Sunday, January 14, 2018

Christmas Illuminations in Tokyo (Fantastic Lights at Caretta Shiodome and Tokyo Midtown)

Christmas lights in Tokyo are pretty special and some of them are pretty extravagant.  There are at least a dozen venues in Tokyo that put on some type of Christmas light display or show.  I'd never seen one before so I decided to visit two of the larger displays.  The first is at the Caretta Shiodome while the second was at Tokyo Midtown.  While the Japanese don't celebrate Christmas in a religious sense, they have made it a special time of year for family and shopping, just like many other cultures.
They have also developed some Christmas traditions like confessing your love on Christmas Eve, to have a Kentucky Fried Chicken Christmas dinner, and of course Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without have strawberry shortcake (aka Christmas cake) with those delicious Japanese strawberries.

Caretta Shiodome
The Christmas light display here was amongst the first I found out about years ago.  When I finally managed to see it in person, it was very fancy, still very large, but somehow felt a little smaller than I expected.  It was really pretty, with colour shifting lights, and a wintry castle theme.  You can tell that it is pretty large as you can see the shadows of people wandering through the lights.  
White lights
Changed to blue lights
Shiodome buildings
The Christmas lights from above.  The large white tent cone/tree was where you could have special commemorative photos taken if you wanted to pay for it.
A world of blue
Lots of lights
Just very pretty.

Tokyo Midtown
This place is the big extravaganza of Christmas displays as they light up the trees along the roads around this giant building complex and the whole park behind the building is one giant animated light display synchronized to music.  The display occupies some 2000 square metres, and has over 500,000 LEDs to celebrate 10 years of light shows.

There were a ton of people here to enjoy the Tokyo Midtown Starlight Garden 2017.  There were so many people you had to walk through the displays in one direction and there were plenty of staff to make sure people went the right way.

The Starlight Garden basically took you through the solar system from the planets to the sun, changing colours, have comets shoot through, and showing a big finale with the sun.  It was big production that was amazing and all for free.  The show cycled every 10 minutes or so it seemed and you could pick a spot or spots to watch it from multiple times.
The trees along the drive
The field of stars.
There are changes all the time and flows of light.
Colour change!
The big planet, the heart of the display.  Tokyo Tower in the background.
Towards the sun.
The big finale.
Great lights.  If I was living there I'd probably be out more than a few nights to catch all the different Christmas displays!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Famous Ramen Shop Konjiki Hototogisu Cup Noodle (Ramen Walker #1 Shop in 2016)

Sanyo's Konjiki Hototogisu cup noodle is a pretty tasty dish.  This is yet another instant ramen from Japan that is co-produced with the assistance of a famous ramen shop.  I'm sure is it a good deal all around as it sells more instant noodles and the Konjiki Hototogisu ramen shop benefits from free press, especially when the instant noodle is a tasty reminder of the real thing from their shop.  I can't remember which convenience store chain I found it at in Tokyo (I suspect Lawson), but I'm glad I picked it up as these are usually limited editions that run out.

The back story to tasting this cup noodle for me is a series of interesting coincidences.  Before I left on my trip to Tokyo, a buddy from work texted me an article telling me about Konjiki Hototogisu opening up their second restaurant in Toronto, Canada.  Their main restaurant is a tiny little eight seat place in Hatagaya near Shibuya, Tokyo.  I thought I could check out the restaurant if I was in the area for lunch or dinner so I even mapped it before arrived in Tokyo.  Anyhow, I never did make it to the restaurant when I was there but I did try a number of very good ramen restaurants that I'll blog about later.  As I don't read Japanese I actually picked this cup of noodle on spec as it had a label saying it was a Ramen Walker #1 pick in 2016.  Ramen Walker is a specialty ramen magazine in Japan, so I thought this had to be something interesting.  Turns out, the cup noodle is for Konjiki Hototogisu, so I did get a chance to taste their ramen (in instant form at anyhow)!     

This little ramen restaurant has been awarded the Bib Gourmand status in the Michelin Guide for the last three years, and as I said earlier, it was named the #1 ramen in Tokyo, and #1 ramen in Japan by Ramen Walker magazine in 2016.  These are some pretty big credentials so it is probably worth a visit in Tokyo if you're really into ramen.

 Here is a visit from the Ikimasho blog, when they went to the Tokyo shop.

Chef Atsushi Yamamoto's famous ramen is a rich clam, chicken, and pork stock that incorporated other non-traditional ramen ingredients such as truffles and porchini mushroom oil to give it a unique flavour.  They also make their own noodles.  So, now onto the cup noodle now to see if it reflects these ingredients.
The handsome side view of this deluxe cup noodle.  It shows the noodle soup, with a big spoon of rich looking broth.  Looks tasty.  There is also the big yellow Ramen Walker label indicating it is the #1 best ramen of 2016.
The lid of the cup with a packet of flavoured oil / fat to give body to the soup.
With the oil satchet removed you can see the top of the lid shows the name of the shop in bold white detail with the #1 yellow label.  I always like how Japanese lettering can look so bold with white, red, and black.  You can see it also says add 420 ml of water and wait 3 minutes to enjoy hot noodles.
Another view of the cup.
A side view of the cup showing some ingredients information along with a nice photo of chef Atsushi Yamamoto.
Ingredients and nutritional information.
The front of the cup again.
Finally popped the lid to reveal soup powder, green onions, another type of green vegetable, menma (bamboo shoots), and some dehydrated pork pieces.  This is a large cup noodle like the Nissin Big Cups.
The noodles after rehydrating in boiling water.  They are thin noodles that are round, and are the more deluxe type of noodle.
After eating this cup of noodles, I have to say that it was pretty good.  I could definitely tell there was seafood in the broth (thought there was some clam taste to it too).  The broth was strong without being overpowering or too salty.  It seem to be deep flavour profile and tasted good with soy notes, but I'm not having an easy time describing it.  The noodles were firm and had good texture.  The menma was okay along with the pork (kind of ham-like), but it all went together for a tasty treat.  I'd definitely recommend this cup noodle and maybe I'll have to look up his restaurant in Toronto or Tokyo when I'm in town next.  Instant cup noodles like this sure make the instant noodle scene so interesting in Japan.
A closeup of the pork and bamboo along with some noodles.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Snacking on the Go in Tokyo (onigiri, sandwiches, karaage, ...)

