Thursday, 28 September 2017

Liz Lisa x My Meloy collaboration and Marie Antoinette Buffet at Hilton Hotel

Tickets for any of the Hilton Hotel sweets buffets are pretty hard to come by due to popularity so I was surprised to find that my friend camped in front of her computer until the release of the tickets and snatched up a couple as soon as they went up for sale. At 4,000yen each this particular buffet is one of the more expensive albeit most extravagant experiences you can have in Tokyo. Last year the theme was "strawberries" and similarly sold out instantly, this year the theme is "Marie Antoinette" based on Rococo era decadently designed sweets.  Coincidentally the buffet fell on the day on the Liz Lisa x My Melody collaboration dress release, something else that requires patience so we had a very busy day ahead.

Liz Lisa is one of the most popular feminine brands in Japan, a floral mix of hime-kaji and otome with oodles of flowers and pink. Every few months they collaborate with arguably the cutest Sanrio character - My Melody - or known in Japan simply as MyMelo. MyMelo is adored by both children and especially older women and has a large range of collaborated clothes, nails, fragrances and recently a collaboration with Larme Magazine. This months release from Liz Lisa featured a "letter print" dress, mirror and large plushie backpack. The back pack proved particularly popular with Japanese girls on twitter so my friend and I knew we would have to arrive super early to be first in line to snatch one up,

Liz Lisa stores are peppered all over Tokyo and Japan; the most popular ones being in Harajuku, Shinjuku and Shibuya. My friend and I headed to Shibuya 109 at 7am and were lucky enough to be first in-line. Shibuya 109 isnt open yet so for all releases you have to wait underground in the station in a line. There were a few other girls waiting alongside us, all wearing Liz Lisa too. Shortly before the store opened, one of the shop girls came out with samples of the goods, we chose which we wanted and she gave us tickets to be able to purchase them ahead of the crowds, my friend and I made number one and two so we could have our pick of whatever they had! This was lucky as the backpack sold out almost instantly.

We each bought the dress and backpack, while my friend also bought one of the smaller handbag charms, then head to Hilton Hotel in Shinjuku to change into our new purchases and ended up looking as sugary as the sweets themselves. The dresses were course gorgeous;  the print featuring little My Melo holding letters, however the backpacks were the highlight even though they could barely hold a stick of gum. The plushie itself has a silky flower crown with embedded jewels and she is also wearing the same dress as the collaboration! The straps can even be taken off to turn it into a regular plushie to keep in your room,

After much picture taking, we head into the hall for the buffet. The entrance was an arch made of real scented roses leading to a red carpet and as we entered, live musicians playing cellos and violins started playing angelic classical music.. The staff led us through the buffet and on the way to our seats we were able to snap pictures of the feast; large towering cakes, plates upon plates of jellies, cheesecakes and mousses - more sweets then we would ever be able to eat in a lifetime!
Of course plenty of Marie Antoinette's favorite - chocolate and rose flavored Macarons, as well as ice cream, marshmallows and two kinds of chocolate fountains! Of course there was savory food too to break up the insane sugar rush and that was delicious too; breaded chicken, sandwiches, pasta and my favorite - ratatouille!
I am not sure how many plates we managed to consume, but I am sure it was more dessert than I have eaten this whole year. My favorites included the "raspberry champagne jelly" which had a wonderful alcoholic kick, and the creamy apricot panacotta.
There was also unlimited supplies of tea and coffee both hot and cold to wash everything down. I loved the color palette of deep rococo colors and the decorative touches such as glass chandeliers and the little horse and carriage. The small details are what made this buffet particularly mesmerizing; such as cakes sparkling with golden flakes, topped with real rose petals and strawberries dipped in chocolate, no expense was spared.

We ended up staying at the buffet over three hours and I don't even want to think about how many calories were consumed, but the entire experience was magical. We spied a fair few Japanese Lolita also attending the buffet, women in kimono and other extravagant styles but just being in a warm, friendly environment surrounded by girls happily munching on cake is food for the soul. If you feel a little sick of the sub-par food served at many of the "kawaii cafe" within Tokyo I definitely recommend a hotel buffet like this, or even high tea. To find out about events like this, I often find using Twitter is the best place, as for dress releases such as the one from Liz Lisa its helpful to check now and then on your favorite brands. Recently brands such as Liz Lisa have also started shipping online so you don't even need to leave your bed. However there is something said for the adrenaline rush of a dress release in Shibuya 109, too.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Harajuku pop-up : Nekopen Biyori Cafe

Another day in Harajuku, another obscure pop-up cafe. This time the little known characters of Nekopen Biyori - two characters from a popular set of stickers used in the Japanese messenger application "LINE". For those unfamiliar with LINE, it is the most widely used Social media application in Japan and was created in response to the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake that devastated telephone poles and other kinds of telecommunication structures that made it hard to contact each other quickly. LINE features a text messenger service and a way to call freely over wifi and since then has a magnitude of other features including the wildly popular "LINE stamps"a much more detailed version of emoji. Through LINE users can create and distribute their own stamps, some of them becoming popular and this is where the popularity of Nekopen Biyori stemmed from.

