What To Expect When You Visit The Final Fantasy Cafe in Akihabara

We stood outside the Palmers Resorts Hotel building, figuring out if we were at the right place.  There were no obvious signs to say Eorzea cafe was in the same location until we saw the building floor guide to our left half covered by some plants, which confirmed that the cafe was inside .

We went in then up the second floor where a friendly lady by the reception area greeted us cheerfully. We were a bit too early for our appointment she said. It was still 6:00 pm and we were booked for 06:30 pm. She kindly asked us to come back closer to the set time, which was fine for us. We made our way back to the ground floor and sat at one of the benches in the hotel lobby.

When we came back up, other people were already there waiting as well. We waited in line outside the cafe door for a few minutes then one of the staff started talking and handing out some stuff. We were given two small papers with numbers on it (this was our allocated seating numbers) and a sheet of paper which the staff later on explained had the drinks menu on it, and we were to mark which two drinks we wanted (this was for the two complimentary drinks that came with our ticket). After that, we were then ushered inside.

GETTING SETTLED IN

Once we were all seated, one of the staff started talking again in front of everyone and welcomed everybody. He was talking in really fast Japanese that Jan and I could barely make out whatever he was trying to say. The gist of what was going on was that there was some kind of raffle game happening, and people got a prize whenever their seat number was called. I was hoping we’d win something… we didn’t. Haha.

After about three numbers… the game was done and we were left to order our food and drinks. Each table was given a tablet to use for ordering. This was very convenient as we did not need to call on the staff everytime we wanted something. It automatically saved all our orders as well and then summed it up so we were able to keep track on how much we had to pay.

The only thing that made things a bit hard was that the menu was mainly in Japanese.  We asked the staff if there was a separate English menu we could have a look at but they did not have any. There WAS a tiny bit of English translation for each item at the bottom, but the letters were so tiny it was quite a bit hard to read. We managed to muddle through things, however, as there was a photo for each item which made things a bit easier. 

FOOD AND DRINKS 

The food and drinks were themed after the Final Fantasy Game. For a themed cafe, the food was actually quite good. We ordered soup and pasta, a couple of cocktail drinks and one dessert.

The soup was so-so… nothing outstanding but it wasn’t bad either. It was pretty well seasoned and the vegetables weren’t soggy or overcooked, so that was good.

The pasta was our favorite. Soooo full of flavor! And it wasn’t jut the sauce… the noodles itself was infused with a nice garlicky flavor…very delicious. Definitely two thumbs up for this one!

The cocktail drinks looked really cool, especially the one on the right where they added a bit of sword decoration with it to kind of add to the theme.

YUM! This was my favorite drink. The white fluff on top is cotton candy and it went really well with the drink. The drink itself had a hint of bitterness to it and so when you had the cotton candy after taking a sip, the cotton candy kind of balanced the flavors out. Anyway, really really good!

Presentation wise, this was definitely the winner out of everything we ordered. I mean, it’s a Chocobo inspired mousse! How cute is that?! Hehe! This tasted pretty good too. It had a mild matcha flavor to it that went quite well with the tanginess of the fresh frozen berries.

OVERALL THEME/DECOR

The cafe is modeled after a fictional inn within the Final Fantasy XIV game called the ‘Carline Canopy’ and ‘Eorzea’ is a region within Final Fantasy XIV where the game is set. The cafe was small and cozy and aptly decorated to fit the theme.

This was my favorite section of the cafe. The details on the stained glass window replica looked really good and just looking at the entire wall made me feel like I was transported to the game world.

The interior was also decorated with iconic characters like these cute moogles and chocobo, as well as other FF creatures.

There were also replicas of weapons and armors, signed art portraits and a map of the game world scattered around the room.

The decorated bar by the door was also a nice addition and across it were a couple of computers (not in photos) where people could play the game while they were in the cafe.

Overall, we had a fun and pleasant experience and would recommend checking it out especially to fans of the game out there.

SUMMARY

Pros:

  • Interior decor was amazing.
  • Service was good. Staff were very friendly.
  • Food and drinks were aesthetically pleasing and was also pretty tasty.
  • Tablet for each table for hassle-free ordering.
  • There were English speaking staff.

Cons:

  • English menu unavailable
  • A lot of the general talk by staff was in Japanese so we couldn’t understand, however, it is to be noted that we absolutely understood that we were in a country where English is a second language so this did not bother us too much. Also, the English speaking staff were happy to help explain or translate when we needed them.

