Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Halloween Mister Donut Specials (Hello Kitty!); Japan

Sadly, Mister Donut left the U.S. (I think all Mister Donuts became Dunkin Donuts) around 1990.  However, Mister Donut can be found at about half of the train stations here in Tokyo. 

I go to Mister Donut once, if not twice a week.  The donuts at Mister Donut Japan are absolutely beautiful.  Compared to their U.S. counterparts, they are definitely not as sweet.  Further, there is such a great seasonal variety here, from black sesame to green tea to chestnut to mandarin oranges and onward  Every month there is a limited time set of donuts.   Well, Halloween is no different, this time with Hello Kitty branding and pumpkin flavor donuts:

For a mere 1000 yen, you can get an assortment of donuts, a plush Hello Kitty and a special box.

On Sunday, I had a baked pumpkin donut.  Absolutely delicious.  Truly could taste the pumpkin and it wasn't too sweet.  Free refills on the coffee!!!
On Monday, I had the Whip Obake (ghost) Donut.  This was a standard strawberry frosted dount with whipped cream inside.  A little sweeter than the pumpkin donut, but still really good.

The best part of Mister Donut is they play American music (which is common at a lot of places here) which includes 60's, 70's and 80's songs too.  It's called the Mister Do Network.

Due to the good music, presentation and not-too-sweet nature of the donuts, I give Mister Donuts' Halloween selection 5 long johns out of 5 long johns.  

These donuts won't be here forever, so if you want Kitty-chan or pumpkin donuts, you better get them soon.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Update- Disney World, Orlando, Florida; Summer Has Passed, Time to Blog Again

Well, you probably realized that there was a long lag in posts.  I got busy with work and then so much happened over the summer.

Here are some key events that occurred since my last post in May.

1.Blogger now allows rich-text editing on its iPad app.  Great, I'll be doing this more often soon.

2. Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup.  Big news for me because I'm from Chicago and love the Hawks.

3. We went to Disney World in Florida.  Lots of fun.  However, it was really hot, kids were really jet-lagged and traveling on the Disney buses with a giant double stroller was quite difficult.

Here's a selection of pictures from our trip to Disney World in late July/early August.  As you can tell, eating was very important to us as a good deal of the pictures are of food.  We opted to choose the Disney meal plan, which is a good deal.  For a flat fee of about 55 dollars a day, an adult can have one snack, one counter service meal and one table service meal.  For the meals, you can choose one non-alcoholic drink, one entree and one dessert.  As expected, we were gunning for the most expensive items on the menu on a regular basis.

We had the good fortune of staying at the Kidani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge as my sister and brother-in-law were generous enough to invite us to stay with them at their Disney Vacation Club two-bedroom villa.

I plan on updating this blog on a more regular basis from this point onward.  Enjoy the pictures!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Otakara Ichiba (Treasure Box) お宝市場; Daiba Ichome Shotengai 台場一丁目商店街; Decks; Odaiba; Tokyo

Welcome to another round of wonders and oddities coming out of the land of the rising sun.  This one involves a store of... Mystery boxes!!!  That's right, you don't know what you will get in the box, maybe tickets to Tokyo Disneyland, maybe an iPod or maybe a pig sculpture or a keychain!  You can find this shop in the Daiba Ichome themed area of Decks shopping mall in Odaiba.   This area replicates 50s, 60s and 70s Japan, known as the Showa era.

 Now in all honesty this mystery box thing got us really excited and as silly as it seems,  I had no problem paying 300 yen for a chance at (really rare) getting Disney tickets or an iPod.  Every New Year's holiday, Japanese retailers have a similar concept with fukubukero (lucky bags) where people buy mystery bags from stores.  A lot of times it is stuff retailers weren't able to clear during the year but other times it is truly good stuff.   Even the Disney store has these mystery bags around the New Year's holiday.

