Category Archive for Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants
There’s no place like Tokyo. A city filled with cute shops, theme cafes and game centers. As you know, I love to write about these wonderful places on my blog.
However, Japan can be a confusing place to visit. It’s hard to figure out where to go and how to get around. But I’ve been working on a project with Odigo, to make trip-planning a whole lot easier.
Read on to see the Gundam giant robot, Hello Kitty shops and much more kawaii!
I visited the Odigo team at their Tokyo office. They’ve built a community of passionate experts like me, who want to help travelers get off the beaten track in Japan.
What I’m wearing: Killstar skirt with witchy patterns, and a Nightmare Before Christmas sweater from Lumine Shinjuku. My blue coat with a zig-zag front is by Alice’s Pig.
Odigo is a newly-launched website that lets you create your own custom trip. You can search for cool local spots, and link them together in a customized trip.
You can then download the itinerary to my phone, or print out a pocket-sized version. That way, you have all the necessary info — addresses, opening hours, subway routes — right on hand.
I’ve been helping the team with ideas. Our goal is to make Odigo as helpful as possible for English-speaking visitors to Japan. It’s free to use, and anyone can add their own writeups to the site. If you’re intrigued, you can also keep track of our collaboration on Odigo’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For example, when I search for Gundam… the site shows me there’s a giant robot exhibition in Odaiba! I can click to see photos, prices, and a review by a local expert.
Thanks to Odigo, I know exactly how to get to “Tokyo Teleport” station (how sci-fi!) and walk to the Gundam Front.
It’s located in Odaiba, the Japanese man-made island. You can spend a whole day here, shopping and enjoying the various entertainment activities.
On the way, we passed by the Fuji TV headquarters. I’m digging this futuristic glass building, with a big “hachidama” ball at the top that serves as an observation room. hachidama ball
Odigo’s travel tips including arriving at the top of the hour, to see the robot in action. We got to Diver City just in time, to see the Gundam’s head turn and lights flash.
Somehow, this towering metal mecha fits into the Japanese landscape.
I felt so tiny, looking up at the Gundam’s bright yellow eyes. The statue rises 18 meters from the ground.
DiverCity mall also has a Gundam Cafe, which serves roboto-themed drinks and food. (There’s one in Akihabara too.)
I ordered a green tea Haro latte. I suppose matcha tastes better when it’s decorated like a cute little robot.
You know you’re in Japan when you are ordering coffee from the Gundam cafe, and the signs tell you to “cooperate with judgment.”
Later that evening, a colorful Jpop boy band performed at the foot of the Gundam. Their look and dance moves reminded me of the Power Rangers.
Hundreds of Japanese teen girls gathered and screamed, while waving neon lights above their heads.
Odaiba is a great place to visit on rainy days, since most of the attractions are indoors. In addition, you can usually take photos and videos without a storeperson running up to you and screeching “Dame-ehh!”
I said hello to children’s TV character, Gachapin the green monster, at the Sweets Paradise cafe.
Odaiba is full of cute characters gift stores. You’ll even find obscure mascots like Chikin the ramen chicken. I found Miffy coin purses and cards in other parts of Diver City.
So many big-eyed cuties, everywhere you go!
Of course, there’s a Sanrio store. This one features traditional Japanese-themed goodies, like Hello Kitty in a pink kimono.
One side of the shop sells My Melody and Hello Kitty pancakes. The batter goes into special molds, to make the shape of these characters.
Odaiba is home to Rainbow Bridge, and this electric tunnel that leads to Venus Fort. The colors change every second.
Illuminated in space-purple. Odaiba is full of wonders. (Photography by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann)
Random… there was an antique car show inside MegaWeb and VenusFort. This mall is decorated like ancient Italy, with Roman-style fountains and a sky-painted ceiling.
We continued to this humongous game center. So many video games, crane machines… and even robot pandas and lions that you can ride for a 100 yen coin.
I tried this sumo fighting game, where you lean on this stocky wrestler and try to push him back. I lost…
I hope my Jpop adventure showed what you can experience, with travel website Odigo! Soon, they will also have a mobile app that lets you add your own discoveries, and be part of a community of travellers.
What type of features would you find most helpful, in planning a trip to Japan? Stay tuned, and we’ll release a video of my adventures in Tokyo.
Get ready… for a lot of cute, yummy characters in this post!
