Icing on the Cake

Cake. Who would have thought, the simplest of ingredients would make one of the best foods ever invented! One mouthful of this dessert and your senses go on overdrive… sight, smell, taste!

I LOVE love love walking through the food section of department stores in Japan. You can buy anything from premium meats to high-end quiches to fancy pastries. Gourmet everything, basically. But I go for one thing… The perfectly crafted desserts. Detail like you wouldn’t believe and all the colours of the rainbow! Cheesecakes. Chiffon cakes. Tarts. Roll cakes. Fruitcakes. Sponge cakes. Red bean sweets.

The basement of Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku has the most impressive gourmet food hall I’ve ever seen. Tokyu Food Show under Shibuya Station is another food heaven. These places are expensive, for sure, but I can’t help but go at least once a month to indulge in one or two heavenly sweets. It’s also at places like this that you can find ridiculously expensive items like $20 bunches of grapes, $300 mushrooms, and $100 square watermelons!

Living in Japan is awesome, and these cakes shops… well, are just the icing on the cake. :-)

Foodies, sorry in advance for any drooling you might experience…

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Macaroon cakes at Isetan, Shinjuku
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Gateaux at Tokamachi, Niigata
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Quickly going! Closing time at Isetan, Shinjuku
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Eye candy at Tokyu Food Show, Shibuya
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Sweets galore at Tokyu Food Show, Shibuya
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Baby snowman at a patisserie in Tokamachi, Niigata
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Vegetable cake (tomato and spinach) at Patisserie Potager, Nakameguro
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Scrumptious chiffon cake
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Christmas-themed cakes
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Hinamatsuri (Girls Day)-themed cake
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Tokamachi Snow Festival

The Tokamachi Snow Festival is like one of Niigata’s best kept secrets. Most of my Japanese friends have never heard of it. But, each year it attracts about 300,000 people – 5 times the town’s regular population! For Tokyoites, it’s a cheaper/closer alternative to the world famous Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido. It was originally created to ’embrace’ the enormous amount of snowfall (up to 3m) the region sees, and give the locals as well as tourists something to get excited about in the middle of winter.

Unfortunately, on the exact same weekend as when I went, a massive snowstorm swept across the country. We made it to Tokamachi with no problems, but we arrived to see most of the snow sculptures covered in snow, which was a huge shame for the artists that had spent days carving out the fine details! If that wasn’t bad enough, the next day, we also learned that the snowstorm had shut down the train network and people couldn’t get in or out, including us! We were forced to stay a second night. We were fine with that, as it meant we could stay to watch the grand finale performance… until we heard that that too had been cancelled. So, all in all, it was just a trip to see a whole lot of snow and test how long we could put up with the cold!!

Despite feeling like my frozen toes were going to fall off, it was great to walk through the town and find different beloved characters – Doraemon, Anpanman, Totoro and Hello Kitty. The festival’s masterpiece of Mt Fuji and two shrines was incredible, but my favourite sculpture was one sponsored by the Lions Club dedicated to the Sochi Olympics. It was in an unroofed area within a building, so we could go and see it up close. Even covered in freshly fallen snow, the detail of the dragon was not lost.

It would be great to visit this festival again someday!

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

This post is in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “inside. 

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I recently went to Niigata prefecture which is on the west coast of Japan. In February, the sleepy town of Tokamachi is transformed into a buzzing snow festival, with snow sculptures built and showcased all around the area.

One of the sculptures was based on the Studio Ghibli movie, My Neighbor Totoro (originally released in 1988). This movie is arguably the most famous and most loved of the Ghibli films and everyone knows the characters: Totoro, the cat bus, Satsuki and Mei.

Seeing the snow sculpture from afar was impressive in itself. But, as I got closer, my attention was drawn to a massive hole under the cat bus. At first, I thought it was a tunnel to lead to the other side. I soon realised it was in fact a sculpture inside another sculpture! Very clever and impressive!

Totoro snow sculpture

Totoro snow sculpture Totoro snow sculpture