Sunday, December 31, 2017

Chicken Ramen Lemon Pepper Big Cup Noodle

I managed to get one of the Chicken Ramen Lemon Pepper Big Cup Noodles awhile back (whew - that name is quite a mouthful, so we'll just call it CRLPCN from now on).  I've always been fond of Chicken Ramen (Chikin Ramen from Nissin) since the first time I tasted it, as it is a smokey, savory chicken that is unlike the usual chicken flavourings.  When there is a cup noodle that combines both Chicken Ramen and fried chicken (karaage), I'm in with both feet.

This particular CRLPCN release commemorates the 60th anniversary of the creation of the original Chikin Ramen back in 1958 by Momofuku Ando who founded Nissin too.  It is of the big cup variety, which is like 50% larger than the regular cup, so there is plenty of noodles,fried chicken, and egg inside.  The cup itself is very attractive too with the bright orange colours and images of noodles and karaage, and just makes you want to have one for a snack or meal.

Chicken Ramen Lemon Pepper Big Cup Noodles in the large paper cup.  The cup is never hot to hold as the outside is covered in a smooth foam that insulates the cup from your hand, yet takes colour printing really well.   On top is the lemon and pepper satchet.
Side view of this tasty CRLPCN show the Chikin Ramen logo in orange and brown at the top and some big celebratory statements blow in yellow and red.  It makes for a very nice image between the colours, writing, picture of the noodles.
Back of the cup with the nutritional information.  It is about 14.4 grams of fat per 90 grams of noodles.
Ingredients and warnings.  Never microwave a styrofoam cup or a paper cup by the way.
More info.

The top lid of the cup.  You can see some confetti at both sides to indicate it is a celebration.  The little chick mascot for Chikin Ramen is show squeezing a lemon.  You can also see the flecks of black pepper on the karaage.
This little bird is really cute.  I have a stuffy of him/her.
Finally, a look inside the cup of wonders.  Peeling the lid back reveals the chicken ramen with the soup based infused into the surface of the noodles.  You can see pieces of green onion, red pepper, 10 pieces of fried chicken, and some pieces of egg omelette.
Closeup of the ingredients.  The fried chicken looks good even though it is dehydrated.

I added my boiling water in and let it sit for three big minutes.
While the ramen is rehydrating, here is a closeup of the underside of the lid.  A rough Google translation of Momofuku Ando's biography says: Founder of Nissin Foods, 1958, the world's first instant noodle "inventing chicken ramen, creating instant noodles industry In 1971, invented the world's first cup noodle "cup noodle"and create a new food culture World. Total annual demand developed to about 100 billion meals. With the age of 95, in 2005 it developed the world's first space ramen "Space Lamb" to support human "food" in space.  The translation is really rough at the end as I'm not sure it is lamb ramen, etc.

The tasty looking noodles in the regular golden chicken broth.
Once the noodles were ready to eat I ripped open the lemon and pepper satchet.  There was a very rich aroma of lemon and pepper to it.  I sprinkled the powder and pepper into the soup then mixed everything together.  The soup had a nice lemony tang to it with some heat provided by the black pepper.  The fried chicken was delicious, the egg pieces fluffy, and the noodles firm, but you can let the noodles soak too long in the broth as they are best in the first few minutes.  All too soon, I had eaten everything and drank all of the soup.  This was two thumbs up from me and I'd buy it again for sure.
Closeup of the noodles and fried chicken.
More Instant Ramen Posts and Japanese Pop Culture.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Shimbashi Scenes Both Night and Day

Picking a hotel in Shimbashi was something I wanted to try as it is a little more centrally located and it wasn't much of a tourist district.  Getting to Ginza, Tokyo Station, Akihabara, the Tokyo Skytree, Shiodome, Kamakura, Yokohama, and Shibuya is a single train ride from this station, and even Shinjuku is one transfer, but not much more time.  The area is really set up for the working folk of the city and there are all of the chain restaurants (Ichiran, McDonalds, KFC, Matsuya, Tenya, Mos Burger, Yoshinoya, etc.) all available to dine in near your hotel.  But, there are no really good supermarkets here, even though there are konbini on every corner it seems.  I won't stay in this area again, but it was a nice change of scenery.

On the way back to my hotel every evening I would walk by many konbini and the myriad number of bars and restaurants east of Shimbashi Station.  Evenings are lively with entertainment, people, and touts for their restaurants or bars.  Below are some pictures of the area by night and day.  It is very busy in the evening on the main bar/restaurant streets leading from the station, but it quiets down after a couple of blocks.
Train Square just outside the east  exits of Shimbashi Station.
South along the Yamamote Line.  Lots of pubs and such.
Looking west towards the Shiodome area.
A little alley / backstreet with bars.
A main street just east of the station.
A quiet bar street.
Some bar / restaurant signs
Backstreets during the day.
A vending machine in the area.
Fujiko pachinko machine advertisement.
A Kuroneko depot in the area (black cat courier service).
A street during the early morning.
View of the train tracks from a McDonalds where I had breakfast one morning.  Got to watch trains go by and it was kind of nice.
The area doesn't have a lot of tourist attractions itself other than a few shrines, some museums like the NHK broadcast museum, but walking west takes you to the Shiodome which is a pretty cool futuristic mega office complex area that I blogged about.

