Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tsukemen Senmonten Ippo

-This is another posting on a kind of Ramen called "Tsukemen"(The first posting was this.)-
While I was wandering the streets of Akihabara, I felt hungry, and as I had planned to have Ramen in this area, we decided to have lunch at this Ramen shop called "Tsukemen Senmonten Ippo". The meaning of "Senmonten" is "a specialized shop", and "Ippo" is either "the first step" or "one step".
It seems it has its shop only in Akihabara, but as far as I searched on the Internet, it is widely supported by many Tsukemen fans. There is a narrow street where there are many maid cafes in Akihabara, and if you go north along the street you'd see this shop. 
As the clock on the wall shows, it was before noon, but as we had decided to leave Akihabara soon, we had an early lunch. When we took seats the shop wasn't crowded, but as we waited almost all the seats were occupied. 
I ordered a regular Tsukemen that cost 8.6 us dollars. The yen is soaring against the dollar these days, so you'd think this is a bit expensive. Tsukemen is basically a set of Ramen and a bowl of broth, so you should dip the Ramen in the broth like below. 
The texture of the noodles was a bit sticky, but they went down my throat so easily. After coming home I found out on the net that this shop was renowned for its spicy Tsukemen, so I'd like to try it next time I come here. I didn't choose the spicy one since it was over 33 degrees Celsius on the day. 

I saw some foreign people in Akihabara, but it seemed they weren't so interested in anime, but in some electronics stores.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tokyo Tower

When you're supposed to name some typical Japanese things, you'd think of Mt. Fuji in the first place, and the next thing you might come up with would be this "Tokyo Tower". It has been so sunny and hot for the past few weeks that I came to this tower on Sunday. Its height is 332.6m FYI.

Tokyo Tower is in Minato Ward, Tokyo, and can be reached from Kamiyachou station on the Hibiya Line. There are some other ways to come here, but I took advantage of that line. This tower was built in 1958, and has been used to broadcast analogue terrestrial signals for TV and the radio. 

But as in the USA, Japan has phased in digital broadcasting. Tokyo Tower has played a role in broadcasting digital signals for TV for a few years, but it is a bit too short to send digital signals to every area in Shutoken, or the Tokyo metropolitan area.  

So the digital broadcasting for the Tokyo area is going to be taken over by Tokyo Sky Tree in 2011, which I introduced with this picture. Btw, you'd see how big this tower is by comparing those people with one of the four feet of Tokyo Tower. 

When I came here I saw so many foreign people who seemed to come here for the purpose of sightseeing. And you'd see this "Welcome" sign when you approach the entrance. The white mist under the gate was a bit cool, and would have been comfortable for those who walked in the strong sunshine. 

There were lots of souvenir shops on the first floor, and those T-shirts seemed to be for foreign people. As we Japanese like English words, so do foreign people our kanji. The T-shirts on the first shelf have the word "Matsuri", and it means "festival". You know Japanese people like festivals, and we have so many festivals all through the year. The kanji on the white T-shirt says, "God of the festivals".

Tokyo is renowned for this "Tokyo banana". Japan is a small island, but it takes at least half a day for people in, for example, the Tohoku district to reach the capital. So those people buy this "Tokyo banana" for their families and friends. But Tokyo has nothing to do with bananas as you know.

We Japanese don't associate our country with Hello Kitty, but foreign people would do. The black kanji on the red clothes of the kitty says "fortune". I had never seen so many kinds of Hello Kitty goods as these.

When I got out, an event called "Sarumawashi" was being held. It is basically done by a pair of a human and monkey, and he makes the monkey do many kinds of acting that is usually done by humans, like bowing, dancing and so on. Foreign people seemed to be so interested in this event, but I've seen this "Sarumawashi" so many times at tourist spots. "Saru" means "monkey" btw. 

On my way back from Tokyo Tower, I dropped in at this cafe called "First". There was a cafe on the first floor of Tokyo Tower as well, but I recommend you come here, as this cafe has been visited so many famous people like Katsunori Takahashi, Ryouko Shinohara

This cafe seemed to have been established a long time ago, and the taste of this coffee was in proportion to the history of this cafe. So good. 

And when I was looking out, I saw this tour bus, which suggested Tokyo Tower is a must-place for people who visit our capital for the first time. There are so many movies on this tower including ones called "Tokyo Tower".

Compared to Akihabara, Tokyo Tower is an old-fashioned tourist spot, but it's still worth visiting. You'd never regret coming here.  The official website of Tokyo Tower: click this.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gionsai (A summer festival)

There is many festivals called "Gionsai" in Japan, and the most famous Gionsai is held in July in Kyoto on a yearly basis. The purpose of those festivals is to welcome God called "Susanoono Mikoto" and to ask him to keep diseases from spreading. 

 The nearest Gionsai that I could take part in was held in Tsuchiura city, and I came here by 15 minutes' train ride. The show was scheduled to begin at 7pm, so I was just waiting for a while in this piazza.

