Marukin Ramen Updated Menu

I’ve written about Marukin Ramen before when they first soft opened their SE Ankeny location and talked you through the difference between their ramen offerings. Since then, they have opened their second location at Pine Street Market, they’ve increased the amount of noodles to upside the hearty fullness of their bowls, as the kitchen has gotten more efficient and accurate they now offer more to choose from! Here’s a look at what’s new at Marukin Ramen.
Marukin Ramen Updated Menu Marukin vegan mapo tofu over rice, and the only once a week, 30 bowls limited edition Ebi Ramen, a Rich Tiger Shrimp and chicken based broth with sea salt topped with tiger shrimp, bok choy, mushroom age-tofu mix, kikurage, and negi Marukin Ramen Special Ramen, available only once a week at each location and limited to about 30 bowls because of the amount of work required to create it! Ebi Ramen, a Rich Tiger Shrimp and chicken based broth with sea salt topped with tiger shrimp, bok choy, mushroom age-tofu mix, kikurage, and negi  Marukin Ramen Updated Menu addition of vegan mapo tofu over rice

As before, Marukin overall offers 10 kinds of ramen total (get my photos and description of them here), with the Tonkotsu Shoyu and Tonkatsu Red always being available and the other 8 rotating every other day so that 4 are available on a Sun Wed Fri schedule and the other 4 available the other days. Note this important trick: really all 10 ramens are always available – the every other day rotation is reverse at the other location, so if you really want a certain ramen besides the Tonkotsu just look up which location has it that day, the SE Ankeny or the Pine Street Market.
Marukin Ramen Paitan Shio with rich chicken broth, sea salt and toppings of spinach, bamboo shoots, kikurage mushrooms leeks, green onion, chashu pork, soft boiled egg Marukin Ramen Tonkotsu Red Ramen with spicy pork bone broth, shoyu with toppings of spinach, kikurage, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, leeks, green onion, chashu pork, soft boiled egg

New Scoop! Breaking News! Marukin Ramen is going to start offering a Secret Special Ramen, available only once a week at each location and limited to about 30 bowls because of the amount of work required to create it! Ebi Ramen, a Rich Tiger Shrimp and chicken based broth with sea salt topped with tiger shrimp, bok choy, mushroom age-tofu mix, kikurage, and negi. The ramen will only be announced when it’s available on their social media, so if you don’t follow Marukin Ramen @marukinramen on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook do so now to be in the know.
Marukin Ramen Special Ramen, available only once a week at each location and limited to about 30 bowls because of the amount of work required to create it! Ebi Ramen, a Rich Tiger Shrimp and chicken based broth with sea salt topped with tiger shrimp, bok choy, mushroom age-tofu mix, kikurage, and negi Marukin Ramen Special Ramen, available only once a week at each location and limited to about 30 bowls because of the amount of work required to create it! Ebi Ramen, a Rich Tiger Shrimp and chicken based broth with sea salt topped with tiger shrimp, bok choy, mushroom age-tofu mix, kikurage, and negi
Their ramen is not available to go since they want to make sure the texture of the noodles and temperature of the broth are perfect – but you can get their newly added donburi, or rice bowls, to eat their or to go at home or at your work desk as applicable. Newly added are a delicious pan fried Jorinji miso pork over rice utilizing local pork and local miso. Though this is the menu now, they may decide to rotate this when the weather warms up – so get over there to get this dish now.
Marukin Ramen Updated Manu includes a new pan fried Jorinji miso pork over rice dish utilizing local pork and local miso Marukin Ramen Updated Manu includes a new pan fried Jorinji miso pork over rice dish utilizing local pork and local miso

Also perfect right now for warming you up is a hearty pork curry with rice dish and a vegan mapo tofu over rice. The pork curry is also available in a small size during their happy hour.
"Marukin Marukin Ramen Updated Menu addition of vegan mapo tofu over rice

Meanwhile in the sides section, they’ve changed out the aioli that used to accompany the chicken karaage  (Japanese style fried chicken) with a Japanese style tartar sauce.
Marukin Ramen Updated Menu, Marukin Ramen changed out the aioli that used to accompany the chicken karaage (Japanese style fried chicken) with a Japanese style tartar sauce, dish of light shredded daikon salad with ume plum vinaigrette and nukazuke, or Japanese pickled vegetables "Marukin

In addition there is now a shrimp version of the dish, ebi karaage, a deep fried tiger shrimp karaage with Japanese style tartar sauce.
Marukin Ramen Updated Menu, Ebi Karaage, a deep fried tiger shrimp karaage with Japanese style tartar sauce.

