Late Night Conbini Run – 11PM Opening, First 50 Customers

How many of you can say you have been to a convenient store ‘Grand opening’…at 11 pm at night?

I don’t think there are many of us who have done so.

I live in my company’s dorm in Osaka not so far from the company, close enough for me to walk to work everyday. It is a pretty fancy place but that’s another story for another post. The area around the place I live is mostly covered by my company’s facilities: our office, factories, hospital, dorms, employees club, gym and other facilities. So, besides these, there are not many things despite being located only one stop from Universal Studio. No McDonald’s, no Starbucks, forget about walking in a mall after work. Thus; when something new opens around here, we all get excited (I guess?).

This time, it’s a convenient store – Family Mart! Convenient store = Conbini コンビニ in Japanese, shortened from コンビニエンスストアwhich is a direct katakana translation from English. This new Family Mart is right in front of my company. It was built and decorated in less than a month. Then, when it’s finished, they put up a sign ‘OPEN 5/22 at 11PM – First 50 CUSTOMERS GET FREE PRIZES!’ We saw a lot of people stopping to read that sign and we got interested, so we set up a goal to be one of those 50 first dates customers! As odd as this may sound, this is probably one of the funniest moments since I’ve been in Japan and one I’ll remember…

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Something to do before going out to get the prizes!

9:30 PM, we gathered at one of my coworkers’ house right next to the new Family Mart. While waiting for the time to come, we managed to snack ourselves, laughed, and played Wii!! 😀

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Some snacks for the Wii night.
POPCORN PAPA and Umai 〔うまい)

At 10 PM, we went out to see our ‘competitors’. About 10 people were already there! We got a coupon from one of the Family Mart staffs to exchange our presents. She said although the coupon says 5/22-5/23, 5/22 11 PM- midnight is the only time we can use. So YAY! We surely can get the prize now. Went back to play Wii with peaceful minds!

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Present exchange ticket

Then, it was pretty much like what pictures tell. So funny being there, coming out to a conbini at 11 pm. I kept laughing while standing in line.

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10:45 pm
LOOK LOOK..There are there already!!

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10:50 PM

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Photo for memory… 😀

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We were not the only ones looking forward to this ‘grand opening’

The place was surprisingly packed. Believe it or not, some people brought their babies. Even at this time of the night. First thing we were handed when we went in was this little bag.

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The prize for the first 50 customers!

Then, we bought their Fukubukuro 〔福袋) or Happy/Lucky bag just for fun. In my head echoed (YAY YAY YAY!).

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Family Mart Happy Bag – 500 yen!

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The store got so packed…

I started laughing till my stomach hurts seeing everyone, including myself, got all excited over a new Family Mart. I have to admit, it was kind of…fun.

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Store front: The open sale

We got back and opened the bags. Both bags were filled with snacks and drinks.

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Stuff in the lucky bag!

I guess I got my breakfast…

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The first 50 customers bag

やった!YATTA (Finally).

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11 PM Convenient store opening
CHECKED!

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WOO HOO!!

This was just a very funny night. Made me thought of my time as a college student in Beppu city 〔別府市) when I would walk outside at night to the only McDonald’s and have a few laugh with some friends while devouring the M size french fries. Everywhere, city or suburban, there are always things and events to enjoy and laugh about. ❤

Yaki-Tate Melon Pan 焼きたてメロンパン – Not a normal melon pan!

What’s a Yaki-Tate melon pan (焼きたてメロンパン)?And how is it different from the normal melon pan sold at convenient stores and supermarkets?

As you may know, melon pan is a melon-flavored bread. Bread in Japanese is ‘パン’ pronounced as ‘pan’. It is a round-shaped bread with rough sugary texture that looks like checker prints. I personally love this ever since I came to Japan. But last year, I found something even better than normal melon pan-Yaki-Tate melon pan 〔焼きたてメロンパン)!  This literally means it is a melon pan that is fresh out of an oven. It may seem to be not so different from the normal melon pan, but I can tell you it really is.20130429-111350.jpg

One day when I came out of my station and about to walk home, I saw this melon pan van. The smell was mouth-watering but I did not pay much attention and just walked away. 20130417-184712.jpgThe second time this van, there were so many people waiting in line and I thought…maybe this is good. So I bought one melon pan just to try if it was special. There were Hokkaido and butter flavors. I chose the butter one. The bread was freshly-baked from the oven. I took a bite and then…I LOVED IT! So soft and it tasted really good. Since then, I loved it and I looked forward to this van coming to my station every week. This is definitely different from normal melon pan sold at supermarkets. Obviously, it is sold in a van and since it is fresh out of the oven, it is hot, soft and just yummy!

This just started to sound like a confession from a FAT GIRL AT HEART. 😉

Apparently, it is not that easy to find this melon pan van. After I moved from Tokyo to Yokohama, I never saw this again until last month when I went to view sakura in Naka-Meguro 〔中目黒). That’s when I found this van again. Judging from the long line of people, I guess I’m not the only one who love this!20130417-185259.jpg

I also found a website with schedules of this melon pan van ‘HAPPY HAPPY’. Check the schedule to see if you’re close by. It’s delicious. Definitely my favorite although some people may find it too sweet. (I have a sweet tooth) 😉 Website: http://www.happy-happy.jp/

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Other than the van HAPPY HAPPY in Tokyo, I also found one right near my place in Osaka. This van has even more flavor…even strawberry flavor. They also sell apple pie and others as well.

