Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do What You Gotta Do To Get Paid

I read a couple of news stories today that peaked my interest. First up, another proposed fare hike for the New York MTA. This news comes just after the agency announced massive service cuts across their entire system. Honestly MTA?! New York is a great city and everything, but they run their government agencies ass backwards and are completely incompetent. The trains are always dirty, late and you can never hear/understand the conductor's announcements over the PA. Ugh. They clearly just don't give a fuuuuuuuck. MTA - you gotta hustle to make that paper! Thank goodness I live in Tokyo right now.

Which brings me to the second story I read today. Suntory, makers or beer, whiskey and other things that turn my face pink, has paid Japan Railways to change the station melody at Shimbashi Station to their highball commercial jingle. If you don't live in Tokyo, that sentence may register in your head like this "whiskey...trains...shimdla;ighwo....jingle...whydoireadthisblogagain?" Let me break it down --

In Tokyo, the government run train operator is called Japan Railways (or JR if you're cool) and at every JR station in Tokyo, there is a jingle that plays when the train arrives. Each station has a different tune and I presume they do this because it's adorable and so you know when you've gotten to your stop. Here is my favorite, Takodanobaba. They play the theme song to Astro Boy because in the manga, Astro Boy is born in this neighborhood of Tokyo.

Getting back to the point of this post. So Suntory paid JR to change the melody at one of the busiest hubs in Tokyo to promote their whiskey which I think is super rad. It's cool because it shows how much Japanese people love to drink. It's cool because Suntory is thinking of new ways to promote their products and this is pretty unique. It's also cool because it shows how JR is willing to sell any kind of advertising space so that they make money thus keeping fares low and rats and puke off of the trains. The grossest thing you'll find on a Japanese train is a foreigner. No lie. Because we smell. But really, whose fault is that? Maybe Procter & Gamble should come to Japan and advertise antiperspirant on the trains!

Me = Marketing genius!

Also, do you know what Japanese people call puke on the train stations? Platform pizzas. Isn't that so gross and accurately descriptive?!

Oh, here's the Japanese news story on the Suntory jingle via Japan Probe.

shimbashi melody
アップロード者 Japanherpderp. - ウェブカムでもっといろいろな人と出会いましょう。

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Drug Store Junkie

I love drug stores. It's a known fact. I could wander down aisle after aisle of any drug store for hours on end and be completely entertained. Everywhere I travel, I like to peruse the local drug stores to see what they have to offer. I love German lotions because they're so medicinal looking and almost always smell of random herbs. Before Nivea started selling chap stick in the US, I used to stock up on random trips to Europe. (Don't I sound sooooo pretentious talking about my no you can't get that here French lip balm?! It's awesome, right?) Vietnam...well, ok, Vietnam's drug store selection was pretty bunk but that's fine. I'm okay with bootleg bottles of Pantene so long as they never make durian scented lotion.

So today, I went to my local drug store in Tokyo (a chain called Tomod's) and took some not so stealth photos of some of the weird/interesting things you can find in Japanese drug stores. I know that this isn't really about food and my blog is supposed to talk about things you eat...but I did sneak in something you're supposed to ingest at the bottom*...though I wish this product didn't exist. Intrigued? Keep reading!

I'm starting with the more mundane stuff. Here's a Shiseido face care set. Japanese ladies love to take care of their skin, which is admirable but 4-steps is just way too many steps for me. I bought one of these trial sets once and figured out how to use 3 out of the 4 steps but still have no idea why I have two different kinds of "gel cream".  

Pro tip: if you are a cosmetics brand in Japan, mention the word "white" on everything. In Japan, white skin equals beauty and it's pretty difficult to find a skin product that does not have the word "white" in it. I have no idea if it does actually bleach your skin, but  I purposely avoid buying face lotions in Japan. I would definitely end up looking like Sammy Sosa circa now.

If I were to ask you what color a Japanese woman's hair is, what would be your answer? Black, right?! WRONG! Finding virgin black hair on a young woman in Japan is very rare. Everyone dyes their hair the same kind of brown color, similar to what you see above. 