Additionally, for the gyoza, or pot stickers, that had a pork filling, there is also an option now for another kind of gyoza with pork and shrimp filling.
Marukin Ramen Gyoza, pork filled potsticker dumplings "Marukin

A light shredded daikon salad with ume plum vinaigrette and a salmon nanbanzuke, a dish of marinated salmon and pickled vegetables, are also new. Both of these latter dishes are also available on their happy hour menu 3 – 6 PM.
Marukin Ramen side (also available at happy hour) of light shredded daikon salad with ume plum vinaigrette and nukazuke, or Japanese pickled vegetables Marukin Ramen side (also available at happy hour) of light shredded daikon salad with ume plum vinaigrette Marukin Ramen side (also available at happy hour) of salmon nanbanzuke, a dish of marinated salmon and pickled vegetables and nukazuke, or Japanese pickled vegetables Marukin Ramen side (also available at happy hour) of salmon nanbanzuke, a dish of marinated salmon and pickled vegetables

Have you been to Marukin Ramen yet? What did you enjoy?
Marukin Ramen meal Marukin Ramen meal

Do any of these updates to the menu intrigue you, what would you try?
Marukin Ramen Updated Menu Marukin vegan mapo tofu over rice, and the only once a week, 30 bowls limited edition Ebi Ramen, a Rich Tiger Shrimp and chicken based broth with sea salt topped with tiger shrimp, bok choy, mushroom age-tofu mix, kikurage, and negi

Marukin Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Marukin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Japan Travel: Fun at Japanese Cafes and More

It may seemed with all my previous Japan Travel Tuesday posts that we had a very cultural experience, but that’s not true. We also did quite a few miscellaneous fun things that were goofy. You may or may not want to also do these activities, depending on your own preferences. All these Japanese cafes and more are located in Tokyo. These were all fun for us, in their own special silly way.  Some memories you make should not be serious.

Akihabara Maid Cafe

Visiting a Maid Cafe was not on my list of must dos, but apparently it was for F. He seemed to have a good time teasing me every time we passed by one of the maids on the street advertising their cafe, usually only a few steps away. We specifically stopped at an @home maid cafe location inside Don Quixote.

Maid Cafes are specific themed Japanese cafes where everyone is female, dressed like a maid, and serves you like you are a master or a princess (which is what they call you while you are there). No photos allowed at the cafe with the maids without paying, but after being on feet wandering Akihabara for hours since morning even before any stores were open, and now since it was well into lunchtime, we relished the chance to sit down purchased a lunch meal that included a photo for each of our meal packages (1 drink, 1 food dish, 1 photo) to look at and laugh at ourselves for years to come.
Inside Don Quixote, we stopped for lunch at @home maid cafe and we each selected a maid to have a photo with Inside Don Quixote, we stopped for lunch at @home maid cafe and we each selected a maid to have a photo with

The food comes in the unique plating that can only be described as Cute Japanese Style Food. For instance, for his mocha latte and my green tea latte, we got to choose which animal we could have drawn on our beverage (I guess that explains the “Magic Sketch” portion of the menu item names). For my lunch I ordered the Cutie Puppy Curry Set that included little hamburger steaks for ears (hamburger steaks in Japan are a bit like salsbury steaks), and he got Napoletena Spaghetti Set. I don’t know why both sets came with potato salad. This was by no means a gourmet foodie meal… it was really just an unique experience as we had to awkwardly figure out how to sing with the maid waitress (you get to choose your maids from a bulletin board with their photos…) to add moe magic love filling to our food with a little song before we could eat :O
Inside Don Quixote, we stopped for lunch at @home maid cafe. For these Magic Sketch beverages, aka his mocha latte and my green tea latte, we got to choose which animal we could have drawn on our beverage. Inside Don Quixote, we stopped for lunch at @home maid cafe, this is the Cutie Puppy Curry Set Inside Don Quixote, we stopped for lunch at @home maid cafe, this is the Napoletena Spaghetti Set

J World Tokyo and Namja Town

Also a request from F, who is more into anime than I am with his subscriptions to stream subtitled anime at Crunchyroll and FUNimation. He is more up to date on the latest series that are popular in Japan, particular with anime inspired by Shonen Jump, a weekly manga magazine that publishes the latest chapter of multiple manga series all in one anthology publication.

J World Tokyo is an indoor theme park focused on Shonen Jump manga characters like you see here, including both games and themed food that matches characters and scenes from the manga or anime. Some of the shows we saw featured included Dragonball Z, Naruto, One Piece, Gintama, Monster Hunter, Kuroka’s Basketball, and probably others that I don’t recognize.
A lot of places are closed on New Year's Day, but one of them that was open was J World Tokyo. This is an indoor theme park focused on Shonen Jump manga characters like you see here. Mainly, Fred was interested in Gintama. I didn't really take this seriously until we both saw they had THEMED FOOD and said, hey why not? A lot of places are closed on New Year's Day, but one of them that was open was J World Tokyo. This is an indoor theme park focused on Shonen Jump manga characters like you see here. Mainly, Fred was interested in Gintama. I didn't really take this seriously until we both saw they had THEMED FOOD and said, hey why not?

The themed food was clever and in turns hilarious. Tip: when you pay admission, show your foreign passport to get a discount. On the website you can see that the games are pay per play, and which ones are marked with English translations available. With your admission, you come back as many times you you need to during the day, so we ate here for lunch on New Year’s Day and later came back for dessert after a dinner at Namja Town.
More themed food at J World amusement park. I mean, it's 800 yen, and you have to pay extra for games and as you order food. But if you show your passport then you get a discount. And you can come back in and out the same day, so we were here for lunch and dinner. Cotton Candy golden cloud Dragon Ball Z at J World Kitchen Gintama themed food, a special at J World Tokyo we visited only from November 2015 - February 2016. This is referring to a particular episode where Gin is riding the shogun like a sled and he discovers something can work to steer or slow his human sled down. The straps you see him holding are from making a wedgie. That's all I'll say Gintama themed food, a special at J World Tokyo we visited only from November - February This is the dessert we had to come back after 5 PM to be able to order at J World's cafeteria, Gintama themed between Nov 2015 and Feb 2016.

