Posts Tagged 'Japanese food'

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.

Tokyo Food Diary

Sakura trees are losing the pink and sprouting the green—the season’s crossed over the threshold of spring and said goodbye to those photogenic flowers for another year.

Here’re the last of my sakura food snaps—if I wasn’t taking pictures of the flowers I was walking around Tokyo looking for everything pink and limited edition, like this cupcake I found in a bakery cafe at Nishi-Ogikubo. It’s amazing how much difference one sakura leaf makes to a plain cupcake. Really though, it was salty and sweet and an unforgettable ten minutes spent on a dessert.

Something homemade for a change! Except the pasta. When you walk into a store and see a packet of pastel pink sakura-shaped pasta, there’s no question about it—it sails straight into your basket and then you litter it all over your bento later because it’s just so cute.

A rare choice of drink: Pricey, hyped and taking over my Instagram explore feed, but if there’s anything that can make me go to Starbucks it’s a domed pie crust over a frappe. Creativity right there! The American Cherry Pie Frappuccino came out last week in Japan, and it’s already become a star. I liked the drink okay enough, but the real satisfaction for me was in breaking up that crust and scooping up with the drink.

On to a tale of more humble beverage. I went to the supermarket and saw all these boxes of soy milk, so I swiped them off the shelf and finished them in two days. It’s easy to become a serial soy milk drinker when they come in packaging and flavours as fabulous as the Kikkoman range. I mean…mango soy milk? It was calling my name!

Getting some egg action with the most beautifully constructed quiche. I don’t actually love egg’s benedict—I’m not usually a fan of gooey food that runs all over the plate and leaves a mess, until it comes protected in a buttery quiche crust. This was at Quiche Yorozuika in Omotesando! They just don’t do anything but make really good quiche.

All filled up and ready for the new week!

Cafe itonowa

Cafe itonowa! It’s been making its rounds on Instagram and their seasonal strawberry cakes are something of a poster child so I went to try it for myself. Twice, in fact.

It’s one of those small, Instagrammy cafes where everything is in shades of white and tan and customers walk in with little else but a camera. It was near Asakusa and a bit far out from the city centre, but at opening time there was already a queue. It’s popular!

Their menu is pretty uncluttered, with just a few main items and drinks. And lunch sets, to coax customers into getting a dessert along with their food.

I had the toast set which came with cream of spinach soup, so that was healthy.

On my next visit I tried the curry rice, and that was satisfying too. Brown rice doused in grainy curry with a half-boiled egg cracked on top. And a broccoli for some greens, yum.

If you search itonowa up on Instagram, this is the one that’ll probably show up the most. I’d gone all the way there with the intention of getting their famous strawberry roll cake, so I had it with a cup of hot houjicha milk (hooray for lunch sets). Expectations met

These cafes really make you work; travelling there and looking for them in the maze of streets they tend to hide in takes effort, but so far they’ve been worth the trip. I even went to itonowa a second time! It’s a special kind of joy going to a cafe alone and seeing you’re not the only one alone (ha, the irony).

Cake and Peaceful Days at Cafe SOROR

Recently I’ve been on a hunt for small cafes with pretty desserts so it’s a good thing that there are so many hidden around the streets of Tokyo. Everything is designed with heart, from the interior to the beautifully plated desserts.

I went to SOROR, a cafe in Shin-Otsuka near Ikebukuro. It’s tiny, so sometimes people have to wait outside for a table (I waited). But since it was cold out the staff gave us blankets to keep us warm. So kindPlus the storefront is adorable. I want to sit out there!

Lunch plates are one of my favourite things about Japan. Cafe SOROR had the typical sets with soup and drinks, so I had their bibimbap with apple juice.

Their quiche plate was also good

We finished off with dessert and were completely satisfied with the aesthetic and taste of their homemade cakes. Everything was so pretty! There was also a vase of dried flowers conveniently placed on our table that became a prop for our pictures.

It’s the kind of place that I would go to even by myself—a cosy and unassuming space that lets you enjoy cake in peace.

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

January Conbini Favorites

It’s been a while since I did a conbini post! Been a while since I posted at all, really. Technically I just skipped a week of posting, but during finals period everything feels like an eternity when you have to study instead.

If I can’t go out to cafes then at least I’ll make sure I eat good stuff from the convenience stores.

Conbini Chicken Steamed Bun

I’m going to start with this since today is actually the first day of Chinese New Year and it’s the year of the rooster! Lawson was selling this chicken steamed bun that looks like a rooster—I love chuukaman even when they don’t come in animal form.

Kanahei Pocky

Remember the last post about the illustrator Kanahei’s exhibition? To continue about her success, here’s a limited edition Kanahei collaboration Pocky that’s everywhere in the supermarkets and conbini. There’re strawberry and chocolate flavours, so of course I bought them bothKanahei

Family Mart Macarons

Ooh. Here’s the fun one. Sometime last year I was amazed when I saw Family Mart selling macarons, and now they’ve even gone on to make it DIY. The macaron shells come neatly packaged in a cup with jam, and then you assemble everything yourself.

Family Mart Macarons

I just wish they had buttercream instead of jam for filling, but I can’t really be picky when this is obviously more of an activity than a dessert anyway.

Conbini Steamed Bun Heart

And there’re some other cute stuff too, like this heart-shaped chocolate steamed bun from Seven ElevenheartThis thing just oozes with so much filling! It’s so comforting to be able to just drop by a convenience store round the corner and get a hot chocolatey heart to go.

Counting down to spring break…sakura


Happy new year! I’ve just come back from a short getaway to Okinawa so get ready for a long wall of photos from my four days in the southernmost bit of Japan.

