Classical Music, Odaiba, Science, and Pancakes! (yes, more pancakes)

Less than one month from today, I will be back on US soil. I think it will be a little bittersweet leaving Tokyo but mostly sweet and filled with good things… from Trader Joes.

The next two weeks are going to go by in a flash as one of my besties is coming to town! I am so excited and it will be nice to be out and about seeing all the Tokyo sites for probably the last time. On top of that, a week from Saturday… we will be climbing Mt. Fuji!! I am praying and hoping for good weather, but either way, I think we will have a great time.

This past weekened, I started Saturday off with a little miscellaneous shopping and then headed to Korakuen where I met up with a coworker and his wife to watch the Sony Concert Band (one of the many bands/orchestras supported by the Sony Foundation). It was a free concert and it was amazing. Classical music is relaxing yet energizing all at the same time. The most popular of the songs was the theme to a Japanese video game “Monster Hunter” (I admit I’d never heard of it) and 1812 Overture.

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Sunday, I ventured to Odaiba to see the Rainbow Bridge (I want to go back to see it at night). There is also a Statue of Liberty Replica given by France to Japan, it was so cute!

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Odaiba is also home to the Museum of Emerging Science, which I thought was awesome. There were so many great exhibits… although some of them required a little too much reading and not quite enough hands on for me.

The highlight of this museum is the large globe made of tiny LED screens. It also projects a demonstration comparing the world to Japan. One of the funniest, yet accurate, facts of all of them was robberies. Using circles to demonstrate, it showed what would be about the size of a basketball (scaled down for my example as compared to the size of the globe) as the world average and Japan was probably the size of a pea, one single solitary pea. Perfectly shows, based upon facts and data, that Japan is such a safe country.

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Oh and I ate pancakes. Ricotta pancakes with banana and honey butter. I sure did.

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Adventures in Japanese Cuisine

Because I have the uncanny inability to sleep in on the weekend (it’s Saturday here) and I’ve been up since 5:30, I thought I’d finally share some of my favorite meals from my time in Japan so far.

The food has been so good and what I like most besides the general deliciousness and variety is that the portions are normal sized. So even if something is rich and indulgent, you aren’t given too much of it, unlike the gluttony present in the US. However, there isn’t an overwhelming presence of fruits and vegetables. Oh and did I mention… fruit here is SO expensive. I think I actually had a heart palpitation when I saw 6-8 strawberries for 500 yen, that’s nearly $5!!

The flavors of Japanese cuisine are simple but delicious. One of my favorite meals has been this udon which has a thin piece of fried tofu on top.

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Okonomiyaki is a specialty of the Kansai region of Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, etc.) and was by far my favorite meal in Kyoto. It is a savory pancake-like dish filled with vegetables, seafood, etc. and served on a hot skillet.

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Unagi is barbequed eel served on rice. It was so delicious, but what isn’t delicious served with BBQ sauce.

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What I have been most surprised by is that fact that some of my favorite food here isn’t Japanese. There is an Indian restaurant that I have been to nearly every Thursday for the vegetarian curry special with the most delicious nan bread.

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There is a pancake craze in Japan. With breakfast food being my favorite, I have enjoyed this thoroughly. I swear, these are pancakes.

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Oh and these crepes. The best 450 yen you will ever spend.

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In terms of beverages, I am obsessed with Chu-hi (pronounced chew-hi) which is a low alcohol content soda-type drink and the most delicious refreshing thing, ever.

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There is so much more: The best sushi you will have in your life. Soba noodles. Tempura. Green Tea/ Matcha everything. The list of delicious goes on and on.

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That being said, I have a list of foods that I can’t wait to eat when I get home including black bean burgers, baked oatmeal, watermelon, general fruits and vegetables. And I am most looking forward to getting back into a full size kitchen and trying to recreate some of my favorite meals from my trip.

It’s time for some breakfast now!

