Kameido Tenjin, shitamachi, turtles and the God of Education

If you can believe information found on Google, there are over 100,000 Shinto shrines in Japan. I got my first omikuji (fortune slip) at Asakusa Shrine, took part in a Shinto mass of sorts at Narita shrine, celebrated New Year in Zojoji Shrine, and took long walks around Meiji Jingu Shrine. They’re beautiful and you can really feel a super unique spiritual atmosphere. When you cross the gates of a shrine, it suddenly feels like everything becomes really quiet and you may even forget that you’re actually in the heart of the largest city in the world.

This time I visited Kameido Shrine, which is said to enshrine the God of Education. Apparently it is very crowded during the juken period (or rather shiken jigoku = exam hell….) when thousands of high-schoolers take their grueling university entrance exams. People of any age and any background come here to ask for positive results on any type of exam. You never know if that one point was just a fluke or if it was actually some higher power looking out for you! With the Japanese Language Proficiency Test coming in July, my boyfriend and I decided to go there and ask the God of Education for a little help.

Kameido Tenjin 亀戸天神

Tokyo, Oedo-ku, Kameido3−6−1

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Tokyo shitamachi is an interesting area. Everybody says it’s terribly corny…and well, I won’t say it isn’t, but I have some kind of romantic sentiment towards it, I guess. Shitamachi 下町 (literally 下 = down, 町= town) doesn’t mean ‘downtown’ here, actually, my dear readers, it means quite the opposite. Historically, Tokyo was divided into two parts: Yamanote = richmen, cool kids, glitter, money and high fashion, and Shitamachi = old people, small gangsters, dodgy clubs, cheap alcohol and stray cats.

Today I’m taking you to the latter.

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One might say that it’s some real ghetto stuff we have in here, I’d say in some countries the chairs would be long gone already. So who’s the real winner here?

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But! The other bits of shitamachi are not my topic today but instead I’d like to share a real oasis of peace in the middle of a megalopolis.

Kameido Tenjin is hidden behind trees and bushes, and it’s difficult to believe how close it is from the pride of Tokyo – Tokyo Sky Tree. It’s really quiet here, and if you couldn’t see that sleek giant silhouette thrusting towards the sky in the background, you could easily forget you’re still in Tokyo.

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The name of the shrine (亀戸) suggests that the God of Education may have some little neighbours (亀 = kame, turtle). The pond surrounding the shrine was full of these little creatures. They all know that people = snacks, and they will gather as soon as they see you, so you better prepare some turtle snacks!

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Majestic Kameido Shrine

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This has to be my favourite part of each shinto shrine. There are hundreds and hundreds of little wooden plates with wishes written on them. They’re called ema (絵馬) and they come in tons of cute designs and shapes. I know that maybe I shouldn’t really do it I guess, but I like to sneak a peek or two at what other people write on their ema. I have seen the loveliest of wishes, for health, for love, for a baby, for a happy marriage…

But since the main resident here is the God of Education, there’s one word you can see on almost all emas at Kameido Tenjin — 合格 goukaku = pass [an exam].

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Upon arrival at any shinto shrine, there is some purification stuff to be done. You’ll easily find a water basin called temizuya where you should perform the temizu ritual.

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Hold the scoop with your left hand, fill it with water and pour some of the cool water on to your right hand…

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…change hands and repeat…

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…cup the water with your hand and rinse your mouth with it,  but don’t drink it!  Then rinse the scoop with the remaining water and place it where you previously found it. Simple as that!

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My second favourite thing about shinto shrines has to be omikuji and omamori! I love browsing through the variety of lucky charms, even if I don’t actually end up buying them since I already own a bunch. There’s something for everyone: safety on the road, safe labor and delivery, lucky charms bringing health, love, success and happiness. If you’d like to know something more about your love life, you can get a special love fortune slip for 300 yen (regular ones cost 100 yen). They’re all written in Old Japanese though, so most of the time I just hope there’s something nice written on them.

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Time to leave my own ema at Kameido Tenjin!

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Since I was a child, I have always heard “Don’t reveal your wishes, otherwise they won’t come true!” so just in case I wrote them in my native Polish, so I could be sure that nobody who visits the shrine (and who has a habit of reading other people’s ema…) knows what’s on my mind.

