Japan

Highway Bus from Tokyo Shinjuku to Lake Kawaguchi and Fuji-Q Highland

Highway Buses in Japan are a cheaper alternative to taking trains and if the travelling time to get to your destination is almost similar for both rail and bus, I will choose the latter as you can save quite a fair bit of money.

In this instance, the highway bus ticket from Shinjuku to Fuji-Q Highland or Lake Kawaguchi costs ¥1750 as at the date of this post, but taking the train will cost between ¥2080 to ¥4650 depending on which trains you are taking (i.e. fast/slow, reserved/non-reserved seating) and the number of times you’ll need to change trains. Do note that the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on these highway buses and you’ll need to buy a separate ticket. If you have already purchased a Japan Rail Pass, then it’s a no-brainer to take the JR trains to maximise your pass.

Both the Fujikyu and Keio Buses operate one to two direct buses per hour from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station (Keio Highway Bus Terminal) to Kawaguchiko Station in the Fuji Five Lakes region. The one-way journey takes close to two hours and most buses will stop at Fuji-Q Highland before arriving at Kawaguchiko Station.

Reservations are required for the Highway Buses and this can be done on-site at the bus terminal, by phone or online.

Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway Bus Reservation Center: 0555-73-8181
Keio Highway Bus Reservation Center: 03-5376-2222

For online reservations, click here (in Japanese only).

If you need help to search for the route「新宿~富士五湖線」, click here where I have already entered the search criteria to board from the bus terminal in Shinjuku.

More information:

Locating the Keio Highway Bus Terminal「新宿高速バスターミナル」- it is opposite Yodobashi Camera on this map.

This is how the street looks by day…

…and by night:

Try and collect your tickets at least one day before your date of departure, so that you don’t have to rush on the actual day (in case there is a long queue) and also to familiarise yourself with how to get there. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to get lost navigating the streets to locate the bus terminal on your departure day and miss the bus!

Collection of bus tickets for departures on the next day and beyond can be done at the 2nd floor of the bus terminal building. Look for this door:

When you get to the ticket office, please take a number and wait for your turn.

On the day of your departure, look out for the correct bus bay for your destination. The bus departure times and their destinations will be displayed on the digital signboards.

Lastly, to ensure that you have boarded the correct bus, the destination will also be displayed on the TV screen located at the front of the bus.

For those planning to visit Fuji-Q Highland, you will alight at the Highland Bus Station「富士急ハイランド」. This is located on the left of the parking area at the Highland Resort Hotel & Spa, which is near one of Fuji-Q Highland’s entrances.
[Map]

Those who want to explore the Lake Kawaguchi area should alight at Kawaguchiko Station「河口湖駅」.
[Map]

If the weather is clear, you should be able to see Mount Fuji behind the train station building. Unfortunately if it is a rainy day, the mountain will be totally hidden in the clouds. The picture above was taken in the early afternoon and on a somewhat rainy day. Usually the clouds will start to descend from mid-morning onwards, so the best time to take good pictures of Mount Fuji without much cloud cover would be in the early morning.

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Categories: Fujiyoshida (富士吉田), Japan, Kawaguchiko (河口湖), Tokyo (東京) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Kuju Flower Park「久住花公園」

I love seeing big open fields full of flowers and I was glad that I had the opportunity to visit Kuju Flower Park「久住花公園」, which is located at the southern base of the Kuju Mountains and has about three million plants of more than 500 different varieties. Different flowers bloom during the different seasons during most of the year, except in winter. Do check the flowering schedule on the park’s website before your visit, so that you’ll know what you can expect to see there.

Entrance to Kuju Flower Park.

I just had to take that customary photo by posing at the “official photo spot”! LOL!!

Unfortunately it was a rainy day during my visit and the skies were rather foggy. However, I felt that it gave a “mysterious” feel to my pictures.

Here’s one of me getting lost in the sea of flowers.

Ahhh…the patches of purple and white were such a lovely sight to behold….

Making my way around the park, I came across a field of Marigolds.

Here’s another one of me trying to “blend in” with the flowers again! Haha…

As the various species of flowers take turns to bloom, do note that some may not be in full bloom during your visit, but you can imagine how lovely the scene will be when the flowers are all out.