GENERAL

  • You are allowed to stay in the cafe for a maximum of two hours per visit.
  • Bookings are recommended. You can book tickets in advance here.
  • You get a free Final Fantasy coaster for every item ordered.
  • There’s a mixed review when it comes to pricing. Personally, we found the food and drinks to be on the cheap side… but that’s factoring in the currency exchange between New Zealand Dollars and Japanese Yen and the fact that food in NZ isn’t generally very cheap anyway.

Beginners guide To: Exploring Akihabara. 

Everytime Jan and I talked about going to Japan (from years ago when it was just a distant goal up to a few days before our actual trip) one thing remained constant… we were going to visit Akihabara.

Akihabara is a district in Central Tokyo once famous for its many electronic shops. In more recent years, it has become the center of Japan’s otaku culture with many shops and establishments now devoted to selling anime and manga goods as well as game related stuff such as Final Fantasy and Granblue items. Jan’s an avid gamer and we both love anime and read manga translated into English online, it’s a no-brainer why Akihabara was a must visit for both of us.

The things included here are mainly from our own experience of spending a day in the area — from our own wanderings and from the short guided tour we had booked where we had our own personal “maid” bringing us to some of the important parts within the district.

*A photo of us with our maid tour guide Lisa.

1.Yodobashi

A huge 9-floor electronics store building. They have cameras, camera accessories, cell phones, PCs, and much more — including heated toilet seats! They also have non-electronic stuff like toy model figures, games, bag and clothes. The good thing about the store is that it has a huge array of available options to choose from, however, it is to be noted that stuff here is not necessarily cheaper so it’s best to take note of the price of the item you want in your home country and then compare it to the price on offer when you get to the store. For those that don’t have any plan to shop, it’s still a worthwhile place to quickly check out while you’re in Akihabara.
This Yodobashi Floor Guide will give you more detailed information on what you can expect to see on each floor of the building.

2. Radio Kaikan

This is a commercial building that used to have lots of electronic shops selling radio components and parts. Now with the Otaku culture becoming more established in Akihabara, more and more stores selling otaku goods have set up shop here.

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These display cases on the 2nd-floor show pre-loved figures on sale. The owners of said figures rent the display cases and put them here for other people to buy.

Another interesting thing to check out is the Volks Doll Point Shop located on the 8th-floor of Radio Kaikan. This shop sells highly customizable dolls (and by that I mean you can customise every single body part of your doll such as their face, eyes, hands, arms.. etc) which is quickly gaining popularity as a hobby for Japanese adults.

It’s not a cheap hobby/collection either with some of the dolls costing up to thousands of yen especially if they have been patterned after very famous anime or fictional characters such as Saber from the anime Fate Stay Night or Hatsune Miku (not in photos).

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3. Kotobukiya

Another popular building in Akihabara selling an array of anime, manga, and game-related otaku goods is Kotobukiya. It’s also a Tokyo Otaku Mode certified shop which means that it has been recognized for selling high quality, official otaku goods.

4. Space Potato

It feels like stepping back into the past when you’re inside this retro video game store full of old-school game consoles and games, and they even have a vintage game arcade that has a snack bar for those wanting to play all day. Haha!

5. @home Maid Cafe
Maid Cafes are very popular in Japan, particularly in Akihabara where the very first maid cafe was established. In maid cafes, waitresses dress up as “maids” and treat customers as “masters”. @home cafe is one of the biggest maid cafes in Akihabara.

6. Gachapon Kaikan

Gachapon Kaikan is one of the biggest gachapon shops in Akihabara with around 500 gachapon machines inside the store.

Gachapons are coin-operated toy dispensers or vending machines. Each machine will have a specific category (ex. keychains of anime characters) but you won’t be able to choose a particular item inside the machine, instead the machine gives you one at random after you load the coin in. More information on gachapons can be found here.

7. Pablo Mini

There’s a Pablo stall in Akihabara that sells mini Pablo cheese tarts. Sooo cute! Sooo good!

8. Mandarake
This 8-floor building is packed full of anime, manga and game-related goods. Any self-proclaimed otaku would not want to miss going into this building. This link here gives detailed information on what you can find on each floor of the building.

* They even have a Belle Nendroid for sale!

* A whole lot of manga for sale! Desperately wished I knew how to read Kanji. 

9. Animate

Animate is Japan’s largest retail chain for anime goods with over 120 stores domestically as well as 4 international branches. The 7-floor Animate shopping center we went to in Akihabara was one dedicated entirely to female anime/manga fans (to Jan’s utter disappointment and my delight) Haha! For female otakus out there, this place is a must visit. Haha!

