Around Town

Around Town: Fukuro no Ouchi (Owl House)

As you may have seen on Instagram over the weekend, I had the pleasure of going with a friend for coffee and cake at an owl cafe! I first came across Fukuro no Ouchi (pronounced oh-oo–chi, not ouchy!) when Chad and I were bumbling around Sugamo waiting for our time slot at Tsuta Ramen, and I had been wanting to go ever since!
                           There is a little bell outside you can ring before going in. When you are seated in the cafe, a waitress comes up to explain how the cafe works. The cafe charges 1500 yen for one hour, and that includes time with the owls and a drink. You are given a number, and when your number is called you can go in the owl room to touch and hold the owls for about ten minutes. While you wait, you can enjoy a beverage and (for an extra 500 yen) a cute cake. You are also encouraged to peruse the gift shop.
Our call number and some of the cakes available. Also some really informative English 😉

The owl room!

This was my favorite owl. Her name is Milky, and she shares my birthday month of November!


Aren’t they marvelous? I love the one in the top middle–it reminds me of a teddy bear!

The owl in the middle right pictured above was smaller than my hand!



                       It felt so amazing to hold such beautiful creatures!

Fukuro no Ouchi is about a ten minute walk from Sugamo station, and is open from 1-8 on weekdays (closed Wednesdays) and 12-8 on weekends. For more information, you can visit the Fukuro no Ouchi website (Japanese only). I really enjoyed the cafe, and definitely recommend a visit if you’re in Tokyo!

xx Caitlyn

Around Town

Around Town: Rikugien Gardens and Sugamo’s Jizo-dori

When we got our placeholder tickets for Tsuta Ramen earlier this week, we had several hours to wait before our dining time. By chance, we found a couple really nice ways to spend our day before ramen time that I thought I’d share with you today.

First, we walked toward Komagome Station to check out Rikugien Gardens. We didn’t know anything about the gardens, but we figured it was a sunny day and we had time to pass so we might as well give them a shot. Before we got to the gardens, we stopped at Niki Bakery, which is very near to Komagome station.
2015-24-12--16-21-02
Niki Bakery and Cafe is quite a nice little stop, whether you’re interested in a couple pastries or something for lunch. Pictured above you can see some cream-filled Totoro bread, chocolate-filled Doraemon bread, and sweet red bean paste-filled Anpanman bread. We grabbed a couple pastries and some coffee and headed to the gardens.   IMG_4006
The entrance fee for the gardens is only 300 yen. There are some rules prohibiting you from doing things like bringing in animals, running, or bringing mats for picnics, but you can still bring in drinks and snacks. There were plenty of benches throughout the gardens to sit on, as well as a few bathrooms that were nice and clean, (and–surprisingly for Japan–even had soap!), and a couple areas for refreshments.IMG_4008I love that almost every tourist place in Japan has a stamping area so you can stamp a dated picture to remember your visit on a pamphlet or brochure.IMG_4009 IMG_4014 IMG_4015It didn’t take long at all for us to be very glad we decided to visit these beautiful gardens. IMG_4021It was hard to believe it’s the end of December with the bright weather and colorful leaves! IMG_4022 IMG_4023Chad and I shared a fluffy, sugar-crusted raisin bread and a danish-like pastry with apple, dried cranberries, raisins and powdered sugar.  IMG_4024 IMG_4028Rikugien Gardens are based on a theme of poetry, and this bridge and rock symbolizes a poem about loneliness in the moonlight.With the bright sunshine and loads of ducks swimming around nearby, we fortunately didn’t feel very lonely looking at it.  IMG_4030After spending an hour and a half or so enjoying the gardens, we headed back toward Sugamo station to check out Jizo-dori, a shopping street known as a Harajuku for Obachans (Japanese grannies).
2015-24-12--16-10-36
At the beginning of the street you can spot a little information hut that has several images of the Sugamo mascot, a duck called Sugamon. You are also greeted Sugamon’s great big, furry duck butt in a shrine!IMG_4031
Apparently touching the butt causes love and bonding, and if you touch the butt gently and softly, you won’t suffer an problems around your own butt. What a lucky thing to pass by!
IMG_4044I have a feeling the “healing properties” from rubbing the duck bum are related to the nearby temple, Kogan-ji. There is a statue within the temple that you can rub to heal your ailments. The picture above is of two men making New Year’s preparations for the temple entrance, but I failed to get any good pictures of the temple. You can see some pictures and read more about Kogan-ji (as well as some other interesting Jizo-dori facts) on this interesting blog if you’re interested though! IMG_4034IMG_4042 IMG_4040There are lots of interesting shops lining Jizo-dori that sell everything from traditional Japanese rice crackers to “sexy red bloomers for little old ladies.” IMG_4041 IMG_4045The shop above sold several sweet potato delights, including a whipped sweet potato concoction inside an apple. A nice old man bought some honey-covered sweet potato bites and gave one each to Chad and I. If you’re around the shop and have a little money to spare, I’d recommend indulging! IMG_4046We had a really nice day full of fresh air and interesting window-shopping before heading off to try the now-famed Michelin Star ramen for our late lunch/early dinner. I hope if you’re looking for an inexpensive afternoon in Tokyo that you’ll give these ideas a try, too. And if you’re reading from afar, what are some surprisingly nice things you’ve done to pass the time waiting?

xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Food & Cooking

Around Town: Gotoo Restaurant in Otsuka

Yesterday, as you may have seen on instagram, we decided to hike Mt. Takao. After a long but fun day out of the city, we were very ready to eat when we got back to Tokyo. We decided to revisit a restaurant we tried for the first time a couple of weeks ago called Gotoo.
Photo 11-7-15, 7 22 21 PMPhoto 11-7-15, 7 22 33 PM
Gotoo is about a two minute walk from Otsuka station, has a review of 4 out of 5 stars on yelp, and always has a line when we walk by. Despite the small size of the restaurant, the wait usually isn’t much longer than 15 minutes, and the friendly staff take your order while you’re waiting so that your meal is ready close to the time you sit down.Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 33 PMYesterday we were seated at the bar, where you can see two to three chefs working away, usually smiling while they’re doing it! Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 38 PM
I ordered the same meal I got the last time I went because it was fantastic: the Combination B Set of ebi (shrimp) fries, kani cream korrokke (crab cream croquette), cabbage, noodle salad, rice and miso soup.
Photo 11-7-15, 7 04 57 PMChad chose a Japanese-style hamburger set, which he said wasn’t as good as the ginger pork he got the last time. He still liked it well enough to eat every last bit, though!Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 43 PM(1)Tired boy after our hike…! Photo 11-7-15, 7 04 26 PM Anyway, let’s get back to my meal, which was amazing, in case you forgot already. Look at that bite out of my first ebi fry–see how big and beautiful the shrimp is? And despite being fried, the ebi fries at Gotoo taste light with a very nice crunch. Something that really adds to the flavor is the tartar sauce. Unlike tartar sauces I am used to with pickles and mayonnaise, this tartar sauce has no pickles at all. Instead, it includes ingredients like cabbage and green onion. The tartar sauce is seriously delicious, and I am on the lookout for a recipe for a similar sauce.Photo 11-7-15, 7 07 44 PM The next important part of the meal is the crab cream croquette. It is so easy for crab cream croquettes to be too fishy tasting, or too mayonnaise-filled, but this crab cream croquette is the best I’ve ever had. The balance is perfect, and I could eat ten of them. Right now. And this isn’t pregnancy talking. (I think?)

If you’re in the Tokyo area and you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, I would recommend giving Gotoo a try. It can be a little pricey (my meal was 1200 yen), but if you are into ebi fries and croquettes, the money is totally worth it. If you’re NOT in the Tokyo area, consider checking out some recipes for croquettes! I never had them before living in Japan and they are one of my favorite foods (on the less healthy spectrum 😉 ).

Have a great start to your week!
xxCaitlyn

Around Town

Hydrangea Festival in Bunkyo

IMG_1975Almost seven years ago, we chose to have blue hydrangea at our wedding. The bridesmaids held bouquets that were so pretty! Many memories from our wedding came back today as we walked around the annual Hydrangea Festival in Bunkyo.
IMG_1980
One really fun event at the festival was canvas bag painting. For 200 yen, you could sit at a table and paint for as long as you liked, and then take your creation home!
IMG_1962
IMG_1966A lot of children were making the bags, but we figured there was no reason we shouldn’t give it a go, so we sat right down and went for it. Painting was quite peaceful; we were surrounded by beautiful flowers, a temple, the smell of incense, and quiet chatter among the others who were also painting.
IMG_1967
IMG_1972I love how Chad’s turned out!
IMG_1969
And here’s mine. I wanted to paint blue ones for our wedding colors 🙂 After we finished painting, we walked around looking at more pretty hydrangea.
IMG_1983
IMG_1982 IMG_1984 IMG_1985 IMG_1989 IMG_1990
Of course, it wouldn’t be a festival without several food stands.IMG_1993
This couple decided to get shaved ice! Yum!IMG_1994
These traditional Japanese candies were packaged to look like hydrangea.
IMG_1995
I decided to try a little egg pastry. It sort of reminded me of a soft macaron dusted with powdered sugar and filled with a light cream.
Egg Pastry IMG_1996
Chad chose beer as his treat at the festival.IMG_2003 IMG_2007 IMG_2009
We had such a lovely Sunday afternoon in the sun. Does the weekend have to end?

