Monday, October 16, 2017

Yokohama Cup Noodle Museum

Last fall I visited the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama. That's right, Yokohama not only has a ramen museum, they also have a museum dedicated to instant ramen!

The first thing we did upon arrival was watch a brief movie about the man who created instant ramen. The movie is in Japanese, but you can get a headset with English, Korean or Chinese audio. I thought the movie was cute and had a sweet message about never giving up, which was a theme throughout the museum. It evidently took Mr. Momofuku many tries before he succeeded in creating instant ramen.

Afterwards there is a model of the shed Mr. Momofuku worked in for so many years, a room full of the many different iterations of Cup Noodles and other Nissin brand instant ramen, and some entertaining ramen themed art work.

But the highlight of the visit is the opportunity to create your own cup of noodles for 300 yen. First you are issued a cup and seated at a table with markers to decorate it as you please. Once your cup is ready to go, you can select a broth flavor and your favorite toppings and watch as the cup goes through the assembly line. To be honest, I thought it sounded a little gimmicky, but it was really fun. Depending on how busy the museum is you may be able to make two or three cups if you like, but I've heard of it being limited to one on some days.

Of course, at the end there is a huge gift shop if you need even more than your individualized Cup Noodle to remember the day.

Admission: 500 yen
Hours: 10:00-6:00, no entry after 5:00, closed on Tuesday
Phone: 045-345-0918
Address: 2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama

So many years and varieties of Cup Noodles

Friday, September 29, 2017

Cooling Down

It's amazing how much the weather can impact my attitude. It's finally been cooling down, and the skies are bright and clear after what felt like a summer full of rain. As the weather has improved I've found myself feeling so much more cheerful, and positive about Tokyo. When it's miserable outside and everywhere inside is crowded I can get quite down about living here. But then thankfully the weather changes, and my outlook with it.

I've been going on walks lately, and enjoying being outside again. Not much else is new, but here's a quick glimpse of some day to day highlights. 

Lunch with little friends

And dessert with bigger friends

Watermelon softserve and frozen s'mores at Dominique Ansel - beautiful and legitimately yummy!

A recent protest against the TV station in my neighborhood

My kind of bicycle

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Akasaka Palace

Last weekend John and I went for a walk and happened to wander by Akasaka Palace. From a distance we noticed that the gates were open, so we went closer to investigate. It turned out that they were open for tours, so we jumped at the chance. Through 2015 Akasaka Palace was open to visitors for only a few days each year, but starting last year they have increased the number of days they're open to the public.

Akasaka Palace was built in 1909 in neo-Baroque style. It was quite surreal to walk through the building as it felt so thoroughly European. Sadly, no pictures are allowed inside, but it's stunningly beautiful. Today the palace is used as a guest house for visitors of state.

If you're on vacation this is definitely not a must-see. But if you're in Tokyo for a while it's a really interesting departure from other sites. We probably wouldn't have made plans to tour the palace, but really enjoyed the opportunity when it fell into our lap. I'd definitely recommend it. Their fall schedule is available here.

Akasaka Palace
Hours: See Schedule
Admission: Gardens - free, Main Building - 1000 yen

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How to Clean a Japanese Air Conditioner

Want to hear something gross? I just learned last week that air conditioning units are supposed to be cleaned once or twice a year. Yes, that means that in 4.5 years our air conditioner never once got cleaned. Oops. Can I blame this on growing up with central air? Last week when John and I both noticed a musty smell I googled it, and found this blogpost from Okinawa Hai incredibly helpful.

Basically, the front of the unit lifts up so that you can remove and clean the filters. Then while the filters are out you spray in some cleaner that kills mold, bacteria, etc. Following Okinawa Hai's recommendation we hung up a sheet to protect from drips. Honestly, none of the cleaner dripped out, so it seemed pretty unnecessary. It did catch a little dust the fell when we removed the filters, but I think that's probably due to how long our filters had gone uncleaned. After ten minutes you can return the filters and restart the air conditioner.