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Atago Shrine and Toranomon Hills in Shimbashi

On my last day in Tokyo I decided I wanted to see a little more of the Shimbashi area I was staying in.  I wanted to see Atago Shrine, one of the more famous Shinto Shrines in the area, and the nearby Toranomon Hills skyscraper complex since it was built back in 2014.  There is a pretty nice hotel, the Hyatt Andaz up on the upper floors of the building (out of my price range).  Looking out my hotel window, I saw that is was a pretty beautiful December morning and had a quick breakfast at Yoshinoya before my early morning walk around.  For a change, I wasn't fighting upstream against the stream of people heading to work in the morning from Shimbashi Station as I was heading away from it.

The first place I went was Atago Shrine, which is only a block or so away from Toranomon Hills.  There was some beautiful foliage at the shrine and it was very quiet except for the occasional worshipper, usually passing through on their way to work.  A lot of Shimbashi is offices, but there are residential areas in it.  Atago Shrine dates back to 1603 so it is pretty old and it sits on top of Atago Hill which is 26 metres above sea level.  It used to have an excellent view of Edo, but is dwarfed by the many office buildings and skyscrapers around it now.  The shrine was originally established to protect the city from fire as you could watch the city from it and the main Shinto god here is the fire god Homusubi no Mikoto. 
Main entrance to Atago Shrine.
Main Torii at Atago Shrine.  It's a pretty tall hill even if tall buildings surround it now.
One of the big attractions at the shrine is the Steps of Success.
One of the big attractions about this shrine is the Steps of Success leading up to it.  A samurai was dared to ride his horse up an down these steep stairs in the Edo Period.  He succeeded, with the horse taking only a minute to go up, but 45 minutes to come down.  Afterwards he was successful in anything else he attempted - hopefully the horse got some good loot out of that experience too.  So climb the stairs up and down to succeed in your endeavors.
These are pretty steep stairs, 26 metres high.  They kind of reminded me of the staircases going up and down Mayan pyramids.  Real steep and you don't want to fall.  I was halfway up when I noticed an elderly lady gaining on me, so I had to pick up the pace.  She was in good shape - must have been one of the regulars.
Maple leaves on the steps.
The big Torii at the top of the hill with the main shrine building behind it.
Small gate before the shrine building.
Offertory box at the main shrine building.
Nice gardens here, not huge, but there was a little pond too.
I carefully picked my way back down these steps.  I want to be successful after all, not in intensive care.
Afterwards, I headed over to Toranomon Hills which is an impressively large building with the tip of it being 255.5 metres high - quite a bit taller than the nearby shrine.  The building was part of a revitalization of the area in conjunction with new Loop Road 2. 
Toranomon Hills from a distance.
Getting closer.  It is big, but you don't realize how big it is until you're up close as it is pretty tall.
Gardens to the south and east behind the building.
A pretty neat giant metal sculpture out back.
Toranomon the Cat is a cousin of Doraemon and the official mascot of Toranomon Hills.  He's all dressed up for Xmas here.
The atrium area of the building.
I only visited for about 50 minutes, including a peak at the Andaz which was quite posh as I had to get back to my hotel to check out and continue on with more sightseeing at the Imperial Palace later.  It was a pretty nice little morning stroll.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Giant Unicorn Gundam and IREX Robot Exhibition in Tokyo 2017

Seeing lots and lots of robots was one of main reasons for visiting Tokyo again.  There were giant, 1:1 scale robots from anime to totally real and functional robots at IREX to see on this trip.  The robots showed high-technology at work, science fiction anime realized into physical form, while later visits to the Tori-no-ichi festival and ancient shrines and temples showed the rich cultural traditions of Japan.  It was a really interesting trip from all of these perspectives that was wrapped in excellent food and hospitality.

