Tokyo

Japan: Tokyo Le Salon du Chocolat – A Chocolate Lover’s Paradise

If you love chocolate then you do not want to miss the chocolate extravaganza known as Le Salon du Chocolat!  Begun in Paris in 1994 and supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Le Salon du Chocolat is an annual trade show for the international chocolate industry.  The event has been hosted internationally in such cities as New York, Tokyo, Moscow, Zürich, Beijing and Shanghai and its popularity continues to grow each year.

With over 500 participants from 60 countries, including over 200 renowned chefs and pastry chefs, Le Salon du Chocolat offers a unique and fun opportunity to sample and learn about chocolates from around the world. Here you will find some of the most exclusive high-end chocolates from renowned companies like Jean-Paul Hevin, Michel Richart, Pierre Marcolini, Boissier and Valrhona. You will also find a mix of non-chocolate treats like macaroons and spice laden pain d’épices (spice cake).

The event was so popular in Tokyo that in 2017 it was moved from its previous venue at the Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku to the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, Tokyo, expanding floor space by 5,000 square meters! The event has been held at the Shinjuku location for over 14 years!

Salon du Chocolat Tokyo as it is called, brought together fifty of the top chocolate companies from Japan and around the world to show off and sell their confections. In addition, the top chocolatiers participated in daily talk shows and held meet and greets for their Japanese customers.  There was even a “chocolate inspired” fashion show.

Next stop for Le Salon du Chocolate in Japan will be Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Nagoya and Sendai.

Web Page:                        http://www.salon-du-chocolat.com/?lang=en

(Photos courtesy of Salon du Chocolat)

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JAPAN: Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture (Spa Resort Hawaiians/ Joban Hawaiian Center)

Joban is one of thirteen zones within Iwaki City located in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. The area was renowned for coal mining which began near the foot of the Abukuma mountains in 1883. By 1944, the Joban Mine was the largest mine in Japan and utilized Allied POWs as laborers. As the coal industry declined in the 1960s, the mine’s vice president, Yutaka Nakamura conceived of an idea to open up a resort taking advantage of the area’s hot springs in an effort to generate income from tourism for the city.

On January 15, 1966, the Joban Hawaiian Center was opened becoming Japan’s first theme park. Over the years, the theme park was upgraded and became a full scale resort. Resultantly, the name was changed to Spa Resort Hawaiians (スパリゾートハワイアンズ) in 1990.   Park attendance reached its peak in the early 1970s where attendance exceeded 1.5 million visitors annually.  Today, it still enjoys a steady influx of visitors and is considered among the top ten most popular “theme parks” in Japan.

The Spa Resort Hawaiians is divided into five areas consisting of: The Water Park, The Spring Park, The Spa Garden Pareo, Edo Jowa Yoichi and Vir Port.

The Water Park comprises the main area of the resort where you will find various indoor pools, water slides and the dance stage. A Hawaiian atmosphere is recreated throughout with pineapple plants and other tropical vegetation. The Spring Park is one of two hot spring areas that is fed by spring water from the Yumoto Onsen. Here you will find co-ed lukewarm indoor pools as well as regular, gender separated hot spring baths where swimsuits are not allowed. The Spa Garden Pareo is a water playground with outdoor pools, deckchairs, Jacuzzis and a sauna (please note that this section is closed during the winter months). Edo Jowa Yoichi is a gender separated, large outdoor bath with an Edo period theme. It is said that this is the largest single outdoor bath in Japan. Finally, Vir Port is where guests can partake in Hawaiian dance lessons, enjoy a massage or facial, or take part in water exercises. The resort also has various restaurants and two hotels: Hotel Hawaiians and Monolith Tower.

However, the park’s most popular attraction is its dance troupe known as the Hula Girls. They were the subject of a 2006 film with the same name.  The film was directed by Sang-il Lee and grossed $9.4 million at the box office!

In March of 2011, the resort sustained heavy damage by the East Japan Earthquake and was forced to close. During the closure, the Hula Girls troupe toured Japan performing at earthquake refugee shelters and other venues. The resort reopened on February 8, 2012 with a much larger stage for the Hula Girls show.

Accessing the resort is relatively easy. There are free hourly shuttle buses to/from Yumoto Station. In addition, the resort provides bus service for its staying guests to/from Tokyo (3 hours) and Yokohama (3.5 hours), free of charge. Please note that advance reservations are required for the latter.

