Tag Archives: japan

Nissin Cup Noodle Museum

Michelle and I jumped on a train to Yokohama, a short ride outside of Tokyo. It was a day of noodles for us. We arrived at the Cup Noodles Museum, and there were kids everywhere. It reminded me of the time we made the unfortunate decision of going to The Aquarium of the Pacific on Labor Day weekend.

You can create your own cup noodles? We’re all over that!

On second thought, too many kids.

There’s even a kitchen where you can make chicken ramen with fresh noodles but again, too many kids. We decided just to get something to eat.

Noodles Bazaar! They serve different noodles from all over the world.

China.

Thailand.

Singapore.

Each noodle stand had posters to represent the country. China had Mao.

Korea had a Pokemon movie poster in Korean.

Kazakhstan had…Borat!

The coolest thing in the museum was the Instant Noodles History Cube from the very start in 1958. They had all sorts of instant noodles, stuff I’d never seen or heard of before.

A sculpture to the glory of noodles in a cup.

This man probably kept me alive freshman year of college. Raise your noodle cups in honor of a hero, Momofuku Ando.

Yoyogi Park

Imagine a place, where space is a rare commodity. You live in a tiny apartment. Work is a small office. To get in between the two places you are crammed in a subway car, pressed up against your neighbor. This is Tokyo. There has to be a place for you to unwind before you snap. That place is Yoyogi Park.

Just outside the park some kids were modeling their latest fashions.

At the entrance to the park, kids are playing double dutch.

Then you turn and see these people. Rockabilly music is blaring and they’re dancing relentlessly.

This guy seemed to be their leader for the day. He had the tightest jeans and the biggest hair.

They dance so hard that their shoes are taped up with black tape. When we left the park four hours later, they were still dancing.

This group performed nearby, but didn’t hold down the tough guy attitude.

We were very fortunate to be in Japan during cherry blossom season. It’s a huge deal in Japan. In order to celebrate they have hanami, flower viewing parties, which consists of picnicking with friends, sharing food and drink. Yoyogi Park is one large park where some of these picnics unfold.

There are people everywhere! Unfortunately the cherry blossoms were nowhere to be seen, because it had been a little too cold.

Business men and women also gather to see non existent sakura.

While most of the people in Tokyo stick closely to their circle of friends and are very quiet outside this circle, some were welcoming.

This is Dodge-bee, a game where you try to get as many people as possible to jump with a huge jump rope.

There was a man, blowing bubbles for the kids.

The park is also used to practice and perform just about every imaginable type of performance. Here is a group doing some color guard routine.

This was some type of dance routine. It was mostly confusing.

There was a drum line going on in the park too. They played on for 30+ minutes while people danced around and had a good time.

If you don’t have a drum, just bring a guitar and join this group.

This seemed to be the only professional performance group, doing some interpretive dance while painted gold.

Our trip to Yoyogi Park made us love the people of Japan even more. Everyone did their thing, and no one jeered or taunted anyone else for being different. If such a gathering of people with diverse interests ever came about back home, you’d have some kind of hobby war with skaters fighting dancers. Japanese rule. I’m only talking about the Japanese in Japan. I have Japanese friends in America, and they are assholes.

Wandering Harajuku

Harajuku is a fashion-forward region in Tokyo. This is where Tokyo’s youth like to spend their time. On Sundays it is crowded, people everywhere. We didn’t step into most of the clothing stores because they were packed.

There are people everywhere!

Again with the options. Clean in any color you wish.

And the snacks!

So many snacks!

MoMA has a store where you can buy expensive, cleverly designed products.t

Japanese people love crepes. There are crepe shops all over the place.

They also love condoms.

Just a chicken sandwich from a fast food joint we poked our heads into while walking the area.

They cook noodles perfectly, but they also always cook eggs perfectly so the yolk is perfectly runny, not so thin that it runs away from the sandwich.

I really want this foosball table.

Stopped for a coffee break.

We got hungry so we stopped for some ramen. There is one rule in Japan for food. If the line is long, it’s probably awesome. We kept getting into lines and then realizing they were places we already had on our map to check out.

Hungry customers slurping down noodles.

Michelle always goes the spicy route. Always.

Egg, pork, chashu, bamboo, onions, and seasoned cod roe.

So, so very good.

 

Ghibli Museum and some more wandering Tokyo

I’ve got a golden ticket! Too bad they won’t let you take pictures inside the museum. Some of the animations are pretty neat.

They will let you take picture of the Giant Robot from Laputa Castle in the Sky. Our eyes are barely open here as the wind whips dust around everywhere. It was pretty painful being on the roof.

