Sunday, January 28, 2018

Anime and Games Set in Akihabara 2017 Update

I last blogged about anime set in Akihabara back in 2012 at this post.  There were shows and games set there already as it was the heart of otakudom, but in the last five years, even more anime and games have come out.  Most importantly, Love Live! School Idol Project was released and became a huge hit.  Love Live! was set in the Akihabara area with the fictitious Otonokizaka High School and Kanda Myojin Shrine.  I did a big blog post about Love Live! and Akihabara here.  The show made anime pilgrimages to the shrine and the area a must for many fans to give the area a huge boost in popularity.  It brought in more casual anime fans and some of the millions of players who play the popular Love Live! rhythm game on smart phones (which is still going strong today).  Prior to this, I'd say the biggest anime/game to come out about Akihabara was the time travel story for Stein's Gate - still one of my favourites (and it features the old Radio Kaikan building too!).
Love Live! Sunshine display in Akiba.
Love Live figurines.  They are still pretty common, but are getting rarer in Akiba as time passes.  There are lots of Love Live! Sunshine figures now too.
2013 Love Live! School Idol Project - I love this show.  Cute girls, great music, a fantastic story of friendship and hope, and dancing and singing.  I don't usually like musicals, but Macross and Love Live! are exceptions to the rule and maybe Sound of Music.  This show is about nine high school girls who become idols and compete nationally to attract attention and increase enrolment at their high school which is in danger of being shutdown.
2013 Outbreak Company - the otaku protagonist, Shinichi, and his elven maid/bodyguard visit Akihabara where Shinichi's roots and knowledge are vast.  It was a pretty good episode with maid cafes, trains, and modern conveniences.
2013 Akiba's Trip Game - a fighting game set in Akihabara where you must defeat Synthisters who are vampires sensitive to light by stripping off their protective clothing in hand to hand combat.  Was cool for the accurate representation of Akihabara streets.
2014 Denki-Gai - set in a fictitious doujinshi (fan comic) store in Akiba (resembles Toranoana) and chronicles the sometimes hectic lives of the oddball staff there.
2015 Etotama - set in Akihabara, where a cat girl is trying to join the Chinese zodiac and has to compete in the ETM12 competition to join the zodiac.
2016 Love Live! Sunshine - The characters visit Akihabara several times as it is also the heart of idol competition at the Akiba Dome.
2016 Akiba's Beat - PS4 and Vita game set in Akihabara.  Not as good as Akiba's Trip, but another fighter that battles in the area.
2017 Akiba's Trip Anime - an anime set in Akihabara based on the game of the same name.  Lots of Akiba culture, but I never did get into this show.

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Asakusa Tori No Ichi Shrine Festival

This is a very popular and busy shrine festival that happens two or three times in November (depends on how the calendar works out) at the Ootori Shrine.  Tori no Ichi is a festival to bring in good fortune for the new year coming up and is based on the rooster, one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.  In November 2017 I managed to drop in for the rarer third occurrence at the end of the month.  When I say this is a busy festival, it is extremely busy at the shrine in the late afternoon / evenings.  There are lineups that probably take you an hour to enter the shrine at a minimum, and it is wall to wall people.  During our visit, we went and saw the pretty display of lanterns at the front entrance and watched the Shinto priests performing blessings, but did not go in due to the long wait.  However, the streets south of the Shrine in Asaskusa are very festive and lined with all sorts of souvenir and food vendors.  There were plenty of people walking about and snacking on all kinds of tasty Japanese food.
Front entrance to Ootori Shrine with a huge display of lanterns.
You can see how crowded it is at the front gate in the picture above, and you can see the crowds waiting to get in at the gate in the picture below.  We were at the front taking it all in and for five or six minutes, the crowd did not move at all.
 I mentioned the lucky rakes you can buy inside the shrine.  There is a big bin at the entrance of the shrine where you can discard your lucky rake from last year.  Inside the shrine there are booths where you can buy new rakes for the new year.  So each year, you will buy a new rake.  The rakes range from simple ones to large ornate ones and of course the price rises accordingly.  Apparently there is a brief ceremony that takes place when you buy the rake from the vendor too.
An extremely fancy lucky rake.  You can see the golden tines above the greenery.  This rake was in Odaiba and it was huge, like 2 metres across.
Some pictures showing the festival streets leading up to the shrine.  Lots of well lit booths and visitors enjoying themselves.
Grilled fish on sticks around a charcoal fire.  People sit around the tub and eat.
Takoyaki or balls of batter with a piece of octopus inside. Classic fairground food.
Bananas dipped in chocolate.
Folded okonomiyaki / yakisoba with egg on top.  Looked very filling and tasty.

The visit to the shrine was pretty cool and we had a great time even though we didn't even enter the shrine.  It was fun to walk around in the evening and just take in all of the sights.

