A closer look at Asian American night markets: Ramen Burgers & Kimchi Fries calore

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Audrey Magazine:

Ramen burgers, kimchi fries and pho tacos. Stinky tofu. Spiral-cut fried potato skewers sprinkled with a variety of seasonings. And balls — lots and lots of balls: curry fish balls, fried yam balls, takoyaki squid and octopus balls, kimchi fried rice balls with DMZ sauce, gourmet rice balls with honey Sriracha, crispy tofu balls covered with Vietnamese green crisped rice and spicy orange aioli. Truly, the wealth of options at an Asian American night market can be overwhelming for an attendee. After all, we only have one stomach.

Last October’s OC Night Market — the latest extension of the 626 Night Market that has since branched out from Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley (home of the 626 area code) into downtown Los Angeles and Orange County — was filled with over 200 vendors competing with each other for the attention of 60,000 potential customers. Sometimes that involved shouting Korean BBQ menu items from a loudspeaker or flashing eye- catching disco lights; sometimes it took three half-naked Asian girls encouraging onlookers to buy delicious Vietnamese coffee. But the most effective and envied form of attraction was a long line of customers, signifying the food must be worth the wait.

Though many Asian countries have their versions of outdoor food markets — from Singaporean hawker centres to Korean pojangmacha — the term “night market” was popularized in Taiwan, where these nighttime food markets still remain a key attraction for foreign tourists visiting the country, eager to experience the noisy atmosphere, crowded food stalls, mouth-watering smells and cheap eats that you consume on the spot (or while walking in search of your next snack). According to Taiwan’s government information site, food bazaars that operated at night in ancient China were originally called ghost markets, and contemporary-style night markets began to appear in Taiwanese cities during the turn of the century, when the government actively set aside blocks of streets for permanent night markets.

For Asian immigrants and their second-generation children, night markets elicit fond memories. “I always remember visiting the night markets with my family and friends to eat all different kinds of food,” says Jonny Hwang, the founder of 626 Night Market, who was born in Taiwan but immigrated to the U.S. when he was a child. So when his family relocated to Alhambra, a suburb of Los Angeles with a large Chinese and Taiwanese immigrant population, he wondered, why didn’t they have one?

There are tons of little businesses and good restaurants, but they all have Chinese menus and signage, so it can be very foreign and intimidating to outsiders,” he says. “Because so much good food is hidden, I thought a night market would be a great showcase for the talent and entrepreneurs in the area.

Hwang had heard of a couple successful night markets in Vancouver, as well as previous attempts to start a night market in Southern California that didn’t work out. Assuming it had to do with the challenges working with health departments and government agencies, he and his partners went straight to different cities of the San Gabriel Valley with a night market proposal, figuring that if they had the government backing them, the entire process would be a lot easier.

At first, most of the cities in the area were not interested. “The people running their events recreation departments didn’t even know what night markets were, because they weren’t Asian,” says Hwang. “Which is kind of sad, because they serve a very Asian population. They were used to doing their Lunar New Year Festivals, so they figured they already had an Asian event.”

Pasadena was the only place that was interested, because they happened to have an initiative to attract more Asian businesses to the area. So the very first 626 Night Market was scheduled for April 2012, with plans to shut down a couple streets in Old Town Pasadena for the event.

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Hwang’s team was optimistic that they could get 8,000 attendees, but the Pasadena special events folks, who had years of experience planning signature events like the Tournament of Roses parade, tempered their expectations. As first-time organizers, they’d be lucky to get 500 people to attend, they were told. But come event time, Hwang says the team had mobilized hundreds of thousands of people — many of whom ended up stuck in long lines, trapped in walkways like sardines or unable to even get in.

If we had gotten 8,000 to 10,000 people throughout the day, it probably would have been OK,” says Hwang. “But people were coming from Orange County and Riverside, and all the way from San Diego and Las Vegas.” The surrounding freeways and side streets were packed. A police chopper had to monitor the traffic jams and crowds from above.