We then found a different section of the park with lots of colourful flowers. Unfortunately the names of the flowers were all displayed in Japanese, so I didn’t know what their names were in English.

I then visited the Rose Garden, but wasn’t sure if the season for roses was already over.

Thankfully there were still some roses in bloom and I managed to see them!

There are also quite a few side paths where you can stroll along and admire the different views at the park.

Found a little pond surrounded by some autumn colours. If you look carefully, you can spot some ducks at the far end.

Duck feed is available for purchase and you can buy some to feed the ducks. They will come swimming towards you if they know that you have food for them!

Families with young children may want to note that there is a playground in the park, in case your kids aren’t interested in admiring the flowers.

If all that walking about has made you famished, there is a buffet restaurant No No Yasai「野のやさい」, which is located at the second floor of this building.

There is also a gift shop on the ground floor and I stumbled upon Mr Bear seated at the cafe next door but he looked rather sad, so I was trying to cheer him up!

Anyway, I went upstairs for my meal and here are some pictures of the buffet spread…

There’s even a separate section with a lady preparing tempura so that they are freshly fried when you go over to get some (yes, it’s also part of the buffet spread).

The dessert and beverage section.

Here’s my pick from the buffet spread! ^_^

Before leaving this flower park, you may want to stop by the Rose de Mal shop to purchase some dried flowers.

Souvenir ink stamps found at the park:


Address:

Kuju Flower Park「久住花公園」
4050 Oaza Kuju, Kuju-machi, Taketa, Oita, Kyushu, Japan.
[Map]

Opening Hours: 8:30 to 17:30
Closed December to February. Check their website for their latest updates.

Admission Fees:
Adults ¥1,300
Senior Citizens (70 years and above) ¥1,100
Children (5-12 years) ¥500

Getting There:
Kuju Flower Park is located about 10km off the Yamanami Highway which leads through the Kuju Mountains. It is difficult to reach there by public transport. The closest train station is Bungo-Taketa Station and it takes about 30min to get there by taxi (about ¥5,500). A cheaper alternative is to take a bus bound for Nagayu Onsen from the train station to Kuju-machi (¥510, 25 minutes), then take a taxi to the park (about ¥2000).

Categories: Japan, Kyushu (九州), Oita Prefecture (大分県), Taketa City (竹田市), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring DRUM TAO’s Home Base “Grandioso”, ending with a Private Performance!

After watching Drum TAO’S performance at Okajo Castle the night before, we had the opportunity to visit them at their home base “Grandioso” 「TAOの里」 the next morning!

Yet again it was a rainy day and just before arriving at our destination, we were told that they would be putting up a special performance for us, with some acts that they originally wanted to perform at the castle site but couldn’t because of the rain. The drums are extremely sensitive to humidity and will be damaged if they get wet!

Upon arrival, we took in the view of the wide open space and the fresh air at this place which is located in the Aso Kuju National Park.

We were then taken on a brief tour of the grounds. (yes, I was posing for this photo in the rain!)

Main Studio

2nd Studio

The juniors’ lodgings are located behind the 2nd Studio.

Seniors’ lodgings are at the top of the slope, with another building which houses an onsen.

We learnt that Drum Tao has their training sessions from 5am-8am daily and a lot of hard work goes into their practice sessions! New apprentices have to be mentally prepared for a tough time during their initial 1-2 years there and some who cannot make the cut will be asked to leave. Perhaps some of the newbies may try to run away if they personally feel that they cannot endure the rigorous training, but as this location is in a rather remote area, it’s quite difficult for anyone to simply “run away” as it is an extremely long walk to get to the main road and public transportation is scarce in these parts!  Haha…it sounded very much like being stuck at some Chinese martial arts school hidden in the secluded mountains!

Finally, we were ushered into the Main Studio and there were several drums in the hall. We were thrilled to be at this venue and started taking pictures whilst waiting for the performance to start.

I caught a glimpse of some members of the cast waiting backstage! Ooh…the anticipation started to build at this point!