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So peaceful and harmonic…

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My boyfriend and I got regular omikuji for 100 yen and as we expected, they were written in Old Japanese with lots of metaphors and stuff, so we gave up on trying to read them. Anyway, the most important thing is whether they’re actually good fortune slips or bad fortune slips. Here’s a useful glossary:

大吉 daikichi — great fortune

中吉 chuukichi — moderate fortune

小吉 shoukichi – not so amazing but still fortune

吉 kichi – not amazing at all, but better than 凶

凶  kyou — you better be careful

大凶 daikyou – very bad luck aka you’re screwed

But no worries! If you have a misfortune of getting a 凶 or a 大凶, you can simply tie the slip on a special string provided and this way you can break the jinx. This time I got the 中吉, so I guess I have no reasons to worry.

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The JLPT test is on the 6th of July. It’s not me who is gonna take the test this time, though one day I might, just to check myself. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for the boyfriend though, he will challenge the top N1 level. Dear God of Education, we’re counting on you.

Thanks for reading ♥

***

BONUS!

A happy catfish has some news.

Japan.

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Nakano Broadway — Crazy vintage anime stuff town!

Whenever you hear manga/ anime / video games / whatever, you probably think of Akihabara, right? Don’t worry, I was also one of those people who thought that only Akihabara deserved the title of otaku heaven. But a couple of weeks ago I met my friend Myriam, who’s been living in Japan for over 5 years now, and she took me to a place that turned out to be even better than the slightly overrated AKB.

Vintage games, anime stuff, manga, dolls, accessories, CDs, consoles, cosplay, robots, toys, collectibles, some creepy stuff, some awesome stuff, unique photo albums, simply everything.

If you’re brave enough, follow me and see for yourself.

Nakano Broadway 中野ブロードウェイ

 5-52-15 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Nakano Station, Chuo Line (中央線) and Tozai Line (東西線), take the north exit

website in English:  http://www.nbw.jp/index_e.html

website in Japanese: http://www.nbw.jp/

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  And here’s the lovely lady who showed me around the place! Thanks a million!

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Nakano Broadway – Otaku’s Paradise

 

image from: otapark.com

Looking for creepy cute dolls covered in blood? No problem. Gremlins driving a pink cabrio? Step right up, you can get’em here. You have always dreamt about owning your very own wrestling mask? Your dreams will finally come true!  Collecting frog skeletons? You just found another specimen! Wanna put your hands on [any anime ever produced] merchandise? Bingo.

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First thing I saw when I got there was these horridly anatomically inaccurate ball jointed dolls. I know that there are many people who collect these beauties, name them, make clothes for them, organize photo shoots and meetings etc. I can understand that, there’s some mysterious cold beauty in them indeed. Their little bodies wrapped in foil reminded me of a classic of the sci-fi anime genre — Ghost in the Shell.

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If you ever decide to splurge on one of the dolls (2000 dollars eeep!) you can buy a whole set of adorable little wigs and outfits.

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Nakano Broadway is seventh heaven for Sailor Moon fans. These items must be really rare, just look at the prices. Sailor Moon figurine for a 1000 dollars, Sailor Warrior plastic wands for 600 dollars…I can imagine how some really dedicated fans could have spent quite a fortune here.

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I’m a fan of Sailor Moon myself (in my case though, it’s more of a sentimental thing from my childhood), but dolls with price tags showing a big share of my monthly salary don’t appeal to me. But wait, what is that over there? Sailor Moon key chain machine? And you need only 300 yen to get one? Now we’re talking!

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…it’s Mamoru! This guy surely set the bar really high for future boyfriends.

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 Mandarake store

Mangas, magazines, books, photo albums…Most of which were rather unique. There’s too many to list, so just take a look at their website and you’ll get an idea of what treasures you can find there.

Mandarake store website in English: http://ekizo.mandarake.co.jp/shop/en/

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A cheki pic of a kneeling school girl wearing panties and a harness on her thigh and some S&M stuff by Kuniyoshi Kaneko 

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A tattooed lady took a photo of a tattooed lady looking at pictures of tattooed ladies. Photo-ception? Tattoo-ception? Tatooed ladies-ception?

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3 aliens in Japan *dry joke alert*

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 Here we have some little panties, bras and swimwear worn by anime characters and they can be yours for only 980 yen! I’m wondering what happens with them after the purchase…OK, OK, I better just stop that line of thought here.