Though it seemed like a disaster to attendees (many of whom blasted the event through angry Yelp comments), business-wise, it was a huge success. Vendors were happy because they all sold out, and most importantly, it proved that there was a huge demand for a night market. The 626 team learned a lot of things, and soon, the other cities that had originally shunned their proposal came knocking.

Though 626 Night Market was not the first night market in America — Night Market Philadelphia, for example, though not focused on Asian cuisine, began in 2010 — it has made the biggest impact.

626 are the ones that really started this night market hype,” says Jeff Shimamoto of The Original Ramen Burger, whose ramen-bun burgers have been a fan favorite since his brother Keizo debuted it in New York in the summer of 2013. “Our type of food probably wouldn’t have existed in a regular food market. It’s when the Asian night markets started popping up that we were able to participate.

Shimamoto now has a brick-and-mortar of sorts, offering The Original Ramen Burger at a take-out window in Los Angeles’s Koreatown. Tonight, he’s hanging out at the adjacent Lock and Key bar with his fellow night market veteran friends, Phillip and Carol Kwan of Mama Musubi (who specialize in a gourmet version of onigiri rice balls, a popular Japanese snack) and Matthew Hui of Fluff Ice (a Taiwanese-inspired snowflake ice that takes flavored ice blocks and shaves them into what they call “frozen cotton candy”). They’re celebrating the end of another busy and successful night market season.

Since 626 debuted, night markets have opened up in other areas of Southern California, like Koreatown and Little Saigon in Westminster. Hwang himself was contacted for advice or collaboration requests from groups who wanted to start their own night markets in San Jose, San Diego and St. Paul. There are now night markets in Seattle, Honolulu and New York, and the list goes on. Even the team behind Studio City’s Sportsmen’s Lodge 1st Thursdays Night Market, who Hwang remembers jokingly called themselves “the white night market,” wanted in on the action. Now, you might be thinking, isn’t a Caucasian night market just … a fair? Like every single county fair in America? But this was just an indication of how the term “night market” was catching on. It had looped back into the mainstream.

Benjamin Kang, one of the organizers of the KTOWN Night Market and the MPK Night Market in Monterey Park, California (both debuted in 2014), believes it’s a good time for night markets because Asian culture is trending more than it ever has in America. “All my white friends want to come to Koreatown,” he says, laughing, citing the Koreatown episode of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown, as well as the numerous Asian American chefs on mainstream TV cooking shows. “They’re always asking me what the best Chinese or Japanese restaurants are in L.A.”

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I think the food industry revolves around the Asian population,” says Hui of Fluff Ice. “When all the Asian people think it’s cool, then the non-Asians flock to it. Because all the foodies on Yelp are Asian girls named Grace or Nancy.” He laughs. “The Yelp elite start reviewing all these places, and they become the definitive source.”

While 626 Night Market also had creative entertainment to go along with the food — Asian American performers, live art battles, eating competitions and the unveiling of the new Guinness World Record for the largest cup of boba milk tea — KTOWN Night Market made use of their Korean American showbiz connections, bringing together high-profile food celebrities, like the guys behind Seoul Sausage Company, who won Season 3 of the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, as well as musicians like rappers Dumbfoundead and Shin-B. Six months later, KTOWN Night Market also hosted a Halloween Food Fest, where there were costume contests and carnival rides.

“Night markets in Asia are open all the time, so they don’t make a festival out of it,” says Shimamoto. “But here, they turn it into a big event, and that’s what makes it fun. We have concerts and beer gardens. And that’s why we get so many people concentrated at one time.”

The Kwans launched Mama Musubi at the first 626 Night Market in 2012. The brother-and-sister duo wanted to test the market and see what people thought about fresh Japanese rice balls. Would people get their gourmet version — with 24-hour braised Berkshire pork belly — or would they assume it was the same as the refrigerated kinds you can get at Mitsuwa supermarkets? Turns out, there was excitement for rice balls not only in the night markets but in non-Asian markets like the Altadena Farmer’s Market, where they are regulars. But though they work these markets and also cater, their ultimate goal is to launch their own store.