As we weren’t allowed to photograph or videotape the performance, here are some pictures from WilzWorkz, who was there on an official blogger invite (I was there as a “contest winner” and “tour tester”, so I could sit back and enjoy the show!)

There were some round straw cushions on the floor as well as proper chairs and we were told that you will get a better experience if seated on the floor (i.e. front row). We soon understood what they meant as when the drums were being hit, you can feel the vibrations ripple across the entire floor and it amplified the innermost heartbeat of the drums! I was content sitting on a chair at the back row as at such close proximity, the sound was quite loud! The vibrations could still be felt where I was seated and also in clear view were the facial expressions of the performers and we could even see the sweat glistening on the well-toned bodies of the men!!

This private show beautifully showcased the drums incorporating dance, flags and various other instruments.

They play the Koto too!

Dance segment:

Performing with Flags:

This next pose is a good exercise for your stomach muscles! A senior was being “mean” and made them hold this pose for several minutes and some of them were grimacing and a few started shaking a little.

There was a merchandise corner in the room and various Drum Tao merchandise were being sold, some of which are exclusive to Japan only.

I bought a DVD…

…but due to time constraints, we only managed to get one autograph.

At this venue, we definitely had much better seats than the ones we had the previous night at Okajo Castle! I mean – how often do you get a chance to be at such close proximity to the performers? We even had an opportunity to take a group photo with them!

Wow and Double Wow!!… It’s definitely an experience that I will cherish for a lifetime!

Categories: Japan, Kyushu (九州), Oita Prefecture (大分県), Taketa City (竹田市), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DRUM TAO Premium LIVE at Okajo Castle「岡城 プレミアムLIVE」

Okajo Castle Premium LIVE「岡城 プレミアムLIVE」 was a project by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee, to measure Olympic and Paralympic basic policy promotion.

This was a special outdoor performance by Drum Tao at the Oka Castle Ruins, also known as Oka Castle or Okajo Castle (actually “jo” itself means “castle” in Japanese but somehow the typical English translations for places tend to have the same words repeated twice!).

Even though Okajo Castle is now in ruins, it still retains a special charm and is a popular spot to visit to see cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.

Tickets for the show can’t be purchased and Drum Tao had invited the public to apply for tickets to the event. There were a total of over 6000 applications but only 900 people successfully obtained the tickets.

This was my pass to the event and I made sure that I held on to it tightly!

Unfortunately, on that day the sky was merciless and brought forth heavy showers. However, Drum Tao had assured on their Facebook page that rain or shine, the show would still go on. They had even setup a tent on the stage during the day, in the event that the sky didn’t let up that evening.

We had to walk uphill to the main castle site where the performance was being held and this path can be quite slippery and muddy when it is wet.

Daylight was soon fading and the atmosphere at this location was starting to head toward the mysterious…

We were told there would be 2 stages at this venue and we were then systematically ushered by groups to the first stage at the castle’s turret, where we were allowed to use our cameras.

The drum beats brightened up the atmosphere and it felt as though they were welcoming us to this place.

Here’s a look at what took place whilst we were all standing in the rain at about 5:10pm. (Can you spot me? Haha…)




Watch the video of the performance:

After this brief segment, we were then ushered towards the main stage at the Honmaru「本丸」, which is the palace in the inner-most circle of defense, but were told that both photography and videography weren’t allowed here, unless you are from the official media.

Rain rain go away… unfortunately, it continued to pour whilst we took our seats!

The use of umbrellas wasn’t allowed as they would obstruct the view of those seated around you, thus everyone was expected to wear raincoats and watch the show in the rain!

A bit of trivia……. Okajo Castle is well known as the location for the famous Japanese song Kōjō no Tsuki「荒城の月」, which was composed by Rentarō Taki「滝 廉太郎」in 1901. The name of the song literally translates to “The Moon over the Ruined Castle”. I still remember this to be one of the first songs taught to me by my guitar instructor some 20+ years ago!

The music of this song was inspired by the ruins of Okajo Castle and its lyrics, written by Bansui Doi, were inspired by the ruins of Aoba Castle and Aizuwakamatsu Castle.