Web page:

http://www.hawaiians.co.jp/english/

Location:

50, Warabidaira, Fujiwaramachi,

Joban, Iwaki-shi,

Fukushima, 972-8326, Japan

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Preview: The Sun Will Rise Again

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The Sun Will Rise Again

ISBN-13: 978-1540747952

Without question World War II was the deadliest war in history. Of the estimated 70 million people killed, 50 to 55 million were civilians.

The United States managed to stay out of the war that was ravaging the rest of the world until the day Imperial Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, “a date which will live in infamy.”

What prompted the Japanese to wage war with the United States? Was the attack really a surprise or was it a carefully orchestrated event by Washington to anger the American public enough to want to go to war?

Did the Japanese truly believe that they would prevail against the military might of the United States? The losses the Japanese military experienced during the Pacific War were unforeseeable. The suffering endured by the Japanese people was unimaginable. 

By the end of World War II, Japan had persevered through 14 years of war. The country lay in ruins and the morale of its people was at an all-time low, but in the land of the rising sun, the sun will rise again. Follow Japan’s journey from vanquished to victorious in this book that details the grim realities of war, politics, racism and blind devotion.

Please also check out my travel guide released in November of 2016, “A Blogger’s Guide To Japan,” available on Amazon.com, Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace eStore: (https://www.createspace.com/6595032)

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Seeking Interview Candidates For Upcoming Book

I have not been posting to my blog very often as of late and the reason is because I have been busy working on my second book.

The new book is on track to be published by Fall 2017.  I am seeking individuals willing to share their stories about the Pacific War.  These stories will be featured in interview format at the end of the book.

The interviews will be conducted via email.

Potential interview candidates include:

(1) Japanese civilians who survived the bombings of Tokyo, Nagasaki or Hiroshima (or their family members).

(2) Former members of the Japanese military (or their family members).

(3) Former members of the 100th/ 442nd Battalions / MIS (or their family members).

(4) Japanese War Brides who traveled to the United States or Australia.

(5) War orphans in Japan (Orphaned either as a result of being mixed race babies/ children of the occupation forces or orphaned due to their parents becoming war casualties.)

Please post a comment, if you are interested in sharing your story.  Thank you for your support.

(Photo: Werner Bischof/ Japan 1951)

How The Allied Occupation Helped Promote The Popularity Of Tokyo Style Nigiri Sushi

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When the Allied forces arrived in Japan in 1945 for what was to be the seven year military occupation, there was little doubt that the country would be changed forever. However, some traditions were retained in an effort to maintain Japanese culture.  One of these traditions was sushi.

The earliest form of sushi in Japan was called narezushi (salted fish).  Fish was stored in fermented rice for long periods of time without spoiling and provided an important source of protein in the Japanese diet. The sushi we are familiar with today is called nigiri sushi.  It had its origins in Edo (Tokyo). A restaurant owner named Hanaya Yohei is credited with having invented this type of sushi during the 19th century.  The Edo people were known for their busy lifestyle and lack of patience, therefore many fast food businesses began cropping up. Nigiri sushi, which was known as Edomaezushi at the time, was a type of fast food, conveniently shaped to be eaten by hand and no longer reliant on the fermentation process utilized by narezushi.

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While nigiri quickly became the most popular style of sushi in Edo, it did not immediately dominate the sushi landscape as it does today. There were two events which aided the popularity of nigiri sushi outside of Tokyo: one was the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the other was the military occupation of Japan in 1945.  The earthquake caused many people to leave Tokyo and return to their hometowns.  Among these were the various sushi chefs who opened restaurants upon returning home and served Edomaezushi to their clientele. In post-war Japan, many sushi shops were forced to close due to the rice rationing at the time and not allowed to reopen.

Eventually it was impressed upon the American Forces General Headquarters that the sushi restaurants should be allowed to reopen as sushi was an important part of Japanese culture.  When the restaurants reopened however, they had to adhere to one strict rule.  That rule was that the patrons were to bring in their own rice rations for the sushi.  One cup of rice was to be used to make ten pieces of sushi hence the nigiri sushi shrunk in size.  In pre-war Japan, nigiri sushi was three times larger.

