Archive for the 'Special Places!' Category

Pretty in Purple: Wisteria Festival at the Shrine

Now that the cherry blossoms are long gone, it’s time to give these unsung heroes some attention.

These big, bright purple boas draping down from trees—wisteriaThey bloom later in spring, which is just as good because you get to enjoy it right after all the sakura disappears. They’re not poofy like a sakura tree, but hang downwards from their branches. Kind of like the threes are growing violet hair.

There was a festival going on at the Kameidoten Shrine near Asakusa, while all the wisteria flowers were in bloom. Lots of trees, lots of peopleOn occasions like this I don’t mind the crowd so much—if anything it makes the event livelier and even better.

Japan seriously has nice nature all year round. In Singapore everything’s just green all the time, so seeing all this pink and purple everywhere gets me real excited. And what a shade of purple it is! (My favourite colour, by the way.)

Iconic red bridge for that postcard look (except of course once you’re actually on that bridge it’s just kind of overstuffed with people crossing). The touches of red in the shrine made the purple wisteria look extra vibrant.

It was a weekend, so there were lots of families around! At the risk of sounding like an grandma, seeing all the little kids having fun really brightens the place up.

Not to mention the food stallsThe last time I went to a big festival was in the summer, so it was great seeing all the different stalls. Lots of frying and grilling around, and the clunk of the shaved ice machine. Festive! I got a fried meat bun.

There were a bunch of Japanese sweetfish being cooked around a fire; it’s too bad I didn’t get one, but next time I definitely want to. I’ve had these fish on sticks a couple of times before and they’re actually really tasty (plus, fun to eat).

The sun was in a great mood that day

A Real Cafe from a Ghibli Movie

Today I went to a special place, possibly one of my favourite places in Tokyo I’ve been to in the time I’ve stayed here. But first let me tell you about one of my favourite films of all time (yes, it’s relevant)!

The Cat ReturnsOr Neko no Ongaeshi in Japanese. It’s an old Studio Ghibli film, and it came out more than a decade ago when I was 7 or 8. I couldn’t get enough of all those cats—even the human protagonist turns into one—and years later it’s still one of the few shows I always go back to.

Anyway, these fish cookies are a recurring motif in The Cat Returns and a symbol of friendship between cat and girl. And they’re the same ones in the first picture on top. They’re real!

Everyone knows the beauty that is Ghibli art; this scene of a cake shop was just one of many gorgeous shots in The Cat Returns. What’s less known is probably the real shop that it was modelled after. The director of the film based it on an actual cafe in Koenji, Tokyo, and I never knew until I stumbled across it online. So of course I went to look for it

It was just right there around the corner of the street! So modest, so unadorned, but so surreal to see come straight out of the Ghibli film I love so much. It’s in a quiet neighbourhood and not a lot of people pass by. There aren’t often fans or people who watched the movie coming for a pilgrimage either, probably because The Cat Returns isn’t as known as some of Ghibli’s bigger hits.

Inside the cafe hangs a framed message from Morita Hiroyuki, the man who directed The Cat Returns, and it’s the most adorable autograph I’ve seen.

“Thank you for not only appearing in our The Cat Returns, but for even making these cookies in real life!” The famous fish-shaped cookies initially appeared only on the film and weren’t sold in original cake shop, but it seems that once they found out they were in a Ghibli movie they decided to make them for real as thanks to the director. And I’m so glad they did

They keep lots of film memorabilia inside, and a guest book for people to write in. It’s not a big cake shop, but there are a bunch of stools lined up along the wall and the counter for people to sit in and have tea. When I dropped by there were two grannies talking away with the shopkeeper while eating cake, so it seems like a good place to come to when you want some peace and dessert.

I only got the cookies and had to dash, but I enjoyed my 5 minutes inside lots. And the other 10 spent taking photos outside.

Tokyo never stops surprising me; I didn’t think I’d come across a place so familiar yet what was always just a fictional part of my childhood. Coming here made me feel like watching The Cat Returns all over again. And if you haven’t seen it before, you should too! It’s highly underrated and I need to share this imaginative gem of a Ghibli film with everyone. And maybe cookies, if there’re some left.

Back in Time at Nikko Edo Wonderland

Nikko Edo Wonderland

We travelled back in time to the Edo period of pre-modern Japan. What’s the secret?

