Tokyo (東京)

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

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.
Categories: Japan, Tokyo (東京), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Melody and My Sweet Piano Cafe「マイメロディ&マイスウィートピアノカフェ」

This pop-up cafe at Shibuya is open for a limited time from 19 March to 31 May 2015 and I jumped at the chance to check out the cafe during my recent holiday as I love cute character-themed food! ^_^

Be mentally prepared to queue to dine here! Customers are only allowed about an hour to dine-in. We queued for almost 90 minutes (this was on the weekend) before we eventually got a table!!

Capsule machines (gachapon) containing limited edition items, as well as a seal printing machine which can print your name on My Melody and My Sweet Piano designed stickers, can be found just outside the cafe.

Before you are led to your table, there is a photo opp available at the entrance of the cafe. Several props and accessories can be found in a basket by the side and you can use them for your photo.

It looked a little too cutesy for my age but I gave it a go anyway! :p

  

The decor was quite simple and there was one table where “lucky” customers get to sit with giant My Melody, My Sweet Piano and Kuromi plushies as their dining companions.

This was the table setting and you are allowed to take the paper placemats with you when you leave.

We were shown this just before the menu was passed to us. Okay…so we may be served dessert before everything else…

Menu (in Japanese only):

I’m listing the food/drinks that we ordered in the sequence that they arrived at our table…

Strawberry Milk 「いちごミルク」 – ¥780
This beverage was topped with cute My Melody and My Sweet Piano images, with two pink chocolate hearts and a chocolate flower served by the side. I took a sip and was in strawberry bliss! ^_^ (FYI – the drink contains strawberry bits)


My Melody Latte 「マイメロディラテ」 – ¥680
Cute but the foam started sinking after it sat for a while at the table. This also came with chocolate candies by the side.

Souvenir coasters (i.e. you can take them home) came with our drinks, but we kept them and didn’t use them.


My Sweet Piano’s Sweet Dessert Pizza 「マイスウィートピアノのスウィート❤なデザートピザ」 – ¥1,280

When this arrived, I was wondering if they had forgotten about our main courses and served us dessert right away! However, we were already informed earlier that dessert could possibly be served before the other dishes…

Gosh…this was a HUGE dessert with a big fluffy cloud of pink cotton candy which made up My Sweet Piano’s head, accessorized with 3 pieces of chocolate flowers.

Its base was a chewy mochi-like pizza, topped with blueberries and a strawberry compote, which wasn’t too sweet. The face and ears were actually biscuits and they tasted like shortbread. If you like berries and sweet stuff, this would be the perfect dessert for you! I felt it was sweet enough and thus I didn’t drizzle on the additional syrup which was provided.


By the time the main courses arrived, they were rather lukewarm so we didn’t really enjoy eating them. I suppose it’s kind of expected at such cafes that the food art/food presentation will supercede everything else?

Both curries each came with a glass of salad, served on the side.

My Sweet Piano Vegetable Curry Rice 「マイスウィートピアノベジタブルカレー」 ¥1280
The curry wasn’t piping hot, probably since it was only a thin layer on the plate and the plating may have taken a while to complete. It did look cute though, with the cauliflower florets and potato mimicking My Sweet Piano’s hairstyle, complete with edible flowers. This was a vegetable curry and its flavour was quite light and pleasant. The ears are actually pieces of bread, which can be used to wipe up the remaining curry at the end of your meal (i.e. use it to wipe the plate clean!)


My Melody Chicken Curry Rice 「マイメロディチキンカレー」 ¥1280

This curry like the earlier one, was almost cold by the time it got to the table. Similarly, Melody’s ears were also pieces of bread. The curry has a stronger, meaty flavour (cos this is chicken curry) so its taste definitely differs from the earlier vegetable one. There were pieces of chicken hidden under the “ears” and they seemed to have been marinated with some spices (a bit like chicken satay). Edible flowers came with this dish and they provided different flavours which added an extra fragrance to the curry.


There is a souvenir shop at the cafe which sells My Melody and My Sweet Piano merchandise, as well as limited edition goods only available at this cafe!

 

Being a foodie, the only “merchandise” that I bought was this box of donuts (available for takeaway only) and limited quantities are being sold daily.

「カフェ限定 テイクアウトドーナツセット」 – ¥800
マイメロディとピアノちゃんの特製ドーナツ2個セット♪

They were a little cake-like and weren’t too sweet. I liked the crunchy bits on Piano’s head. Not only did the donuts look cute, they tasted good too!!