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Nakano Broadway has a few floors with countless second-hand shops. You’ll get lost in this mish-mash of toys, accessories and dolls. We didn’t understand why someone would want to part ways with this gloriously giant pink poop, but well, one person’s loss is another’s gain and you can get this dramatic plush-toy for only 1200 yen. I admit we were kind of tempted by this one.

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Got brains?

 

Okay, so this store took the creepy factor to a whole new level for me. All I could think of while browsing items this store had to offer was “W-T-F ? ? ?”. Their display says much about the content, but I wouldn’t be myself if I hadn’t checked it. Saying it was interesting doesn’t even begin to describe it. Unique..? Amusing in a peculiar way..? I found it really interesting how they described themselves on their website:

“Many item from all kinds of genres (comics, literatures, arts, sub culture, a genre, music and theatrical play) and we have more than 1million books. Some of them are not as sophisticated as the books in the regular bookstores because they are hand-made, but put aside your prejudice and take a look at these. You will meet your favorite one.”

Yeah, sophisticated would be the last word I would use here.

check it →here←

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 ⇑

A brain pouch. A kappa with a septum piercing doing things to a poor lady with a turtle between her legs. Yay!

***

I have seen hundreds of horror movies and other disturbing stuff, but these photos looked so real, I actually had to redefine my perception of what was ‘disturbing’ for me . These photos were “What kind of sick mind created these?” kind of disturbing.

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  It doesn’t mean that the whole store was like this. Of course, it wasn’t like any other regular bookstore, but there were some regular titles. Though “Lil Miss Sticky Kiss” and “Rubber Doll” by Trevor Brown don’t confirm what I just said (I googled these books, and let me just warn you that you might think it’s “I better clear my Google Search history” kind of disturbing).

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  The only summary I can think of:

You just gotta love Japan.

 

Thanks for stopping by!

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Owls, hawks and talking parrots! Bird Cafe in Kiba — 鳥のいるカフェ

Everybody has most likely already heard about or been to cat cafes, which I suppose are definitely not considered any sort of novelty anymore. They have become an integral part of Tokyo — without cat cafes peppered around town, it wouldn’t be Japanese enough. Since Japanese people love new interesting things and they love animals — I’m not surprised that a new trend took off recently. The first time I saw that owl cafes exist and that they’re actually a thing, was when I watched my friend Laura’s video about one place in Osaka (watch the video here). Then a few days ago I read a blog post by Minty Lemony (read the blog post →here←) and thought that if there is such a place in Osaka, I was pretty darn sure I’d find a similar place in Tokyo.  My hunch paid off and I was right, there are actually a few places and you can find some info about all of them →here←. The owl cafe I chose to visit happened to be closed on Tuesdays, but I found another one — and not only did it have owls, but also a small hawk and talking parrots!

Bird Cafe 鳥のいるカフェ

2 Chome-6-7 Kiba

Koto, Tokyo

Their website: http://www9.ocn.ne.jp/~toricafe/index.html

Their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/torinoirucafe

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On that day I had my weekly Japanese class near Tokyo Station, so to get to Kiba (木場), I took the Marunouchi Line (東京メトロ丸ノ内線) to Otemachi (大手町) and changed to the Tozai Line (東京メトロ東西線) bound for Toyo Katsutadai (東葉勝田台). Be sure to use the 4A exit, which is the closest to the cafe. I had never been to Kiba before, but I found the place with little to no effort.

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I was expecting long lines in front of the cafe but, well, I was wrong, there were just a few people inside. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was about 3 o’clock on a Tuesday and simply most people are working at that time.

 When you see a place covered with bushes, YAY, you made it! You just arrived at 鳥のいるカフェ — Tori no iru cafe = Bird Cafe.

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  When you enter the place, you’ll be greeted by the whole gang. The owls and the hawk are in a special glass room, spending their time sleeping or gazing at the customers. But they’re not the only bird residents here.

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The cafe itself is really small, there were about 16 seats and only two staff members. As you can see there’s a tree inside and it actually looked so real I didn’t really know whether it was fake or not. There were baby owls and some rather talkative parrots. They mainly shouted random things in their parrot language but there was one parrot named Ringo-chan which introduced herself (“Ringo-chan!”), greeted us politely  (“Konnichiwa!” and “Ohayo!”) and reacted appropriately whenever she felt that her personal space was invaded (“Kowai! Kowai!” = “Scary!”).

