Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Japanese Disney Baskin Robbins Christmas Cake

Merry Christmas!  I took a paid holiday today so that I could enjoy the most wonderful time of the year with my family.  Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, so if you want to celebrate during the day time, you need to take it off.    We ordered a Baskin Robbins Disney Christmas Cake this year.  All I can say is super kawaii!  Super delicious too.  Baskin Robbins is everywhere here and it is the largest ice cream chain in Japan.
The cake had four flavors,  strawberry, vanilla, caramel swirl and chocolate.  A cross-section is above.  The Japanese version of the B&R ice cream cake has no actual cake part and it is pure frosting and ice cream.  The house and snowman Mickey and Minnie were edible.  The actual ice cream was exactly the same as the U.S. Baskin Robbins.  An interesting fact about B&R here is that while Americans call Baskin Robbins 31 flavors, the Japanese call it 31 ice creams.  Perhaps the translation of 31 tastes was too odd for them.  

The rest of the meal at our Christmas party was as below.

 

The ice cream cake was good, five Rocky Roads out of five Rocky Roads. The rest of the meal was good too of course.  Christmas was a success and in the next few posts you'll see some of the goodies I received from Santa including more Battle Beasts!



Disney Turkey Leg, Aeon, Tokyo Disneyland, Chiba



The Disney Aeon turkey leg- there are many things to talk about here regarding the turkey leg.  Where should I start?  Well, first, all of you Disney Parkoholics out there understand the significance of the turkey leg.  The turkey leg has become a sacred symbol of visiting the parks and during my time as a character performer, a fellow face character had actually spent time working at one of the turkey carts in her past at the Magic Kingdom.  Imagine that, Mulan serving turkey legs. Back to Japan, the Japanese folks have taken the turkey legs out of the parks and have brought them to the supermarkets!  This demonstrates the love they have here for the Tokyo Disney Resort.   But the turkey legs aren't an ordinary find.  Turkey is not very popular here and the reason I could find them at Aeon is related to a second point, the Christmas holiday.

Christmas is the most romantic Japanese holiday.  Not followers of Christ,  Christmas is the time you spend time with your boyfriend or girlfriend and have a nice meal of... chicken!  You must reserve your chicken from KFC or Costco a few weeks in advance of Christmas or you run the risk of not having our favorite feathered friend for dinner.  So you must be wondering how the Disney turkey leg relates to Christmas.  Well, Christmas is romantic and going to Disneyland is romantic.  What better to rekindle your romantic Disney memories with your love on Christmas than a Disney turkey leg (especially if you neglected to reserve your chicken)?


The turkey leg tasted just like the ones at the parks minus the 8:30 firework show.  Maybe this one will become a tradition and replace the Colonel's bucket.   I give it five gobble gobbles out of five gobble gobbles. For your information though, I'd rather enjoy them at Disneyland instead of my 2LDK apartment.

White Gyoza ホワイト餃子, Kameari, Tokyo


Knowing that I am a gyoza fan, a good friend of mine, Dana, recommended White Gyoza to me.  We had just been talking about my visit to Namja Town in Ikebukero to enjoy Gyoza Stadium.  White Gyoza specializes in fried bread-like gyoza, much like the Maruman gyoza I had at Gyoza Stadium.

If you head out to the Kameari White Gyoza, please pay attention to the map on the website as the restaurant is about a 7-minute walk from the station.  According to Dana, you can see it from the Joban line train if you are headed towards Tokyo from Kashiwa.  That said, there are multiple White Gyoza branches throughout Tokyo and Chiba so if you don't live near Kameari, there is a chance that you can find one near you.  Here's what the Kameari branch looks like at night:


For those of you who know what gyoza look like, it might be hard to believe that the White Gyoza are actually gyoza.  They look more like little dinner rolls than actual gyoza!  Inside each White Gyoza is pure yumminess.  The outside is slightly crunchy and the inside is moist and pipping hot with savory pork filling.


