EXPLORING TOKYO: Harinezumi Cafe (Hedgehog cafe), Harajuku

Hello Everyone!

This last short trip of mine back home was quite a rush. I wasn’t able to do anything other than watch a ballet, go to the ballet store and to see my good friend Rei in Harajuku. I got to do something quite fun this time, we got to got to the hedgehog cafe and to enjoy the company of these creatures.

Harajuku is quite known for its strange cafes, they have a bunch of owl and otter cafes around the Takeshita dori area. If you walk around I am sure you will always find something to do here. Harajuku is a place that is quite alive and an escape for a lot of young people, like myself (haha). Kidding aside, I decided to turn this into a VLOG instead to explain better and show more about the cafe.

Leaving you the link to the cafe here, in case you are interested in such Cafes. HARRY Harajuku

Till next time!
さようなら〜!

Getting around Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market

For the 25 years I have been going back and forth and or living in Japan, i have never been to the Tsukiji fish market until this trip. My boyfriend initially wanted to go here early morning to see the auctioning of the fish. As we all know, the Tsukiji fish market will not be here anymore by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as they are building something there for the Olympics. If you live in Japan orare planning to come here anytime soon, i think it is about time that you come to the fish market just to see the varieties of fish they are selling or just to eat some good sushi.

You will see a large array of things to taste and to eat, it kind of reminds me of Asakusa, The Japanese have that talent of making their culture into some kind of an attraction without losing their own culture. Unlike in certain countries where you visit tourist spots and you wouldn’t really feel like you were in their country, Japanese tourists spots are very much supported by not only the tourists but also by the locals as well.

Where and what did we eat? 

We didn’t wait so long, we ate at the oldest restaurant there in Tsukiji, which is called Tsukiji Sushisei Honten (築地寿司清 本店)You can probably just head on the Information centre to ask them for a map of the restaurant. The restaurant was opened in 1889, long before the actual Tsukiji fish market was opened in 1935. I followed this long list of suggested places to eat on this website PIC CRUMB (link click here) we decided though in the end to follow the suggestion of the information centre to eat at this restaurant. I read a lot of good reviews on this place AFTER eating here, so I assume it is also one of the best.

I also saw a lot of people eating tamagoyaki on the streets and sushi, but personally I would not suggest eating at those small places. As I have heard a lot of comments about disappointments on the small size of the sushi or the quality wasn’t so special. If you are a very particular eater you should just stick to the good restaurants.

14958308_10210988815947279_1427724818_n

This was the chefs special which cost, 3500 Yen, a bit pricey for sushi but it was really good. It was the first time I tasted anything so good, I mean I’ve been eating good sushi for years but this was really good.

What time should you go there? 

If you want to see the auction happen we were told that we should have been there by 5am or even before that, I guess if you are willing to wake up as early as that then by all means I am sure it would be a great experience. (take note that trains don’t open till 5am) If not I would suggest you would go on an off time, we were there at around 9:30am and it was perfect because there weren’t a lot of people. By the time we got out of the restaurant there was a long line outside of the restaurant to eat there.

What will you see? 

You will see a lot of fish of course, and a lot of food, if you love food you will definitely love this place. All kinds of sushi and fish everywhere. My obaachan (grandmother) particularly loved the Ichigo daifuku with an ichigo on top. Ichigo is Strawberry in Japanese, so inside the Strawberry filled mocha ball is a strawberry on top. There are a lot of things to explore around the area. It is a short walk from Tsukiji station, make sure you get out of the Tsukiji fish market gate to avoid any confusion of where to walk.

14958851_10210989060553394_1108207772_n

Here is a picture of the Ichiko ga nokatteru Ichigo daifuku, it was my first time to see and eat this here at Tsukiji

Side trips from Tokyo: Fuji Kawaguchiko

Lake Kawaguchiko is located right at the base of Mt. Fuji, and of all the five lakes around Mt. Fuji it seems to be the most accessible. Mt. Fuji seems to be most visible around the morning so if you are planning to climb the mountain or climb from the 5th base you should go take the earliest bus up the mountain and start your ascent early before noon hits. Just as seen in our picture, we got a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji from inside the forest path, of which I will talk about some more in a while.

