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Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Filtering by Tag: Restaurants Japan

Lunch at Kawaii Monster Cafe

Paula Gaston

In my previous post; "Crazy Cafés of Japan", I promised that someday I will tell you more about the Kawaii Monster Cafe we visited. well, we didn't see any monsters, but it sure was an interesting and fun experience, and our daughter still talks about it every week. Kawaii actually means cute or sweet, so I think that is why the monsters we met were not scary at all.

Kawaii Monster Cafe is located in Harajuku, Tokyo. It was opened in 2015, and designed together with an artist called Sebastian Masuda, who is behind many other theme cafes in Japan as well. During our trip to Japan we also visited the Moomin Cafe and a Hello Kitty Cafe, but there is also a Lisa in Wonderland Cafe, Vampire Cafe and many others in Tokyo.

We arrived at the Monster Cafe right when lunch started since we figured that later we might have to stand in a line. Smart move, we were escorted right in, but when we left we did notice that there was a line. Before letting us in, we were asked which room we would like to sit in and we had to pay an entrance fee which was a couple dollars. We had no idea what the restaurant would look like, so we went for the room called Mushroom Disco. The doors were opened in a very theatrical way, and in we went...

It is very hard to describe the atmosphere in this place, but this video will show you what it was like.  

The words that come into my mind from this place are; colorful, crazy and corny. It was very dark and colorful, and the music was very loud. Well, at least it was something we had never seen before. The monster girls were dressed kind of like Harajuku girls, and they also did a show on a merry-go-round that looked like a cake. Our daughter was invited to dance with them on the carrousel which she loved. The monster girls were also happy to pose for pictures.

While we were waiting for our food we did a little tour in the restaurant. Along with the Mushroom Disco, there was the Meal-Tea Room, Bar Experiment and a space called Milk Stand. After leaving the restroom we accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up in a private room. It was a pretty pink room with a huge kitty cat on the wall. It was very cool! And I should probably also mention the restroom too. It had an interesting collection of colorful marbles in it. 

The menu at the Monster Cafe was quite limited and unfortunately many of the desserts were sold out even though the day was just starting. My husband chose the only Japanese sounding dish on the menu while I decided to try the Monster Burger. Our little girl got the french fries she had been asking for, since it took a while for her to get used to the Japanese food. They were served with colorful dipping sauces. My husband also ordered a drink, which was served in test tubes. What was in it? We have no idea, but it sure looked interesting. The food at the Monster Cafe was ok, but I would not choose this place based on the culinary experience. They were fun, but not as tasty as the food we had been enjoying during our Japan trip. 

Monster Burger

Monster Burger

Video; Non Druggy Cocktail (Experiment)

People exit the Monster Cafe American style; by walking through a souvenir shop. Overall the lunch was very interesting and fun, but maybe one time in this place will be enough for me. If you want to experience something really crazy or if you are traveling with kids, I would recommend this cafe just so you can see something different. The prices are little bit higher than the average restaurant in Japan, but here you will be paying for the experience, not just for the food. But it wasn't too expensive. I think Monster Cafe definitely takes the first spot on my "weirdest restaurants" list! 

Kawaii Monster Cafe can be found from; YM Square Building 4F, 4-31-10, Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo.

 

Tokyo Moomin Cafe - Where Nobody Has to be Alone

Paula Gaston

On our trip to Japan last November, we visited a Moomin Cafe at the Tokyo Dome. The Moomin Bakery & Cafe was a fun experience and especially our 4 year old daughter enjoyed it a lot. The idea of this cafe is that nobody is there alone. Different moomin characters circulate at the tables while the guests enjoy their food. Moomin is a cartoon character from my home country, Finland, and is extremely popular in Japan. Moomins are friendly little trolls who look like hippos, and live in Moomin Valley with their friends.

We walked in to the Moomin Cafe right between breakfast and lunch. We would have been ready to eat a meal, but we were told that lunch is not served yet, and we should choose something from the bakery. The great thing about the bakery is that most of the goodies they have are moomin themed. I ate a delicious cheese pie and Finnish star-shaped pie we usually bake during Christmas time. The rest of the family went for chocolate cakes. Also the food looked fun since they all were themed with moomins somehow. I even spotted some Finnish rye bread in the salad buffet. 

Snorkmaiden was sitting at our table, and I had a Hattifattener picture on my latte.

Snorkmaiden was sitting at our table, and I had a Hattifattener picture on my latte.