The main characters include a happy-go-lucky cat with an affinity for cooking and his best buddy - a small and rather rotund penguin who joins him on his adventures. This cafe is located at the very start of Harajuku street on the opposite side of the road from the end of Takeshita dori on the second floor. We waited in-line only about 5 minutes before entering the cafe which was to its credit, very well decorated.

The theme itself was a little basic, but the white and wooden minimalist interior style is very popular right now in Asia. There were plenty of pictures of the characters set up around the cafe, some to  look as though the characters were actually working in the cafe and preparing the food. My favorite part was the adorable little plushies "playing" in a cardboard box as though it was a car.

The menu was relatively small but a lot of care and effort went into preparing the dishes, which were also inspired from the LINE stamps that had made these characters so popular. The portions were very big, which is sometimes a rare thing when cafe hopping in Japan and of course every meal was adorably themed. Firstly I had the Chinese set of dumplings and fried rice with soup, which were delicious! They were my favorite "Sholompo" soup dumplings which ooze with liquid when you bite them and come steaming hot. I also took a black sesame milkshake to wash it down with the characters' heads molded from candyfloss. Black sesame "Goma" is one of my favorite flavors so I highly suggest trying something goma-related if you visit Japan.

Lastly my friend and I shared the huge berry pancakes and pink chocolate-filled donuts. The pancakes were the main dish of the restaurant as the stickers depicted the Nekopen Biyori characters making them  so of course we had to try them. They were huge, heavy, thick and delicious with oodles of cream and fresh fruits. They were so good that we almost couldn't finish the donuts that were equally as sweet. The price ended up being a little high at around 4,000yen for everything, but overall I enjoyed the experience and it is to be expected from a theme cafe, especially in Harajuku no less.
The journey to the exit was cute too, before we headed out to take Purikura photo stickers and I realized that my outfit matched the pancakes!

Harajuku Sweet Spot: Eddys Ice cream

Harajuku is an ever-changing pocket of changing shops, restaurants and hang-out spots. As much as Harajuku is famed for its pastel colored crepes Harajuku has developed a sweet spot for something a little different, especially in the sizzling, humid heat dead in the Japanese summer Harajuku kids
were craving something cooler. Their prayers were answered when just off  Takeshita dori "Eddy's Ice cream" has opened, - an ice cream shop with all the pop and cute that Harajuku is famous for with the added bonus of letting Harajuku kids use their boundless creativity to create their own ice cream.

My friend and I visited their newly opened store when the temperature was at a boiling 37 degrees, but the humidity made it somehow seem 45. We made the mistake of visiting on a Sunday - Harajuku's busiest day and choc-full of tourists. A TV crew were also rolling inside the parlour at the time,  filming all different kinds of cute Japanese girls devouring their pink ice cream, so we waited over half an our with beads of sweat dripping from us.

The experience however, was well worth the wait. The parlor inside was cozy but comfortable, decorated in the style of a 1950s diner with oodles of pastel pink and turquoise. Menus displayed the different kinds of ice cream and toppings; although the soft serve was limited to strawberry, vanilla or a mix of the two the toppings were infinite. You could choose one of their pre-made designs or build an ice cream from scratch. We both went with the pre-made designs but added a little flare of our own. My friend chose the "Lovely" design, with giant glittery pink lips and pastel ribbon and an extra added star, whilst I chose the "Unicorn" cone with little white chocolate unicorn and candyfloss, I also added a "rainbow" arch for added flamboyance. The pre-made cones are about 900yen - 1000yen each and the toppings range from 50yen to 400yen depending on detail. I ended up dropping 1,500yen but pleased with how unique my ice cream came out.

The interior had counters for eating a couple of cute spots to take photos, one of which being this glorious flamingo-pink vintage telephone.This is a nice place to come even just to take photos, especially if you are wearing Harajuku fashion. You will have to weave in and out of the hordes of Japanese high school girls taking selfies, but the outcome will be worth it.

