating Well While Travelling In Japan - Part 6 - Tokyo Finale (kaiten sushi, takoyaki, and curry)


Taking the bullet train back to Tokyo was easy as we were familiar with the massive Kyoto Station from having visited it a few times.  Kyoto Station didn't have a great train bento store like the one at Tokyo Station, but there were several bento outlets with a pretty good selection.  When we were there at 8:15 AM, they were just stocking some of the ekiben.  It is pretty strange to see big boxes, with more ekiben boxes inside.  So your food came from a boxy truck, in a smaller box, and yet a smaller box.
Quiches from a small bakery at Kyoto Station on the Shinkansen side of the station.
Ekiben at Kyoto Station
More ekiben including the film crew bento.
The return bullet train.
This was a pancake pastry with maple syrup and a real pat of butter.  It tasted like a pancake.
My film crew bento.
Grilled mackerel, some karaage, veggies, and seaweed salad.  This was a bento that was supposed to be a favourite of Kyoto film crews when they were shooting.  It was plain, simple, and still pretty tasty. 
An apple  and pineapple vending machine at Oshiage Station
A miniature Lawson konbini kiosk.  So cool.  Want one in my train station at home.
Arriving back at Tokyo Station, we walked for three blocks on the east side of the station to Otemachi Station, where we walked for another couple of blocks underground to get to the Hanzomon Line platform.  Connection distances between train lines can be so misleading sometimes.  Anyhow, the train ran directly to Oshiage Station.  Taking the correct exit, we cam up right across the street from our hotel which I could see from the station exit at street level, so that was pretty convenient.

We stayed at the Richmond Hotel Oshiage, which is right across the street from the west end of the Tokyo Skytree Solomachi Mall and the nearest exit from Oshiage Station.  This is a very nice hotel, friendly staff, but you will need to get used to having the lobby on the fifth floor.  The lobby of the hotel even has a scale so you can tell how much your bag weighs.  Very convenient.  Separate from the hotel was a great supermarket on the main floor / basement of the building, so buying food type souvenirs was an easy task. It was a rainy day when we arrived back in Tokyo, but the weather improved.
Can barely see the top of the Skytree.
Over the next couple of days we traveled to see Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, Akihabara, and a little bit of Ueno.  The time flew by in a flash, and then it was the last morning where we would ascend the Tokyo Skytree on a nice clear morning and enjoy the last few hours we had shopping at the Solomachi Mall there which has some great Japanese craft stores on the 5th level.  There is always something you want to buy there in each of the three times I've visited.  Then it was an easy train ride out to the airport on the Narita Skyaccess Train which departs directly from Oshiage Station.  This was the absolutely cheapest way to get to Narita in less than an hour without paying for the deluxe express trains.  It is like 1200 yen for a ticket and you pay with your SUICA smart card (make sure you have the money).  The train stops a fair bit, but it is still quick.

Now for some more food related pictures.  Even on our last couple of days we ate plenty.
This is what is available in the really nice food court at the Solomachi Mall (mall at the Skytree).  You have a great variety.  They also serve you your food on real plates and bowls with real cutlery.  You return the dirty dishes to special area at the food kiosk you bought it from.
One of us had tasty takoyaki (octopus balls).  You might think eeew, but it is a favourite treat of the Japanese and I like it a lot too.
Deluxe curry with tonkatsu cutles, rice, and shredded cabbage.  Delish again.
I had Ichiran Ramen.  So happy they had an outlet here.  They were giving away extra large servings for the regular price that day, but there was no way I would have been able to finish it.  Tasty tonkotsu ramen.
The last full day in Tokyo was a much nicer day with no rain.  This morning we headed over to Akihabara to catch all of the anime sights and to do some shopping.  I went wandering around early in the morning when everyone was still getting up.  The area around the mall was quiet and the only real activity this early in the morning were commuter trains going past the mall which is tied to two different train stations.

Staying in the Skytree area give fairly convenient access to get around the NE or east side of central Tokyo.
  • It is one stop to Asakusa on the Skytree Line and then you take the Ginza Line to Ueno.
  • From Ueno you have access to the Yamamote Line that gives you wide access.
  • The Hanzomon Line gives you access to Akihabara with one transfer at Ningyocho Station to the Hibiya Line, and it also goes directly to the vicinity of Tokyo Station.
Morning at the Skytree.
On our very last morning, we would ascend the Skytree with clear skies at 8 AM when it opens.  There was still a crowd this morning as it was a weekend, but no real lineup to get in when we walked over from the hotel.
Breakfast riceballs one morning.  Funny thing is that there are several coffee shops, but they don't open until the mall opens. I'm not sure if the McDonalds there was open early as there is one at the mall.
Went to Akihabara.
Lots of people up early on the Saturday.  Taking the train to Akihabara had us pass through some other train station and the coffee shops were pretty busy - no seats.  So we continued to Akihabara.  This is where we went to a Vie de France bakery outlet just outside the train station for breakfast.  It is just across from Gundam Cafe and the AKB48 Cafe.  I've never actually visited on of these Vie de France's before, but they are pretty common in Tokyo.  Their baking is pretty good and we enjoyed our breakfast there.
Lots of yummy baking.
Our breakfast + coffee.
We were in Akiba pretty early, and the stores don't open until 10 AM for an early one, to 11 AM for most stores.  A early morning visit to a shrine is a great way to do something in the morning, so we went to see the Love Live Shrine first.
There was a really tasty looking grilled steak place with butter on the way to the shrine.
Gate at Kanda Myojin
Some of the anime Ema for wishes at the Love Live Shrine.
I blogged about the Love Live Shrine here.
By the time we headed back to Akihabara, stores were beginning to open.  We stopped at a second hand figure store and picked up some Love Live figures for 30% off.  These figures, like the ones shown below are originally UFO machine prices and are what I would call low quality figures that cost about 1000 to 1500 yen new in the box.  There is a booming trade in second hand merchandise in Akiba from videogames, books, and collectables.  I previously blogged about Akiba here.
Love Live Figures.  I got a Nozomi.
The classic Gamers Store right outside the Electric Town Exit from Akihabara Station.
The Akihabara Don Quijote store actually had a good assortment of different Kit Kats.  I picked up the Kit Kat Shijo Apple here and really found that the apple flavour wasn't very pronounced at all.
Lunch was just some simple meals of udon and tempura for me which we ate at the food floor of the UDX Building.
That night, we had our last dinner in Tokyo.  We went to the conveyor belt sushi restaurant at the Solomachi Mall (6th Floor) I think.  There is also a regular sushi restaurant here.  Anyhow, this restaurant was crazy busy with 30-40 minute wait.  But the fish was really good and it had a good atmosphere.  It is much easier to dine at this place if you are a single person or a couple.  Have to wait a little longer for 3 or 4 continuous seats unless you do a booth which might not be at the belt.
Salmon sushi
Eel roll, tuna, a whitefish.
Octopus karaage. Tasty.
Salmon rolls.
Fatty tuna.  So good.  Gold plate means pricey.  We had to order this.
Our damage at the end of the meal.  They just use an RFID reader to scan the plates and give you a bill at the end.  All the plates are color coded by price point.
Our last meal in Japan was rice and curry with pork cutlet at the airport for lunch the next day. It was pretty good.  I also managed to hit the McDonalds and try their cheese pork cutlet burger which was pretty good.
Airport Curry
The McDonald's cheese pork cutlet burger with the cheese inside the cutlet.
The cheese pork cutlet burger.
That wraps up the food posts for the Japan trip in November 2016.  I'll be posting more about specific places and things that I saw.  Bye bye for now.

Tokyo and Kyoto Trip Fall 2016