The Umaru Food Pyramid

Umaru, the new sloth in town, is ready to bring back trends set by our old friend Garfield. Sporting the same orange, hate of Mondays and methods of lazing about, I decided to give her diet a try.

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Here we have her 6 basic food groups.

  1. Meiji Bamboo tip shaped cookie and chocolate biscuits
  2. Calbee Potato Chips, a classic brand. I couldn’t find any sour cream, so I got the soy sauce, avocado and wasabi roulette version.
  3. Mets Cola. Now this one was tricky, Umaru usually gets Cola and her color scheme leans more towards Coca Cola than Mets Cola. However, I felt like sticking with a Japanese brand I haven’t tried yet. Let’s see how this gamble plays out.
  4. Squid! Store brand (undried) squid. These are squid tentacles preserved in some kind of sour vinegar like substance. Truly Japanese inside and out.
  5. Cheese sticks. More like store brand cheese strips. These resemble the cheese sticks you can get back home. Although a lot thinner, they taste just as processed.
  6. Finally, the Glico pudding. There was plain and coffee flavor. Let’s try coffee.

All the snacks were just a smidge over 1000 yen (~$10 CAD) at the Ministop convenient store. Now, let us take a look at the real deal.

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Umaru suggests that we mix Potato chips, which are usually salty with the chocolate cookies, sweet, sweet chocolate cookies and cola. So after launching episode 5 I decided to put her experiment to the test.

These Mr. Potato chips taste like dried seaweed, but slightly thicker, the wasabi is quite strong, otherwise it just taste more like soy sauce most of the time. Don’t get me wrong Japan knows how to do soy sauce chips. Instead of just tasting like processed salt it has a distinct Japanese saltiness to it!

As expected, the highlight of the snacking would be the bamboo shoot chocolate cookies. These cookies in itself are a perfect balance between dry cookie and milky chocolate. They’re neither too small nor too big for your palettes. The flavor absolutely melts in your mouth like nothing else.

The cola helps wash all the dryness away. However, something about this cola was lacking. It tasted like a diet soda, but a lot more watered down than I expected. Considering it typically sells at a higher price than Coke I expected more. It was not a satisfying wash down. Also the warm weather caused the soda to be a less than adequate coolness.

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After phase one came phase two. Squid and cheese mix. Now I got to say this was certainly a strange combination. The squid was soft but not as soft as in Asian cuisine. It was chewy enough, but also came with a tinge of sourness.  Using the cheese right after added a hit of saltiness to it.  Again, nothing special if you’ve eaten squid or cheese before. It’s hard to imagine them as snacks, but in Japan they make a unique combination of sour and salty.  Washing it down with soda did little to relax my taste buds which could still taste the sourness after a few hours.  In the end I decided to throw them together with the chips and the chocolate remains. This way I had a 4 way battle royale for my taste buds.

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If I had to choose a winner, I would definitely say it was the Bamboo Chocolate cookies. Just having those was enough to make my snacking moment a wonder.  If you haven’t, I definitely recommend you try them or their mushroom shaped chocolate cookie counter part. I’ve tried the pudding before, but today I’ve had enough sweets, salt and sourness for the day. I’m saving it for another day. So there we have it. If you’re into strange snacks, or happen to be a chibi midget girl, be sure to give this combination a try.

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Edit: I ate my pudding!

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Kiso Valley in Nagano

Between Nagano, Nagoya, and Gifu lays a volcano responsible for over 50 deaths in 2014.  It was a tragic event, and some may say Mt. Ontake’s eruption a precursor to Mt. Fuji’s future eruption. However, only several dozen kilometers away, lays a cultural Easter basket of homes belonging to an era bygone.

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I had a chance to make my way up to this rice paddy dominated area, to take in the beautiful river, mountains and even waterfalls. Kiso Valley is famous for it’s long hiking trail, which runs through all that nature and a beautiful town. Tsumago and Magome are town’s very closely linked by trails, while Narai, the richer and bigger town, is further North closer to Nagano.

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Lined along the trail are sweet shops which serve a variety of ice cream in regular flavors and green tea flavors. Snacks and drinks are also available, but my favorite shop, felt like an old cafe from the 80’s with a small arcade table with the game Invaders built in.

