August 6, 2012

Engrish: Fashion Edition

Okay, usually Engrish is totally innocent, but in this case me thinks not. It's a terrible photo, I know. It's shot hastily through a windshield right as the light was turning green (that means "go" in Japan btw.)

It clearly says "PEN IS BED FRIENDS." Now, if you omit the space between the first two words, what do you have? 

July 24, 2012

Not-So-Strange, Strange Food

I have a strange aversion to chocolate and fruit. Strange because it seems that everyone else loves the combination. The first time I remember feeling this way was when I sunk my adolescent teeth into what I thought was as chocolate-filled truffle and instead, met an unexpected gooey, candied cherry center. There is one sole exception to my no-chocolate-and-fruit-rule, (which includes candy, real fruit and baked goods,) and that is the hand-dipped chocolate banana.
And then today I discovered this! Are they chocolate flavored tomato sticks or tomato flavored chocolate? I have no idea. But one lucky RFB reader will receive this in the mail and can tell us if it's strangely delicious or just downright strange.
Share your thoughts on this post to enter to be the lucky tomato chocolate guinea pig! Do you like chocolate and fruit? Do you have a strange aversion to something that most people love?

July 7, 2012

A Tale (Tail?) of Two Kitties--Part One

As most of you have inevitably done, you have jumped on the Internet to research one thing when a dozen links and several hours later--you're reading about a subject totally unrelated! That is how I ended up in the boonies of Japan's capital, (four train transfers later,) in an East Tokyo suburb... There appear to be two religious places in Tokyo that claim to have spawned the Maneki Nekko. One is a shrine in Asakusa, a hugely popular tourist area where one can experience an "old" Tokyo atmosphere, and the other is in the burbs in Setagaya. That's where I headed first.

Gotokuji is the location of this famous tale of the maneki. It's my favorite because legend two is of a woman putting her cat out in the cold when she couldn't afford to feed it and the third is about a cat that gets its head chopped off. More on that later... This temple was renamed because of a cat saving a man's life (read the link above for more information.) Now, singles visit the temple to pray for marriage. Many buy a cat token to hopefully, boost their chances. While I was there, I saw an older woman and a young man in his twenties visit to pray. In my mind, I heard what I imagined them to be praying.
After a few ten yen coins (always 10 in a temple, 5 in a shrine) were contributed for a couple of my single friends, I moved on. The small temple is located in a suburban area on a large temple ground including cemetary, large prayer house and this pagoda:
I took the roundabout way of getting to Gotokuji because I wanted to ride the Setagaya line, one of the last two tram car lines in Tokyo. Outside the Setagaya station, there is an old cable car on display. Loving old, rusty things, I ended up taking more photos of this car than the temple I trekked all the way out here to see. Typical.

Although the Gotokuji temple is only mildly impressive as temples go, you should make this journey because of the nearby Tamagawa Daishi temple. It is a short, five minute walk between the two temples and they are completely different. At TD, visit the prayer hall on the right, remove your shoes and go to the sitting attendent on the left who will take your small entry fee and provide you an English flyer. Then, show Buddha you are disciplined by descending and navigating a hand-carved cave beneath the complete darkness. Two minutes felt like Twenty as I dragged my hand along the cold stone walls. At the end, there is a beautiful reward of a hall filled with carved statues and a big Buddah statue plus you get to ring a giant gong!
It's very dark--even in the lit spots--but here is the first hall I encountered. So phase one of the maneki inquisition is complete.  Next up is West Tokyo's rivaling Maneki Nekko shrine!

Engrish: Fashion Edition!

Of course you were, hun.
It's like a sad punk reminiscing about the past or something. Like true Engrish, this tote bag hints at a few themes but ultimately, never makes any sense to a native English speaker. Ideas? I'm baffled.