Verdict:

If you are into food quality and taste, the desserts (including the takeaway donuts) and beverages are good, but the main courses may not be worth the money that you’re paying for them! However, if you enjoy photographing cute food, then you might overlook the value-for-money part – well, it’s not everyday that you get to dine at such a place!! :p


ADDRESS:
THE GUEST cafe & diner
Shibuya PARCO PART-1, 7th floor
15-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan.

My Melody and My Sweet Piano Cafe will only be open for a limited period.
Dates: 19 March 2015 to 31 May 2015
Opening Hours: 11:00 ~ Last Order(Food) 22:00 / Last Order(Drinks) 22:30

Enquiries: 03-3477-5773  (THE GUEST cafe&diner)

Categories: Anime / Games, Eating in Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo (東京), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tomato Beef Sukiyaki at Mita Basara「三田ばさら」

Mita Basara「三田ばさら」 is located in the Mita ward in Tokyo (near the Tokyo Tower) and can be a little tricky to locate as it’s housed in the basement of the KDX Mita Building「KDX三田ビル」.

This place specialises in Tomato Sukiyaki「トマトすきやき」 and if you don’t want to blow your budget, dine there for lunch as they have affordable set meals, otherwise dinner may cost you 2-3 times more!

I had already checked the menu on their website (Japanese only) and had decided on what I wanted, so it didn’t take long for me to place my order. ^_^

The interior of the restaurant was furnished in a simple, minimalist Japanese style, with private rooms available for reservations.

I found the clientele to be mainly Japanese and it was almost full house during a weekday (i.e. the remaining tables were all occupied after I took the picture above).

When the sukiyaki was brought to the table, the fragrance of the soup filled the air and we breathed in as much of this delicious aroma before the bowls were set down on the table. It just heightened the anticipation of how the flavours of the soup would react on our tastebuds! Just imagine how the soup’s fragrance can permeate the air even before the lid on the claypot is uncovered!!

The Tomato Sukiyaki weekday lunch set comprises of a sukiyaki hotpot (100g wagyu beef, tomatoes, onions, basil), rice, pickles, a side dish, red miso soup and a dessert. There is a bowl containing a raw egg and you are supposed to beat the egg and use this as a dip when eating the beef.

Yumm…I couldn’t wait to tuck in!…

Just look at that piece of delicious juicy tomato!

The well-bodied flavour of the soup was a blissful combination of the ingredients and none of them overpowered the other. It was really good and you can taste the beefy goodness combined with the sweetness of the tomatoes and mirin. Definitely one of the best foods that I’ve eaten to-date!

Dessert was included in the meal and there was a choice between Tiramisu and Sakura Monaka (i.e. sakura ice cream sandwiched between 2 pieces of wafer).

Since cherry blossoms were in season during our visit, we went for the monaka (and so did the 2 ladies at the next table after looking at ours!)

The ice cream came with a piece of mochi and was topped with a salted sakura flower bud. I thought the plating of this dessert was rather unique!

However, to eat it, you are supposed to put the wafer cover over the top and press it down – this makes the dessert look rather uninteresting (see photo below), which explains why it was initially presented to diners uncovered.

I don’t usually like eating salted sakura flowers, but the combination of all the ingredients in this ice cream sandwich made the overall taste quite alright.

Even though this place was a little out of the way to get to, we were glad that we made the effort to ge there! Their Tomato Sukiyaki is definitely A MUST TRY!! ^_^


Address:
MITA BASARA「三田ばさら」
東京都港区芝3-43-16
KDX三田ビル地下1階
[Map]

Tel: 03-5444-6700

Opening Hours:
Mon to Fri:
11:30~15:00(LO 14:00)
17:30~23:00(LO 21.30)

Sat & Public Holidays:
11:30~15:00(LO 14:00)
17:30~22:30(LO 21.00)

Sun:
17:30~22:00(LO 21.00)

Getting There: Take the subway to Mita station (exit A10) and walk for about 10min.

It’s best to check Google maps so that you don’t get lost along the way. You’ll need to walk along a side road before getting to the main road where the restaurant resides. Walk in the direction of Tokyo Tower and the KDX Mita Building「KDX三田ビル」 is on the right side of the road (just to clarify – I took this picture of Tokyo Tower from across the road from the restaurant as I felt this angle of the tower was nicer – you will already be walking on the right side of the road if you are making your way there from Mita station).

