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. 🙂

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Stroll Around Kyoto (京都) in a Kimono (着物)

Have you ever wanted to stroll around Kyoto in a kimono? I have always wanted to do so seeing many tourists walk in beautiful kimonos sightseeing around beautiful temples and shrines of Kyoto. I always thought to myself that I must do this at least once while I am in Japan.

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Kyoto is definitely the most famous place in Japan to do kimono fitting since it is an old capital with numerous wonderful old shrines and temples. A lot of Japanese traditional things that pop up in your mind when you think of ‘Japan’ or see in movies are here; for instance, Maiko, Geisha and other forms of arts, traditions, sweets and so many others. As you may know, I have done Maiko transformation before and it was such a great experience. You could never get closer to a Japanese traditional culture than this. 😉  This time, I wanted to simply wear a kimono and walk around Kyoto city, especially to visit Kiyomizudera temple (清水寺)and take photos for memories.20130422-110309.jpg

I finally did it and I had a great time. It was worthwhile. As of how to do kimono rental (着物レンタル)in Kyoto, very easy!

HOW:

  •          First, plan you trip to Kyoto.

Leave a day or at least half a day in case you don’t have time for this experience since you obviously want to take a lot of photos while you’re wearing kimono. If you stay in a ryokan (旅館) within Kyoto, some kimono rental stores may allow you to return the kimono the next day at your hotel. But, in case you stay in a nearby city, you must return the kimono by the designated time at the store (until 5pm in my case). Keep this in mind when you plan your visit.

  •          Select store and decide the places you want to visit.

For this, you want to choose a kimono rental store close to your hotel or tourist attractions that you want to visit. Especially when you’re wearing a kimono and walk around in kimono shoes, you want to be as close as you can to the places you are interested in.

          Recommended kimono rental stores

  1. Yume Kyoto (夢京都)– I visited this store for kimono fitting. It is located right next to the entrance of Yasaka shrine (八坂神社)in Gion (祇園)district (central Kyoto) and only around 15 minutes on foot to the famous Kiyomizudera. Yume Kyoto also has another branch near Todaiji temple. They have kimono rental plans from 3,500 to 5,250 yen depending on the type of kimono. For 3,500 yen plan, you cannot choose kimono but for the 4,000 and 5,000 yen plan, you can choose kimono, bags and accessories as well. I liked their kimono choices. They also give free Tabi (kimono socks) for free and you can bring home as souvenirs.
  2. Okamoto (岡本)– This store is located in Kiyomizudera area which can be convenient for people who wants to visit this temple. I remember seeing in just on the bottom of Kiyomizudera!
  3. Yume Yakata 〔夢館)– The cheapest plan of this place is 2,500 yen which is pretty ideal. This is also the place I did my Maiko transformation.

In addition, if you are a traveler from abroad with limited time to plan, you may opt for a package tour for this kind of kimono experience. Many are sold within the city such as at big JR stations and travel companies. Some are also sold in websites for tourists from abroad. See this discount tour for a great 1 day plan with hotel pick up, English speaking guide and admission fees included (Input code L2AI9 when downloading their app to get free credits! –apple, android). 🙂

  •     Make a reservation

Make sure you reserve in advance so you can be sure you will get a place and time you want.

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PLAN & PRICE:

Usually, the price ranges from around 3,500 to 5,250 yen for Kimono rental. However, depends on the type and prints of kimono, it can also be much more expensive or less expensive if you are very lucky. At Yume Kyoto, I chose 5,250 yen kimono and got my hair done for 1,500 yen. So in total, it was 6,750 yen. Unlike Maiko transformation, you need to do your own makeup. After you are done dressing up, you are free to walk around in kimono and return it at the store or at your hotel depending on the store’s policy. Beware not to spill anything on your kimono. You may need to pay for the cleaning fee if you do so.

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PROCESS:

  •           Go to the store at your reserved time and tell your name.
  •          They will lead you into a room full of kimonos. Choose a kimono of your choice, then choose obi (similar to a big belt). In my case that I chose 5,250 yen plan, I could choose a rope which is a layer inside the kimono, too. You can see my reddish collar inside my kimono which is not a regular white layer.
  •           Then, they will start dressing you up. Starting from the rope, inside layer, then kimono. After that, they will tie you with some more ropes and Obi. And then, you’re done! It took less than 30 minutes for me.
  •           After you’re done dressing up, they will lead you into a hair section where you can choose a hairstyle that fits you the most.20130422-110338.jpg

The whole process took about 40 minutes for me.

