Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mid-Winter (Almost Spring?) Kit Kat Attack

As students are going through their entrance (and exit) exams here in Japan, Kit Kat has stepped it up a notch with the whole "Give a Kit Kat for good luck" campaign. As you may or may not remember from my first post on Kit Kats, the candy title is similar to the Japanese phrase, "Kitto Katsu," which pretty much translates to "You will surely win" (basically, "good luck"). So with spring hopefully around the corner here in Hokkaido (as I type this, I'm staring outside at a horizontal snow blizzard), here are a few flavors to get you in a successful mood!

First up, Royal Milk Tea which, despite the British decor, probably doesn't really exist anywhere else besides Japan. Royal milk tea is actually quite a lovely, sweet drink that's found in most of the vending machines and convenience stores here. The Kit Kat version is very similar in flavor, and just as sweet and tasty:

A flavor found in the stores a few weeks ago: dark chocolate banana...fondue, anyone?

And a larger variety known as Cookie Plus...a regular Kit Kat pumped up with a vanilla sandwich cookie filling:

Making me even more excited for yet another Japanese summertime staple are the roasted sweet potato Kit Kats! Slightly sweet and with a really nice flavor, these are one of the more unusual flavors! When the weather is nice, you can see roasted sweet potato carts all over the place, beckoning with their luscious smells:

In a country where a small bottle of real Canadian maple syrup can cost $10.00-$15.00USD, it's nice to know that our cravings can be satisfied in a crunchy Kit Kat instead:

And another variation of the banana flavor can be found in the large Kit Kat bar. This time with white chocolate instead:

Finally, a sign that (surely) spring is well on its way: Sakura Matcha (Cherry Blossom Green Tea) flavor is now sitting on the shelves! I'm a sucker for anything cherry blossom flavored (which happen to be A LOT of things here in Japan during this time of year), and the Sakura Matcha Kit Kats don't disappoint! Actually, they kind of taste a bit like Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal...strange, I know, but tasty nevertheless:

My Kit Kat posts can now be found in their own little archive! Check them out on the sidebar of this blog and happy (preemptive) Spring, everyone!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Guest Post on Travel Blog,

I was quite taken aback, as well as very honored, when Anja Mutic of the blog, "Ever the Nomad" asked me to write a travel article about Sapporo for her weekly Guest Post series. Here's the teaser:

Anja is a very accomplished professional travel writer, and has written for such publications as Lonely Planet (website and guide and destination books), Sherman's Travel Magazine, Rough Guides, and Metro New York, just to name a few. She has quite the following over at, and pretty much lives the dream life of a freelance traveler and writer. Needless to say, writing for her site was definitely a very cool experience.

To read the rest of my guest post, "An Outsider's Inside of Sapporo, Japan," follow this link. And thanks to Anja for this awesome opportunity!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bathing in Hell

Sapporo's a nice place and all, but sometimes you just gotta get out of town for a bit on a day-trip, and my buddy, Junko, and I decided that we needed some onsen (natural hot spring) therapy in a bad way. Enter the town of Noboribetsu, Hokkaido's most famous, steaming hot springs town. Some of you may remember my post about the last time I was in Noboribetsu for their fantabulous Hell Festival back in September. It's a cute place. And, it loves its devilish image:

All over are reminders that the town is sitting on top of some pretty serious seismic action. This guy guards the entrance to a boiling, sulfuric geyser that blows every three hours. You need a facial or two? This place oughta get the job done:

The best hot baths in town can be found at Dai-ichi Takimotokan Hotel (also visited last time as well), with about 20 baths utilizing 7 different mineral properties to make you a better you (everything from beautiful skin and diet control, to arthritis and heart problems). Our ticket from Sapporo included a colorful, delicious bento lunch as well...score!

Providing most of the hot water onsen lovin' for Noboribetsu is the steamy, sulfuric Hell Valley, which is just as pretty in the snow as it was in the greenery of last September:

If anything, this trip taught me one thing: Life is a whole lot happier when cute Japanese cowgirls and larger-than-life devil figurines are present:

When you hop on a train back to the city with relaxed muscles, extra smooth skin, and the ever so slight fragrance of rotten eggs, you know its been a good day in Hokkaido.

For the Love of Cured Meats and Baseball

Thanks to some sweet hook-ups at work, Jacob scored us tickets to see the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (named out of sponsorship) this week at one of their pre-season games. The Fighters are our own Sapporo-based team of the Japan Professional Baseball League and, for those of you needing a little trivia, were formally coached by the current manager of the Kansas City Royals, Trey Hillman.

The Sapporo Dome was the location of my first professional baseball experience in Japan as we went head to head with the Honshin Tigers up from Osaka:

(Our friends, Jesse and Dan...fresh out from a day of teaching!)

Quite a deviation from the standard baseball-fare of hot dogs, pretzels, and Cracker Jacks:

Much to our amusement, some folks had more important things to do than to watch a silly ol' pre-season game:

And of course, instead of having a seventh-inning stretch, the Fighters have the Village People's "YMCA" blared over the loudspeaker in the fifth inning sweep as fans, groundskeepers, and security personnel dance and croon:

"Gonna take you to the Y-M-C-A
Go Fighters!
Go Fighters!"

(The Japanese have never been known for such details as fully understanding the meaning of English words, phrases, or songs before plastering them in public and for promotional uses--also much to our amusement!)

Baseball games are always more fun when they're free...or when they're this was the best of both worlds! Highly recommended if you can get yourself out and enjoy this "All-Ameri--err, Japanese Pastime!"