Fun Stuff

July 24, 2008

After two posts about hiking and cooking, it’s probably time again for some “fun stuff from Japan”. Well, I chose today’s pictures according to this topic, so let’s get into them in more detail:

1. In a shop in Tokyo, I found tiny “mini marshmallows”, which lead to an extensive session of roasted marshmallows in the lab, spiking them on toothpicks and roasting them over a lighter. Sometimes, they started burning, but still tasted good. People coming into the lab always looked at us strangely at first, then joined happily.

2. The second picture displays a series of “me doing seppuku” (or “harakiri”, for the illiterate Western people) after a particular long and boring meeting. Behind me my “suicide assistant”, kaishakunin (介錯人) in Japanese. Lab life is fun!

3. Being thematically already in pre-modern times, the third picture fits perfectly: In front of a KFC shop, I found this statue dressed in the traditional clothes of Shinsengumi, a kind of Samurai special police force.

4. People knowing a bit about Japanese food have probably heard of (or even tasted) Okonomiyaki – often translated as “Japanese pizza” or “pancake”, though both is pretty misleading and only relate to the shape. Anyway, while Okonomiyake is an invention of the Osaka/Kyoto area, people in Tokyo got the idea of Monjayaki (which is shown in the picture):
The dough is egg-less, pretty watery, and cooked/fried until reduced to a semi-hard lump. Then (5.) you use these tiny toy-spatula to get a bit of dough, press it against the pan until it’s half burned, then eat this small patch. Well, the taste is not bad, but it’s much too much trouble, and rather a snack than real food (no matter what Tokyo people are saying). Yay to real Okonomiyaki!

6. I’ve told you before about this tradition of reserving our seats with cellphones… well, for that purpose, I bought myself a toy cellphone, so that I can put it on the table proudly, declaring this seat to be mine. 🙂
(check out this plastic thing, right next to my pretty tasty lunch.)

7. If you trust these thingies, found at a train station, you can use them to recharge your cellphone batteries – about 60 ct. for 20 min.

8. Something probably every Japanese knows from childhood times: Umaibou (literally “delicious stick”) – a nondescriptive mass, looking like oversized peanut puffs, with flavors such as chocolate, chicken curry, mentai (fish eggs), veggie salad, cheese, caramel, and several more. And believe me, Japanese are good at artificial flavors. Only, if you eat too much, your mouth might tingle from all the MSG.

9. This delicious looking piece of apple pie is actually fake. Meant to be placed in the show window of a coffee shop, now on display in our lab.

10. Akihabara, “Electric town”, is a district of Tokyo known for electric stuff, comic/film figurines, strange toys … simply everything your typical geek or nerd (“otaku” in Jpn.) needs. 😉
You have big department stores solely with electric devices, nearly side by side. In between, lots of smaller shops, selling comic stuff, computer equipment (with pretty good prices), and the like. Then, there are little arcades of small booths (11.), selling specialized hardware: cables, connectors, batteries, diodes, resistors, … whatever you can think of. And for your physical well-being, search for one of the several coffee shops – but beware, they may be typical Akihabara-style, so-called “maid cafes”, where the waitresses are dressed as maids (or what the typical Japanese may have in mind when hearing this term). The last picture shows two of them, advertising such a place.



  1. This may be a pretty unappetizing thing to say, but Monjayaki actually looks like barf. I’ve seen a few pictures of it recently that make me wonder if I would really order it in a restaurant. If there was a scale for the most horrid looking dishes this ranks way higher than Natto… a feat not easily achieved! 😉

  2. Actually, I have to say that this was my very first thought (and comment!), too, when I saw the stuff in front of me. 😉

    However, don’t hesitate to order it. It is fun, and tastes similar to Okonomiyaki – which I definitely prefer, but, for getting a new experience (or for a snack in between) eating Monjayaki is not a bad thing.

  3. Anyone who had been there has the same impression about Japan. It’s magic country. I was in Tsukuba also in 2007 for nine months. Did you go as JICA particpant, where did you live. I will go again in Japan, this time in Sapporo, for a longer period.


  4. Hey Mirjana,

    actually, I went as a foreign researcher to Tsukuba Daigaku, and stayed at the splendid Ninomiya House. It wasn’t my first time in Japan, and surely won’t be the last.

    Sapporo sounds cool – in both meanings of the word. 🙂
    I wish you a lot of fun there.


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