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If you haven’t tried, I suggest you do so. 🙂

Japan Mint Cherry Blossom Viewing, Osaka 2013 – Yaezakura

In a few posts before, I talked about Yae-Zakura (八重桜) which is double cherry blossoms and the event for Yaezakura viewing at Japan mint bureau (造幣局) in Osaka head office which is now officially opened to public from April 16th-22nd.

Yesterday, I finally got a chance to go to the event. I choose to go on a weekday expecting that there will be zillions of people on the weekend. As soon as I got out of Temmabashi station (天満橋駅), I could see sign saying ‘Cherry Blossom viewing’ (桜の通り抜け) with police shouting and pointing out the direction toward Japan Mint Bureau.

From the station, we walked across Ogawa river (大川)and turned right.

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I got there around 5 pm, just before everyone gets off work so there were not too many people but still…I wouldn’t say there weren’t a lot of people. 😉

As soon as I passed through the crowd into Japan Mint, I was in shock for a few seconds… Most of the sakura were gone! The area was mostly green and some sakura trees had zero blossoms or some with withered blossoms. Before going there, I had some doubts whether the timing of the official event was a bit too late or not too since the weather this year got warm faster than other years. However, despite a little disappointment, some sakura trees were still very beautiful. 🙂

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This one was still full of blossoms. This type of sakura is just beautiful. The blossoms look like little bouquets hanging on a tree.

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Apparently, even among Yae-zakura, there are so many types as well. Unfortunately, this year we could not see the green and yellow Yae-zakura which must have already fallen a couple of weeks ago.

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The area inside Japan mint is somewhat similar to what supposed to be a cherry blossom tunnel with coins and metallic objects factory along side.

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Most sakura trees started to have green leaves indicating that the blossoms are about to fall. Still, it is beautiful. But as we all know, sakura is short-lived. At night, all the sakura trees were lit up and the night sakura view is said to be enchanting. I did not stay till the light up this time.

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There were also so many food stalls from the exit gate of Japan mint till the main road. I had lots of delicious festival food. 🙂

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Then, I walked back to the station pass the beautiful Ogawa river. Across the street, a huge crowd of people who just finished working were marching down to Japan Mint bureau to see Yaezakura.

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Beautiful view of Ogawa river in Osaka city

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People walking from Temmabashi station toward Japan Mint

Website: http://www.mint.go.jp/category/eng

Sakura viewing – Hanami in Tokyo!

This year, sakura (桜) started to bloom a bit earlier than it usually does. Normally, sakura should be in full bloom around early April, just in time for entrance ceremony (入学式-nyugakushiki) for schools in Japan. But this year, the season has started from mid-March which is around the time for graduation ceremony (卒業式-sotsugyoushiki). This probably explains why there are a lot of girls in “Hakama (袴)”, a Japanese costume for graduation ceremony, taking photos with beautiful sakura scene.

I used to live in Beppu city, a small city in Oita prefecture, for about 3.5 years. Every year, our only option was always Beppu park (別府公園). So I got a bit excited when sakura started to bloom this year having heard that there are so many good spots here in Tokyo. Last year, I was also away for a company training in Nagano (長野県), a famous city for skiing and winter activities. Therefore, I can say that this year is actually my first time for sakura spotting in Tokyo.

When we talk about going out picnic under the sakura trees or just simple going for a walk along the river with beautiful sakura and others, the word ‘hanami (花見)’ is used. This word literally means ‘flower-viewing’, hana (花)= ‘flower’ and mi (見)= ‘see’ from the verb ‘mi-ru (見る)’ . Thus,  in other words, it means flowers viewing which is particularly imply to sakura.

This time, I visited two places for hanami in Tokyo: Naka-meguro and Yoyogi park.

  • Yoyogi park

Yoyogi park is a famous park in the city center of Tokyo. The closest JR station is Harajuku- one of the most famous shopping area so, it is always packed with people during this season. This time, my friend and I decided to walk into the park just to see the sakura. We did not expect to sit down and have a picnic under the sakura tree at all since we can predict that the park is already full of people. We took a lot of pictures. It was enjoyable just to see beautiful sakura and people having fun with their families and friends. 🙂

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  • Naka-meguro

I have heard a lot of good things about Naka-meguro. It is located in meguro-ku and is only one station away from Shibuya on a rapid train on Tokyu-Toyoko line which is the line I use to commute everyday. The sakura view here is famous since there are sakura trees are along both sides of meguro river. It is an amazing view. 🙂 I had the best time there. I can say it was the best hanami I’ve ever had. The whole area was so beautiful with all the sakura in full bloom. It looks kind of like a sea or a huge cloud of pinkish-white sakura. I can just walk there all day. There are many interesting shops, cafes and food carts all around, too. So the hanami experience in Naka-meguro is definitely worthwhile.