Similarly, The Original Ramen Burger started participating in night markets in Los Angeles because California foodies were asking for it. They do pretty well, but they see night markets as a transition into eventually running four to five restaurant franchises.

There are two crowds of vendors at the night market,” says Phillip Kwan. “Vendors like us who have long-term visions of opening up brick-and-mortars. And others that make a comfortable living for themselves doing festival-type events.”

Some vendors may have a full-time job on the side. Others might be there just for fun. “On the last day of the night market, there were these 15 Vietnamese ladies from Orange County [in the booth next to us],” remembers Shimamoto. “They showed up four hours before everybody else, and they were all perky and ready to go with all their juices. And they said, ‘We all go to the same church, and we decided we were going to come out here and try and sell some lemonade!’” He laughs. “And that’s great! Maybe they’re just doing it once a month for a little money. Or maybe they could become the next Mrs. Fields Cookies. Either way, they were just so happy to be there.”

Hwang encourages it all. “In the beginning, most of our vendors had stores, but we really encourage the ones who don’t,” he says. “It’s such a good platform for people to try new ideas for cheap. Just do it for one weekend. If it’s good and you like it, then do it again. Those are the types of food you can’t eat anywhere else. You have to go to our event to find them.”

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Phil and I think that the model for starting a restaurant is going to start changing,” says Shimamoto. “In Los Angeles, you see a lot of restaurants come and go. But [working the night markets] is a way you lower your overhead and costs, and it’s a great way to get some exposure while retaining flexibility to work on other things, like food trucks or developing your brick-and-mortar.”

Even Fluff Ice, which already had a store in Monterey Park when 626 first opened, found that attending night markets is just a good way to network, advertise and grow your business. “There’s just so many layers of income you can get with a business like this, whether it’s night markets, school fundraisers or Hollywood catering,” says Hui, who has catered for How I Met Your Mother, Parks & Recreation, The Office and the upcoming film Paranormal Activity 5. They now have four locations in Southern California.

But these Asian American night markets aren’t without its skeptics. In Taiwan, you go to the night market because you’re craving certain foods, whether it be oyster pancakes, ba-wan (Taiwanese meatballs wrapped in gelatinous dough) or aiyu jelly drinks. You’re also expecting a certain atmosphere — makeshift stalls where you see and smell the food being prepared right in front of you — and a certain experience, a.k.a. cheap stuff, whether it be food, shopping or games.

In the beginning, that was the source of some of the disappointment for night market goers in America. It didn’t look right — health codes in the U.S. require covered canopies so it looked like a typical fair. It’s not cheap: there’s usually a cover charge of $5 to $10 just to get in, and everything, even a tiny plate, usually costs at least $5 (which adds up!). And there was a random mix of foods, both Asian and non-Asian, that weren’t necessarily what you thought of as “street food.” (One vendor at a recent KTOWN Night Market was serving up 100 percent grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised Australian bone-in lamb.)

But I think that’s what makes us different in a good way,” says Hwang. “If you think about the night markets in Asia, it’s all the same foods. We always get a good amount of vendors that are new or tweaking their menu, and it’s exciting to see people experimenting with new things — whether it’s fusion foods like the ramen burger, pho tacos and new types of guabao [Taiwanese pork belly buns] — or if they’re bringing in traditional stuff that we never had before, like yam balls and chicken sausages. It’s a competitive marketplace, so you have to be creative. Don’t do the usual things, or if you do, figure out how you can do it differently.”

You can’t be stale,” agrees Carol Kwan, who recently collaborated with the Shimamoto brothers to create a one-month-only specialty mash-up: the Mama Musubi 24-hour Pork Belly Ramen Burger. “It’s the same even if you’re in a restaurant. You have to innovate and keep creating something new to keep people coming.”

That said, for every food item that’s worth waiting for in the night market lines, there are many, many more that are underwhelming and overpriced. It’s also hard to tell whether something is innovative or just gimmicky, and with so many copycat renditions of almost the same idea (there’s a reason Ramen Burger changed its name to The Original Ramen Burger), it’s tempting to assume the latter.