I really liked the decor in this cafe. It was almost like being in Finland, and being surrounded by moomins. The Snorkmaiden sat at our table for a while and so did the Sniff, until the waitresses moved them to another table. Our daughter also got to wear Moominpappa's hat for a while.

I heard that there are also other Moomin Cafes in Tokyo. With a quick search I found one located in Tokyo SkyTree which is called Moomin House Cafe, and a Moomin store. Many people in Japan seemed to recognise the moomins on our daughters clothes or from a backpack we got from Finland. 

Before we left we stopped at a souvenir shop which was in the cafe. They had everything from moomin mugs to books and key chains. I was tempted to buy some moomin pasta which I had never seen before, but since our trip had just started and our backpacks were full, I decided to skip it. But I could totally recommend a visit to Moomin Cafe and to the Tokyo Dome. There were a lot of cool things here for kids like roller coasters and carousels, and many shops and restaurants. We could have stayed there even longer, but we wanted to move on to see other sights in Tokyo. 

Foods You Don't Want to Miss When Visiting Japan

Paula Gaston

One of the best things about visiting Japan is absolutely the food! We really enjoyed the Japanese cuisine and also tried some new foods. Even though I had thought we have pretty authentic Japanese food in California, I just now realised how the local ingredients give the food a different flavour. The food in Japan is simply to die for!

Before our trip I was a little bit nervous how we would know all the local rules and etiquette in Japanese restaurants, but pretty quickly we started to feel right at home. The Japanese are fairly used to tourists and will usually understand that you can't know everything. Being polite will take you pretty far. Quite fast we started to realise how to eat certain foods, or in which restaurant you should remove your shoes when getting in. And you can always check what other guests are doing. People in Japan are very friendly especially to kids, and our little blonde haired daughter got a lot of attention. They usually brought her a plastic plate with a fork and spoon, or they drew funny faces on her plate. 

If you visit Japan, you should at least try these:

1. RAMEN

Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish which has some Chinese influences. With the noodles, there is some delicious broth, and it is usually seasoned with soy or miso. Depending what kind of ramen you order, there might be some pork or some seafood in it. There are so many different versions of ramen, and almost every region in Japan has their own ramen dish. During lunch hour, many good ramen restaurants have a line. We were told that when you eat ramen, you don't have to be so sophisticated. Slurping and making some noise is allowed.

We found a great ramen restaurant in Kyoto where we kept going back. Our little one really fell in love with ramen there, and still often asks for noodles for dinner (meaning ramen). She especially loved the broth which she kept calling "the soup".  

2. SOBA NOODLES

Soba noodels are mainly made with buckwheat flour which gives the noodles it's darker colour. Soba is served as a soup but can be served in many other ways also like grilled.  

3. SUSHI

I think this was the best sushi plate I have had in my life so far. I think I might of gone to heaven when I was eating it... or maybe I was just very hungry. But of course, when you are in Japan, you need to try some sushi. We happened to find this little sushi restaurant in Kyoto by accident, and after we had eaten we noticed that the place was full of trophies and diplomas. Maybe this was why the food was so good?

4. TEMPURA

Tempura is a popular, Japanese battered and fried food. Usually it is made with either seafood or vegetables. Tempura can be served as it is, or with noodles, sushi or rice.

5. YAKITORI

Yakitori at it's simplest means a grilled chicken skewer. They are usually served with some side dishes, like here, with two different cheese skewers and a vegetable skewer.  

6. OKONOMIYAKI

Check out the video of okonomiyaki. 

My Japanese colleague made sure that on our trip we would taste a food from her home region Hiroshima. It is called okonomiyaki (meaning "whatever you like grilled") and you can see it on the picture on the left. She told me that it is sort of a Japanese pancake or an omelette. Okonomiyaki fast became one of my favourite foods in Japan. Traditionally it is made with wheat flour, yam, eggs and cabbage. Then you can choose the ingredients you like such as seafood, meat, vegetables or cheeses. "The pancakes" in Hiroshima and Osaka regions are a little bit different from each other, so I would recommend to try the different versions.  Okonomiyaki is cooked on a teppan, a hot plate in the middle of the table, and it is topped with different kinds of sauces. On the right side on the picture you will see a noodle dish my husband ordered; yakisoba. 

7. TONKATSU

Tonkatsu is sort of a battered and fried pork cutlet which is served with some tonkatsu sauce. We actually ordered it several times because our little daughter seemed to like it, and at the beginning of the trip she was very picky about the food. You often get some rice, cabbage salad and other food as a side of tonkatsu. 