It was truly a befitting tribute to the venue that the show opened to the haunting strains of the flute playing Kōjō no Tsuki「荒城の月」. Forget the heavy rain, soggy ground and wet clothes – although it was too cloudy to be able to see the moon, the audience were mesmerized as it was an extremely beautiful and magical moment!

Here’s some excerpts from the show at the main stage (posted by Taketa City):

Curtain call:

Although the rain didn’t relent, our spirits were not dampened and judging from the response from the audience, everyone had a great time as the performance was amazing and all the members of Drum Tao were so talented! I was also extremely impressed with their sound system as everything sounded perfect even though this was an outdoor venue! Well done Drum Tao!!

(We also paid a visit to Drum Tao’s home base the next day <- click to find out more)

Categories: Japan, Kyushu (九州), Oita Prefecture (大分県), Taketa City (竹田市), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dining at Ippudo’s original branch in Fukuoka「一風堂 大名本店」

Many famous ramen shops started their business in Kyushu and there are noodle shops aplenty when you walk down the streets in Fukuoka. I like Ippudo’s ramen and thus went to track down its original shop at the Tenjin area in Fukuoka!

Using Google maps to help me navigate through the confusing city streets (it was raining too!), I finally managed to locate the original branch of Ippudo! This was where its chain of restaurants first started!

There are only 24 seats in this restaurant and you may need to queue if you arrive at the popular meal timings.

They have a special set at lunchtime where you can add ¥100 on top of your noodle order, to get a plate of gyoza and a bowl of rice.

There are several soup flavours which diners can choose from.

Don’t worry if you don’t read Japanese as there are English, Chinese and Korean menus available, to cater to foreign visitors. We didn’t bother and just ordered off the Japanese menu.

The restaurant was quite packed during our visit and we were seated at the counter seats, so whilst waiting for our food, I took a picture of the various condiments available at the table. Iced tea is complimentary and provided to all diners.

I ordered the 白丸元味, which is the original taste of the Tonkotsu ramen when the shop first opened for business in 1985. It takes 18 hours to prepare the broth, but a full day is required to achieve the end result of a fragrant and collagen rich soup. Here’s a picture of my bowl of noodles and I paid another ¥100 for the gyoza set (spicy beansprouts are complimentary and found at the table).

If you like stronger flavours, 赤丸新味 is a new taste which includes spicy miso and a homemade blend of vegetable oils

It was well worth the effort to get there as the fragrant, creamy collagen rich soup broth was full of flavour and I felt that the quality of the food here is very much better than what we can find at its branches in Singapore!


Address:

Ippudo Daimyo「一風堂 大名本店」
〒810-0041 福岡市中央区大名1-13-14
[Map]

Telephone: 092-771-0880

Getting There: 8 min walk from Fukuoka Tenjin station「福岡天神」

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thurs 11:00〜23:00
Fri and Public Holidays 11:00〜24:00
Sat 10:30〜24:00
Sun 10:30〜23:00

Categories: Eating in Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県), Kyushu (九州) | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On The Trail of Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes

I don’t usually like winter but I braved the cold temperatures this year to go try to spot the Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis), also known as Tancho「丹頂」.

The Japanese crane is considered to be sacred and is also seen as a symbol of fidelity, love, good luck and longevity. It is also the second rarest crane species in the world. These tall, graceful birds are mainly white in colour with black lower wings. In male Japanese cranes, the cheeks, throat and neck are also black, whilst in females they are a pearly-grey. Adults have a bare patch of skin on the crown of the head, which is bright red in colour. The bill is an olive-green colour and the legs are black. Juvenile Japanese cranes are similar in appearance, although they lack the red crown and have black-tipped outer flight feathers.

Outside of Japan, approximately 1400 Japanese cranes live in the Amur River basin in Russia and north-eastern China. Within Japan, these cranes are usually found at the Kushiro Shitsugen in Hokkaido, but they will emerge from the forests during the winter to gather around feeding stations, so this is the best season to spot them! Of the various species of cranes, this is the only one that breeds in Japan! These cranes were designated as a special natural monument of Japan in 1952.