Namja Town is similarly is an indoor theme park focused also on Namja characters, games but also offering Gyoza (Potsticker) Stadium and several choices of dessert stands. Inside, it is themed like you are in a mini city even though you are just walking around part of the floor of a shopping center. There are even a few booths like this that you an get in and sit and eat like you are at home, and some area that evoke dining outside in a food court streetside with crates as part of the tables or your seats.
Namja Town. Inside, it is themed like you are in a mini city even though you are just walking around a food amusement park on part of the floor of Sunshine City shopping center Namja Town. Inside, it is themed like you are in a mini city even though you are just walking around a food amusement park on part of the floor of Sunshine City shopping center Namja Town. Inside, it is themed like you are in a mini city even though you are just walking around a food amusement park. There are even a few booths like this that you an get in and sit and eat like you are at home Namja Town eating area is a little nicer than just food court seats thanks to the decorative atmosphere

Gyoza Stadium is a food court area where you can order gyoza from multiple stands where each one has special unique takes on gyoza. Warning, this is not vegetarian friendly – most of the gyoza are filled with eat. Can you tell that the visit to Namja Town and Gyoza Stadium was my idea, not F? I think it was equal play – he got his J World and I got my Gyoza Stadium in Namja Town.
Namja Town has an area that is their Gyoza Stadium with a dozen little booths of different pot stickers, or gyoza, to try. You can get them for here or to go in little boxes you can collect in a basket so you can sample from multiple booths and try different styles Namja Town has an area that is their Gyoza Stadium with a dozen little booths of different pot stickers, or gyoza, to try. You can get them for here or to go in little boxes you can collect in a basket so you can sample from multiple booths and try different styles Namja Town has an area that is their Gyoza Stadium with a dozen little booths of different pot stickers, or gyoza, to try. You can get them for here or to go in little boxes you can collect in a basket so you can sample from multiple booths and try different styles Namja Town has an area that is their Gyoza Stadium with a dozen little booths of different pot stickers, or gyoza, to try. You can get them for here or to go in little boxes you can collect in a basket so you can sample from multiple booths and try different styles

You can go to the counter of each gyoza stand and on the laminated menus there, look for one that is English so you can know what you are ordering. I recommend looking at them all to plan out which ones you want to try. They can bring you the gyoza in little boxes that you collect in a plastic basket so you can collect several boxes of gyoza to create your own gyoza buffet.
Namja Town has an area that is their Gyoza Stadium with a dozen little booths of different pot stickers, or gyoza, to try. You can go to the counter and on the laminated menus there there is one that is English - it's just that you can't see it until you get up there to the register, I wish they had it on the signs or not just when you have the pressure of you're already at the cashier and need to order Namja Town has an area that is their Gyoza Stadium with a dozen little booths of different pot stickers, or gyoza, to try. You can go to the counter and on the laminated menus there there is one that is English. I recommend walking around to compare your optios before you choose. Namja Town Cheese Winged Gyoza "Trying

Also at Namja Town, you can also visit lots of various dessert stands where they plate the dessert in lots of cute ways, including with animal faces. When I went, they had some Sailormoon themed items, so I enjoyed a fruity beverage themed with Sailor Venus that included orange heart shaped fruit. One stand offered 50 flavors out of 88 possible ones for ice cream. We ordered a sorbet that had beautifu layers of color.
Lots of cute dessert food here too at Namja Town besides Gyoza Stadium Lots of cute dessert food here too at Namja Town - the cats I believe are the major mascots of Namja Town One of the shops at Namja Town had a LOT of ice cream flavors - I think this is the reduced version of what used to be Ice Cream City when it first opened in 2003. They have really unusual flavors like eel ice cream, wasabi ice cream, sake ice cream, sea urchin ice cream, etc. My Sailor Venus drink at Namja Town included orange heart fruit. Really beautiful layers to this sorbet at Namja Town Really beautiful layers to this sorbet at Namja Town

On New Year’s day a lot of things were closed, and if you are looking for an activity on a holiday, in the evening, or during crappy weather this might be also an option to consider as it is all indoors and they have a discount admission after 5 PM and are open year round. J World and Namja Town are both in the Sunshine City indoor mall in Ikebukuro, so you can also bolster your visit with shopping, eating, and they also offer in Sunshine City an aquarium, planetarium, movie theater, and a Pokemon Center.