Okinawa in Winter

Most people have an image of Okinawa as a sunny resort island to go to for a summer vacation—so did I, which is why I didn’t know what to expect going there in the winter. But just like the rest of Japan it must be beautiful in all seasons because Okinawa in winter was amazing.

Okinawa in Winter

There definitely aren’t any cliffs like this in Tokyo.

Okinawa in Winter

It was my first time discovering Okinawa for myself; they have their own traditional Ryukyu culture and it gave the place a whole different vibe from Tokyo. Still bustling, still bright—but in a very Okinawan style. Plus I get what people mean now when they say it’s like the Hawaii of Japan (I wouldn’t say it’s that heavily influenced by American culture, but there were a lot of steakhouses).

Okinawa in Winter

In any case, the streets and shops were full of weird and bizarre things and I loved it. What’s Tweety Bird even doing in the jaws of a shark?

Okinawa in Winter

No doubt Okinawa is a fruit paradise. I felt oddly at home seeing all the tropical fruits that appear in Southeast Asia too, but I’ve never seen a mini pineapple. They were smaller than the palm of my hand! How do people grow those?

Okinawa in Winter

And of course we ate as much Okinawan food as we could (over multiple meals and snacks every day). I stayed in the capital city Naha, and it was easy to find a good breakfast anywhere. I had yushi doufu twice, which is basically soft fluffy tofu in hot broth with the essential bowl of rice on the side.

Okinawa in Winter

They also have their own special tofu which is made with peanuts. Peanuts! I’m not sure how it works but it tasted good (if a bit too chewy).

Okinawa Soba

Getting that Okinawa soba in our stomach early in the morning. It’s called soba, but it’s really made of wheat and more like flat udon.

Okinawa in Winter Acai Bowl

And if you’re looking for a more Hawaiian breakfast (it’s Okinawa, after all), C&C Breakfast is a highly popular cafe that serves a good acai bowlkirakira

Okinawa in Winter

On our first night we fell into a tourist trap at Kokusai-dori and had dinner at a restaurant that had traditional Okinawan performances. The place had a great set-up and it was nice getting to listen to old-fashioned music—except you have to pay an extra cover charge so watch out for that! (It was fine trying it once but it gets pretty expensive)

Okinawa in Winter Goya Chanpuru

We had delicious local cuisine anywaygirl tongueI really liked goya chanpuru—bitter melon, egg, meat and tofu all stir-fried together into one hot dish. I don’t even like bitter melon usually, but somehow they made it taste good.

Okinawa in Winter

And desserts. Of courselove girlThis was zenzai, sweet red bean soup with mochi, but surprisingly in Okinawa they used kidney beans instead of red beans. No wonder they looked bigger and redder than usual. I honestly still prefer the red beans, but I already love anything with mochi in it anyway.

Okinawa in Winter

Okinawa is also famous for their purple sweet potatoes! Beni imo is such a quintessential Okinawa food that I almost feel bad burying it in the middle of my post. There was so much sweet potato everywhere—in the streets, in the food, even in soaps.

Okinawa in Winter Ryukyumura

We did occasionally take a break to go sightseeinghurhurThe Ryukyu villages are heritage spots with lots to see if you’re interested in the old Okinawan culture, with all the preserved houses and artifacts right there in one place.

Okinawa in Winter

They have this lion-dog creature called Shisa, which appears in pretty much every corner of Okinawa as a traditional decoration. Except sometimes it also comes in slightly modern forms like this Doraemon one.

Okinawa in Winter

Okinawan snacks! Sata andagi (fried donuts) and chinbin (brown sugar pancakes).

Okinawa in Winter

And Okinawa soba again, just because.

Okinawa in Winter

We moved on from the villages to the natural wonders of OkinawakirakiraThe ocean was SO BLUE. Capitals can’t express my excitement enough over how blue it was.

Okinawa in Winter

We ate a seaside cafe called Cafe Curcuma in the south and sat there for a long time just looking out at the scenery over the cliff.


And then we drove up to Cape Manzamo, one of the most popular tourist spots with a view of the elephant trunk-shaped cliff hanging over the sea. How does the sea even have two tones of blues?! The wind was so strong it could’ve blown me right off but I would’ve stayed there as long as I could to look at this scenery straight out of a postcard. And since a still photo can’t do it justice I turned into a (very shaky) gif so you can see how strong the waves were.

Okinawa in Winter

Basically anywhere in Okinawa is a photo-worthy location.

Okinawa in Winter

There’re beaches everywhere (I mean, the whole island is like a giant beach) but my favourite was Azama Sun Sun Beach just because they had this cute heart-shaped bell stand for me to use as a huge prop.

Okinawa in Winter

Umikaji Terrace is also another exquisite landmark that looks a little like a seaside town in Greece, thanks to the pure white terrace overlooking the blue sea. How very photogenic.

Okinawa in Winter

We went below the surface for a bit too, to see the caves. This was Gyokusendo Cave at Okinawa World, and we basically walked underground for half an hour looking at stalactites and deer fossils. It’s also apparently the second biggest cave in Japan (I actually read those pamphlets).

Okinawa in Winter

Is there anywhere else in the world that has a postbox in the cave?

Okinawa Cape Manzamo

It was just four days, but I left Okinawa incredibly satisfied and impressed (and a few kilos heavier too, probably). It’s not the typical destination in winter since people usually go in the summer, but it looks like I just have to go again. Go to Okinawa, everybody! Eat some fried donuts at the beach!

Okinawa in Winter

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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