Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

The "Shinyokohama Ramen Museum" is a unique museum about ramen, a very popular Japanese noodle dish which was originally introduced from China.

In a gallery on the first floor, the Ramen Museum presents the history of ramen noodles in Japan, including the big success of instant ramen. It displays the variety of noodles, soups, toppings and bowls used across Japan, and shows how the noodles are made.

On the two basement floors, visitors can explore a 1:1 replica of some streets and houses of Shitamachi, the old town of Tokyo, of around the year 1958, when the popularity of ramen was rapidly increasing. Nine ramen restaurants can be found there, each featuring a ramen dish from a different region of Japan.

For visitors who wish to try multiple ramen dishes, every store offers "mini ramen", a small portion of the feature dish. Tickets for the meals are purchased at vending machines in front of each stores before entering.
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Okayama (岡山)

Okayama (岡山) is the capital of Okayama Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chugoku Region after Hiroshima. The city is an important transportation hub, being the location where the Sanyo Shinkansen meets with the only rail connection to Shikoku. The city developed as a castle town during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and became a significant regional power.

Okayama's most famous attraction is Korakuen Garden, which is ranked as one of the three best landscape gardens in Japan, along with Kanazawa's Kenrokuen and Mito's Kairakuen. Okayama Castle is located just across from the garden. Okayama serves as the locale for the popular fairy tale of Momotaro (the Peach Boy), so visitors will notice many references to the legendary hero.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Wagashi (和菓子)

Wagashi (和菓子) is a traditional Japanese confectionery which is often served with tea, especially the types made of mochi, anko (azuki bean paste), and fruits. Wagashi is typically made from plant ingredients.

In Japan the word for sweets, okashi (お菓子), originally referred to fruits and nuts. China learned from India how to produce sugar and began trading it to Japan. The trade increased and sugar became a common seasoning by the end of the Muromachi period. Influenced by the introduction of tea and China's confectionery and dim sum, the creation of wagashi took off during the Edo period in Japan.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Katsucon 2017: Artist Alley, Kimono Photoshooot, Maid Cafe, and More!

Katsucon was definitely a different experience compared to my first ever convention experience. I was only able to Saturday since I was commuting to the National Harbor opposed to those who stayed at the hotel at the Harbor.

Katsucon is an annual three-day anime convention held during February at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. It is traditionally held in February over Presidents Day weekend and is held/was held in locations around D.C. Metropolitan Area (which is great for me since I'm from the area).

This convention, like other, offers an array of events and activities such as an art show, artist alley, costume contests, dealers room, formal ball, a maid cafe, masquerade, musical performances, panels, workshops, video gaming, etc. One of my favorite is the Japanese Culture Programming, which I think is unique to Katsucon due to it's array and informative panels on Japanese culture.

Artist Alley
After meeting up with an old Twitter friend when checking in, we went directly to the artist alley since it was near the registration room. I'll be honest, I never bought anything in the artist alley in previous years (though I feel like as an artist I should've supported by purchasing but I'm not into buying fanart). There were a lot of amazing merchandise, especially of Yuri on Ice. My amazing longtime Twitter friend did buy this pretty sketchbook, which I was in need of.

I went to two panels + a Kimono photoshoot during Katsucon 2017, though I wished I could've gone to more but I only attended on Saturday. The first panel I attended was "Anime's Culinary World with Captain Food Science" that was hosted by Captain Food Science(@FatedSoulBlake). His presentation about basic Japanese cuisine and mixing in anime was great, plus he had some great comedy lines in between. He also gave away food related manga and candy DIY kits for those who gave questions during the Q&A sessions. 

Another panel I attended later in the day was "Cool Japan: The Panel" hosted by JCI teacher Charles Dunbar. I'm going to be honest, I didn't enjoy it as I thought I would. It's just the topic wasn't as interesting and I didn't watch any of the anime mentioned so I didn't really get the jokes said. I enjoyed the history though so I got something good out of this panel.

In between the two panels, I attended a Kimono/Yukata photoshoot, which needed to be reserved ahead of time. I've never been to a photoshoot of any sorts so I was kinda clueless but the experience was amazing, probably the highlight of Katsucon 2017. Kuniko and the other nice ladies were very great at picking the color combo for the Yukata robe and obi sash. I had lots of fun doing poses with a Japanese umbrella and they were very fun to work with. About two weeks after Katsucon, I got my HD photos from the photoshoot.  

