Advice Block

Just a few tidbits I forgot to put into previous blog entries:

Whenever you go out to do something official – opening a bank account, getting a cell phone, signing up at the city ward office – you NEED to bring your residence card, your student ID (if you have it), and your paperwork. It’s better to bring more than what you need than less than what you need. Especially if you don’t happen to have data or internet on a smartphone or any device.

It’s important to know your dorm’s phone number, address, and postal code. Sometimes you need to know Keio’s phone number, too.

Something I left off of one of the earlier posts is the Gakuwari – a commuter pass discounted for students. You need your student ID for that, and be prepared to dish out a lot of money. It was $400 for mine. And it only works within and at the two stations you specify. Any other place, and you need to pay for the ticket or add money to the gakuwari card. I got a Pasmo card, since it was recommended, but Suica also works.

If your dream has been to experience a high-tech Japanese toilet, choose any other dorm besides Hiyoshi International House. Motosumiyoshi, for instance, has heated toilets and various buttons. Hiyoshi’s is a normal toilet, except for the sink above it. I forget that the toilet and shower area aren’t in the same room sometimes, too. They also don’t flush too well.

EAT ALL THE MEAT YOU CAN AT HOME. Meat is extremely expensive here, and I never buy any. You will miss meat, but at least your skin will be looking better.

Clubs, for the most part, are at Hiyoshi. JLP classes are all Hiyoshi and only KIP students have to worry about transferring. Most clubs are on a come-when-you-can basis. Only sports or dance clubs care about attendance. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on those, though.


Information about point cards:


Alice in a Picture Book Theme Cafe

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

After class, I went to meet friends at Shinjuku to go to my first themed cafe! Tina and Emily had just arrived in Tokyo after a trip out to Laos, and were returning to Akita that night. As usual, I’m terrible at being on time and estimating travel times, so I was late. Which is still a no-no, especially in Japan.

We made a stop at Zara first (where I purchased my first shirt from! They’re always so expensive, I never though I could ever afford anything at Zara…). We went around to a couple of shops, but then decided to go to the cafe. Alice in a Picture Book was kind of a hard place to find. It’s in the basement of a building, but the advertisement for it wasn’t that prominent. You also cannot go straight down the stairs outside to get inside – you have to take the elevator in the back.

The “entrance”

A Card Knight!

Once inside, though, you’re greeted by a reception desk with a girl in uniform and a statue of one of the Red Queen’s card soldiers. The staff member asks if you’ve made a reservation, but it’s okay even if you don’t. She reads to you the instructions and rules for the cafe: there’s a two-hour time limit, a ¥500 charge per person, and each person must buy a drink and food item. She then led us through a “secret entrance” into the dining area, which was modeled to look like the Red Queen’s garden (the door into the area looks like the front of a book and is ginormous). The atmosphere was really cool, and there was even one waitress dressed as the White Rabbit – but most were Alices. There was one waiter as the Mad Hatter.

The interior (seating)

The ¥500 charge led to three sides + crackers. And all the dishes and drinks were quite expensive. You cannot leave without spending about ¥2000 at the very least.

The food really turned out to be more about looks than taste, though.

The 500 yen charge

I ended up buying the cheapest thing on the menu – the truffle fries. They were “appetizers,” and thus, sized accordingly (not enough to fill my stomach). They were decent, as all fried potatoes must strive to be at the very least. My companions ordered much more elaborate dishes. One ordered one of the most expensive entrees – the Red Wine Steak with Gnocchi. It sounds fantastical, yes, but the amount of food on the plate was so not worth the price.

Red Wine Steak with Gnocchi

The other ordered the Salmon Cream Pasta, which was actually quite tasty. Another rose presentation – this time, with the sparse amount of salmon on the plate.

Salmon Cream Pasta

For our last hoorah, we ordered the elaborate dessert tea set, which was beautifully presented and pretty fantastical, but, again, lacks in taste.

Alice Tea Set

There are two tiers to the platter, but I only posted a picture of the top-most, because that’s where presentation went into play. The Cheshire Cat and Caterpillar are featured with whipped cream smiles. The Cat, however, was literally a hard choux pastry, though. The first tier had a small assortment of cakes on it. And by small, I mean small. One person could finish this special set all by themselves and not be tired of sweets after.

Overall, the experience was, I suppose, what I expected. Theme cafes are really there just for the experience and not for the food.