What were you up to this weekend?
xx Caitlyn

Around Town

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

I’ve been meaning to post this since last weekend, but, forgive me…I’ve been exhausted. I mean, EXHAUSTED. I couldn’t figure out why and then I checked under my eyelids and realized they are super white. DUH! Get more iron Ms. Caitlyn! Phew. Anyway, here’s hoping to a more productive week now that we’ve got that business figured out. And here’s to the pretty garden we visited last weekend! IMG_1877 IMG_1879We had a super random but yummy picnic of sausage, mandarin orange jello, canned salmon, cheese and olives, and cheese bagels. I tried some banana milk and Chad had coconut milk. Not necessarily the healthiest, but it got us through the walk ahead!IMG_1876
The banana milk tasted like banana Laffy Taffy’s. Not bad, but Chad helped me finish it. IMG_1946
After relaxing for a bit, we headed to the Greenhouse. IMG_1885 IMG_1886 IMG_1887There were some pretty neat things growing inside, including banana trees, cacao trees, and coffee trees (none of which I got a good photo of, unfortunately!). IMG_1891 IMG_1896
After we finished our little tour of the greenhouse, we headed out to explore the garden.IMG_1903 IMG_1906 IMG_1907 IMG_1913 IMG_1914 IMG_1923
Have you ever heard of aerial roots? We were really excited to see some for the first time in person!IMG_1926
We had relaxing time exploring this highly rated garden. Hope you enjoyed a glimpse through this post!

xxCaitlyn

Around Town · Seen · Tried

Tokyo Design Festa

IMG_1722Yesterday we went to Asia’s largest Art Festival, Design Festa! There was a lot of interesting art filling every corner of the venue from paintings, to crafts, to live art and more.
IMG_1725
IMG_1732 IMG_1746Both artists and people attending the event are encouraged to dress up, so there was a lot of cosplay and costuming to be seen.IMG_1745There were also several interactive exhibits. The one above we found especially strange: you could pay 3000 yen to have someone tie you up for about a half an hour. There were a couple booths like this… (To each his own? I guess?)
IMG_1734
The booth above was a coloring booth where you colored pictures that would then be transferred to ceramic plates, cups, etc.
IMG_1738
This was a sort of body painting booth.
IMG_1743
Here is a super creepy caricature drawing we got done for 600 yen. We hung it in our bathroom.
IMG_1728
These are watermelon carvings.
IMG_1733
There was quite a bit of steampunk-themed art.
IMG_1747
IMG_1739I really liked this artist. He draws creatures with beards and mustaches called “Ohige no Pon.”IMG_1744  I bought a couple postcards from him, pictured above with my ticket (which. bought in advance, was just 800 yen). Check out the Ohige no Pon website to see more of these fun illustrations!
IMG_1735
I thought this illustrator’s work was pretty cute too, though on some level I actually found her art slightly disturbing.IMG_1740There were thousands of attendees, and so many artists that we didn’t even end up seeing everything. The event was actually a bit overwhelming, but fortunately we had a beer with our lunch to calm us down *winks*IMG_1727
I left the event feeling sleepy but inspired, and I’m really glad we decided to check it out!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
xxCaitlyn

Around Town

Trams, Fortunes, and Ferris Wheels

Yesterday we decided to go for a tram ride on the Toden Arakawa Line with our friend Tomo. It was a gorgeous, blue-sky day, and we had a lot of fun seeing old-style parts of Tokyo.IMG_1530We got on the tram at Ostukaekimae station.IMG_1536 IMG_1537 IMG_1541                                                        Watch your fingers!IMG_1543Beautiful roses grow along nearly the entire tram line.
IMG_1548IMG_1544 We got off at the end of the line at Minowa Station.
IMG_1597IMG_1551 IMG_1555 IMG_1556I absolutely love the atmosphere around Minowa station. Just near the station is an old shopping arcade that reminded us of living in Yokkaichi. So much so, in fact, that I kept expecting to see a giant Onyudo-san!
IMG_1557
IMG_1561
A market in the shopping arcade.IMG_1563 IMG_1578 IMG_1580
After wandering around a bit, we stumbled across a very old style restaurant called Parlor Orange.
IMG_1584
IMG_1581
After looking at the fake food display outside, we decided to give it a try.    IMG_1585 IMG_1586 IMG_1587 IMG_1591 IMG_1594
I ordered the ebi fry (or fried shrimp) lunch set. It came with miso soup, rice, tsukemono (pickled veggies), and coffee for 800 yen.IMG_1596                                                                 Miso soup!
IMG_1601
Chad got the tonkatsu set (deep fried pork cutlet). At first glance, this seemed like a sort of hole-in-the-wall restaurant that might turn out to have some pretty tasty lunch. Upon eating our meals, however, we found that the food was not only quite good, but that we were also in the presence of a semi-celebrity.IMG_1602
See that gentlemen in the background behind Chad? He’s recently been featured in several Japanese articles for being an amazing fortune teller. In fact, he did two palm readings during our lunch, complete with crystal balls, stone beads and rings, and lots of touching and gazing. His advice has become so sought after that appointments with him are completely booked through October 2017! Whether you subscribe to that sort of thing or not, you’ve got to admit he’s got quite an impressive following!IMG_1603As we sipped our coffees after lunch, we decided that we must have chosen a rather auspicious restaurant! IMG_1608
After lunch, we decided to walk around Arakawa Yuen Theme Park. Because it was Children’s Day, we got to go in for free!IMG_1610 IMG_1611
See the Koi Nobori (Carp Kites) flying in front of the Ferris Wheel for Boy’s Day?IMG_1613 IMG_1615
After walking along the river, we took the tram back to Otsukaekimae. We had purchased an all-day tram pass for 400 yen, and out of that got a nice little journey around parts of Tokyo we’d never before seen.

Have you made any interesting local discoveries recently?
xx Caitlyn