The whole process was very easy. We bought the cleaner on amazon for less than 400 yen, though it should be easy to find in hardware stores and probably drugstores. Immediately afterwards we noticed that the air in our apartment smelled fresher. So, if you didn't know this was necessary, or you haven't been sure how to do it, don't hesitate - it's very simple.

Air Conditioner Cleaner

Filters out - getting ready to spray
Super Gross Filters!

This is what they look like clean

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Crazy Foot Peels: Baby Foot v. Shiny Foot by Tony Moly

Have you heard about the new trendy foot peel products that promise insanely smooth feet? Baby Foot is a Japanese product that costs about $20, and Shiny Foot by Tony Moly is a similar Korean product that costs about $10. Both promise to use fruit acids to make all the rough dead skin peel off your feet, leaving fresh beautiful skin behind.

Two friends and I were very curious about these products so, we gave them a try at the beginning of summer. I've been meaning to write a review for ages, but honestly I'm glad it's taken so long because our opinions have shifted as time went on.

Overview and Product Differences

Both Baby Foot and Shiny Foot have plastic booties that you wear for 60-90 minutes while the peeling liquid soaks into your feet. Baby Foot booties have a squishy lining inside that already contains the peeling liquid. Shiny Foot is more like a plastic bag that you pour a small pouch of liquid into. Because of this difference in design Baby Foot exposes the top and bottom of your feet as well as ankles to the liquid, while Shiny Foot only submerges the bottoms of your feet and in between your toes.

This means that with Baby Foot you'll have more exfoliation, but you'll also have fewer shoes that will hide the peeling. For example, Tom's shoes hid all peeling from Shiny Feet, but not Baby Foot. You should consider where you want to exfoliate, and how important hiding the peeling is to you, when you select a product.

After the 60-90 minutes, you wash your feet thoroughly and then wait several days for the peeling to begin. Both products took about the same amount of time to begin peeling, and while the peeling patterns on our feet were somewhat different, the end results were similar.

With both products your feet will peel for about a week, and eventually you will be left with smoother, softer, pinker skin. 


Underwhelming, sums up our experiences. While our feet did look nicer, the results were very brief, and two of the three of us didn't think the change was very significant. One of us has dry feet in general, and she was very pleased with her results. The other two of us have more calluses but not dryness, and we were the two unimpressed. If you have dry feet with white flakiness, you will probably be more likely to enjoy your results.

But the medium and longer term results are less impressive no matter what. All three of us soon realized that we have calluses for a reason (I can hear my mother's voice inside my head saying that now) and we all started developing blisters and rubbing from our shoes after using this product  - Baby Foot was worse than Shiny Foot in this respect.

Within two or three weeks I felt like all evidence of the peel was gone, and as the summer has progressed I feel like my feet have become rougher and more callused than normal. I should point out that all three of us live in a city and walk A LOT everyday, so it's possible that had some impact. 

All three of us admitted that the actual peeling process was really fun and satisfying, but none of us thought we would use the products again. If we did, it would be for the fun/social aspect of doing it with a group of friend, rather than actually wanting the results.

Tips for Use

If you decide to use one of these products here are some tips we learned along the way:

1. Soak your feet in warm water for at least 15 minutes before using the products to make them more effective.

2. The instructions will say that the liquid should absorb, but this is a mistranslation. It won't, but that's nothing to worry about.

3. Remove all toenail polish before using! The liquid will eat the polish off leaving a faded, dusty matte color, but it will also cause the pigment to soak into and stain your toenails. Nail polish remover will not be able to remove the staining - you'll have to wait for them to grow out.

4. Once your feet begin peeling, wear socks at all times or else you will have to do a lot of vacuuming/sweeping. (I wore flip flops after showering to give my feet a chance to dry first)

5. I preferred to gently massage the peeling skin off under running water at the end of my showers rather than flaking it off when it was dry. That said, never use a lot of pressure to peel or scrape skin off - be gentle.

Pictures below. Warning - if peeling feet gross you out, don't scroll further.

Baby Foot

Shiny Foot

Early peeling

Middle stage peeling

Late stage peeling

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July Update

It's well and truly summer now. We're had several days above 90 degrees, and last week the cicadas came out. If the last couple weeks are any indication it's shaping up to be a brutally hot summer too. Everyone I've talked to agrees, it's already hotter than the last two summers at least.