 People were standing by the street and some were having food at the table. It was a bit bright but suitable to take pics of the show as my camera is weak at taking dark scenery.

The first one was this "Shishimai" float. The meaning of "Shishimai" would be "The dance of a lion". This lion and dance allegedly came from China or India, but you could say it is now one of the traditional Japanese things.

 The second float was this. You can see some people on it playing instruments. The building behind the folat is a department store "Ito Yokado".

 The third one. As I saw one float after another, it got darker and darker. The masked man seemed to be from the Heian period(794-1192) or older. I know much about the Japanese history, but nobody could instantly tell which period his costume was based on.

And the fourth one was with a Hyottoko-like dancer. As I explained before, the expression of Hyottoko masks is based on one made during making fire with a bamboo pipe. His dance was as funny as clowns'.

There were sooo many people watching this pageant show, and I felt hot partly due to wading through this crowd. It was about 33 degrees Celsius, but basically no matter how you dislike the heat, the summer festivals should be enjoyed while you're sweating. 

I think those pictures aren't enough to tell you how those floats were moving around. So take a look at the video I uploaded below. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Walk in Akihabara -10-

I went to Akihabara the other day. I had heard the pedestrian paradise was going to be reinstated, which I was looking forward to, but cars were running in every wide street of Akihabara. I like to come here especially in the summer because people are lively, and that if I'm lucky I could see some special events. 

I arrived at Akihabara just before 10am, so the shops were closed. My friend and I decided to have coffees at a Veloce that was close to Yodobashi Akiba. The coffee I had was 10 yen cheaper than the Veloce in my city.

Do you know an anime called Angel Beats? As far as I know it has been very popular and its story is on a boy who got lost in another world where people are living lives after death. This sofmap always puts up an anime ad, and when I come here I can't help but pay attention to it.

You'd see lots of Ramen shops in Akihabara, but there are also several curry shops here. This "Karekichi" has 3 outlets in Tokyo. The word "Kichi" means "-maniac", so the meaning of "Karekichi" might be "Curry-maniac".

Do you know a seasoning called "Raayu" or hot sesame oil? It is basically liquid, but recently solid-type "Raayu" have been released one after another by various food companies. And this "Karekichi" was selling solid moe "Raayu" that this character was advertising. This girl says "You'd get so addicted to this yummy and spicy Raayu that you'll want more." Here's a link to pics of a bottle of solid-Raayu. Click it and scroll down.

This Naruto flag says "The Akihabara electronic shops' festival is going to be held until August 1st". If you buy things at the designated shops, you'd get a 10,000 yen coupon or Naruto character goods.

Let me introduce three anime things that I saw in Akihabara. These are One Piece chargers. It seems you can use it for the three Japanese mobile carriers, DoCoMo, AU, and Sofbank plus i-phone, i-pod and Nintendo DSi.

Manjyuu called "The Moe Rabbit from Akihabara". I often see this kind of moe snacks whose character you can see only on its package. I think the manufacturers should come up with something unique to such snacks besides moe characters, like special tastes.

K-ON Manjyuu. I showed another K-ON Manjyuu before, but this was a new version. And, as I explained before, Manjyuu is a bun that has some azuki paste in it. Here is a pic of Manjyuu. This K-ON Manjyuu seemed to have some tea leaves in the buns. This was more appealing than the Rabbit one 'cause the 5 members of K-ON actually often have snacks with tea in their club room.

And when I was on my way to Akihabara station, I dropped by the information center near Gamers, and I got this guide book on anime in English. Of course you can take it for free.

This was published by Japan Travel Agency on March 25, 2010, and that made me realize the importance of our animes that play a role in drawing foreign tourists. And this page had a Lucky Star article. Please read the description to see the details. Lucky Star is now so popular enough to be recognized by the Agency.

And this article was on Ghibli Museum in Mitaka city, Tokyo. You can visit the URL written at the bottom of the page by clicking this.

I'm now thinking of visiting Akihabara again in August. =)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


As you know, the economies of the US and Europe are yet to recover, and Japan is still in serious recession. People refrain from buying expensive things, and though the sales of the condos in Tokyo are picking up, most of the ones in rural areas remain vacant. And in order to pinch pennies people repair their 10-year-old cars instead of buying new ones. As for food, Gyudon, which I'm going to introduce this time, is one of the least expensive dishes people now enjoy at restaurants.

There are a few Gyudon shops, but the most popular one is this Yoshinoya. It's taste is better than the others, but the least expensive Gyudon bowl costs 300 yen, while Matsuya and Sukiya offer a 280 yen bowl. You might think the 20 yen difference doesn't matter so much, but the latter two are profiting more than this Yoshinoya.

But my friend insisted on having Gyudons at this Yoshinoya because he's a huge fan of the Yoshinoya Gyudon. The red seasoning you see on your left is Shichimi, which tastes like Tabasco but consists of seven hot spices. "Shichi" means "seven".