But one can only hope that the truly tasty, fusion or not, rises to the top — that the prevalence of night markets are giving those gems a place to grow and a community of like-minded food fans a place to gather.

One of the major pluses [of the night markets] is how it impacts the current and hopefully the next generation of Asian Americans,” says Christine Chiao, a food writer who’s contributed to LA Weekly and Sunset. “A regular or seasonal night market can be a platform for more than just the vendors. It can become a channel, too, for young Asian American attendees to seek and express their identity.”

So did Hwang ever imagine that the 626 Night Market he created would become such a cultural touchstone?

Not really,” he says. “At first I really did it for fun, as a side thing, because I knew it’d be something that people would enjoy. I never thought I’d end up working full time to produce night markets.” He laughs. “Who goes to college thinking that? It’s surreal.”

 

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Travelers on Trip Advisor pick Japan’s 30 best restaurants

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Travel website Trip Advisor recently released its annual list of the 30 best sightseeing spots in Japan. Featuring centuries-old shrines, futuristic cityscapes, and no fewer than four whale sharks, it’s an impressive collection of much of what makes Japan such a unique and awesome country.

Honestly, if you had the time, we wouldn’t try to talk you out of an itinerary that hits all 30 places. Of course, with that much sightseeing, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Thankfully, Trip Advisor is back again with its top 30 restaurants in Japan.

As with the sightseeing list, the rankings are based on reviews from Trip Advisor users who dined at the restaurants. While there’s no shortage of high-priced Japanese fare, there are a few budget-friendly eateries that made the cut too, along with some foreign cuisine as well. Let’s dig in and get this multi-course meal started with number 30.

 

30. Abucha Nigoten
Hokkaido,  Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 191-29

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Visitors to the Niseko ski resort on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido rave about this Japanese eatery’s sushi and hot pots.

29. The Niseko Supply Company
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Azayamada 190-13

If you’re looking for western food in Niseko, the Supply Company is known for its crepes, pastries, and fondue, plus its invigorating coffee and relaxing beer.

28. Niseko Pizza
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 167 3J, Sekka Building basement level 1

Not far from the above entry you’ll find this Italian restaurant that’s popular with the foreign community.

27. Jomon
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi 5-9-17, Fujimori Building 1st floor

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Not only does Jomon serve up outstanding yakitori chicken skewers, its location on one of the secluded backstreets of Tokyo’s rowdiest nightlife district means you won’t have to worry about barkers trying to drag you off to their hostess bar on the way there.

26. Tsunahachi
Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-31-8

Just a few minutes’ walk from the always bustling Shinjuku Station, Tsunahachi’s mix of great tempura and moderate prices has had diners lining up out front for years.

25. Kani Doraku
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Dotombori 1-6-18

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Japan has a number of restaurants that advertise their specialty with a giant animatronic crab, but none is more famous than the Kani Doraku branch in Osaka’s Dotombori entertainment district.

24. Sukibayashi Jiro
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-12-2 Roppongi Hills Keyakizakadori 3rd floor

Ever wanted to dine at the same sushi restaurant as sake-sampling heads of state and demanding Chinese exchange students? Here’s your chance.

23. Katsukura
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Higashi Shiokojicho, Kyoto Station Building Senmontengai The Cube 11th floor

If you’re not interested in sushi, because of an aversion to raw food, this Kyoto Station restaurant specializes in deep-fried tonkatsu pork cutlets.

22. Yamato Sushi
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market, Building 6

Back to Tokyo, back to sushi with this restaurant located inside Japan’s largest seafood market.

21. New York Grill and Bar
Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi Shinjuku 3-7-1-2 Park Hyatt Tokyo 52nd floor

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Yes, you can drink and dine just where Bill Murray’s character did in Lost in Translation. Sip your Suntory whiskey, marvel at the fantastic view of Tokyo, and wonder just how Bob and Charlotte managed to get bored in such a massive city with so many places to explore.

