House made soba on a rainy day in Kyoto at SOBANOMI YOSHIMURA 🇯🇵

It was the 29th of October and it was my birthday. To celebrate I wanted to go sightseeing in Kyoto wearing a kimono, so first order of the day was to go to Yumeyukata to rent one.

It was lunch time by the time Jan and I finished getting dressed up and we were hungry. Jan said he thought he saw a Yoshinoya chain store just down the road on our way to the rental shop so we were going to head there next.

Unfortunately, it was pouring with rain by the time we got out of Yumeyukata. We ended up finding shelter at the very first food place we came across while walking and it was this — SOBANOMI YOSHIMURA.

The inside of the restaurant had a traditional yet elegant feel to it and the thought that we might have gone somewhere that’ll blow our budget did cross my mind… my worries would be put to rest later on.

The staff greeted us warmly and brought us to the second floor to be seated.

I’ve just recently read that there can be a wait time of up to 15 minutes to eat here, but maybe because it was raining that day there weren’t as many customers so we were accommodated straight away despite us not having a reservation.

I ordered the shrimp soba (Y1,204) and Jan ordered the tempura rice bowl (Y1,343). Although not exactly cheap, we found the price to be okay. Converted to New Zealand Dollars, it’s about 16-18 NZD per meal. Considering that we normally spend at least 20 NZD (mostly even more) when eating out in Wellington, this wasn’t really bad in comparison.

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The soba noodles are made from scratch — On the first floor of the restaurant, you can see them being made by the soba chefs through a clear glass window. The whole process is pretty interesting to watch.

I made the mistake of ordering cold soba noodles instead of having something warm — not exactly the best choice on a rainy autumn day, but the whole dish was pretty tasty so nothing to complain about really. Still, I think I would enjoy this even more on a hot and sunny summer day. As for Jan, he was well pleased with his order.

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The quintissential old-Japan look of the place was also something we delighted in. Dining here felt like being transported back in time… and with us dressed the way we were, it just made the whole experience more enjoyable and memorable.

To Summarize:

  • Did we like the food? ✔
  • Was the overall ambience of the place good? ✔
  • Was the price worth it for the food that we had? ✔
  • Were the staff friendly? ✔
  • Did we have a good time? ✔
  • English speaking staff and english menu available? ✔
  • Will we recommend this place to other people? ✔
  • Are we eating here again? Most definitely 👍

The Scramble: Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo 🇯🇵

It’s considered to be the busiest crossing in the world… reportedly having up to 2,500 people crossing every time the signal changes.

I’m unsure as to how accurate the above statistics is, but I was able to witness first hand the bustling vibe in this world renowned intersection.

We were there on our second day in Japan. We had just spent the entire day ticking away as many places as we could on our “Tokyo to do” list (we we were leaving for Kyoto the next day) and this was our last stop.

We were already a bit worn out after walking around the whole day and our phone and portable wifi batteries were already running very low.

We briefly contemplated on whether we would carry on and check out the crossing or call it a night and go back to our hotel instead. We now know what we decided in the end, don’t we?

It was already 8pm but the area still looked very busy.

Initially the plan was for us to grab a drink at Starbucks and take photos from the shop’s window overlooking the crossing,however, we still needed to find where exactly Starbucks was located; and with our phones and portable wifi having low batteries, we didn’t want to keep on using them for GPS and risk them completely turning off before we can find our way back to our hotel.

So instead, we opted to watch the organized chaos that is “The Scramble” from the sidelines.

It started with everyone waiting for the pedestrian lights to turn green.

When it did, the intersection was then flooded by a sea of people.

As time ticked by the crowd started to slowly thin out until there was only a couple of people left rushing to cross while there was still a bit of time.

Then the lights turned red and the vehicles started moving in and people were back to waiting idly by until the next change of lights signalled another round of bustling activity.

I stood at the sides fascinated with what I was seeing — so many people crossing from different directions (all at the same time) without hitting or jostling each other… quite impressive, really.

Also, people watching has always been one of my favorite past times and this was a perfect time to do just that. Not in a creepy-psycho-stalker sense okay?

Just a little harmless and quiet observation of people walking past, thinking of made up stories about them in my head.

