Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji has been known to my all my life as Japan's famous. Visiting Tokyo and not seeing Mount Fuji is as good as going to Beijing and missing Great Wall of China. It baffles me, especially after seeing it why it failed to make it to the 7 wonders. The closest I ever got to, was Great Wall which till today..I admit, it was magnificent.

I deliberately planned to go to Mount Fuji on January 1st, largely because the rest of the population would be at the shrines and Disneyland. Or so I thought. Besides, it would be epic...starting a brand new year infront of the magnificent. I was taking a gamble with the weather which was shuffling between rainy and sunny. Also, all tours were unavailable for that particular date so I was keeping my fingers, toes and possibly my ears crossed on catching a glimpse.

dirty minded dessert

Porn, infused into dessert.

spy the rat!

Handmade figurines of the zodiac animals. I was surprised to find out the Japanese celebrate new year like we do...zodiac animals included too!


jelly

One of the stops that unveiled the hunger in us. Sampling was freeflow and especially catered for tourists.


jap girls

One of the few shops that offered on the spot steamed manju buns.

kiosk

Love this shot.

steamed manju buns

Yes, they steam it with the plastic wrapper intact.

red bean manju

Steamed sponge cake with azuki bean paste...loved how it was moderately sweet.

mt fuji

Glorious beauty. Getting to this was quite a journey...yet it was all worth it. The way Mount Fuji greets you...spectacular. Breathtaking nearly, we spent a huge amount of time starring at it and trying to capture her in her glorious beauty. I wish I stayed longer to capture her at sunset....absolutely...paradise.

sulphur valley

Owakudani valley, the massiveness of it engulfed me when I stepped out.

sulphur

Yes, it reeks of sulphur. Real bad. Try trekking up to the top where the sulphur egg hut is located...!

kitty

What luck to find a poor kitty hiding in a corner amidst the bulgeoning crowds with signages prompting closure at 5pm sharp.

egg shells

The things that define Owakudani valley....sulphur eggs!

i see it!

Two stations sell the famous sulphur eggs, one at the foot of the hill and the other at the top.

Kurotamago

Absolutely a touristy thing to do.

famed

This was totally hilarious...QC for consumers just in case the eggs turn out otherwise...s-m-a-r-t!


5 in a pack

500 Yen for 5 eggs.

sulphur eggs

Ta-dah! Exactly as promised. Honestly it tasted no different from a normal boiled egg, it's just the novelty and eating it with a view like Mount Fuji's made the huge difference.

So that was it, a brand new year unfolded right infront of Mount Fuji...the most definative and unforgettable way to begin the year. I'd never forget the moment I held back tears...the same way I was overwhelmed in one of the churches in Brussels.

Mount Fuji...I just wonder why it isn't one of the world's seven wonders?

Mount Fuji

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Konbini in Japan - Lawson, Lawson Natural, Family Mart

Convenience stores are ubiquitous in Japan, more so than supermarts or hypermarts. To be honest, in the 10 days in Japan and various stops along the way, I have only encountered one supermart in Osaka, two departmental marts in Tokyo and that was it. Most of the daily necessities were obtained from konbini. 7-11 tops the country's number of convenience stores but I actually encountered more of Lawson and Family Mart.

Lawson and Lawson Natural are the equivalent of NTUC and NTUC Finest. The latter supposedly sells more organic and healthier options. The range was more pricey as well.

Bento Set 

It amuses me so seeing the calorie stated on most of the bento sets, as if a stark reminder to consumers to mind the weight regardless. I love bento sets for the variety, especially the little cups that take up most of the box.


tonkatsu dinner


Pumpkin cheese salad, Sauteed spinach, Breaded Pork cutlet, Breaded fish cutlet

Yummy, yummy, yummy!  Adored the rice made of barley and brown rice...so very wholesome. Nothing to fault about this, given that I have eaten worse bento sets on board the Shinkansen.

