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♥

Kimono in Asakusa — the ultimate hanami experience!

What would you consider to be the ultimate Japanese experience? Climbing Mount Fuji? Eating fresh sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market at 4 am? Staying at a traditional hot spring hotel? Attending a tea ceremony? I guess all of those things could be considered the ultimate Japan moment, but I can’t say I can check them all off my bucket list yet. There’s one thing, you cannot do properly anywhere else in the world and I’m proud to say I have done it a few times already. And I absolutely love it! Getting dressed up in kimono is always a great experience for me. It’s like a ritual, every piece of kimono, even the smallest one, has its own particular function and it has to be arranged in a special way. Not to mention it looks simply spectacular and is one of the most beautiful and elegant outfits a woman can wear.

This March I had the pleasure to wear it again, and cherry blossoms in full bloom are definitely what made it even more special!

It’s an unforgettable experience, and I really encourage you to try wearing a kimono at least once. (Gentlemen, I’m talking to you too!) If you ever find yourself in Asakusa, head over to Sawadaya Kimono Rental shop. You can choose among hundreds of beautiful kimonos and two amazing ladies will dress you up and they’ll even do your hair! They have offers for couples too — if walking with your partner around Asakusa looking all fabulous is not your definition of the perfect date, then I don’t know what is. (I’ll give some more details about the place at the end of this post!).

Anyway! Today I wanted to share some beautiful moments of my ultimate cherry blossom experience in Asakusa captured by the amazing Boong (The Beholder Photography)!

🙂

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 Full-body shots. Check out that fantastic kimono! Everything matched perfectly and even my tabi socks had roses embroidered on them.

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The stunning Chika-san! I think I’ve mentioned her in some of my blog posts a few times. If it’s your first visit to my blog (hopefully not the last) I’ll write a few words about her just for you. We met just a few months after I came to Japan and at first I was Chika-san’s Polish teacher. I still help her study, but what we basically do is hang out in all the cool Tokyo places, as Chika-san is a native Tokyoite and she knows it better than anyone. She was the one, who came up with the idea of dressing up in kimonos.

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Chika-san chose a simple yet elegant kimono, which nicely balanced my rather flamboyant and elaborate kimono set-up. Notice adorable cats on her obi belt! The paper fans we are holding used to belong to Chika-san’s mother, who was a dancer. They were in fact a bit time-worn, with chipped edges and scraped parts, but that’s exactly what made them even more charming.

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Sawadaya Kimono Rental Shop details!

Here’s their website → click here

and their blog → click here

You can also see the blog post documenting my first and second visit to the shop:

December 2014

March 2015

Kimono rental plan (¥5400 per 1 person,¥9800 per couple) → click here

They don’t speak English, but I guess they can reply to e-mails if you use the help of good ole’ Google Translate. All you have to do to make a reservation is give them your details:

* name

* the day and time you’d like to come in

* how many people (boys & girls) the reservation would be for

Caution! If you’re 30 minutes late, they cannot guarantee they’ll be able to dress you up as there might be another customer waiting, and trust me — putting on a kimono takes time. Sadly, there’s no English version of their website, so if you don’t speak Japanese and have any questions, I’ll try to help you — just leave a comment!

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Thank you for reading! ♥