Perversely, my mind keep daydreaming of fall - grapes and pears and fall leaves and hiking (for some reason hiking seems like a fall activity). Then I have to remind myself it's only the middle of July.

But, July is my birth month, and it's been fun celebrating. There's been lots of good food and fun with friends.

This guy knows how to do summer

Summer Cooking - Corn Tacos with Zucchini  Radish Slaw  

Pre-birthday lunch (delicious Greek food not pictured)

Pre-birthday Desserts with Raku
Just look at the detail - tiny sugar dew drops!
Just as pretty as all the desserts
Birthday Flowers
Birthday Gelato

Godzilla Spotted at a Beer Garden

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Afternoon Tea at the Aman Tokyo

It's been ages since I've posted an afternoon tea review, hasn't it? Luckily there's a new player in town - the Aman Hotel, and Raku and I were able to go a few weeks ago.

The Aman is a new hotel in Marunouchi, and it has a really unique atmosphere. Definitely no generic hotel lobby feeling here. Much of the lounge is black stone, and they've selected a black theme for their afternoon tea as well. Sandwiches and cream puffs are made black with bamboo charcoal, and even the tea cups and plates are black. The rest of the accents in the room are pale wood, and rice paper creating a really elegant but modern feel.

We had a window seat, which we were initially exited about, but I have to say in warmer weather I don't recommend it. We were so hot from the sun pouring in, and had to move our food to the other side of the table to keep all the chocolates from melting!

The food itself was really delicious and creative. Top marks to the chef for that. But I have to say there was too much chocolate. I know that sounds crazy, but just trust me. From the photos you can see that there are a number of fashion themed chocolates - shoes, purses, a jewel with more chocolates inside. Early on we noticed that a lot of people were leaving most of their chocolate behind, and we were scandalized. How wasteful! But we ended up doing exactly the same thing. There's simply too much to be enjoyed.

They have a nice selection of teas. Iced comes by the glass and hot comes by the pot, and you're welcome to change flavors with each order. But, they won't allow you to place your next order until you've finished your current glass/pot which does lead to an annoying wait at times. Our particular favorites were the Peach Bergamot iced tea and the Irish Whiskey Cream tea.

As far as I know, this is the most expensive afternoon tea in Tokyo, but it's a really creative and delicious menu in a unique atmosphere. If you're looking for an indulgent and out of the ordinary tea, this is it.

The Aman Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea Hours: 11:30-9:30
Phone: 03-5224-3339

Peach Bergamot Iced Tea

Fashion Themed Chocolates

Excellent scones

Banana Caramel Chou

Tokyo Tea Lovers

Read about other afternoon teas:
The Palace Hotel Tokyo
The Metropole Hanoi
The Ritz Carlton Tokyo
Tokyo Shangri-la
Peninsula Hotel Tokyo
The Mandarin Oriental (second time)
Park Hyatt Shinjuku
The Four Seasons Marunouchi
Hotel Chinzanso
The Mandarin Oriental

Friday, June 23, 2017

What I've Been Cooking Lately

It's been a while since I've posted about my cooking, but I feel like lately it's been worth mentioning. With the warmer weather there's so much summer produce already available - peaches, cherries, corn on the cob. I enjoy those all so much more now that they're only available during a specific season. I've also been trying out a few Japanese recipes here and there. It might be a terrible excuse, but I rarely cooking Japanese food because it's so readily available, and I always think that nothing I could make would taste as good or be as authentic. But the last three recipes I tried all came out really well!

Oyakodon - Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl

Fancy Brunch - Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Gyudon - Beef and Sweet Onion Rice Bowl

Shiso Pasta - Shiso is a Japanese herb with a flavor similar to mint and basil

Prosciutto and Cherry Salad - Recipe from My Little Expat Kitchen
The Japanese dishes come from Japanese Soul Cooking.

See other JSC recipes:

Mabo Dofu
Sapporo Soup Curry
Sesame Karaage
Tan Tan Men
Pork Gyoza
Ebi Chili
Japanese Soul Cooking Review