Eventually the same system was implemented throughout Japan and Tokyo style nigiri became Japan’s predominant form of sushi.

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JAPAN: Japanese Sub-Cultures (Yankii)

Every country has a population of disgruntled youth who rebel against society and Japan is no exception.  But from a country who brought you such colorful trends as Dekotora, Gyaru, Lolita and Visual Kei, it only makes sense that their sub-culture of rebellious youth are just as colorful and trendy.

Japan’s largest and most well-known sub-culture consisting primarily of working class kids is called Yankii (ヤンキー).  Yankii also represents a whole genre of comics, movies and music in Japan. The word Yankii, came into existence in the 1950s and is said to have originated from the term “Yankee,” which refers to people from the United States. Perhaps influenced by the early post-war motorcycle gangs formed by former Kamikaze pilots known as Kaminari zoku (雷族), the Yankii lifestyle revolves around motorcycles and cars and is perhaps one of the most tradition-bound segments of the Japanese populace today.

Most kids begin their life-style as a Yankii around age 14 and are known for their pranks, bullying and petty crimes. They try to maintain a yakuza-like image but they are not as dangerous as their highly organized, older icons. They highlight their working class roots by wearing clothing associated with Japanese construction workers, such as oversized baggy pants known as Tobi trousers. Yankii boys and girls also tend to have shaved off eyebrows, permed hair (punch perm/ パンチパーマ/  panchi pamaa), dyed hair, pompadours, flamboyant, oversized clothes and customized school uniforms. Younger Yankii are expected to speak to the older members of their clan (senpai) in Keigo (reverent speech) at all times and run their errands. Members also observe a code of honor specific to their particular clan. The three pillars of Yankii behavior are said to be guts (konjyo), sincerity (seii) and dedication of the soul (nyukon).  Most Yankii tend to drop out of school by age 17 and get married. This early marriage is referred to as sokon.

Some Yankii eventually do get recruited by the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime) but many simply blend into Japanese society, join the workforce and live regular, productive lives after lashing out at society and enjoying their youth.

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Japan: Tokyo/ Omotesando/ Gluten-Free (Natural Cream Kitchen)

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If you have food allergies like I do, you know how daunting traveling may be, particularly when it comes to overseas travel.  But, a great man once uttered, “Nothing is impossible,” and indeed with growing food allergy awareness, traveling with food allergies is becoming much easier than it used to be.  The only caveat is that you must do your homework ahead of time, which many of us who have allergies are accustomed to doing anyway.

In this new blog post, my purpose is to introduce you to a wonderful little café located in Omotesando, which offers all natural, gluten-free items on their menu.

Natural Cream Kitchen opened in spring of 2015 and bills itself as an “additive free sweets café.” However, sweets are not the only things offered on their menu. Here you will find delicious items such as chicken and roast beef entrees, meatloaf, pasta, sandwiches, quiche and salads.  Their drinks menu includes soft drinks, herbal teas, beer and wine! They even have a brunch menu featuring oatmeal and omelets among other items!  Everything is prepared using natural ingredients, no sugar and no additives.  Their tarts, breads and cakes are created with rice flour and sweetened with amazake  (a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice) and sugar beets. Their signature roll cakes come plain and in chocolate cake flavors and are available in sizes up to 50cm (19.6 in). For Christmas you can order the Christmas cake version. Oh, and did I mention their sweets sampler tower?

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You can choose to dine in the cozy café decked out in a bright and soothing décor or take your food out. There are large vases filled with white flowers, white washed tables and chairs, exposed white brick walls and a giant chandelier comprised of eating utensils.

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The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, able to answer any questions you may have regarding the menu (provided you speak Japanese.)  Even if you can’t speak Japanese, the menu has pictures of the items available so you can just point to what you would like to order.

Whether you have food allergies, are health conscious or just want to try delicious tasting foods, Natural Cream Kitchen should be on your list of places to visit when in Tokyo! The café is open Mon-Sat from 10AM-8PM, Sun & Holidays 9AM-8PM. It is easily accessible via the Meiji-Jingumae Station (Chiyoda, Fukutoshin Lines) or the Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda Lines).

 

Web page:                        https://naturalcreamkitchen.com/

Location:                           GYRE B1F 5-10-1 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001