Out of Order

My computer died on Monday.

I had mentioned that it was being quite unpredictable, though after several tries it would finally boot up, at which point it seemed to be relatively stable.

I had some difficulties in the days leading up to my summer vacation in getting it going and it took quite a while to get it working when I returned, so I didn't turn it off for about two weeks.

When I woke up Sunday morning, it had crashed. I was unsuccessful at fully reviving it all day Sunday and it wasn't until Monday evening that I could actually get past the startup screen.

Unfortunately, it wouldn`t connect to the network, so I pulled the couple of recent files remaining over to my portable drive and tried to restart it. 

Not only did it never restart, it no longer tried. It was completely dead.

I spent Monday afternoon shopping around Akihabara and I`ve found a replacement. I think I got a pretty good deal but it was a special order and it won`t be here until September 8. 

In the meantime, I could post using Blogger on my iPhone, but it is difficult to write even with my Bluetooth keyboard, and I cant insert photos like I do with a computer. So as you have seen, the blog is dormant until my new machine is up and running.

So yes, I am fine, and things are busy but well. But for the next week and a half to two weeks, I won`t be posting anything. So, see you then!

A Fistful of Shrimp: More Korean Chow

While my Korean adventures are over for now, a recent trip to Chinatown in Yokohama provided me with some more snacks imported from South Korea. You see, there's a store in Chinatown selling lots of K-Pop goods, plus a handful of Korean munchies.
 First are these shrimp-flavored corn snacks. Like the Ghana chocolate and shrimp snacks I showed yesterday, the shrimp (prawn) flavor is very mild. Without chocolate, it's more obvious, but these were tasty and I finished the bag pretty fast. Yes, I got them on sale for only 50 yen.
 Also on sale for 50 yen was this bag of tteokbokki. It has Japanese characters in addition to Korean, so it's probably a bit milder than the original Korean versions to suit the Japanese palate.
 They had a bit of spice of course, but they're coated in a sweet glaze to make them very easy to eat. Again, they were very enjoyable and I finished the bag fast.
 Speaking of tteokbokki, there is an instant version available. I picked this up in in Korea, but waited a month or two before eating it for lunch. Preparation is simple - remove the fish cakes and sauce from their packages, put them back in the container and toss it in the microwave for two minutes.
There isn't quite enough sauce included for full flavor, but there is enough to coat all the fish cakes and add appropriate flavor. You can see the little fork they included to eat the tteokbokki with, too! It's not enough for a meal, but it works as a nice snack. Given the ease of finding this snack fresh on the street at a lower price, I wouldn't eat this regularly. But I bought it as a "souvenir" to bring back and enjoy later in Japan, and it served its purpose nicely.

Snacking Japanese: Shrimp and Chocolate?!

"You got chocolate on my shrimp!" "You got your shrimp on my chocolate!"
 Japan is the land of the unique snack. I make sure to browse the convenience stores and snack shops occasionally for new treats, and here are some of the recent finds. Above is a shrimp flavored snack, similar in design to Cheetos, and coated in dark chocolate. The shrimp flavor was mild, and the dark chocolate went well with the saltiness.
 The unfortunately-named Collon is a cylindrical snack with a creamy filling similar to oreo filling. Different flavors show up from time to time; this is a melon soda float flavor. There's a definite melon flavor along with vanilla. These were extremely sweet, but I thought they were pretty good!
 I've seen a bunch of new Doritos flavors lately; I've tried two so far. Pepper and Andes Rock Salt has a black color with white salt crystals. This was really good, actually - the pepper flavor especially worked well on the corn chip. Of course, most corn chips already have plenty of salt.
 The other Doritos flavor I tried is the "extremely hot" Hot Tacos flavor. Yes, it has a good bit of bite, and it does taste like tacos, or at least taco seasoning. A few of these are great, but an entire bag got dull after a while.
 Haagen-Dazs ice cream always has a few limited flavors available. The vegetable flavors have been really popular, but I went with Japonais.
It's a layered ice cream, with four layers: kinako kuromitsu (soybean + brown sugar) sauce, vanilla ice cream, sweet red bean paste sauce, and a milk sorbet. It has a definite Japanese flavor with the two sauces, but I enjoyed it. Red bean sweets are very sweet and have a distinct flavor, so it might not be for everyone.

