Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#36 Neko Ramen!

NEKO RAMEN  猫ラーメン by Sonishi Kenji.

This is the most adorable manga EVER.  I exaggerate (maybe?) but for me it was an amazing find (that I stumbled upon in an internet cafe!  See last week’s post).  Especially since I’m not normally a fan of manga in the first place; this one really roped me in.

It is, at it’s heart, a 4-koma manga, sometimes called yonkoma or 4-cell manga, which is a traditional form of Japanese comics.  The panels read top to bottom, right to left, and has a certain flow in terms of the story, such that there is set up, further progression, and the main gag comes at the last panel.  Neko Ramen also deviates from this style from time to time to tell slightly longer stories.

The basic premise of Neko Ramen is a cat running a Ramen shop all by himself.  He does a somewhat a poor job of it, but is an incredibly enthusiastic go-getter who is always thinking up crazy schemes to be more unique or to gain more popularity.  He only has one main customer, Mr. Tanaka (the most generic last name in Japan – like having a Mr. Smith).  The majority of the manga is dialogues between the cat owner (affectionately known as Taisho 大将, or General) and his sole customer.  Other characters are brought in too though, like the people or animals Taisho hires, or his family members, especially his father who is a cat model.  You get to learn more about Taisho and his past, and how he got to where he is today, as well as of course witnessing lots of antics that happen in his ramen shop.  Many of the gags, unsurprisingly, play up the fact that Taisho is a cat, and an adorable if somewhat prideful cat at that, and it makes for a very compelling character.  I adore him ^.^

The manga consists of 6 volumes in Japanese.  I bought volumes 1 and 2 while in Japan.  I wanted more but…things.  Must be responsible with things (and not having too much of them).

My mouth dropped open just now, as I just searched on amazon.com to see if they’d have it as an import, to find that the first 4 volumes have been translated into English!!!  And for incredibly reasonable prices; there’s used versions available as well, even cheaper.  Check ’em out!

Neko Ramen Volume 1: Hey! Order Up!

Neko Ramen, Vol. 2

Neko Ramen, Vol. 3

Neko Ramen, Vol. 4

And, for those not interested in spending money (or acquiring more things) or in reading manga, there’s also been an anime made!  It consists of 12 very short (2 and 1/2 minutes each) episodes, and they can all pretty easily be found online, with English subtitles and all.  The anime uses the exact jokes from the manga and presents them in pretty rapid-fire form, adding voice overs obviously for Taisho and Mr. Tanaka and adding in sound effects.  I rather like the way the anime is presented; it seems very faithful to the manga and sticks closely to its style.

Here’s a link to the first episode:

The person who uploaded that one has all 12 episodes, so check them out!

My life has been made better having Neko Ramen in it; I hope you get some enjoyment out of it as well!  They do say that laughter is one of the best ways to release stress and feel good.  I am indebted to Taisho and his antics for helping me through my last few weeks in Japan.  Thank you Taisho!!!

Or perhaps I should be saying, Thank you Kenji Sonishi!  (the Author).

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#29 Foods I will miss from Japan – Part 1

In leaving Japan, my lifestyle is going to change dramatically.

All of the foods I have gotten so used to eating I will no longer have access too.  Even the things I only ate occasionally here, will no longer be available, and that’s sad.

So here’s a list, in no particular order, of the foods I’m going to miss.

BENTOS

You can pick these up really easily at any grocery store or convenience store.  Since becoming a vegetarian, I haven’t bought them as often as they often have some meat in them, like this one with a small hot dog.  But they give quite a variety of side-dishes and always have plenty of rice such that they are often satisfying and filling meals.

TAKOYAKI

These are delicious cooked balls of batter with little bits of octopus in the center.  The octopus is tolerable; if anything it adds a little bit of texture, but you don’t really taste it.  The deliciousness is in the sauce and the topics, and the battery goodness of the balls themselves.

RAMEN

No longer will I be able to get a solid bowl of ramen.  Though, ramen usually comes with meat, but I’ve found you can often request to have the meat taken out.

FRESH BOWL OF UDON

You can get dried Udon noodles in asian food stores in the US, but nothing beats fresh ones in broth with other ingredients mixed in.  This one has some green onions, a slice of fish cake, and some tofu skin thing, which are all pretty common things to add to Udon.

MIKAN ORANGES

My prefecture, Ehime, is well known for its citrus.  In the winter you can buy whole bags of mikan (6 or so) for about 100 yen.  It’s fabulous.  Sometimes I was even given some.  Mikan come in all different sizes.  Actually “mikan” is the name of one type. other types include Harehime, Dekopon (my favorite), Hassaku, etc.

TEMPURA

Delicious vegetables and usually a large shrimp fried up in tempura batter, sprinkled with soy sauce, and on top of a bowl of rice.  Tasty.

EEL (Unagi)

This picture is actually when I ate eel at a pretty high-class place.  I actually learned from that experience that the appeal of eel is less in the meat itself, and more in the delicious sauce that they usually lather on it.  So actually I prefer cheap eel with lots of delicious sauce, over abundant eel with less sauce!

MEALS WITH A BOWL OF RICE AND SIDE DISHES

This is a Japanese meal at its most basic; a bowl of rice with or without something on top (here I have a sort of tofu/carrot/konnyaku mix on my rice) as well as some side dishes (here I have a croquet and some cooked spinach).

Oo there’s so much more food I’m going to miss.  Tune in next week for part 2!

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