So on with the festivities!
Here we have a lovely lady picking out a chance for something special.  It is customary to shake the boxes to get an idea what is inside.  The premium prizes are like that golden ticket from Willy Wonka; they are certificates hidden in normal prize boxes.  So the Disney tickets wouldn't be any lighter than normal boxes.  However,it is still fun to shake as many boxes as possible.
Here are more boxes.  The gold ones are 1000 yen a piece and have better prizes.  The cheap Chinese part of me prodded for the 300 yen box.   However the gambley Chinese part of me kept prodding about the more expensive gold boxes.  Cheap won out in the end.
We have a cutie opening the box here.  You have to open the box in front of the clerks.  They as well as interested bystanders observe the fun.  If you get a premium prize,  the clerks ring a bell and everyone goes nuts.  Well, as nuts as Japanese people get, which is just saying すごい!!!(great).
Here is what we got, a mini Care Bear, which to be honest, was a good deal and made our little one quite happy.   Had we got an I Heart Seoul pin or a cheap compass, we definitely would have felt the 300 yen was not worth it.
Thanks for reading, and please try your luck at getting a 300 yen iPod!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sbarro; Shibuya; Tokyo

Yep.  Here it is.  The Italian restaurant in every shopping mall's food court has landed in Japan.  This one is not too far from Shibuya station.   My buddy Dana and I decided to hop on the train and have lunch here not too long ago.   We were both laughing at our excitement about being at Sbarro since neither one of us would eat at a Sbarro in the States.  But given the distance from home, we gladly took our opportunity to have an authentic slice of Americana.
In that sense Sbarro will not disappoint you as it is a perfect replica of the Stateside pizzeria.  The slices even cost the same, about 400 yen (4 bucks) each.
Unlike the food court staple, the Shibuya Sbarro is decorated nicely (you can't do that in a shopping mall).
In addition to pizza, Sbarro has salads and pasta.  A small salad, drink and two slices set me back 1,100 yen, which is not too bad.  The food, well, was identical to the food court fare.  For that aspect, I give it five out of five pizza slices.   Now if only they would bring Panda Express, Sarku and the Steak Escape over here too to round out the mall food court gang.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ornamental Fish Exposition, Funabori, Tokyo

I'm far far behind on my posting.  However I'll start catching up today.  First off,  what crappy way to start the day, getting up at 4:00 am to watch the Hawks lose to the Wild.  But hell, it is a seven game series and there's no way the Hawks would win the cup without losing a game here and there.

While I have a chance to bitch about things, I'd like to talk about two things that piss me off about Blogger and the iPad mini.  First for the life of me, I cannot access the lower half of this draft post on my iPad mini, which really pisses me off.  Unlike Windows, there is no scroll function and my fingers won't allow me to edit what is below past the the first three or five pictures.  Damn you Apple.  Next, the Blogger app is terrible.  Look at the reviews it has.  My thinking is that the reason the app is so bad is that it is a screw you to Apple from Google since Google owns Blogger.   Come on now, no rich text function for blogging?  One of Blogger's draws is easy blogging, and the app is anything but that.  I wouldn't really be so bothered by this; I'm probably just really pissed off because the Hawks lost and I've been up since 4:00 am.  Still, free is free so I shouldn't complain about Blogger or the app.  But I still had to go home and finish this on the home computer.  A pretty crappy or in this case, carp-py situation.  Drum roll please....

Back to the fish show, it was located at Funabori which is not far from Funabashi.  Funabori is still in Tokyo rather than Chiba though.  The station was adorned with goldfish artwork like the mural below so there must be some relationship between Funabori and goldfish.

There were no fish for sale here as it was just a fish show like a dog show where breeders competed in various categories like discus, goldfish, etc.  Below is a huge goldfish that we saw.  We didn't stay around to see the winners though..
Here are some goldfish waiting to be judged.
Two huge discus.
Here are some more discus. Being a discus lover myself, this made me miss my beloved discus and 55 gallon tank that I left behind in the U.S.  Some lucky guy has my babies now.

Here are some guppies.  Yep they get the competition love too.   I really could not tell the guppies from each other.  I wonder what the judging criteria for these guys were.