‘Where are they going?’ ‘What are they thinking?’ — ‘This one’s off to have a drink after a long day at work.’, These two are friends but the girl is in love with the boy’, ‘These two lovebirds are on a date’… But I digress.

All in all this was a pretty good experience. I know it’s nothing grand like seeing the Eiffel tower all lit up at night or looking at the breathtaking view of the sea at the Amalfi coast on a bright summer day, but it was good all the same.

I’ve always been a bit curious about “the scramble” so it was nice ticking it off the Japan bucketlist among many other things during this trip.

Kiddy Land at Harajuku, Tokyo 🇯🇵

kawaii (kəˈwʌɪ/)
the quality of being cute, or items that are cute.

I have always had a tendency to be drawn to anything kawaii. Yes, I’m a thirty year old grown woman but I still love my pinks, bright colors and sparkles and still have a soft spot for pretty looking knick knacks. My childish disposition has never really gone away despite me growing up… so imagine my delight when we visited this shop during our Japan trip.

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Kiddy Land is a toy store in Japan that mostly sells Japanese character toys and goods,although you can find some well known western brands here as well like My Little Pony, Disney and Marvel. They have around 80 branches all over the country — the one we went to was their flagship store in Harajuku. It was awesome! Five floors of kawaii toys and goods!

“KIDDY LAND helps keep your mind, body and soul youthful, now and forever”

This is what they’re saying in their website, and having been there, I can definitely say I felt very young again surrounded by all the cuteness. It is without a doubt, a paradise for kids and kids at heart (like me!).

Here’s a couple of photos of the things that can be found inside the store.

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The photos above are just a little sample of what can be found in-store… If you happen to visit Harajuku on your Japan trip, definitely try dropping by to check out all the other items they have for sale.

They change their displays and floor layouts periodically as well so there’s always something new and unique in every visit.

Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Tokyo 🇯🇵

We visited quite a number of shrines when we were in Japan. I remember Jan saying “again?!” when I mentioned to him that we were going to check out another shrine when we were already in the middle of our trip. Haha! Meiji Jingu, however, holds a bit of a special place, as it was the very first shrine we visited during our trip. Our very first shrine experience in Japan! 

There are two ways to get into Meiji-Jingu shrine — the Northern entrance near Yoyogi station (photo below) or from the Southern entrance near Harajuku station (photo above). A towering torrii gate (about 40 ft. high) marks each entrance.

We entered from the southern entrance as it was closer to where we were at the time (Takeshita Dori). It was hard to miss due to the towering torrii gate that marked it. From there, we then walked the forested walkway leading to the main shrine which took us about 10 minutes.

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“when you pass through (under), you are symbolically entering a sacred place and leaving behind the everyday.” – japanvisitor.com (About passing through the torii gate entrance.)

As soon as we entered the shrine grounds, the hustle and bustle of city life faded away. Despite there being other visitors present, our walk still felt pretty calm and pleasant and the area still gave an aura of peace and tranquility.

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How to pay respect at Meiji-jingu at a torii (shrine archway):

  • Bow once when entering
  • Bow once when leaving

At the time of our visit, the shrine was undergoing some renovations in preparation for it’s 100th anniversary. At the main grounds, they were offering to have people’s names written on the roof pieces in exchange for a donation. It wasn’t very expensive, and Jan was trying to talk to me about it… Unfortunately, at the time I was too busy buying charms at the shrine store that I somewhat ignored what he was trying to say (Waaaaaah) In hindsight, I now think it’s such a shame… renovations finish in 2020 (which is when we’re planning to go visit the country again) and it would have been cool to visit Meiji Shrine again knowing we’ve somehow donated for a part of it.

The shrine is dedicated to the venerated souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken. This is not to be confused for their actual burial sites, which can be found in Kyoto.

Emperor Meiji, real name Mutsuhito, was emperor of Japan from 1867-1912. He is the 122nd ruler of Japan according to traditional order of succession, who ascended to the throne when he was only about 14-15 years old. Under his reign, Japan went through massive political, economic, military and educational modernization which dramatically transformed the country into one of the great powers of the modern world — famously known as the Meiji restoration period of Japan.

Empress Shoken, who adopted the name Haruko upon marrying the emperor, was the first imperial consort to receive the titles nyōgō and kōgō (literally, the emperor’s wife, translated as ‘empress consort’), in several hundred years. She was known during her reign for her support for charity work and was the patron of the Japanese Red Cross.