There are several places where you can go to view them in Hokkaido, but some are actually kept in aviaries, which in my opinion takes the fun out of wildlife spotting.

I’m listing some of the places which I’ve visited, so read on to find out which is my favourite of the lot! (click on the links below to read more about each of the locations)

Kushiro Shitsugen「釧路湿原」
In order to preserve the country’s largest wetland and marsh habitat which supports the only known population of the endangered Japanese Cranes in Japan, this marshland in Hokkaido was designated as a National Park in 1987. Do note that the cranes are best seen in winter when they gather at the winter feeding sites, otherwise they retreat deeper into the wetlands during the non-winter months. We did go through the marshlands by train and also by bus but both modes of transportation moved too fast for us to take any decent pictures, although we did see Sika Deer and Japanese Cranes along the way.

If your visit coincides with the time of the year when the seasonal sightseeing trains run, I would recommend that you try to book a seat on these trains as they move at a slower speed and will allow you a better chance of spotting the wildlife.


Tsurumidai「鶴見台」
Tsurumidai is a feeding ground with no facilities, but there is a cafe/restaurant and gift shop located across the road.

  


Japanese Crane Reserve「釧路市丹頂鶴自然公園」
This is more of a breeding sanctuary for the cranes and visitors can observe the birds which are in fenced enclosures.

  


Akan International Crane Center「阿寒国際ツルセンター」
The Akan International Crane Center is a museum, breeding center, and sanctuary where cranes can be seen year round. It has a good exhibit about crane history and ecology with English explanations.

  

In my opinion, this is the best spot for viewing these beautiful birds!!

However, if viewing birds in their natural habitat is not your thing as nature is unpredictable so you may not spot any wildlife on some days and you’d prefer to see other animals too, the other places in Hokkaido where Japanese Cranes can be found are:

Kushiro Zoo「釧路市動物園」
Due to a packed tour itinerary, I didn’t have time to go check this place out, but they do have a Japanese Crane enclosure.


Asahiyama Zoo「旭山動物園」
I quite enjoyed this zoo as I got to see many animals that I had previously only seen on TV/internet/magazines/books. The pictures below are of the Japanese Crane enclosure:

Now that I’ve seen this endangered crane species both in the wild and in captivity, I can strike one more item off my bucket list! ^_^

Categories: Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, Nature, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Akan International Crane Center「阿寒国際ツルセンター」

The Akan International Crane Center「阿寒国際ツルセンター」 is a museum, breeding centre and sanctuary where Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) can be seen all year round.

In the main building, there is a gift shop, as well as an exhibit about crane history and ecology with English explanations.

Ink stamp collectors can find some stamps here to add to their collection.

When you get out of the building, there are paths leading to the left and to the right. Unfortunately the walking trails leading to the ponds were closed during my visit.

If you head left, this will take you to the Tancho Observation Center and this is my favourite spot out of all the Japanese Crane viewing sites that I’ve visited to-date!

Although it was a rainy day during my visit, I still managed to see quite a number of Japanese Cranes and to my surprise Whooper Swans as well!

Many avid photographers station here for hours with their tripods. There is a cafe here that is a good place to take shelter from the cold! The area isn’t very big and there were many people here, so I didn’t take pictures of the cafe area.

There was a small exhibit at one corner.

I went back to brave the cold and rainy weather to see the cranes doing a courtship dance! This was the highlight of my visit!!

The scene below cracked me up! Erm…was the swan trying to imitate the crane’s courtship dance??…

Here’s a look at what you can expect to see there:


Remember the other path I mentioned on the right of the main building? Well, this leads to a smaller field with fewer cranes…

…and also an aviary.

I guess in the non-winter months when the Japanese cranes retreat deeper into the marshlands, visitors can still visit the aviary to see the cranes.

If you are an avid birder, you simply have to visit this place at least once in your lifetime!!


Address:
Akan International Crane Center「阿寒国際ツルセンター」

〒085-0245
北海道釧路市阿寒町上阿寒23線40番地
23-40 Kamiakan, Akan, Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan 0850245.