*Prince of Tennis anime OSTs availabe in the store. Wanted to buy them all. Used to be a huge fan of this anime. Haha.

10. Final Fantasy Eorzea Cafe

One of the many themed cafes in Akihabara… this place is amazing! The interior of the restaurant is well decorated and the food and drinks are themed after the Final Fantasy game as well. Also, they don’t just look good… they taste really good too! Bookings are recommended which can be done online at the Voyagin website here here.

 There are lots of other things to do and places to visit in Akiba (shorter nickname for Akihabara). Unfortunately, we just did not have enough time to explore them all. Maybe next time we’ll get a chance to check them out… if we get to go back 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting from Narita to Jimbocho using the JR Pass.  

NARITA TO TOKYO STATION

… We hurriedly made our way towards the platforms to catch the Narita Express Train to Tokyo. The ride from the airport to Tokyo station was an hour long… the first half of which, we spent quickly looking up how we can get to our hotel in Jimbocho using the JR train lines.

There were no direct JR trains from Tokyo station to Jimbocho as per the staff at the JR East office in Narita. Their suggestion was to take the local subway/metro from Tokyo station to Jimbocho.

In hindsight, I now realize that would have been way easier… but I was stubborn that day, feeling very determined to try to use our JR passes as much as possible even if it meant we didn’t take the shortest route.

The best option we found was to take the Chuo line (rapid service) from Tokyo Station to Ochanomizu station then walk 14 minutes to our hotel.

The second half of the trip was spent mostly gazing out the window.

The nearer we got to Tokyo, the brighter the view became as more and more city lights came into view — such a sharp contrast to night time in New Zealand…so it was a pleasant sight to see. Also, it was making me feel more excited for the next two weeks!

ARRIVING AT TOKYO STATION

When we arrived at Tokyo station, it was initially a bit overwhelming. So. Many. People. I was expecting Tokyo to be crowded… but actually seeing it first hand, that was an experience in itself.

However, the Japanese are well known for being able to keep things in order… so it wasn’t totally chaotic. People always lined up to get into the trains and there were signs to keep left or right so that those who were in a hurry can easily pass through when going up and down the stairs and escalators.

WALKING IN JIMBOCHO

Walking wasn’t such a bad idea. We at least got to see the area a little bit.

It was our first time to walk around Tokyo so we found it very interesting. There were tall buildings all around and huge billboards scattered everywhere. We also passed by a lot of restaurants.

One we remember in particular because it caught our eye as we about took a crosswalk. It didn’t look fancy or anything. It actually looked pretty plain… but we could see lots of people inside (mostly in business attire) having a really good time eating and drinking beer.

Jan and I wondered whether it was a cheap place to eat as it looked like most of the people in there were employees having dinner and drinks after work. We thought about going back after we dropped off our luggage at the hotel but unfortunately, we never really got to back.

There were so many Family Mart konbinis (convenience stores) as well! Not that that’s very interesting… haha! But we just found it a bit amusing as we felt like we saw one every few minutes while walking. Hehe!

It was also nice to know there were many of them in the area as they’re quite handy for buying water and food on the go (onigiri!) and for withdrawing money (in yen) from their ATMs using a foreign credit card.

We also passed by one street that, for the first 24 hours, I  wrongfully thought was Takeshita Dori (yes, the one in Harajuku. No, I don’t know why I would think that when we were clearly in a different district). I was even cheerfully telling Jan about it.

Of course, it wasn’t and I was completely off. Haha! I could no longer remember the name. All I remember is that it was a bit of a long street with pink street lamps and it had lots of restaurants and shops.

END DESTINATION

We arrived at our hotel, safe and sound.

We checked in and brought our luggage up to our room and then ended up having dinner at the hotel’s 24hour cafe as we were too tired to head out again. We decided it was better to hit the sack early so we could have a good rest and be ready to explore Tokyo bright and early the next day!

Japan 2017 Diary: Picking up our pocket wifi at Narita airport. 

October 24, 2017 04:30 PM

Landed at Narita Airport. Jan and I were feeling a bit drained from the 12-hour flight from Auckland, but we were also pretty excited. “We’re here!” I said with a big grin on my face. For years we’ve always wanted to visit Japan, so we were pretty psyched to finally be there.

We went through the usual process of getting our bags and going through Immigration and Customs then set out to find the JR East office in Terminal 1. The two ladies at the Information desk were pretty helpful in telling us where to go. A lot of people say traveling in Japan can be a bit daunting due to the language barrier, and although in most part that is true, it wasn’t really the case at the airport as almost all of the people we talked to spoke really good English.