The one that we went to was the Alice in a Picture Book store. Each Alice-themed restaurant is set in a different part of Wonderland, so I’m sure the decor and food change depending on which branch you visit. Unfortunately, because my experience here was so underwhelming, I don’t think I’ll pay a visit to the others.

Snoopy and Hello Kitty Cafe in Shibuya

Hey guys, this is totally out of order, since I forgot to publish this WAY sooner! So, as ya’ll have probably been seeing, I haven’t really been updating this blog anymore. My adventures ended a year ago and I realized blogging is super tough to keep up with! I’ll be posting up the rest of my drafts, just to complete everything, and then this blog will probably be put on a permanent hiatus – though I, myself will be moving over a a yet unnamed and unfinished new site! Anyways, without further ado —

16 December 2014, Tuesday

I had classes until 2:30, but I thought I could make it back to Hiyoshi and then to Shibuya at 4, but boy, was I mistaken. I was more than 30 minutes late to meeting Erika, a friend from America, who had come to Tokyo for Winter Break. I felt so bad and I was freaking out, since I couldn’t reach her cell phone. Luckily, she managed to find a spot with free wifi and so we got in contact through LINE and met near the Hachiko exit inside the station. Erika led the way to the Snoopy Cafe. I was surprised she knew where she was going and everything, since the last time she was in Tokyo was back in August. She was a lot more knowledgeable than I am.

It was a super cold and dreary, rainy day, though – not exactly the best time to go out and have fun. It was the first time I’ve seen such a crowded Shibuya, too, since I’ve never been in the afternoon.

Snoopy decor!

The Snoopy Cafe is actually just the Tower Record Cafe in their building. It had a short wait, and the food was all pretty expensive – especially the Snoopy themed stuff. So I bought a regular meal: the taco salad. BUT IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. It is so hard to find Mexican food in Japan and this reminded so much of American-Mexican restaurants to me. It was more of a chilli than taco beef, but it was still so good and had so much more spice than regular Japanese food. We just chatted and ate.

My delish taco salad

And, unfortunately, you cannot split the bill at that restaurant.

The special Snoopy-themed hamburg steak

Then we headed to Parco for the Hello Kitty Cafe, which is a temporary establishment until Christmas. The line wasn’t too long, but when we left, it went down the stairs. So we came at a very good time. At the Hello Kitty Cafe, you have to order in line and you cannot order more once you area seated. You can also stay there for up to 1-2 hours (forget which). The food sets this time were cuter, but even more expensive than the Snoopy Cafe, so I just got the Hello Kitty latte. Erika ordered an apple pie set and the cocoa. Before we entered, there was a popup poster you could take a picture with. The waitress even asks if you want a picture with it, so I just had to take the opportunity. Then we were seated, and our drinks came first. When the pie set came up (much, much, much later), the only male staff member brought it over. I asked him if the mug was take-homeable, but it wasn’t, unfortunately. He said something about “cute” and lingered, left the receipt, then went on his merry way. I totally though he was calling Erika cute, but she thought he was talking about the mug. But she did think he was awkwardly there for a long time. When I said I thought he was complimenting her, she said he was looking at me LOL. So then we wondered if he was flirting or if he was just calling the cup cute since I wanted to take it home. As Erika said, if only we could replay that moment. (*´艸`*)ァハ♪

Iced Hello Kitty Latte

Hot Hello Kitty Latte






The apple pie set came with a super cute, tiny apple that was actually edible. And a real apple. I didn’t know such tiny ones existed. And on the way out, the same male staff member handed me rubber bands for the place mat I took with me. I had no idea what it was for when he gave it to me, though lol.

Hello Kitty Apple Pie

And we looked around the Hello Kitty goods. The pass cases were only ¥980 or so! So cheap (in comparison to others)! But Hello Kitty is not my favorite character, so I didn’t buy it, though I could really use a pass case.

The floor below the cafe was full of anime goods. There was a Rejet Shop, a One Piece store (with photo ops!), a Danganronpa Store, and a Village Vanguard. We looked around the Village Vanguard store. I was so tempted to buy the ¥300 cocoa Country Ma’am cookies I found, but I’m going to try to look at a cheaper store for the same thing. We then stopped at the Disney Store, where Erika bought a Pooh Bear Tsum Tsum iPhone cover. I took a bunch of pictures, as usual. Shibuya’s Disney Store is the fanciest I’ve seen, though.