[Map]

Telephone: (81)154-66-4011

Admission Fee:
Entrance fees to both Akan International Crane Center and Tancho Observation Center:

Categories Individual Group
(15 persons & above)
Annual Pass
Adult
(13 years and above)
¥470 ¥350 ¥3,550
Children(12 years and below) ¥240 ¥170 ¥1,770


Opening Hours:

阿寒国際ツルセンター【グルス】
Akan International Crane Center【GRUS】
9:00~17:00
Open 365 days.


タンチョウ観察センター
Tancho Observation Center
Nov 1 to Mar 31
8:30~16:30

Nov 1 to Jan 31 8:30~16:00
Feb 1 to Mar 31 8:30~16:30

Access:
■ 20min from Kushiro Airport「釧路空港」 by car
■ 1 hour from JR Kushiro station「釧路駅」 by bus – alight at the “Tancho no sato”「丹頂の里」 bus stop
■ 40min from Lake Akan「阿寒湖畔」 by car

Categories: Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Crane Reserve「釧路市丹頂鶴自然公園」

Japanese Crane Reserve 「釧路市丹頂鶴自然公園」 is a sanctuary for Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) and visitors can come and observe the cranes here all year round. First opened in August 1958 with the aim of protecting and propagating this endangered species, five Japanese cranes were released in Kushiro’s Tsuruoka area at that time. Since then, a number of cranes have been successfully bred here.

Ink stamp collectors, please don’t forget to get a stamp from the building at the entrance!

It feels somewhat like a zoo with the fenced-up exhibits.

There are observation holes in the fences which you can use to photograph the cranes.

Adult cranes:

Juvenile cranes:

I’m more interested in seeing birds in the wild and thus I think I was more excited at seeing this White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) which was perched on a tree nearby!

One last look at the cranes before leaving this place…

Address:
Japanese Crane Reserve「釧路市丹頂鶴自然公園」
〒084-0926 北海道釧路市鶴丘112
Tsuruoka 112, Kushiro, Hokkaido 084-0926, Japan.

[Map]

Telephone: 0154-56-2219

Opening Hours:
April 10 〜 Health and Sports Day (second Monday in October) 9:00〜18:00
The day after Health and Sports Day 〜 April 9 9:00〜16:00

Closed: December 31 〜 January 3

Admission Fee:
Adults (High school students and older)   ¥470 (individuals), ¥376 (groups of 15 or more)
Elementary and Junior High school students ¥110 (individuals), ¥88 (groups of 15 or more)

Access:
By Bus: Akan Bus from Kushiro Station. About 1 hour, fare ¥910.

By Car: Take Route 240 in the direction of Kushiro Airport. About 50min.

Categories: Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tsurumidai「鶴見台」

Tsurumidai「鶴見台」 is a feeding ground for Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) and the feeding only takes place during the winter months from November to March. This is done twice daily – once in the morning and the second time in the afternoon at 2:30pm.

Japanese Cranes started gathering in this feeding field around 1963 and this was in the vicinity of an elementary school. As winter can be quite harsh in this part of the country, the teachers and their students started the practice of feeding the cranes during the cold, bitter months. When the school eventually closed down in 1974, Tome Watanabe, who lives nearby, took over the current crane feeding practice.

Note that there is no guarantee on the number of cranes you can see during your visit as it depends on how many birds decide to visit this site.

If you somehow don’t manage to see any cranes, you can take a picture with these crane motifs! ^_^

I also spotted a Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) during my visit and I thought it looked rather comical!

There are no facilities at this feeding ground except for a parking lot which can accommodate a few tour buses. A restaurant and gift shop can be found across the street.


Address:
〒085-1205
阿寒郡鶴居村下雪裡
Shimosetsuri, Akangun, Tsuruimura, Hokkaido, Japan.

[Map]

Telephone: 0154-64-2114

Observation Period: November to March

Feeding Times: Twice daily – once in the morning and next at 2:30pm.

Access:
By car: About a 55min drive from Kushiro Station, located directly beside Route 53.

By Bus: Akan Bus「阿寒バス」 鶴居Line or 幌呂Line from Kushiro Station and alight at Tsurumidai. The journey takes about 1 hour and the fare costs ¥1000.

