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.
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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).
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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IMG_1972I love how Chad’s turned out!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 · Spring Bucket List

Around Town: Koishikawa Botanical Garden

IMG_1475Hello friends! Today we went to Koishikawa Botanical Gardens (not to be confused with the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden we went to in January). The weather outside was perfect: Blue skies, warm sunshine, and (in the gardens) there was so much green you could almost forget you were in Tokyo!IMG_1476 IMG_1478

We had a light picnic in the gardens, and I was super happy with the flavor of my grilled salmon onigiri. (I was also happy to cross going on a picnic off of my Spring Bucket list, though I know more picnics are sure to occur!)IMG_1479 IMG_1482

IMG_1483 IMG_1487 IMG_1488 IMG_1490 IMG_1491     I love these flowers because the petals almost look like a print on fabric.
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IMG_1525 IMG_1506 IMG_1510 IMG_1512  IMG_1520IMG_1521 Going to the gardens was well worth the 400 yen entrance fee. We left feeling so relaxed! We’re thinking next time we’ll go earlier in the afternoon with a bottle of wine and spend several hours enjoying the nice atmosphere. Hope you had some sunshine your way today, too!

xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Food & Cooking

Around Town: Kikanbo Ramen

We often go wandering around Ikebukuro, and when we do on weekends, we also often end up eating ramen. We’ve found several great ramen shops, but recently we decided to try one that always has a line of at least three people waiting every time we walk by: Kikanbo Ramen.IMG_1267 Chad thought I should show this picture to illustrate my point about the queue…
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First you buy your ticket with your choice of ramen, and then you take the ticket and stand in line.
IMG_1249While you’re waiting in line, one of the employees asks you what spiciness level you would prefer for your kara shibi ramen. The “kara” spice is made up of 12 different spices, and the “shibi” is ground Chinese numbing pepper, apparently. We chose “futsu” or average spice, for both of our bowls.

IMG_1245Outside the ramen shop, there is a giant oni, or ogre, club.IMG_1247
Inside the shop, there are several ogre masks, as well as ogre figurines and more clubs.IMG_1248 IMG_1250 IMG_1251 IMG_1252
It’s fun watching everything being prepared in the kitchen while you wait to be served.IMG_1253 IMG_1254 There is also drumming music to add to the ambiance. IMG_1259
After several minutes, my hunger was growing and I was starting to feel like an ogre myself. Fortunately it wasn’t too much later that we were each presented with a wonderful looking bowl of ramen.
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When our ramen arrived, we were most excited about the hefty piece of pork inside. It just fell apart in our mouths and was definitely the part of this meal worth savoring. As for the broth, it was quite peppery, and the spiciness cut through the oiliness of it. I tend to prefer ramen with a more buttery broth, but the “futsu” level of spice worked for me.  IMG_1261The noodles were of an al dente texture, and a bit thicker than a lot of ramen we’ve tried, but I liked them a lot. IMG_1262
Overall, I would say that Kikanbo Ramen is worth a try. Would I go back, though? Not necessarily. After all, there are so many ramen shops I am obsessed with, not to mention the many more I want to try!

Hope you’re having a good week–mine’s almost over!
xx Caitlyn

Around Town

Around Town: Ciffon Bakery

We stumbled across this cute little bakery in Bunkyo, Tokyo, and–after several days of dreaming about trying some of their baked goods–we decided to visit the friendly shop to try their Nama Cream Anpan.IMG_0036Apparently the shop’s primary specialty is Chiffon Cake, which I suppose most people would guess from the name of the bakery: Ciffon Plus. My coworkers and I, on the other hand, were much too focused on the enticing pictures posted on the windows to even look at the name of the shop when passing by. We just knew we had to try the Nama Cream Anpan!IMG_0037                                                      Our little treat came in a cute paper bag.IMG_0038
Pan” means bread, “An” means sweet red bean paste, and “Nama” means fresh.IMG_0039
Look how pretty the bread looks with the single little red bean on top!IMG_0040
Here’s a view of the inside. Check out the layers: fluffy, subtly sweet, golden bread, light, fresh whipped cream, and smooth, sweet red bean paste. The three layers together make up just the right combination of texture and flavor.IMG_0041
We certainly enjoyed our Nama Cream Anpan, and have already been back for more. Sometime I’d really like to give one of the Ciffon Plus chiffon cakes a try, though that would mean I’d have to choose between several kinds: Earl Grey Tea, Cocoa Marble, and Cranberry, to name a few! Perhaps for our next Wine and Cheese Party?

Have you tried any new bakeries or baked goods lately?
xxCaitlyn