Japan Trip 2010 – Day 5

Day 5 was a relatively light day in terms of the things that we had on our schedule, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t busy all day long and still totally pooped by the time we got home. Our first order of business was going to Shiro-hige cream puff factory which was a few train transfers away, but totally worth it for the Totoro cream puff deliciousness we had sought after for so long. We’d eaten Anna’s Totoro cream puffs which were inspired by the originals but finally we got to eat the real thing!

The place where cream filled dreams are made.

After a 10-15 minute walk from the train station we arrived at the bakery. It was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but I suppose if all the cream puffs have to be reserved through phone then it’s not really a browsing bakery. The main display case has Totoro cream puffs inside it and along the side are baskets of several individually wrapped cookies.

Don’t look at me with those eyes!

The place is adorned with several Totoro, catbus and also Ponyo decorations. Hanging on the wall are signed Miyazaki sketches, prints and a Nausicaa cel. The wooden catbus clock was particularly awesome. Next to it was a sketch of a very stern looking Totoro with some writing that says something like “Don’t bother me when I’m working.”

Grumpy Totoro almost looks even cuter, if that’s possible.

The pig baker mascot character is all over the bakery. In the Ghibli museum there were a lot of things which had Miyazaki and other co-workers depicted as pigs. I guess Miyazaki likes pig people. After taking a ton of photos of every detail and buying one of each cookie they had, we headed out with our Totoro cream puff loot!

Small place, but their cream puffs are soooooo adorable!

Anna gave it to me to hold so I was extremely careful to not bump or jostle them. From the store to when we got home I bumped it only once. Still, I was very nervous and kept on imagining horrible scenarios where they fell to the ground and a car ran over them which would probably cause me to weep uncontrollably. The only thing worse than wasting food, is wasting cute food!

Mini Totoro says “Your mission is: to protect the puffs.”

Next order of business was the Toei Animation museum I had read about online. Toei has made a bajillion anime including Dragon Ball, Galaxy Express 999 and a lot of anime shows that played on TV in the U.S. during the 80s like Star Blazers, Gaiking, and Space Keteers. I haven’t been watching much anime recently but the original Dragon Ball and Galaxy Express 999 are two of my current favorites.

Big building, small museum.

The Toei Museum was really hard to find. It’s bad enough that there are virtually no street names in Japan, but the map from the museum seemed to be missing several streets. We ended up walking around for at least half an hour longer than we needed to. We’d walk around saying “This street looks like this street on the map, doesn’t it?” We ended up heading back to the station and going in an entirely different direction.

We walked down a major street for a long time looking for a video store that was marked on the museum’s map, but there was no video store in sight. We were starting to say “Okay, if it’s not the next street let’s just head back.” Finally we saw a street that looked like it was where we needed to be, but there was still no video store. The street was called something with “Toei” in it so we took it as a good sign.

A block or two later and we saw the Toei Animation building! There didn’t seem to be much of a museum looking area, but when I saw a large crowd of at least two dozen people I felt better. The museum is free, so all you have to do is get a badge to go in. As soon as I walked in I was getting worried because it looked from the distance like a large room with some posters on the wall.

The place I used to work had a case like this, but it wasn’t a museum.

There was a small desk where you got to pick a film strip souvenir. The current hot shows are One Piece and Pretty Cure. The first room was basically nothing but Pretty Cure posters and artwork. I don’t even remember if there was behind the scenes artwork or if it was just promotional posters. Hung higher on the wall along the perimeter there were some posters for older shows that I knew, and there was a timeline. The only other thing in the room noteworthy were some Pretty Cure statues.

Tetsurou’s gun from Galaxy Express 999

The next room we went into was several display cases with toys of Toei Animation shows. Having already been to Akihabara and Nakano Broadway this was really nothing much to look at. I could tell by now that this wasn’t much of a museum at all, but I took photos of the Galaxy Express 999 toys so I had some proof that I went.

The only other room was a resting room with coffee vending machine and a small LCD TV playing opening sequences from various Toei Animation shows. I was very very disappointed to say the least. It seems like this was the actual Toei Animation building and this “museum” was just an after thought. I understand that it’s free, but I would’ve gladly paid admission to a more extensive museum. I would’ve loved to see some cels at the very least, or maybe a tour of the studio. I guess that would bother people hard at work :/

Galaxy Express 999 toy train.

So the Toei Animation museum ended up being more like a small exhibit, but it was basically a total bust. We headed back to the station and took photos of some of the Galaxy Express 999 stuff there which was better than anything the museum had :/

At least Dude got his photo with the 999 conductor.

We headed home to take photos of our Totoro cream puffs that we had been very careful to not disturb or damage during all this walking. It was very exciting opening the box. Anna was very careful to not tear the adorable Totoro sticker that sealed it, and then there they were! They were actually not as big as I thought they’d be, but still pretty big for cream puffs. But they were as cute as I expected them to be!

They’re so cute you just want to put them in your mouth.