I'm planning a big sweets spectacular soon, so expect more to come!

Onigiri: Why Did I Wait So Long?!

Onigiri is everywhere. Basically, it's a ball of rice with something inside; most onigiri includes fish or other seafood of some sort. It's also usually wrapped in a piece of nori, which is dried seaweed. I've been trying to develop a taste for nori, but there's something about the scent that, to me, is off-putting. Most people (Japanese or western) don't have a problem with it.

Japanese people usually eat onigiri as a snack. The large amount of rice is filling, and it's easy and quick to grab at a convenience store and eat before catching a train. I've had it as a light meal though, before or after a larger meal. And two of them makes for a very tasty and filling breakfast.

The nori is like bread in a sandwich. It holds it all together and keeps the hands clean. The rice is sticky, and will generally stay together, though. There are a few varieties of onigiri that come without the nori, and I've been trying them.
First, I present tamago onigiri. Tamago is Japanese for egg, and as you can see there's half of a hard-boiled egg inside. This is pretty good, especially if you like egg, and makes for a decent breakfast. The price: about a dollar, from the 100-yen shop.
 The next picture, above, is kimchi-flavored. It's kind of spicy and has a lot of flavor. The full name of the kanji/kana above is "buta kimuchi chaahan" - pork kimchi fried rice. I like this one a lot! Coming from 7-Eleven, this is a little more expensive, at about $1.40 with tax.
 The triangle above is yaki onigiri, or grilled/baked onigiri. True to its name, this is baked to brown the outside. It is a bit sweeter on the outside, but this is only rice. So 7-Eleven sells it for only $1.10 with tax.
This is chaashuu chaahan, or roast pork fried rice. 7-Eleven charges 130 yen for this; a simpler fried rice can be found at the 100 yen shop.

There are plenty of nori-wrapped variations too, and I've also tried an oyster onigiri (not wrapped in nori) which was decent. My favorite is the fried rice now, though hopefully in a month or so I'll be chowing down on ones with nori.

The Return of Akihabara's Otaku Mecca: The Radio Kaikan Building

 The old Radio Kaikan building was an Akihabara landmark. It was the first stop for many anime fans and was even featured in a video game. In late 2011, it closed down after nearly 60 years of service - a structure that was certainly dated in design and earthquake strength. Photos of the building before its closure show cracks in the walls from previous earthquakes. After almost three years, the new building reopened to much fanfare. The line was literally around the block on opening day just to see what was inside.
 While most of the original tenants moved to one of three buildings on a temporary basis, a few probably relocated for good. And with more space now, there are additional stores inside than before. The marquee stop is probably the Ginza Lion restaurant on the first basement floor. I've been to a Ginza Lion restaurant before and the food is decent and not too expensive.
 There's a convenience store on the first floor, now the most convenient to those coming out of Akihabara Station. The window/walls have an advertisement for the highly popular Girls und Panzer series, and the chain has a couple anime cardboard cutouts out front.
 There's also a well-stocked Akihabara gift shop, though there isn't anything truly unique here. Many of the items here can be found in Don Quixote; I haven't done enough checking to see if this is a new gift shop or if it relocated. There's also a card gaming store just inside the building entrance.
 Moving to the second floor, you get into real geek territory. These display cases are rented out by individual collectors to sell extra or unwanted figurines, so each box can have something unique, and the stock changes out pretty fast. Prices are hit-and-miss in stores like this, and you should definitely shop around.
 One wall has a bank of vending machine toys. Gachapon toys can be quite limited, and many of the ones found in Akihabara might not be easy to find elsewhere.
 There's another large CCG shop.
 And an actual electronics store. Stores in Akihabara generally focus on one specific aspect, and I believe this store's specialty is video surveillance.
 Moving on up, the third and fourth floors belong to K-Books. I haven't spent much time in K-Books, though they have books, CDs, DVDs, and some anime figurines.
 The fifth floor has several small shops selling various anime and manga goods, plus another electronic components shop. I also saw a K-Pop/J-Pop shop with posters and other flat goods.
 Yellow Submarine is up on the sixth floor, and is my favorite store in the building. It has a very large CCG card collection, but I come here for the baseball cards. The store covers the entire floor, and also includes models as well as large and small figurines.
 There's a doll shop on the seventh floor with very expensive dolls.
 You'll also find pop culture goods here mixed in with more anime and manga merchandise.
 Another CCG shop is on the eighth floor.
 You can also find more models and dolls on the eighth floor.
Phantom, a military goods store, is on the ninth floor. It shares the space with a limited-time merchandising event store (that's hard to explain) as well as a Radio Kaikan store that had an interesting collection of goods and Radio Kaikan souvenirs (t-shirts, etc). The top floor is event space.