20. Kyoto Gogyo
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Yanagibabadori, Takoyakushi Kudaru, Jumonji-cho

Japan’s ancient capital isn’t all rarified restaurants and delicate delicacies, as proven by the many fans of Kyoto Gogyo’s ramen.

19. Maiizumi
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5

Once again, deep-fried pork proves to be a hit with a wide cross-section of travelers, as yet another tonkatsu restaurant, the Aoyama branch of Maiizumi, makes the list.

18. Kamimura
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 190-4, Shiki Niseko 1st floor

The Niseko ski resort shows up again, this time with the Michelin-ranked French/Japanese fusion Kamimura.

17. Midorizushi
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-12, Shibuya Mark City East 4th floor

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Located beneath several floors of offices, you’ll want to get here before the lunch rush for some of Tokyo’s best reasonably-priced sushi.

16. Ro
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae, 6-2-4

If you’re not looking for the latest fashions, you might be tempted to pass on visiting Tokyo’s shopping mecca of Harajuku. If you’re into deep-fried gyoza pot stickers, though, you owe it to yourself to wade through the fashionistas and try the ones at Ro.

15. Chojiro
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Hashimoto-cho, 103-2

You’ll see a few revolving sushi restaurants in any large Japanese city, but Trip Advisor’s didn’t find any they liked more than Chojiro.

14. Ninja Akasaka
Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Nagata-cho 2-14-3, Akasaka Tokyo Plaza 1st floor

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Even if it wasn’t designed to look like a secret ninja castle, and even if the wait staff didn’t perform incredible magic tricks at your table, Akasaka’s ninja-themed restaurant would still be worth a visit for its beautifully inventive and delicious food. Make sure you reserve a table ahead of time, though, as a two-hour wait isn’t unheard of.

13. Ukai
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Shiba Koen 4-4-13

This branch of the Ukai chain, located near Tokyo Tower, specializes in tofu, which is served in private dining rooms surrounded by beautiful gardens.

12. Tapas Molecular Bar
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1 Mandarin Oriental Tokyo 38th floor

With space for only eight diners and just two seating per night, reservations are essential for this molecular cuisine restaurant in the luxury Mandarin Oriental Tokyo hotel.

11. Kaiseki 511
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Akasaka 4-3-28 Dia Plaza Akasaka basement level 1

Although it’s located in the upscale Akasaka neighborhood of Tokyo, Kaiseki 511’s specialty is kobe beef.

10. Ichiran
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Jinnan 1-22-7 Iwamoto Building basement level 1

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While travelers gave the no to the Shibuya branch in Tokyo, there’s a whole chain of Ichiran ramen joints. The first time I ate in one on the outskirts of a red light district in Yokohama, I thought its unique setup, with privacy-insuring walls and a screen that ensures even the waiter doesn’t see your face, was to protect the privacy of diners who stopped in for a bite after spending time at one of the local hostess bars. The reality isn’t anything so untoward, as Ichiran’s owners simply want to make sure nothing distracts you from the delicious noodles they serve.

9. Ippudo
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Higashi Toin, Nishikikoji Higashiiru 653-1 Nishiki Building 1st floor

Edging Ichiran for the top ramen restaurant on the list was Ippudo. The original location of this pork-broth specialist is in Fukuoka, but you can find branches of the chain in Tokyo and Yokohama as well.

8. Yamazaki
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market Building 6

Tsukiji gets still more help in building its reputation as the best place in Japan for sushi with this restaurant located inside the market.

7. Narisawa
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Aoyama 2-6-15

Trip Advisor’s number-seven restaurant actually did better in Hospitality Magazine’s rankings, where it was picked as the best in Japan for its innovative French-inspired menu that includes such unique offerings as dirt soup.

6. Hofu
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Fuyachodori, Ebisugawa Noboru, Sasayacho 471-1

JR 7

This restaurant, which specializes in steak and beef cutlet, was Kyoto’s highest-ranked restaurant on the list.