Categories: Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, Nature, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adorable Owls at Fukurou no Mise 「フクロウのみせ」

Owls!! I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to pet them and have them perched on my arm and I finally got my chance at an owl cafe in Tokyo!!

Fukurou no Mise「フクロウのみせ」 is one of the few owl cafes that can be found in Tokyo and is quite easily accessible via public transport.

A friend of mine, Hannah, told me that it took her 3 trips before she successfully managed to get into the cafe as it is usually fully booked! (admission is by reserved slots and you’re only allowed to stay a maximum of 1 hour in the cafe) Prior day reservations are not allowed and their “reservation policy” is that on the day itself, you’ll need to queue to register for a timeslot and make payment on the spot. Hence, Hannah’s advice to me was that in order to ensure that I can be guaranteed a slot to get into the cafe, I’ll need to queue at least 1 hour before the cafe opens.

Unfortunately on the day of my visit, I was running late (had spent too much time indulging in yummy food at a restaurant! LOL!!) and only got to the cafe about an hour after it opened (it was a Friday and the cafe’s operating hours were from 2pm-9pm) and I was mentally prepared to be turned away at the door. The lady in the picture above was updating the status of the bookings for the day on the handwritten notice at the front door. I was surprised that the last slot of the day (i.e. 8pm) was still available but seats were being filled up fast! Wow…I quickly made my payment (2000 yen per person) and my reservation was confirmed! Yeah!!

We were told to return at 7:55pm (i.e. 5min before the appointed time), so we headed off to while away the time and came back at the end of the day a little tired (since we had done lots of walking earlier), but the sight of the adorable owls soon made us forget our weariness and perked us up!! ^_^

Upon entering, we saw 2 live owls housed in box-like enclosures against the left wall of the cafe.

Ama-chan was born blind and there was a sign telling visitors not to touch it, otherwise you will give it a terrible fright.

The other one, Mozuku-chan, was also not to be touched, but I must say that it looked cute!!

Here’s one of Mozuku-chan sitting down on its perch – KAWAII!!!!

Further into the cafe were several small owls and those at the back were having some “time off”, so customers weren’t allowed to touch them. The ones at the front could be interacted with – just let the cafe staff know which owl you would like to “befriend” and they will assist you by placing the owl on your arm.

Here’s a closer look at the owls (picture below) – the ones at the far end seemed to be checking me out and they looked SOOOO CUTE!!! (sorry, but I just can’t help repeatedly gushing about their cuteness!)

As a result, guess which one I picked to be my first owl friend? LOL…

You can choose to have these small owls perched on your arm, on your shoulder or on your head. If you choose any of the last two, the staff will ask whether you would mind if they pooped on you – if you tell them that you’re fine with that, then they will proceed to place them on your shoulder/head. As you can see from the picture below, this little one is actually quite tiny! Its feathers were surprisingly very soft and fluffy!!

The second owl, which I chose to interact with, refused to look at the camera and this was the best shot that I could get!

I love the patterns on this next little one’s feathers! I’m not sure why it was perched by itself, right next to the sitting area, but you can interact with it too.

I was rotating myself and turning my arm to try to get it to look at the camera but its head kept turning to look everywhere else except at the camera!

We finally managed to get a shot but with its head facing its back! LOL!!  Anyway, this picture demonstrates the flexibility of an owl’s head!

Larger owls were kept on the right side of the cafe, just next to the entrance. We were told not to bring the small owls to this area and also not to bring these large owls over to the other side of the cafe where the smaller owls were. WHY? This is because the large owls will prey on the smaller owls and we do not want a bloodbath!

The first of the larger owls – gosh, it was heavy!!  I didn’t have it for long on my arm before it regurgitated some food! Thankfully one of the staff pre-empted this and managed to catch that undigested gooey lump before it fell onto the floor!! I didn’t dare to look at what was purged out, just in case it was part of a mouse or some other rodent!

This next one was heavy too and I liked its hooded look! However, it seemed fascinated by the metal buttons on my coat and kept pecking at them!!

This Barn Owl had its own perch…

…and I was glad that I managed to spend a little time with it too.

