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, they also have a cheaper option for one month or two months of classes!

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Yumikos!

Yumiko Ballet Store: They sell the famous ballet leotards, Yumikos are sold here! In case you want to buy some in Tokyo they are only sold here and in a store called Etoile de ballet. However this is more known to sell Yumikos and you could pre order them which would take 8 weeks.

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.

My favorite ballet store in Tokyo: Chacott, Shibuya

My mom took me here when I was 16 and every since this store has been my ballet heaven. I love Shibuya and its only because my favorite ballet store is here! What don’t they have? Well i can name a few brands although it really won’t matter, because everything you need to find for ballet will be here. I will admit that their leotards are quite pricey, they sell everything from Freeds, Chacott, ABT and other brand names I don’t even know of. Although they don’t sell Yumikos ( Yumikos can be found at the Architanz ballet studio in Mita-Tokyo, there are only two branches of Yumikos in Japan ) You can pre order the Yumikos but it would take 8 weeks.

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Every dancers ballet heaven ❤

Getting back to my point. I love this 7 floor ballet heaven! Only 3 floors are for their products, the 4th floor i think is their costume room and the next few floors would be the studio. I could come here from the time they open till the time they close. The first floor is all leotards, tights, warmers, skirts etc etc. Second floor is yoga wear, shoes, stretching goods, ballet technology things and make up technology. 3rd floor is you ballet shoe heaven and on the side are your sweats, tap shoes and mens wear. Then you can find all the music and ballet CD’s that you want in the basement, which is my favorite place because you can watch all these CD’s for free and listen to the ballet music. You can spend all day in there and no one will complain or send you out. Sigh. Sigh. (Sparkles in my eyes)

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1st floor for all the leotards you can dream of. In all colors too!

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Second floor for make up, ballet shirts and other ballet technology goods and hair accessories.

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3rd floor for ballet shoes, pointe shoes, resin, toe pads, warmers and etc.

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The basement is for ballet CD’s, DVD’s and books. Also keychains, calendars, ballet cases, ballet trinkets.

If cheap ballet goods are what you are looking for this is not the place to go to. A lot of other shops sell goods on discount. Although if convenience is what you are looking for, this ballet shop is definitely the most convenient. They sell a lot of interesting things too that I normally will not find in regular shops such as the resin spray and the pointe shoe hardeners, pointe shoe glues also all kinds of tapes and things for the feet. I could go on and on about this place, but it won’t be fun unless you yourself go and see the place for yourself.

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More of the basement. There is a section where you can listen to CD’s and watch DVDs

Where to find Chacott: Get down at Shibuya Station and exit out the Hachiko gate. Walk towards the famous Shibuya scramble crossing  ( you wont miss it). And go walk straight towards the big street right beside Starbucks. Just walk straight, you will cross two stoplights. Before you cross the second stoplight you will see a giant disney store to the left and across it you will see a green Chacott sign. You won’t miss it!

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If you’re a dancer and you’re in Tokyo, this is a place you must visit!

Around Tokyo: 鬼子母神 手作り (Kishibojin handmade market)

Every second sunday of the month is a craft market in the Kishibojin shrine in Zoshigaya. ( sometimes the day also varies but normally it happens during the second sunday of the month ) There are plenty of people who visit and even from 9am there are tons of people lining up to get into the craft market or to line up for the famous delicious bread that they sell here. The market starts at 9am and ends at 4pm and you can see tons of handmade crafts by locals around the area and you can also enjoy Japanese food while going around to look at the many things being sold.

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Small trinkets like gems and earrings

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Chimes and a famous omanju store behind with a very long line as well

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Handmade stamps! and you can even request them to make her to make stamps for you too!

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Glass made necklaces, brooches and rings

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Ceramics and more people

If you are into crafts heres a place that you would love, although it is a bit pricey. Nothing will be sold below ¥1000 except their postcards and the sort, but everything else will be very pricey even up to ¥20000.

How to get there: The easiest way is to ride the Tokyo Toden, or the streetcar in Tokyo and the only one left in service in Tokyo. Go down Kishibojinmae station and you will see a street full of big trees to the right as soon as you get down. Walk straight ahead as soon as you see this big white and black sign and you will not miss the big temple to the left.