Yukiro and I went to three new attractions in Tokyo: the Pokemon cafe, Pompompurin theme restaurant, and Line Friends shop. Follow along on our funny adventures, which include eating Pikachu pancakes, and posing with a 10-foot-tall stuffed Brown bear!
First, we waltzed into the very popular “Ruby & Sapphire” Pokemon-themed cafe, located at The Guest diner in Shibuya Parco. We couldn’t wait to chow down on the adorable food.
(Address: 7F Parco Part 1, 15-1 Udagawachō, Shibuya, Tokyo. Open 11am to 10pm daily. Phone: 03-3477-5773)
We walked to the seventh level of Shibuya’s Parco department store, and saw lineup of Japanese girls snaking down to the floor below. Were they waiting to see a pop star? Not quite, but close. They had come to dine with Pikachu and friends.
The cafe has a “first come first served” policy… and these diehard fans usually end up waiting 2 hours in line. Fortunately, we had made press arrangements, and were able to walk right in for a table.
The themed experience starts as you get inside. There’s a rack of Pokemon costumes, ears and props for you to wear. Yukiro and I climbed into the funny backdrop, and posed away.
A waiter led us to a booth filled with colorful toys. If a diner comes alone, she can sit with a big plush Pikachu to keep her company.
(Behind me: do you think the girl is laughing at my conversation with this stuffed toy?)
Everything on the menu is cute. We drank lattes that looked like Pikachu’s smiling yellow face.
All of the food is creatively decorated to look like various Pocket Monsters. This is a hamburger wrapped in an omelet sheet, and dolled up with carrot cheeks and nori eyes.
Our waiter brought over a giant red Poké Ball. When he opened it, steam poured out… and a smiling cream puff Pikachu appeared!
Yukiro used a chocolate pen to draw his favorite Pokemon character on a crepe. Can you recognize it?
Everywhere we looked, there was something Pokemon going on. You can see the wallpaper and stuffed toys behind us.
This Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire video game just came out on Nintendo 3DS, hence the pop up cafe.
Stop by the gift store at the entrance, to pick up limited edition Pokemon goods. There’s a good selection, although the Pokemon Center has more.
Hurry and visit the Pokemon cafe, since it closes at the end of the month! However, it will transform into yet another cute theme cafe — this time, dedicated to the Sanrio characters My Melody and her sheep friend “My Sweet Piano.”
(Find out more info about the upcoming My Melody cafe, at The Guest cafe from April to June 2015.)
Let’s continue our “kawaii characters” adventure… at the Line Friends Store in Harajuku! Located on the main street near Laforet department store, these waving cuties are hard to miss.
(Address: 4-32-13 Jingumae, Harajuku. Phone: 03-6434-0597)
It’s astonishing to see how popular Line has become, in only a few years. The messaging app debuted in 2011, and grew to 500 million worldwide users. Now, Line’s cartoon mascots have their own stand-alone store in Tokyo.
Fans can take photos with Line Friends statues and backdrops. I hugged a towering plush Brown the bear — he’s my favorite Line character, probably because he lacks expression. This bear is so tall that his ears hit the ceiling!
On the main floor, you can pick up eccentric gifts. These range from Sally the Chick toys, to cushions shaped like Cony the rabbit’s head.
Downstairs, Brown has his own hibernation den. Looks warm and cozy.
Also in this area are more luxurious items, including a Line crystal jewelry collaboration.
I encourage you to visit the Line Friends store, and do Brown’s signature “fingers together and sad face” pose!
Not far from Harajuku station, there lies another cute new cafe… this time, dedicated to the yellow Sanrio puppy, Pompompurin.
(Address: Cute Cube Harajuku, 1-7-1 Jingumae, Harajuku, Phone: 03-6212-0639)
Pompompurin is one of the lesser known characters in the Sanrio universe. However, as the saying goes, “every dog has his day.” At this Harajuku theme cafe, he is finally the star of the show.
The beret-wearing golden retriever is everywhere you look: playing on the wallpaper, and smiling from the placemats. (My trippy prism sunglasses are a gift from H0les Eyewear.)
At the center of the room is a statue of Pom Pom Purin, surrounded by dancing animal friends.
The dog in the back right — with a top hat, pipe and bow tie — made me crack up.
Yes, this drink is called “Floating Tush”… and it shows Pompompurin diving into your hot chocolate.
Like the Pokemon cafe, there can be long lineups and it’s not possible to make reservations in advance. I suggest coming on weekdays and at off-hours.