Kanda Myojin

While we were in Akihabasa, we took a short few block walk away from the stores to visit Kanda Myojin, which some like CNN Travel call “The World’s Geekiest Temple”. This is due to a special good luck omamori (Japanese charm) available at Kanda Myojin, specifically an IT Charm to protect your technology devices. The charm you can purchase at this temple that is a 3 for one package that includes a credit card sized card for your wallet, a longer rectangular sticker for your computer, and a SD card sized sticker for your mobile phone.
a special good luck omamori (Japanese charm) available at Kanda Myojin temple in Akihabara, Tokyo, specifically an IT Charm to protect your technology devices. The charm you can purchase at this temple that is a 3 for one package that includes a credit card sized card for your wallet, a longer rectangular sticker for your computer, and a SD card sized sticker for your mobile phone

The best information on Kanda Myojin I found was from the blog Rurousha who also mentioned that there was a tiny temple horse,  and you can have your car blessed at the shrine. I didn’t see any car blessings in progress, but did see the horsie! I also found a fortune teller puppet machine.
Yep, Kanda Myojin has it's own lil horse! At Kanda Myojin, for this machine put in some money and the puppet will perform a little dance, (though it was already moving around and playing a little music to get your attention) and then give you a slip of paper with a fortune

For more information on omamori, which are great small souvenirs for yourself and to give others back home, and easy to get as they are available at all temples and shrines (though some specific ones like this one are at specific temples) see these two articles I found super useful.
Where you can purchase temple charms (omamori) for various kinds of good things, they are great small souvenirs for yourself and to give others back home, and easy to get as they are available at all temples and shrines (though some specific ones like this one are at specific temples) Where you can purchase temple charms (omamori) for various kinds of good things, they are great small souvenirs for yourself and to give others back home, and easy to get as they are available at all temples and shrines (though some specific ones like this one are at specific temples)

Calico Cat Cafe

This was my request and F tagged along. There are multiple kinds of Japanese cafes that are animal themed in that they offer audience with a type of animal – ranging from cat cafes to owl cafes to goat cafe, rabbit cafe, even a hedgehog cafe. With the small spaces, long work hours, and often strict rules, many Japanese citizzens can’t own pets and so animal cafes are a way to get a little animal companionship. Although there is a cat cafe in Portland, it doesn’t offer as many cats as the ones in Japan do, and I wanted to try out the experience.

After finding the Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku in the 8th floor, we went to the welcome window where we’re given a time stamped lanyard. We will pay at the end based on how much time we spend in the cafe with the cats. You are given slippers to wear after you remove your shoes and place in lockers (there are more lockers inside past the door to the cats for your bags or anything else you want to put away). Then we wash and disinfect our hands at these sinks right before the door leading to the 2 floors of kitties, as illustrated here on the note on the mirror.
Slippers to wear after you remove your shoes at the Calico Cat Cafe we wash and disinfect our hands at these sinks right before the door leading to the 2 floors of kitties... as illustrated here on the note on the mirror at Calico Cat Cafe

There is an area for cats to go away from humans and hang out behind a windowed area so you can at least admire them but can’t interact. You will find cats in cat beds, cat towers, and cat shelves 🙂
Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku, 2 floors of cats to play with or just sit around as you read manga or purchase beverages and snacks. There is an enclosed glass area for cats that we can just see without touching. Notice the cat in a cloak! Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku, 2 floors of cats to play with or just sit around as you read manga or purchase beverages and snacks. The squat little legs of this one are adorable Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku, 2 floors of cats to play with or just sit around as you read manga or purchase beverages and snacks. Shelves of cat Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku, 2 floors of cats to play with or just sit around as you read manga or purchase beverages and snacks. Notice the little cat decal by the door lock/knob! and the shelves for the cats even in the stairwell to the 2nd floor

They have seats on the 2nd floor (take the stairs down from where you enter Calico Cat Cafe) but most people I saw just ended up settling at cat level on the floor. There are manga to read, as well as Wii and games to play. You can also purchase food and drink for yourself to eat at some of the seats downstairs. If the cat and human carer is not out you can ring the bell by the sliding window.
Ring the bell for service at Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku! From a person, not from a kitty... A staffperson prepares food and drink from a room behind that sliding window. Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku, 2 floors of cats to play with or just sit around as you read manga or purchase beverages and snacks. Devote to Cat. Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku, 2 floors of cats to play with or just sit around as you read manga or purchase beverages and snacks. Investigation of the noise that occurred by the box... what happened? Drink and Food Menu at Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku, 2 floors of cats to play with or just sit around as you read manga or purchase these beverages and snacks.

I highly recommend you spend the 300 yen for a little container of shredded chicken as cat treats, especially if you want to experience a kitty swarm as they all seem to know as soon as you crack the lid open a little bit. They KNOW. The Calico Cat Cafe staff will ask that you not feed the ones with scarves as they have a special diet you don’t want to ruin, and they will request you try to spread out the treats to different cats so no one gets too fat.
What happens when you buy one of the little containers of shredded chicken at Calico Cat Cafe that you can feed the cats as treats. As soon as you open it, they know. They KNOW I highly recommend you spend the 300 yen for a little container of shredded chicken as cat treats, especially if you want to experience a kitty swarm as they all seem to know as soon as you crack the lid open a little bit. They KNOW. The Calico Cat Cafe staff will ask that you not feed the ones with scarves as they have a special diet you don't want to ruin, and they will request you try to spread out the treats to different cats so no one gets too fat. What happens when you buy one of the little containers of shredded chicken at Calico Cat Cafe that you can feed the cats as treats. As soon as you open it, they know. They KNOW