Yum yum.  We ordered 20 gyoza, white rice and beers.  As you can tell from the menu below, our meal didn't set us back too much, only about 2000 yen for the both of us.


Yep, we were thoroughly full.  I definitely want to do it again.  I give White Gyoza an enthusiastic five pot stickers out of five pot stickers for the yumminess and value.




Monday, December 10, 2012

Wolfgang Puck Cafe, Roppongi, Tokyo


Well, we decided to visit the Christmas "illuminations" (what Japanese people call Christmas lights) last weekend at Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown.  For lunch, we decided to try Wolfgang Puck Cafe, not too far from Hardrock Cafe/Tony Roma's.

To start, it was not crowded at all- on a Saturday!  This made us relieved with two kids in tow.  The hostess kindly sat us near the big screen T.V.  The movie "Corpse Bride" kept the little ones entertained during our meal.





After seating us, due to the lack of customers, I got the impression that the waitstaff had forgotten we were there.  We flagged them down after awhile and placed our order.  To the kids delight, we could order fries on the side in addition to the relatively adult-orientated menu.  The lunch menu is available at WPC even on the weekends (at least Saturday) allowing us to get gourmet fare at a highly discounted price.  Lunch specials are a great deal in Japan and at many restaurants, the lunch fare is nearly identical to the more expensive dinner fare.  In addition to the fries, we ordered and shared the steak lunch, the tartar salmon lunch and the sweet potato pizza as shown in the following pictures.
Continuing with the lunch bargain theme, this meal would easily cost 60-70 dollars (5,000-6,000 yen) had it been dinner.  However, including drinks and a salad, our total was only 3,600 yen, which is about 40 dollars.

The winner of the three dishes was the sweet potato pizza having the ingenuity that made Wolfgang famous.  The pizza was a perfect blend of sweet and savory with the sweet potato, cheese and mayonnaise sauce (as opposed to tomato sauce).   The runner-up was the tartar sauce salmon.  The salmon was perfectly cooked (tender and juicy) and slightly breaded.   The steak was a bit overcooked and tough.  It tasted very good though, well-seasoned.  With the exception of Outback Steakhouse, the beef at most Japanese restaurants that I've eaten at tends to be overcooked.

A member of our party was given a spoon with a piece of food still on it (obviously heat cleaned  through the giant industrial strength dish washer, but there still nonetheless).  For some reason that bothered me a bit, perhaps due to the fact that they took a good deal of time to attend to our table in the beginning.  However, the food was delicious.  As a result, I give the restaurant three and a half howls out of five howls (four for the food, three for the service, averaging three and a half).   I actually eat here for lunch during the weekdays sometimes and it seems that the weekday experience might be a little better.

On a final note, if you look at this picture from the WPC, do you get the impression that Humphrey is gazing at Marilyn's ample cleavage too?  Here's looking at impressive cleavage, kid!
   



Friday, December 7, 2012

Earthquake!!!

Located in Aomori...  Magnitude 7.3.  We are all OK.  Building was shaking.  However, train lines running again and everything is OK.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Level 2 (2-kyu) Test December 2012/ Uncle Joe's Mint Balls



Well, got bogged down for another period of time and finally have a breather now.

I just took the 2級日本語能力試験  (level 2 of the Japanese language proficiency test) last weekend and received a good whupping.  I went in there all ready to have a cake walk like those colonial marines in Aliens, thinking I was going to rescue some juicy colonist daughters, and like Pvt. Hudson said, after I left the test it was "Game over man, game over!"   I wouldn't have posted anything about failing miserably had it not been for my good buddy Sam suggesting me to make a blog post about my test.  Although a miracle might happen when I get my results in February, "Game over man, game over!!!"