We tried to return the favor and take the picture of the couple behind us that took our picture. No, they trusted their five year old instead.

I did manage to sneak one picture of an exhibit from Princess Mononoke.

After seeing the museum it was starting to get rainy, so we decided to head back into Ginza to hang out in shops where it was dry.

That is where we found this.

And where I took this.

Sony has a great showroom, where you can play with all of its newest toys. These little cameras made me wish I had a smaller body camera like this, that is until I saw the price tags on them.

They have different lighting setups so you can play with camera in different scenarios. The software is so good on these cameras now that they adjust for damn near everything. The only thing these things can’t do is compose the shot. A great camera still doesn’t make you a photographer. Damn. I was so close.

Dinner was tsukemen. Every single place we stopped into cooked noodles perfectly. This was no exception. Great bite and the dipping broth was excellent. It was packed with flavor but not heavy.

After dinner we said we’d take an hour nap and head out on the town for the first night since getting to Japan. Four hours later we woke up and forced ourselves downstairs to our hotel bar. At least they had some good Scotch.

 

The time I got naked in Japan (without pictures).

I lied. There are pictures, but there aren’t any pictures of me. Okay, that is also a lie. This post contains pictures of me, but none of them are nude. Do you believe me?

After doing some shopping we were beat from waking up early on top of adjusting to the local time. Michelle did some searching online and found a spa for us to try out. Only after we got off of the subway and started walking towards the place did she tell me that this wasn’t one of those coed places, where you keep your clothes on and that I’d have to show brain in front of everyone. Hell, anything goes on vacation, right? It’s onsen time!

I think that sign says, “Want to get naked in front of a lot of people? Here is your place!”

After you strip down to your underwear, you come out of the locker room looking like this.

You leave the locker room to enter a completely different world. It’s like entering Miyazaki’s Spirited Away but without all the odd creatures.

There are shops and carnival games for the kids to play.

There are plenty of places to eat.

There’s even a bar if you really need to unwind.

They have taiko drums for a video game!

After spending as much time as possible clothed, I went into the men’s spa and stripped down. Inside there are multiple hot tubs at different temperatures, including some hot tubs outside and one very cold tub. As one of the few foreigners I would hold the tiny wash cloth in front of my crotch as I made my in and out of different tubs, while everyone else seemed very comfortable letting it all hang out. After a couple of minutes, it quickly became no big deal.

The one section that is for men and women is a foot spa. Here is a tub with rocks that are supposed to massage your feet as you walk over them, but holy crap it hurts.

There’s even a section where you can have your feet exfoliated by fish, but really that’s a pretty good way to get hepatitis. We passed on this.

While the idea of being naked in front of other men is an odd concept for me as an American, it’s liberating to not try to size oneself up to the next guy. Nobody gives a shit.  So what if your wiener is pulling a scared turtle? If you are ever in Japan, don’t shy away from the onsen experience. It’s a great way to relax. While it is a bit odd it’s still kind of fun, and you can check out what other men look like naked if that’s your thing.

“Yeah I’ve never seen a circumcision like that before. That’s really great.”

More Shopping in Tokyo: So Many Options

After Tsukiji Market we wanted to keep our day going, bust most of Tokyo isn’t open until later. We ended up waiting twenty minutes for a Starbucks to open at 7 AM so we could nap for an hour before we headed out onto the town.

If you look at the way the Japanese dress, it’s fashionable but also very subdued. There are no bright colors. I felt like the odd man out with my yellow shirt.

Stores seem to be one-stop-shops, carry everything. It’s GAP on the first floor and IKEA on the second floor.

The stores there are huge on aesthetic appeal, even using  items they don’t seem to sell. like these plants.

Inside Muji, they had an eating area for shoppers to stop and have a beverage and a wide variety of pastries.

Next door was Loft, another store carrying just about everything from notebooks to cosmetics and travel gear.

Options are not lacking. Here is the notebook/3-ring binder section.

 

There are some really cool things, including Moleskine notebooks with actual LEGO pads so you connect your LEGO figurines.

This is the first place I’ve actually seen these Moleskine notebooks.

While Michelle was busy looking at fake eyelashes, I contemplated a new look for myself too. Creepy Perv 2.0!

You can’t rock a mustache without the beard or so I’ve heard from people that can grow facial hair.

I wish department stores in America were more like Japanese stores. Although there are no benches where I can sit and wait while my wife spends all my money, there is enough variety that allows me to also drain our bank account at the same time. That way Michelle can spend all the time she wants looking at clothes and makeup while I look at electronics and toys in the same store. It’s like having an Apple store combined with a Nordstrom’s!

