Category Archives: mike

Kamakura

Last week there was yet another Monday public holiday, Health and Sports Day. The holiday commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle.

With the day off from school and work, we headed for Kamakura. Kamakura is a seaside Japanese city about 50 kilometres (31 miles) south-west of Tokyo; about 90 minutes by train.

Formerly the political center of medieval Japan, modern-day Kamakura is a prominent resort town with dozens of Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. With so many options, we started by visiting Tsurugaoka Hachimangū. Built in 1063, this shrine is commonly regarded as the most important Shinto shrine in the city and the geographical/cultural center of Kamakura.

  
Our next stop was Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine. In spite of its small size, this Shinto shrine is the second most popular spot in Kanagawa prefecture (after Tsurugaoka Hachimangū). Its popularity comes from the belief that the waters of a spring in its cave are said to be able to multiply the money washed in it. So, of course, we had to give that a try!

Our last stop of the day was Kamakura’s most recognizable landmark, the Kotoku-in Temple. This temple’s Great Buddha bronze statue was completed in 1252 and stands roughly 13 meters high (43 feet). The bronze Buddha statue was preceded by a giant wooden Buddha, which was completed in 1243 after ten years of continuous labor; but, was damaged beyond repair during a storm in 1248.

Kamakura is simply a beautiful and historic city, with plenty of shopping, dining, and activity…a place that is near the top of the list of day-trips from Tokyo.

Tokyo Yakult Swallows ~ 2015 Central League Champs!

So, as you may have deduced from previous posts, we are Yakult Swallows fans.

Just a few minutes ago, with 2 outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, the Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers 2-1, giving them the 2015 Central League Championship!

  

It is their first Central League Championship since 2001. It will be there last in the historic Jingu Stadium (built back in 1926), which is scheduled to be torn down after the season ends in order for a new stadium to be built in time for the 2020 Olympic Games.

 
Now it is time for the playoffs and (hopefully) a Japan Series Championship. 

Go! Go! Swallows!

Uncrustables ~ Savory Style (Part II)

As promised, we’re back with the last two entries from the Yamazaki ‘Lunch-Pack’ Shop. 

We will start with Potato Croquette flavor. This one is basically a hashbrown patty embedded in the soft white bread packet. Per the usual, we toasted this one up and it delivered just as expected…serviceable and solid, but no wow.

  

Saving the best for last, here we have Beef & Cheese! This one is downright delicious. The flavors are true and rich; balancing well with the bread. Just the right amount of meat and sauce; not too much filling and not too much bread. Kinda hungry for another one just writing about it.

  

Uncrustables ~ Savory-Style (Part I)

Time for lunch…so, we reached for some savory options that we picked up at the Yamazaki ‘Lunch Pack’ Shop.

First up today was Sweet Potato. Ok…so, this one wasn’t great. The texture was more creamy than hearty and the flavor was more bland than it should have been.

  
Next up was Beef Curry. If this were grade school, this one would end up with a solid “B”. The curry flavor was prominent and the consistency of the filling paired well with the bread.

  
Our final tasting for this post was Minced Cutlet. This one was our favorite of the three (although not our overall favorite for our savory selections…more on that one next time). The meat was plentiful and tasty; very satisfying when toasted up for lunch on a drizzly September day.

  
Be sure to check back soon for our final entry in this series; which will include Beef Cutlet and Potato Croquette.

Uncrustables ~ Breakfast Style

A couple of the unique options we found at the Yamazaki ‘Lunch Pack’ Shop were suitable for breakfast (and, maybe also dessert).

First up was Orange Cream. These brought back memories of 50/50 Bars and Creamsicles. Well balanced, with a not-overly synthetic orange flavor, the slightly-toasted Orange Cream sandwich was enjoyable.

  
The second sandwich was Banana. In full disclosure, banana is very near the top of the list of personal favorite flavors (along with peanut butter, chocolate, carmel, and nacho cheese). But, honestly, this sandwich was absolutely delicious. Simple, authentic banana cream imbedded in toasted white bread…already want another one.

  
Next time, maybe we add a little chocolate sauce and some powdered sugar?

Uncrustables ~ the Shop!

As we have covered previously, uncrustables-style sandwiches (called “lunch pack” sandwiches here in Japan) are exceedingly prevalent. Made by the Yamazaki company and dating back to 1948, these things are  available at every convenience store and come in a wide variety of flavors, including many seasonal and limited-time options.

Recently, we discovered that there are shops dedicated to these delectable treats. The two nearest us (at least that we could find) are located in the Akihabra Station and the Ikebukuro Station. So, of course, we had to go check it out.

Despite its small size, the shop in the Ikebukuro Station is packed with just about every variety of lunch pack sandwich you could imagine…and even some you couldn’t imagine (like spaghetti).

  

  
As a result, over the next few days, we will cover some of the new flavors we decided to try.

Gourmet Popcorn…the Evolution Continues III

Our third installment is this series takes us to 7-11. 

Instead of coming up with a cute brand name or bringing in product from an outside brand, 7-11 has packaged their gourmet popcorn as their own. In Japan, 7-11 is part of 7&i Holdings; which also includes Ito-Yokado (a well-known/higher-end grocery group). As such, their food is commonly regarded as being of quite good quality. In fact, their ¥100 coffee (about $0.88 US) is regarded by many as being surperior to Starbucks.

The options available on this particular visit were carmel, cheese, and honey & almond. 

 
While the standout was honey & almond, you sure can’t go wrong combining the carmel and cheese together. As expected, they were all of high quality, with a fresh taste and texture.