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 A cute, bird-themed toilet

***

As I expected their menu had rather steep prices, but that’s not drinks or cheesecake that you’re paying for here. At first you need to order something and when you’re done drinking and eating, you can pay your bill and pay an additional 500 yen to spend 5 minutes with the owls.

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I got this cheesecake & cafe latte set for 1100 yen. One more time – it’s not the food we’re paying for here but I must say that the cheesecake was pretty decent.

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And a short introduction of the bird staff! Name, species, breed, date of birth, sex, weight, country of origin, special talents like talking, playful biting, cheerful singing, wiggle dance etc.

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Apparently in other cafes customers are allowed to pet them and play with them for about an hour. One may think that 5 minutes is too short but there’s a reason for that. According to the guide we got from the staff, they simply get tired, and we don’t want the fluffy balls to feel bad, do we? From what I saw, they’re taken good care of, and I didn’t mind spending only 5 minutes with them. In fact, I thought that was just about right.

 Here are some important rules, you’d better get familiar with before entering the petting room:

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Time to go to the petting room!

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This has to be the most dramatic owl I have ever seen. He played a tough guy at first and I was actually scared he would bite me, but he turned out to be a total sucker for attention. He seemed to respond with a quiet rapture when people would pet him!

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Well, I actually didn’t have enough courage to hold any of the birds, but my boyfriend did and you can see that it was neither scary nor dangerous and the birdies were friendly.

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 It was sooo fluffy and cute ♥

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 ⇑

Awwww look,  someone was being shy ♥

***

These poor things…The notice says not to touch them because they’re still babies so their immune system is weak, but if you really want to pet them you should call the store assistant first.

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After 5 minutes a bell rang and our time with the lovely owls was over. It was a nice experience, and as for the birdies, I’m positive they’re in responsible hands and the staff knows how to take proper care of them.

If you feel the sudden urge to be like Harry Potter for once in your life, come on by the Bird Cafe and find your very own Hedwig!

 

 

The most badass owl you’ve seen all day.

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Miyomi 美楽味 — BIGBANG themed restaurant in Shin-Okubo!

Another day, another food adventure! I don’t have any sort of real ranking of my favourite restaurants, but if I had one, this place would be sitting nicely on first place. I love everything about it.  A BIGBANG themed restaurant in Shinokubo serving amazing Korean food. What else could you ask for? Not a big fan of  BIGBANG? Absolutely no problem! You’ll find photos, posters and maybe even autographs of many other k-pop idols here too. Not a fan of k-pop at all? Enjoy the delicious and authentic Korean food they serve… and they have a pretty wide selection of amazing dishes!

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It’s just a 2 minutes walk from Shin-Okubo station. You can’t miss the gorgeous pink-haired G Dragon (I’m sure that this poster itself brings in a lot of customers…female customers).

美楽味 Miyomi

〒169-0073 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Hyakunincho, 1 Chome−6−15
ヤナギヤビル1F (Yanagiya Building 1F)

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 You can take a look at everything they offer even before you actually go inside. So as we can see (and as I mentioned before), there’s a special BIGBANG room — unfortunately I have never had a chance to sit there because it’s almost always occupied when I’m there.

Apparently, Haruna Ai has visited the place and left them her autograph. Who is Haruna Ai? When I first came to Japan, I saw her in lots of variety shows and thought she was a pretty cute lady with an interesting husky voice. Well, she turned out to be a ニューハーフ (‘new half‘) – a transgendered woman who won the “Miss International Queen 2009”  held in Thailand (according to Wikipedia, she is the first Japanese to get that title). Well, I still think she’s a really lovely lady. There’s also a pic and a signature of a famous Korean actor Lee Min-ho, so I assume he’s been there too.

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  Inside we have tons and tons of photos and posters of hallyu stars and BIGBANG of course. They play mainly BIGBANG’s music which is one of the reasons why this place is my favourite. Every so often they play music videos of other YG artists, but you won’t hear SM Entertainment or other agencies’ artists here.  I should probably write about another restaurant in Shin-Okubo, where they play only SM Entertainment music for a change (and it was also much cheaper…). Someday I’ll be sure to get to that, so stay tuned.