Easy. Take a two hour train from Tokyo up north to Nikko, get on a bus, and pay ¥4000 to get inside. Haha.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

I’d known this place for a while and always wanted to go because it’s a historical themed village where everything and everyone is straight out of feudal Japan over two centuries ago. Doesn’t that sound fun? The only thing is it’s pricey and far from Tokyo, so it does take some effort to get here. But I finally did and it was great! We were immediately greeted by a ninja.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

The staff are all appropriately dressed as Edo people living in the village, whether they’re swordsmen or townsfolk or the local police. But the best part is that everyone else become part of the village too! Exhibit A: Three female ninjas in pink visiting for the day.

Nikko Edo Wonderland Costumes

We wanted to join in the fun too, so we went to dress up. Renting the outfit cost us another fortune, but we got to wear it till the end of the day and it is pretty much the real deal, so it’s money well spent. I’ve worn kimono and yukata, but I’ve never gotten to be an Edo swordswoman.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

A samurai needs to eat too. The streets were lined up with traditional stalls and I got a stick of hot dango (which was not a good idea to eat while wearing a ¥3000 rented costume).

Nikko Edo Wonderland

Nikko Edo Wonderland was having an anniversary campaign when we were there, so all the activities were free that month! Which was frankly amazing, because we must’ve saved at least a thousand yen painting our own daruma dolls and making strawberry daifuku.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

More things you can enjoy for free—picking a fight with random villagers in the street and practising your sword skills on them.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

They even had the cutest black shiba inu! I think I took about a few hundred pictures of Hachi. And then one with him, because I liked him so much.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

Definitely another place I’d recommend people to go to for a day trip out of Tokyo. It was one of the more unique attractions I’d visited in Japan, and the people at the village are so committed and good at their role that you really don’t feel like you’re in the 21st century at all (except when you’re taking selfies in your kimono with your iPhone). Go back in time and explore old Japan!

Nikko Edo Wonderland

Snowy Night at the Oldest Ryokan in Japan

Hello! As soon as vacation started I went off on a trip across the Kanto region in Japan, so I’m going to get straight it and start a mini travel series with the night we spent at Sekizenkan, the oldest hot spring inn in Japan.


If you’ve watched Spirited Away then this bridge probably looks a little familiar to you. Sekizenkan’s supposedly one of the inspirations behind the film’s onsen setting, and whether it’s true or not the place looks pretty legit.


It’s 326 years old, which is actually really amazing once you add up the centuries. We also realised that’s probably why the ryokan is kind of worn out and creaky, but that was all part of its charm.


Another charm was definitely its cost. One night cost us ¥6,000 (US$53), which is already half the price of most ryokans. You could call it a no-frills deal—it doesn’t pamper you quite as much as other places and you have to set up your own futon, but all that were really minor comforts to sacrifice for such a great price.


I mean, we still got the usual gift of manju!


Another reason for the low price was because the meals are provided at an economy size instead of the usual kaiseki 1o-course shebang. But when we got this whole tray of food for dinner, there really wasn’t anything economy about it. Everything was beautifully laid out and still looked expensive, so I didn’t think we were missing out on anything.


Our dinner was served in the dining hall where our table was waiting for us. So homely.

Sekizenkan Breakfast

Breakfast was another grand affair! (Okay seriously, this is a steal at the price we paid) There was porridge in the morning so that was a nice change from the endless bowls of rice. They even let you get refills if you wanted them, which is always a plus point anywhere.


It wasn’t just the food, but the whole landscape of the place was worth every yen. It may be an old place, but they’ve kept it gorgeous. Every window we looked out of had a good view even it was a clump of trees in the dark.


Shady, but magical. Also I’m glad we came here when there was snow everywhere!


Even the interior was pretty, with old-fashioned corridors and furnishings all over the place. This one elevator in the ryokan opened up to a long dim hallway that looked very much like a creepy tunnel, so that was cool.

Sekizenkan Onsen

And of course the baths were amazing. They had an outdoor onsen! (I feel like all good ryokans need to have one anyway) It was snowing when we entered the hot spring, so needless to say that was the best bath I’ve ever had.


It’s not the fanciest or the most luxurious, but Sekizenkan has an old charm of its own that you can’t get anywhere else. And of course it’s nice to be able to say you’ve stayed at the night at the real life Spirited Away hot springneko

Hanging out at an Owl Cafe

I made friends with owls in Ikebukuro!