"Hi! My name is Sebastian. I'm a good angel. Today, I have a present for you. Please open it like a treasure box once a week. It casts a spell on your hair to get brilliant and beauty hair."
No idea what this does, but I obviously need to incorporate it into my beauty regimen. 

As well as this. Gotta have some Sexy Girl hair cologne. The pink one on the right is Berry scented and the white one on the right is Peach. They both smell like candy I want to eat. 

Have you ever looked at someone's eyelids and been like "EWWWW! You are disgusting because you have no fold in your eyelid!" Yeah, me neither but in Asia, eyelids are a big deal. This is more of an issue with Koreans I think, but these "double eyelid maker kits" are popular in Japan too. Basically, you brush a clear glue on your eyelid, then use a plastic fork to prop your eye open as the glue dries. Once it dries, it creates a fold in your eyelid like a white person...I guess.

These are socks you wear to bed to make your legs skinny and/or attractive. I think. I see them all the time in the store but I can't wear socks to bed so I can't test them out and tell you about them. 

Ok, on to some weirder stuff. For $15, you can pierce your ears with these ear piercing kits. I have to say, as much as I hated crying like a little bitch in the middle of a mall, there's no way I would have wanted to pierce my own ears at home. This gives me shivers down my spine. 

Various supplements you can eat. Collagen is super popular with women. Next to skin whitening and brightening, I'd say this is the #2 pro tip for beauty brands in Japan. I believe that ingesting collagen does you no good - it's not like fat. If you eat fat, your face will get fat. But if you eat collagen, you're a sucker. As for Raw Shark Liver Oil, I have no idea what the supposed benefits are but I'd say you're pretty bad ass if you're popping those down with your morning milk. 

I mean, I just don't know what to say about White Placenta*. I guess "gross" is a good place to start. Also "whaaaaat?!" Props to this company for really taking notes on what sells in Japan because not only does this include collagen, placental protein is twice as effective in whitening skin than the leading whitening chemical. By the way, the product to the right is called The Placenta Jelly. 

A few other things to know: 
  • Products for men are packaged in black 
  • It's hard to find makeup and nail polish that do not contain glitter 
  • Japanese mascara rules
  • Things you probably won't find in Japanese drug stores: tampons and antiperspirant 
  • Mint is a really popular scent, flavor and sensation -- even in your eyes  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Depachika Depachika

Oh depachikas, how I love thee. The first time I went to a depachika in Japan, I looked like this for about an hour. So, what could get me so excited? No, it is not this. And it's not this either. A depachika is the basement floor of a Japanese department store! Wasn't expecting that, was you?
Pastry stall with funny pastry outfits. 

So yeah, the basement floor of department stores in Japan are most always reserved for food. Gourmet groceries, the famous expensive fruits and adorable treats, that's what you'll find. Maybe this sounds a little boring...there are some that remind me of a somewhat stuffier and not healthy Whole Foods but they're definitely worth checking out. My favorite in Tokyo is the Isetan depachika. It's one of the fanciest and busiest ones you'll find. The floor is divided up into prepared foods, groceries, traditional Japanese sweets (mochi and rice crackers) and Western sweets (cakes, chocolate and pastries).
An expensive heart shaped watermelon. About $250!

At some of the more popular stalls, you'll find super long lines stretching out the door. Right now, German baumkuchens are all the rage and the lines are pretty epic. I finally had some baumkuchen and now I know why people wait in line - they're pretty fucking delicious. Like a super dense and moist pound cake.

These are mini chocolate sandwiches. Mini baguettes stuffed with dark and white chocolate. Kind of weird, but it sounds good if you heated it up? And added marshmallows? And peanut butter maybe. Oh yeah, and replace the bread with graham crackers. 

Take out the white chocolate. Unnecessary. 

Depachika, by the way, has an interesting linguistical background. It comes from the word depaato...the Japanese word for department store...and chika, the word for basement) Don't say I never taught you anything!
This is found in the Western section but definitely something only Japanese people buy. They love these fruit gelees. Could be refreshing but I'd rather have a chocolate sandwich. 