5. Wakkoqu
Hyogo-ken, Kobe-shi, Chuo-ku, Kitanocho 1-1, Shin Kobe Oriental Avenue 3rd floor

It’s no surprise that Kobe’s top restaurant serves Kobe beef.

4. Kyube
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-7-6

This sushi restaurant, located in Tokyo’s Ginza, came so close to taking the sushi crown away from Tsukiji.

3. Dai
Toyko-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market Building 6

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No, that’s not a photo of the entrance to Tokyo Station during rush hour. It’s just the line for lunch at Dai, Japan’s highest-ranked sushi restaurant.

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2. Center4 Hamburgers
Gifu-ken, Takayama-shi, Kamiichino-cho 94

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What’s more surprising, that Japan’s number-two restaurant is located in rural Takayama, or that it uses the region’s prized Hida beef to make mouth-watering hamburgers?

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1. M
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku Namba 1-1-19

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Surprisingly, Trip Advisor’s top-ranked restaurant isn’t in Tokyo or Kyoto, and it doesn’t serve sushi or tempura. Instead, the Hozenji Yokocho branch of M in Osaka is ready to satisfy your carnivorous cravings with marbled Matsuzaka beef. Oddly enough, Matsuzaka beef isn’t raised in Osaka, but in Mie, two prefectures to the east.

Apparently the logistics aren’t a problem though, as travelers chose M as their favorite restaurant in the country.

 

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Travelers on Trip Advisor pick Japan’s 30 best restaurants

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New “Attack on Titan” (anime) souvenir straps feature Colossal Titan at famous Japanese landmarks

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Attack on Titan has such a worldwide following that many visitors to Japan can’t help but keep an eye out for possible sightings of the Colossal Titan as they travel around the country. Chance encounters with the steaming giant are now more real than ever, thanks to a new series of souvenir straps featuring the hungry beast at famous locations throughout Japan.

Now you can see him dressed up as a samurai, devouring Tokyo Tower or reincarnated in the form of a giant gold Buddha. If you want the whole collection, you’ll have to do some travelling as each souvenir is limited for sale only at the local tourist hotspot it features. From Tokyo to Osaka, check out the Colossal Titan posing like you’ve never seen him before!

Visitors to Kyoto can spot the giant dressed up in the traditional garb of the Shinsengumi, a special police force active in the 1860s, who were responsible for protecting Shogunate representatives in Kyoto. Pop culture reveres the members of the Shinsengumi as brave heroes while historians view them as a murder squad with no scruples. A perfect description of a Titan.

 

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Nara is famous for the Daibutsu, or giant Buddha. There’s only room for one giant in Nara and the Colossal Titan believes it should be him. He’ll have to practice the peaceful expression of a deity though.

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Osaka is all about takoyaki, those famous doughy balls of octopus the area is famous for. If there’s a giant tentacle, he’s got a giant set of jaws to devour it.

 

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If you’ve been to Osaka then you’ll know the enormous popularity of Kuidaore Taro, the beloved drum-playing, cymbal-crashing mechanical doll that’s come to represent the famous food district. If you think the doll itself is creepy, then this shouldn’t scare you at all.

 

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It makes sense that a steaming giant would emerge from behind Japan’s most famous volcano, Mt Fuji. This would be an awesome sight in real-life but at 60 metres tall, the Colossal Titan would actually be dwarfed by the 3,776-metre high Mt Fuji.

 

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Two of Tokyo’s famous landmarks meet the monster: Asakusa Shrine and Tokyo Tower.

 

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The famous Buddha at Kamakura is either getting a rub down or about to have his head torn off.

 

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Giants need a day out at the hot springs too. In true Japanese style, the Colossal Titan chugs a bottle of milk after a soak at the onsen.

 

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There are many more straps for many more areas throughout the country. Some locations even have characters like Mikasa and Levi.

 

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From Okinawa in the south to Hokkaido in the north, the Colossal Giant has his sights set on conquering the country. And with such adorable poses we might just let him do it!

