What did I just eat? Sweet edition

24 08 2012

Saturday night. It was hot. We had been out to dinner but were looking for a little something else to round out the evening. Dessert at the restaurant was expensive and unappealing, so what to do? Hit a convenience store, of course.

We raided the ice cream freezer at our local Lawson’s, bringing home all of these goodies:

It was a mixture of some items that were fairly safe and a few that were pretty big outliers.

Let’s start on the left. That would be Coolish. It’s basically a chocolate soft ice cream juice box. You knead it a little then suck it out of the nozzle on top. This one was fairly good, with a nice chocolatey flavor. However, the main draw to this one is the unique packaging.

Next up, the Giant. R and I didn’t try it, but it was quickly devoured by a very messy B. It appeared to be a standard chocolate cone.

Meiji Crispy’s [sic] are pretty much vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate and sandwiched between two wafer cookies. The wafers were brittle and tasteless, but this thing wasn’t too bad.

Now on to the really interesting one, the Parico. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, which had little bottle shapes on the front. I assumed the bottles were symbolic, just indicating a coffee milk flavor. I was a little bit wrong.Ignore the bad picture of R; focus on the bottle instead. The box contained two small bottles. Peel the top off. The bottle is full of ice cream. Squeeze it up to enjoy the delicious coffee flavor. This one was pretty fun to eat and tasty, too!

Last, but definitely least, were those spinach cookies. We hoped that they were somehow a uniquely delicious take on spinach. They weren’t. They kind of tasted like a combination of shortbread cookies and spinach fettucine. Awful. Just awful.

That wraps this up this episode of What Did I Just Eat? Stay tuned for our next edition, which will feature some unique beverages.





Let’s Go to the Mall!

23 08 2012

We are facing the heat of a real summer for the first time in 3 years. So what do you do on a day that is too hot to be outdoors? Hit the mall!

My friend Jan and her family told me they were going to spend the morning at the indoor play areas in Aeon Mall. We have been there surprisingly frequently just to walk around and gawk at fascinating consumer goods and Engrish, but I had never encountered these play areas. Both are hidden in the back of arcades. The first is on the bottom floor, inside You’s World arcade. Stumble through all the noisy machines and there is a Chuck E. Cheese style climbing structure to play on. You purchase 20 minute play tickets (200 yen) from a vending machine and write your kid’s name on it. When your 20 minutes are up, they call your name. As you leave you get a lollipop. Not too shabby!

After our 20 minutes were up, we headed upstairs to the other play area. This one is tucked into the back of the main kid’s clothes and toys shop on the second floor. The payment works a little differently. You get a little card when you enter and pay for time used when you leave. It was 300 yen for up to 30 minutes, then 100 per 10 minutes thereafter.

This second play area was definitely cooler, and I don’t think we would have bothered with the other one had we been to this first. There was a bouncy house with slide, which was the height of excitement.

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If that wasn’t enough, there are also several toy play areas. A full play house with some cool housewares, but my favorite was definitely the ice cream store. Behind an adorable little counter, there was a huge selection of pretend ice cream. With a special scooper, kids could build tall ice cream cones. There were little costumes to complete the effect, but my kid had no interest.Image

If sweet stuff is not your style, there was also a sushi counter.

Finally, for parents, there was a free fancy massage chair — what’s not to love? I would have taken some pictures of that, but the woman in the chair probably would have thought I was pretty weird.

If we had spent a long time at either of these play areas, it could have gotten expensive, but for a little over an hour, we spent 500 yen (about $6). I think it was money well spent!

 

*Where is Robin Sparkles when you need her?





Blast from the Past

14 08 2012

I haven’t talked much about Japanese vending machines, and I think it is time to start. The Japanese love their vending machines. Around here, we mostly find drink vending machines, but in cities, it’s a vending machine free-for-all. Drink machines proliferate everywhere, outside many buildings and in parks. This one is from Train Park, a local playground that also has an enormous real steam engine to climb around on.It is a little hard to tell from the picture, but you probably won’t recognize too many of the offerings. There are a few token Western sodas, but in general the machine is full of canned coffee drinks and iced teas. Most coffees are sweetened; most teas are not. I have been pretty happy with everything I have tried.
And yet.

R and B went out to the electronics store the other night and brought home a new-to-us vending machine treat. It was brightly colored, easy to tell what we were getting. Check it out:

It’s banana milk of some type. I’ve seem similar things in the U.S. Not really my favorite, but I was willing to give it a go. So we all tried it. And what a blast from the past — this lovely beverage tastes exactly like Amoxicillin. You know, the banana kind. With each sip, I found myself imagining an ear ache. R agreed, and even B, who has never needed Amoxicillin, couldn’t take it.

Sometimes, a taste just goes too far.





The Road to Hell

8 08 2012

Now now, don’t get worried about the title. We didn’t do anything bad or dangerous. We just happened to visit the site of the gates of Hell, as far as (Japanese?) Buddhists are concerned.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Last week, Miss B decided she really wanted to go to a volcano. She said it would be a little bit scary and a lot bit cool, and who can argue with that? So we did a bit a research and found that there is a dormant volcano with lots of geothermal activity about 110 km from here. Perfect. The only wrinkle was that Google maps said it would take 3 hours to get to, which seemed like an excessive car trip for a spur of the moment excursion. Silly foreigners that we are, we assumed this was somehow a gross overestimation of the time it would take.

We were wrong.

Still, after a pleasant, if incredibly long drive, we arrived at Mt. Osore, or Osorezan in Japanese. Osorezan actually has 8 peaks and is the remains of a large volcano that last erupted a couple of hundred years ago. It is also one of the three most holy spots in Japanese Buddhism, because it is believed that the many fumaroles (hot gas vents) are entrances to the underworld, and that all souls come to rest at Osorezan. So the thing to do is to leave little Buddhas or other remembrances at the fumaroles. They get corroded or coated with mineral deposits from the steam, and it’s quite beautiful.

This being Japan, there were few gates or barriers keeping people from the bubbling pools. At one point, R stepped right onto a fumarole and couldn’t figure out why his foot was getting so hot! B, of course, ate this all up. She recognized several minerals we have learned about before. She said the vents were like a volcano, “a little bit scary and a lot bit exciting!” I have to agree.