The left dish is Gyudon. It is a bowl that has rice and slices of beef seasoned with soy sauce and sugar as one of the two toppings. The other topping is slices of onion. The onion makes the beef softer and gives it a mild and rich taste. Some people are so addicted to this Gyudon that a customer became violent at a Yoshinoya when the American beef that Yoshinoya uses wasn't available a few years ago due to the disease called BSE a.k.a. mad cow disease. The right bowl is Tonjiru, which is a kind of miso soup that has tiny pieces of pork as the main ingredient.

There are countless Yoshinoyas across Japan, so you'd see one in the place of Japan you're going to visit. Give it a try. =) Btw, the art teacher from the anime Hidamari Sketch is called Yoshinoya too, but I haven't seen any person named Yoshinoya in reality so far.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Komachi no Sato -2-

On my way home I dropped in at two temples. It seemed other people didn't visit those temples, and it was very silent with only cicadas singing. 

This temple had a gate and basically it seemed to be the same as the one I showed in the "Asakusa -2-" posting. And this gate also had two Niou statues.

Basically these Niou statues have angry expressions on their faces, and they're said to protect the temple from intruders. I was successful in taking clear pics of the Niou this time, and this one with his mouth shut is called "Ungyou".

And the other Niou is called "Agyou". In Sanskrit, which was the common language used in Southeast Asia and India, these statutes were called "Vajradhara".

And I visited this temple too. This temple was burned down twice, but reconstructed in 1977. The atmosphere was so tranquil also here that the sound of my footsteps resonated while I was walking.

As I explained before, this is "Chouzuya" where you're supposed to wash your mouth and hands before you pray. The kanji written sideways in white means "Purify your soul". 

Some temples have bells like this, and on New Year's Eve, the monks hit the bells 108 times, and the 108 is the number of worldly desires people have. The monks start to hit the bells just before 0:00 AM, and it is the sign that tells people the year is about to end. Come to Japan around the end of a year, and you'll hear the bells being hit in the midnight.

I like the temples in Kyoto as well, but at temples where there aren't many tourists you'd feel more peaceful. =)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Komachi no Sato -1-

There is a place in Tsuchiura City, which is next to my own city, where a poet Komachi Ono is said to have passed away. The place is called "Komachi no Sato"(Sato means "hometown" in this case), and it had her tombstone and some shrines as well. I came to this "Sato" last weekend.

When you come here the first thing you'd see is this sign. The white Japanese reads, "Komachi no Sato". I drove about 1 hour to reach here.

Though this waterwheel seemed to be made for tourists, I was impressed by its enormousness. I came here for the first time, and one of the reasons why I visit "Japanese-styled" places is to make a posting for this blog to be honest.

This is a picture of Komachi Ono. Her birthplace is said to be in Akita or Fukui prefecture or elsewhere, and the place she died is also numerous, but let's believe this place has something to do with her last days. She wrote poems called "Haiku" for a poetry book called "Kokinshuu", and she is one of the very renowned poets from the Heian period (794-1192).

There was a doll of Komachi Ono, and the clothes she's wearing is called "Jyuuni Hitoe". It was worn as oridinary clothes back then.

I came here around noon, so I decided to have lunch here. You should have you legs folded to sit here. That way of sitting is called "Seiza" and here's a pic of "Seiza".

Have you gotten used to seeing Soba? This cold Soba is called "Zaru", and if it has "Tempura" as well, it can be called "Tenzaru". (So this is Tenzaru as you can see).

I saw this "Electric Dragonfly", which was made by a professor from a university, outside the Soba restaurant. It seemed to have been set up to attract tourists, but personally I thought this didn't go well with the legendary poet. 

-to be continued-

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Numamoto (A provincial cafe)

One of the neighboring cities is called "Ushiku", and it has a train station and many restaurants in the center, but if you drive 10 minutes away from the center you'd reach its rural areas. And this cafe called "Numamoto" is in an area where there are lots of trees and wild flowers.

I think this cafe is one of the most expensive ones in my prefectures, and I haven't come here for more than 3 years. The "Numa" off the name "Numamoto" means "marsh". And it is a commonly seen surname among us.

This cafe has a terrace and garden and you can walk around in the garden. You might not see how big the garden is in this picture, but it is at least as large as 900 square meters.

I ordered a Dutch coffee, and it had this cream on top of the coffee. It cost as much as 6.2 us dollars. I usually refrain from spending so much money on coffee, but I couldn't have only Mcdonald's coffee on end. Of course I'd give an A grade out of 5 (A-E)

It was around noon, so I felt a bit hungry. This is sandwiches that had boiled egg, salad, and pieces of ham in between. This cost as much as the coffee. We often have rice balls for lunch, but sandwiches are preferred by many Japanese people for lunch as well.

After finishing the lunch I walked around the garden for a while. It was so humid and hot, but under the shadows of the trees I could feel soft breeze on my cheeks. We are still in the middle of the rainy season, and it will take a while before the sweltering summer kicks in.

It was so tranquil in and outside the cafe, and while I was having the coffee, the background music was something classical. I like the hustle-bustle of Tokyo very much, but usually I tend to prefer tranquil atmosphere.