You pay by the first hour and then for every 15 minutes thereafter. There always seemed to be a “cashier cat” at the window – if one kitty leaves, another one jumped up there.
You pay by the first hour and then for every 15 minutes thereafter at Calico Cat Cafe. There always seemed to be a cashier cat at the window You pay by the first hour and then for every 15 minutes thereafter at Calico Cat Cafe. There always seemed to be a cashier cat at the window

Ghibli Museum

F and I have seen all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films and are big Studio Ghibli fans, so purchasing a ticket to visit the Ghibli Museum was a treat for us. The museum works on advanced reservation tickets only that are open to be sold 3 months beforehand (and tickets do sell out!), and they are set for specific dates for one time admittance (no reentering after you leave). At the Ghibli museum’s entrance, the reserve tickets are exchanged for a 35mm film strip that features a scene from one of the Studio Ghibli films that you keep as a souvenir. I know the one to the left is from Laputa Castle in the Sky, but not sure what the right one is from.
At the Ghibli museum's entry, the reserve tickets are exchanged for a 35mm film strip that features a scene from one of the Studio Ghibli films that you keep as a souvenir.

You have to pay admission to go inside the museum, but some sights like the Totoro’s Reception window are outside the museum so you don’t necessarily need a ticket to see him.
Ghibli Museum, Mitaka - the information brochure mentions 'Those who can lose their way and fully enjoy this space are welcomed at the Museum.' Ghibli Museum, Mitaka - the information brochure mentions 'Those who can lose their way and fully enjoy this space are welcomed at the Museum.' Totoro’s Reception, Ghibli Museum - this is outside the museum so you don't need a ticket to see him Totoro’s Reception, Ghibli Museum - this is outside the museum so you don't need a ticket to see him

Ghibli Museum having all this green on it seems completely appropriate and expected since so much nature is part of the theme in the studio films and is part of the wonderful detail of the environment that they create in watercolor background for each movie. The museum has a Rooftop Garden at the top features a Robot from Laputa (Castle In The Sky), still tending to nature, and a symbol of humanity’s choice of whether its legacy will be as destroyers of this world or its caretakers. Ghibli Museum having all this green on it seems as expected since so much nature as part of the theme in the studio films Ghibli Museum having all this green on it seems as expected since so much nature as part of the theme in the studio films The museum has a Rooftop Garden at the top features a Robot from Laputa (Castle In The Sky), still tending to nature, and a symbol of humanity's choice of whether its legacy will be as destroyers of this world or its caretakers. The museum has a Rooftop Garden at the top features a Robot from Laputa (Castle In The Sky), still tending to nature, and a symbol of humanity's choice of whether its legacy will be as destroyers of this world or its caretakers. The museum has a Rooftop Garden at the top features a Robot from Laputa (Castle In The Sky), still tending to nature, and a symbol of humanity's choice of whether its legacy will be as destroyers of this world or its caretakers.

I also knew that most of the exhibits were in Japanese, so we decided to go on a tour (we found one via Viator that was an afternoon tour). It sounds like the tour has changed since when we took it where the guide entered the museum with the group to explain some of the exhibits and walk through a couple rooms with us pointing out details that you might otherwise miss or and telling us the story behind some things and referencing the movie for us – otherwise we would have done a lot of looking but not necessarily a lot of understanding. Unless you can read Japanese I think a tour is invaluable in this case in giving you background and tips for the most enjoyment. The way the tour was set up she walked around pointing out extra stories or sights we might have missed, than gave us our own time to wander and we had a choice whether to leave with the group or stay longer.
Studio Ghibli Museum Tour - she pointed out little details for us to notice, like the crest on the gate and on bricks here or there Studio Ghibli Museum Tour - she pointed out little details for us to notice, like the crest on the gate and on bricks here or there Studio Ghibli Museum Tour - she pointed out little details for us to notice, like the crest on the gate and on bricks here or there Ghibli Museum Crest

Photos aren’t allowed inside the museum, so I only have photos from outside to share. Still, you can get an idea of the exquisite detail they have inside just from what I captured outside. I actually liked that no photos were allowed as it forced all visitors to get absorbed in the atmosphere and wonder. Hayao Miyazaki’s intention was that people focus on the experience and taking back memories. The information brochure even mentions “Those who can lose their way and fully enjoy this space are welcomed at the Museum.” The doors and all the windows and skylights featured breathtaking stained glass with references to the Ghibli films. Here’s a hint of that just from the front doors before I put away my camera, which pay homage to My Neighbor Totoro.
Ghibli Museum - Stained Glass on the front doors which pay homage to My Neighbor Totoro - they had stained glass with Ghibli characters in many places including the skylight ceiling in the Central Hall Ghibli Museum - Stained Glass on the front doors which pay homage to My Neighbor Totoro - they had stained glass with Ghibli characters in many places including the skylight ceiling in the Central Hall Ghibli Museum - Stained Glass on the front doors which pay homage to My Neighbor Totoro - they had stained glass with Ghibli characters in many places including the skylight ceiling in the Central Hall

The Ghibli museum is 3 stories and is full of winding paths inside through little rooms and hallways, interior bridges and balconies, multiple winding spiral staircases including one in a small clock tower, to evoke a feeling of exploration and adventure. The building design is meant to be a nod to Hayao Miyazaki’s building designs in the Studio Ghibli films. When you visit Ghibli Museum, you get one entry to view a short film in the Saturn Theater, and the short film rotates and is original for the museum.
The Ghibli museum is 3 stories and is full of winding paths inside through little rooms and hallways, interior bridges and balconies, multiple winding spiral staircases including one in a small clock tower, to evoke a feeling of exploration and adventure. The building design is meant to be a nod to Hayao Miyazaki's building designs in the Studio Ghibli films.

