Pocky, the great unknown snack food

There are a lot of bizarre foods that I will discover in Japan, but one that has made its way over here is Pocky.  Many don’t know what it is, but for those who do, it’s incredible stuff.

Pocky is pretty much just a biscuit-like stick that is dipped in chocolate or strawberry, but there are more flavors than that.  It is a delicious treat that comes cheap, but is hard to find here in the states.  I know a small Asian market down the road from my house that carries it sometimes and I often pick up a few boxes when they do.  I know the store at Epcot, Mitsukoshi, which is a major department store in Japan, carries it as well but it often costs a lot more than normal (thanks Disney).

Check out this great ad (although old) like the Kirin beer commercials, it’s another great marketing tool by their company.

Elisha Aerated Water (Lychee flavor), what have I missed out on?

Ok, so this drink is not Japanese.  In fact, it is made in Singapore, but the Elisha Aerated water (Lychee Flavor) drink is incredible.  I stopped by my local Asian market here in Riverview, FL and was browsing around and saw the drink.  I am always looking for odd drinks or foods to try out, taking me out of my element and this one caught my eye.

The bottling was the first item that caught me up.  It had a plastic bottle for its base, but the top of it was something like any normal soda or beer can.  It was very change.  Then the type of flavoring, lychee, was strange to me.  From what I have read about lychee, it is a fruit that is grown in Southeast Asia and China and has a mild yet sweet flavor.  It is something I have never tasted or even knew about.

I just wanted to throw this short post out there because it was something different.  If there are any drinks, sodas, or such that are from Japan that are well known over there and different, please let me know.  Would love to try some out before heading over there.

Volcano near Kagoshima erupts

Japan sits on the ring of fire in the Pacific ocean and a reminder of its location happened over the weekend as a volcano just outside of the city of Kagoshima erupted.  Mt. Sakurajima sent ash and dust into the sky, which blanketed the city but didn’t cause any serious damage or harm to anyone in the city.  Kagoshima is fairly far away from Tokyo, roughly 13 hours via train to reach the city to the far west (over 900 miles).

While this eruption has little to no affect on Tokyo or our trip in less than a year, it is a reminder about how volatile mother nature can be, especially when volcanoes are all around.  Since I live in Florida, the only major fear we deal with all the time is hurricanes.  Each summer we stare down the barrel of all the storms that come off the coast of Africa.  For Japan, they have to deal with earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and other natural events, thing we don’t have to deal with in Florida.

This is something to always watch and make note on before flying over there next year.


Second tour for Tokyo, Asakusa and Sky Tree

One of the tours we will be doing (if the tournament is being held in May) is the Sumo and dinner after.  Another tour we want to do that is high on my list is Asakusa and the Sky Tree tower.

Asakusa use to be one of the largest entertainment districts in Japan prior to WWII, after it was surpassed by Shinjuku as Tokyo’s top entertainment area.  The tour we are planning with happen around 1 PM or so, giving us time to sleep and eat.  The tour will take us to Sensoji Temple first, the well-known temple and the surrounding Nakamise shopping streets.  Around this area, there are tons of vendors selling a wide range of items that will be fun to check out.

After that, we head to the Sky Tree Tower, the largest building in Tokyo.  The tour will take us up to the Tembo Skydeck where at 350 meters, we will have some of the best views of Tokyo.  On clear days, we might even be able to see Mt. Fuji (more on that coming later).  Sky Tree is one of the top places I want to see while in Tokyo.  I have a strange fear of heights, such as standing up on a chair to change a light bulb, I scare myself and get nervous.  Yet somehow I want to climb up into this huge tower and take it all in.

The tour itself only cost about 6500 yen, around $67 USD and we get a tour guide and transportation to the area and then are dropped off at Tokyo Station around 7 PM at night. While they don’t drop us off back at the hotel, getting a cab home or taking one of the trains back to Ginza shouldn’t be too hard to do.  I think this tour will be best for the first day we are in Japan, the 19th.  The late start to the tour will allow us to sleep in after the jet lag wears off, get breakfast, and get a chance to take our time and explore the Ginza area a little bit.  I can’t wait for this tour.

Decision time, which airline do I fly?

I’ve done enough research looking at airlines and figuring which ones are reasonable and which are not.  American Airlines continues to be one of the higher priced airlines and I’m trying to save a few dollars.  Air Canada only has flights that come after an 18 hour layover in Toronto.  No offense to Canada, but I’m traveling West, not north of the border.  Continue reading

The hotel we are staying at while in Tokyo

Originally when I was planning this trip, I was going to go by myself to Tokyo and looked at several options for my hotel.  I looked at hotels in the Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Chiyoda areas and came across several that were highly rated and recommended by other travelers. One of the hotels I wanted to stay at was the Shinjuku Washington hotel, but with my sister along now, she is pulling out all the stops for our hotel.

My sister is booking the hotel for the Courtyard Tokyo Gina Hotel by Marriott.  Marriott, one of the largest and most upscale hotels has this one located in one of the most expensive areas in not only the country, but the world.  Ginza is a very upscale area that is known for his expensive retail stores, nightlife, and overall high-end style.

Now the hotels I looked at during the beginning were nice, but not as nice as this one.  It has a shuttle service that can possibly pick me and my sister up from Narita for about $50, making it a little easier than lugging everything to a bus or waiting for the train, then having to leave Tokyo Station and make our way to Ginza.  If all the plans hold together, it will be very nice accommodations during our stay.

68th anniversary of Nagasaki

A couple of days ago marked the 68th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on the city of Nagasaki.  68 years ago, the US dropped the most powerful weapon in the world on that town, just days after they bombed Hiroshima.

The mayor of Nagasaki made it a point to criticize the Japanese government for not signing an agreement with at least 80 other countries to never use nuclear or atomic weapons on another country.

It is an interesting time for Japan and its stance on nuclear power and weapons.  While the Japanese want to have a powerful military to protect itself, they are under pressure from other nations to step down from having nuclear arms and more importantly, the nuclear meltdown that is happening in Fukushima is another issue that is continually angering the Japanese people.  It is a very interesting crossroads the Japanese people find themselves in with nuclear technology and reality of how dangerous it truly is.

For myself, I find it very fascinating and concerning on both sides of it.  I’m part Japanese myself so understanding the damage done by the atomic bomb is very real to me but on the other side of things, my other grandfather fought in WWII.  He fought on the US side in the Pacific theater and dealt with unknown hardships during his career, so while I am saddened by the atomic bombs being dropped, I also know the toll it took on the American soldiers during that time.

I hope the Japanese government will continue to eliminate the nuclear weapons and listen to what the people are crying out for.  Having the arms to defend themselves is important, but when the weapons and the technology are causing issues in the country, there is a problem here.  Resolution is needed.