How to pay respect at the main shrine:

  • You may put some coins in the offertory box
  • Bow twice
  • Clap your hands twice
  • Make a wish
  • Bow again

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To the right of the main shrine is a covered writing area where you can write down your personal wishes to be offered to the shrine deities. Pen, paper, and envelopes are provided free of charge.

I can no longer remember what I wrote down and wished for, but I’m hoping that whatever it was, it would have been heard and granted.

Another option for writing down your wishes or prayers is to buy an ema tablet from the shop. Ema tablets are small wooden plaques in which Shinto Buddhist worshippers write their prayers and wishes. In Meiji shrine, they cost about Y500.

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Past this torrii gate (by the ema tablet shop counter) is another forested pathway, this time leading to the northern entrance of the shrine which is by Yoyogi park. It is by this entrance that you can find the Treasury museum (Homotsuden) and the Dojo (Shiseikan).

When we were there, the treasury museum was closed. As for the dojo, we weren’t even aware that there was one in the first place (yes.. yes.. not enough research)… so we ended up not being able to explore the two. We still, however, walked the pathway all the way up to the northern entrance and once there we debated on whether we would just continue on to explore Yoyogi Park; but it was getting quite later in the day and Jan didn’t think we would have enough time so we just took a couple of photos while there, then backtracked all the way to the Southern entrance where we started.

For reference purposes, the Homotsuden (treasury museum) continues to remain closed as it is undergoing construction for earthquake proofing. For more information about the Shiseikan (martial arts hall/dojo) you can click this link here.

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On the walk back to the Southern entrance, we got to check out these sake barrels on display at a certain area of the walkway. We passed them earlier on, but since we were in a hurry to get to the main shrine, we didn’t really have a proper look at them then.

The sake barrels are called sakedaru and their display as decoration is known as kazaridaru. They have been donated by sake brewers around Japan to be used in ceremonies and festivals.

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Across the display of sake barrels, we saw it’s western counterpart — wooden barrels of french wine. The signage beside the display said that these have been offered by celebrated wineries of Bourgogne France and are to be consecrated in Meiji Jingu with the earnest prayer that France and Japan will enjoy many more fruitful years of friendship. 

Another part of the shrine that we did not get to explore was the inner garden, also known as Meiji Jingu Gyoen. I initially wanted to check it out… but with us running out of time, Jan suggested otherwise. 

Meiji Jingu Gyoen was once part of a family owned land before it was taken under the control of the Japanese government during the Meiji period. It is said that Emperor Meiji designed the garden himself specifically for Empress Shoken. The garden is famous for it’s Iris blooms during the summer season ( specifically in June). Entrance fee to get into the inner garden is 500 yen.

Overall we had a nice time strolling around the huge shrine complex and it was a pretty good experience for our first (of many) shrine visits while in the country. I think it warrants a second visit as there were still a lot we were not able to see when we were there, but maybe we’ll wait until the construction of the treasury museum is done so then we don’t get to miss anything the second time around. 

Seriously Good Ramen at Ichiran.

After exploring the Imperial Palace East Gardens that morning, next on our list was to visit Harajuku — the Tokyo district in Shibuya internationally known for its Japanese youth culture and fashion.

But first, we needed to grab some lunch.

A quick google search showed a list of top food places within the Harajuku area, one of them was Ichiran. They served ramen, which sounded like a good idea (RAMEN IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA!) so Ichiran ended up being our choice.

The restaurant was located on the second floor of a building near Omotesando Street. When we reached the top of the stairs, we saw the ticket machine outside the door but were not really sure what to do with it or if we even needed to do anything with it at all.

Were we meant to order from the machine first or do we just go in? Maybe the machine was for people wanting to buy Ramen for takeout? We were stumped.

There was a group of people standing behind us at the time, so what we did was make them go ahead of us so we can observe what they were going to do. Haha!

Apparently, we were meant to choose our orders from the machine first in order to get a ticket for our orders. There were different ramen choices/sizes/combos to pick from. We selected the ones we wanted, got our tickets, then proceeded to go inside.

Once we got in, one of the lady staff greeted us and started talking to us in Japanese — (I think because we’re Asian they automatically assume we’re fluent with the language. Hehe.) After politely saying we didn’t understand, she then started talking to us in English and then handed us a piece of paper to fill up for later.