My favorite room was the history and science of animation that had a three-dimensional zoetrope of “Bouncing Totoro”, with models of characters from My Neighbor Totoro that it would stop moving so you can see all the detail of each individual figure, and then turn off the light and spin quickly to see the amazing animation as the characters come to life. It inspired Pixar to create one as well for California Adventure Land – this is the best hint I can give you at how truly fantastic it is.

Unfortunately, the plush cat bus upstairs from Totoro is for elementary kids only. The only other negative about the museum is that the gift shop is small and gets very crowded like a madhouse, so I would recommend visiting a Ghibli store elsewhere which will have similar products and more space, and there are several locations. Don’t miss visiting the cafe area where you can get a special Ghibli beer Kaze no Tani (you can take the empty bottle out with you), and check out the detail of the sinks with reference’s to Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Don't miss visiting the cafe area where you can get a special Ghibli beer Kaze no Tani (you can take the empty bottle out with you) Wash your hands afterward at Ghibli Museum's cafe area at the outdoor sink that includes the cat from Kiki's Delivery Service for a handle

Next week is my final Japan Travel post with a summary of the various types of Japanese foods to look for when you visit. Then, the Travel Tuesday posts will shift to Sante Fe!

Of all these various special interest stops, are there any that interest you? When you travel, are there certain types of “hobby or special interest” attractions that interest you? What do you think of the Ghibli Museum policy of no photos in order to have you absorb the experience and only take back memories instead of photos?

Here’s a summary of my Japan Travel post series:

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Dumpling Week 2015 Recap

The Oregonian declared February 1-7 2015 to be dumpling week, and who am I to disagree? It’s been so full of food porn photos and articles, ranging from dumpling recipes you can make at home to how to eat around the world with 14 dumplings at various restaurants in Portland to even Gluten Free Dumplings.
Feb 1-7 2015 First Annual Dumpling Week

And of course, there are also for this one special week, a Dumpling Passport you can fill out, collecting stickers from various restaurants in Portland who are offering dumpling specials for this week. Besides the eating of the dumplings themselves of course, some of the fun of Dumpling Week has also been running into other dumpling questers, as we compare notes on the dumplings we have eaten and our routes of dumpling eatings. Here is the list of the 19 Portland Restaurants and their Dumpling Dish.

And here’s my Dumpling Week Recap so far of where I’ve been:

Kachka offered a Lamb Pelmeni with adjika butter, smetana, cilantro and mint for $13. So melt in your mouth, I tried to savor each and every buttery dumpling and not inhale these all like Russian dumpling addict. I already love the normal dumplings on their menu (of all dumplings from around the world, I would pick Eastern European ones as my favorite- pierogi, varenky, pelmeni-, even over Asian dumplings) and these were the first ones I had to make sure I get because I knew they would be excellent.
Dumpling Week - Kachka offered a Lamb Pelmeni with adjika butter, smetana, cilantro and mint Dumpling Week - Kachka offered a Lamb Pelmeni with adjika butter, smetana, cilantro and mint Dumpling Week - Kachka offered a Lamb Pelmeni with adjika butter, smetana, cilantro and mint Dumpling Week - Kachka offered a Lamb Pelmeni with adjika butter, smetana, cilantro and mint

Boxer Ramen‘s $5 dumpling week dish was Potstickers boiled in their mushroom broth and they are filled with pork, ginger and chives served with sprouts and pulverized kimchee and a garlic ponzu sauce. I went on Day 2 of these and more recent photos on social media swap the sprouts for pickled carrots. Be aware that Boxer is cash only and only the SW Stark location downtown, not the Alberta branch, is participating in Dumpling Week.
Boxer Ramen's $5 dumpling week dish was Potstickers boiled in their mushroom broth and they are filled with pork, ginger and chives served with sprouts and pulverized kimchee and a garlic ponzu sauce. Boxer Ramen's $5 dumpling week dish was Potstickers boiled in their mushroom broth and they are filled with pork, ginger and chives served with sprouts and pulverized kimchee and a garlic ponzu sauce.