Engrish: Fashion Edition! (For Mike "Lavender" Rowe)

My friends that have never lived in Japan, let me introduce you to a common element in Japanese fashion--Engrish! Never grammatically correct or hitting-the-mark but always entertaining! What's odd about this shirt that I saw on the racks of a "recycle shop" was that I then, again, spotted it on a guy in my neighborhood! I think there's a hidden S&M message in this design but what do you think???

June 4, 2012

RfB: Not Just a Silly Blog Name!

I've never been ahead of my time, but look at me now world! This Japan Times article came out while we were in Washington (ahem--THREE years after this blog debuted!) and proves that Tokyo folks are beginning to enjoy slurping their noodles, perhaps even before their morning coffee!

June 3, 2012

Engrish-Shopping Edition!

God Bless my iPhone because fodder for this blog is everywhere! A lot of times with Engrish, the message is straight to the point despite the grammar or word choice being a little off. Case in point: Polish your body, and clean your skin Feel so good! But even cuter is the happy little tush getting scrubbed. Also, if anyone knows of  a job proofing product packing--tell me because I'd be AWESOME!

Engrish--the Music Edition!

Advertisement in Yokosuka CD stop

This one has me scratching my head. I speak Engrish pretty fluently and I can usually figure out what the message is despite my usual chuckling. So wtf  is this band calling themselves? The crown upon a rooster's head? The bumpy texture on chicken skin? It is a popular dish here after all... Or are they saying they have a touch of fear in their otherwise bold attitudes? Kind of like "Slightly Stoopid"the punk band perhaps? Anyway, to hear what Japanese pop rock sounds like, douzo: 

May 25, 2012

When Gross is Great

I come from a family that readily eats what others consider gross. I have parents obsessed with their never ending search for the perfect tongue taco in Florida and launched a tradition when stationed overseas to always try every strange food that came, and continues to come, at them. I proudly continue to be bold and at least give a new food a few bites. I've been surprised at what I have liked (raw horse meat, whale sushi and grilled, whole squid  and admittedly, have choked down a few things that were quite gross including grilled chicken skin, boiled fish in tube form and this:

This is Motsu. It's a rustic soup  slow cooked that usually has a stock made with miso and garlic. The supporting actors are veggies (usually daikon radish, onion and konnyaku,) but the star is a combination of organs and entrails. In Japan, this soup is usually from an unlucky pig or cow and featured at a yakitori bar. Now, I'm not saying that I've disliked every motsu I've tried. Some are much better than others. There are those, however, that upon the raising of the lid, release a funk in the restaurant. The smell is a direct reflection of the featured organ's function. Aw hell, you're all adults--it smells like POOP!  I mean, I've been to restaurants where people made faces of surprise when we've had this brought to us. They were either thinking "I didn't know Americans ate anything other than hamburgers, pizza or spaghetti," or more likely, "god that looks/smells disgusting, is that American really going to eat that?!"

Okay, that's only been our experience at one or two places. The photo on your right was taken at a bar near our house and the owner makes a solid motsu. Organs are exceptionally cleaned,  stock is seasoned well and the aroma makes you want to run for a spoon, not for the hills.  Location will remain anonymous because it only seats eight people and when I need a beer and a stick, well, I need a beer and a stick! But I will refer you to two places that have GREAT motsu!

One is about as low-end as you can get: 
Alley-facing Sagamiya stand
Yakitori Sagamiya is also nicknamed  by Americans as "the stand up yakitori place" or "the back alley yakitori stand" in Yokosuka and yet a lot of them never even bother to go in and grab a seat. Inside, the menu is bigger and they have ice cold beer and really great motsu. It's not the cleanest place in the world and you'll undoubtably sit next to blue collar workers smoking like chimneys, but try it at least once. It's easy to find as it's right off the main "blue" street across from TGIFridays whom I will never mention in this blog again.

