Japanese Raumen Museum

Today, 4/25/2014, another busy but great trip to Japan is ‘in the books’ as they say.  All that’s left is a short walk to the train station, a 1 ½ hour express train ride to the airport, a few hours of waiting and then a joyous 10 hour flight home.

This is the part of traveling to Japan that gets particularly interesting.  It’s basically Groundhog Day where I get to relive a period in-time in which I had already experienced.  I’ll be leaving Japan at 3:55pm on Friday afternoon and arrive home at 12:40pm Friday.  Do the math for yourself.  Yes, that’s right; I will land in the US 3 hours and 15 minutes BEFORE I left Japan 10 hours earlier!  Living the same day two times is absolutely a trip.

As I have written previously many times, one of the consistent great things about traveling to Japan is the wonderful people and culture.  That part of visiting never disappoints.  This particular trip featured some new highlights and I would like to share those experiences.

Raumen Museum


We visited the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum.  It was great fun and we ate two lunches.  One lunch was a mild-flavored ramen and the other was a more hot-and-spicy flavor.  Both were delicious!  The Museum itself was awesome.  All the storefronts had a different theme and felt like a Hollywood movie-set with all the various settings.

The environment was so much fun.  In the courtyard of the museum, pictured left, the security officers were teaching young school-kids how to play games and such.

Below is a brief summary of the Raumen Museum:

http://www.raumen.co.jp/english/  Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum was founded on March 6th, 1994 as the world’s first food-themed amusement park. From the start, our concept has been to be the one-stop place to enjoy the flavors of this national dish from renowned shops across Japan without stepping on a plane.

Tokyo Dome Baseball

tokyo dome

Another highlight for this particular trip was attending a professional Japanese baseball game.  This game featured the Rakuten Golden Eagles and Seibu Lions.  eagles vs lionsThe Eagles were the home team and their fans were extremely passionate however the Lions also had some extremely loud supporters as well.  Some of the Lions fans included drums, trumpets, flag-waving, organized chanting; showing great team spirit.

The game itself was a blow-out and the end-result was never really in question.  The Eagles scored at-will in the first few innings and built a 5-0 lead, never to be relinquished.  The final score of 6-1 did not accurately portray how much Rakuten dominated this game.

Baseball Beer at Tokyo Dome!


The game was held at the famous Tokyo Dome.  The Dome was pretty typical of traditional stadiums with a few exceptions.  First, there was no parking lot for cars.  All the fans, including us, were transported via train or some other means of public transportation.  Second, there were no, or meager, lines to enter the stadium or get food and drink.  Everything is always so efficient.

The food at the game was quite similar to American baseball with a few exceptions.  The concession stands included typical items such as popcorn, souvenirs and drinks.  The extreme enthusiasm in which the Japanese people celebrate friendship is a noticeable, positive, experience.

One of the extreme highlights of the baseball game was the ‘beer girls’.  There was nothing not to like about this.  They had quantities of them (check), they had kegs/booze strapped to their backs (check) and they all had cheerful attitudes (check)!  All kidding aside, the sincere enthusiasm for working and having fun was absolutely refreshing.

Kevin’s Birthday Surprise 2014

Kevin’s Birthday Surprise 2014

fairmontSo Brandee decided to sweep me away recently for my birthday.  When it comes to birthday time I usually get grouchy because, after-all, what’s the point of aging another year without any tangible benefits?

Basically between the age of 21 (when you can legally drink) and the age of 65/67-ish (when you can supposedly collect your retirement money) then what’s the use of growing older?

Nevertheless, Brandee pulled a wonderful surprise for me and it was very special.  She had arranged a full evening and night at the San Jose Fairmont Hotel.  This is not your Motel 6-type facility.  Rather it’s a classy, high-price establishment where U.S. Presidents and other famous people stay.

Let’s have a pop to begin

drinksThe night began with her insisting that we have drink(s) in the hotel lounge area.  First of all this was very suspicious because she never drinks.  Second of all the amount of booze she consumed was impressive so I knew something was up because this was seriously unusual behavior for her.  However, not sure exactly what was going on; I rolled with it.

It was a lovely lounge with beautiful decorations, nice artist displays as well as great service by the hotel employees.  Overall I have to say that the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose is Five Star for this reason; they have great service!

After a few drinks in the lounge Brandee suggested that we have dinner.  A wonderful idea but the restaurant wasn’t fully staffed when we arrived just as they opened for business.  So we decided to head to the bar for a bit and wait for our table to become available.

The Feast begins

foodThe bar area was extremely nice.  There was plenty of room to get our groove-on so Brandee and I waited about 30 minutes and our reserved table was never called.  This was perfectly fine with us actually and eventually Brandee went and cancelled our formal restaurant reservation because we were perfectly content in the bar and could still order off the full menu.

In there we had bread with accompaniments of whole butter, tomato jam and an herbed olive oil and aged balsamic dip.  We also had Sliced New York Pepper Steak with Bacon, Cracked Pepper & Onions, Topped with a Green Peppercorn Sauce.  And just when you think that is too much, we had a gorgeous Charcuterie board for us to snack on. Toasted Levian, Stilton, aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Nicoise olives, amazing Prosciutto, Sopressata, house-made whole grain mustard and candied spiced walnuts.  OMG – it was delightful!

Heeerrre’s Johnnie!!!!

johnnySince Brandee knew that I clearly hate to celebrate my birthday and she had such elaborate plans, she probably knew she was skating on thin-ice with my patience.  This was absolutely true and she decided to step it up a notch, like you wouldn’t expect a reasonable person to do, but she did.

I guess at some point while I was checking my Facebook to make sure that my ‘lovely’ wife wasn’t posting embarrassing photographs she was making a wicked embarrassing deal with the waitress to bring (and sing) birthday cake to my table.  Yeah team!

So what do I do?  Turn the tables of course.  Instead of a nice, innocent smile with gratitude, I give a sarcastic looking smile just exactly like Jack Nicholson on The Shining in the scene where he busts down the door with an axe and declares: “Heeerre’s Johnnie!!!”

Fantastic Birthday Result

bottleAfter Brandee and I had our fill of snacky-food and birthday cake I decided that this old-man needed to hit-the-hay so we headed to our hotel room.  When we opened the hotel room door I was surprised by not one, but two, sets of chocolate/strawberry and wine/champagne arrangements!  Apparently Brandee had already arranged one set with her friend and then another was provided by one of our mutual friends.  Needless to say, we were not thirsty for delicious drink or fantastic fruit the rest of the night or early morning :-).  Champagne, strawberries and chocolate on a lazy Sunday morning is something all of you should experience on your bucket-list.

In the end, and through all the personal suffering, I had a great weekend and it’s because people made it happen.  I want to personally thank Brandee (of course) and also many others including Natalie, Cookie, Jonathan and Steve for making such a great memory.  You are all the greatest.