JR East office was in Basement 1, down a set of escalators (left side if you’re facing the information desk right outside arrivals) and within the same area as the subway getting out of Narita. There’s also a foreign exchange office right beside it, which is handy for those needing to quickly convert their foreign currency cash to Yen.

We went inside the office to exchange our JR vouchers (ordered online and sent out to our home address by mail) for the actual passes we were going to use while traveling around Japan. One of the staff greeted us at the door and asked as regarding when we wanted to start it (Yes, you can choose what dates you can start using it. No, you cannot choose separate dates to use it on and off).

Jan and I had a 14-day pass but we were going to be in the country for 15 days and we haven’t really thought about whether we were going to start it on the day of our arrival or the day after that, and so for a few minutes we just stood there arguing on when we were going to start using it. Thankfully the staff was pretty patient with us. Hehe.

Once we sorted that part out, we filled out a form and went to the counter where another staff member gave us our passes and additional information about using it. We were also given our reserved seat tickets for the JR Narita express train bound for Tokyo central station and some advice on how we were going to get to our hotel from there.

All was well and good, however, there’s always that part of the trip where you run into unexpected bumps no matter how prepared you think you are. The next few minutes was one of those times. After sorting out our JR passes, we inquired about the pocket wifi we rented online together with it. That’s when we were told that they were not the ones providing it to us.

The lady explained that we booked both the passes and the pocket wifi through a third party (JR Experience website) and so they should have also e-mailed us instructions with regards to where we were going to get the pocket wifi. I did not receive said e-mail and just wrongly assumed that we were getting it at the JR office as well.

I vaguely remember having read about picking it up somewhere in Narita terminal 1 while I was filling out the rental form online, but that was all I could remember. Tried to look it up at the Japan Experience website again (thank you Vodafone and your 5$ a day roaming option!) but could not find the information on where to get it from the pocket wifi link. All it did was take me to the rental application form. Tried to google it as well but it didn’t give me any straightforward answers.

We were stumped and getting a bit anxious. We had no idea where to get the pocket wifi and the clock was ticking — it was 05:50 pm and the Narita express train was leaving at 06:10pm… we had about 20 minutes to figure it out. Retried browsing through Google again. By this time, Jan just went ahead to the money changer office so that we were not wasting any time. Finally, after a couple of dead ends, I was able to find a link in one of the forum websites that took me to the page providing information on where to get it. Yeeeeeeees!

It was to be picked up at the post office within terminal 1 which was located on the 4th floor. So I quickly asked for directions on how to get there and made a run for it — up the escalator beside the money changer office then up the elevator located diagonally right which took me straight up to the 4th floor. After stepping out, I went right, then up a short set of stairs… the post office was just a little after that.

I then told the man in charge I was there to pick up a pocket wifi parcel. He asked me for my passport as a means of identification. I showed it to him and he handed me my package with a big smile. I felt relief washing over me and gave him a big smile right back.

I then hurriedly made my way back down to the JR East office where Jan was waiting outside.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

 

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Arc de Triomphe, Paris France

After spending some time admiring the Eiffel Tower, we then moved on to see another famous structure in Paris — the Arc de Triomphe.

The triumphal arch is in honor of those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. Engraved on the inside and at the top of the arch are all of the names of the generals and wars fought. There are inscriptions in the ground underneath the vault of the arch which include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I where the Memorial Flame burns and have made the Arc de Triomphe Parisa revered patriotic site. -arcdetriompheparis.com

It was a 30-minute walk from the tower to the arch and we needed a little break from all the walking we had done since the morning, so we opted to ride an Uber instead — the fare wasn’t too bad and it was a very convenient way to get to where we wanted.

We got dropped off by the driver right at the side of the arch, but for those walking to the monument it is said that there is an underground tunnel on the Avenue de la Grande Armee side of the roundabout/circle (where the monument stands central). This tunnel can be accessed from the Wagram exit of the Metro.

There was a short barricade surrounding the monument and a queue of people waiting to get inside. The fee to get in is 8€ for adults, 5€ for students and free admission for kids and teens below 17.

Like the Eiffel Tower earlier, we opted not to line up and were content to remain on the outside of the barrier. Then, after spending a bit of time gazing at the arch and taking some photos, we decided to leave and head off to Champs Élysées — Paris’ famous avenue lined with restaurants, shops and bars which was just across to where we were.

