For our last full day in Japan, we decided to go to... Tokyo!
Warning: Extremely photo-heavy post!
Our sensei had business to attend to back at the University of Tsukuba so we couldn't leave for Tokyo until after lunch. We didn't want to waste the chilly morning waiting at the hotel so we decided to go to CREO, a mall just beside our hotel. I wasn't able to take pictures inside the mall since we only had a few hours before we needed to get back to the hotel lobby to meet our sensei.
The first floor had a lot of small stalls selling unique item from chopsticks to stationery. The second floor was full of clothing stores and I found some brands that I really wanted to try but since I was (still am) on a clothes shopping ban (I need to get in shape first!), I didn't get anything.
The third floor... oh my. It's an entire floor dedicated to LOFT which is a popular store chain that sells home items, stationery, cosmetics, etc. I bought some cocofusen post-its, 3M post-its that I don't see in the Philippines and a bunch of washi tape.
Around 12NN, I went back to the lobby to meet-up with the rest of the group. Then, we headed out to the TX (Tsukuba Express) Station. Commuting via train in Japan can be quite daunting because of all the complicated railways but it's actually very easy and efficient!
We had to meet Cheng Chua-sensei at Setagayadaita Station. So I did a quick Google Map search on the fastest (but not so expensive) route to that station.
We chose the one with fewer transfers - from Tsukuba we rode the TX to get to Kitasenju and the transferred to the Chuo Line to get to Yoyogiuehara Station and then finally, rode the Odakyu Line to Setagayadaita Station.
Train rides in Japan are actually quite relaxing when it isn't during the rush hour since it's considered rude to talk loud or take a phone call during public transportation. And yes, our train ride was free from the rush hour madness you usually see in Tokyo stations.
When we arrived at Setagayadaita, we walked a bit to get to our first stop. I really liked how the natural light hit the small Tokyo streets and quirky small businesses. Maybe it's the cold weather?
This is probably my favorite photo that I took of Tokyo!
I love the random, hole-in-the-wall type stores in this small, narrow Tokyo street!
Since we were only in Tokyo for a day, Cheng Chua-sensei decided to take us to non-mainstream stores and locations so we don't waste time trying to find our way through oceans of people.
First stop, Shirohige's Cream Puff Shop!
Shirohige is a small bakery that specializes in Totoro-shaped cream puffs. They even have the patent to this cream puff so they're the only ones that can sell Totoro-shaped cream puffs in the entire country. They only make a set amount of cream puffs a day so you have to reserve before hand. Talk about limited edition!
The bakery was small and located on the first floor of a two-story house-turned restaurant. It was dainty and cozy even from the outside.
Behold! The most amazing cream puffs in existence!
To be honest, it broke my heart to sink my teeth into the adorable Totoro! But it was so yummy, not too sweet, just the way I like it :)
We were extremely hungry at this point (it was around 2:30PM) so we headed for lunch a train station away.
We went into a strip that was inside a tunnel-like walkway and was filled with different stores. There were a lot of stores that were underground so upon entering their front door, you take a flight of stairs to the basement where the actual restaurant is located.
Our lunch stop was at Ichiran, a famous ramen chain that's quite different from your usual ramen restaurant. It's famous for its concept of "solitary dining." If you want minimal interaction with other diners, servers and other people in general while you slurp down a bowl of ramen, Ichiran is perfect for you.
You start by picking the ramen you want through this vending machine. After paying for it, you get a small stub that you'll need to claim your ramen.
Inside, you can go ahead and pick any seat you want. Each cubicle is designed to have everything you need without having to ask for it from the servers. A faucet for drinking water, all the condiments you will need for ramen, extra chopstics... everything, really! They serve your ramen through the bamboo screen that you can lift up. If you're with a friend, you can fold the divider and talk to each other privately ;)
There's a small infographic on how you can customize your ramen. You fill up a questionnaire once you sit down. It has all the options from the type of meat, amount of soup, spice level, etc.
After a short wait, you get one hot bowl of delicious ramen!
You can't go to Japan and not have ramen. You just can't.
We were pretty stuffed after lunch so we decided to burn some calories by... shopping!
Our third stop was at Kichijoji's Penny Lane. It's a small shopping and dining district.
The main focus of this trip was to go to the six-storey (or maybe seven) LOFT building since it's nearer than Tokyu Hands. YES. Six (or seven) floors of stationery and home goods. Heaven. I think LOFT is the direct competitor of Tokyu Hands.
I don't have photos from LOFT since we only had a little over an hour to shop. I bought lots of washi tape, a 72-piece set of Copic Sketch markers, a bunch of small trinkets and more stationery!
Our sensei stayed at Lindt Chocolat Cafe just a few steps from this corner. All items in the menu had Lindt chocolate as an ingredient!
Our last shopping stop was at Nakano Broadway. Nakano is like a smaller, less mainstream version of Akihabara. You'll find lots of anime and manga-related products and they have Mandarake which is a famous chain of manga products, both brand-new and second-hand.
No pictures again since I was busy shopping! I bought five volumes of Japanese Rurouni Kenshin, a No. 2 dog plushie (from Kuroko no Basuke), a Cloud Strife keychain, costume wood sandals and a lot of souvenir items.
Busy Shinjuku streets! The lights are very pretty, though.
The last stop for our trip was dinner in the very interesting and entertaining Capcom Bar! It's a Capcom-themed bar where they serve around four tables at a time and you can only stay for two hours.
Capcom Bar is very unique because you get to play Capcom video games while dining. Also, the food (you'll see later) are based on Capcom characters and the way they're served is very interesting. The two waiters act out famous Capcom scenes like Ace Attor, Monster Hunter and Sengoku Basara. We weren't allowed to take videos of their performances, probably to preserve the novelty of the bar.
The adult table! Some of our sensei's friends joined us for dinner :)
Just a note, while knowledge of Capcom video games are not needed to enjoy this bar, it's important that you actively participate in the "activities" they'll be hosting while you're dining. It'll make the experience much more enjoyable for you ;)
Are you ready for the mouthwatering food spam?
Since we "kids" weren't allowed by the adults to buy alcoholic drinks, I picked out this quirky Sarutobi Sasuke 'Art of Disappearance' matcha drink (left). We started with this Resident Evil biohazard pizza and the presentation was just spot on!
One of the most interesting food is the 'Arrest looming!' Spareribs of Usutanaku where the waiter subjects it to a flamethrower-type device.
We also ordered the Yoga Flame Ball of Dhalsim (left) which is like curry in a ball. For dessert, we had this nasty looking Brain Cake (right). I stabbed it myself ;)
Not pictured: Ace Attorney-themed 'Objection!' onion rings with a hammer-shaped korokke and the Takoyaki Russian Roulette.
Cheng Chua-sensei dared us to do the The Bumped Bluff of Naruhodo Ryuichi Russia Takoyaki. Basically, you each get a takoyaki ball and eat it at the same time. One ball will have spicy habanero inside instead of takoyaki. Guess who lost?
Yep, the one who dared us!
Look at our satisfied faces! I definitely recommend this restaurant ;)
It's a bittersweet moment as we head back to the station to ride a train directly to Tsukuba.
Here we are figuring out which line to ride. It's not hard, I promise! Just research beforehand which stations are nearest to your destination.
Goodbye Tokyo! Until we meet again :)