Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Wonut!; FamilyMart; Throughout Japan

Sometimes things are so blog-worthy that when you see them, your heart skips a beat.  The Wonut is one of them.  I went to get my two morning SOYJOY bars and my soybean milk from the Familymart on the 4th floor of my building and saw this gem.  I didn't buy one so there is no review here.  But it looks like it is exactly what it advertises itself to be: a hybrid waffle donut, appropriately named the Wonut.  If anyone here gets one, please comment on how it is.
Other than that, Mom is eventually going to sell some of my old toys on eBay as she needs to get things in order in the house.  When I checked completed auctions to see their values, I couldn't believe how valuable some of it was.  The proceeds of the future auctions will go to Mom for all of her hard work over these years.  I'll be sad though as I love my old toys!
I actually might keep the Well of Souls.  Pretty fricking cool with snakes, mummies and shit.
Purple He Man dinosaur anyone?

Here's the guy who brought me to Japan.
Hey Arnold, the Batman and Robin audience called and want their 2 hours back.

Well, that's it for now.  Have a good one and try the Wonut!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cherry Blossom Viewing Again; Yasukuni Shrine; Tokyo

Guys, if you can read the sign above, please take note of it.  That's right, if this interests you, you have until April 5th to enjoy the cherry blossom viewing festival at Yasukuni Shrine.   If you want to get here, take any of the subway lines to Kudanshita and follow the signs to the shrine. The cherry blossoms are beautiful and the yatai food (festival fare) is delicious. 

Pretty exciting stuff.  Lots of yatai stands.  Lots of different foods.  What do you Japanese eat at festivals?  Deep-fried twinkies? Funnel cakes?  Corn on the cob?  Cream puffs?  Hmmmm.... Let me show you the typical Japanese festival fare.
You can see the yatai stands on the right side.  Getting excited.
Candy apples, corn on the cob, Chinese dumplings...
Fish on a stick, fish-shaped pastries... There's a funny story about the fish on a stick.  I'm pretty sure that when we came to Yasukuni in 2008, they were 300 yen.  In 2009 they were 400 yen.  Last year I think they were 500 yen.  This year, some places had them at 600 yen.  Now that's inflation at work.
Closer to the fish.
These guys don't win any awards for being pretty.  But they taste pretty good.  Their skin is crunchy and there was steam coming out of the little guy as I gobbled him down.  I searched carefully and got him for 500 yen or about 5 bucks.  Generally, the further you are from the center of activity, the cheaper the prices.

Chocolate bananas...
A close-up of the choco bananas.  One my stinkers got one.  I think it was 300 yen or about 3 dollars.
Steak, pork and chicken sticks...
Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes with meat, egg, vegetables).
More steak sticks.  Of course I got a steak stick.
Here they are cooking my steak.
Yum-oh.  I'll do it again because it deserves it.  Yum-oh! 500 yen.

Little red bean paste cakes.
Grilled squid.
Candied oranges and cherries.
Giant okonomiyakai.
Fried chicken.
Here's a piece of fried chicken.  Yummy.  We got our lines crossed and my father-in-law and I ended up getting fried chicken from two different stands.  I liked his chicken better and wifey liked my chicken better.  Each cup was like 5 bucks, around 500 yen for a large one.
Cotton candy.  That's right.  Yet more Frozen goods.  Of course, we got a bag of Frozen cotton candy at around 5 bucks, or 500 yen.  500 yen is the magic number for most of the yatai food.
Here is the super store of yatai foods.  They got it all.
Giant hot dogs without the buns.
Scallops, mussels and clams.
My father-in-law ordered three sticks.  Each one was about five bucks or 500 yen apiece.
Here's a scallop.  Damn it was good.
Various meat and fish on sticks.
They have games for kids too.  No they aren't going to eat the goldfish.  Kids scoop them up with a paper net.  Once the paper breaks, the game is over.  I've seen evil goldfish game operators that were giggling when a kid's paper net would break and the kid didn't win anything.  That's just wrong.  I think if an operator laughs when a kid fails to win, that operator should get punched in the balls "I make-a da shoes" style.   That would be fair.
I have to be honest that when we finished eating our food it kind of felt like when you wake up on the day after Christmas.  I really look forward to eating all of this stuff every year at this festival.   As you can tell, the yatai food is pretty expensive and to save money, we load up on convenience store rice balls and sandwiches and eat them before we get the yatai food.

We ate so much this year during our cherry blossom viewing that wifey and I didn't feel like eating dinner.  The in-laws generously took the kids for the afternoon and let us have some time alone.  It was some really special time.  I was very happy with wifey for planning it out.  Although most of the time was spent walking around in Tokyo and drinking coffee at Starbucks, getting time alone is nice.  I have to admit it was pretty strange being without the gremlins but it was relaxing.  So a quick thank you to wifey and in-laws.  That's it for now.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Shopping Fun; Tokyo

Just a quick post before I go to sleep.  F-R-I-D-A-Y!!!  Over the past few months I've done some heavy shopping.  Here are some pics of particularly useful things I've found at the mall.
Here is a coat that I found that'll keep you plenty warm in the winter.
Yep. Life-size plastic golden tamarin. Just what everyone needs in the shower.
Mini bust of a bust.
Donut holder.  Gotta keep them round.
Giant-size plastic hermit crab to go along with your plastic life-size golden tamarin.
Female Spartan armor to protect her most vulnerable parts.
My WOH teammates have seen this one. Anatomically-correct muscle man.  This guy definitely walks around without the towel in the locker room.
Budweiser as an import beer.  It's cheap.
What's this?
PETA fans rejoice!  Mini aquarium! I personally bought three of these.  Here's another one for PETA.
UFO Catchers with live fish.  They love being grabbed and dropped within their mini tanks.
A shitload of Frozen stuff.  Frozen bread, Frozen bottled water and Frozen anti-freeze.
As you can see, there's always something fun to be found here.  Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ice Cream Vending Machine!; Aeon; Throughout Japan

Vending machines are one of things that make Japan a great place.  Coca Cola? Sure press the button. Soy milk? Yeah over there. Beer? There's a machine two blocks away. Condoms? I'll go after it gets dark. Beef jerky? Three stops from my office. Pens? You can find them everywhere. Real teenage girls' worn panties? Gross, but in Akiba. Miniature monkeys that smoke mini cigarettes? Hmmmm... I haven't seen those in machines here.

