Monday, June 29, 2009

Liquid Gold 2 (郡中港)

It's been raining here almost nonstop, so the water rationing in Matsuyama City has been lifted.

This past Sunday I went to visit the water at Gunchu Port, the last stop on the local train line. There's a cute little beach / park area in Gunchu, as well as some docks for fishing.

Given that the small city is almost exclusively home to fisherman, there were also a few sushi places around. I popped into one for lunch. Despite spilling soy sauce all over my shorts (no one noticed), the lunch was delicious and enjoyable.

I posted a few pics below...summer is in the air!


I snapped this picture a while back. This is Kashima (Deer Island) and the accompanying torii gate from the neighboring city of Hojo.

Just in case you've never seen a rice field before...

Walked by a stone sculpting place on my way to the beach. Forget a traditional headstone. I want them to put this panda smack dab in the middle of the cemetery.

Look Ma! I found water!

Here's the beach / park in Gunchu, the last stop on the local train line.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Momofuku Ando.

You may not know his name, but chances are you've enjoyed the fruits of his trial and error. Mr. Ando is none other than the father of instant noodles.

Born in Taiwan in 1910, Ando later moved to Japan and became a naturalized citizen. In 1958, after months of tinkering and experimentation, he finally perfected a method for flash frying a block of raw noodles. These noodles could then be submerged in boiling water, and, within minutes, transform into a tasty meal.

He added some chicken seasonings and placed them in an orange plastic bag. With that, the world's first instant noodle - Chikin (Chicken) Ramen - was born. Ando died in 2007 at the ripe old age of 96. He claimed the secret to his longevity was eating a pack of Chikin Ramen everyday.

In memory of the man who fed generations, the city of Ikeda (Osaka Prefecture) opened the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum. This mecca for noodle heads contains a recreation of Ando's work shack, a noodle theater, and several hands-on attractions.

The most popular attraction lets visitors create a personalized Cup Noodle (you can see pictures of mine below). In addition, with the proper reservations, patrons can also try their hand at cutting and flash frying raw noodles, just like the boss did back in 1958.

So, the next time you're at a loss for what to eat in your workplace or dorm, and you find yourself reaching for that familiar Styrofoam cup, take a moment and give a special nod of thanks to Mr. Ando.

For without him, none of this would have been possible!


Mr. Noodle himself! Here is a statue of Momofuku Ando (1910~2007), the inventor of instant ramen noodles and the founder of Nissin Foods.

The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda, Osaka.

Hungry? Wall Noodle.

Here is the world's first instant noodle. Packs of Chikin (Chicken) Ramen were first sold to the Japanese public in 1958. Every instant noodle variety since then has utilized the manufacturing techniques pioneered by Mr. Ando.

The one that started it all...

Ando's personal mantra was, "Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat." Thus, he specifically chose chicken as the flavor for his noodles, since this would allow people with religion-based dietary restrictions to enjoy them as well.

Chikin Ramen is still available in Japan. Here is the modern-day packaging.

13 years later, a legend was born! Up until this time, instant noodles were either sold in packs and boiled, or served in large, disposable Styrofoam bowls. Ando figured that the cup, with its wide mouth and narrow base, was the perfect receptacle for noodles. He was right!

My personal favorite! Unfortunately, Seafood Noodle is not available in America.

A replica of the massive vat Ando used to pioneer his flash frying technique.

Giant Noodle!

Forget the ice cream comes the Cup Noodle man!

Here are the results of a recent survey ranking the top 10 Japanese inventions of the past 100 years. Guess what came in as number one?

1. Cup Noodle (Nissin, 1971)
2. Walkman (Sony, 1979)
3. Bullet Train (Japan Railways, 1964)
4. Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1983)
5. A6M Zero Fighter Plane (Mitsubishi, 1939)
6. Chikin Ramen (Nissin, 1958)
7. Prius (Toyota, 1997)
8. Super Cub C100 (Honda, 1958)
9. Transistor Radio (Sony, 1955)
10. MSG (Ajinomoto, 1909)

For a mere 300 yen, visitors can create their own personalized Cup Noodle. The process begins with decorating the cup. Next, you mix and match your ideal toppings. Upon completion, they shrink wrap the thing and everything - it's pretty legit.

Here's the front of my cup...

...And the back. PENGUIN RAMEN!

In keeping with the Penguin Ramen theme, my Cup Noodle creation started with a seafood soup base. My four topping choices were shrimp, egg, fishcake slices (cutely decorated with the Hyoko-chan character), and eggplant (a limited edition item!). The combination worked well. If I had it to do over again, I would have replaced the egg with kimchi.

Hyoko-chan, the mascot of Chikin Ramen, says, "Cluck cluck!"

That means, "Bye for now!"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Beyond The Sea (海遊館)

Visiting Osaka's premiere aquarium was the first item on my weekend to-do list.

Being unable to visit during my previous Golden Week trip, due to the insane crowds and a particularly nasty 101 degree fever, I was quite excited.

Since the ferry dumped me out at the port at six in the morning, I had ample time to camp outside the building and watch as a Japanese man's morbidly obese corgi waddled its way around the dock.

