News / City Life

Five things you need to know this week: Sep 25 - Oct 1

Panda goodies in Ueno | Time Out Tokyo

1. Ueno's panda-chan has a name

Yes, the Ueno panda naming saga has finally come to an end. After over three months of waiting, the little cub has been named Xiang Xiang (also Shan Shan, シャンシャン or 香香). Submitted by 5,161 people out of the original 322,581 eligible entries, it was chosen for its easy-to-call sound and fragrant, flowery reference. According to the zoo, the kanji 香 'brings to mind the light image of a blooming flower'. Ain't it pretty.

In case you were wondering, Xiang Xiang/Shan Shan wasn't actually the most-submitted name: that honour goes to Run Run (12,154 times), closely followed by Mei Mei (11,191 times) and then Non Non (7,854 times). We think they made a rather good choice... 

2. 7-Eleven is launching an onigiri vending machine

Just when we thought we didn't need any more vending machines, some bright spark at 7-Eleven decided to put onigiri in a vending machine and thus made all our dreams come true. The catch? You kind of have to live/work in a godforsaken place that - the horror - doesn't have a convenience store nearby.

7-Eleven is set to install them in 500 work locations across the country, such as factories, where there isn't a convenience store on-site or in the vicinity. Besides the coveted onigiri, the vending machines will have cup noodles, sandwiches, and other convenience store foodie essentials. 

Of course, if you live in a less remote area, you'll be able to get your onigiri fix at any odd convenience store (or another convenience store vending machine - apparently some FamilyMart and Lawson-branded ones already exist), but for when you really need that non-human touch when buying your 7/11-branded tuna mayo rice ball, this is truly the way forward.

3. The moon is going to be rather pretty in the next week

It may not feel like it temperature-wise, but autumn is well and truly around the corner. Part of the autumnal fun is staring up at a massive moon, set to reach its fullest point on October 4 this year, in a practice known as tsukimi. Whether you choose to head out to a museum, dine under the open sky or visit an Edo-era mansion out in the woods, the recipe is usually quite familiar: performances of traditional music, seasonal snacks and a whole lot of lunar loonies.

Luckily for us (and the venue's revenue), the looniness is not just limited to that date alone, with many places offering special events or discounts in the week leading up to the full moon. Also, if you miss the full moon, there's always the celebration of the waxing moon, held on November 1 this year. Tsukimi, here we come. 

4. Head to Roppongi for your weekly dose of art

High Touch Town really has been shedding its ultimate sleaziness bit by bit, and has become the go-to art spot in town for some years now. This week will see even more artsy types descend upon the area than usual, with the opening of a massive exhibition on famed pro-wrestler-turned-architect Tadao Ando at the National Art Center, and the 2017 edition of Roppongi Art Night.

For the latter, expect tons of exhibitions, installations and performances featuring leading contributions by the likes of photographer and filmmaker Mika Ninagawa and several southeast Asian artists, including Thai superstar Navin Rawanchaikul. As always, the area's art museums and galleries will stay open until late at night.  

5. Munch on over 150 different types of curry pan

Never underestimate Japan's love for very specific foods. Exhibit A: the yearly Curry Pan Festival at Seibu Ikebukuro, a glutinous extravaganza of curry-filled buns. Top bakeries from all over Tokyo and beyond show off their spicy creations, which include currypan filled with Kobe beef and one fluffy specimen thought up by Joël Robuchon himself, so make sure to go hungry - and early, as the last edition sold out many hours before its official closing time.