Cup Noodles and Hydrangeas

This past weekend was filled with Cup Noodles and Hydrangeas… as the title clearly suggests.
Saturday I went with two co-workers to Yokohama to visit the Cup Noodles museum.

I really enjoyed Yokohama. It was about a 50 minute train ride from Tokyo. Once you are there it feels much more “residential”. Everything is a little more spread out and roomy and the view from the bay isn’t too shabby either.
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Instant Ramen was invented in Japan in 1958 by a guy named Momofuko Ando, a cute old man. He spent months in his tiny shed trying to find a way to enjoy delicious ramen witout taking so much time. In preparation of the trip, I had Cup Noodles for dinner a few nights beforehand. I am completely serious when I say, I forgot how delicious it is! I have since had Cup Noodles for dinner on more than one occasion. I can’t get enough. And if you’re concerned about my salt intake, don’t worry – the trick is not to drink all the broth.

One of the best parts about the museum is the My Cup Noodles Factory  where you get to decorate your own bowl and choose your flavors. It was so much fun. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

This photo is all of the finished soups before being packaged and shrink wrapped. I chose kimchi (!), corn, green beans, and fish cakes with a seafood base.

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After they seal it, you get to put it in this weird blow-up packaging that you can then wear as a necklace. I’ve never felt so cool…

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On Sunday afternoon after church, I met up with a different co-worker to go to the Hakusan Shrine to catch the last day of the hydrangea festival. It was a warm one with the sun shining but the flowers were beautiful!

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There were so many varieties that I had never seen. There was also a jazz band playing in the garden and had there been a place to sit, I would have plopped down and just enjoyed the music the rest of the day.

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Time has been going by so fast and I now have less than 5 weeks left before I arrive back in Seattle and only 4 weeks until I leave Japan for Hong Kong.

Kyoto

I realized when I went to write this post, it’s been over 3 weeks since my last post! Today also marks 8 weeks in Japan! My how time flies!

My mom was in town the last week and a half of May and we were out and about the whole time, non-stop. I had the best time with her. We went to Kyoto, Hakone, and explored Tokyo too.

Kyoto was fantastic, we walked SO much and saw SO much but had a wonderful time and made sure we ate well to make up for all of our walking. It has been my favorite food so far. We also discovered this most amazing cream cheese custard filled cream puff from the Family Mart, like a 7 eleven. It was so good we made a stop both nights of our stay to pick one (or two) up.

We stayed at the Kyoto Hana Hotel and I would definitely recommend it to anyone going to Kyoto. It was such a nice stay, impeccably clean rooms, fancy foot massager in our room (!), and a great location.

For our biggest sightseeing day in the Higashiyama district, we followed the walking itineraries on this super helpful website. I definitely recommend poking around the site if you have plans to visit Kyoto.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from Kyoto.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple looking out onto Kyoto.

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Aquaduct at Nanzen-ji Temple that was actually still a functioning aquaduct.

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Overlooking Ginkaku-ji (the silver temple). Although not actually silver, the view of the city from the gardens was great and zen sand formations were pretty awesome. _DSC0953

This may be surprising… but this is The Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). It is covered in gold foil and by far the most popular attraction in Kyoto. _DSC0962

Second in popularity to the Golden Pavilion is the Fushimi Inari Shrine that is known for its rows and rows of bright orange Torii (shrine gates). They continue on and on up the mountainside. The women in their Geisha clothing make this photo look really authentic. _DSC0973

Although not nearly as popular (read: less people), my favorite place was the Sho-ren-in Temple. The outside is surrounded by these outrageous camphor trees. The inside is a serene garden and also a series of buildings with amazing painted walls and screens and other historic items from when the it was used as a retreat for Buddhist teachers. DSCN0923

Today, I am heading to Yokohama with a few coworkers and we are going to go to the Cup Noodle museum and will get the chance to make our own cup noodle! Sunday, I’m visiting a different church where a friend that I met while doing BSF over here sings in the choir and then heading to the Hydrangea festival in Bunkyo. I’ll try to get a post together to share the weekend happenings.