Included in the admission fee is one drink – take your pick from the menu and you’ll need to place your order upon entering the cafe (i.e. before the owl interaction). If you want an alcoholic drink, you’ll need to pay an additional 200 yen.

I ordered Strawberry Au Lait and it came covered with a piece of cling wrap just in case there is an “accident” with feathers or bird droppings – it wasn’t much to rave about, but I was there for the owls, so the drink wasn’t really important to me.

Also included as part of the admission fee is a souvenir (one per person) and there are several to choose from, so you’ll need to raise your hand to indicate that you want it when they show the items one at a time.

As there were limited quantities of each souvenir item (all with an owl theme – earrings, bracelets, plushies, etc..), depending on the demand, if there are more people who want the item, you will need to play a game of rock-paper-scissors and the winners will get their “prize”.

There was only 1 handkerchief available and my hubby opted for that – the shop’s owner was surprised that there were no other takers, so he got it easily. I chose the mini owl plushie, which is actually a phone/bag strap, but as there were only 3 of these available and 4 of us who wanted them, we spent about 5-10 minutes “fighting” it out by playing jankenpon!! Heehee…somehow my plushie felt more “valuable” after all that hard work to earn it!

Alas, that one hour passed rather quickly and I didn’t have enough time to take selfies with every single owl!  Took one last look at the cute owls and I was sad to bid farewell to my new found feathery friends but at least my little plushie was my consolation and will serve as a reminder of my experience there!


Address:

Fukurou no Mise 「フクロウのみせ」
Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Tsukishima 1-27-9, Japan.

Getting There:
Take the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line or Toei Oedo Line to Tsukishima Station. It’s about a 2 minute walk from Exit 10 – once you get to street level, you should see Hotto Motto across the road and there is a grocery store on its right. Walk along the street between Hotto Motto and the grocery store, keeping to the side of the grocery store and you should see the cafe after a short walk.

Opening hours:
Wednesday-Thursday, 2pm – 6pm
Friday, 2pm – 9pm (English speaking staff is available every Friday)
Saturday, 12pm – 9pm
Sunday, 12pm – 6pm
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.


Things to Note:

  • Same-day reservations start an hour before opening time (on a first-come-first-served basis). You will need to pay 2000 yen per person to secure your reservation. Please inform the staff on your choice of preferred timing, your name and the number of people in your group. If you arrive at the cafe and none of the cafe’s staff is in sight, knock softly on the glass door and you may need to be patient and wait for a while before a member of staff comes out.
  • Once you have a confirmed reservation, do ensure that you return to the cafe at least 5 mins before your appointed time and wait outside until the staff comes out to mark the attendence for the next session. Note that your reservation will be automatically cancelled if you are more than 15 mins late.
  • At the time of my visit, each 1-hour slot can take up to 12 people (there were 6 seats around the sofa area and another 6 seats at the bar counter).
  • Children under 2 years of age are prohibited from entering the cafe (for safety reasons).
  • Videography is not allowed in the cafe but it is alright to take photos (no flash photography please!)
  • Once payment has been made, there will be no refunds.
  • An English-speaking staff is available only on Fridays, but do note that her vocabulary is quite limited. I tried to ask several questions in English just to clarify some of my doubts, but she didn’t understand me and it was only when I switched to broken-Japanese that she finally understood and provided the answers to my questions!
  • Do listen to the instructions from the staff before interacting with the owls. If you happen to go on a day which isn’t a Friday and the instructions are only given in Japanese, please check the coffee table to see if there are any instruction cards that are written in English.
  • DO NOT bring the large owls over to the section with the small owls and vice-versa. This is because the larger owls will eat the smaller owls and we do not want that to happen!
  • If the owls try to fly, slowly stretch your hand (i.e. the one which is holding the owl) upwards and above your head, then bring it back down slowly and gently.
  • Finally, DO BE GENTLE WITH ALL THE OWLS!! Yes, they are cute, fluffy and are silky smooth to the touch, so if you pet them, please ensure that you avoid any sudden movements and do not use force! I’ve kept birds (not owls) as pets before and you can actually tell if they get annoyed.
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