Moreover, in Naka-meguro, they have lanterns hanging on the branches of sakura trees. They light them up at night during sakura festival. This year the festival starts from April 7th which is too late for the season this year. All the sakura will probably be gone by then…

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Some other good spots I have heard of:

1) Shinjuku Gyoen, 2) Ueno park, 3) Sumida park, 4) Inokashira park

…and so many others. Enjoy your hanami everybody!

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Tokyu Toyoko Line – Shibuya Station Park – 3/22~3/24

After a Goodbye to Tokyu Toyoko Line (東急東横線) at Shibuya (渋谷) station on March 15th and an introduction to the new platform and route from March 16th, my morning commute has become a lot less convenient than it used it be.

Tokyu Toyoko line, a train line that used to run from Motomachi-chukagai (元町中華街) or China town in Yokohama to Shibuya station is now connected with Fukutoshin line( 副都心線) all the way to Shinjuku-Sanchome (新宿三丁目) and Ikebukuro (池袋). With this new change, the platform at Shibuya is shut down and Tokyu Toyoko line at Shibuya station went down to B5 floor under the mall Hikarie. For my morning commute, I always change my train to Ginza line (銀座線 ) at Shibuya station so the two lines have become a lot further from each other, about 10 minutes walk! But other than this inconvenience, the new platform is great and I can get into Tokyo easier. 🙂

After this change, it didn’t just end there. The platform at Shibuya station that is shut down is turned into an exhibition area for 3 days (March 22nd-24th). The entrance fee is only 120 yen so I went in to see what it was all about. Inside, there are some models of the area around Shibuya station that the line used to locate in, some live music event, photos showing a plan to create a DREAM TERMINAL (if I understand it right), etc. I thought this is a very smart way to turn something into an event.

Check out the event details here.

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Hikarie – The mall that Tokyu Toyoko line is now located under.

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Company food (社食-shashoku)!

This is one of the things I love about my company – the food! We have a cafeteria where we can have lunch and dinner in a very cheap price. Not to mention that we don’t have to go out, find restaurant, order, eat and run back to the office. We can eat right away and still have a bit of time to do something else like going to the bank or convenient store.

The food here is great. The price is also very good-always less than 500 yen (mostly 400yen in my case). They also care very much about our health. Moreover, they do take requests, too! I requested for kimchi fried rice once and they actually made it. Sometimes they also have special occasions such as gratan week, Indian curry fair, and others. This is so cool since eating good, cheap, and quickly is so helpful in a working life. Big Japanese companies usually have this support. They also give a small amount of money every month to support our food expense.

My colleagues told me that company’s food is called “社食” (shashoku). Not all companies have this so I consider myself very lucky. Eating out everyday in Tokyo would cost me tons of money!
Also, remember that taking care of your health is super important!

Here are some photos of the cafeteria food I’ve been collecting. 😉

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Illumination inside subway station?? -Akasaka Mitsuke, Tokyo

One day last month around 8.10 am, I came to work normally but this time I found the station a bit different.

The whole station was dark and the ceiling was covered in colorful lightings looking like space with stars! There was music played in the background as well. I was super surprised to find this illumination in a regular morning. Apparently, they do this from time to time and this have been going on for a while. I’ve never seen it again but if you have a chance, check it out!! 😉

 

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I saw this again last week! But around 6 pm…so I’m not quite sure about the time schedule they do this but it’s really cool, isn’t it? 😉 I would say ONLY IN JAPAN!

A relaxing day in Minato-mirai, Yokohama

I have been living in Yokohama since the mid of 2012. Before that, I used to come around here on weekends and spent time sightseeing around the harbor or eat some delicious Chinese in China town. Then, I found some amazing restaurants and cafes and loved coming here ever since.

Now that I live around here, I get to explore a lot more. I often find a cozy cafe and just sit…and read or just relax with a nice warm coffee..or PIES at BUBBY’S! 😀  Today (Jan 19th), just like any other day here, I met up with friends at Queensquare where Minato-mirai station is located in. We went there around lunch time so we had to look for restaurants. I visit Queensquare a lot and I have so many favorite places in there but today, we went up to the 3rd floor and found a nice cafe called “24/7”.

The place is very nice with unique designs and great atmosphere. They also have free drinks corner as well.

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My favorite spot at this cafe is a long seat where you can lie down and eat as in this picture. How comfortable. 🙂

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After lunch, we decided to go to a spa. We took a short walk there. It was really a lovely day- not too cold and it was very sunny. The sky was clear. I love walking around this area. It’s just very relaxing.

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The spa is called Manyo club. It has great onsen and offers lots of relaxation plan such as massage services, relaxation plan, meal plan and others. It is a bit expensive but I think we really needed it after a long week. 🙂

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  From the onsen pool, we could see the sky and the sea..it was so refreshing. We were there for 2 hours. I had a great time.

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Then we had dinner at the red brick house or Akarenka-soko. It was lovely evening.

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(This is an old picture)

I really recommend exploring Yokohama. It’s a beautiful place. I wish you all a great relaxing day like this!