Here is a beautiful sakura themed display, perfect for spring.
This is an aquarium diorama where Sylvania Families figures can enjoy aquatic life much like real people.
Neon tetra attack!!!
Here was a really fun part.  They had a lottery game and for each paid admission, we got a spin.
We ended up winning 2 goldfish, fish food, a filter cartridge and a whale tank decoration (the fish food and cartridge were gracious given to us by some nice folks who didn't want them).  We also won a calendar.
Here are our little friends.  The little ones named them Shiny and Flower.
All in all, it was a great time.  Thanks for reading my post and thank you for putting up with my ranting and raving.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cherry Blossom Viewing/Festival, 花見Hanami; 靖国神社 Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo

Over the weekend, we had the chance to do some prime cherry blossom viewing.  Although it was technically a week after full bloom, the cherry blossoms still looked very nice.   It was pretty cold though.  To get to Yasukuni Shrine, you can take the Tozai line to Kudanshita 九段下 and then head up the stairs.  The signs will lead you there.
Here is another picture of the cherry blossoms.  They definitely would have been prettier had the sun been up.  But for me, the true pleasure of viewing cherry blossoms is... drinking and eating all the yummy foods connected with cherry blossom viewing; namely, yatai (屋台) foods!!!  For those of you who don't know, yatai foods are Japanese versions of those food stands from the State Fair or carnivals.  I've heard that the yukuza run the yatai, however, this doesn't prevent the food from being great.  You can see examples of the different types of foods that can be purchased from yatai below.   
This picture features a candy apple stand.
We have okonomiyaki お好み焼き here, which the Japanese call Japanese pizza.  More accurately, okonomiyaki is a big pancake with egg, bean sprouts, meat and green onions.  As to the history of okonomiyaki, I've heard that it was born after World War II when the Japanese didn't know what to do with the flour that was given to them from the Americans.  The flour was just poured on a griddle with other ingredients and voila- okonomiyaki was born! 
We have fish on a stick here.  The entire fish is skewered, salted and cooked.  These fish are called ayu no shioyaki.
We have meat skewers here.
Chicken (dark meat) skewers here.
Goldfish.  Really... These goldfish are not eaten however.  For anywhere from 1-3 dollars, children pay for a little plastic net with a paper net part.  Then they get to try to scoop goldfish into a cup before the paper net breaks in the water.  You might end up with ten goldfish or zero goldfish.  At this yatai, the nets were really weak and I didn't see any winners.  I knew that there was something fishy when the goldfish in the tank were of a much better quality than the usual feeders featured at festivals.  The man running the stand seemed to get pleasure from children failing.  Usually they just let kids keep on trying until a goldfish is caught.  This guy just told the kids to try (and pay) again. 
Chocolate covered bananas.  Covered by smoke too!!!
Cotton candy.
Here is an actual ayu fish from the yatai above.  This happens to be my favorite yatai food.  The bones can be eaten.  This guy was yummy and set me back 500 yen.
Wagyu steak on a stick.  I get this every year and it seemingly has suffered from shrinkage from year to year.  The price has been constant though, 500 yen.  This year seemed to be the least tough.  Maybe the quality of the beef is getting better... yep, that made me feel better already.
Chicken on a stick.  Yeah, this was REALLY good.  It was seasoned with pepper and salt.  Really juicy and bursting with flavor.  This guy was 500 yen also.
Frank on a stick.  Woo hoo this one was yummy too.  The outside was crunchy.  One yatai was selling the franks for 200 yen compared to 300 yen at the other stands.  Can you guess which yatai I chose?
Choco bananas!!!  This one actually was coated with melon-flavored chocolate.  The kiddies loved them.  They were 300 yen a piece.

More than just the beauty of the cherry blossoms themselves, we chose Yasukuni because it has the largest selection of yatai.  We'll definitely be back next year.  I give it 5 meat sticks out of 5 meat sticks for the selection.  As a parting shot, here is a nearby river filled with cherry blossom petals.  And like that, spring was officially here.