My cousin Ryan and my mom were laughing at the multitude of vending machines here.  We couldn't go a block without seeing one.  They are placed outside in plain view of the public and are often in secluded places.  That statement might contradict itself but I like the way it sounds.

Anyhoo, that's another point I want to bring up.  These vending machines are not abused like they would be in the States.  No one vandalizes or takes stuff from them.  Case in point. Many years ago when I was in a daily parade at a major theme park, we had a vending machine in the break room near parade step down.  On a bi-monthly basis, after our parade, four or five Beast-height performers would shake the machine and stuff would fall down like winnings from a slot machine.  The candy and snacks that fell would then be thrown to the other onlooking and cheering performers like it was Mardi Gras.  Sadly, no boobs were exposed when we were looting the snack machine.  The company, or, at least machine supplier, had to know that stuff was being stolen.  But the machine remained during my tenure with the company and is probably still there. 

Ice cream vending machines are not uncommon here.  On almost a weekly basis I bring the girls to the local department store, Aeon, and we enjoy the frozen delights.  The ice cream tastes remarkably good for its price point- 130 yen, or a little over a dollar.
There she is. On the third floor.  The second floor has her twin.
I'll choose the limited-edition salt vanilla flavor.  The limited-edition flavors change with each season.
Here is my selection.  It's a strange shape.  You peel off the paper from the top and sides. They also have cones and bars in the machine too.
This week, I chose salt-vanilla, and the girls chose the same flavors they normally choose, blue cream soda and a grape variant.  While the ice cream will never replace Baskin Robbins, which is located in the food court on the first floor of my Aeon, it is fast, cheap and fun.  For this reason, I give it four scoops out of five scoops of ice cream  
I'll leave you with a picture demonstrating some other yummy stuff in vending machines here in Japan.  Have a good one.

And one more...
The beer vending machine!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sushiro スシロ, Minami-Funabashi, Chiba; Throughout Japan

We have this bad habit of letting the little ones pick out where we eat on the weekends.  It usually starts out with one of us asking them where they want to eat for dinner or for lunch.  Then they tell us where.  About half of the times the kids want to eat at kaiten sushi places, which for American people means conveyer belt sushi.  I have an older post for Kura Sushi, which is a kaiten sushi joint.  Well this week, they predictably picked kaiten sushi.  However, it was not any kaiten sushi place, but it was Kura Sushi. Kura Sushi is incredibly popular with kids because they have a game whereby for each five plates of sushi you buy, you get to play a game at your table.  If you win the game (which is random), you win a capsule prize.  So we headed out to the closest Kura sushi at that mega mall, La La Port in Funabashi.   After changing the train twice, it took about 35 minutes to get there.  It's not actually that far from us, but if you miss the right train, you can end up waiting 15 minutes or so for another train. If you are wondering by now why the post is entitled "Sushiro" and not "Kura Sushi," let me explain.
Salmon, yum-oh!
Well we arrived at La La Port at 3ish and went up to Kura Sushi to scout out wait times.  To our dismay, at 3pm, the expected seating time was 7:40pm.  That's over 4 and half hours to wait for a table.  That's nuts.  To add insult to injury, they had this sign in the window at Kura Sushi:

When I see ignorance like this it drives me nuts.  This is not uncommon in this country.  My cousin Ryan couldn't believe it when he came here the first time.  The third largest economy and supposedly most technologically advanced country in the world with talking bus signs and robotic toilet seats has large chains that don't accept credit cards.  Ouch.   It's really just bad from a business perspective.  So fair warning to all of you planning on coming here, have cash on hand as credit cards are not accepted at many places.

Back to our family, there was no way we would wait over four and a half hours to eat dinner, so we hightailed out of there.  We did a little shopping and about 15 minutes from Kura Sushi, we found Sushiro.  We did have to wait about half and hour, but the sushi was very good.  Let me share some pics.

What's missing here is a video of the sushi actually rotating around.  Chefs in the back prepare the sushi, put them on plates and put them on the line.

 If you don't see what you want, you can manually order things.  You can pick English on the menu and it toggles to an English menu.
When you order things, music plays on the screen to let you know your order is coming your way, and your order comes on a dish specifically colored for your table. We were the silver table, and the special order dishes had a silver sticker on them.
A convenient menu on the table.
Snow crab!
Young (cooked) chicken
Unagi (eel)
Cooked thin slices of beef
My favorite, deep fried imitation crab with mayonnaise.  Damn that was good.
What goes great with sushi? Suntory Premium Malts!
You can order noodles too.  They also have fries, fried foods and desserts on the menu
One thing about kaiten sushi chains like Sushiro and Kura Sushi is that they are very affordable.  Each plate only costs about 1 dollar (100 yen).  I was able to feed a family of four for around 40 bucks (4,300 yen), which is not bad at all.  If you hike out to kaiten sushi chains in the U.S. like Sushi Station, you end up paying 3-4 dollars a plate.  So, if you want affordable sushi, hop on a flight to Japan and hit Sushiro. 

Overall, I give Sushiro five unagi rolls out of five unagi rolls for a great selection, affordability and well, everything tasted really good.