This is what I ate during the Germany-Spain game. When I bought this at Isetan, they asked me when I was going to eat it and packed it with frozen ice packs to keep it cool.  Assorted kimchi, japchae and those pancake thingies. Now that I think back, the pancakes did have octopus in it...



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We're Going Viral

I will most likely regret posting this and especially when I start campaigning for high ranking positions in the White House, but it happened. There is video proof. I cannot deny it. I was ponied by my own flesh and blood.

But at least I wasn't Iced by my own mother. I win!

Actually, I think in this particular situation, no one wins except for Bros, Ponies and my friends reading this blog. Sigh. You're welcome.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Lunch :: July 11th

Hot soup on a hot day sounds pretty gross but how about cold noodles dipped in hot spicy broth? I tried a new tsukemen place this weekend. It was great. And per usual, I have no idea what the place is call because I can't read kanji.

Actually, not true...the first two kanji are the character for 3 and 田, which I think means window? Or rice paddy?

Hey cool, I just realized that my iPhone's Japanese keyboard can automatically do this !?(・_・;?

(; ̄O ̄)


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

World Cup Treats

Once Mama's was knocked off my list, I moved on quickly to my (very close) second favorite SF establishment, Tartine. The line at Tartine actually isn't that bad. It moves quickly and there's lots to oggle at while you're standing around. Delicious buttery treats, inventive sandwiches, inappropriate morning cleavage and wannabes rolling their own cigarettes.
Thankfully my sister lives just down the street from the bakery (LUCKY GIRL) so we loaded up on some pastries and headed home for some World Cup soccer. Can it get any better?

The answer is an emphatic "FUCK YEAH!". How about a day in Inverness, CA with your best college gal pals? OK! My trip fortuitously coincided with my girlfriends' summer vacation week in Inverness, a mere 2 hours from my hometown. I trucked up to their rental early for breakfast and some USA soccer. It was the perfect day minus 3 things: 

1. The US lost. 
2. I cut my throat on an ambitious but delicious bacon pancake sandwich. 
3. It had to end. 

I mean, c'mon...we made peanut butter s'mores!!! And friendship bracelets!!!

Next?  The next morning, my cousin and her German husband came over bright and early to watch Germany embarrass England. My cousin was too nervous to watch so she whipped up fresh berry and peach crepes for everyone. This was a lovely start to a family BBQ day starring 30lbs of kalbi, ice cream, kimchi burgers and homemade apple pie.

Germany plays Spain today. Honestly, I like both teams but am CLEARLY rooting for Der Mannschaft.  What will I be eating? Considering the game is on at 3am in Japan...I'm just not sure but I do have one last piece of Baumkuchen in the fridge waiting to be eaten when Germany wins the World Cup!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mama's :: The Real San Francisco Treat

After being held hostage by United at Narita Airport for 10 hours, a cancelled flight and another 8 hours in economy, what's the first thing this girl wants to do when she lands in SF? Go to Mama's for breakfast! Mama's On Washington Square is one of the places in SF I am willing to wait in line for. The proprietors are classic Bay Area friendly and even if they were giants A-Holes, the food is good enough to get me to come back time after time.

At this point, I don't even bother looking at the menu. If I only have 1 shot at breakfast at Mama's, it's gotta be the Monte Cristo. I have to admit, I've actually never even had a Monte Cristo anywhere but here, but I don't even think I'd order it anywhere else. When at brunch or breakfast, I always struggle with the personality defining question of sweet or savory? I like to think of myself of a little of both, which is why I love this dish so much. 

Of course, there are other wonderful things on the menu, but I leave those for my dining mates. The wait is only slightly annoying, but that's not anyone's fault but our own I guess. I have to add that even celebrities are required to wait in line. A few years ago, we saw Famke Janssen waiting in line with her adorable dog - no cutsies for her. She's gotta wait for her Eggs Florentine just like the rest of us. If she can do it, so can you! If you're REALLY starving, head across the street to the focaccia shop and grab some bread to snack on (the pizza one is the best) but don't spoil your appetite. You're gonna want to save that for Mama's. 

*BTW, how cute is Famke's outfit in that pic?! "SO kewt" is the answer.