I cannot remember how we managed to cross the busy roundabout/circle… but somehow we did! When we got to the other side, we took some more photos of the arch at a distance and while doing so we observed that there were people who were standing (and taking photos) in the median strip of one of the pedestrian crossings of the avenue which was in front of the arch.

We decided to try it out as well to see if we could get some decent photos with the arch as our background. It was a bit scary at first standing in the middle of the street with cars going past to our left and right! But there were other people with us and the cars kept a bit of a safe distance so we were able to get our photos without any untoward accident and crossed back to Champs Élysées all in one piece!

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Eiffel Tower, Paris France

It’s Paris’ most famous landmark… there was no way we were going to miss it while we were in the city.

We had started out our sightseeing that day at Fontaine Saint-Michel. We then crossed Pont Saint-Michel to go to the Notre Dame Cathedral then made our way back down the Seine River, after which we crossed the Pont des Art bridge to get to the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries then continued on walking to the Eiffel Tower from there.

It was a blistering hot day and it was quite a walk considering where we started from. Halfway between the Louvre and the tower, my feet were starting to get quite sore from walking since the morning (I *may* have not been wearing the best footwear for walking all day.. my fault.. hehe..) and I was starting to feel a bit of tiredness creep in (as I said in a previous post, I had just landed in Paris that day at 0700 and went straight to exploring the city). It came to a point where I was sorely tempted to ride a bike taxi when one passed by until the driver told us how much it was going to cost (20 euro per person) and we decided it was not worth it.

So we continued on walking… The top of the Eiffel Tower already within our view at this point — SO NEAR YET SO FAR!!! It was another 15-20 mins of walking until we finally arrived.

We did not go up the tower as we felt like we did not have enough time. We made do of enjoying its splendor while viewing it at its base. However, for those wanting the experience of going up and enjoying the city view from up top, you can visit toureiffel for tickets and prices.

There are also different “skip-the-line-tours” available (some including tours to other famous sites in Paris) — just look it up in google and compare prices.

It felt a bit surreal to be standing there in front of this very famous structure, seeing it in person for the very first time. It was an amazing moment, really… I mean, you get so used to seeing some things in films and photographs that when you finally see it with your very own eyes, there’s this few seconds of just being completely in awe of what’s right in front of you because it looks exactly the same but at the same time just so very different — no matter how good photo quality is nowadays, nothing will ever compare to the real thing.

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Louvre Pyramid, Paris

As we were (unfortunately) only in Paris for a day… we really did not have time to explore the Louvre Museum. Known as Europe’s largest museum, it contains thousands of works from all over the world and would take days to fully explore.

“In fact, there’s so much to see that it would take at least 3 days to experience all that the Louvre has to offer.” uk.france.fr

We did, however, still pass by the main courtyard to get a glimpse of the Louvre Pyramid — the large glass and metal structure which now serves as the entrance into the main Louvre buildings.

A number of controversies previously surrounded the building of the Louvre Pyramid. There were many who were unhappy that Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei, was tasked with the project by then President Francois Mitterand without a competition being held first. There were also those who criticized that its modern style did not fit in with the classic French Renaissance style and history of the Louvre.

Fast forward to the present time… the initial contention it received from the general public has now somewhat subsided and it is now considered as one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and a Paris landmark in its own right.

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: River Seine, Paris.

The River Seine — one of Paris’ many important landmarks. It flows right through the heart of Paris and borders 10 of the city’s 20 arrondissements, thus we were able to pass by it a couple of times throughout our day in Paris.

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My first good view of the river was while we were crossing Pont Saint-Michel bridge on our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. I had just landed in Paris 0700 that morning after a 30-hour flight from New Zealand. I should have been feeling tired…but I was too excited that I didn’t feel the least bit tired at all. Paris! What was once something I used to only see in photos and movies, I was finally seeing with my very own eyes!

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Of course, we couldn’t resist the photo opportunity that presented itself so we quickly snapped some photos when there weren’t a lot of people walking over the bridge.

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We saw a couple of boats leisurely going up and down the river — most of them boat tour cruises allowing tourists a different take in exploring the city.

On our way to the Louvre from the Notre Dame, we went down a set of stairs by Quai des Grands Augustins near Pont Saint-Michel to get closer to the water.

From there, we continued on walking by the riverside… passing under both Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts bridges.

“The Pont Neuf is considered to be the oldest stone bridge in Paris. Henri IV ordered it to be constructed in 1578.” – Parisinfo.com

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“The Pont des Arts, also known as the Arts Bridge, is a work between the Institut de France and the Musée du Louvre. Built between 1801 and 1804, it is the first iron bridge in the capital.”  Parisinfo.com