Another place with really great food is Hideyoshi Yakitori Bar in Kamakura. There motsu is a new take on an old dish and only uses chicken bits. It is a bar, so no kiddos allowed inside. However, if you find yourself in an Izakaya, they will probably have a version of motsu too.
Hideyoshi Street View
So, toss aside your pretenses and try something gross--not only will you have a new cultural experience but you just might fall in love with it.

Behold the Magnetic Exterior Dog Fecal Transporter! (This one's for Tal)

Side note: I have a lot of catching up to do since moving into our house, getting Internet and Matt starting work. Although we've been busy getting settled, there has still been lots of time spent shopping, eating and exploring our new digs which means tons of photos to post!!!

I'm just going to jump right in by talking about poop! Yup, poop! The Japanese don't skirt the issue of poop like many a Westerner. Poop can be won in toy form from a vending machine at your neighborhood grocery. Poop can be seen tormenting a character on a televised cartoon. Poop is spoken and joked about freely, and--if my friend Yumi is any indication--often!

There's going to be a few posts about the, ahem, "matter" during our stay here, so let me start this off with something very "G' rated...
Behold the Magnetic Exterior Dog Fecal Transporter!  Brilliant!  You Americans are wondering "why the hell would Japanese want to take dog poop home with them? Is it a souvenir? Crazy Japanese!" Well, this little invention is a small cultural lesson about what the Japanese do with their wan chan's (doggie) poop and other gomi (garbage.)  In Japan, it is to be flushed down the toilet with the bag disposed of in your non-recycleable plastics day. And because there are so many people living on top of one another, most play by the rules, picking up their dog's poop and bringing it home. Because of this, there are a vast array of poop products including keychain-like poop transporters.  

If you want to check out these poop products for yourself, they're at AVE, Yokosuka, located in the Heisei area. Go out the gate, hook a left and follow the curve toward LIVIN/Homes. AVE will be on your right.

May 14, 2012

Stand Up Soba Bar, Yokosuka
Here's a peek at one of the smallest restaurants in the world--a stand-up soba noodle shop under the train station in downtown Yokosuka. This is a photo from the main entrance. About eight Japanese could squeeze in here at once and bump elbows while they slurp.

Here's the cashier--a machine! The genius in me matched the Japanese characters to the photos out in front to ensure my food was what I'd hoped it to be. Forgot your money? You can even pay with your Pasmo card--the debit card accepted by company that runs the train station above. 
The ladies work in a tiny space with about six square feet of room.  There are piles of noodles, scallions and serving containers stacked all around them. I figured I'd take a center seat so I can enjoy watching them dance around one another.
Aaaaahhhh...cold "soba" (aka buckwheat,) noodles with dipping broth at top right. I mixed in the wasabi and scallions and got a stinging surprise at the end of my meal! To the left, we have "negitoro," (minced raw tuna,) over rice with a little horseradish sprout and "nori," (dried seaweed,) on top. With free ice-cold water, a tipless society and tax already included, this satisfying and healthy lunch set me back a whopping $6.50. SAVE and STAND! That's my new mantra:)

May 10, 2012

Aaaaaaaand........We're Back!

We moved back to Japan roughly two weeks ago. I've been toying with the idea of reviving this blog. On our way home tonight (after a wonderful meal full of various nibbles and Asahi while watching the Sumo tournament,) we passed this department store. Inspiration hath struck and it came in the form of  typical hilarious "lost in translation" at its best. 

When I lived here as a child, the only American holiday we saw any trace of was the freakish Wizard of Oz looking Santa in department store advertisements. Nowadays, Halloween is pretty popular although as my friend Masumi put it, "it is celebration of Pumpkin." On Valentines Day, Japanese women give males chocolate or gifts. Basically, they don't quite get it.

So I dedicate the resurrection of Ramen for Breakfast to my mom.  Because as the old man and I continue to live abroad and enjoy the quirks and perks of living in a foreign land, we miss out on important American rituals like family dinners, shopping with our moms, fishing with our dads, Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts and so much more.  
Thanks Mama or as we say back home "Happy Mother's Day!"