Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Cute and the Quirky in Japan

There are so many interesting parts of Japanese culture and technology that you will rarely find in other parts of the world. During my visit I would walk for hours, marveling at the unique, quirky displays and products in the malls and arcades.

Restaurants usually display an assortment of their menu items with plastic models. This visual proves to be quite helpful if you cannot read Japanese and therefore don't know what to order from the menu. I really liked this one model I found, which showcases the food and chopsticks in midair, in the act of being eaten!

I've also found unusual variations on otherwise familiar foods. Take this "Kuro Diamond" burger at Burger King, for example - it's made with a black charcoal bun, black cheese, and a black sauce. No big surprise that kuro means black in Japanese.  

Most convenient stores and souvenir shops sell a large variety of matcha flavored products. I've found instant matcha latte packets, matcha candies, chocolates, and cookies. 

I even found Oreos in matcha latte flavor filling! Kit Kats are also a favorite, though apparently you don't need to go all the way to Japan to experience them.

I found out about this ingenious method of selecting and paying for your meal in a restaurant - using a vending machine! Two of the restaurants I went to had this contraception at the entrance. You pick your meal by pushing a button, then you pay at the machine. The machine spits out a ticket designating your choice, and then you can give the ticket to the server. It saves a lot of time and manpower!

Finally, in addition to plastic food models, in Osaka I found large replications of food used on advertisements. Take this huge red crab, for instance, on Dontonburi Street.

Fried dumplings!

And a giant octopus! The creature was advertising for takoyaki, a famous Osaka snack. Takoyaki are ball-shaped and consist of minced octopus and batter. We didn't try any because the line for this stand was rather long.

Needless to say, you won't be bored if you visit Japan. You can also find Hello Kitty themed shops, a Pokemon center, among other amusements. I'm not sure how many of these wacky inventions are geared towards amusing tourists, or are inherently a part of the culture. I'm sure the two factors have blended together over time. 

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