Category Archive for Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants

Odaiba Robot cafe, Gundam statue & Hello Kitty store! Trip planning with Odigo Tokyo travel app.

odigo tokyo travel trip planning

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!

killstar goth outfit post blog

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.

nightmare before christmas top, shirt

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.

antler chandelier, ryozan park office

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.

japan travel reviews website

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.

riding japanese subway train

Thanks to Odigo, I know exactly how to get to “Tokyo Teleport” station (how sci-fi!) and walk to the Gundam Front.

odaiba fuji tv building

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 previous occasions, I ate at the King of the Pirates theme restaurant, visited the Tokyo Trick museum, and played retro video games.

tokyo fuji tv building architecture

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

big gundam robot statue, tokyo japan

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.

giant japanese robot statue, gunpla

Somehow, this towering metal mecha fits into the Japanese landscape.

diver city odaiba, gundam front

I felt so tiny, looking up at the Gundam’s bright yellow eyes. The statue rises 18 meters from the ground. 

gundam theme cafe menu tokyo

DiverCity mall also has a Gundam Cafe, which serves roboto-themed drinks and food. (There’s one in Akihabara too.)

gundam haro latte

I ordered a green tea Haro latte. I suppose matcha tastes better when it’s decorated like a cute little robot.

funny japanese english sign

You know you’re in Japan when you are ordering coffee from the Gundam cafe, and the signs tell you to “cooperate with judgment.”

jpop concert odaiba

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.

Gachapin green monster, ガチャピン

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!”

sweets paradise odaiba, gachapin statue

I said hello to children’s TV character, Gachapin the green monster, at the Sweets Paradise  cafe.

Chikin Ramen mascot chicken character

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.

kawaii cute toy stores, tokyo

So many big-eyed cuties, everywhere you go!

hello kitty in kimono, sanrio store

Of course, there’s a Sanrio store. This one features traditional Japanese-themed goodies, like Hello Kitty in a pink kimono.

hello kitty pancake, food

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 rainbow bridge, lights

Odaiba is home to Rainbow Bridge, and this electric tunnel that leads to Venus Fort. The colors change every second.

tokyo lights tunnel

Illuminated in space-purple. Odaiba is full of wonders. (Photography by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann)

odaiba venus fort car museum

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.

odaiba game center

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.

sumo video game japan

I tried this sumo fighting game, where you lean on this stocky wrestler and try to push him back. I lost…

big black horse sculpture, statue

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.

Pokemon theme restaurant in Tokyo! Pompompurin Sanrio cafe, Line Friends store Harajuku.

line friends harajuku shop

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!

pokemon theme restaurant food

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)

Pokemon Omega Ruby Alpha Sapphire Cafe

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.

pokemon cafe parco shibuya

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.

pokemon pikachu theme cafe, tokyo japan

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?)

pikachu latte, cute drink

Everything on the menu is cute. We drank lattes that looked like Pikachu’s smiling yellow face.

pokemon decorated food

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.

poke ball dessert, ruby sapphire cafe

Our waiter brought over a giant red Poké Ball. When he opened it, steam poured out… and a smiling cream puff Pikachu appeared!

pikachu cake, pokemon desserts

Yukiro used a chocolate pen to draw his favorite Pokemon character on a crepe. Can you recognize it?

pokemon store japan, toys

Everywhere we looked, there was something Pokemon going on. You can see the wallpaper and stuffed toys behind us.

ポケモンセンター pokemon center tokyo

This Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire video game just came out on Nintendo 3DS, hence the pop up cafe.

stuffed toy pikachus

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.

my melody theme restaurant shibuya parco

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.)

line friends store harajuku tokyo

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)

line app characters, japan exhibit

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.

giant stuffed line friends brown bear

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!

sally the chick, line toy

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.

line brown bear den, store

Downstairs, Brown has his own hibernation den. Looks warm and cozy.

line friends stuffed toys

Also in this area are more luxurious items, including a Line crystal jewelry collaboration.

line friend shop, tokyo japan

I encourage you to visit the Line Friends store, and do Brown’s signature “fingers together and sad face” pose!

pompompurin cafe, harajuku

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)

sanrio theme cafe, tokyo

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.

pompompurin restaurant, cafe cute cube

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.)

sanrio cute yellow dog character

At the center of the room is a statue of Pom Pom Purin, surrounded by dancing animal friends.

pom pom purin dog cafe japan

The dog in the back right — with a top hat, pipe and bow tie — made me crack up.

sanrio themed drinks

Yes, this drink is called “Floating Tush”… and it shows Pompompurin diving into your hot chocolate.

sanrio characters store japan

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.

pompompurin pancakes

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.

pompompurin cute decorated food

Many of these entrees came with a free ceramic Pompompurin cup — a nice souvenir to take home.

pompompurin cafe food menu

This omelet looks like a sleeping puppy with a hat. Vegetables taste better when they are shaped like hearts and stars, right?

white day sanrio gift

The menu includes seasonal items, like a White Day dessert. (Photos by Melissa Rundle and me)

weird japanese burger

Be sure to stop by the gift section, since these Pompompurin items can be hard to find in regular Sanrio stores.

moomin theme cafe, roppongi hills

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!

moomin restaurant, mori museum

This Finnish character is surprisingly popular in Japan. One room is filled with framed prints of the comic strip.

kagaya izakaya, frog costume

We also took our friends to our much-loved Kagaya, the theme izakaya that defies description. (I wrote about it many times here.)

weirdest japan theme restaurant

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.

kagaya performance restaurant tokyo

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?

Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul, Korea! Sanrio theme cafe & gift shop, Hongdae.

hello kitty cafe seoul entrance

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.

exterior hello kitty restaurant korea

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 house, pink window

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.

hello kitty cakes, bakery

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).

hello kitty face cute cakes

How can you resist getting a cheesecake shaped like Hello Kitty’s face? It comes in three different flavors and colors.

desserts hello kitty sanrio cafe

The pink one tastes like strawberries. Only sweet dishes are served here, so be prepared for a blood sugar spike.

hello kitty tiramisu

I also ordered a tiramisu. I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth, but this is one of my favorite Italian desserts.

food at hello kitty cafe hongdae

Rounding up the sugar-loaded meal: a decorated mocha and cappuccino, a pink milkshake that celebrates her 40th anniversary…

hello kitty shaped waffle

… and chocolate-covered waffle, shaped a la Hello Kitty. This one looks more like an earless Scottish Fold cat face to me.

hello kitty lattes

To be honest, the pastries are priced on the high side, and look far better than they taste.

헬로키티카페

We cut Miss Kitty open, and poked at her sugary, bland insides. Not exactly the meal of a lifetime.

big hello kitty statue

But if you’re a fangirl, the “kawaii” decor — including a Hello Kitty statue in a sparkly pink dress! — make up for it.

hello kitty theme cafe, seoul korea

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…

korean hello kitty souvenirs

Another window shows white stones, scrawled with Korean wishes. (Photography by Ken Yuen and Noircorner)

sanrio theme restaurant

“Kitty’s room is full of fun and play!” Why not. I’m a fan for life.

seoul hello kitty shop, gifts

Downstairs, you can shop for special edition Sanrio souvenirs, including Korean-style ones. Shop for Hello Kitty items below >>

hello kitty key chain

I was tempted to get this keychain of Hello Kitty in a hanbok (traditional Korean dress).

korean theme cafe staff

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.

hello kitty furniture, chairs

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.

hello kitty fan event

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.

sanrio theme park signs

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.

korean hello kitty cafe

● 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!

Join my Odigo travel blogging workshop! Tokyo’s weirdest bar, Guinea Pig Shinjuku.

harajuku crazy street fashion

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!

odigo travel bloggers workshop

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.

Curious about what else I’ll be doing, in Tokyo? Add Odigo on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find out.

eyeballs in jars, horror bar

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.

guinea pig tokyo bar

This underground bar is for those with a bloody disposition. The decoration consists of such nightmares as chains, baby mannequins, and horror movie art.

(I’m wearing this Nanette Lepore: Runaway Stripe dress and a crown from my NY friend King Vulcanus Levi.)

asia horror movie bars

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

weirdest tokyo theme bar

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.

scary haunted shinjuku bar

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.

coolest cocktails tokyo

Our friends ordered Bloody Marys, while Yukiro and I got his specialty, a mix of grapefruit, rum, and maybe some voodoo potions.

japanese strange art

Strange art hangs on the walls. It’s a unique mix of dread and humor in this bar.

japan horror movie bar

Japan is well known for its weird theme bars, which I’ve written about extensively before. These include a visual kei bar, an absinthe Goth bar, and more.

guinea pig kabukicho

And here are all of my posts about bizarre theme restaurants, in Japan and elsewhere.

kabukicho bars

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.

goth bar japan

Yukiro was shooting a bad girl b-movie there, entitled ‘The Bloody Knockers.” I make a cameo in the bar scene! The movie is out now, and you can watch it here… if you dare.

japanese voodoo witch

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.

japan club kids, street snaps night

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.

shinjuku crosswalk, kabukicho lights

No, we’re not posing… we always cross the street like this!

maleficent cosplay, halloween costume

Every dark creature must stop to curtsy in front of evil queen Maleficent.

tokyo japan kids playground

We couldn’t resist climbing this Japanese kids playground equipment, and striking a pose. Funny, we did something similar in Berlin.

japanese convenience store interior

Antics in the convenience store. I’m not sure what we were doing in the magazine section…

haagen dazs sakura ice cream

We ended up getting special edition rose and sakura flavored Haagen Dazs ice cream. The pink looks nice against my Totoro nails.

feeding each other ice cream

In heaven, people feed each other rice with chopsticks. In hell, I suppose they survive on pink ice cream!

designer playground equipment

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.