Traditional Shitamachi Kissaten — Sunny Cafe in Asakusa!

There are a few websites about Japan I follow. I stay pretty faithful to GaijinPot and actually not that long ago I read this blog entry over there about kissaten = traditional Japanese cafes (→“Kissaten: A slowly dying part of Japanese culture”). I agree with the author, big cafe chains like Starbucks, Dotour, Tully’s etc. are more visible on the streets of Tokyo than those little cozy places, where you can still feel the inimitable Showa atmosphere. Saying ‘more visible’ might be an understatement even — some people here seem to be living on nothing more than Starbucks everyday, it’s always full and there’s always a line of at least 10 people. And that’s a shame. Why? I absolutely love Shitamachi Tokyo (the less fashionable, older part of the city) and what I love even more is finding those adorable kissaten, often located in some absolutely picturesque neighbourhood, with red paper lanterns, old rusty bikes, old posters with charming ladies dressed in kimonos…

Here’s one I have visited a few times and that I love going back to whenever I’m in Asakusa.

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Sunny Cafe in Asakusa

〒111-0032 Tokyo

Taito-ku, Asakusa, 2 Chome 

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This adorable tiny cafe is in the middle of something that appears to be a newly build shopping arcade with super touristy stuff. I like such places though, because Japan has the cutest souvenirs ever!

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Actually there’s tons of adorable items in front of the cafe too. I’m really glad I didn’t walk past it thinking it was just another souvenir store among hundreds of those in Asakusa.

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When you step inside, it’s as if you suddenly found yourself in the Showa era. Time-worn furniture and decorative items, old posters with geisha holding a can of cold beer…

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You can really relax here, read a newspaper or watch news on TV while sipping on a cup of coffee. Patrons of kissaten are often elderly people who live nearby and come by every now and then for some juicy gossip, a conversation with the hosts or other customers or for the feeling of nostalgia Starbucks cannot give them.

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You might think that the menu isn’t impressive — and I can confirm it. We can find tea, coffee, maybe juice. Sandwiches and pound cakes. Sometimes curry. Prices might be a bit steep, yes. There’s no Venti size or fancy stuff like wraps, tortillas or sakura flavoured cheesecakes…

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…but what you will find here is the authentic atmosphere of Japan.

I admit I do enjoy hanging out in Harajuku or Shibuya and other hip areas of Tokyo, but what will always be “the real Tokyo” for me is Shitamachi, beckoning cats, the smell of tatami mats, that lovely mish-mash of old and new.

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I do recommend Sunny Cafe, of course. It’s a little charming cafe in the heart of Asakusa. But that wasn’t the main point of this post to be honest. What is it then? If you’re visiting Japan, be sure to stop by a kissaten. Any kissaten! Go explore, the area around your hotel might hide real gems! Price-wise it’s no different from Starbucks really, cafes in Japan rarely have wifi anyway, so it’s not like you’re gonna miss out on something and you’ll see the traditional, nostalgic side of Japan…. The best Japan. 

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Thank you for reading♥

May digest!

May was a good month. Despite working even harder than usual and even harder than in April when I had to work on my days off (I taught a zillion lessons in May!), I managed to visit some cool places, eat lots of delicious food and meet some great people. I didn’t get that much sleep though, but well, ‘you win some, you lose some’ as they say. I’ll have all the time in the world in as soon as two weeks, when I leave for Europe for the first time in 3 years. I’ll visit my family in the UK and Poland, meet some people and go to a heap of places that will probably bring back a lot of memories. I really can’t wait, though I’m also kinda nervous. I don’t want to sound pretentious or anything like that, but I’m a bit worried about reverse culture shock too… At least I’ll have a topic to write about when I come back to Japan. Anyway, I still have 2 weeks to go and so I’ll try to post a few blog updates before I hop on the plane.

MAY DIGEST

* Do you remember Rino? She was one of the girls I had a girly chat with and I made a blog post out of it. If you haven’t had a chance to read it but think you’d like to, it’s → here ←. Some readers commented that it would be nice to hear about the girls again sometime down the road. This May I met up with Rino again and it was like meeting a completely different girl! She doesn’t wear a high school uniform anymore, she cut and permed her hair, got new fashionable glasses. She is now studying Japanese Culture at Tokyo Women’s University, which might surprise those who read the article and so know she had dreamt of studying Fashion. When I asked her why she decided to study Japanese culture, she answered “There’s still so many things I don’t know about my own country. At first I want to know and understand Japan better” — which I thought was a very reasonable answer.

* Here’s a collections of some funky items I stumbled upon in Tokyo last month… I do want that tattooed Kewpie though, but I don’t have ¥16000 to spare at the moment. Bummer.

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* Remember, if you’re looking for t-shirts that’ll make you the coolest kid in the block, Harajuku is the place to go!

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* And while in Harajuku, why not go to this awesome Hawaiian restaurant I found with Alanna (UK2Tokyo)? It’s called Aloha Table and →here’s their website←

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* While we’re in Harajuku let me show you this fabulous sticker I grabbed in B-Side Label sticker store (read more about the store on Alanna’s blog)

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* Did you know that there’s often some stuff put outside grocery stores in Japan and shops in big shopping arcades often don’t have any gates? It’s because no one would ever think about stealing things. It is something I kinda take for granted now, but I remember when I first came to Japan it totally blew my mind.

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* I finally signed up for yukata and kimono dressing classes! And that glorious gold furisode you see? It’s a gift from Chika-san and I’m so grateful — she actually wore it for her Coming of Age ceremony… 40 years ago! How amazing is that?! I can’t wait to wear it ♥

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* Oh Asakusa… You can take a photo of any random spot there and it’ll still turn out great.