TIPS/ADVICE:

It is important to bring a friend to take photos for you. I was lucky as my friend’s friends join us with their professional cameras. So, we got very good photos. Also, prepare to smile a lot because so many people will ask to take pictures with you or try to snap a photo of you.20130422-112409.jpg

Last but not least, CHECK THE WEATHER before you decide to do this. It is hard to predict the weather as you may want to reserve in advance but the day won’t be as fun if it’s raining, so try to avoid it!

And…of course, ENJOY! 😉

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At the ladders in the front entrance of Kiyomizudera

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In front of Yasaka shrine

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We met two tourists dressed up as Maiko-san, too.

Big thanks to two amazing photographers Kenichi Sanguan-ngern & Nichchima Anongjanya.

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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SHABU SHABU! しゃぶしゃぶ

As my social media name ‘luvniku’, you can probably guess that I LOVE meat!

I used to live in a small town called Beppu, Oita prefecture down in Kyushu, which is a very famous place for onsens. Since it is a small town, everything is cheap and that includes tabehobai (all-you-can-eat) restaurants which are usually around 980 to 1,500 yen. The most expensive place in Beppu is probably around 2,500 yen. So, I usually went out to yakiniku or shabu shabu places almost every other weekend. I guess that was how I got to love eating meat so much.

Shabu Shabu is probably my most favorite Japanese food. And it’s so easy to make as well. To me, Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, and nabe is quite similiar. Shabu shabu and Sukiyaki both have thin slices of meat as main (mostly beef), but any kind of meat, vegetables and others can be put into nabe hot pot. For Sukiyaki, the flavor is much stronger with soy sauce. The soup is usually sweet. For shabu shabu, the soup is light or sometimes have no taste at all. You put the meat in the hot pot and swipe it in there a few times, then bring it out and dip it with sauces and scallions. Personally, I love Goma (sesame seed) sauce and ponzu soy sauce. I sometimes use Thai spicy sukiyaki sauce as well when I make shabu shabu or nabe myself. It’s delicious!

These days, there are so many kinds of soup for shabu shabu. Even collagen soup which tastes better than I expected. On Christmas, my friends and I went to a shabu shabu restaurant for dinner. It was 3,500 yen – pretty expensive but it seemed like the right choice at that time since the weather was so cold that night. We ordered to kinds of soup – honestly, I’m not so sure what they are but they look like this.

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The soup on the right side came with something that looks like jelly. It melted away as the water boiled. Then we put in the meat. I think we have to put in the meat one by one for shabu shabu, but that’s never fast enough for us so we put everything. 😀

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Note that when the soup gets oily and full of fat from meat, you should skim in out. The restaurant would provide a small tool for you to skim the fat out. And you can ask for them to fill in some more water.

Shabu shabu is always a fun to eat with your friends especially if it’s all-you-can-eat. I’m sure it’s one of the most popular Japanese food to both Japanese and foreigners.

Recommended restaurants

1. MK restaurant – Cheap and awesome! Lunch: 1,580 yen Dinner: 1,780 yen (this is all-you-can-eat prices for kanto region)

This restaurant is Thai shabu shabu restaurant so, of course, I love it. It’s not different from Japanese shabu shabu, only it has Thai spicy sauce and some other kinds of vegetables and meat such as baby corn, shrimp balls, seaweed wrapped pork balls, squip with pork stuffed inside, etc. Isn’t it awesome? 😀

This restaurant also uses a touch-screen device for ordering. You can see the time remaining for your all-you-can-eat menu and you can choose meat or anything from the touch screen and click order! They will come and serve you. Very cool.

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The store in Tokyo is in Shinjuku, not so far from Isetan. The menu in Kanto is a bit more expensive than in Kyushu but still very cheap compared to other places in Tokyo.  Try the Thai sauce if you go there. Don’t miss out! 😉

2. Nabezo – Cheap all-you-can-eat with several different kinds of soup to choose. You can go pick up anything you like from the counter to put it in the hot pot. This restaurant has so many locations so it’s quite easy to go. I went to the one in Shibuya .

These are probably the only places I can recommend since I don’t know a lot of shabu shabu restaurant around here. Sorry for the short list. Most of them are really expensive so it’s probably better to make it yourself at home. I also have my own hot pot that I ordered from amazon for 1,000 yen. It can be used both for shabu shabu and yakiniku so if you like meat like me, get yourself one. 🙂

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Enjoy eating!

PS Don’t forget to eat some vegetables too!