Categories: Eating in Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo (東京) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bandai Character Street「バンダイキャラクターストリート」 in Tokyo

If you love taking pictures with statues, one of the places you can visit is the Bandai Character Street, just outside of the building which houses the Bandai Head Office, which is located near Asakusa and you can find characters from various anime and TV games on display.

Anpanman「アンパンマン」 certainly looks eager to welcome visitors to this place!

I had previously heard that on rainy days the staff will dress the characters in raincoats and when I visited (it so happened to be raining that day!!), I discovered that some characters had preferential treatment while the others were left to soak in the rain! :p

Mametchi「まめっち」 from the Tamagotchi anime series

Primopuel「プリモプエル」

Doraemon「ドラえもん」

Ultraman「ウルトラマン」

Kamen Rider「仮面ライダー」

Common Frog from the Frog Style Family「フロッグスタイル」

Cinnamoroll「シナモロール」

The rain somewhat dampened my spirits, but I eventually decided to abandon the shelter of my umbrella and have my picture taken with Pac-Man「パックマン」, one of my favourite game characters when I was growing up. (and yes, I ended up a little drenched after…)


Address:
BANDAI Co., Ltd Head Office「バンダイ本社ビル」
〒111-8081 東京都台東区駒形1-4-8
1-4-8, Komagata, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-8081, Japan.

[Map]


Getting There:
・ 3-min walk from Asakusa Station (exit A1) on the Subway Toei Asakusa Line.
・ 5-min walk from Kuramae Station (exit A5) on the Subway Toei Oedo Line.
・ 8-min walk from Asakusa Station (exit 4) on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line.
・ 10-min walk from Asakusa Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line.

Categories: Anime / Games, Japan, Tokyo (東京) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delicious Pineapple Ramen at Papapapapine「パパパパパイン」

Papapapapine「パパパパパイン」 is a little ramen shop located in a quiet area next to the train tracks and you can’t miss it as there is a pineapple lantern hanging just above its entrance.

Tickets for your food will first have to be purchased from the vending machine located outside the shop. Check if there are empty seats before you proceed to enter, otherwise you’ll just have to wait until the seats have been vacated. Once you are comfortably seated, pass the tickets to the chef behind the counter to process your order.

A closer look at the items available.

This shop is quite tiny and only 7 counter seats are available.

We found a bottle of pineapple vinegar at the counter, plus a little sign saying that pineapple wine was available by the glass. There was also a pineapple ale (seasonal item) that was available during my visit, but I was too excited over ordering the ramen and totally forgot to add on one of these drinks to try!

One of the highly recommended items on the menu is their pineapple flavoured egg. My hubby and I were initially a little skeptical about how it would taste but it only costs an affordable ¥100 each, so we both added this to our bowls of ramen.

パイナップル海老塩ラーメン (pineapple prawn salt-based ramen) + パパパパパイン名物 パイナップルの味付け玉子 (pineapple flavoured egg) – the noodles were cooked just right and the soup broth was absolutely delicious and wasn’t as salty as we had imagined a salt-based soup to be! It was a refreshing taste with the added pineapple. The slice of pork was tender and I loved the onsen egg, which is a hard-boiled egg with a semi-runny yolk inside and this egg was infused with a pineapple flavour! As you are about to bite into the egg, you get a whiff of the pineapple fragrance and once you have tasted it, you’d want more!! I’ve never had anything like it before! Imagine that the fragrance and sweetness of pineapple can be tasted in an egg!


パイナップル醤油ラーメン (pineapple soy sauce based ramen) + パパパパパイン名物 パイナップルの味付け玉子 (pineapple flavoured egg) – the soy sauce flavour somewhat masked the original taste of the soup. It was still yummy but I thought the salt-based one tasted better!


Verdict:
I would highly recommend this ramen shop as it is unique and the soup stock is a refreshing change from the traditional ones. That pineapple flavoured egg is a MUST TRY and something that I definitely would go back for!!

I’m not sure if they will offer it again, but they did serve chocolate (cocoa) ramen for a limited period between February and March this year. I wonder how it tasted?


Address:

Papapapapine「パパパパパイン」
Nishiogi Minami 3-12-1 Nisshin Nishiogi Plaza 1F, Suginami
〒167-0053 東京都杉並区西荻南3-12-1日伸西荻プラザ108

[Map]

Tel: 03-3247-2181

Opening Hours: 11am – 8pm
Closed on Wednesdays.