The maid cafe was the last thing I did at Katsucon at around 6pm on Saturday, I went along with my 3 other friends. It's actually my first experience at a convention maid cafe, my friend and I actually wanted to go during Anime USA but didn't get there in time on Sunday. We were assigned a butler for our maid cafe experience. He was really nice and kept us entertained as we wait for our meal. They had board games available for a dollar for us to play with, which we chose Jinga. 

I ordered the chicken katsu with a chocolate bear cake. It's was not the best food out there especially for what it costed but it's for the experience. Right before leaving, we took a group photo with him, which I think costed another dollar but he was nice to have it done for free. 

That was the end of my Katsucon experience, though my friends stayed later for the Katsucon rave/party.  I'll be honest, I'm still trying to get used to the convention experience and so in my opinion Katsucon was crowded compared to my first anime convention experience. I think as I attend more anime convention and get good at planning everything, I'll enjoy it even more. Katsucon already announced it's dates for next year, February 16th-18th, 2018, though I'm sure it wouldn't be as warm as it was during this year's Katsucon. 

Check out some awesome and hilarious cosplayers from Pokemon to Overwatch down below. 

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tonkatsu (とんかつ)

Tonkatsu (とんかつ) are thick slices of pork that are breaded and deep fried in a manner similar to German schnitzel. They are typically made from two cuts of pork: the lean and tender hire (ヒレ, tenderloin or filet) and the fattier rosu (ロース, loin). While tonkatsu is by far the most popular katsu dish, there are other variations made of chicken (chikinkatsu), beef (gyukatsu), ham (hamukatsu) and ground meat (menchikatsu).

Tonkatsu is a common dish that can be found at a variety of restaurants across the country, such as shokudo, teishoku-ya and specialized tonkatsu-ya. Tonkatsu-ya typically serve a variety of tonkatsu dishes as well as other deep fried foods and seafood. Regular tonkatsu dishes cost typically around 800 to 1500 yen.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Mount Osorezan (恐山)

Mount Osorezan (恐山) is ranked along with Koyasan and Hieizan as one of Japan's three most sacred places. It was discovered over 1000 years ago by a Buddhist priest in search of a sacred mountain that resembles the world of Buddha. Today, it is the site of Bodaiji Temple.

Osorezan is translated as "Fear Mountain", a name that comes in part from the mountain's exceptional landscape. The area is rich in volcanic activity, and a strong smell of sulfur permeates the air. The ground is gray and barren and marked by openings that steam, bubble and blow hot water. Lake Usori, located next to the temple, is colored various shades of blue due to its high sulfur content.

Osorezan is also known as the entrance to afterlife, because it features geographical elements similar to descriptions of Buddhist hell and paradise, including eight surrounding peaks and a river, Sanzu no Kawa, which has to be crossed by all dead souls on their way to afterlife and is often compared to the River Styx of ancient Greek mythology.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hedo Misaki (Cape Hedo)

North of Nago, Okinawa Honto is only scarcely populated and mainly covered by forests and hills. Cape Hedo (辺戸岬) is the island's northernmost tip, offering spectacular views of the cliffy coast.

The main approach to Hedo Misaki leads along the western coast, where, halfway between Nago and the cape, there is a hiking trail to the Hiji Waterfall and a JAL resort hotel around Okuma Beach.

The less direct approach to Hedo Misaki along the more scenic, less developed eastern coast is recommended due to its beautiful coastal scenery. However, in order to explore the eastern coast, you will need your own transportation, such as a rental car, because there is no scheduled bus service along the eastern coast to Hedo Misaki.


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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Lake Hamanako (浜名湖)

Hamanako (浜名湖) is a large lake at the Pacific Coast of western Shizuoka Prefecture. Originally a fresh water lake separated from the ocean, Hamanako got connected to the ocean as a result of an earthquake in 1498 and its water turned salty. The majority of Hamanako's attractions are concentrated around the Kanzanji Onsen, a hot spring resort on an inlet along the lake's eastern shores.

It was not until the late 1950s that Kanzanji Onsen's hot spring was drilled and a town with various tourist attractions grew around it. Although Kanzanji Onsen does not have the traditional atmosphere of a more historic onsen town, it does offer an attractive range of baths with views onto the lake. Most of the baths are found in the town's hotels and ryokan, and many are accessible not only to staying guests but also to daytrip visitors for a small fee.

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