8. TAKOYAKI

Ok, fine. These octopus balls might not have been our favourite dish, or maybe we should have tried them more than once to get used to the flavour. But hey, at least we tried! Takoyaki is a popular street food in Japan, and is basically battered and fried octopus. On top you will have okonomiyaki sauce, dried fish (Katsuobushi) and some spices. 

9. DORAYAKI

I already got my first dorayaki in the airplane where it was served as a dessert. Later we bought some for a snack. Dorayaki is basically two little pancakes with some adzuki bean paste in between them. This red paste was used in many snacks in Japan, and it was great since it's not too sweet. 

11. MATCHA AND SESAME ICE CREAM

Oops, I think someone already took a bite from the matcha ice cream.

Oops, I think someone already took a bite from the matcha ice cream.

Everything is colourful in Japan! Even the ice cream. We were curious to try the green tea flavoured matcha ice cream and the sesame ice cream. Maybe they were not exactly to my taste, but I enjoyed the experience. 

12. JAPANESE TREATS (WAGASHI)

You should also try Japanese treats. There are so many kinds, from mochi balls to very decorative higashi cakes. Many of them have the adzuki bean paste inside of them, like the taiyaki fish in the picture below, which also are sort of a treat. Japanese treats are packed in the most beautiful packages, so they also make an excellent gift or souvenir to take home with you. 

13. TAIYAKI

These funny fish cakes seemed to be sold everywhere we went. They are almost like waffles with some filling. Most often the filling is adzuki bean paste but we also found some with vanilla creme inside. These cakes are easy to have as a snack or take them with you when touring around Japan. 

13. BAKED GOODS

When in Japan you should definitely stop by a local bakery. We found them everywhere, and enjoyed different kinds of baked good for breakfast and as a snack. There were all kinds of funny figures and shapes, and it was interesting to taste them all. 

We had so many interesting new food experiences in Japan! Many restaurant have menus with pictures which made ordering so much easier. Some places even had models of food portions on display in their windows. One fun thing to do is to try out a restaurant where you order food from a machine. After ordering and paying, you can sit down and wait for the waitress to bring your food  just like any other restaurant. These places seem to mostly offer ramen. 

Plastic food portions in the restaurant window. The picture on the right has the machines where you can order your food and pay before sitting down in the restaurant. Then you can just wait and the food is brought right to you.

Plastic food portions in the restaurant window. The picture on the right has the machines where you can order your food and pay before sitting down in the restaurant. Then you can just wait and the food is brought right to you.

There are still many foods we didn't get to try in Japan and are not on this list. Do you like Japanese food? What is your favourite?

 

 

Crazy Cafés of Japan

Paula Gaston

Japan - So strange, so funny, so exciting and so beautiful. It is hard to start unfolding everything we experienced on our two week trip, and put it into words. One thing that we remember the most, in a good way, is the Japanese playfulness. One example of this, is all the different theme cafés they have. We wanted to check some of them out, just to see what are they are all about. 

MOOMIN BAKERY AND CAFÉ

We had heard about the Moomin Café in Tokyo but were not sure if we would have time to visit there. Moomin characters are from my home country, Finland, and therefore well known in our family. We quickly realised that going around Tokyo by subway was actually pretty quick and easy. So we decided to visit the Tokyo Dome where the café is located. After all, we had a 4 year old with us, so we had a perfect excuse for it. The Tokyo Dome has a lot of other nice things for kids and the young at heart as well. 

Moomin Bakery & Cafe has a moomin themed menu, and you can buy some sweets from the bakery to go. The interior design looks very Finnish, and you can buy all kinds of moomin things from the souvenir store, like mugs, silverware or moomin pasta. Giant plush characters from the Moomin story are moved from table to table by the waitresses, so that no one is sitting alone in the café. We got to enjoy the company of Snorkmaiden and Little My.

Moomin Café can be found at Tokyo Dome City LaQua, 1-1-1 Kasuga, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo 112-0003 Japan

HELLO KITTY CAFES

We came across a Hello Kitty Café in the city of Himeji, and since we can always appreciate a cup of hot coffee, we went in. You can find Hello Kitty Cafés in Tokyo in different kinds of variations also. The one we visited was called Café de Miki with Hello Kitty. The café was in two stories and completely pink. Decorations were of course Hello Kitty themed. Our little daughter enjoyed her visit so much, she didn´t want to leave. Partly because after over a week, she got to watch some cartoons at the cafeteria; Hello Kitty of course. The Hello Kitty Café has a variety of coffees and teas, pastries and Hello Kitty pancakes.