How to get to Kawaguchiko:

You have the option of taking the train or the bus. We opted to take the bus because, taking the train would take 1 hour and 30 mins with 1 exchange in between. But riding the bus would only take 1 hour and 45 mins with no stops. Which was not inconvenient at all, also much cheaper than taking the train. One way by bus from Shinjuku station, the new bus station located across the SOUTH EXIT of Shinjuku JR line only costs 1786 Yen, one way price.

Going back you just take the same route back to Shinjuku.

Should you stay overnight: 

There are many small inns, hotels and guest houses around the lake and I would suggest you take one day before to go sightseeing around the lake and go check out early in the morning to go up Mt. Fuji before 9am after breakfast or before going into the Onsen. I would suggest getting a place with an Onsen, going to Japan if you are a foreigner I think would be nice if you would try an Onsen for once in your life, my boyfriend tried it for the first time and loved it.

Kawaguchiko Station is surprisingly right next to FUJI Q Highlands, if you are a fan of amusement parks you could try heading over to Fuji Q, or add in an extra day just to do that too.

What do you see around Kawaguchiko: 

Kawaguchiko offers a lot of sightseeing, and they have a free tour bus that goes around the lake every 15 mins from every bus station. The bus stations are very close to each other so you can enjoy the different places and views from around the lake. I would personally recommend going to the music forest museum which was also recommended for us to go to by the hotel staff. They also recommended the ropeway and they gave us a discount coupon, if maybe you want to see the view of Kawaguchiko but do not plan to go up Mt. Fuji you should try the ropeway.

How to get up to 5th station of Mt. Fuji, and what you can do there. 

From Kawaguchiko station, take the earliest bus up to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji which is around 8:50am (The bus leaves every hour after that), To get a nice view go up the 3rd floor where there are no tourists and wait for a nice view of Mt. Fuji. You can also send postcards from Mt. Fuji, its one of the only places with a post office on top of a mountain other than everest.

There is also an option to climb or hike up to the 6th station if the weather is good, but there is a secret path that not many know on the 5th station, it is the hike around the middle of the 5th section, you will see a forest path right next to the bus station which is right beside the secluded souvenir shop on the other side of the tourist trap side where all the tourists are taking pictures. On the right side of the bus station, go up the steps and you can walk around the mountain where you will see scenic views of the mountain far more beautiful than from the actual 5th station.

If you continue walking that path you will reach the 4th station, if you are unsure of the route go to the information before going to the path and let them give you a small map to guide you.

14910441_10210940080728929_4026811668337935245_n.jpg

Coming early definitely had its advantages, we were able to see a clear view of Mt. Fuji and we really were so lucky. 

14721539_10210944299274390_8066698435008787015_n.jpg

From the path we were able to climb through this beautiful forest path of which i will never forget, the beautiful autumn leaves were perfect and the volcanic rock path. 

Things you have to eat:

Hoto is a famous delicacy there, flat noodles is what they call it and the Yoshida udon, which is made from the water from Mt. Fuji so they say. There are plenty of different stops around Kawaguchiko where you could give them a try.

If I was able to stay longer around Kawaguchiko, i would have liked to also try going to their vineyards and other farms where you can pick strawberries, persimmons, grapes and other fruits depending on the season. If you have time to look through the places around the area with the Information station at Kawaguchiko I would suggest that you spend a good one hour with the information planning your trip for the next few days, they are very accommodating and speak very good english. Hope that this will help you plan your next trip out of Tokyo! Enjoy Japan. ❤

Mori no Atorie 森のアトリエ, Kumamoto Japan

My mom found this place on Booking.com when we were planning our trip to Aso in Japan, after driving around Beppu, It took us about another 2 hour drive over beautiful landscapes to reach this very romantic and beautiful destination. I don’t think that there is any place quite like it. The hotel owner is a very big fan of stars and his french themed cottage even has a planetarium and an observatory. We were lucky that we were able to see so many stars that night even with the cloudy day.

We spent New Years eve here and we even had a countdown with all the guests of the hotel. This would be the perfect place for couples because the place is so romantic. Also for families who are looking for a quiet getaway out of the city. Its not very accessible unless you have a car. Everyone who comes here brought their own car, we just rented one out.