I still wanted to do Purikura, so we headed to an arcade and used the Mew machine, which was much different from the booth I used with Chou at Ikebukuro. The time was much shorter and it started taking pictures immediately. There was even a video. But this time, I found that you could put on makeup in the stamps section (like apply fake eyelashes to your photo) and tried it out. It’s tough drawing with that stylus. The pictures were also a lot less at this booth. But I managed to get a Club Sega point card and stamp (10 purikura, one purikura free!).

Then I accompanied Erika to Yokohama Station, where she transfers lines, and then I headed back to Hiyoshi and home. Made the last stop to Mister Donut (the 16th was the last day of the sale) and then went home and slept.

Late Shopping at Harajuku and Ikebukuro

2 January 2015, Friday

Went to Meiji Jinguu Shrine with a couple of friends who wanted to attend Hatsumoude. I had already gone the day before, but was interested in going again. Surprisingly, the crowds were still quite large and the police had to herd us in groups into the shrine.

Lots of people buying omamori

Lots of people buying omamori

After praying for the new year, we headed over to the food area, and tried a few street foods. I got a matcha manju, which I don’t remember tasting like green tea at all. It was just the coloring.

What we were most looking forward to doing, though, was shopping. Hoping that any good fukubukuro were still left, we headed to Takeshita Street. Ultimately, I bought the one from Paris Kids, although many other stores still had theirs. I was not a huge fan of any of the brand enough to spend more than a couple of yen on them. We ended up not buying much and going to the Italian place right at the entrance of Takeshitadori and eating pizza. That, at least, was not a disappointment. It looked and tasted really good! For a relatively decent price, as well. DSC_0097We then took a train to Shibuya to check out Village Vanguard and get melon pan ice cream! It’s still one of the best melon pan I’ve eaten – although it is way too calorific.

3 January 2015, Saturday

On Saturday, one of the same friends who joined me at Harajuku also went with me to Ikebukuro. And where else but Sunshine City? There was still a Pokemon Center campaign going on (the opening of Mega Tokyo), so we did manage to make a stop at a cream puff store so I could buy the special dish for a Pikachu sticker. The choux puff was too hard for me. It wasn’t the soft, slightly chewy consistency I expected. It was more baked and crunchy. Found a couple of fukubukuro laying around, but didn’t buy any. I was also introduced to Axes Femme, a lolita-esque brand which I absolutely fell in love with (not so much with their prices, though). If I knew about it earlier, I would have made an investment in one of 20150103_182343their fukubukuro. I hear they sell out really quickly. But, well, we ended up spending a lot

An Axes Femme Winter Coat

An Axes Femme Winter Coat

of time and didn’t really buy anything. But it was still fun to walk around and see all the fukubukuro still left and the shopping atmosphere all around.

A little note from the writer

Hey everyone!

It’s been nearly half a year since I’ve last posted any blog posts, so I have a BUNCH to catch up on! Sorry for the long wait, but I’ll try to post everything that has happened since New Year’s. I’ve already returned home, and wrote a bunch of tips for those hoping to study abroad in Japan, but that will have to come later (me and my procrastination…) >.<

Since I am currently back at my university and working hard studying, I won’t be able to be very frequent on my updates, but my goal is at least a post every….two weeks – low expectations, I know. But look forward to it! And thank you all for your support 🙂

New Year’s Eve and Hatsumoude/Hatsuhinode

31 December 2014, Wednesday

Partyyyy at Shimoda Student Village, which is the dorm where most of my friends live.

At night, we had a New Year’s Eve Party, in which we consumed sushi, dumplings (handmade!), choux pastries, nabe, and watched Kohaku Uta Gassen!

Some of the lovely food that night

Some of the lovely food that night

Back in high school Japanese class, my teacher would show us clips of Kohaku for fun, and I aspired to be able to watch it live someday. So it was nice that Shimoda had a TV and I was able to. However, I barely knew anyone who showed up! BoA and Ayumi Hamasaki just aren’t that popular anymore…But I was super surprised to see Idina Menzel! Frozen’s popularity is just way to high in Japan. I also ended up missing Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, but I saw a ton of AKB and the spin-off editions. Sadly, I am not a fan. The only person I was really okay with was Nana Mizuki and TM Revolution. And alongside Kohaku, Juu put on Taiwan’s version of the show, since they were also celebrating new year’s there. Every year, Taipei 101 is lit up with fireworks. There was a ton of food and it was all delicious, but the most interesting part of the “day” came after everything….