Next, I was at the Seijo Ishii grocery store in Roppongi a few weeks ago and came across the above candies.  My brother-in-law is named Joe and got a good chuckle when I ran across them.  Definitely meant to be funny as the mint balls are a British product rather than a Japanese one.  Two Saturday Night Live skits come to mind for the mint balls.  First, I remember that Alec Baldwin skit with "Schweddy Balls" due to the use of balls and a name.  Next, I think of those pompous British foppy fellows from that 90's SNL skit where they use excessive innuendos since the mint balls are British.  Perhaps I will get those for Joe as a Christmas gag gift...

Back to reviews in the near future...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Kura Sushi, Abiko, Chiba (Throughout Tokyo)


Went to visit the family the week before last and was able to enjoy kaiten (conveyer belt) sushi at Kura Sushi in Abiko.  This Kura Sushi is located in the parking lot of the Seven Holdings shopping center which was formerly called Espa.  There is likely one close to you if you are in the Tokyo area.

To start, about 90 percent of the dishes are 100 yen.  This is a bargain, especially compared to the States where a plate of salmon sushi can easily set you back 4 dollars.    The selection here is great, everything from sushi staples such as ika (squid), shrimp and tuna maki to creative ones such as cheese kalbi (beef) and snow crab leg.  What I like about it is the fact that each plate has a clear plastic guard to keep the germs out.

Don't see what you like?  Just look at the automated menu, find your selection, press the button and voila, it is delivered right to your table (if you can't read Japanese, I believe the selections can be changed to English; however, have no fear because each item has a picture)!

After you are finished, you take your plate and put it here (at each table).
For every five plates you place in the return area, you get to play a game on the menu screen.  If you win the plate game, a gacha gacha capsule rolls down from the top of the capsule dispenser at each table.  Each capsule contains a Kura Sushi themed toy or key chain.  

We got a total of 35 plates, and if you do the math, that equates to 7 tries at the plate game.  We won a total of zero times.  Lots of disappointed people at my table.  What made it worse was the fact that plates 32-35 were quite difficult to go down as we were already stuffed from plates 1-31.  Rats!

Well as to my review, I give Kura Sushi stellar marks.  The sushi is fresh, the selection is good and price is quite reasonable.  Other than the absolute failure at the capsule game, it was a great experience.  I give Kura Sushi 5 maki out of 5 maki.  If you can find a Kura Sushi near you, by all means get at least 5 plates!





Saturday, November 24, 2012

Battle Beasts 2012


"Fire! Fire burns wood!  Water! Water puts out fire!  Wood! Wood beats water!  Collect all of these incredible creatures who battle for fun!

If you grew up in the 80's and you are a boy, you have to remember the Battle Beasts, released by Hasbro in the U.S. and Takara in Japan.  Over 80 of them were released and they came in packs of 2 or 8.  Personally, I had about 60 of them, being an animal fan.  If you don't remember them well, go look at www.toyarchive.com for some of our furry, scaly or feathery friends.

Each of the Battle Beasts had one of those heat activated rub signs on their chests which revealed one of a fire, water and wood symbol.  Unfortunately, I brought mine in the bathtub with me and the hot water ruined the rub signs.

The game was simple, like rock, paper and scissors.  Fire beats wood because fire burns wood, wood beats water because water floats on wood and water beats fire because water puts fire out.  

Well, welcome to the 2010's.  Takara Tomy has just released a new set of Battle Beasts to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their original release.  Boy have things changed.  First, they are a bit bigger.  Next they are articulated in the legs and arms.  They also come with two weapons now, a sword/spear/trident and a shield.  They also come with a trading card too.  Finally, they have a completely different game where a mechanism in their chest fires a die and the higher roller wins the battle.  More on this after I read the instructions (in Japanese).

I am totally excited about these guys because they look great and were my all-time favorite toys.  They also rekindle some awesome memories from a simpler, happy time.  Yes... the 80's were great.  Hopefully you in the U.S. will get these new Battle Beasts in the near future (without having to import them from Japanese sellers).