If you search it on trip advisor, you’ll hear nothing but “Charming” and “Rustic” about the place. They really made our stay there memorable. They even gave us a souvenir and they had photographers taking pictures of us which they posted up on their Facebook page. I really had an amazing time there despite the really cold weather. Next time you travel to Aso or Kumamoto this should be on your list, they also have an onsen that you could use and schedule. Its really on a very nice location and we had amazing memories here in Mori no Atorie.

1888761_912720178824252_5675711591360230187_n

Picture credits to: Mori no Atorie Facebook page. Exactly 12 midnight after the countdown.

別府市、大分:Side trips from Tokyo: Beppu Oita

Beppu is located in Oita prefecture in the small island of Kyushu. It was an hour and 30 minute airplane ride from Tokyo. Beppu is known for its Onsen (hot springs) this is a great place to visit if you are a gaijin (foreigner) and you are a fan of onsens. It is also home to the first ever natural hot spring in Japan.

They have here what they call the 8 Jigoku (地獄) of Beppu (The 8 hells of Beppu), “Hell” because the 8 famous Onsen are so hot that they can melt your skin if you even touch the water. My Obaachan (grandmother) was saying maybe they call it “hell” because in the past they probably used to punish the bad people by dropping them into the Onsen. (Of course this is just another one of Obaachans theories)

海地獄 (Umi Jigoku) One of the most beautiful hells. Which is the only hell that was visited by the Emperor of Japan.

 

Yama Jigoku, Where you can view animals like the capybara in the Onsen.

 

We saw some capybara swimming in the Onsen too. The 8 different Onsen are all the same just different in color. Some are white, some are blue and clear. There was also a red Onsen, each coming with its own explanation. The most famous Onsen was the last one we went to which was the Umi Jigoku (海地獄) Which is famous because it is said to be the most beautiful Jigoku (hell), and the only Jigoku that the emperor visited in his stay here.

Oniishibouzu Jigoku, Because of its mud pools. You can try their mud pools here for an amount. This place is where you can try drinking their water.

Shiraike Jigoku

 

Tatsumaki Jigoku, Which is the sprout of hell. Every 40 minutes the water from underground goes over 100 degrees celsius and spouts water for 6-10 minutes from underground.

Chinoike jigoku, spout from hell. The color of the Onsen here is red. Hence the term “chinoike jigoku” Chi meaning blood.

 

How to get here from Tokyo: Take a plane from Haneda airport to Oita

How to get around Oita: We opted to rent a car, so I got my international drivers license before coming to Japan.  The rent a car people have a shuttle from the airport and they will teach you how to use the navigation machine to get around the 8 hells of Beppu.

We recommend that you work from the nearest Onsen working your way to the top. Then you can choose to stay in the famous hotel chain the famous Suginoi hotel. Where there you can relax in their famous Onsen and enjoy their food.

What is in Suginoi Hotel? 

Onsen onsen and more onsen. The food here is in buffet style with an option of Washoku and Yoshoku. (Traditional Japanese food and Western food) the place is famous for its Onsen on their 5th floor terrace which overlooks the city. People come here early in the morning to take a dip out in the terrace while watching the sunrise. Now thats one for your bucket list. 

 ✔ Watching the sunrise naked on a terrace with other naked people in weather thats about 7°C

Heres my first time driving on the left hand side of the car and side of the road.

 

 We’re off to our next destination from Beppu!

Places around tokyo: Nippori textile street

I read about the Nippori textile district in a magazine earlier today, I could not wait to go to the place.

How to get there: Take the JR line to Nippori station and get out of the south exit. Afterwards take a right towards the Gasto ( ガスト)Italian fast food restaurant and go down the bridge. Head straight and you will see signs that say (Textile street) all around the corners.

 

The textile street is about a 1 kilometer long street filled with all kinds of discounted fabric and textiles. They even sell different pre made patterns for making your own things and rolls of all kinds of straps, garters, spools of thread and all kinds of fabric mostly made in Japan and some imported from the US and Korea.