The food is as adorable as the decor. I’ve never had pancakes and mashed potatoes together… but when they’re shaped like these cuties, why not.
Many of these entrees came with a free ceramic Pompompurin cup — a nice souvenir to take home.
This omelet looks like a sleeping puppy with a hat. Vegetables taste better when they are shaped like hearts and stars, right?
The menu includes seasonal items, like a White Day dessert. (Photos by Melissa Rundle and me)
Be sure to stop by the gift section, since these Pompompurin items can be hard to find in regular Sanrio stores.
I leave you with some bonus photos of theme cafes in Tokyo. We passed by the Moomin theme restaurant, in Roppongi Hills. Customers can sit with this giant family of Moomins!
This Finnish character is surprisingly popular in Japan. One room is filled with framed prints of the comic strip.
We also took our friends to our much-loved Kagaya, the theme izakaya that defies description. (I wrote about it many times here.)
Mark remains at the top of his game. I’ve been coming to Kagaya since 2008, and it hasn’t lost its magic. One guy performing the most surreal, hilarious, surprising, ribald acts — while his mother cooks Japanese homestyle food in the back.
I encourage you to try at least one theme restaurants when you come to Japan. For more inspiration, read about the dozens of theme bars and cafes I’ve visited over the years.
Are you a Pokemon, Sanrio or Line fan? Which of these places are you adding to your dream-list?
Life is now complete (joking, sort of)… because I’ve been to the Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul, Korea!
I know you want to step inside this Sanrio theme restaurant, and eat Hello Kitty cake… so let’s hop right to it.
First, how to get to this pink house? If you’re taking a taxi, tell the driver to go to this address: 헬로키티카페: 서울시 마포구 서교동 358-11
In English, this says Hello Kitty Cafe: 358-112 Seogyo-dong, Hongdae, Mapo-gu, Seoul
If you’re riding the subway, disembark at Honggik University station (aka Hongdae) and walk out of exit 5. The tall pink facade, topped with her signature bow, is impossible to miss.
Hello Kitty’s most diehard fans come to Seoul specifically to visit her theme cafe. Try to come on a weekday and during off-hours, since this is a popular destination and the two floors may be packed. If you’re lucky, you can nab a table and plush chairs, overlooking the Kitty-faced window.
At the entrance, you can place your order for cakes, waffles and lattes decorated like Hello Kitty (6000-10,000 won each, or $6-10).
How can you resist getting a cheesecake shaped like Hello Kitty’s face? It comes in three different flavors and colors.
The pink one tastes like strawberries. Only sweet dishes are served here, so be prepared for a blood sugar spike.
I also ordered a tiramisu. I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth, but this is one of my favorite Italian desserts.
Rounding up the sugar-loaded meal: a decorated mocha and cappuccino, a pink milkshake that celebrates her 40th anniversary…
… and chocolate-covered waffle, shaped a la Hello Kitty. This one looks more like an earless Scottish Fold cat face to me.
To be honest, the pastries are priced on the high side, and look far better than they taste.
We cut Miss Kitty open, and poked at her sugary, bland insides. Not exactly the meal of a lifetime.
But if you’re a fangirl, the “kawaii” decor — including a Hello Kitty statue in a sparkly pink dress! — make up for it.
On the back wall, there’s a mural showing Hello Kitty shopping in Paris. Visitors write notes or leave their signatures here. One of the customers seems to be giving me the side-eye…
Another window shows white stones, scrawled with Korean wishes. (Photography by Ken Yuen and Noircorner)
“Kitty’s room is full of fun and play!” Why not. I’m a fan for life.
Downstairs, you can shop for special edition Sanrio souvenirs, including Korean-style ones. Shop for Hello Kitty items below >>
I was tempted to get this keychain of Hello Kitty in a hanbok (traditional Korean dress).
Let me warn you, the hurried staff is not known for its customer service. They pointed aggressively at an English sign, to make sure we understood we had to return the plates after eating. I guess some naughty diners tried to smuggle the custom dishes home as souvenirs.
Since the cafe has such a high turn-over, the tables and restrooms may not be satisfactorily maintained either. Perhaps I came on an off-day, but there was no toilet paper in the stalls — not even a square to spare! — and the staff neglected to mop up a spilled drink.
However, this didn’t damper the mood of these smiling Korean girls. Most of the customers are young and female, and come here in groups.