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We were fortunate enough to be able to drive through all the areas including the waterfall. There was no shortage of parking, but the hot weather made walking through certain parts rougher. The waterfall areas were much cooler, and allowed us to enjoy beautiful photography shots with a cool breeze.

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Many of the towns in the area are sleepy, but had enough car traffic to warrant an Aeon supermarket in one of them. Although smaller, it was pretty much an Aeon in essence. The most beautiful scenery came from the setting sun, which illuminated everything in an euphoric glow.

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The Legend of INITIAL D Finally Ends But My Decade-Long Fandom Remains

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And so Initial D has finally ended.  Did you hear?  Of course you did.  What?  You have no idea what Initial D is?  Seriously?

Initial D (頭文字D) is an anime series based on the manga by Shigeno Shuuichi ( しげの 秀一).  It’s about street racing on mountain passes, which is super illegal (but who cares? It’s anime), with these cool cars performing awesome drifts.

I fell in love with Initial D the first time I watched it more than a decade ago.  The art style of Initial D:  First Stage wasn’t the greatest—just look at the image below—but they used some cool 3D effects on the cars during races, and that’s when I got hooked.

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Nagoya’s World Summit of Cosplay 2015

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Make way established international events, this stealthy, but growing trend is breaking its way to become one of the biggest annual events in the 21st century. The 12th annual World Cosplay Summit took place on August 1st. While certainly, there have been events that fade to fad-om, this summit is here to stay.  Nagoya is not a city known for much, except for Toyota and former military production centers.  However, the former mayor has made it important to put Nagoya on the map, as the 3rd biggest city in Japan, Nagoya finally has an event Osaka and Tokyo would die for.DSC02599

Beginning with only 3 countries in 2003, the World Cosplay Summit has risen to 26 countries as of 2015. When the WCS finally hit 7 competing countries in 2005, they began to hold Championship events for prizes.  Brazil and Italy are tied for 1st with 3 wins each respectively, while Japan comes in a close 2nd.  France and Russia have one title respectively. I had the chance to see Italy win in the previous years and had to agree, they deserved the title for their brilliant performance in 2013.

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Who’s turn was it to win this year? Anime, manga and video game themes filled the Oasis21 lobbies and Osu parade. Most were just fans dressed up, but the professionals stood out with their homemade, colorful and in some cases gigantic weapons and armor. What contestants wore looked better than anything one could buy from any shop, these people were professional tailors and prop makers at heart.  I had a chance to cosplay in 2013 and this year as well, but my store bought clothes came nowhere close to their heart-filled efforts. This years event was slightly different from last year, as it would finally be held indoors with air conditioning.  Previously years had contestants wear their costumes in 35 degrees weather and in humid conditions, which combined with stress and exhaustion is quite dangerous! However, if people didn’t want to pay for tickets they could still watch it outside for free.

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The most popular winners in previously years had cosplayed and performed as the Legend of Zelda characters.  The cosplayers, had to put on a play which best represented the characters they were dressed as. Creativity,dress, authenticity, and design were key in winning.  Therefore, it was no surprise that another Legend of Zelda team won this year. This time it was from the Legend of Zelda’s Majora’s Mask. However, the biggest surprise this year was that the winners this year would be a latino country! Before they announced the winners, Mexico had secured the Nico Nico Live stream award. Then they were in tears as their name was read out for they had won Mexico’s first ever WCS grand prize.  They were filled with unbelievable joy for they were not only the North American champions, but the World champions as well!

DSC02574DSC02587My favorite performers were different, I preferred the Gurren Lagaan performance by Hong Kong. They combined real life and manga flawlessly, their battle and costumes lit up the room. The way they brought people back to the series won them loudest cheers. As I exited my press seat and the building, I learned that there were many fans happy to pose with them outside.  I didn’t have the chance to take great pictures outside the actual event, but I did take many at the Meijimura cosplay event one week before hand and the Osu parade. This year, it was incredibly more crowded than previous years for anime, manga and games continue to rise in popularity in Japan and world wide!

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