  

This is my favourite store. Its called TOMATO and its 6 floors of Japanese fabric and EVERYTHING a person who loves to sew wants to find is here. I would suggest that you come prepared to shop, its quite overwhelming to see all the fabric. So get ready with what you need to look for so that it would be easier for you to decide.  A lot of the textiles were also discounted and sold for about 100 Yen per meter. Quite cheap for really good quality cotton fabric. This is a place every textile lover must visit in Tokyo! Forget Yuzawaya, this place is where you buy things discounted in Tokyo.

TEXTILE HEAVEN! ❤ 

 

Places around Tokyo: Harajuku station

My favorite place in Tokyo has always been Shibuya. Today however i have found a new love for Harajuku. Coming to Tokyo every year, I have seen the changes that go on per station. Harajuku is usually where you catch the new trends in Fashion or Cosplay. Today there was an insane amount of people along Takeshita dori, the famous street in Harajuku.

  

We found this new place that makes giant cotton candy, I did not even see this last June when I was here. Usually takeshita dori is known for its good tasting crepes and the shawarma place near Forever 21 and H&M. Also its cheap and trendy clothes and shoes. If you like socks and tights this is the place to get the nice but very affordable tights made in Japan (not China).

 

I really wanted to take my brother here since it was his first time, then we had some food at Yoyogi park which is not far from Harajuku. It is just beside the JR Harajuku station exit. If you want some time to walk and relax the park is a good place to go to. A good change of scenery from the very busy shopping outlets, long lines and sales along Harajuku.

 

Its been so long since I’ve blogged since I’ve been very busy and Im glad to be doing this again and finally getting some time off.

UPDATED: MIMI ウサギカフェ〜 (Rabbit and Otter Cafe, Ikebukuro)

UPDATED BLOG:

This cafe is probably my most オススメ (recommended) of all of the animal cafes that I have been to. Rabbits unlike dogs, cats, birds, penguins and owls are quite different. With the very few people coming here it is the perfect cafe to go to, and I would prefer it over cat and dog cafes anytime. NEW UPDATE: The location has now changed to B1 level of the building instead of the top floor. Rates have also increased by 100Yen since the last time I was here last March 2018.

IMG_3082

Here is the cafes sign on the 8th floor of the building. You will have to knock.

This is how the front of the building looks like in case you get lost just look for Dennys on Sunshine Dori.

This is how the front of the building looks like in case you get lost just look for Dennys on Sunshine Dori.

IMG_3108

Smile! Cute rabbits everywhere!

IMG_3129

Hello bunny!

IMG_3143

Here are my two favorite rabbits

 

IMG_1776

They now have a few naughty otters too! 

IMG_1808

 

The place is really small and cute and you will get your moneys worth. The staff are really friendly here too although they do not really speak English, they will try. They keep most of their rabbits in the cage and they separate the older ones with the younger ones to avoid any fighting. Then they let the rabbits take turns, so they set out about 10 rabbits and then during the afternoon they will change the set of rabbits. They have about 30 rabbits in the place according to them.

Location: If you know Sunshine Dori along Ikebukuro with the Milky Way cafe on the corner. You just have to walk straight ahead and look for Dennys to your right, after you pass Dennys you will see a building with a sign with Rabbits. The Usagi Cafe is now at B1 level and not the 8th floor.

Price: The rate is ¥900 for 30 mins and ¥1300 for 60 mins which comes with a drink already for weekdays. For weekends it is the same rate except for 60 mins it will be ¥1400.

いけふくろカフェー (Ikefukuro Cafe), Ikebukuro

Japan is known to have the weirdest cafes, Ive been to a cat, dog, penguin, rabbit and reptile cafe and so far this is the first time that I actually encountered a Fukuro (Owl) cafe while walking around Tokyo. We were not able to make a reservation earlier so we just went there to make a later reservation. I have heard of many other owl cafes around Tokyo but this one was the most convenient to go to after class and we wanted to go to the famous bookstore across the building of where the owl cafe is.

Location: If you are familiar with the giant Karaoke place in Ikebukuro right beside Jukudo Bookstore, the really big one. It looks like the picture below and it is located on the 6th floor of the building. There is a soba store downstairs where tons of people line up so you will not miss it. If you also know where Mujirushi (MUJI) is then you just walk straight ahead until the stoplight and it is the building to the right.

DSCF7277

Here is the bottom of the building.

