Not the Magazine You’re Looking For

I was just playing Dead Island: Riptide, a zombie game which takes place on a tropical island, and in one section you have to travel through some tunnels dug by the Japanese in WWII. While there, I found this bunker labeled “雑誌”, which, while technically meaning “magazine” in English, more specifically and exclusively means the paper magazines people read. So unless this is supposed to be a room filled with old editions of TIME, the word they were looking for was “弾薬庫”, which means “magazine” in the sense of a storage depot for munitions. I suspect the developers flipped open the nearest Japanese dictionary and used the first entry they saw under “magazine”. Needless to say, I encourage people to always use a professional translator, no matter how small the job.


On Japan and PB&J Sandwiches

Perhaps it is a testament to how well I make them, or perhaps to how “Westernized” (or at least “not very Japanese-like”) my girlfriend is, but I have gotten her hooked on PB&J sandwiches, This is remarkable in so much that Japanese people, at least the rare ones who have tried PB&J sandwiches, hate them (as do many Europeans, so I hear, but I have no means to verify this). I like to think that the reason most Japanese people do not like this American culinary tradition is because they have not had a good PB&J sandwich. I suspect that if they have had one, or attempted to make one on their own, they have used Japanese peanut cream and Japanese jelly.

peanut cream

Japanese peanut cream

I once had some Japanese peanut cream that tasted likely the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, only creamier, and it was truly sublime, in a junk food kind of way. I have never been able to find it since, however, and every other variety of peanut cream I have tried has been a bizarre, translucent caramel-colored slime which tasted neither of peanuts nor butter nor the flavor of anything else I have tasted yet so far but, to describe it more succinctly in three words, is not good. Of course, Japanese people, or at least some Japanese people, like peanut cream, or it would not be on sale. Human beings tend to like what they were fed as children, regardless of how people from other cultures may feel about it as adults. Still, I do not feel peanut cream is an adequate substitute for true peanut butter, which is generally available in Japanese supermarkets (usually only Skippy, the chunky type, luckily my favorite). American peanut butter is, however, very expensive, and I have heard Japanese complain that American peanut butter is too hard to spread and too sweet. As to the first criticism, I suspect they are putting it in the refrigerator, which of course would make it a bread-destroying nightmare. As to the second, I don’t know where this is coming from; in my experience, Japanese peanut cream is far sweeter than Skippy peanut butter.

The other essential half of the PB&J equation is the “J”, which most people take as “jelly”, but I far prefer jam. This, again, is where I suspect the scant few Japanese who have tried PB&J sandwiches (and didn’t like them) have gone wrong. Even American jelly is an oversweet sludge far distanced from its fruity roots, and Japanese jelly doubly so. Here in Japan, I use an imported French jam with no sugar added from the local import shop. If I were in America, I wouldn’t dream of being such a snob and buying such an expensive jam, but so far it is just about the only real jam I have been able to find, and, thanks to the no added sugar, is not too sweet. I also almost always use raspberry, both because it’s my favorite fruit and because it balances well with the slight saltiness of the peanut butter without overpowering it.

This, anyway, is the recipe I use when making PB&J sandwiches for my girlfriend (Skippy chunky peanut butter and no sugar added raspberry jam), and she can’t get enough of them.

Birthday Trip to Tokyo Disneyland

We went to Tokyo Disneyland for my birthday.


Apparently, it’s very unusual to find Mickey at Disneyland (other than in the parades and such), so we were very lucky to get this shot. Here you see Mickey with two girls dressed up in costumes for the Disney Halloween celebration that goes on throughout the month of October.


We got to ride the new Star Tours ride, which was probably the thing I most wanted to do this time around. While you wait in line, you walk through a “spaceport” and get to see various animatronic vignettes before the ride. The line for Star Tours is probably the most entertaining in the park, and possibly more entertaining than some of the other attractions.


Although you can’t tell in this static photo, the movements of C3PO were very dynamic and natural. Almost the entire ride, including the animatronic scenes, is in Japanese (so you’ll be missing out on a lot if you ride Star Tours in Japan and don’t speak Japanese), but I was impressed with the quality of the voice and the acting for C3PO. I believe the actor used is the same one who has been used for all of the Japanese dubs of Star Wars, and his timing was perfect, especially during the ride itself. Normally I hate Japanese voice overs, but I was perfectly satisfied with not being able to hear the original English thanks to the actor for C3PO.