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Nissin Big Cheese Tomato Potato Pizza Cup Noodle

This could certainly be a Japanese pizza in a cup.  It has potato, tomato, and cheese, a combination you wouldn't normally find in North America.  I've had Nissins Chili Tomato Cup Noodle before and it actually wasn't bad at all, but not my first choice compared to the other flavours.  This Pizza Cup Noodle was actually pretty good overall, but was of a different flavour family than the more Japanese flavoured cup noodles.
View of the cup.  Orange is a very predominant colour, and it certainly would stand out on a shelf of cup noodles in the store.  There is a very nice use of yellow to bring out highlights and the red Tomato letters really stand out nicely.  The BIG is very BIG and bold, as it is a larger cup noodle.
The lid of the cup certainly looks like a pizza from the way the ingredients are spread out.  It certainly looks delicious.
The front side of the cup with the tomato graphic right in the middle with the word Tomato in the middle.
Ingredients and manufacturers information on the back.
Nutritional content.  It is a 20.7 grams of fat, but some of that is from the cheese, which tasty, but is not a diet food anywhere.
You can see the image of the tomato covered in cheese better on the front of the cup in this photo.
The ingredients inside the cup.  You can see the typical noodles found in cup noodle, tomato soup powder, big pieces of potato, little blocks of dehydrated tomato in red, some cabbage, and little blocks of cheese.
After adding boiling water and waiting three minutes the ingredients were nicely hydrated.  The little blocks of tomato even kept their shape.  You can see the cheese blocks were partially melted, and when I thoroughly mixed the noodles and soup, the cheese just blended in to make it more thick and savoury.
You can see some of the Italian spices on the side of the cup and in the soup.  Tomato noodles!
While many of the ingredients for pizza are certainly in this cup of noodle, I would not say it was like pizza, but it had a nice light, tomato flavour that tasted really good, while not being overly strong.  The cheese melted into the soup adding richness with a hint of cheesiness to everything, including the noodles which had rehydrated nicely.  This was a nice tasty instant ramen that was good to have when you wanted a change of pace from soy based soup.  I would definitely eat this again or even their regular Chili Tomato flavour.

More instant ramen and Japanese pop culture posts.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Late Autumn Colors at Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, Tokyo

I did an early morning visit to Koishikawa Korakuen Garden in early December.  Some of the trees that changed colours earlier had already dropped their leaves, but there were some Japanese maples with brilliant red and other trees with various yellows and reds mixed in too.  It was just past peak for some of the maples, but many other had already dropped leaves on the ground.

The garden is one of the oldest in Tokyo and tries to reproduce many landscapes in miniature.  There are many walking trails around a central lake and it is right next to the Tokyo Dome which is fairly unobtrusive from many angles.  It is a very pretty garden and well worth a trip if you like gardens.  I went up using the JR Chuo Line and had a 10 minute walk from Suidobashi Station.
Time for some beautiful autumn colours.
On the way to the Chuo Line platform in Akihabara I noticed this vending machine.  It is a rare machine that sells milk. Rocketnews had a writeup about this.
Canals and elevated freeways on the walk to the garden.
Main lake with the Tokyo Dome behind it.
Bridge under repair.
Stone bridge
Stone bridge
Woods in colour.
Very brilliant reds.
Maples past peak red.  A nice colourful umbrella.
Picturesque island in the lake.
Panorama of the lake. It is really nice that Tokyo has these beautiful parks even though there are skyscrapers all around.  It was quite tranquil there for the most part.
Fallen leaves on water.
Red!  Where I'm from, most leaves just turn yellow in the fall.
The island in the lake again.  There is a tiny Shinto shrine on the island.  The bright red.
Small pathway.
Really nice mix of colours.
The lake again from another angle.
Lake and the island at the far side.
Fallen leaves.
Brilliant red maple leaves.  This was nice!
We arrived there early enough for very few people to be there.  After an hour or so, more people started to show up and lots of them had cameras.  There were many fall colour photographers there when we left.

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Japanese Emergency Rations (Disaster Prevention Goods)

Japan is a nation that sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means volcanic activity and earthquakes have happened and can happen in the future.  Everyone, not just in Japan, should have enough emergency supplies and rations stored away for three days.  This isn't very much in the big scheme of things, but it could definitely make your life more bearable or even sustain it for much longer in a real emergency.  This post isn't about prepping, but it is going to show some of the types of food that Japanese people could have on hand in case of an emergency.  Everyone will also have some fresh food in the fridge or fruit on the counter, etc., but after that is used up or if you have to run, these other foods are handy.  Many larger Japanese supermarkets / department stores (Tokyu Hands) have what they call a Disaster Prevention section that stocks emergency foods and supplies.