DSCF7278

This is the building. The one to the left of the building where Matsumoto Kiyoshi is

I really felt bad for the owls because when I asked them about how old they were. They told me that they were only about 3 months (was the youngest)  to 2 years old (was the oldest). And they do not get to go out of the cafe EVER, they stay there all day and night and the windows and curtains are shut as they are tied to their posts. Of course it was nice to see an owl but I did not like the idea that I supported such cafe to keep them in such a small area. I understand that they are treated well and fed well but I wish they could be set free after a certain period.

DSCF7299

Suspicious face

DSCF7328

some pretty owls

DSCF7319

You can ask them to help you so you could touch the owls.

Price: The price is ¥1400 an hour which comes with a free drink. For alcoholic drinks and soft drinks is ¥1500.

I would not come back to the cafe again, to be honest I really felt bad even just to blog about this since I felt like it was as if I was supporting animal cruelty. I wish that the owls could be given a place to stay where they could fly as it is very far from their natural habitat. Unlike cat and dog cafes where they are used to being domesticated and take turns everyday in entertaining us humans. Owls i think are quite different since they are not really kept as pets (right?) well I guess it would be nice to try once, but i would not try it twice.

ル ブルターニュ(LE BRETAGNE), Kagurazaka

I finally had the chance to go to Le Bretagne with my friend Solene. I was so excited to try this place with her because of course it is very rare for me to actually be going out in Japan of all places with a French girl to an authentic French restaurant.  I would not have even expected to know where the restaurant was if not for her because it is very well hidden between one of the small side streets along Kagurazaka. She can vouch for its authenticity as she was telling me the whole time that this is the real french food that you can only find around her province in Bretagne (ブルターニュ).  They also have other branches around Tokyo but she also tells me that this is probably her favorite branch because of the ambiance of the place.  (They have many branches of the place around France and soon in New york too check out their website)

DSCF7257

Here is the view from the outside. It is open area and very cozy just like around France as Solene tells me.

DSCF7263

You will see many paintings and postcards inside. It was very crowded today but you will feel right at home as soon as you walk in.

 

The main thing that they serve here are Galettes and she tells me that it is really simple and cheap food in france but I guess its a bit overpriced in Japan. I will not really complain though about the price since where can you really get a taste of real Galettes in Japan? I also had a taste of their Cider, and I bought a bottle to take home after since Solene taught me where I could buy the Cider. (My grandmother loved it)

How can something as simple taste so good? I guess the secret is in the chef and the owner of the restaurant. He is an actual french from the same region my friend comes from, and is now living in Japan. I was also very impressed with the service and ambiance the restaurant offered. The staff of the restaurant are required to speak in French with each other regardless of the fact that they are Japanese. So it was really interesting because you would hear a lot of French around the Kitchen as you are eating. The servers can also speak in Japanese of course and some can speak in English, it was really refreshing.

11303472_10206756575663917_1652035113_n

Galette: Bretonne ( ブレトンヌ)Mushrooms, Bacon, Scrambled egg, cheese, fresh cream from Hokkaido, Espelette pepper

DSCF7262

Quimperoise(カンペロワーズ)Homemade stewed apples, salted butter caramel and vanilla ice cream.

I cannot wait to take a lot more friends here to the restaurant. Also my grandmother and I are planning to reserve for lunch at the restaurant this week. It gets pretty crowded around the weekend so it is best to make a reservation before you come here. I am sure that you will not regret coming, and if you don’t like the French Galettes you have the option to choose their other Galettes which were adjusted to the Japanese taste. Otherwise I will recommend these that my Solene recommended to try since she tells me that these are the usual Galettes that they have in her hometown.

Recommendations by Solene: For the Galletes she recommends the Bretonne ( ブレトンヌ)and the Broceliande(ブロッセリアンド)and for the dessert Crepes with ice cream she recommends the Quimperoise(カンペロワーズ)and of course do not forget to drink their Cider! They have alcoholic and non alcoholic ones.

Where to find the store: If you are familiar with Kagurazaka you will know that there is a red temple somewhere there. Right in front of the temple and a little to the right is an udon store (うどん) There is a street there, and if you walk straight inside till the end you will see it to the left. You will not miss it for sure. Here is their website in case you want to take an early reservation because they get crowded during the weekend: Kagurazaka, Le Bretagne