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.

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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.

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

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.

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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.

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Smile! Cute rabbits everywhere!

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Hello bunny!

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Here are my two favorite rabbits

 

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They now have a few naughty otters too! 

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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.

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)

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

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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.

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

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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

Going around Tokyo: Kagurazaka (神楽坂)

Kagurazaka according to my grandmother was once part of the outer edge of the Edo castle. They were known for their geisha houses and until today you will still see people walking around in their Kimonos around the area, and there are still some houses and geisha houses that remain preserved here since the Edo period. The long slope filled with different Japanese shops are also known to have a lot of French influence as well. The  l’Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo is located near here and because of that there are many French living around the area. If you go up the slope you will notice plenty of french cafes and restaurants. My friend Solene will take me to the best one on Sunday since she says that they serve, and this is according to her “Real french food that you can’t even find in all of france”.

Along with french food, cafes and bakerys, there are also famous Japanese Ryoteis around the different streets. Ryoteis are places where you can eat inexpensive “kaiseki” or Japanese cuisine. On July they have a festival here along Kagurazaka road so if you are visiting Japan on July I believe that it is the best time to go here.

Try getting your omikuji here if you would like. ;)

Try getting your omikuji here if you would like. 😉


Its a very long street! Try walking it from Iidabashi and you will not get bored!

Its a very long street! Try walking it from Iidabashi and you will not get bored!

How to get there: If you would go down at Iidabashi you will soon find Kagurazaka street, you will see a Starbucks at the end of the street and going up hill will be Kagurazaka. Another way would be to use the tozai and toei oedo lines which gets down at Kagurazaka.

What to try: There is this famous Japanese “nikuman” shop called 五十番. I would recommend that you try their original Nikuman. Also after I visit the french restaurant that my friend is recommending here in Kagurazaka I will include it again in my blog. (wink. wink)

The red shop is the nikuman shop!

The red shop is the nikuman shop!


You must try their Nikuman!

You must try their Nikuman!

Watching Ballet shows in Japan

My grandmother was the one who got me hooked into watching Ballets performances here in Japan. In fact I flew all the way from Manila to Japan just to watch the Kirov Ballet and K ballet 3 years ago. The Japanese are such fans of ballet, I have no doubts that  you will love watching ballet shows here in Japan. Coming from the Philippines, I’m used to an unappreciative crowd, of course not all are but there are some. When we dance in Manila we get annoying side comments from some of the audience members and even whistles or people hysterically laughing at the men in tights, calling them gay. You wont here of such thing in Japan.

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Tokyo Bunkakaikan in Ueno

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The pamphlet area where people just pick up shows that they would like to watch and the entrance to the main hall just behind them.

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I go to this gift shop if Im around Ueno because they have all sorts of things that are nice. They sell ballet books, ballet merchandise, music merchandise and all kinds of cute trinkets.

 

The moment the orchestra begins to play I always get this refreshing feeling and I begin to cry (Tears of joy off course). Truly,Everything is beautiful at the ballet. And it is wonderful to experience it with people who know and appreciate what is happening on stage. You would think that they’d be stuck up but, when you hear them talk they really are just big ballet fans. As a dancer I am very appreciative of that. Last night I got to watch the Royal Burmingham Ballet, I am so grateful to my mom and dad for this. The show was beyond real and I got to meet them after the show at the artists entrance.

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This was from Todays show that I watched.

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Iain Mackay, who played Cinderellas Prince

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Elisha Willis who played Cinderella. Her feet are just to die for. I can’t believe that she danced a lot of scenes barefoot.

If you are a big ballet fan, all kinds of famous dancers come to Japan. The last time I watched Kirov and K ballet I was able to meet Maria Alexandrova in person, and I also got to watch Kumakawa Tetsuya. Check the schedules and even if you don’t watch the show come to the artists entrance right after a show and theres a big chance that you’ll get to meet them. (Trust me, I’ve done it several times already) and if you meet Nina Aninashvili this June I will envy you.

Where to buy tickets: In japan they have shows all year round. You can buy them online which is what most of the Japanese do. Since you could get them cheaper if you buy them months before, or you could buy them in Tokyo Bunkakaikan in Ueno. There are many ways to get hold of tickets, there are even shops that sell tickets cheaper for all kinds of show. But i would recommend that you go to Ueno to see what they have showing, they have ballets, orchestra, opera and all kinds. Keep updated and make sure to get all of their posters! If you are a big fan of the arts or even if you aren’t. This has to go on your list of things to experience in Japan. I promise you. You wont regret it! This August they are having another spectacle of different famous dancers! Its worth a go if you have the chance!

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Oh! And they also have a music library on the 4th floor if you are interested. You can listen to all kinds of CDs there for free!

Gaijin Friendly Ballet Classes in Tokyo

© Photo above was taken from Google Images Link here.

If you are looking for quality ballet classes with pointe and or pilates. I would recommend these two ballet studios. I am aware that there are a lot of places that you could try for ballet classes here in Tokyo but based on my Japanese friends recommendations, this is the closest you can get to good and professional training. Not much RAD the training here is closer to Vaganova training, but it still depends on the teacher that you get. My favorite teacher here is Teacher Lesli, try her classes if you get the chance.

1. Studio Architanz, Minato-ku Tokyo 

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Advanced Class, They have different levels you could choose from and their staff knows how to speak in English so you have no problem with communication
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Pianist while dancing, its a really nice feel.

Above is the link to their english website. Very much gaijin friendly, they teach classes in English here and they have great teachers. They offer classical ballet classes, contemporary dance classes, workshops and many other events.

LOCATION: ACCORDING TO THEIR WEBSITE ( I would recommend the first option because it is the easiest way to locate their place ) If in doubt ask people where PORT BOWL is.

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7min walk from JR Tamachi-Station

Tamachi-station Shibaura-exit. Go straight, then turn left at the first traffic light and straight on for approximately 5min. Enter Tokyo Port Bowl building at A-entrance. 4th floor.

7min walk from Subway(Toei-line) Mita-station

Mita-station A6-exit. After exiting, take right and then turn right at the first corner. Go pass the shrine and take the promenade that goes under the JR railway. Go straight, then turn left at the first traffic light and straight on for approximately 2min. Tokyo Port Bowl will be on your left,from A-entrance. 4th floor.

Cost: Yen 3000 per walk in one class, they also have a cheaper option for one month or two months of classes! Most of their information is now available online. Some classes are cheaper for the B classes and the C classes.

2. Maison de ballet, Minami Aoyama

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My class with teacher Mami who is a dancer of the famous ballet company in Tokyo was amazing! Definitely would come back to try her class!

Not as Gaijin friendly as Architanz but their staff can speak a bit of english and you will enjoy this if you are a fan of RAD style of dancing. Also ballet is ballet so you will of course have no problem understanding the exercises. The teachers here are part of one of the most famous ballet companies in Japan, the Asami Maki ballet. I tried Teacher Mami here and she really gave a simple yet complex class.


How to get there: Take the A4 exit from Omotesando station If you can see the star on the Map that is the exit. Head to the left and go straight all the way. On the next main road take another left walk a little further and you will see this building on the right side.

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Cost: ¥ 3100 for a regular CD class but they also have cheaper options for if you want to pay for a lot of classes.