Posts Tagged 'Travel'

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!

Sakura in Tokyo 2017

The cherry blossoms are out to play again! Unlike me, because it’s the start of the new school semester. But I’m still seeing sakura everywhere in the streets and loving it.

Last year I saw them for the first time and went all out going for hanami seven days a week, but this year there’s less time to be crazy so I’ve been content with just walking under all those pink trees. And maybe a picnic or two.

Of course my camera is still being stuffed with a massive load of sakura pictures. Everything in the memory card’s been pink for the past few days.

I went to Ueno Park again and had my fill at the food stalls. Everything was up and festive and I got a stick of dango just like last year. Except this time it was pink! Sakura dango, a stick of the softest mochi I’ve ever had.

It got paraded around for a bit too, while I was trying to get the best photo position with the sakura trees in the background.

It’s so fun seeing everyone out in the streets looking excited about seeing the flowers. There’re so many people walking around appreciating the sakura that it just makes you feel better about starting the new school year.

And if you see a bunch of old grandpas with their heavy duty tripods and full-frame DSLRs lined up, you know it’s a good photo spot.

Sakura at sunset is also beautiful and unexpectedly photogenic, as I found out at Rikugien the other day.

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).

Hong Kong Food Diary

I went to Hong Kong for the first time! And ate approximately six trips’ worth of food, clearly. You’d think we planned our entire itinerary around meals and snack times.

But food in Hong Kong is just that good and accessible—everywhere we went there was something that looked delicious and didn’t make a dent in our wallets.

I think breakfast is such a great way of seeing the every day life of people in the country you’re visiting. The things they eat, the way they order food like they’re talking to a friend, the time they take to sit there and eat. Some of them opened up their newspapers, some of them took a bite and were on their way out.

(We spent a good hour taking pictures while eating like the tourists we are.)

The old-fashioned places were my favourite. This one was called Mido Cafe and straight out of the 60s, timeless in its subdued green hues and patterned tiles.

When we weren’t sitting at cafe or cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style restaurant) eating we were roaming around and hitting all the food stalls on the street. Egg tarts for HK$45! I almost want to write a currency table so you could see how cheap it is in different currencies.

And they were freshly baked.

There was a famous stall called Hop Yik Tai in Sham Shui Po selling cheong fun—they ladled out mini rice rolls onto a plate, splashed it with sauces and gave it to you to eat in the alley next door. No-frills but delicious.

Another famous Hong Kong snack! Egg waffles that looked puffy but were actually crispy and airy inside.

And of course we had dim sum. Because that’s what you do when you go to Hong Kong—eat dim sum every day. It’s hard not to when it’s just! So! Cheap! And my stomach has a huge capacity for steamed buns.

We had the famous BBQ pork bun from Tim Ho Wan and it was a game-changer. No other pork bun comes this close for me. The chain’s got a lot of pressure with its one Michelin star and critics saying it’s overrated, but as far as I’m concerned it was the best I’ve had. I could dream about that crispy crust.

Dim sum was cheap on the whole, but it could get expensive in the swankier areas. I specifically wanted these piggy buns from Yum Cha, which was a proper restaurant in the city with waiters that actually paid attention to you (in fact ours was hovering right in front of us and refused to leave the entire time, but that’s another matter). Anyway, I got the buns and they were the cutest thing on the island I ate.

And if this isn’t the prettiest har gow I’ve ever seen! Certainly the best dressed shrimp dumpling you’ll find.

These were pineapple puffs! If I’m going to pay double the price for dim sum, they’d better come in a silver cage shaped as baby birds.

That was just a fraction of the food pictures I had from the entire trip, but we did actually do things other than eating! Like observing the billions of cats that seem to populate the streets of Hong Kong.

We also found ourselves crawling through a pirate’s cave on Cheung Chau island.

The travel bug is real. I finally got to check Hong Kong off my list of places to go! It was a gritty city cramped with old buildings and movement, but being in the middle of all that meant I got to see all the colours and neon lights and the towering double decker buses up close.

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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


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.

はじめまして!
大学一年生のシェリルです
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(´_`) /♪

よろしくお願いします

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