Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fake Food!

What do you first see in this picture?

It looks like a delicious display of Sushi, right?
Watch out! As your eyes might deceive you, you are actually looking at plastic food! They are set out in the front window of a restaurant or shop for customers who walk by to quickly show them what they offer. This is the easiest way for people to know what is served. It quickly catches your attention and attracts you in. Japan has some very impressive fake food dishes! Instead of being totally surprised by what you ordered, you can have an idea of the type of food they serve by seeing these displays before you choose your restaurant.

In front of Ramen, Sushi, and Crepes shops there are often huge displays in plastic form. These viewer friendly menus have been created in Japan since the early 1900's. They are usually made by hand to present the true authenticity of the food. For fake food to look realistic, the making of it follows a procedure that is similar as possible to the original food.

They look so good it makes you hungry just looking at them!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two-Wheeling Tokyo!

One of the most representative symbols of Tokyo is the intricate train and subway transportation system. Clean, efficient, and nearly always on time, the system is widely dubbed as the "heartbeat of Tokyo," and is also globally renowned for keeping the city running.

But recently, more people are beginning to rely less on trains as bicycles steadily gain popularity. Whether trying to escape the sardine-packed rush hour trains, or aiming to be more "eco-friendly," or seeking to trim up waistlines before summer, road, hybrid and mountain bikes have now become a common sight in the bustling streets of Tokyo.

This trend is also catching on in the tourism industry, as tourists and residents alike now have a variety of rental bicycle companies that offer daily or weekly bike rentals. Prices range from 900yen/day ( to 4,000yen/day ( with different services included.

As for destinations, popular areas include cycling around Odaiba, Asakusa, Roppongi, or the around the Imperial Palace or Hibiya area. But if you're looking to ride outside the concrete jungle of Tokyo but still stay within the city, your natural choices would be the city's many parks and major rivers. One such place is Inogashira Park, quietly tucked away in the Mitaka suburb. Biking here also provides an alternative way to reach the fantastical Ghibli Museum, as I've previously introduced here (link to previous post).

For less sightseeing and more hardcore biking, I recommend cruising along the city's several major rivers such as Tama River, Arakawa River, and Sumida River. Lined with biking and jogging paths, the rivers offer courses for even the most seasoned cyclist to bike for hours on end, and it's nearly impossible to get lost. For example, Tama River stretches for 138 km (about 86 miles), originating at Yamanashi Prefecture and ending at Tokyo Bay. Tama River also forms a natural borderline between Tokyo and Kanagawa along the way, so feel free to take a detour in the neighboring prefecture while you're at it!

The most beautiful part about biking in Tokyo is the freedom to explore and ride as far as you'd like. I know I'll be out there shaping up my beach body, so hopefully I'll see you on the road!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Enjoying OKINAWA!

It is an undisputable fact that Okinawa is a part of Japan, however, many of its cultural aspects are unique to the islands. Today, I will introduce to you some of the most popular food items that originate from Okinawa. Without knowing these before heading there, you are going to miss out on many enjoyable experiences!

Goya Chanpuru – Chanpuru in the Okinawa dialect means to mix, and while there are some other types of chanpuru delicacies available in Okinawa, Goya chanpuru is the most famous. This is a typical home-made dish that is enjoyed by many families in Okinawa. Goya means bitter gourd in Japanese and is a lumpy cucumber-like vegetable. It is fried with tofu, eggs and pork, so it is a very easy to make this meal! Some people dislike the distinct bitter flavor of the Goya, but it is definitely worth trying!!

Awamori – Another unique Okinawa specialty is Awamori, which is sake (Japanese alcohol) made of fermented Thai malted rice. What sets it apart from regular Japanese sake is that it is not created using Japanese rice and its alcohol percentage is a high 30 percent! That number is nearly double the percentage of nihonshu (Japanese sake). This hard liquor has been enjoyed by the people of Okinawa for ages, and there are many different types of Awamori, so why not try and take a sip?

Okinawa soba – This is also a famous specialty food of Okinawa’s. Noodles used in Okinawa soba are made from 100 percent flour and are unusually thick. Normally, you cannot call noodles "soba" unless more than 30 percent of its ingredients are soba powder, however, Okinawa soba was specially acknowledged as soba. A popular type of Okinawa soba is called "Soki Soba," which is basically Okinawa Soba topped with large pieces of boiled pork.

All of these dishes can be enjoyed in Kokusai Street, which is located in Okinawa’s Naha city. This 1.6km-long road is full of souvenir, food and clothe shops, making it a must-visit area for tourists. I’m sure you will definitely enjoy Okinawa when you visit, but trying these delicacies are sure to make your trip even more exciting! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Yokohama's port opened in 1859, and this year it is celebrating the 150th year since the occasion. As part of the celebrations, the EXPO Y150 event is currently being held at the Yokohama port area. At this EXPO, they display historical artifacts, Yokohama goods and famous attractions of the city. The theme of this EXPO is "Set to sail," symbolizing how Yokohama started from here and how it will continue on into future.

This EXPO is held in three areas: the Minato Mirai area representing the "sea," Yokohama station representing the "city," and the Yamashita Park area, which represents "nature." In these three areas, different events are held that link to the theme each area has.

Since the EXPO is celebrating the opening of the port, the event's main galleries and exhibits are shown at the "sea section." The exhibitions are further separated into three main halls; Y150 Forest of Beginnings, Y150 Tomorrow Park, NISSAN Y150 and Super Hi-Vision Theatre.

Each hall holds many different exhibits. Forest of Beginnings focuses more on the history of Yokohama city and how it developed into one of Japan's creative hubs.

Tomorrow Park focuses on entertainment and Yokohama's visions of the future. Here you can see a special sci-fi short film produced just for the event as well.

Last but not least, the NISSAN Y150 Super Hi-Vision theatre focuses more on “experiencing” the future. Visitors can get a hands-on experience with the futuristic Nissan car, Pivo 2, in addition to a new hi-vision home theater program.

After exploring the "sea area," the city area will guide visitors through the usual tour sights of Yokohama. For the event, local businesses and citizens have also become very involved, tying up their products and shops with the whole event. As a result, most stores and restaurants offer discounts/or gifts when you present your tour map or entry ticket.

Furthermore, the Hillside will open in July and will feature the "nature" exhibits. The theme of this section is to connect people to people, people to nature, and people to the earth.

The EXPO's overall mascot is called "Tanemaru," who is a combined creature, made of half seed and half ship. This character is said to represent the camphor tree planted in the Yokohama's courtyard in 1859, which explains the choice of this unique looking mascot.

The entire EXPO Y150 event will be open until September 27, 2009. I guarantee it would be a fun and educational experience about both the history and future of Yokohama, so head on down there to see the wide variety of events that would cater to guests of all ages and nationalities!

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