Access: A 30-second walk from the South exit of Nishi Ogikubo Station (JR Chuo Line/JR Sobu Line).
JR中央線・総武線、西荻窪駅南口を降りていただき、線路沿い右手に歩いて頂き30秒。

As this place is a little out of the way from downtown Tokyo, I would recommend that you incorporate dining here with a visit to either the Ghibli Museum or Inokashira Park.

Categories: Eating in Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo (東京), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BAKE Cheese Tart 「ベイク チーズタルト」 (by Kinotoya) at Shinjuku

Kinotoya, a long-established confectionery store in Sapporo, Hokkaido, started selling their original cheese tarts「焼きたてチーズタルト」 in Tokyo in 2014 under the name “BAKE Cheese Tart“.

They have a cafe in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, which sells cheese tarts, ice cream and beverages, but I couldn’t find time in my packed schedule to travel there, so I went to their takeaway-only store at Lumine in Shinjuku instead.

There were long queues here at intermittent times of the day, depending on when the trains get in (Shinjuku JR station is located just next to it). Not bad, considering only cheese tarts are being sold here.

If you buy 6 pieces, they will be packed in a box (see picture below).

Upon opening the box, you’ll see a double-deck of cheesy goodness!! ^_^

Heh heh… you can’t really envision how they would taste just by looking at them, but trust me, they are really good!!

I found the cheese tarts to be quite fluffy, very creamy, yet light in flavour (the Japanese don’t really like strong-tasting cheeses anyway). These tarts have a cheese mousse filling, made from a blend of 3 types of cheeses. Loved them!!

My hubby and I had 3 each and they were sooo good that we started to wonder why we didn’t buy more! LOL…

A word of advice – they are best eaten on the day of purchase or the very latest eat them first thing in the morning if you had purchased them on the evening before.


BAKE CHEESE TART 「ベイク チーズタルト」
LUMINE EST SHINJUKU, 1F
ルミネエスト 新宿店 1F
〒160-0022
東京都新宿区新宿3-38-1

Opening hours:
Mon-Fri  11:00-22:00
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays  10:30-22:00

Telephone: 03-5925-8170

Categories: Eating in Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo (東京) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Night Cherry Blossom Viewing at Naka-Meguro River「中目黒桜まつり」

Due to my tight schedule and the fact that the cherry blossoms weren’t going to last long, I decided to join the locals and enjoy cherry blossom viewing after dark!

I couldn’t get on the earlier bus from the airport and thus only arrived at my hotel in Tokyo at about 6pm. Dropped my bags, freshened up a little and immediately headed off to the Naka-Meguro「中目黒」 area…

One thing I’ve learnt from my trips to Japan is that typically during festivals or similar events, if you don’t know where the festival venue is, just follow the crowd when you arrive at the train station and most of the time, you’ll definitely end up at the right place (or look out for the festival banners/flags placed along the streets). True enough, we arrived at side of the river in no time. ^_^

There was a lightup between 7pm-9pm and in typical festival setting, street vendors lined the walkways along both sides of the river.

We decided to admire the flowers first before having dinner.

However, due to the cold weather (about 11 degrees celsius), we soon got hungry and decided to look for something to eat along the way…

This shop caught my eye as it sold steamed oysters and some sparkling drinks.

We ordered a strawberry sparkling and a mixed fruit sparkling and both turned out to be sweet alcoholic drinks containing fresh fruit! Mmm…they were delicious and a good accompaniment to the fresh plump oysters!!

The stall adjacent to it seemed quite popular with the crowds too and one of the items they were selling was clam chowder and I thought some hot soup would be good to warm the tummy – well, it turned out that I ordered the last bowl! The soup was creamy and had a generous serving of clams and potatoes.

By the time we finished snacking, the lanterns were switched off but people were still out and about taking selfies or wefies with the sakura!

Here’s a short video clip which I took – policemen were directing the traffic as the roads weren’t closed and there were many jaywalkers! LOL….

If you happen to visit Tokyo during the sakura season, do note that this is one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in the city (I personally think it probably looks nicer during the day but I didn’t have time to come back to check it out during daylight hours).

Categories: Festivals (Matsuri), Japan, Tokyo (東京), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fuji Matsuri (Wisteria Festival) at Kameido Tenjin Shrine 「亀戸天神社」

On the trail of flowers and festivals, I decided to go check out the Fuji Matsuri or Wisteria Festival「藤まつり」 at Kameido Tenjin (or Tenmangu) Shrine「亀戸天神社」 in Koto-ku, Tokyo. There are over 100 wisteria roots in the shrine’s precincts, and they are usually in full bloom in Spring.