Thankfully they give you a little cardboard box to rest your ice cream in while you eat it as it is a very messy business. The heat made mine melt almost instantly and cause shards of cone and flake to crumble everywhere, but the coldness of the ice cream was refreshing at least. Honestly the taste was not the best part of the experience, as it was mostly just plain strawberry ice cream and white chocolate which tasted a little waxy. However I will definitely go back for the cute decor and picture spots. If you have a sweet tooth and end up wandering around Takeshita dori for something cool to eat, check out "Eddy's Ice cream", they also have an Instagram with a catalog of their creations so you can plan in advance!

Harajuku Sweet Spot@}

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Pink Holiday - Barbie cafe in Yokohama

During my time living in cafe I have visited a lot of cafes, specifically theme cafes. I can say wholeheartedly, without a doubt this is the best theme cafe I have ever visited. For me personally, small details make a theme cafe great; a lot of theme cafes just throw up a couple of posters and call it a day so it was really nice seeing such a high level of dedication to their aesthetic.

Barbie is somehow extremely popular in Japan, with a lot of stores, like the ones in Nakano selling second-hand or vintage Barbie dolls at bumped up prices and shops in Harajuku selling Barbie themed clothes and accessories. Naturally when something gains popularity, a theme cafe emerges shortly after. However most theme cafes are just pop-up, running for a few months at a time in locations such as department stores; thankfully, Pink Holiday is a permanent cafe.

The cafe is based in Yokohama, a little far from central Tokyo but well worth the ride. The cafe is on the second floor and is a little small, but that adds to the kitschy doll house-feeling of it. Upon entering you are greeted  by a gorgeous waitress, decked out in all-pink Barbie clothing with a definite Gyaru vibe. You will notice that every inch of wallpaper is lovingly decorated by both vintage and modern Barbie goods; rare dolls, magazine clippings, clothing and photographs adorn the interior. Even the toilet had clipping from Popteen, Ageha and Larme magazine.

My friends and I were seated at the biggest table, surrounded by boxes upon boxes of dolls, toy cars and pets. The cafe was bustling with cute Japanese girls, snapping selfies with the dolls and tucking into petite pink dishes, so the atmosphere felt pretty wonderful.

My friends and I dressed for the occasion wearing Barbie themed baby pink and fuchsia outfits, making use of the many Barbie embroidered cushions and props dotted around our table. Then it was time to order; the menu was pretty vast and almost every item dangerously pink. They also included a lot of original drinks, cocktails and even birthday courses.

I may have ordered too much food; everything seemed so well crafted and presented I couldn't resist gouging myself on pastel foods. I expected pink curry to taste sickly and disgusting, but it was actually delicious. My friend attested that the hamburger with fluffy pink rice was also pretty good, but of course at cafes like this, the desserts are what really shine. My friend ordered the "Surprise parfait" which,  to its credit was pretty surprising because it came with a huge sparkler stuck inside!
We also ordered white chocolate fondue and little brightly colored cupcakes. Al the foods were very toy-like and definitely something Barbie herself would have enjoyed.

The best part ended up not actually being the food, but the fact the surrounding Barbies, cars and toys were totally open to be played with while we enjoyed our meals. It was really nostalgic for me to sit there with my friends dressing up the dolls and filming short videos. It shows you're literally never to old to enjoy Barbie. It also gave me a chance to see and touch Barbies I had always wanted as a child!

There was a table charge and the food wasn't overpriced but, not cheap either. That aside I really recommend this cafe, even those who aren't a big fan of Barbie, the food and interior are aesthetically pleasing and the experience is very interactive. Reserving is recommended, but we managed to get a table without reservation on a Monday afternoon. Also, on the way out there is a life-size doll-box so you can become a real-life Barbie!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Powerpuff girls cafe in Harajuku

Sugar, spice, everything nice; these were the ingredients chose to make the perfect cafe, but they accidently added something extra....Chemical X!
Growing up watching Cartoon Network, I idolized a different kind of magical girl; Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup and, apparently, they have developed somewhat of a cult following in Japan, too. Recently American cartoons such as Adventure Time are also gaining increasing popularity, for their own unique brand of kawaii. The Powerpuff Girls alongside other American animations also inspired the anime "Panty, stocking and Garterbelt". This style of cartoon drawing is also becoming popular amongst Mangaka and animators in Tokyo, especially the quirky sense of humor and dark connotations, I look forward to a lot more western style Japanese anime in future.