Nice Pose, Another Busty Anime Chick, Jimbocho, Tokyo

Sorry for the lack of updates this month as work has picked up.  I needed to go to Jimbocho to pick up the latest White Dwarf magazine (I know I am a dork) on Saturday and came across this gem of a pic in one of the game stores while picking up the December issue.   Gotta love the anime girls, almost started laughing out loud when I saw this one.  Since I was flanked by two other guys in this part of the magazine aisle (busy shopping for their anime girl goods (which I guess is less dorky than my Warhammer fix)), I kept quiet.   I did snap this pic though which made me seem more perverted than I already am.  According to the pic's Engrish wording, she is Nasty and Justy.  Yep, that's right.  She's Justy!!!  At least they put the yellow sting around the magazine so the kiddies won't be checking out her assets.  But from the cover though, it's like a free peep show.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Namco Namja Town, Ikebukero, Tokyo



This weekend, I had a chance to visit the mini-theme park, Namja Town, located in Sunshine City in Ikebukero.   What a pretty cool experience.  Before law school, I had lived in nearby Myogadani and now regret not visiting this cool little theme park in the early 2000's.  Well, what is Namja Town?  Namja Town is comprised of four lands, Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream City, Dessert Kingdom and Ghost Town.   Within each of the lands are restaurants, attractions, games and shops.  General admission is 300 yen, and like carnivals, the attractions and games each require an additional fee, paid in the official currency of Namja Town, the Namja.  20 Namja equals 200 yen.  However, I believe that there is a day pass that'll get you into most of the attractions for 3,500 yen.

Here is a breakdown of the three lands we visited (we ran out of time and didn't get to Ghost Town):

Gyoza Stadium

Gyozas for dinner at a Chinese restaurant- great.  A whole themed land for gyozas?  Even better.  Well, to start, if you don't know what a gyoza (餃子) is, let me explain.  Gyoza are little meat dumplings from China.  Americans know them as pot stickers. 

Within Gyoza Stadium, there are 12 different gyoza shops, and the assortment seems never ending- kimchi gyoza, shouronpo gyoza, mentai mayo gyoza, cheese gyoza, fried shrimp gyoza, steamed gyoza, thin gyoza, ball gyoza, pizza gyoza and so on. 

With all the choices, this time we chose the ball (丸満) gyoza.  We were not disappointed.  The ball gyoza had a slightly crunchy outside with an almost pizza crust feel to them.  The pork filling was juicy and well-seasoned.  They were pretty hot on the inside, so please carefully eat them.  4 set us back 480 yen. 


Gyoza Stadium is themed like Showa Era Japan (although it lasted from the late 20's to the late 80's, the 50's is particularly known as Showa) with black and white televisions, 50's movies ads and candy stores reminiscent of the 50's.  There were 4 attractions in Gyoza Stadium, 2 of which were tours, and 2 of which were shooting games.  We did not go on any of them. 

Ice Cream City

Above Gyoza Stadium lies Ice Cream City.  As the name implies, it is a city where you can buy innumerable types of ice cream. 


Gelato, Turkish ice cream, soft serve ice cream, container ice cream, Coldstone-like ice cream and Taiwanese shaved ice cream are all here. 

We were tempted by the container ice cream place with over 300 varieties (eel, beef tongue and wasabi included), but ended up just going with the soft serve ice cream. 


Our group chose six great flavors- ramune, Japanese grape, chestnut, vanilla, green tea and wasabi.  The cones were 350 yen a piece and the 4 flavor sampler was 580 yen.  They were all delicious.  Next time, I'll try the Turkish ice cream.

Ice Cream City is themed like a futuristic metropolis and features a large game center and a laser tag arena.

Dessert Kingdom

You can get gyoza at Gyoza Stadium and ice cream at Ice Cream City.   That said, it is no surprise that Dessert Kingdom features desserts, cakes, crepes and puddings of all shapes and sizes.  Thoroughly sweets-full after visiting Ice Cream City, we did not enjoy any of the beautiful desserts.   We did ride the wooden carousel (20 Namja each) though and enjoyed walking through the Italian-themed streets of Dessert Kingdom.  Along the streets of Dessert Kingdom are numerable fortune tellers, fate games and future indicators.  I have a pretty good feeling that Dessert Kingdom is good place to bring a date and ask the fortunes about your future together!