The Kameido Tenjin Shrine is relatively easy to locate as there is a trail of flags on the lampposts lining the road from the JR station towards the direction of the shrine.

On the street closer to our destination, decorative tiles can be found on the sidewalk and they depict seasonal scenes of the shrine’s premises. I took a picture of only one of the tiles as this was what I hoped to photograph later:

There is a torii gate at the main entrance of the shrine and already we could see temporary food stalls lining the entrance all the way into the shrine’s premises, which is a typical sight at any Japanese festival.

Ok…let’s go check out the flowers!

This was my first time seeing wisteria and it has a nice purplish colour.

I think from afar the flowers look like clusters of grapes!

Ok, mission accomplished!! Although it doesn’t quite look like the picture on the tile which I photographed earlier, it was good enough for me. ^_^

Another shot of the wisteria against the contrast of the bridge.

Close-up of the flowers…

   

I was amused when I heard many visitors to the festival (mainly Japanese) exclaim excitedly with animated chatter when they saw the Tokyo Sky Tree from here. Anyway, I joined in and took pictures of the wisteria with the Sky Tree as a backdrop. LOL…

   

Another shot with the Tokyo Sky Tree.


There were many food stalls selling local delicacies but I was saving my stomach for a buffet lunch later and thus didn’t patronise the stalls although the wagyu beef skewer at one of the stalls looked tempting and I felt it calling out to me… (^o^)

Here’s a brief look at the wisteria and the food stalls at the festival:


My visit here was only for the flowers but for those who are interested, this is the main building of the Kameido Tenjin Shrine.

There’s a performance area located just across from the main building…

…and a monkey show being performed on the day we visited! You don’t have to pay to watch but the lady will go around with a hat after the show and donations of any amount are welcome!

  

I must say that the monkey is extremely talented but it does have its temperament as there were certain stunts that it refused to do (or took its own time to action on) and just sat there nibbling on food and staring at everyone.

  

I’ll leave you with a short video of the monkey show…


Overall, it was a nice quiet festival (apart from the sounds from the monkey show) where you can go and admire flowers, plus try out the local food being sold at the stalls setup for the festival.

Not many visitors from outside of Japan are aware about this festival (i.e. not on the typical tourist map) and it’s something that you can consider adding to your itinerary if you are visiting Tokyo in Spring. However, do check their website (in Japanese only) for the latest schedules as flower blooming dates may differ each year.


Festival Dates for 2014:  21 Apr – 6 May

Address:
Kameido Tenjin Shrine
Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
〒136-0071
東京都江東区亀戸3丁目6番1号

Phone: 03-3681-0010

Getting There:
JR Sobu Line to Kameido Station「亀戸駅」, then walk for 15 min.
総武線亀戸駅下車 北口より徒歩15分

JR Sobu Line or Tokyo Metro Hanzomon line to Kinshicho Station「糸町駅」, then walk for 15 min.
総武線、地下鉄半蔵門線錦糸町駅下車 北口より徒歩15分

Categories: Festivals (Matsuri), Japan, Tokyo (東京), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asahi Red Eye「アサヒレッドアイ」 – Tomato Beer Cocktail

We were taking a ride on the Tokyo Metro and spotted an interesting advertisement in the train for Asahi Red Eye「アサヒレッドアイ」. It was a canned drink under the Asahi brand and upon further scrutinization, we read that it was a tomato beer cocktail! Hmm….tomatoes + beer?? What a strange combination!!

My other half insisted on trying it and off we went to the nearest convenience store a.k.a. konbini 「コンビニ」 to look for it. We checked at the FamilyMart at our hotel but they didn’t stock the product, so we headed over to Lawson and managed to find it there.

Asahi Red Eye

Alcohol content: 3.5%
Tomato Juice (Kagome brand): 20%

When you first pop the can, the drink smells like tomatoes! I poured it out into a glass and found its colour was a little reddish – just like a mixture of light beer and tomato juice. The beer was indeed light, plus it was smooth but didn’t have the strong taste of beer as the flavour was overpowered by the tomato juice. I love drinking tomato juice so I kinda liked the taste of this cocktail, which also had lemon juice as one of the ingredients.

If you’re not a fan of ketchup or tomato juice, then I would suppose that you may not like this cocktail. However, you only live once and quoting a German friend who once said this to me, “You should try all things at least once. If you don’t like it, that’s fine but at least you’ve tried it!”

I’ll probably buy this again, or perhaps do some experimentation at home and come up with my own concoction! ^_^

Categories: Eating in Tokyo, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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