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Underestimate the soba...not! This was purchased chilled and when the counter guy asked if we wanted to heat it up, we declined. Upon opening it did we realise the soba gravy had coagulated into jelly and with much embarrassment, we brought it back to be microwaved.

Unbelievable but it's mad delicious. Chewy soba noodles with the familiar noodle sauce and best of all, in all its soggyness..the tempura prawn was actually delish! I can't quite fathom how the Japanese do this but food does taste so awesome even when cold.

peach jelly

Peach Jelly

I should have known better than to stop at one. Fruits are over the rainbows expensive in Japan. Be prepared to shell out 600 Yen for a punnet of strawberries in Osaka and at least double in Tokyo. As such, fruit jellies are the next best alternative! Even fruit tarts are exorbitantly priced. Not too sweet, the cup of jelly was precious and so very delicious. Wobbly jelly with the juiciest peach within. A far cry from the familiar canned orange peaches that we have here, those in Japan tasted not as preserved somehow.

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Morning onigiris which I had. Priced at a pop of 105 yen, this was the cheapest breakfast ever.

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Sea kelp

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Tuna

The other flavours available were chicken, mentaiko and plum. Very decent rice balls and they filled us up with enough energy to last the day's walk.

daifukus

Not forgetting their 84 Yen Daifukus which became a daily staple as well. Three main flavours this comes in : Black bean, Green Tea, Original. All three, tried and tested...the last two are my top favourites. Black bean tends to be a tad tougher and salty.

twin desserts from natural lawson

Desserts which we could not resist. Tubs of dessert were mostly sold out by the end of day...we had our share of it too!

mont blanc pud

I insisted on trying a Mont Blanc pudding since I failed to hunt down any Japanese Mont Blanc. Crest fallen and dejected, I had to make do with a pudding.

Utter sadness this was. Nothing too memorable with all the cream and boring curd jelly. Same went for the creme brulee pudding.

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Under the brand of Morinagawa, this pudding was an exact replica of a torched custard pudding...only the torched layer was not crispy. The bestest pudding of the whole trip with wobby custard...absolutely delish! The most amazing part of it greeted us towards the bottom, a lovely drizzle of gula melaka sauce. Yummmmmy!
vending machine love

Just two of the beverages we managed to grab for our journey to Mount Fuji.

Honey apple juice and Van Houten Chocolate drink. Nothing too extraordinary but of the two, juice triumphs.

The thing about civic consciousness is when the government trusts you enough not to have to prohibit you from eating on trains. Japanese like Europeans are given full reign and personal responsibility not to abuse the system. Eating and drinking is perfectly allowed on trains...which gave us more reason to pack along snacks to curb the greed hunger pangs.

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Caramel Collon

Nothing too different from the vanilla ones I'm familiar with. The only other variations I've come across is Portugese Eggtart flavoured ones in Macau.

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Glico Pasta Sticks

Even before going, I've set my mind on trying these out. Shaped just like sticks of pasta..these savoury snacks were so well flavoured, polishing off a pack was easy peasy. Would be perfect with a mug of icecold beer.

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Still riding high on Glico's draw...until Japan, I've only associated Glico with Pocky sticks. Period. Yet in Japan, the possibilities throw you off guard. Just on cheese snacks alone, they have a complete range.

Here's 52% cheese, methinks cheddar given the orangey hue. Mildly flavoured, this was easy to digest for the non-cheese lovers. Cheddar's a lot more palattable and likeable as opposed to blue cheese or even edam. I found it delicious though a tad light.

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51% Blue Cheese. Only meant for hardcores. I absolutely found delight in them. So pungent...anti-fans would retch at the mere whiff. AWESOME replication of blue cheese! Tastes just like blue cheese lathered on a cracker, only better.

cheeze crackers

51% Brie was still considerably light-tasting.

What makes Glico's cheese snack range rock is the crunch of the biscuits. They aren't crumbly like Cheezel Cheese biscuits nor Nabisco's cheese cookies...these pack a whole lot of addition as well. I'd gladly trade my unhealthy chips for these anyday!