A real-time computer-generated camera filter of guests walking by serves as a “security scanner” – the display on the screen at the back is also properly mirrored on the screen in front of the security droid.


The security droid has some basic recognition routines and will respond to what’s happening around it. Here he’s admonishing me for taking a picture (true story). We rode Star Tours twice and the second time, a bunch of guys were waving there arms at the security droid, to which he responded,”Yeah, I see you. Don’t worry. I’ll have my eye on you, no matter where you go.”


The “boarding gate” for the new Star Tours – mostly the same as the old one, with a new coat of paint and banks of 3D glasses for riders to pick up.



We also saw Michael Jackson’s Captain EO tribute, which was so 80’s it made my teeth hurt. Before you get to watch the movie, you have to stand in this hall and watch a cheesy making-of video. And I guess this is considered part of the attraction and not a line, but standing around watching small video monitors in a crowded room is not what you want to do when you’ve been walking around all day. However, unlike Star Tours, almost everything for Captain EO is in English. This short pre-show in the hall is in Japanese, but there are English subtitles, while the Captain EO movie itself is all in English, with tiny, hard-to-read (even for native speakers) Japanese subtitles in the right right of the screen.

It was also interesting to note the contrasts between EO and Star Tours. They’re both “4D” attractions, with effects occurring in the theater along with 3D visuals, but you could really feel how the technology had progressed. For example, the 3D glasses for Captain EO are this weird, continuous curved shape, from earpiece to glasses to the other earpiece, so you can’t really tuck the earpieces behind your ears comfortably like you would a normal pair of glass. Not only that, but the design manages to practically push the lenses into your eyeballs. The glasses for Star Tours were much more comfortable. Also, with Captain EO, they failed to take into account the fact that with 3D, you lose about half the light of the video because of the glasses, so the image was really, really dark and hard to see. Needless to say, Star Tours didn’t have this problem. Still, Captain EO was good, 80’s fun, although it pretty much hit my tolerance limit for interpretive dance.


The castle is decked out for Tokyo Disneyland’s 30th anniversary celebration. 30th anniversary decorations were everywhere, which was kind of annoying because they took the place of many of the Halloween decorations that would normally be up this time of year. For example, there seem to be no Halloween decorations along this street, although there were the last time I went during Halloween. Perhaps they will put up more as Halloween approaches?


And this is when we went through that time warp – or I accidentally took a picture without noticing, one of the two.




I was rather satisfied with how these pictures came out and couldn’t choose which to delete.


They did a great job recreating the set of the movie for the line for the Monsters, Inc. Hide and Go Seek ride.


The detail on the desk was amazing. The sponsor for the ride is Panasonic, and the radio at the left actually had a little Panasonic logo on it, probably taken directly from some Panasonic production line.


Again, great detail, with a full garbage can in the back and work forms waiting to be stamped on the desk.


I imagine this section of the gift store is unique to Tokyo Disneyland – the senbei (rice cracker) section. Check out the awesome senbei-styled tin in the upper left, with Mickey-shaped nori (dried seaweed).


Even the Genie tins here are filled with senbei.



This Mickey-shaped cheeseburger was, unfortunately, the least satisfying meal we had at Disneyland – I was expecting a cheeseburger, but it tasted more like a Japanese hamburg steak.




Almost everybody who goes to Tokyo Disneyland buys a commemorative popcorn bucket (or at least, Japanese people do). We went with the Star Wars one, sold near Star Tours.


The Star Wars characters have been “Disney-fied” with mostly core Disney characters, but notice the Stitch Yoda – a key indication this was made for Japan (other than the “Tokyo Disneyland” logo) – for no particular reason that I can discern, Stitch is considered incredibly cute in Japan and is very popular among Japanese Disney fans, as evidenced here.



The Haunted Mansion, decked out specially for its Halloween season-only Nightmare Before Christmas conversion. They really went all out with the conversion, and it felt really well done.

Notice, however, how dark it is outside. This isn’t because my camera’s bad at taking pictures at night or the Haunted Mansion is kept purposefully dark – the whole park is incredibly dark after sunset – as in, you won’t be able to see the face of the person standing next to you. It would be nice if they put a few more lights in.


The 30th Anniversary decoration at the entrance to the park.


I had to buy the senbei-styled tin. It’s the perfect mix of Japanese and Disney.


My girlfriend, knowing my love for Coke, bought me this special 30th Anniversary Coke. Inside is a special 30th Anniversary Coke bottle, and supposedly they didn’t make that many (which means, what, only 20,000 or so?).