I can’t say for sure where this factory is because the tour brought us there on a bus and I wasn’t paying much attention to what they were saying. However, with the power of Google, I have concluded that it was probably the Beijing Enamel Factory.
On my first visit to Japan in 2009 I didn’t know about the phenomenon of theme restaurants at all, and only discovered them after we got back, by stumbling across some information online. Since I’d had two years of research before my next visit, I’d built up quite a big list of places to go. We managed to visit twelve of Tokyo’s theme restaurants in total. I won’t lie, it was hard to fit them all into a two week stay (sometimes we would eat at one for lunch and dinner) but I don’t regret it at all. In fact, I’ve found even more for when I go back! My boyfriend at the time was a big fan of Gundam so our first stop upon landing in Tokyo was Akihabara, more specifically, one of the branches of the Gundam Café.
Unfortunately, the details were lost on me as I have never been able to sit through a full episode of the Gundam series.
I thought this Haro character was pretty cute. You can also see the range of alcohol in the background, they serve cocktails. I think it was around 11am when we visited but we were jet-lagged so it was okay to try one.
I ordered nachos and an iced coffee, my dining partner had chicken wings and an orange cocktail. The nachos were a much tinier portion than I’m used to in Ireland and quitebland but you’re not really going to a themed restaurant for the quality of food and the little themed details (like the v-fin on top of the sour cream) didn’t disappoint.
The cocktail had a Haro face in it. It tasted like strong orange cordial. I also had the much-photographed-online Gundam taiyaki from the stall outside. Personally I wouldn’t go back here because the food was pretty bad but the theming is impressive, especially in the restroom (I’ll leave that part for a surprise…).
Gundam Cafe Akihabara
1-1 Kanda Hanaokacho,
Maid cafés in Japan are a curious thing. I visited @Home Cafe back in 2009 with a friend and it was a bit of an awkward experience. Next time around, I was travelling with my boyfriend at the time, I wanted something a little different (read: less of the waitresses flirting lol). Cure Maid is the oldest maid cafe in Tokyo and is different from the others. Whereas most maid cafes in Tokyo are “kawaii” or sexy anime style, Cure Maid feels more like an old fashioned English cafe. It has classical music playing in the background instead of J-pop. Additionally, the staff wear dresses down to their ankles rather than the very short style you’ll find everywhere else.
It was really hard to find, you have to go up an exterior staircase at the back of a gashapon shop to the sixth floor. Good luck finding it, there’s a map at the end of this post.
I ordered “scone of the day” and an iced coffee. It turned out to be matcha flavour with adzuki beans throughout, like raisins would be in a normal scone. The cream beside it seemed to be the spray can type which was a bit weird but I suppose you can’t expect to find an authentic English cream tea in the heart of Tokyo’s Electric City. My dining partner got “cake of the day” which was a delicious butterscotch.
I think this is a great café if you want to experience the maid cafe phenomenon but prefer something a bit more toned down. The delicious food was a bonus.
Cure Maid Cafe,
I’ve mentioned before that in 2010 I visited several cities in China as part of a tour group. You can read a little bit more about that here. Unfortunately I did not get to see many cute attractions, however one of the trip highlights for me was going to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.
We found a large statue of Hello Kitty humping the tower in the lobby. She must be in heat as I have seen her humping lots of things at different landmarks.
This is how the Pearl Tower looks on the outside. Most cities have some kind of tower or viewing platform, and I always go up if I have time. Even though I am a little scared of heights, I think the view is worth it. I’m a cityscape junkie.
Unfortunately the view from the Oriental Pearl Tower is rather poor. We experienced this everywhere we went in China. The smog is ubiquitous – you can barely see across the street in some places, and most buildings are covered in a layer of smog dirt.
Luckily, the view directly downwards, through the glass floor, was much better. The area below was landscaped to look pretty from above.
Here is a view of the tower at night. This was what started my love for city skylines. It was my favourite until Hong Kong. Nothing can beat Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights
Oriental Pearl Tower,
I’m not a huge fan of Hello Kitty. I prefer more derpy looking characters like Gudetama and Funassyi. Yet somehow I’ve ended up visiting a Hello Kitty themed amusement park in Japan, a beauty spa in Dubai, a Christmas market in Hong Kong and another café in South Korea. It’s the themed aspect that attracts me, it doesn’t really matter what the theme is, as long as it’s cute ^_^.
