Friday, April 26, 2013

Yokohama Ramen Musuem

This week Raku has had a friend visiting, and the three of us went out to the Ramen Museum in Yokohama.  For some reason the museum spells it "raumen," but I'm just going to stick to the regular spelling.

The museum area of the museum is actually quite small.  It's just a wall inside the gift shop with some history - all in Japanese.  But the point is not to read about ramen, it's to sample the ramen!  The museum has recreated a little 1958 ramen village with nine ramen shops.

Main Square of the Village

Ramen Alley

Everything has been aged to look like it's from 1958

The museum has selected from the most well know in the country to represent the four major types of ramen: shoyu (soy) broth, miso broth, shio (salt) broth, and tonkotsu (pork) broth.  The shops all have vending machines that sell tickets for half and full sized bowls.  We decided to try three different types, but even with the half sizes we were stuffed by the end!

Our first ramen was tonkotsu style from Komurasaki.  Tonkotsu is my favorite type of ramen anyways, and this was excellent.  The broth was wonderfully flavored with garlic and had a rich almost creamy consistency.  There is red pepper on the table than you can mix in, which I did halfway through.  Both ways were great.  The only bad thing I would say it that noodles were maybe slightly overcooked.

Komurasaki: Tonkotsu Ramen
 Our second stop was at Sumira for some miso ramen.  This was my least favorite of the day.  The noodles were thick and crinkly, with a nice springiness to them, but I didn't care for the broth.  It was very thick and very oily, with a strong ginger scent.  I normally love ginger, but I thought it clashed a with the miso, and that the flavor of the bamboo shoots clashed even more.  I did like how the pork was diced rather than in slices.  For what it's worth this was Raku's favorite miso of the day, but her friend agreed with me.

Sumira: Miso Ramen
By our last stop we were all losing a little of our enthusiasm (even though I didn't finish my ramen at Sumira).  Luckily, at Shinasoba-ya the small portions were significantly smaller than at the other two places.  The noodles here were the thinnest and most delicate which Raku and I both enjoyed, though her friend preferred them thicker.  The broth had a delicate flavor that Raku and I both though reminded us slightly of Udon broth.  Raku found this very unsettling, but I was just glad it tasted better than the miso.

Shinasoba-ya: Shoyu Ramen

By the time we finished our tongues were burning from both the salt and the hot broth.  In our dehydrated state we went to the gift shop which was very entertaining.  Raku's friend bought some ramen to take home, and we all laughed at the ramen themed gifts.

Classical and Jazz Noodle CDs?

Super cute ramen stickers!

Yokohama Ramen Museum
Admission: Adults 310 yen, Children 100 yen
Hours: Typically 11:00-10:00, but varies daily, consult this page
Phone: 04-5471-0503
Address: 2-14-21, Shinyokohama, Kohoku-ku

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kyushu: Dazaifu

While we were in Kyushu, Sarah got to visit two of her friends that had been JICA volunteers (the Japanese equivalent of Peace Corps).  One of them had a car, so they drove us out to Dazaifu, which is a town near Fukuoka.

Daziafu is know for Tenman-gu Shrine.  It was the perfect day to go - the sky was sunny and blue, it was warm and breezy, and we were all happy from our delicious waffle brunch.

Tenman-gu was incredibly beautiful, and it was great to be there with Japanese people.  We all got fortunes and they read ours to us (John and I always struggle with that part) and they explained the history of the area.

I'm always terrible at taking pictures of shrines and temples.  It's partially because I'm just using my phone, but it's also because I want to focus on the details rather than the whole shrine, so lets just get this first picture out of the way.

Tenman-gu Shrine

The Shinto religion celebrates nature, and I've heard of shrines where a tree will grow up, and they will just let it grow through the building, but I finally got to see an example!

Isn't that great?

We saw some really interesting trees that were covered in a sort of hairy moss.

And there were lots of turtles sunbathing in the lake.