After ensuring you have enough water, which is usually like 2 litres a day (if you're not doing heavy physical work - keep 1 or 2 litre bottles handy), you need to have food for energy.  In Japan, you're going to be able to purchase a variety of canned, dried, and preserved foods, some of which aren't available or very common in North America.  One more thing, many households will have a small portable, single burner stove that works off of butane canisters.  These stoves are often used for hot pot or nabe.  Even if the power and gas is out, they will be able to cook or boil water on this.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has a pretty good PDF for Emergency Preparedness here.

Canned Foods / Biscuits / Ready Foods
Canned foods are heavy, but are ready to eat, and often have tops that can be pulled off with a ring.  Canned soups are not popular in Japan, but there are all sorts of pickled vegetables, and canned meat available. When I'm talking about canned meat, I'm not talking just canned ham or chicken or SPAM.  In Japan, the canned foods trend towards more gourmet selections ranging from teriyaki chicken, braized pork belly, soy grilled mackeral or tuna, etc.  They can be a delicious accompaniment to white rice or a picnic.  You can find video reviews of some of this stuff on Youtube.
This is just a small selection of canned or jarred goods at a convenience store.  Nice big selection of CalorieMate at the top.
In terms of biscuits, crackers, and bread, there are all kinds of these of course.  Biscuits and crackers tend to provide a lot of the carbs in most military MREs too.  Some of these will last months to years too.
These biscuits are like a bit of a meal replacement.  Think Clif Bars, but a bit more.  I'm only okay on these things, but hard working office workers seem to use these.  These things last months and months and are found in all convenience stores.
Potato chips - not balanced, but a real morale booster.
Bourbon Campan biscuits in a can.  These little bite-sized biscuits mixed with sugar blocks are good for 5 years and provide quick energy when needed.
The fried chicken nuggets are only going to last a day, but the Yamazaki hamburg steak sandwich bag at the right will last 3 days or so at room tempurature.  Yamazaki sandwiches come in sweet/dessert varieties, ham, cheese, beef, tonkatsu, curry, and even egg fillings.  They wouldn't be a bad bet for camping on the first day or two if protected at the center of a pack where they would stay cooler.
Canned bread.  This stuff lasts a year and comes in many flavours from plain, strawberry, raisin, chocolate, etc.  They are pretty good and could be a nice treat or change.
Glico Bisco Cream Biscuits.  If they are the canned version they have a shelf live that is several years long.  This product has been around in Japan since 1933.
Retort Pouches
There are many varieties of retort packaged sauces / curry which would go well with some packaged pre-cooked rice that you can buy at the supermarket.  The pre-cooked white rice is like the Uncle Bens rice that nukes in a minute and a half here, but it often comes in sealed trays (like in a JSDF MRE).  You don't need to add water, and just heat the sauce and mix with the rice and any other ingredients you would add.
Ready to use curry pouches for everyday meals, but they are also good in emergencies.
Dried Foods
Everyone is going to have some rice or noodles handy.  These usually require longer cooking times though, so fuel becomes important.  But freeze-dried is a nice in-between that saves on cooking while remaining very light and good for long-term storage.  In North America, and Japan, you can buy freeze-dried camping meals that can last years.  You need to boil water and hydrate the food right in their retort / foil pouches for 10 to 15 minutes in most cases, but they can provide a tasty meal.  In Japan, some more common types are freeze-dried rice dishes that can be used for a regular meal, or be good for 5 or 6 years on the shelf.  Of course, even if you don't have boiling water, you can use room temperature water to rehydrate, but it take like 3 times as long.  Same goes for instant noodles.
This freeze-dried pouch is like a traditional japanese rice mixed with vegetables.
Nutritional information.
Dehydrated rice balls / onigiri.  You add water, then wait.  The bag is a shaped pocket by which you can make a rice ball by applying a bit of pressure.  Instant rice balls... wow.
Instant Noodles
This is something close to my own heart.  Instant noodles are everywhere in Japan and are very popular food items.  Cup or bowl noodles are staples in the convenience store / konbini.  They will even provide hot water for them on request.  A few packs of noodles or cup of noodles are always on hand and they last half a year to a year for the regular stuff.  There are many different flavours and varieties.  The curry noodles are always really tasty too and the new anime Laid Back Camp aka Yuru Camp even has the lead protagonist enjoying curry cup noodles in the first episode.
The instant noodle - the amazing food invention of the 20th century?  Better than sliced bread?
Curry Udon Noodles
Lots of different kinds of instant noodles.
Cheese Curry Noodles - yummy.
Curry noodle cup.  The broths tend to be thicker due to the curry mix.  Very satisfying.
Nissin 3 year shelf-life emergency canned cup noodle.  My review of it can be found here: Nissin Cup Noodle Canned Emergency / Survival Ration Review

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