As stated earlier, we were not able to visit Ghost Town.  We quickly passed through it though, after using the elevator and it seemed pretty scary.   Next time.

Next time sums it up about Namja Town.  Next time we will go to Ghost Town.  Next time we will try the fried shrimp gyoza.  Next time we will get the Turkish ice cream.  I can't wait until next time...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Girl band performing at Sunshine City, Ikebukero, Tokyo

Japan loves its girl bands.  Girl bands generally comprise of anywhere from 10 to 50 girls from the age of 14-23 that dance and lip-synch the songs they have recorded.  Some popular Japanese girl bands are AKB48 and SKB48.

A girl band performance occurred at Sunshine City in Ikebukero last weekend and I was able to observe parts of the performance from the third floor.  What struck me as pretty disturbing was the fact that the majority of the fans of the particular girl band I watched (and girl bands in general) are Japanese men in their late twenties to forties.  Gross...  To see this first hand, please check out the video of the crowd in the performance I saw.  The guy in white in the middle of the crowd mirror-image dancing to the girls on stage absolutely cracked me up.  He is really getting down to the music and the girls.  I wonder if the girls can keep a straight face if they see the dancing guy in white.   



video

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween at Tokyo Disneyland, Maihama, Japan




Starting early September, one can experience the Halloween festivities at the Tokyo Disney Resort.  These festivities include Halloween decorations, special Halloween parades and shows, seasonal Halloween foods and beverages, and of course, limited edition Halloween goods.  The latter two categories, limited edition foods, beverages and goods, are hallmark to Japan.  As the seasons change, so do the menus and selection of things.  For example, during cherry blossom season, you can get cherry blossom flavored Kit Kat bars.  Or during the fall you can get chestnut flavored doughnuts.  Or mango flavored Starbucks drinks during the summer.   The list goes on and on and Disney is no different here with limited edition pumpkin flavored mont blanche pastries, pumpkin sundaes, and black colored gyoza dogs.  Other than the limited edition ghost shaped popcorn bucket we got (for 2000 yen/25 dollars each, ouch!), we did not enjoy any of the Halloween specialties.  However, for your viewing pleasure, please enjoy viewing some of the Halloween festivities we saw:




The Halloween décor starts at the monorail station.







Another Halloween themed monorail sign.







Just outside the park lies a haunted coach ready to take you to the afterlife.  



Even ghosts can be sexy!

Bet this guy isn’t too heavy for his steed.


Due to occurrences of native American massacres and battles like Little Big Horn, there are more than a few ghosts like these two combatants.

Even Toon Town and its kid-friendly atmosphere have gotten Halloween treatment. 

Ah!!! The scariest of all, Captain EO aka the late Michael Jackson!!!  Actually, it was quite nostalgic seeing this movie again, the dancing and costumes warped me back all the way to 1986.


Even the Country Bears have gotten into the Halloween act.



Since Disney (well, OLC in this case, but since Disney controls the theming at TDL, I guess Disney is appropriate here) is king of theming, no need to rate it on that one.  The food at TDL is well, as anyone who has visited a Disney park knows, above average quality at well above average prices.  The music of the Halloween parade was extremely catchy and I almost caught myself spending 2000 yen for the CD.  Luckily, I ran out of money and didn't feel like going to the ATM.  Back to Halloween theming, the Haunted Mansion features a special Nightmare Before Christmas theme, and this will last until Christmas.  So please make it out to TDL if you can to enjoy the Halloween fun.  On an unrelated note, please see my updated Enchanted Tiki Room post.


On a last note to all you boys and ghouls, here is a very eerie bear controlling the popcorn...


Muwahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhaaa!!!  Happy Halloween!