There are so many interesting coffee shops around the area and a famous Melon Pan place, which I love. Since it is more “downtown” of Tokyo, not really but very quiet and one of the oldest towns around Tokyo. There are tons of places that you could visit such as one of the oldest sento (bath house) in Tokyo and the Zoshigaya Bochi (graveyard) where the famous graves of Lafcadio Hearn and Natsume Soseki are.

(皇居, Kōkyo) Walk to the Imperial Palace and around, Tokyo Japan

If you know Tokyo very well it might be fun to try walking around using google maps instead of riding the trains. Yes you can say that trains are more convenient and you can call me crazy, but lately all I have been doing is walking to places. From our place in Shinjuku-ku to the Imperial palace or from here to Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and even all the way to Ueno. For a girl who was raised in a car society (Manila), I really enjoy the amount of walking that I could get done here in Japan. The first three days might be a pain but soon you`ll get used to it too and find that the feeling of walking is so nice.

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I still got to see some of the Sakura flowers around the imperial palace.

So this was probably 4 days ago but I decided to google maps my way to the Imperial Palace which was only 1hour and 4 mins away from our place by walking. Since It would take me about 20 mins by train, I thought why not just walk. It`s just going to be another 40 mins anyway and I had a lot of time on my hands.

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I also got to see Odette of swan lake. There are tons of turtles too.

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In case you want to know when the palace is open here is a schedule. The one on the right is in English.

Watch out though for tourists. I don`t want to generalize the Chinese too much… I don`t hate them but I hate the chinese tourists that I met. They threw trash on the palace grounds, spat on the ground and they even bumped me along the path when there was still space next to us. It was just a little crowded so I just made sure to stay away from the crowds and stick to my own path. It was pretty refreshing. I would encourage everyone to take a walk here or even just to sit down by the palace. There are many people both Japanese, and tourists ( and its nice to people watch, I love to people watch : and not in a stalker kinda way if you know what I mean )

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猫カフェきゃりこ (Calico, Cat Cafe), Shinjuku Tokyo

My grandma and I saw this when we were on the bus on the way to Shinjuku. The building is a little hard to spot and if you can’t read Japanese you won’t really be able to see the sign. It says 猫カフェきゃりこ on its windows. You’ll have to look up the buildings to be able to see the sign.

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This is the ground floor of the building.

The cat cafe itself is located on the 5th floor but the entrance is located on the 6th floor of the building. Maybe you could find it if you google maps it. I know that Japan is filled with many cat cafe`s and its not exactly cheap but a good place to relax with some cats. If you are a cat lover such as myself, not exactly something I would try to do everyday or else ill be broke. It’s ¥1200 per hour and if you want to buy food and drinks its ¥200 for all the drinks and ¥300-500 for the food here. The food you can give to the cats is ¥300, I suggest that you just get this if you want to be able to touch a lot of cats. Since there are a lot of rules on handling their cats.

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The 5th floor where most of the cats are and where you could drink coffee and tea

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Heres another view of the place. Its pretty big and at the time we went there, there were about 30 people.

Good service here and I noticed that their staff could speak english so you won’t have problems here in the cat cafe. I love the style of seating they have and the food choices were good too. My grandma and I just got chai tea and iced coffee, and by the time we got the food snacks the cats were swarming all over us.

The chai tea and iced coffee, ¥200 each

The chai tea and iced coffee, ¥200 each

Sleepy kitty

Sleepy kitty

Another sleepy kitty

Another sleepy kitty

Something you could try if you are along the streets of Shinjuku or if you are staying around Shinjuku. There are many things that you could do around the area so you need not go for to look for something interesting to do. Although it is easy to get lost in Shinjuku train stations so i would suggest that you look up the place first before coming here. Getting on a bus would be the best idea if you would like to come here and get down on Shinjuku Eki Mae. Enjoy!

猫カフェきゃりこ (Calico, Cat Cafe), Shinjuku Tokyo

Check out their website: Calico Cat Cafe