Café de Miki with Hello Kitty can also be found in Tokyo, but if you happen to visit Himeji, you will find the café we went to at Ekima-cho 309, Laboville 1F, Hyogo Prefecture, Himeji.

MAID CAFES

Maid Café are a common site in Akihabara, Tokyo, where they first were opened in 2011. After that they have spread not only around Japan, but also abroad. Waitresses dressed like maids, serve their customers, decorate their plates with funny figures, and do a show or sing. The idea for maid cafés came from Japanese anime and manga culture, and from video games. Later, different kinds of variations of maid cafés have been popping up. Some of them now offer karaoke, massage or hair removal from legs and ears. Some cafés have also written rules for customers of how to behave during the visit. They are not allowed, for example, to touch the maids, or ask for their personal contact information. They want to clear up the confusion where some people think that they offer more than just entertainment.

I wasn't very interested in visiting a maid café, and especially after I heard that they don´t allow photography inside. They do let you pose with the maids, and then you can purchase your picture from them. If you don´t want to visit a maid café, you can still see the maids on the streets of Akihabara, where they hand out fliers to people. 

CAT CAFES

During our stay, we saw multiple cat cafés around Japan. The idea is to go in, buy a cup of coffee or tea, and socialise with cats. Many of these cafés collect an entrance fee. The very first cat café was opened in Taiwan in 1998, where it quickly become known especially among the tourists. The cafés spread to Japan and all around the world. There are different kinds of cat cafés, some concentrate on a certain breed or colour, and some on homeless cats. They even exists in America and tend to concentrate on getting the cats adopted. Many people seem to think, that cat cafés are so popular in Japan, because due to large population the living spaces are very small, and most people can´t have their own pets. For those people, Cat cafés are a nice way to spend some time with animals. We on the other hand, have our own little fur ball kitty at home, so we skipped the visit to a cat café. 

OWL CAFES

The first time we ran into an owl café was in the city of Nara. We saw some signs on the street and an owl sitting on the window of the café. The attraction of an owl café is obviously the owls which you can pet and take pictures with. Some cafés let you hold them while you drink your coffee. We saw another owl café in Akihabara in Tokyo, when we met a girl on street dressed in an owl suit and carrying an owl on her hand. Many owl cafés offer owl themed foods, which actually is a nice idea, but keeping owls as pets isn't compatible with my values, so we skipped this one too. I have also heard that hedgehog cafés are becoming very popular now. Coming from Finland where hedgehogs roam freely in the forests, I was turned off by that one as well.  

MONSTER CAFE

On our last days, we had lunch at the Kawaii Monster Cafe. I had shown a few videos of the cafe to our daughter, and everyday she asked "when are we going there?" So we decided to go. We arrived right before lunch time and were able to avoid the lines. When the doors to the Monster Cafe open, you will get sucked into a whole different world. It´s crazy, corny, colourful and fun. Despite the name, there is nothing monster themed in this cafe. Instead there is loud music and colourful carrousels. The restaurant is divided into four rooms, and each of them is different. We walked around just to see what it looks like (don´t forget to check the restrooms too!), and our little girl got invited to a show with the monster girls. The entrance fee is 500 yen (about $5), and after paying you get to decide which room you want to sit in. The food is a little bit pricier than normal in Japanese restaurants, but the main reason to visit this place is not the food. I think that I should probably write a whole post about the Monster Cafe, it truly was something. I´m happy that we went there!  

The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo seems to have a little bit similar business idea. People mostly go there to see the show, not for a gourmet meal. I think the Monster Cafe is more suitable for kids though. 

You can find it in the Harajuku area at YM Square Building 4F, 4-31-10, Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokio.  

Visiting some of these cafés was a fun experience, and our little one enjoyed it a lot also. There was one place that we did not get to visit though, the Gundam Café. My husband was waiting for this visit but everytime we went there, the wait was over an hour and a half to get in. If you want to avoid the lines, don´t go during the busy lunch or dinner hours, except for the Gundam Café which seemed to be full at any time of the day. There so many crazy cafés in Japan, and you can get more café ideas from this TripleLights article

Have you been to one of these cafés? Or do you have a fun café or restaurant experience from somewhere else? Let me know!