Mama Chow’s Kitchen, a food cart, is only open Monday – Friday for lunch and even arriving when they first opened there was a line 12 deep. Everyone was ordering dumplings, so try to get there early for the $7 pan seared version of the wontons that are usually in their wonton soup. Jeff Chow is thinking of keeping it as a regular offering on the menu though, if you want those chubby meaty dumplings but don’t want to deal with the extra crowd right now because of Dumpling Week. The wontons are Chicken and Taiwan Cabbage dumplings on a bed of baby green bok choy served with a spicy dipping sauce. This was one of the few dumpling offerings that came with vegetables, and combined with me also ordering their garlic noodles was a really satisfying lunch worth waiting for it to be made fresh right when I ordered it!
For dumpling week $7 Mama Chow Kitchen offered a pan seared version of their wontons from their standard wonton soup, these are Chicken and Taiwan Cabbage dumplings on a bed of baby green bok choy served with a spicy dipping sauce

Here’s the Dumpling week entry by Grassa for $12 of Crispy Semolina dumplings with Dungeness Crab, Porcinis, Mint, and House Pancetta. I’m glad that Grassa was concerned I may not be getting enough vegetables with Dumpling Week going on, so seemingly supplied a complimentary salad to go with these dumplings. They make them throughout the day, so even if they may run out during the lunch rush, go back during dinner because they may have made more by then.
Dumpling week entry by Grassa for $12 of Crispy Semolina dumplings with Dungeness Crab, Porcinis, Mint, and House Pancetta Dumpling week entry by Grassa for $12 of Crispy Semolina dumplings with Dungeness Crab, Porcinis, Mint, and House Pancetta

Jenn Louis at Lincoln Restaurant went very upscale with her offering of Malloreddus tossed in sea urchin butter with mint and preserved lemon at $18. Malloreddus is a Sardinian word for gnocchi, and these dumplings are a cross between gnocchi and cavatelli pasta, but made with semolina that’s been steeped in saffron water, thus the color you see. While I was here I also had this INSANE dessert special of a Popcorn Panna Cotta with layers of popcorn panna cotta, creme fraiche, and caramel that just freaking incredible. I know some people are filling out their Dumpling Passports by doing a progressive meal with multiple dumpling restaurants (I certainly did that myself), but if you go to Lincoln you should just make it a one stop night because this is so rich that you won’t want to muddle the experience with other stops.
For dumpling week at $18 Lincoln Restaurant offered Malloreddus tossed in sea urchin butter with mint and preserved lemon. For dumpling week at $18 Lincoln Restaurant offered Malloreddus tossed in sea urchin butter with mint and preserved lemon.

For dumpling week Bollywood Theater‘s two locations offered a chicken/pork version or vegetarian momos, steamed Nepalese dumplings found in Northern India. What you see below are the vegetarian momos because I needed a meat break – they are not vegan because they do have paneer in them with the veggies. Either choice is $8 and is served with radish slaw and spicy tomato chili sauce.
For dumpling week Bollywood Theater's two locations offered a chicken or vegetarian momos, steamed Nepalese dumplings found in Northern India. These are the vegetarian momos For dumpling week Bollywood Theater's two locations offered a chicken or vegetarian momos, steamed Nepalese dumplings found in Northern India. These are the vegetarian momos For dumpling week Bollywood Theater's two locations offered a chicken or vegetarian momos, steamed Nepalese dumplings found in Northern India. These are the vegetarian momos For dumpling week Bollywood Theater's two locations offered a chicken or vegetarian momos, steamed Nepalese dumplings found in Northern India. These are the vegetarian momos For dumpling week Bollywood Theater's two locations offered a chicken or vegetarian momos, steamed Nepalese dumplings found in Northern India. These are the vegetarian momos

Imperial went back to Chef Paley’s roots in offering Khinkali for Dumpling Week. The $8 dish were 2 palm sized Georgian pork and beef dumplings with herb yogurt. They are served with a little bowl so you can put a dollop of the yogurt in there and make sure to catch the drippings from this soupy meaty dumpling when you bite into/drink from it and eat that with a spoon so nothing is wasted. I turned them upside down in my hand to eat them so they were like a little cup and spooned the yogurt onto my bites as well. Messy but so homey and delicious.
Imperial went back to Chef Paley's roots in offering Khinkali for Dumpling Week. The $8 dish were 2 palm sized Georgian pork and beef dumplings with herb yogurt Imperial went back to Chef Paley's roots in offering Khinkali for Dumpling Week. The $8 dish were 2 palm sized Georgian pork and beef dumplings with herb yogurt Imperial went back to Chef Paley's roots in offering Khinkali for Dumpling Week. The $8 dish were 2 palm sized Georgian pork and beef dumplings with herb yogurt

Chef Gregory Gourdet’s winning shrimp dumplings from Top Chef are now at Departure for Dumpling Week, steamed and made with palm sugar, ginger and crispy shallot and those spicy Thai chilis were 3 for $11
Chef Gregory Gourdet's winning shrimp dumplings from Top Chef now at Departure for Dumpling Week, steamed and made with palm sugar, ginger and crispy shallot and those Spicy Thai chilis at $11 Chef Gregory Gourdet's winning shrimp dumplings from Top Chef now at Departure for Dumpling Week, steamed and made with palm sugar, ginger and crispy shallot and those Spicy Thai chilis at $11

Next on my list (Updated 2/6/2015) is Kenny and Zuke’s to try dumplings from a different part of the world: Fried kreplach, a traditional Jewish dumpling, filled with choice of pastrami beef or wild mushroom-leeks. They are served with sauteed onions and sour cream. Between the meat or vegetarian ones, I would recommend the vegetarian ones as the filling has more flavors. You get six dumplings for the $8.75 price, and remember Kenny and Zuke’s is open from breakfast to dinner, unlike some of the other locations which are dinner only.
From Kenny and Zuke's for Dumpling Week are Fried kreplach, a traditional Jewish dumpling, filled with choice of beef or wild mushroom-leeks. They are served with sauteed onions and sour cream. You get six dumplings for the $8.75 price From Kenny and Zuke's for Dumpling Week are Fried kreplach, a traditional Jewish dumpling, filled with choice of beef or wild mushroom-leeks. They are served with sauteed onions and sour cream. You get six dumplings for the $8.75 price From Kenny and Zuke's for Dumpling Week are Fried kreplach, a traditional Jewish dumpling, filled with choice of beef or wild mushroom-leeks. They are served with sauteed onions and sour cream. You get six dumplings for the $8.75 price