After that, all we needed to do was to wait to be seated. It didn’t take long. Ramen restaurants generally have a fast turnover of customers because people just eat and go. We were also quite lucky that day as there wasn’t a long line of people at the time waiting to eat… so after just a few minutes, the lady was already ushering us to our seats.

Jan and I each had our own little cubicle to sit in with a small window/opening — from what we know, the reason behind this is so that each customer can thoroughly savor and enjoy their ramen without any bother from anyone else.

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We had two pieces of paper to fill up before handing over our order to the staff. The first one, (photo above) was the paper we got given earlier. Here, we were to choose our preferences for how we wanted our ramen to be made.

This is the main reason why I loved eating in Ichiran… because we were able to “customize” our Ramen just the way we liked it!

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The second paper was the Extras Order Sheet where we got to select the things we wanted to add. Things ordered from here had extra charge and had to be payed for by cash as soon as we handed over the paper to the staff.

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Once we were done with filling up the papers, we pressed the green button that was on top the table and gave the servers on the other side of the window our tickets, order forms, extras order sheets and money.

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It didn’t take long for our orders to arrive. Once we got our food, the servers closed the windows of our cubicles so that we can enjoy our Ramen without any distractions.

His: medium flavour strength and richness with medium noodle texture; with green onions, sliced pork, no red sauce and a little garlic with extra order of simmered pork belly with dried seaweed.

Hers: medium flavour strength and richness and medium noodle texture; with green onions, sliced pork, 1/2 red sauce and a little garlic. Also ordered simmered pork belly with dried seaweed as an extra.

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THE FOOD WAS AMAZING!

I’m usually teased by my friends because I normally can’t finish whatever I order… Well, that definitely was NOT the case this time around! I loved the food so much that it didn’t even take me long to finish all of it! Haha!

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Also had a little bit of room (more like FORCEFULLY MADE ROOM) for this Matcha Almond Pudding with Green Tea Sauce dessert.

Our bellies were aching from being so full by the end of the meal. Haha!

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The happy face says it all. We thoroughly enjoyed our Ramen experience in Ichiran and definitely recommend it to other Ramen lovers out there.

A Calm Morning In Busy Tokyo: Inside The East Imperial Gardens

It was our second day in Japan. First order of the day was to visit the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. I already knew that the inner palace grounds were not open to the public at the time. Still, I wanted to at least see the outside of it in person.

It was a 16 minute walk from our hotel (Sakura Hotel Jimbucho) to the Kitahane-bashi-mon Gate, which turned out to be the entrance into the East Imperial Gardens and NOT where the Imperial Palace building was located.

* Site Map photo taken from the Imperial Household Agency website here.

But we were already there and the entrance into the garden grounds was free… so we decided that we might as well go in and have a look around.

Here are the highlights that we found inside the Imperial Palace East Gardens with a bit of information for each one at the bottom of the photos. Enjoy!

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Tenshu-Dai Base (number 16 in site map): It is the remaining foundation of the former castle tower (known as the tallest castle tower in the history in Japan) where the Tokugawa shogunate ruled the country. It was destroyed by a fire in 1657 and has never been rebuilt.

Toka-gakudo (Concert Hall) (Number 18 in Site Map):

“The Tokagakudo is an octagonal concert hall located within the imperial gardens of Tokyo. In Japanese, “Tokagakudo” means “peach blossom” and the structure is designed to resemble a flower. 

The Tokagakudo was built as a concert hall in 1966 in honor of Empress Kojun. She was the consort of Emperor Hirohito, the longest serving Japanese emperor who became the symbol of modern Japan after World War II. She was a well known patron and lover of classical music. The hall was opened to commemorate the 60th birthday of the empress who died in the year 2000.”

– GPSMYCITY.COM

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Ishi-Muro (Stone Cellar) (Number 6 in Site Map): A 20 sqaure meter stone cellar built as a storage area for important articles in case of emergencies such as fires.

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Site of the Honmaru (Main Compound) (Inner Circle) (Number 7 in Site Map): This used to be the central and innermost part of the castle which included the main tower (Tenshu-Dai) and the residence of the shogun. This area was destroyed several times by fire and in the present day, has been turned into an open space field perfect for picnics on a nice sunny day.