The “cottage” doesn’t really exist (unless I’m mistaken), but the Hello Kitty Cafe is a must-see if you’re in Seoul, and a lover of all things Sanrio.
● For more tips about places to see in this neighborhood, check out my Hongdae guide featuring Eat Your Kimchi.
● I’ve covered various Hello Kitty attractions in Asia; here are my blog posts about Japan’s Puroland theme park, and the Hong Kong Hello Kitty pop up cafe. And don’t worry if you aren’t in Asia; you can still find her products below!
Jump for joy — I’m heading back to Tokyo for the launch of Odigo! Wouldn’t you like to join me?
There’s a rare chance. On Feb 28, I’m hosting an exclusive travel blogging workshop in Tokyo. We’ll teach you all we know about travel blogs, journalism, TV, video, photography and more.
Read on the for details, and photos from the bloodiest, strangest, craziest theme bar ever!
I’m excited to announce the official launch of Odigo, a site that lets you plan an exceptional journey to Japan. You can search for offbeat attractions — such as kawaii stores, theme restaurants — as well as more traditional spots. Odigo links everything together in an optimized itinerary, which lets you get from place to place with ease.
I invite you to sign up to be a contributor — anyone can share their finds on Odigo! And if you’re in Japan… come to my travel blogging workshop on 2/28. My professional photo/film team and I will give in-depth advice on travel writing, photography, TV and video production, social media, working with sponsors, finding a niche, and much more.
When: Saturday, February 28, 1:30-4pm (followed by a round-table and reception). Matador U is giving a workshop before us (see all details on the Facebook invite and MeetUp)
Where: Ryozan Park, 6F, 3-36-7 Otsuka, Tokyo (here’s a map. It’s a few minutes walk from Otsuka station on the Yamanote line).
Cost: Free if you sign up on Odigo and submit writeups for 10 spots. For everyone else, 5000 yen per person. Limited to 25 spaces, including lunch, resources and networking.
Thanks to Odigo, you can easily find info about the most bizarre and obscure places in Japan. For example, I did a writeup about Kabukicho bar, Guinea Pig. Look for a plain building with a winding staircase, and take the elevator up to a door with a barely visible sign.
This underground bar is for those with a bloody disposition. The decoration consists of such nightmares as chains, baby mannequins, and horror movie art.
So, how do you get to Guinea Pig? The address is: 2-41-2 Leo Kotobuki Building 3-A, Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku, Tokyo (all this info is on Odigo!) 1000 yen cover. Opening hours vary; generally from 8pm to early morning. Phone: 03-3209-3455
The bar’s decor is inspired by b-horror movies: zombie hands reach down from the ceiling, and a mannequin in chains sits at a table.
The owner, a flamboyant fellow named Roxy, is hilarious and will make you special cocktails. He’ll also dare you to play with his live pet snake.
Our friends ordered Bloody Marys, while Yukiro and I got his specialty, a mix of grapefruit, rum, and maybe some voodoo potions.
Strange art hangs on the walls. It’s a unique mix of dread and humor in this bar.
And here are all of my posts about bizarre theme restaurants, in Japan and elsewhere.
Some of these bars are one-act novelties, but I can go to Guinea Pig again and again. It’s a subculture hub — there are always interesting people drinking at the small counter.
If you’re a fan of Japanese horror films, and fetish is your idea of fun, then I have a feeling you’ll dig Guinea Pig too. You can look up more spots like this on Odigo.
All of these photos are by Tokyo-based photographer Said Karlsson. He took these candid snaps of Yukiro and me dominating the neon streets of Shinjuku.
No, we’re not posing… we always cross the street like this!
Every dark creature must stop to curtsy in front of evil queen Maleficent.
We couldn’t resist climbing this Japanese kids playground equipment, and striking a pose. Funny, we did something similar in Berlin.
Antics in the convenience store. I’m not sure what we were doing in the magazine section…
We ended up getting special edition rose and sakura flavored Haagen Dazs ice cream. The pink looks nice against my Totoro nails.
In heaven, people feed each other rice with chopsticks. In hell, I suppose they survive on pink ice cream!
Have you been to any of Tokyo’s crazy theme bars? Which ones are your favorites?
I hope to see you at my Odigo travel bloggers workshop, on February 28 in Tokyo! Info is at the top of the post, and feel free to leave a comment if you have questions.