Monday, February 27, 2012

The cakes here in Japan

Just wanted to show you all how delicious the sweets are here, so you won't blame me if I come back a bit chubbier than before.  ^__^

This sweet shop is one of the famous attractions in Nagoya.  Online you'll find a lot of reviews saying it's one of the places you have to go if you want to have cakes.  It's sort of true - a lot of exchange students go there at least once for the experience of being able to eat unlimited cakes for about 90 minutes (the busier they are, the less time you have).  They also serve pasta and light soups.  However, definitely not all the cakes are tasty - the cakes over there are okay.  Not the best, but the fact that you can pile a plate high with cakes is the main appeal for this shop.  Plus, it's busy enough that it has 2 locations (one in a shopping mall, the other at Nagoya station).

One of the most unusual places to eat in Nagoya, and it's less than 3 minutes away from my dorm!  MOUNTAIN is styled like it is in the Netherlands, but it serves 'Japanese food'.  What you see in the picture is their famous matcha pasta.  It's a dessert pasta (apparently there is such a thing like dessert pasta).  It's horrible - tastes exactly like matcha + whipped cream.  After your 5 or 6th bite, you're done with it.  They have other dessert pastas like strawberry, banana (notoriously horrible) and melon.  On the more normal side, they serve huge parfaits and greasy pilafs.  However, the restaurant is one of the most famous in Nagoya, being featured in many tourist magazines.  Sometimes, even famous people come and eat over there, giving it a boost in its' reputation. 

Strawberry Pasta
One of the best places for cake though, is at the Sir Winston's Hotel Dessert Buffet.

The cakes here are just superb.  First rate.  Hotel style and deserves their price.  (It's like Sweets Paradise - for 1800 yen it's all you can eat sweets for 90 minutes).  The difference is that not only these cakes are better than Sweets Paradise, but the drinks are specialty teas or juice (sometimes cocktails), so you most definitely get your money's worth.

But the best place for cakes are here: Cafe de Cozy Cozy.

This place is one of my favorite places in Japan.  Before, I tried to take Andrea there, but because of the New Year holidays they were closed.  But their cakes are just really good - I can't describe why they're so good though.  I think it's because the cakes that are served here aren't like the usual ones you see in Japan; there's no Mont Blanc or Strawberry cake.  Instead they serve like Sesame cake (Top) and Espresso Chaffron (Bottom).  Their cheesecake is also heavier than the Japanese kind.

I couldn't wait to take a bite!
More than their cakes though, the atmosphere is really nice.  The music they usually play is either American music (but like Coldplay or other older songs) or K-pop.  One of the workers, Kosuga-san, I'm pretty close to now.  In fact, I've been there so much that all the workers know who I am.  Kosuga-san in particular treats me like her daughter.  ^_^  I will miss that place when I leave. . .
But I love eating cake with my friends!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Night Bus --> DISNEY

I went to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea!  ^__^

For those who don't know, Tokyo Disney Sea is another amusement park affiliated with Disneyland, only it's geared towards older people.  It's over there where high thriller rides like Tower of Terror and The Indiana Jones ride are.  You can also tell they put a lot of effort into making the park look out of this world - they built a life-size volcano for it.

My friends and I went to Disney by the night bus (夜行バス).  It's a popular way to get around Japan, but it's also probably the least comfortable.  Basically what it is is a charter bus that you ride late at night to arrive at your destination early in the morning, being able to spend the whole day there.  The bus we took is one of the cheaper kinds - no bathroom attached.  Instead, during our 6hour+ trip we stopped 2 times at rest stops.  Inside the bus it was really tight - the seats were two-seater, but if you leaned your seats back all the way you would be touching the other person's knees.  We were all able to sleep on the bus (the only thing you really could do was sleep), so when we arrived at Disneyland at 6am, we were all up and ready to go.

Going into Disney was a cool experience in itself.  There was a mass of people waiting in line.  They first let people in who were staying at the Disney hotels (and so paid more money to be let in a half an hour early).  Even though the intercoms were telling people to not run but walk, no one listened (also the first time I saw Japanese people blatantly not following directions).

But I had a wonderful at Disneyland.  We managed to only have to wait around 30 minutes for any ride (which considering the crowd that was there was a miracle).  The rides were similar to Disneyworld or California's Disneyland, but some were definitely better.  The Winnie the Pooh especially was really cool - the carriages were electronically programmed so there wasn't any rail that they followed.  Instead, the carriage moved on its' own in whatever way it was programmed to go.  So cool.  ^_^

Disney Sea was even more amazing.  Because we don't have one in America, I was really looking forward to that place.  Going into the park was awesome, because our first view was the huge landscape Disney created:

The downside of having such a huge park of this size was we had to walk a lot.  Later in the day we learned that there were cabs, a ferry, etc. that you could take, but since it would require more waiting time . . . we just walked the whole day.  The lines were also significantly longer, and we could only get two fast pass tickets, but we all still had a lot of fun.

One of the most memorable memories I have about that park is going on the Tower of Terror.  I remember before when I was really little going on it, and I was absolutely terrified of the ride.  If you don't believe me, there's a picture of that time somewhere in the house.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Konomiya's Hadaka Festival (国府宮の裸祭り)

On the 4th of Feb., I went to a very famous festival here in Japan.  It's called the Hadaka Festival, but a lot of people refer to it as the "Naked Men's Festival".

The festival took place a little away from Nagoya's main city - it looked like your typical small town / area with no big attraction.  But that day, the trains were packed to go to the shrine area.  Once we left the train area, food stands were side by side, lined up guiding everyone to where the main event would be.

At the shrine, there was two gates a little out of the way from the main road where people was tying red and white pieces of cloth.  On one there were even bags of some.  I assume this is prayers or wishes made by everyone.  The shrine had lines of people waiting to buy these strips of cloths for ¥100.

My friends then went down the road to find food.  The middle road, which I think used to be a garden but now was covered in mud, was separated by the 2 roads on either side.  This is where the naked men participants would walk down.  We managed to find a good spot to watch the procession that was happening.  The naked men, wearing mostly nothing except for a Japanese loincloth (褌) were walking down in groups; probably their families or clans.  They were either showering each other with sake as a purification act, or carrying props like a long slim tree-looking thing or a barrel of sake.  At certain points, they would stop, break open the barrel of sake and share with everyone in bamboo sake cups.  They were yelling in rhythm which kept up the mood of the whole festival.  The men, even though it was noon, looked pretty much drunk.  They would go up to people to either take strips of cloth from people or strip some from their own supply for others.  Super super interesting.  ^_^

Because me friends and I came really early, we decide to leave before the main event.  What we missed was basically all these men who congregated chase down one man (神男?), who would take all the bad luck from the village and purify him.  This man is completely naked, but apparently I missed him when he passed.

It was a really fun experience.  I got to see  a lot of things that I don't normally have the chance to see.  There was a candy making stall, where the owner was skillfully molding a ball of candy on a stick into animals (like a squirrel or a goldfish), fake corn dog stands, and other traditional Japanese food.  Also, there were some foreigners in the naked men's parade, invited I guess from the community (one guy was from Nanzan University!).  It's definitely something to see if you can when you're here.  ^__^