Akihabara should be explored, of course. The sights found on the back streets and along Chuo Dori are worth seeing, and there are several other stores to browse. But this is arguably the best place to shop in town for anime and manga goods.

Access is pretty easy from Akihabara Station. Just take the Electric Town exit and turn left out of the ticket gates; follow the road to the right and it's the second building on the left. You can see it as soon as you exit the station (see my first photo). The stores are open 10:00-20:00 (sometimes less); the Ginza Lion restaurant is open 11:30-20:00

My First KBO Game at Mokdong Baseball Stadium, Seoul, Korea

 My flight arrived at Incheon Airport in the early afternoon on my second visit, and I hurried my way to the train, making my way to Mokdong Stadium. The last leg of my trip involved a several-minute walk, where I passed this pavilion.
 Finally, a stadium! Let's watch baseball. The weather was miserable so crowds were light despite being a Sunday game.
 You can't walk all the way around the stadium, as the seating only extends to the bullpens behind left field and right field. It's a small, pleasant park.
 Here's the view from the outfield and the bullpen.
 Most people were hidden up under the covering behind home plate.
 Seating at home plate is pretty nice, and there's a bit of a skyline behind the outfield. Granted, it's just standard housing, but it's something.
 The Nexen Heroes play here, and with three teams in Seoul they are the least-popular. The game was fun, though, despite not seeing any cheerleaders here (or at any of the KBO games I attended). I could totally see myself having season tickets with the Heroes, as the feel here was like a minor league game - relaxed but still with a good level of play.
In the end the game was pretty close - after giving up two runs early, the Eagles pitchers settled down and they nearly came back in the bottom of the ninth.

Mokdong Baseball Stadium is pretty easy to get to; take Subway Line 5 to Omokgyo Station, and take exit 3 or 4. Walk straight north; the road will join with a larger road to the right (don't go into the tennis complex) and you'll reach the baseball stadium after a long block's walk.

Dongdaemun Gate and Dongdaemun's Markets, Seoul, Korea

 Dongdaemun is most known for its markets, with several buildings packed with store after store selling clothing, traditional goods, and souvenirs.
 A recently opened building adjacent to the station has a museum.
 The gate itself is nice, too - but neglected by tourists who are more focused on getting bargains! I couldn't get a good photo of it, but there is a bit of the original city wall near the gate.
 The clothing markets are certainly the biggest draw to the area, and shops are scattered among a few large buildings.
 The best thing to do is just pick a building and go in.
 You'll see plenty of the latest fashions for men and women, boys and girls. I didn't find anything that matched my style, so I didn't compare prices, but it looks like some clothing can be found in several different stores.

 In addition to clothing, you can buy shoes, luggage, souvenirs, and household goods.
 There are a couple souvenir stores in each market and a store or two selling hanbok, the traditional Korean costume. I also saw some stores selling Korean bedding.
 From shoes to kitchenware and plates, you can probably get all your shopping done here. I don't really understand why someone would pay $100-200 or more for a plane ticket to Korea just to buy cheap clothing, and other than the traditional Korean goods I didn't see anything that I couldn't buy in Japan or the US. I'll take the adventure of the flea markets myself. But for those living in Korea or visiting and looking to do some shopping as well, this is the place to be.
The best thing to do is get to Dongdaemun Station exit 8 or Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station exit 14, and go into a mall. Some of the buildings are a bit sparse, but the upper floors seemed to hold the most interesting goods, like the wrapped-for-delivery Korean bedding above.