We very carefully took them out and I photographed them by the window where there was a lot of good natural light. The tiny little leaves or hats on their heads were so cute I couldn’t wait to take a big bite out of him, but we were going to save them for later in the day. After photographing them we put them in the refrigerator and headed back to the train station to go to Shin-Yokohama for the Ramen museum.

A museum of food, this needs to exist in more places.

Shin-Yokohama was about an hour train ride away. I had heard about the ramen museum, but actually knew very little about it. All I knew was that in the basement there were a bunch of ramen places that you could eat at, and that upstairs there really wasn’t much of a museum.

I was really in for a surprise when I found out that the basement is actually made to look like Showa period early 20th century Tokyo. I had no idea that the museum had this historical angle to it so I was very pleasantly surprised. The smell of ramen was everywhere so we looked at the pamphlet to figure out which place we’d eat at first. The pamphlet explained the type of ramen each place serves and what region of Japan it came from. I knew we’d be going to Kyushu the next day so I figured I’d save the tonkotsu for then. The first place we went to had miso ramen.

Imagine my surprise when I got this when I was expecting it to look like a food court O_O

The first place was called “eki ramen” eki meaning “station.” It had a line so Anna waited while I walked around taking photos around the perimeter. By the time I got back Anna wasn’t there so I panicked a bit. She showed up behind me a moment later. Turned out the line moved very quickly so we went to the vending machine to order our ramen. I accidentally ordered a regular sized ramen instead of a mini ramen which would’ve saved me some more stomach space for other ramen.

Eki ramen’s miso ramen.

The miso ramen was very good! Since we eat Minca all the time I don’t eat other kind of broth based ramens often, but this was very rich and flavorful. Next up we went to a tsukemen place where I got the mini ramen. Good thing this wasn’t the place I got the normal size, because udon noodles are super filling. This place was very good too. Their charshu was in chunks instead of slices but very juicy. After this I was feeling pretty full so we went upstairs to the more traditional museum area to give me time to digest.

Ganjya Tsukemen Ramen (No not that ganja!!)

The exhibit is all in Japanese so there was only so much I could get from it. There was a long timeline that went all the way to current day. While I was looking at it I heard what sounded like street ambience which I thought was part of the exhibit. Turns out I had bumped the digital audio recorder I had in my pocket which I was using to record the music that plays in the train stations 😛

I couldn’t read it, but in my mind it’s about how someone painstakingly perfected the shape of the bowl for maximum enjoyment and flavor.

There was a cool interactive map that showed what ramen came from what region and also the density of their noodles. I wish I could read the part of the exhibit explaining every part of a traditional ramen cart because that looked very interesting. After that I looked around the shop, but there wasn’t anything terribly noteworthy. They had some expensive high tech looking ear picks which I was intrigued by (I don’t use ear picks though). Also they had some packaged Galaxy Express 999 ramen which I briefly considered buying.

Who knew? The further north you go, the more noodles they give you!

Back to the ramen! We looked through the pamphlet again, and looked at the places that people were lining up at. It seems like tonkotsu ramen places were the most popular, probably because the best tonkotsu ramen is in Kyushu so they don’t get to have it often. I picked a place with shoyu and shio ramen because we never have it when we eat out. There wasn’t any line, and it wasn’t very full, but I attributed it to people being bored with that kind of ramen. It was very good! Probably the best shoyu and shio ramen that I’ve had. Usually it’s kind of bland at places I’ve gone to in NYC, but this broth was excellent. I’ll write a bigger post about all this ramen later because I took notes for all the ramen we ate.

Shinasobaya shoyu ramen.

At this point we were definitely STUFFED. Last order of business was using the purikura machine in the lobby. There was a big purikura place we saw in Shibuya, but it was stuffed to the gills with teenagers so we decided to put it off until later. There were a lot of backgrounds to pick from, but of course we had to pick the one that used ramen.

Our ramen museum purikura, look at that acting!

We were really tired, but we still had at least an hour before we got home, and then we had Totoro cream puffs to eat! When we got home I was ready to pass out, and questioned whether or not I even had space in my stomach left for delicious confectionary treats, but I toughed it out. We took out the adorable cream puffs and Anna documented my dissection. First we had the chestnut cream puffs.

Click and find out what happened, but get some tissues for when you start crying.

I can safely say that Totoro is delicious! The cream was very subtle with small chunks of chestnut mixed in that gave it a nice texture. Anna took a lot of unflattering photos of me eating the cream puff. Next one was the custard cream puff which I bit the head off of for the photo. This was a simpler filling, but it was one of my favorites. It had a really amazing taste to it, not overly sweet at all and very creamy. I probably liked the chocolate cream the best with the custard a very close second.

Dammit, I shouldn’t blog when I’m hungry.

The next day we’d be traveling to Kyushu early in the morning which meant another early start. I knew Anna had a lot of planning to do and also cleaning before we left, but she let me pass out on the bed. The next day we’d spend mostly on the Shinkansen as we made our way down to Kyushu!

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