There were plenty of times I needed to take a break from all the walking, shopping, museum viewing, etc.  I'd look for a park bench or just some place to sit peacefully and have a snack and a drink.  If a coffee shop was nearby, that was good too!  So here is a compilation of snack pictures that were not sit-down breakfasts/lunches/dinner.  You could snack all day over here as long as the stomach and money held out.
Salmon rice ball and a canned coffee!  Always yummy.
Krispy Kreme Xmas Doughnuts.  They look great!
This doughnut was so tasty and has an apple pie filling inside - amazing.
Starbucks chocolate / raspberry frappucino.  Was tasty, but loads of calories.
The awesome egg salad sandwich, riceball, and canned coffee.
Some rice crackers, veggie chips, and beer!
Potato croquette from Kamakura Station.
This was really tasty.  Wanted another one.
Beer and ume (pickled plum) snacks
Strawberry juice and yet another rice ball.
Canned coffees, a Yamazaki Sandwich, and juice.
Lawson Red Chicken Nuggets!
7-11 boneless fried chicken and a rice ball for a mid-morning snack.  Was starving this day.
There is always so much to try to eat for snacks and drinks.  I've never had enough.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Akihabara Girls Und Panzer Display at Gamers

Girls und Panzer das Finale movie 1 of 6 premiered on December 9, three days after I left Tokyo, but I still managed to catch some of the excitement at Gamers in Akihabara. I'm a big fan of the series that combines cute girls and tanks!  It's a fun, but unrealistic series about tank battle competitions where no one dies, which is good thing.  Anyhow, the show is pretty popular so it is now receiving even more movies to wrap up the events with the current set of main characters.
The famous Gamers Store in Akihabara
A giant poster advertisement for the first movie as seen from the train station platform.
Gamer's exhibit space.  I've seen some good stuff here.

The Team Anglerfish main characters from left to right: Saori Takebe (radio operator), Hana Isuzu (gunner), Miho Nishizumi (commander), Yukari Akiyama (loader), Mako Reizei (driver)
The life-sized cardboard cutouts of the main girls.
BC Freedom High- French themed school and tank team from the Finale movies.

They had a lot of anime frames from the new movie up.
More artwork.
The exhibit wasn't huge, but they had a fair bit of merchandise, most of which didn't really appeal to me unfortunately.  It was still fun to look at the characters up close and see all of the flags and art though.
There's always a pile of artwork and such at Gamers, even in the stairways.  This is from Knights and Magic, a fun magical mech show that I quite like too.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bandai Tamashii Nations Show in Akihabara Dec 2017

When I planned my trip to Tokyo I have to say I had a bit of luck on my side.  While I always seem to miss some kind of anime related event as I'm always going at the wrong time, I've also caught some interesting stuff over the years.  This trip, I managed to see the Doraemon Art Show at the Mori Museum, the International Robot Exhibition in Odaiba, Gundam Docks, and the Bandai Tamashi Nations 2017 Show.

The Tamashii Nations show ran from December 1 to 3 in Akihabara.  There were multiple venues, but the big exhibition space with over 500 figures was in the exhibition space on Chuo Dori by Akiba Zone / Bic Camera.  Bandai had people at the UDX and the main Electric Town exit passing out information about the event.

I almost missed out, as I thought the event was at the UDX Building, but that was another related event.  The event was very well attended and crowded around all of these long rows of display cabinets.  The displays were ordered by year and it showed the different figures available each year from ten years ago to the current year.  There were hundreds of figures on display that ran the gamut from Dragonball to every mecha you could think of (almost).   I believe that every figure / toy under the Tamashii Nations brand was on display somewhere.  They also had some special exhibits showing future releases.

All of this was very exciting for the toy / figure collector.  It was a lot of fun to see all of the figures and admire all of the craftsmanship and detail.  There were also live announcements on stage, some games to play in the main room, and some special guest speakers.
The big exhibition / event hall on Chuo Dori by Akiba Zone / Bic Camera.  You can see the outside and inside of the event space in these pictures.  Too many people and faces so I made a comic graphic out of them.
Mechs from Code Geass.
More Macross
Very nice Hulkbuster
Godzilla Resurgence
One Piece
Infinite Stratos
Ghost in the Shell
Gundam Exia
Classic Godzilla
Disney combining mech.
Dragonball Dragon
Street Fighter
Space Battleship Yamato
Great Mazinger
Getter Robo
Mazinger Z
Kingdom Hearts
This is just a small smattering of the items available to see.  I was a bit pressed for time and I would have liked to stay longer - I did go through like 90% of the exhibits, but there was a lot to see.

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