The International Robot Expo (IREX) is a big robotics trade show that is held every two years.  Japan provided 52 percent (150,000+ robots) of the world's industrial robots at the end of 2016.  Most of the robot vendors were from Japan (which is pretty impressive as there were almost 2800 booths operated by some 600+ companies), with a smattering of other countries there.  ABB robotics from Switzerland, for example, showed off their latest robot arm that was very dextrous and it acted as a bartender pouring beers from bottles for customers as a simple demo.  The Toyota HR-3 humanoid robot was also pretty cool and it is primarily tele-operated remotely by a human, something that could be very useful in many situations.  Japan also has a declining population (some 2000 workers retire from the workforce every day right now) and robotics are increasingly being adopted to help out in industry.  As a last minute update, I read that just over 130,000 people attended the event that ran for 3 days from November 29 to December 1, 2017.
Tokyo Big Sight on the man-made island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay.  This is where they also hold Anime Expo, the Tokyo Game Show, Comiket, and the Tokyo Auto Show.  Big convention center I'm visiting for the first time for IREX.  You get out here from Shiodome on the Yurikamome monorail line which operates driverless trains.
Manufacturing line robots that are capable of picking up jumbled objects off of a conveyor belt, orienting them and then passing them off to the next robot for processing.  Does a lot of what a human would.
Pepper.  There are plenty of businesses are experimenting with this robot as a greeter, information provider in their shops.
Big industrial lifting robot arm.
The lifting arm in action.
Welding robots at work.
This robot was programmed to perform dance moves but could obviously do other things.
Experimental humanoid robots.
Another humanoid robot
Powered exoskeleton.  Many manufacturers were producing a version of an exoskeleton.  It seems like they are popular and may be coming soon to a warehouse, construction site, or hospital near you.
Assembly line robots.
The robot show was fascinating.  The sheer size of the show and number of manufacturers and robots really struck home how far robots have come.  Tesla car plants are just the tip of the iceberg.  The future is here now and many jobs are never going to be done again by humans at any large scale.  The robots can obviously do the car assembly, product assembly jobs, but they sort and sift, categorize, and do precision work such as assembling circuit boards and electronic devices too.  Not only that, they can now do fine motor skills work like picking ripe strawberries, picking up a piece of lettuce to assemble a sandwich, pour a beer, and flip burgers.  The prices are dropping.  Tens of thousands of dollars gets you one of the smaller robots.  I can't see mom and pop shops adopting these yet, but any mid-sized company with production lines that wants to grow in size doesn't have to hire more people to do it any more.
Never noticed this under bay freeway that runs out to Odaiba from the shore.  That is a big tunnel that goes under the water.
The next stop was back to Diver City which we passed by on the train on the way to the expo.  Here, the brand new RX-0 Unicorn Gundam was on display out front.  The Unicorn Gundam replaces the old RX 78-2 Gundam from the original Gundam anime.  This Gundam is slightly taller and larger than the original Gundam there and stands at 19.7 metres (64.7 feet) in height, but it also transforms into Destroy Mode by activating the Psycho Frame where it moves parts and glows bright red.  It is a very cool, very big 1:1 scale giant robot statue.
Unicorn mode Gundam
Another view of the Unicorn.  You can see some small people to the right.
Some person sized robots from the original anime.
The Gundam transformed into Destroy mode.  It positively glows and you can see the horn has split into the more traditional Gundam V, and the face has changed.  It has a nice sound and light show to accompany the transformation.
Destroy mode up close.
Not only was there a giant Gundam robot out front, the Diver City Mall was also running a Gundam Docks event.  This means there were Gundam displays and art all over the mall.  Gundam-mania for sure.
Gundam art on all of the railings and on the pillars.
These are all 2 metre tall statues of various Gundams and giant Haros. 
Gundam Front is gone, replaced by the giant Gundam Base Gunpla (Gundam model) store.  There are a ton of model kits to buy and built kits to look at.  If you like models, you'll love this place.
Some of the models.
Gundam Build Fighters - an excellent anime and it ties in nicely to sell Gunpla kits too.  While the anime could have been a pretty bad anime made to just sell model kits, I have to say I really liked it and it had great heart and characters.  The figure above is one of the main characters Sei Iori.
Closeup of Sei.
Sei isn't the best pilot for Gundam Battle where model kits duel it out, but Aria von Reiji Asuna is a great pilot and his friend.
These figures were life-sized and they were holding little Gunpla kits.  Nice touch!
Two metre high Wing Gundam.
A very nicely done model of an Exia.
Lots of model kits to look at and buy.  These big boxes are hell in your luggage as they take so much room.  You'll be doing carry on to get one back.
More kits.  There was also a clothing shop where they had some cool jackets and t-shirts (I got one!)
Big Exia Gundam in the mall.
Big Unicorn Gundam.
While this Macross is actually at the Tokyo Skytree, it is another giant robot you can see in Tokyo at the robot museum there.
Diver City is a pretty nice mall with some great gift shops on the main floor along with a very nice food court.  The upper floors have some nice restaurants and even a McDonalds if that is what you want.  The conveyor belt sushi place is quite nice too.

Later on, I also saw Sony's new Aibo.  They're relaunching the robot dog as an even cuter little companion robot.  This display was down at Shinagawa Station.  There are robots everywhere (I exaggerate, but I sure kept finding them).
Thats all for IREX and the giant Gundam at Odaiba.  I hope you liked the post.

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