Cream Puffs and Noodle Nuts

Japan, Part V

Three wonderful things among the many purchased, tasted or seen during our trip.

1. Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs

On my first visit to Japan twenty years ago we visited Himeji, a town south of Osaka with a single claim to fame: its perfect castle, the “White Heron”, the best-preserved in the country. It was a clear day, and the castle’s gleaming white walls still shine in my memory. Besides that, I remember one other thing about Himeji: buying the best cream puff I’d ever tasted from a small pastry stand—light, delicate, and filled with delicious vanilla custard.

Beard Papa

I didn’t expect to find the same choux twice, but in the food hall of Tokyo Station before boarding the Shinkansen for Kyoto more or less did. The name was what attracted me: Beard Papa’s Fresh ’n Natural Cream Puffs. Not just any cream puff, but a fresh ’n natural one. Then there was the cartoon of Beard Papa. The company reckons he’s modelled on Santa Claus, but he’s obviously modelled on the original bearded Papa, the one who was anything but a cream puff. Doesn’t that bobble hat remind you of The Old Man and the Sea?

Then there was the service. The girl at the counter assembled each puff by hand, plucking a fresh warm choux from the tray, swiftly filling it with sweet, sweet custard, dusting it with icing sugar, and laying it carefully in its cardboard box. Over here I’d expect to see them preassembled and lying in a soggy pile where they’d been sitting for four hours. I ordered two, one for now and one for immediately after now. Lucky for me that Jane doesn’t like custard. Complementarity is a beautiful thing.

Beard Papa’s has now expanded across East Asia and even to America. Huh. When is Europe going to develop enough of a Japan fixation to justify getting a few over here? In Gauguin’s day there would have been dozens of these scattered around Paris. Though come to think of it, the French already have choux pastry... okay, what I mean is why aren’t there any over here in my street?

2. Walrus Panda Nuts

Walrus Panda

There isn’t a word of English anywhere on the packet, so I have no idea if these are actually called Walrus Panda Nuts. I suspect not; they’re probably Happy Drink Noodle Nuts or something like that. But those are clearly walrus pandas—maybe even genetically-modified walrus panda humanoids, with those arms and lips and steins of beer. Anyway, that cartoon is why this counts as a Wonderful Thing. The noodle nuts themselves? They were fine. Salty, noodly, nutty... fishy.

3. Nekonyanbou Cat Scratchers

Cat Scratchers

Jane found these and had to have one. And why not, when they have so many uses:

  1. Bending the arm by squeezing the small lever so that the claws extend;
  2. Scratching yourself with the extended claws;
  3. Impersonating a cat by hiding behind a couch and poking the arm out from it;
  4. Scratching somebody else with the extended claws;
  5. Waving goodbye to loved ones by squeezing and releasing the lever;
  6. Scratching some phat beats on vinyl with the extended claws.

The instruction label has the basics. But even better is the website, where you can see the different models (ginger tom, black cat, tabby) and flip through cartoon galleries showing the many possible uses for disembodied cat arms.

Best of all was that these were advertised in the store as “Adult Toys”.

  1. Scratching your loved ones with the extended claws on their...

18 July 2006 · Travel

The Nekonyanbou is apparently a re-release of a toy from twenty years ago that sold over a million:

Added by Rory on 20 July 2006.

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