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More of the junk.

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Chocolate pucca!

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I wish I had time to munch through all the snacks I wanted to.

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Yogurt coated sticks for more of the munching..

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Buttered mini loaves that we do have locally as well but...but...I couldn't resist!

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The only reason why this was even purchased was....Kinki Kids endorses this. No prizes for guessing who in the family is a humongous fan.

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Normal mamee if you ask me.

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Chip Choc which Mcdonalds did a pastry version of. That HAD to say something about it!

Concert tickets and cosmetics are some of the different items they retail. I spent a great deal of time shuttling in between konbini stores...each seemed to carry a different range and best of all, they filled us up so well at ungodly hours! Just a tip, the kit kat range in their convenience stores are limited to the normal Kitkat and dark kit kat.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ramen Museum @ Yokohama

It would be silly to head to Yokohama just for Ramen museum...but that was exactly what happened due to time constraints. Just 30 minutes train ride from Tokyo station, Ramen Musuem was found without much difficulty!

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Right at the door steps.

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Ramen Musuem, like its name sugggests houses the top ramen names throughout the whole of Japan.Incorporating the concept of a museum, it takes you back in time...into the 1950s where policemen still wore shorts and it is quite a history journey with all the artifacts put in place. From the old telephone booth to a psuedo hair dresser's...even the sky and roving policeman...everything just felt so old school! Even the parents were so in awe and gamely posed for photos with us.

Our Food Republic bore such uncanny resemblance to it.

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Even the dirt was deliberate to make this nostalgic!

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Eki, we headed to for Hokkaido ramen. Ranked tops by diners, we only had space for one and went with the mass advice. On hindsight, we should have gone for Yokohama's..afterall we were there!

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The obsession with paper lanterns this time round!

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Vending machine stamps.They insist on one order per adult which smashed our hopes of trying out different types of ramen throughout the museum.

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Eki was packed...infact, all the ramen shops were!

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Yuzu chilli paste. Bombastic. Yuzu works wonders the way a dash of lime does but yuzu infuses more zest into ordinary chilli paste.

We had a go at all three types of noodle: Soy sauce, miso, black sauce.

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Miso based.

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Soy sauced based.

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Black sauce.

Miso based soup got my vote for personal favourite. This was a lot less salty than the rest though the layer of oil swimming atop the soup was hard to miss. Like maggi noodles, the wavy noodles made slurping mandatory. The noodles were chewy and firm, retaining much of the bite until the very last mouthful.

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Mentaiko rice (350 Yen)

Belittle this bowl not. Vibrant colours aside, the shreds of fried egg and salty mentaiko with shreds of nori should be tossed with the rice to reveal the most tantilising combination ever.

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The oldshop bread-icecream shop that tempted.

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In the olden Japanese schools, they served bread rolls like these during recess time.

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See what I mean by a total replication of the past? Even the store owner looked the part!

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4 flavours up for grabs.

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Peanut powdered bread roll. The bread wasn't the most fantabulous, doughy bread roll with the loveliest and most generous portion of peanut powder. For that split second, I felt I was transported to decades back.

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The charm continues with an oldschool tuckshop stocking all the Japanese sweets and snacks from yesteryears. I went totally "awwww" at this! The uncle had wrinkles drawn on his face to look the part....I was completely sold by now.

With japanese tunes played on the background, it was an immersion in the past...

old school candy

Walking away with a couple of treats..orange flavoured cigarette sweets?

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Every museum is surely not complete without a souvenir store. Keychains, mugs and bowls aside, you can choose to customise your own ramen pack. I nearly gave in but decided against.

Ramen museum brought out the child in both my parents and myself...we had a great time there! Looking back, I wish I had the guts to try out more than one ramen stall! Two storeys worth of nostalgia and 600 Yen each...well worth the experience!

A couple of doors away was Freshness Burger and I was soooooo tempted to sit myself there and tuck in heartily. If only I wasn't so stuffed...if only.