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Fujimi-tamon Defense House (Number 5 in Site Map):

Written on the Info Board:

…is the sole surviving example of the defence houses which, in the period of the Tokugawa Shogunate, together with towers and walls, circled the Honmaru (the main compound) of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s Edo Castle.

*Upon entering, Jan and I were asked to take our shoes off and given a plastic bag each to put our shoes in while inside.

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Site of the Matsu-no-o-roka (Number 4 in Site Map): The actual corridor or structure it was once part of is no longer physically present. The site now just blends in with the rest of the garden with trees and plants growing in the area and there’s this information board that tells a bit of a story.

Written on the Information board:

“Here is the site of the Matsu-no-o-roka, one of the longest and widest corridors of the Tokugawa Shogun’s Edo Castle palace, where in 1701 a daimyo (feudal lord) called Asano Takumi-no-kami abruptly attacked Kira Kozuke-no-suke, a high ranking expert in ceremonies in the Tokugawa Shogunate. While Kira escaped with slight injuries, Asano was ordered by the Shogunate to commit honourable suicide on the same day. The incident became the prologue to the story of the 47 ronins (former subjects of Asano), who, in the following year, would accomplish their master’s wish to kill Kira. A famous story which has been recreated in various forms, such as Bunraku (puppetry), Kabuki, novels and TV dramas, for centuries.”

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Fujimi-Yagura (Fuji-Viewing Tower) (Number 1 on site Map): Once a guard tower built 350 years ago, it replaced the main tower when it burned down in 1657. It is also said that it was used by Edo elites to view Mt. Fuji, hence it’s name which means “Mt. Fuji viewing tower.”

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O-bansho (Gaurdhouse) (Number 11 on Site Map): The guardhouse that protected Edo Castle’s Honmaru or ‘inner circle’ (Number 7 on Site Map).

Doshin-bansho (Gaurdhouse) (Number 13 on Site Map): One of the three remaining guardhouses in the area. It served as a checkpoint for anyone entering through the Ote-mon gate which was the main entrance to the castle grounds. Samurai guardsmen kept watch 24/7.

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Hyakunin-bansho (Gaurdhouse) (Number 14 on Site Map): The biggest guardhouse inside that is situated by the Ote-mon gate. It was the quarters of one hundred samurai guardsmen (closely related to the Tokugawa clan) who worked in alternating shifts 24/7. Visitors who entered the main entrance of the castle (Ote-mon gate) during the Edo Period were screened here.

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Ninomaru Garden (Secondary Circle) (Number 25 on Site Map):

Written on the Information Board:

“This area was Ninomaru (the second compund) of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s Edo Castle. Though palaces were built and gardens were created here, repeated fires destroyed the area before the closing of the Shogunate period. This garden was created in 1964 modelling a garden which existed here in the mid-18th century.”

 

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Iris Garden (Number 26 on Site Map): The garden is named “Ninomaru-teien” — the secondary area of the Edo castle before. The garden is based on the original garden designed by Enshu Kobori — a samurai, master of tea ceremony and famous japanese garden designer.

Unfortunately, when we visited the garden the Iris flowers were no longer in bloom as it was already the start of Autumn season. The flowers are best seen during late spring time between the months of May and June. 

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Suwa-no-cha-ya (Number 22 on Site Map): A tea house which was previously located in the Fukiage Garden of the Imperial Palace during the Edo Period. It was reconstructed in 1912 and relocated to its current location when the East Garden was constructed.

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Sannomaru Shozokan (The Museum of the Imperial Collections): We concluded our exploration of the Imperial Palace East Gardens at the Museum of the Imperial Collections (located within the garden grounds) where works of art donated by the Imperial family are displayed. 

“Located in the East Garden of the Imperial Palace, the Museum of the Imperial Collections boasts a collection of about 9,500 works of art and craft, including paintings and calligraphy, that have been passed down through successive generations of the Imperial family.

In 1989, after Emperor Showa passed away, the Imperial family donated 6,500 works of art to the nation and construction of this facility commenced in 1992, to provide a place where they could be managed, stored, and researched, as well as being displayed to the general public. The works went on display in 1993.”

– Japan National Tourism Organization 

More of this here: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/spot/museum/museum-of-the-imperial-collections.html

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 😉