Owl Cafe

Maybe it was kind of a one-sided friendship. But at least they posed with us for the pictureshurhurIt was so interesting because I’d never really thought about going to an owl cafe even though they’re pretty popular in Tokyo. But my friend invited me to go so I got to see it myself for the first time!

Owl Cafe

The setup inside turned out to be a lot nicer than I’d expected. They’d really gone all out with the forest theme; it was us and the owls under a lot of trees. And a TV too, if you wanted to watch old Moomin episodes with your new feathered friends.

Owl Cafe

There were owls everywhere, and some of them blended into the forest so well I thought they were statues.

Owl Cafe

I loved this owl which just looked plain shocked to see me.

Owl Cafe

It cost ¥890 to get it, but there wasn’t a time limit and they gave you a drink. So I could still enjoy my chocolate banana smoothie surrounded by owls.

It’s one of those places that’d be nice to experience at least once in your life. And then go again if you have money or a great passion for owlssmile

Beach Day at Kamakura

Yuigahama Beach, Kamakura

This was from the day I visited Yuigahama Beach! It’s in Kamakura, a seaside city just an hour away from Tokyo that’s a pretty famous tourist destination. If people aren’t visiting the dozens of shrines and temples then they’re probably sitting at the beach chilling in front of the ocean. (I was at the beach)

Yuigahama Beach, Kamakura

It was my first time spending the day at a beach in Japanlove girlAnd in the first place I’ve only ever gone a couple times even back home, so I had a lot of fun walking around in the sand and watching people jump into the sea.

I’d like to say it’s officially summer, but the weather is always changing its mind and I think it was 24℃ that day. About the temperature of a nicely air-conditioned room—perfect for the beach, because I much prefer being a little cold to sweating the whole day.

Yuigahama Beach, Kamakura

I had the hugest plate of curry rice for lunch on the beachnekoMy friends won over ¥5000 worth of food vouchers at this restaurant in a lucky draw so we basically had a feast. I’m not sure how financially viable it is for the owners to be so generous, but it’s great for all the hungry people at the beach. Would go back again (for free food)!

Yuigahama Beach, Kamakura

Salted butter and caramel ice cream! I’m adding this to my list of favourite things—eating dessert while looking at the sea. How poetic.

Yuigahama Beach, Kamakura

I’m sorry I’ve been slow with blog updates the past few weekscryBasically all my social media’s taken a backseat during finals, so I’m trying to get back into the swing of things while catching up on sleep (way too difficult to do both simultaneously).

Anyway, long story short: I need to go back to the beach again.

Tokyo: Dinner with Penguins

I’ve been to lots of animal cafes in Japan, but this was a first…

Penguin Bar Tokyo

Penguins! Lots of them! At a small bar in Ikebukuro, where you can eat up close with them while you watch them and they watch youPenguinI took my friends here a few weeks ago and it was a pretty rare chance to see penguins in such close proximity.

Penguin Bar Tokyo

The place is almost twenty minutes’ walk from the station and a little tricky to find if you’re going for the first time, but once you’re nearby the sign’s easy to find! The penguins are a giveaway. Also since it was a bar and not my usual dinky cafe scene it was a different environment from what I was used to with the dim lighting and occasional pack of smoking businessmen.

Penguin Bar Tokyo

At least they had cute hand towels. We never used them in the end because we didn’t want to pull the penguins apart.

Penguin Bar Tokyo

And here are the penguins looking on as we eat one of their kind. We had the fried chicken from the side menu!

Penguin Bar Tokyo

My main dish was gratin with a giant prawn poking out of it. It was hot and cheesy and a very good choice of mealgood

Penguin Bar Tokyo

If you’re looking for a new experience in Tokyo or just really like penguins, I recommend this place for dinnerkirakiraIt was nice to eat dinner with my friends and occasionally look up and see a bunch of penguins waddling around. The staff take good care of them too, so they seem happy!

Penguin Bar Tokyo

Welcome ♡

▷ . Cheryl

I'm a university student in Tokyo blogging every weekend about cute food and cute places in Japan٩( ᐛ )و

Read my About Me ☆ to know more.

毎週日本の可愛い食べ物や場所についてブログ更新していますヽ(´_`) /♪



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