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* If you’re in Asakusa be sure to visit this absolutely adorable maneki neko shrine!

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…or get some delicious sushi…

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* From Asakusa let’s move on over to Kamakura. It was a super fun one-day trip and there will actually be two separate blog posts about Kamakura and Enoshima. Just look at this tiny taiyaki, the Great Buddha, this stunning view from Enoden (train going from Kamaura to Enoshima) and this Dragon Ball gacha!

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* Postcards from Enoshima…

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Back in Tokyo:

* company party where I ate more than I care to admit

* I have a feeling that Japan is starting to discover the wonderful world of flavoured beers… Here’s shikuwasa (Wikpedia calls it “Taiwan tangerine, flat lemon, hirami lemon, or thin-skinned flat lemon”) flavoured Orion beer!

* So I found a small hidden cinema in my town — they happened to be playing Interstellar (they don’t play newest movies and that’s what I love the most about this place).I was absolutely blown away by that movie! Pictures and music = masterpiece.

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And last but not least..

* I’m sorry for this indecency, but of all the things people imagine about Japan this one is true — yes, this stuff does exist, this was on full display in a hobby store and nobody seemed to think there was anything even slightly wrong with it. But! No, people here don’t have tons of piercings, wear whatever they want and dye their hair purple “because everyone in Japan looks like people in Harajuku”. Absolutely not. Harajuku is Harajuku, and it’s not that hardcore anyway. And no, I guess most Japanese businessmen are not encouraged to take naps during the day as I read on some genius website. I teach many businesspeople — no one ever confirmed it. But some parts of Japan aren’t made up, and that’s the harsh reality of it.

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Thanks for reading!♥

How to: Budget fashion in Tokyo aka lookbook vol. 11 + vol. 12

I was looking through the photos I prepared for this month’s lookbook and I noticed two trends in what I like to wear: I like looking serious and elegant, but I also like casual, ‘unpretentious’ outfits. I noticed one more thing: only 1 in 12 casual outfits included a dress (not counting the bonus outfit)! When I came to Japan 3 years ago I didn’t even own a pair of jeans, all I had were dresses and skirts. I quickly realized that wearing skirts in Japan is not the most comfortable thing to do…Why? I think I have the impression that strong winds blow here non-stop and the last thing I’d wish for is flashing my underwear at people around me. I know that ‘safety shorts’ exist, but still — to feel 100% comfortable I had to wear maxi skirts only. And I quickly got bored of them. Either way, I never liked showing too much skin, so I’m glad my taste in fashion went this direction. It’s interesting to see myself 3 years later, sporting boyfriend’s pants, slacks and some 90s fashion trends like denim on denim and platform sandals. That being said, here’s a lookbook for April & May!

APRIL

1.

/photo taken in Insadong, Seoul/

white shirt: bought in a random store near Sillim Station in Seoul for about ¥1600

jacket: Bershka,¥7800

jeans: Bershka, ¥1500

shoes: WEGO, ¥4000

bag: American Apparel, bought from an online discount store for ¥1990

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2.

/photo taken at Higashi-Shirahige Park before Children’s Day in Japan, hence the carp streamers/

top: GU, I don’t really remember but it probably wasn’t more expensive than ¥600

gaucho pants: Bershka, ¥5000

Boots: Jeffrey Campbell, ¥7500

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3.

/photo taken in Oshino Hakkai/

t-shirt: bought in Seoul for about ¥1200

denim jacket: WEGO, ¥2000

black pants: GU, ¥1490

red sneakers: random store in Marui, ¥1500

4.

/It was still a bit chilly at that time, photo taken at Ueno Park/

white shirt: Heather, ¥2500

coat: GU, ¥4000

clutch bag: I actually bought it in Taipei, from a clothing store in Shillin Market for something around ¥800?

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MAY

5.

dress: ANAP, ¥3000

bag: I actually brought it with me from the UK, I remember I paid one whole pound for it at Primark!

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6.

/photo taken at one cool place in Harajuku/

blue shirt: GU, ¥1490

grey pants: bought at a shopping center in Dongdaemun for about ¥1600

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7.

/photo taken in front of some cute shrine in Asakusa/

pink shirt: H&M, ¥300

black jacket: Forever 21, ¥3500

boots: Glad News, bought second hand at Jumble Store for ¥1900

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8.

/forgive me this shameless mirror selfie, there was no one who could take a photo of me that day. If we ever hang out, there’s a 100% chance I’ll ask you to take a photo of me :D/

white top: Forever21, ¥800

jeans:  WEGO, ¥4000

white shoes: random store in my town, ¥2900

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9.

/photo taken in Enoshima!/

glasses: MONKI, ¥1200

pink sweater: bought in Hongdae in Seoul for about ¥1200

shorts: Mustang, bought second hand at WEGO for ¥1980

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10.

white shirt: GU, ¥500

gaucho pants: GU, ¥1490

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11.

/photo taken somewhere in Shibuya/

(I mentioned all items in the previous photos)

jeans: Lip Service, bought second hand for ¥390!

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12.

/photo taken in a supermarket, next to toilet paper… obviously/

top: H&M, ¥700

platform shoes: NADIA, bought second hand at MODE OFF for ¥2000

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BONUS!

I don’t really dress so well for work (mainly because I don’t really care about my work fashion that much) but that day was actually my day off — I just had to work a few hours in the morning. I dressed a little better than usual, but here you can get the idea of what I basically wear for work.

top: Monki, ¥700

skirt: Forever21, ¥800

shoes: random shoe shop in my town, ¥2400

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Thanks for reading! ♥