Naturally, when something becomes popular in Tokyo, a pop-up cafe soon follows and we were eagerly awaiting the PPG cafe for a long time, which was made possible due to the collaboration between Spinns 2.5 - a street wear clothing store hysr off Takeshita dori in Harajuku and a new collection of Powerpuff girl themed clothing from ACDCrag, also in Takeshita dori.

I wore the Bubbles oversize T-shirt from the ACDCrag line to wear to the cafe and styled myself into a casual Bubbles cosplay. I always related to Bubbles the most - a  happy-go-lucky crybaby with a strong sense of justice, so luckily I could purchase a lot of Bubbles themed goods at the cafe.

The cafe itself is situated on the 3rd floor of Spinns, up a huge PPG themed staircase that's a perfect place to take photos, but on busy days there could be a line of people waiting all the way down the stairs but if you go on a weekday, you might be lucky enough to walk straight in.

The inside of the cafe is bright and spacious, decorated with character stickers, posters and a projector screening episodes of PPG, a perfect haven for Cartoon Network fans.
There were also giant Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup plushies to take photos with, complete with a photo area.

As for the menu, it wasn't extensive, but the items they did have were well-crafted and aesthetically appealing, of course most of them were desserts. I chose the  Bubbles soda -  a bubblegum flavored soda with candyfloss topping, adorned with a little Bubbles shaped rice cracker (with no traces of chemical X). My friend went for the Bubbles parfait - Bubblegum and vanilla ice cream with blue Hawaii jelly and Lime. There was also a PPG themed hamburger and a Blossom burger, but we came for the sweets.

For dessert I had the "Power Power Rainbow" pancakes; butter pancakes with whipped cream, maple syrup and a side of fruit to give the illusion you are at least trying to be healthy. I would recommend this out of everything because the portion was big and there were a lot of individual delicate flavors on top of being rainbow.

We sat by the huge windows and enjoyed people watching, as it was Sunday, the most busy day for Takeshita dori, it was nice to get away from the endless sea of tourists and shop staff screaming bargains at the top of their lungs.

After paying up, we took some photos with the novelty plushies in front of Townsville and checked the goods by the door, before heading down to the Spinns store below for even more goods. Some are shipped from overseas while other designs are Tokyo exclusive.

The whole experience was amazing for me; a lifelong Cartoon network and PPG fan, but irregardless to that I think it would be a good experience to those who aren't a fan of the series. My only complaint was that although they had Mojo Jojo themed items and a coffee based around him, I didn't see my favorite PPG character anywhere - "Him" the androgynous and somewhat sexy lobster-devil-creature thing. I'm not sure if its down to licensing or people in Tokyo purely don't like that character, but that was the only disappointment for me.

If you are a Cartoon network fan, love sweets or even just like cute things, give this cafe a visit. As its a limited pop-up cafe it may change, but the theme is always cute with a ton of goods to buy, I will report on the next theme, too.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Secret garden cafe in Koenji

In Tokyo I am always on a quest to find new and exciting cute cafes. Sometimes for something to be "kawaii" it doesn't have to be disgustingly pink, sparkly or pastel, it can just be aesthetically pleasing in a whimsical way, much like the hidden-gem I discovered when vintage shopping in Koenji. The cafe goes by the name of "エセルの中庭" meaning "Ethel's courtyard".

This cafe is not very well known and seldom visited by tourists, the first floor is actually a library, so you can enjoy reading some old, worn books whilst enjoying your coffee. The first thing you will notice when entering is that the floor starts off being made of soil and grass, even though you are on the second floor of a building, everything is made of old wood and the walls are adorned with forgotten treasures and things long dead. There are various plants, statues, fountains and fish tanks which formulate a wonderful secret garden atmosphere complete with old washed out black and white photos that hang from the walls. Stepping in the cafe honestly feels like stepping back in time, it is the kind of cafe I could imagine pirates or adventure seekers frequenting hundreds of years ago.

The menu is pretty small, but unique and changes almost every week. I usually order iced chestnut milk tea, but they also sell sweets and they have a vast array of teas and even cocktails. They always serve their tea in lavishly decorated tea cups and the staff are friendly and always up for a chat. The cafe itself is in the center of Koenji shopping district, just off of the main arcade strip and is a nice oasis from the hustle and bustle.

The only downside is that the cafe itself is quite dark inside and while very relaxing, isn't great for taking photographs. The calm atmosphere and classical decor more than make up for it though and, on the way out, the cafe also sells a variety of colored crystals! I really recommend this cafe if you want to see something that not many people have seen on their trip to Tokyo and have a curiosity for old, whimsical objects.