I saw a picture of a friend visiting Hello Kitty’s Pancake Party and planned my visit accordingly. The malls in Odaiba are so huge you can easily miss something. We were in Odaiba to see the big Gundam and I dragged my ex to this über girly cafe for lunch afterwards.
Since I didn’t know any Japanese at the time, we pointed randomly at some text on the menu and ended up with Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel pancakes and some iced tea.
The food itself was quite bad, the pancakes were dry and flavourless. However, the cute presentation completely makes up for it and I don’t regret stopping by.The decor is so pink it’s almost blinding. I’d imagine little girls have a blast here.
The area outside the cafe is an arcade with a lot of Sanrio amusements. We took purikura and I had a sneaky turn on the kid’s unicorn ride.
Hello Kitty Pancake Party,
Milky Way Cafe is a cute little cosmic themed café near the huge Sunshine 60 mall in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Its convenient location is great for a quick break from shopping. In a later visit, I also found a Pokemon cafe in this area! The outside of the Milky Way Cafe isn’t super gaudy so walked past it in my 2009 visit without realizing what a gem it was! Now I make sure to do a lot of research in advance of my trips so I don’t miss anything – especially when it comes to cute food!
You can see from the usual plastic models outside the restaurant that everything has a star/astrology theme. The inside feels like a 50s diner. It was nearly empty when we went. The menu is mostly ice cream parfaits and soda floats but they also have some savory items.
Even the sugar cubes for your coffee are themed, instead of cubes they’re little stars. I wanted to buy the star-shaped teapot from the menu but unfortunately they weren’t for sale. I ordered a parfait and my dining partner had a melon soda ice cream float. The parfait had cornflakes in it, which seems to be common in Japanese desserts. It was very nice but extremely filling. I couldn’t eat it all.
To counteract all that sweetness we ordered some potato wedges with mayonnaise. They were delicious. I would definitely recommend the Milky Way Café, it’s very easy to find if you come out of the Sunshine City exit of Ikebukuro station.
Milky Way Cafe,
Fujiki Building, 2F
1-12-8 Higashi Ikebukuro,
Back in 2010, I went to China (Beijing, Shanghai, X’an and Luoyang, to be precise) with a tour group. It was during that holiday that I learned one lesson – I hate tour groups. I get bored very easily, especially when visiting a place that doesn’t have anything cute to see. Unfortunately, tour groups rarely bring you to anywhere cute and tend to talk a lot so it was difficult for me to say the least (first world problems, I know…). I was digging through my photos trying to find at least one cute thing to post from my adventures in China and I remembered this beautiful closionne factory in Beijing.
I was familiar with cloisonne from art class back in secondary school. It’s a design created with a metal outline which is then filled with coloured enamel. Check out Wikipedia if you’re curious.
Our visit commenced with a a tour of the factory. It’s hard to believe this work is all done by hand. It looks tedious.
Vases seem to be the most common souvenir for tourists to bring back from Beijing. They are quite expensive and heavy so I didn’t. I did, however, purchase a little mouse with a cloisonne design. He was cheap because he was made by an apprentice. I thought I left him behind in a Chinese hotel room but luckily I found him six months after coming home, hidden in one of my socks (I rolled the sock around him to protect him in transit).
These vases are so dusty! They remind me of the “antiques” markets in Beijing and Hong Kong where everything is covered in artificial dust. You can tell they’re not legitimate antiques because they have multiples of the same item in every shop.
I love the vibrant colours captured in the enamel. The same type of vase can be found in souvenir shops in Hong Kong. However, I didn’t purchase one there either, instead I bought a silly cloisonne embracing bear couple. I always choose the cute or silly souvenir rather than something representative of the culture.
There is a huge souvenir shop attached to the factory. I believe the tour group company gets paid to bring tourists here. It was in the middle of nowhere so tour groups must be a big money maker for them.
Beijing Enamel Factory,
10 Anlelin Rd,