Early Morning Eats in Tsukiji

After wandering around the fish market for a little while we got hungry. We decided to get some ramen at a little stand we passed by earlier in the outer market. We didn’t even realize this was the ramen shop my friend recommended to me, Chuka Soba Inoue.

It opens at 4:30 AM, but prep starts well before that.

Different websites say they only serve shoyu ramen in chicken broth, but these bones used in the broth say otherwise, unless they have gigantic chickens in Japan. Regardless of whether other meat stock is also thrown into the mix, there is still only one item to order.

Early in the morning customers line up to get a warm bowl of ramen.

The master at work.

Chashu, bamboo shoots, and onions in a warm, savory broth. So delicious.

Seating does not exist here. Tables are set up for customers to stand street side. Here is Michelle is slurping down the rest of her broth as the sun begins to make its appearance.

Not being satisfied with only noodles, we decided to take in some fresh fish since we were in Tsukiji and had plenty of it available to us. We opted for chirashizushi.

Fresh fish, hours from the ocean and right into our mouths. You can’t beat that.

Tsukiji: Seafood Heaven

One of the big attractions in Tokyo is Tsukiji Market. It’s the largest seafood market in the world. There is an inner wholesale market area, which is closed off to tourists before 9:00 AM so the local buyers can do their shopping without interruption. The outer market area is open to anyone, and they start setting up at about 4:00 AM.

There is absolutely no hint of sunlight as the outer market begins to stir.

Vendors set up their shops quietly. It’s eerie, like a scene out of a horror film.

Dried seafood products are pretty common in the outer market.

With people shopping, local food stands start opening too to feed the shoppers.

Tsukiji is really an impressive place, selling a lot more than just seafood. Fresh produce and meat products are also available.

In the inner market area, the fresh tuna auction is one of the highlights of the market that is accesible to visitors, but it starts at 5:00 AM and has limited viewing space. We arrived at the line at 4:30 AM, but we were already too late. They were filled up for the day. Instead we decided to wander around the inner market that was supposed to be off limits to us.

The inner market is much more densely packed than the outer market.

There is so much fresh seafood sold here daily.

Tuna.

Octopus.

Sea snails and cuttlefish.

Those shrimp look so good. Just clean them and put them on a plate for me!

Frozen pieces of tuna are often cut with bandsaws.

Fresh tuna, however, requires a softer touch.

Big ass swords.

Slicing up some tuna.

Eel.

Mackerel Pike.

Clams.

Teaching us the finer points of sushi. Too bad we don’t understand Japanese.

We love Tsukiji!

Conveyor Belt Sushi: Not a Bad Thing

Still killing time before our hotel was ready, we decided to eat again. We sat down  at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant that seemed to be packed with both locals and tourists. If you’ve ever been to one of these in the states, you’ll know the quality isn’t great at these types of places. You’ll usually end up with at least one piece of fish that is far too chewy and the rice will be too dry. One of the travel agents that helped me book some tickets told me that even the cheap sushi was good, so we set out to test that theory.

I have to say that I was not disappointed. The fish was so good, probably better than most sushi places I’ve had in the states. It’s easy for restaurants to get ahold of good quality seafood in Tokyo, but the whole package is done so much better. Excellent balance between fish, rice and wasabi, and the price tag didn’t make me cringe either. Complete this meal with a couple of beers, and I am a happy man.

Shopping at Tokyu Hands

With no real plans for the first day, Michelle and I wandered around Shibuya and poked our heads into different stores to see what was going on in the world of shopping in Tokyo. We stopped into Tokyu Hands, and it was an eye opener. For any given product, there is never a lack of options.

They have a crafts floor that has a section just for masking tape.

Yes, I said masking tape.

There were lots of stickers in the craft section, some of which were a bit risque.

There was an entire floor dedicated to cleaning supplies. Sprays, rags, dusters, trashcans, and detergent. They’re also pretty hot on the Roomba too.

I think this section was for bath salts and bubble bath, but they had children’s cartoon character packaging mixed in with some very suggestive adult themed packages.

They toy section had an excellent selection though.

There was a whole floor dedicated to bento lunch boxes.

When I say a whole floor, I am not exaggerating.

The Japanese are consumers in every sense of the word. While they tend to follow trends as a society, they still hold to their own unique styles with a market that provides so many options to the same concepts. It creates a sense of community while allowing individuals to have their own identity.