...and the men win, as usual

…and the men win, as usual

1 January 2015, Thursday

On the 1st! Hatsumoude! The first shrine visit. Trains ran throughout the night for the first shrine visit of the year. It was really weird to see trains at 2am, but Ching, Kyuu, George, and I made the trip to Meiji Jinguu. Though it was so early in the morning, the trains were full of people. Before we went out of Meiji Jinguu Mae Station, though, we made a stop of Starbucks (which was already selling fukubukuro – lucky bags of the new year) and bought drinks. I got to try the special limited edition Orange Mocha Latte that way. It had a really nice orange-chocolate flavor that I liked.

It might not look nice, but this Orange Mocha was delish

It might not look nice, but this Orange Mocha was delish

Meiji Jinguu, which is a super popular place for Hatsumoude, also had a lot of traffic. But properly handled traffic. There were police that sectioned off crowds and told you when to move and stop, so it was quite organized. We still had to wait a while before we got to the area where you throw your ¥5 and make a wish, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Afterwards, we went to the area with mamori and kuji for sale. As it was the first shrine of the new year, I decided to purchase an omamori. The kuji at Meiji Jinguu, however, seem to be unique, as they don’t tell you what level of luck you receive – they basically give you a motto for the new year. I guess it’s up to interpretation, because most people ended up tying up their fortunes (not us – we were the foreigners who wanted to keep them).

People at Meiji Jinguu at 2am

People at Meiji Jinguu at 2am

There was also a section of Meiji Jinguu by the souvenirs that sold a bunch of food. It was really like a festival.

Festival-like area of Meiji Jinguu - tons of people and food

Festival-like area of Meiji Jinguu – tons of people and food

Since we still “had time” and were out anyways, we decided to find a place to see Hatsuhinode, which is the tradition of seeing the first sunrise. Kyuu searched up places to go to, and we settled on Haneda Airport’s roof. So we made the rather expensive trip there on the train. There was already a line and the place didn’t open up until like 6am. The roof itself was SUPER cold. I did not wear enough for that. Bring a hat, gloves, mask, anything to cover up everything – it was that cold. And the roof got crowded the more time that passed. You can also see a nice view of Mount Fuji from the roof – which was basically all we got to see, since we stayed there ’til sunrise and never actually got to see the sun. There were too many clouds that day.

Sun was supposed to be seen from here

Sun was supposed to be seen from here

Egg and Susauge McMuffin

Egg and Susauge McMuffin

So we went back to Hiyoshi tired and disappointed. Got a quick breakfast at McDonald’s, then went home. I ended up sleeping until 4pm that day, but considering I came back at 10am, I guess that’s to be expected. The unfortunate thing was that it actually snowed that day, but I was fast asleep, so when I woke up, it had stopped already. It would’ve been nice to see a snowy January 1st…


At least Haneda was pretty at night...

At least Haneda was pretty at night…

Kamakura and Enoshima

30 December 2014, Tuesday

Super fun day warning ahead! Highly recommended, too! Definitely make your way out to Kamakura and Enoshima (Enoshima more than Kamakura). You can buy a whole day use of the Enoshima trains for ¥700, so it’s really nice!

In the morning, Ching, George, Juu, Kyuu, Jeongi and I traveled from Musashi-Kosugi, to Ofuna, and lastly, to Kamakura. We quickly walked through the streets nearby, looking at all the food stalls. They had a lot of interesting foods and desserts, like an oshiruko made out of mikan (oshiruko is a thin, red bean soup)! I passed by a dango shop selling off-beat flavors like sakura, matcha, chestnut, and honey-lemon. I really wanted to try the sakura and strawberry flavors, so Ching offered to buy one, while I buy the other. George saw us eating them, so decided to buy matcha for himself.

From front to back: sakura, strawberry, and matcha

From front to back: sakura, strawberry, and matcha

I highly recommend the strawberry flavor! The sakura was so-so (some people say it’s a perfume-y flavor) and the matcha was also just okay. But the strawberry – well, if you love strawberries, you will love this dango.

Look for this shop!

Look for this shop!