Turtle Dominoes

We stopped to have some green tea and grilled red bean and mochi cakes.  I've said before that I'm not a big red bean paste fan, but when it was warm the texture was a lot different - smoother - and it tasted better too.  We sat on raised tatami at a little table, and it was absolutely lovely.

Snack Time!

After the shrine, we walked up and down the little shopping street in Dazaifu that sold crafts and snacks and souvenirs.  It reminded me a lot of the main shopping street in Kamakura.  On the ride home we could barely keep our eyes open, but it was a really wonderful afternoon!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Kyushu: What We Ate

I was looking through all my pictures from Kyushu and realized that about half of them were of food, so I thought the food deserved a blog of its own.

On our first night in town Hunter took us to one of her favorite restaurants, Ante.  She goes so often that she's good friends with the bartender/manager.

Ante Italian Restaurant and Bar

They named a drink after her!  (It's the bottom one)
We got their specialty, Omu-rice, which they made extra large for us to share.  Omu-rice is an omelette filled with fried rice.  It is normally topped with ketchup, but this one came with a cream sauce.  The rice inside was very delicately flavored and mixed with shrimp.  It's sort of an unusual dish, but this one was really good.


The next night we went out in Fukuoka and came across a Japanese sweets shop.  Ichigo Daifuku is a seasonal confection consisting of a fresh strawberry wrapped in mochi, with some red bean paste filling.  This place however, was selling fruit tart daifuku, which included multiple fruits and a little bit of tart crust.  I'm not crazy about red bean paste, but this was delicious!


So beautiful!
My favorite thing from the whole weekend was an amazing fruit waffle that we had at brunch.  We were joined by two of Sarah's friends, and all five of us ordered the same thing.  It was absolutely gorgeous and tasted just as good as it looked.

Can I have this everyday?
And finally, on or way to the airport we saw this cute little steamed bun guy in a convenience store. We didn't actually buy any, so I don't know if they're any good - but they sure are cute!

Steamed Bun Monster

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hello Kitty Donuts

Right now Mister Donut is selling Hello Kitty themed donuts!

Of course we had to try them.

Truth be told, they're not that great. They all have fillings that are very artificial tasting, and the consensus was that they would be better without the filling. They are adorable though. If you spend at least 600 yen you get a Hello Kitty hair bow cellphone charm that plugs into the headphone jack.

It's too bad the jack is on the bottom

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Visiting Kyushu: Kurume

Over the weekend Sarah and I went to visit one of our high school friends who lives in Kurume, a small town in Kyushu.

Reunion!  We're all blonde now.

Kurume was really interesting to see, since I've only been to a very few locations outside of Tokyo. The streets and sidewalks are much wider, and it felt like I could see farther because the buildings weren't nearly as tall. The town had a very warm friendly atmosphere, and Hunter has friends all over, and is also acquainted with all the neighborhood cats.

Small Town Japan

The chickens slide back and forth on the hour!

It turns out that Bridgestone Tires was started in Kurume. I had no idea, but Bridgestone is a Japanese company. The name comes from the Ishibashi family whose last name means "stone bridge."
Hunter with the Tire
We didn't actually go in, but Hunter took us past a karaoke place that looks crazy!  It's actually based on Gaudi's architecture, but it sort of looks like a hallucination.

Creepy, right?
But everything was really beautiful while we were there.  There were still some Sakura blooming (though they're not the normal kind - these remind me a little of carnations), and the carp flags are out for the Boy's Day celebrations.

Sakura Lined Canal

Carp Flags

Stay tuned for a post about all the food we ate there!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Petit Party: The Cutest Ice Cream Ever

Ice cream here usually comes in small amounts.  It's normal to find ice cream bars or individual cups. A pint is the biggest you'll find - but they're rare and about $8. But, I have a new favorite kind of ice cream: the petit party.

Amazing Right?
They're tiny, individually wrapped bites of amazingness! They come in strawberry hearts, chocolate stars, and vanilla circles. Yum! And so cute!