 

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 I managed to get a rather unflattering shot of CL…

***

If you’re a big fan of k-pop, you might recognize these handsome young men. Unfortunately I couldn’t, so please let me know in a comment if you can identify them for me.

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*JYJ ordering drinks*

Yoochun: I should get that refreshing sour as always… (サワー sawaa = sake cocktail)

Jaejoong: There are many kinds of sours. (very insightful)

Junsu: I guess I’ll go for a sour,  too.

What a natural conversation! /s

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 ↑

 Kim Nam Gil is not as indecisive as JYJ boys and he knows that what he wants is chamisul (Korean vodka).

***

♥The BIGBANG room! Posters, CDs, photos, pillows…A paradise for fans of the fantastic 5. And if you add delicious Korean food to it…HEAVEN!♥

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Big thanks to my friend Misato for posing in such a lovely way with their menu. You may think that their prices are a bit high, but keep in mind that dishes from this menu are supposed to be shared among 2-3 people.

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 Here’s their lunch menu (10:30 – 16:00). Prices vary from 850 yen (which is super cheap) to even 3000 yen (which is not cheap at all). I have tried their japchae, their fried squid rice, kimchi jjigae, kimchi fried rice, bulgogi and probably some others but my absolute favourite is their cold noodles – naengmyon! Sooo good!

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  Cheers! 乾杯! 건배! Bon appetit! いただきます! 잘 먹겠습니다!

⇓                                                     ⇓

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 To make noodles easier to eat, waiters actually cut them. I distinctly remember the first time I ate Korean noodles, I was kind of surprised when I saw a waiter approaching with huge scissors and cutting my food.

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Bibim naengmyon, delicious appetizers — kimchi, yeolmu kimchi,  mechurial jorim (quail eggs in soy sauce) an mul naengmyon

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 This has to be my favourite Korean food restaurant so far. I might be biased because of BIGBANG’s music and posters everywhere, but I would lie if I said I go there only because of them. I love the food, the drinks (awesome makgeolli cocktails!) and the neighbourhood. A great place for lunch – 10/10!

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 Bonus!

My friend Misato is a total babe and I like her simple and cool fashion. I asked her about the items she was wearing that day, so here’s the list:

top: MUJI 無印良品

shorts: moussy

shoes&bag: another edition (www.another-edition.jp)

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  Thank you for reading!♥ (and be sure to visit this place the next time you find yourself in Shin-Okubo!)

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Madosh!Cafe – avocado restaurant in Omotesando

There are so many awesome places in Tokyo I’d like to show you, I really don’t know which one to choose first. This time I’m taking you to Omotesando, to a place where everything is so insanely delicious, you won’t be able to find the words to describe it. And if you love avocado, you might consider moving to Omotesando, near this place. Or moving in to the restaurant itself.

Madosh!Cafe Omotesando

Even though I rarely go back to the same restaurant twice, because I like finding new places and trying new things, every time I’m in Omotesando I end up eating some yummy avocado dish in Madosh!Cafe.

How to get there? Follow the avocados!

5-28-7 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 153-0001
Phone: 03-3400-1188
opening times: 11:30-3:00 pm 5:00-10:30 pm

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If you see a Mr. Avocado & Avocado Sisters graffiti inside, you’ll know you’re in the right place.

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The atmosphere is rather unique, warm and quite cozy (in a different way than and people though). Quaintly mismatched chairs and tables, a Snoopy mascot next to cocky dwarfs. Somehow I really like the hodgepodge of decorations in this place.

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It might  seem that the decoration is made of the most random items the owner could ever find, but I guess there’s some concept behind all these mismatching furniture and accessories. Plastic chandelier with rabbits and squirrels, ketchup and mustard bottles with creepy faces, some mysterious football players dolls (are those sweets? toys? pens?) and Christmas tree lights…

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Dwarfs giving us the middle finger (and a fax machine?)…

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…a SPAM mascot, a LEGO dude figurine, a rather disturbing Bugs Bunny toy and lots of different photos, pictures, vinyl records etc. There used to be a cute pug there, sleeping in one of those empty avocado cardboard boxes, but I haven’t seen it recently.

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I have come to this restaurant on numerous occasions and I noticed that it’s not that busy around 2-3 pm, but last time I went there about 7 pm and my friend and I were really lucky to get two last empty seats. Well, considering the quality of their dishes, I’m not surprised it gets so packed.