You can go fancy with the Little Bird Goat cheese gnocchi with mashed English peas, lamb tongue, pea tendrils and fresh Oregon truffles. You can make it vegetarian by asking to hold the lamb tongue if you really need to. A little stingy with the truffles on my plate, but I’ve seen pics that have had twice or three times as many truffle shavings. They have this on their lunch as well as dinner menu, and it is priced at $17.
You can go fancy with the Little Bird Dumpling Week dish of Goat cheese gnocchi with mashed English peas, lamb tongue, pea tendrils and fresh Oregon truffles You can go fancy with the Little Bird Dumpling Week dish of Goat cheese gnocchi with mashed English peas, lamb tongue, pea tendrils and fresh Oregon truffles

Where have you eaten for Dumpling Week so far, if you have participated, and what has been your favorite dumpling? In general what are your favorite type of dumplings?

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Year of the Horse 2014- Chinese New Year Foods

How are you celebrating Chinese New Year 2014? This is the year of the Horse.
4 goat faces, 1 horse face with windblown mane...taken at Surfing Goat Dairy in Maui

The New Year’s Day in China (equivalent to the year in Chinese) is this Friday, January 31, but in the new year is celebrated over multiple days. It starts from the last year of the Chinese Year up to the end of the Lantern Festival 15 days later. This gives you plenty of time to still join in the traditions of gathering with your family, cleaning out the old (including cleaning your house!), and doing a few things to hopefully usher in a healthy, wealthy, new year in.

I can’t say that the cleaning my house portion is my favorite part- it’s definitely the eating certain food that are symbols of health and wealth, often because they look/sound in Chinese like words linked with health and wealth.

Every year there are two that I always do- and so far it certainly hasn’t hurt! So here are my traditional Chinese New Year Foods…

1. Eat Dumplings.

Dumplings are symbols of wealth, because traditional Chinese money were gold and silver ingots. This is pretty easy to do- there are so many places that offer dumplings, even food carts and restaurants that aren’t Chinese food specific. Mmm just look at these photos of dumplings from my past makes me want dumplings now. Particularly these ones, which are endearingly chubby.

The Dump Truck food cart dumplings Chubby potstickers are so endearing

2. Eat Noodles

Long noodles represent a nice long life, so when eating noodles for this time of year means ordering the longest noodles you can. Other than that though, they can be any kind of noodles you want- flour, rice, egg, wheat, etc. Again, I am sort of lenient on where the noodles come from and they don’t need to be Chinese- which explains below the photo from Boke Bowl which specializes in ramen with fancy upgrades like the fried chicken  and pork belly as you see below, the chinese pulled noodle specialist such as Noodle House Food Cart, or by simply rocking noodles with garlic like what you see below from Star Noodle in Maui.

Boke Bowl ramen noodles with fried chicken and pork belly and pulled pork Noodle House Food Cart Chinese noodles Garlic Noodles from Star Noodle in Maui

There are more foods to eat- check out this cool infographic from Steamy Kitchen and this 10 Good Luck Foods list from Chow.com for more foods to eat- and she also provides recipes to try! This year besides the dumplings and noodles, I am adding in cauliflower/broccoli for blossoming riches, and also shrimp for good times and lettuce for rising fortune (in Chinese the word for lettuce sounds like wealth).

In general, I think simple stir fried vegetables are also a popular part of New Years eatings because not only are they healthy, but because of the crunch sound they make associated with money, and help start the new year by not taking the life of an animal to start off the year. It also balances out your meal of dumplings and noodles :X. Your dessert can be oranges and tangerines.
Chinese broccoli- an auspicious Chinese New Year Food because not only are they healthy, but because of the crunch sound they make associated with money, and help start the new year by not taking the life of an animal to start off the year.

The Chinese New Year Lantern viewings at the local Lan Su Chinese Gardens are offering a lot of activities- they sold out last year, so you might want to buy your advance tickets now! Their festivities include a dragon and lion dance of course, but also martial arts demonstrations, miniature horses, calligraphy demonstrations, a Chinese Wishing Tree, and with the Lantern Festival lots of lanterns! Did I mention little miniature horses? Inside of the gardens they have a tea house where you can enjoy a selection of various Chinese teas and snacks (and hey, maybe get some radish cake, rice cakes, etc. to get your prosperous New Year’s eating in!)

Lantern Festival in the rain at Lan Su Chinese Gardens tea and Chinese snack at Lan Su Chinese Gardens

In addition, on Feb 1, at the Oregon Convention Center there is also the Portland Chinese New Year Cultural Fair that includes more cultural performances. And food too.

I wish you a happy Chinese New Year! Tell me how you plan to celebrate it!?

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