Monday, April 8, 2013

My New Coach Toothbrush

Our friend Sarah is here visiting, so we've been showing her fun things and feeding her good food. We had some birthday crepes in Harakjuku yesterday and a bento picnic in a park today. But one of the best things she and I did today was look at the different fashion magazine.

More Magazine
And guess what free gift I found? A Coach toiletry set! It came with a little pouch, a mirror, a little flat cup to rinse your mouth I guess, and a travel toothbrush. I'm mostly excited about the toothbrush.
Isn't it cute?

I'm definitely taking the travel toothbrush when we go to Kyushu this weekend!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tout Le Monde Card Shop

In December John stumbled across a little card shop that he thought was amazing.  We've since tried to retrace his steps, and finally found it today.

The store has cards and stationary from floor to ceiling, through a number of narrow isles. They have a wide selection of imported cards from all of Europe as well as some American and Japanese cards. They are organized by subject (ex: Michael Jackson, Cats, Disney) and also by language. There were many cards in English, French, and German.

We got some amazing postcards, including some French ones that had stickers on them for the recipients.

The shop is tucked away on a little back street in Jingumae, which makes it a little hard to find. To get there take exit A1 from Omotesando Station or exit 4 from Meiji Jingumae Station. If you're at Meiji Jingumae walk up the hill, and if you're at Omotesando station walk down the hill. Turn and walk down the side street between Dior and Chanel (left coming from Omotesando, right coming from Meiji Jingumae). Turn left again at a little shop called Hysteric, and Tout Le Monde will be several blocks ahead on the left.

Hours: 11:00-7:00, Closed Tuesdays
Phone: 03-5469-1050
Address: 5-45-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Apartment Photos

I got a request recently for some photos of our apartment.  I guess I talked a lot about about the apartment hunting process, and showed a couple pictures of funny things about the apartment, but never put pictures up of the finally product.  So here we go.

You might remember my complaints about the marble all over the place.  But, I'm getting used to it (though every time I drop something in the entryway I'm worried the floor will break).  John was really excited to get the perfect stool for putting his shoes on.

Between you and me, he never uses it.

This is our bedroom.  We've had the hardest time figuring out how to hang pictures in our apartment.  Apparently apartments in Tokyo are really strict about putting holes in the wall and will charge you massive fees if you do.  And because we have a textured wall paper we can't use command strips.  In the living room we have a picture rail that let us hang a few pictures from the ceiling with fishing line, but there wasn't one in the bedroom.  We finally found tiny pins (the kind for displaying dead butterflies in a case) that make holes small enough they blend into the weave of the wallpaper.  This painting is just stretched canvas, so it's light enough for the pins.

We tried a couple arrangements in the living room before we settled on this one.  We like it because it does a good job of keeping the eating area separate from the living room area, and when you sit on the couch you look out at the skyline.

John organized our books by color

My plants.  The basil's been having a hard time.

The kitchen opens just past John's desk.   It's a really good sized space, and I've adjusted to not having an oven.  We might get one eventually, but for now this is working.

The set up I do have is 2 induction (IH) burners (and one that's not IH) as well as a fish oven, which I've been using as a toaster.   The IH burners are controlled by buttons on the surface, and the oven and non-IH burner are controlled by a little panel that pops out.  There are all sorts of intricacies I've learned though.  The non-IH burner can't be used at the same time at the oven.  And the IH burners can't go to high while the oven is on. 

The fish oven and control panel

I can read about two thirds of what this says!
 It's strange how quickly life here has become normal.  Now that we've gotten all our furniture and everything's set up this place really feels like home.  Before moving here I was so scared of living in a big city.  I felt like I might get lost between the skyscrapers and the crush of people.  Instead I've been surprised to find how much our neighborhood really is just a little neighborhood.  We have parks nearby, and there's very little traffic at all on our street.  It actually feels very calm and quiet here.  I recognize the cashiers in the supermarkets now and John has people he recognizes on his walk to work - like the old man throwing a tennis ball to his dog every morning.  (There are 6 different Starbucks with a 10 minute walk of our apartment though - that's different!)  Life has settled into a pretty nice routine.