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THE MENU

As far as I remember there is a free drink bar during lunchtime (but I wouldn’t bet my life on it, I might be thinking of some other place right now). It gets a bit more expensive during dinnertime – you have to order a drink and there’s also a seat charge to be paid (300 yen). But every cloud’s got a silver lining and thanks to that “dinnertime menu + drink” rule I have discovered a smoothie that is quite simply out of this world. They have some taco rice with avocado, deep fried avocado,  avocado shrimp, avocado curry, avocado rice bowl…

For more details about the menu, check out their website → www.mado.in

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Some of the avocado goodness…

smoked salmon + green onion + avocado rice bowl, nachos with avocado dip you get for free (← not really sure about it though, it might be what you pay that 300 yen fee for?),  minced raw fatty tuna + green onion +avocado rice bowl — rice bowls cost about 980 yen which is not bad at all.

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Here we have some taco rice with cute avocado balls for only about 1100 yen.

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….and THIS smoothie! Avocado and mango smoothie with some chocolate sauce on top. I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe its heavenly taste for a long time, because delicious doesn’t even scratch the surface. Imagine a fusion of a creamy avocado with the smooth sweetness of mango, the moment it touches your taste buds you’ll forget every single darn smoothie you’ve ever had before. It’s the creamiest, the puffiest smoothie I have ever tasted. If it had cheeks, you’d want to squeeze them. It’s a bit expensive though (800 yen), but there will not be a single word of complaint here. It’s definitely more than worth its price.

↓↓↓

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The staff is really nice and they even posed with avocados for me. It kind of surprises me how nicely people react when I ask them if it’s okay to take a photo. Really, nobody minds. I always say that I have a blog and I’d like to recommend this place, and they’re like “That’s great, yeah, let’s take a pic!”. Japanese shop and restaurant customer service is second to none ♥

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This place has everything it takes to be considered a good restaurant — great food, interesting interior, and considering it’s on one of the most fashionable streets in Tokyo, prices are fairly reasonable, the staff is super nice, you might even meet a cute Mr. Pug there, you’ll definitely see Mr. Avocado and his Avocado Sisters, and I’m sure that once you go there, you’ll be back.

(I want that lamp. I’m serious.)

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If you’d like to try preparing some of that avocado goodness at home, check out their YouTube channel! Here’s a short video by Madosh!Cafe –  avocado horumon nabe!

Did you know…?

You may see many places selling a ホルモン鍋  (horumon nabe), and I guess that the first thing that will come to your mind will be “are they actually preparing some kind of a hormone soup or what? is it even edible?”. I was a bit confused about the word ホルモン (horumon), but my friend who’s been living in Japan for about 9 years, explained it to me and I thought I’d share!

ホルモン (horumon) is not hormone – it’s guts, entrails. It comes from the Japanese dialect version of the word 放る物 (ほるもの horumono) which means ‘toss away things’ because back in the day guts were tossed away and not eaten.  The more you know!

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Thanks for stopping by♥

Tokyo in snapshots: Shinjuku 新宿

 Recently I have noticed that what was exciting / new / weird / funny for me when I first came to Japan, has now become really quite normal and, come to think of it, I don’t even pay attention to most of those things anymore. For example, I was kind of surprised to see that all Japanese cars are kind of square and small and like 80% of vehicles are white…except for taxis. There’s one special type of car used for taxis in Japan (it’s a Toyota Crown Comfort if you’re interested). And you know what else? All of the cars are so clean and shiny, people here really care about their cars. That was one of the things that struck  me as so different than Europe. Another one is shouting store assistants. Seriously, at first it made me really stressed out, I didn’t really want to go shopping in Shinjuku or Shibuya, where store assistants  shout so loud I didn’t know how it could be considered a good way to bring in more customers? But apparently, Japanese people have a high noise tolerance – if you ever passed a pachinko parlor, you’ll know.

Right now, thinking about what was new to me when I first came to Japan gave me this feeling of pure nostalgia… so I thought I’d take some snapshots and just show you around Tokyo.

SHINJUKU 

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Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world. According to Guinness World Records  “An average of 3.64 million passengers per day pass through the station, which has over 200 exits (←I didn’t know that) and serves the city’s western suburbs via a range of intercity, commuter rail and metro services” (see here).