Osaka's Kaiyukan is one of the largest aquariums in the world. There are 16 tanks in all, each representing a different region's aquatic life, such as Antarctica or Monterey Bay.

The largest Pacific Ocean tank, which houses the two enormous whale sharks, is nine meters deep and holds over 5400 tons of water. The tank is made of special, crystal clear acrylic glass and is perfect for viewing. A student told me that the technology used to synthesize such glass was pioneered in Japan.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the different forms of aquatic life at Kaiyukan. The sight of Japanese families huddled around the various tanks, children enthusiastically counting the spider crabs, fathers gazing mesmerized at the schools of sardines as they whizzed by - One question was on all of their minds...

"I wonder if I can eat all this stuff!?"


Welcome to the Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka, Japan.

Why not begin with the most majestic of earth's creatures?


I know he probably just has water in his eye, but I'd like to think he's giving me a special wink.

I think this is the most postcard worthy of all the photos I took at the aquarium.

The stars of Osaka's Kaiyukan Aquarium are a pair of gigantic whale sharks. Whale sharks can grow up to 40 feet in length and weigh over 15 tons. This video shows a closeup of the amazing creature!

I like how the shark is followed by the school of yellow fish.

A still shot of the super nifty Manta ray.

The Manta has left the nest! I repeat, the Manta has left the nest!

I happen to like the way this picture turned out. The fish look rather frightening, don't you think?

These tiny sardines swim in a mesmerizing pattern.

Once the clock strikes feeding time, it's every fish for itself!

Jellyfish in all its translucent glory. Metroid anyone?

Well, if I don't find a new job in Japan, at least I have a potential career as a photographer for Windows desktop wallpapers.

Bye for now!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Liquid Gold (渇水)

It rained two days last week, but apparently that wasn't enough. There's even talk that the upcoming rainy season (known as "tsuyu" in Japanese) might not cure our woes.

Ehime Prefecture is now experiencing a drought. This is apparently serious enough to warrant water rationing. As of now, Matsuyama City residents are having their water cut off nightly, between the hours of 11 PM and 6 AM.

So far, the water shortage hasn't affected us here in the burbs, but that may soon change if rain doesn't start to fall in the near future.

In fact, several of my city dwelling students have already showed me the menagerie of plastic bottles and tanks they intend to use to collect and store their water.

If it's a choice between a trip to the toilet, a hot shower, or doing that load of dirty laundry...which would you choose?

I'm off to the store to pick up some plastic jugs - you know, just in case.


The Glico Running Man can mean only one thing - OSAKA STRUT! I was in Osaka over the weekend for a job interview, but managed to squeeze in a day of sightseeing. My next two updates will focus on the fun places I visited this time 'round.

Walked around Osaka's version of Akihabara, known as "Den Den Town". Here's a neat way to decorate the side of a building. As one might guess, this store did indeed exclusively sell Gundam products.

Snapped this picture in the bathroom of the Ehime U. Campus Health Center. No more hours spent frozen in fear in front of the urinal, desperately wondering where to direct my stream.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another strange display from a Matsuyama storefront. Can't wait to pre-order me a pair of Hitlers!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Spotted this shirt outside a Matsuyama clothing store. Maybe I'll send one to Susan Boyle as a get well present.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Tea Party (新宮村)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of staying at a friend's home in Shingu Mura (Shingu Village). If you've never heard of the place, don't feel bad - most Japanese don't even know where it is!

Shingu, as well as three other small towns, make up the larger Shikoku Chuo-shi (literally Shikoku Central City in Japanese). This strangely named city is located at the very eastern border of Ehime, next to Kagawa Prefecture.

Shingu is a tiny mountain village. Our thirty minute car ride through the narrow, winding mountain road, was straight out of the intro to Spirited Away.

What Shingu lacks in modern civilization, it more than makes up for with beautiful natural scenery and friendly locals.

We had a barbecue, visited the annual tea festival, took a trip to the local hot spring, and went hiking as well. I must thank my friend for such a wonderful weekend.

Enjoy the pictures!


The weather was gorgeous on Sunday, so some hiking was in order. Isn't Shikoku pretty?

Some people were having fun paragliding in the sunny weather.

The scenery seemed very much like New Zealand. Now, I've never been to New Zealand, but I imagine this is what it looks like.

Almost there! The plant you see on the right is used for thatch roofs. Thatching was a traditional roofing technique in Japan. While the practice has all but vanished today, you can still see some surviving thatch dwellings in Shikoku.

These posts mark the top of Shiozuka Mountain. We drove most of the way up, so the actual ascent only took around 45 minutes.

View from the top.

Shingu is famous for green tea. Luckily, the annual tea festival was being held over the weekend. Here is me trying my hand at molding and massaging the leaves. It's Play-Doh you can drink!

I got a tad too excited massaging the tea leaves.

Lunch at the tea festival was "nagashi somen".

Clear filtered water is run down a bamboo gutter as shown. Then, clumps of thin somen noodles are released at the top. Your job is to catch the noodles with chopsticks as they whiz down the Slip 'N Slide. Dining and entertainment in one!

Here they come!