Yokohama Ryuugaku Kikou

Monthly Archives: December 2012

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Just Desserts

Carvin' out a tunnel through the ice cream mountain.

It all started out innocuously: a trip to a restaurant two days before Christmas garnered the attendance of a good amount of people, and merriment was had. What happened afterward, shook the hearts of many a Japanese student: I and two others introduced the hosts to the idea of a second stomach for dessert. (Image-heavy post ahead!)  Read more →

Taiyaki Trip: A Tribute to Sweet Breams

Sad but tasty taiyaki.

A lot of people have been joking about the end of the world Mayan calendar over the past week. It might not be the end of the world (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post), but it is the end of an era back home in the Bay: taiyaki (a Japanese fish-shaped pancake pastry, traditionally filled with red bean paste) outfit Sweet Breams, some thirty minutes by car from where I lived, decided to close up shop for good after four and something years serving up sweet chibi-taiyaki, soft serve ice cream, and wonderful kitsch and art aside. This happened just this Sunday, and, having not had taiyaki yet here, I decided I’d grab some in tribute.

Sadly, the taiyaki place that used to be here in Gumyoji back in 2008 has likewise closed up shop, so instead I opted for the next best thing: Yokohama Kuriko-an, which, despite being a store specializing in their namesake kuriko-an (chestnut/red bean paste) taiyaki, sells the pastries in a variety of different flavors. I’d hoped to get their “apple cheese cream” taiyaki (having assumed they really meant cream cheese), but apparently that was an autumn thing; apple-filling taiyaki was nowhere to be found. Instead, I went for two of this winter’s strawberry cheese cream taiyaki (¥180), alongside a normal custard cream one (¥140). I savored every last bit of all three of them, their just-sweet-enough fillings having been laid on super-super-thickly.

Swimming in the bag.

Granted, this isn’t the death of taiyaki in the Bay Area. I could go to May’s Coffee Shop in San Francisco’s Japantown if I really had a craving, but I won’t lie: I’ll miss Sweet Breams. Starting about a year before I started this program, I used to go from time to time with friends and we’d hit up what we called the Trifecta: Sweet Breams, Tpumps (a milk/bubble tea place that’s really good, really cheap, and therefore really popular), and Game Center (an independently owned arcade that’s been making a couple of waves in the fighting game community, but has some awesome setups otherwise). I’ve got handful of fond memories from before that, too; the most poignant being that on my way back from taking the JLPT 3-kyu (now N4) one year I’d rushed in and placed an order for three boxes of eggnog chibi-taiyaki right as they were closing…they were fine with me coming in late, amidst my apologies. (The eggnog taiyaki was delicious.)

So when they’d announced their last weekly flavor would be eggnog, I admittedly sort of teared up a bit. I’d told myself I would go and have myself a taiyaki on the day of their closing, but it wasn’t until tonight that I was actually able to get a trip to Kuriko-an in.

In any case, to Tara and the rest of the Sweet Breams crew: thanks a lot, and good luck in your future endeavors!

On Starting the Weekend with Transit Issues

It was the end of the first week of December.

Japanese announcements were blaring from the intercom. We stood there, slightly speechless, staring at the electric sign that should’ve been lit up with details on the next trains incoming. It, instead, showed only one line, alternating between Japanese and English: all service on the Blue Line — the Yokohama municipal subway system — had been suspended, and people were advised to take alternate modes of transportation.

There had been an omen earlier: the line for the bus outside of the FamilyMart right beside the Mitsuzawa-kamicho station entrance was far longer than it usually was. We’d been joking that the line’d been long because maybe something had happened to the subway, and maybe we should instead swing by a karaoke joint in Wada-machi before taking the Sotetsu line from the station there instead, but it turns out: it was true. There were, in fact, no trains to take.

Something had happened on a Japanese train system that made it shut everything down, and we were at a loss on what to do next.  Read more →

I’m Okay

To those people who know me IRL: yes, this earthquake just happened, and yes, we felt it in Yokohama. Don’t worry, we’re completely fine.

There was quite a bit that happened today on the way back from the university, though…I’ll put up a blog post tomorrow on that.

Mille-Feuille Pizza

 

For the pizza fan in Japan, there are plenty of options: go to a sit-down Italian restaurant (like, say, Saizeriya); go to a mom-and-pop pizza place (we’ve got one here in Gumyoji); or, the simple lazy option: delivery. There’s no shortage of places (serving pizza or otherwise) that’ll deliver food to your place of residence. (While I’m on the subject: Costco also exists in Japan, and, like its American counterpart, has pizza slices and full pies ready to order at their snack bar. I presume it’s take-out only, just like in America.)

American brands such as Domino’s and Pizza Hut have Japanese branches that’ll nurse your cravings while abroad, but there’s a catch: though the US has enjoyed the luxury of great deals such as Little Caesar’s $5 Hot-N-Ready boxes and Pizza Hut’s $10 for nearly-anything-you-want, Japan has not: pizzas are three to four times more expensive than what you’d pay back home. (This apparently isn’t true of just the US; my British and Australian friends have said likewise.)

Domino’s Japan seems to understand this: for those of us who use the English language, there’s a special site just for us.

On the English side of the Domino’s Japan website, there are several deals not to be found on the Japanese version — deals good enough that there’s a Japanese guide on how to order from the English pages because it’s cheaper that way. Tax isn’t included in the advertised prices, but with an automatic 5% off for placing your order online that’s stackable with other coupons and promos like the ones on the English page, you don’t have to worry about it.

So, in a weak moment of fiscal irresponsibility the name of checking whether or not these deals were actually worth it, I placed an order of the “Home Alone” package: one medium two-topping pizza (I went with basil and pepperoni) and a solitary can of Coke (yes, Coca-Cola or its diet variant only!). Normally, it’s ¥1400, but there was something I was sort of curious about.

When I think of interesting and occasionally strange pizza crusts, I think of Pizza Hut (an image that I also think may be perpetuated in Japan — Code Geass, anyone?), so when I saw these options for “mille-feuille” crust, I waffled slightly, then went for the triple for the sake of blogging science curiosity. Total cost: ¥1874, thirty minutes to delivery. And it arrived on time. Apologizing to the driver for my terrible Japanese, I paid and brought the pizza back up to my room.

Of course, the first thing I did was to take a look at its three layers — wait a minute, where’s the cheese I was promised?

Ah, there we go.

Turns out the cheese in the “layers” of this particular mille-feuille pizza were actually sort of spotty, moreso designed to give you a huge mouthful of mozzarella at once every few bites. There was one slice of pizza in which the cheese was actually fairly uniform, and that was quite nice. But with how the cheese was set up on the other slices, I was actually fairly surprised at how well it held together before I bit into it and the three layers separated in my mouth, making for a really nice texture. The pizza itself was rather small (the site claimed their medium is 10 in/25cm — update: according to a picture a friend posted, 10″ at Domino’s is a “small” in America); I was able to finish the entire pizza in one go. (mind, I hadn’t eaten anything beforehand).

Would I order it again? I didn’t think it was worth the premium, but if I’m in a super-cheesy mood, I might consider ordering another. ◆