I can’t even begin to count how many times I got lost there. It gets a bit easier with time, but I think that even Japanese people have problems. You can always ask a station officer about the way but… chances they speak English? Near zero. So I hope you speak Japanese!

Also, I’m sure you’ll notice it the second you step into the station, Japanese people walk real slow. You’d think that people here are super busy so they’d try their best to commute quickly, right? They do speed up to jump in trains at the last minute, literally as the doors are closing, but basically it’s not easy to be a fast walker here. I wouldn’t consider myself a really fast walker but I  still walk faster than most other people on the street.

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 Shinjuku South Exit

You can often see some people performing there. One Canadian guitar player I used to share a guest house with told me once that it’s actually illegal to perform there and that he knows station officers’ schedule so he can avoid the times when they’re there. Apparently the lady in this picture knew their schedule too, and she even managed to gather a small crowd of salarymen to admire her crooning.

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Most of the stations in Tokyo have pachinko parlors, karaoke booths and video game arcades in their neighbourhood and Shinjuku isn’t any different. Thinking about it now, I actually remember I ate my first bite of okonomiyaki somewhere around this area.

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Shinjuku East Exit

The first thing you currently see when you get out of the station, using this exit, will be a giant Kimura Takuya’s face staring down at you.  I didn’t capture it this time, but if you google “Alta Shinjuku”, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Other things you’ll see here are game arcades again, some DVD and purikura booths, dirt cheap izakayas…and lots of lingerie and shoe shops. Why?

One word: KABUKICHO.

…and what do shoes and Kabukicho have in common? Well, I’d say you can find a rather wide selection of super high heels here, that’s the connection. You’ll see some more of Kabukicho a few photographs later, so hang tight.

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Shinjuku can also look very elegant, at least I find this street very cool looking. Unless there’s a car with a dozen of half-naked ladies casually passing by…

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Here it is! Kabukicho – the red light district of Tokyo. Some Japanese people told me that a few years back, Kabukicho was considered a no-go, a yakuza town where they’d rip you off, steal everything and most likely kick your teeth down your throat as an added bonus. I have only passed through Kabukicho, I have no intention of hanging out in that area to be honest. Knowing what’s going on behind the doors of numerous dingy clubs there, makes me avoid it like the plague.

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What do we have in here…”Talent in pub Super Angel” whatever that means, video DVD booths which might look innocent, but trust me, they are not. There was this one time I needed to kill some time and thought I could use one of those DVD booths and just stay there for a while (it wasn’t in Kabukicho though, it was in Ueno) but what I saw there was far from what I imagined was an innocent place where one can watch some DVDs. You should expect one type of movies, for one type of clients (or is it my bad luck that I always find creepy places?)

Countless girls’ bars, kyabakura clubs, sekukyaba clubs, love hotels…

a little dictionary for you to take a gander at:

hostess club: well groomed women pretending that drunk businessmen are the most attractive men in the world, laughing at all their lame jokes, pouring their whisky, lighting their cigarettes

host club: same as above, but switch genders

girls bar: a typical bar where you can drink some whiskey or any other spirit, with one difference – all staff is young, attractive females

kyabakura club: like a hostess club but girls wear sexy clothes, the “look but don’t touch” rule applies

sekukyaba club: like kyabakura clubs but the “look but don’t touch” rule doesn’t apply, one can buy a certain ‘service’ here, not a ‘full service’ though

love hotel: no need to explain that, I guess. Suffice to say, you need to bring your own play partner

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And host clubs… There are lots of these boys on the streets of Kabukicho, desperately looking for clients. Some of them are rather far away from what one would have called worth spending over 10,000 yen on.

No…just no.

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And if you’re just looking for some cheap izakayas and cheap food, it’s an okay place to go. I can’t really recommend it since I have never really spent much time there, but I guess it is much safer than it was, say, 15 years ago (according to my Japanese friends). So yeah, why not check out Kabukicho?

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When someone asks me about Shinjuku, a few brief pictures always come to mind. Skyscrapers, fashionable people, Kabukicho and cute narrow streets with those ubiquitous taxis, karaoke booths, pachinko parlors … everything you’ve ever heard about Tokyo, you can easily find it gathered in this one district.

 

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 Thanks for stopping by! ♥

 

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