 

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Check out this link:

 

New “Attack on Titan” (anime) souvenir straps feature Colossal Titan at famous Japanese landmarks

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From spicy curry to delicious charcoal – 7 bizarre toothpastes on sale in Japan

RocketNews 24:

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You’re probably well aware that the Japanese are fond of creating food and beverages in unusual flavors and splicing things together, but guess what? That trait can be found in their toothpaste as well. Here are seven odd-tasting toothpastes available in Japan that you might, or perhaps might not, want to brush your teeth with!

Just to build up some anticipation, whether in a good way or not, we’ll go down the list, beginning with the tamer flavors!

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1. Binotomo Dental Pasty Cream

Despite its dubious naming, this is actually a tube of toothpaste formulated with salt, which isn’t really bizarre per se, but the nice thing is that it doesn’t contain any preservatives, surfactants or artificial colorings. Made with natural salt, this toothpaste allows you to leave the cleaning of your teeth in the gentle hands of Mother Nature. Quite how it tastes, however, is another matter entirely.

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2. Bamboo charcoal toothpaste

Bamboo charcoal is known for its oil and dirt absorption and odor reduction properties, and is used in a wide variety of Japanese products ranging from air purifiers to fabrics to beauty products. Bamboo charcoal toothpaste has become somewhat common in recent years, but some people still feel weird about brushing their teeth with a black or grey dollop of toothpaste, and we can’t say we blame them.

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3. Spagyric toothpaste

Hard to pronounce, even harder to understand what this is made of. Spagyric refers to the production of herbal medicine with the use of alchemic procedures. This toothpaste is formulated with herbal extracts, and is free of additives such as parabens, surfactants and artificial colorings or fragrances, promising to give your precious pearly whites a gentle and natural cleaning.

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4. Binotomo Nasu Dentifrice Jet Black

Okay, now things are starting to get a little weird. From the makers of the Dental Pasty Cream, here’s a toothpaste formulated with nasu (Japanese eggplant) and salt. According to user reviews, this salty toothpaste works great in tightening soft gums, and leaves your teeth feeling really smooth and clean. You wouldn’t want to use this when you’re in a rush though, as it seems that the color of this toothpaste can leave a nasty stain on your clothes.

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5. Breath Palette toothpaste

This is the Baskin-Robbins of toothpaste. Available in 31 varieties, this toothpaste brand provides a crazy selection ranging from normal flavors like peppermint, strawberry and apple; to the slightly the more adventurous such as cola, espresso and Darjeeling tea; to the most outrageous tasting such as indian curry flavored toothpaste. Why, oh why, would anyone want to begin their day swilling curry around their mouth!?

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6. Takoyaki toothpaste

If you love Osaka, this one’s for you. We have no idea what inspired them to make takoyaki flavored toothpaste, but at least the makers were sane enough not to put real batter balls of octopus in it! Although it is said to taste and smell like the famous Osaka street snack, it also manages to prevent cavities and bad breath in the same way that a normal toothpaste does. Apparently, this product also comes in miso flavor to represent Nagoya, and ningyoyaki (doll-shaped castella cakes) flavor to represent Tokyo. Simply bizarre.

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7. Dirty Gorilla Perfume Toothwash

All right, to be fair, this isn’t a toothpaste, and it isn’t uniquely Japanese either, but it was just too out of the ordinary to miss! Produced by the well-known handmade cosmetics makers, Lush, these solid toothpaste tabs work like a normal toothpaste when you chew on them. An unconventional choice, but these would probably be great for jet-setters who need to stick to airline baggage restrictions. The good news is, it doesn’t taste like a dirty gorilla. Not that we’ve ever been close enough to one to give them a quick lick…

Well, it seems the Japanese have managed to make even the brushing of teeth a bizarre affair. If you’re eager for some “special” toothpaste, be sure to explore the local drugstores, or check out larger stores like Tokyu Hands, Village Vanguard or Loft when you visit Japan!

Source: Jandan

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From spicy curry to delicious charcoal – 7 bizarre toothpastes on sale in Japan