The other shop we went into was an ice cream store connected to a store selling candied citrus fruit peels. They also had free samples! Soooo yummy. Juu decided to buy houji tea flavored ice cream. She let us girls try it, but the guys were off-limits xD It had a smokey, strong, dark flavor (if I remember correctly). There were plenty of other, unique flavors like caramel flan, cassis, sweet sake, mitarashi (the sweet soy sauce used on mitarashi dango), and cafe au lait. However, prices were a bit high.

We ended up walking to a temple…that I don’t know the name of.

This is the front of the place

This is the front of the place

Sorry – I don’t plan the trips


DSC_0610 - temple

The temple

There were a lot of other tourists around the area, though. I picked up a kuji from the temple and then we walked around. At the place where ema were hung, there were a lot of ema written in English, Arabic, or other languages.

The grounds of the temple were quite nice – there was a large pond with a cemetery island in the center.

We didn’t stay for long, and soon made our way down another street filled with shops selling souvenirs and food. I saw a place selling a distinctly green pastry called Kamakurayaki – which was essentially a cake filled with red bean paste. Similar to dorayaki, but not made of two thin cakes.

Kamakurayaki and Teddy Bear

Kamakurayaki and Teddy Bear

The shop with the Kamakurayaki

The shop with the Kamakurayaki

It was quite good and cheap, so I would advise buying one as well. I even convinced George to buy a pack for his family as a souvenir. They weren’t green tea flavored like I had expected, though.

We walked through a few other shops, but made our way back to the station to head to other places in the area.

*Some of the stations in Kamakura/Enoshima have stamps in them, so, if you like that sort of thing like me, it’s advisable to bring a small notebook so you can use the stamps. If you want to try out the stamp rally, I believe, at Enoshima, you can get a stamp rally map if you ask a station attendant.

Our next stop was to the Great Buddha, another popular tourist destination. On the way, there were a ton of shops selling Great Buddha souvenirs and food items. What really caught my eye, though, was a shop selling Turkish ice cream. I read an article that the ice cream is distinct in texture and is famous for the amount of stretch it has, so I really wanted to try it. However, we had to go to our destination first. There was a small entrance fee to get into the temple housing the great statue (¥200) and a fee to go inside the Buddha (¥50 or so). Just be aware that you can go inside the Buddha, especially if you’re intending only to go once. A friend’s friend didn’t know about that. The entrance is right behind the statue.

The Great Buddha

The Great Buddha

The inside really wasn’t much though. There was a sign to read inside, and the space was pretty small. The stairs, especially, were narrow and hard to see. The grounds behind, however, were much nicer. They also sold ice cream and souvenir foods at a shop outside.

On the way back to the station, I got my Turkish ice cream – fig and vanilla flavor!

Tiny, but yummy

Tiny, but yummy

I would advise just getting the vanilla flavor. Fig is exotic (to me), but it didn’t taste as good as I expected it to. But, I’m not a fan of Fig Newtons either, so…

We tried to find a good place to stop for a shirasu don (a bowl of rice topped with shirasu, which are a tiny, translucent white fish that are eaten whole), which is famous in Kamakura/Enoshima, but everywhere was really expensive. We decided to hold back until Enoshima.

Our next stop was to Gokurakuji Station – literally, just the station. Kyuu and Ching were fans of a drama that was shot there called Saigo kara Nibanme no Koi and wanted to see the place. There was even a signed piece of paper by the cast of the drama on display at the front of the station. The building itself was quite interesting – there was no IC card reader or ticketing booth available for use. It was tiny and manned.

The station

The station

*Just me rambling, but if you’re a fan of trains, Enoshima’s are probably the best. There’s a ton of varieties and colors, and a lot of them are old and still have wooden floors.

Train and conductor

Train and conductor

We were probably there for 15 minutes before we headed to our next destination: the beach! ….or so I thought. It was the beach, but we went to Kamakura Koukou Mae Station just to see the place where the Slam Dunk anime was set in. The scenery was beautiful and it was actually quite fun trying to recreate the scene. However, cars pass by the train crossing all the time, so it was really difficult. We managed to do something similar, however, it wasn’t perfect. We probably embarrassed ourselves and caused havoc for the cars haha.

Trying to recreate the scene

Trying to recreate the scene

The actual Slam Dunk scene

The actual Slam Dunk scene

And then we finally made our way over to Enoshima. You have to walk there, but we made it to the closest station and stopped by a Lawson to buy lunch on the way. There were tons of advertisements for shirasu don and shirasu-filled dishes (like shirasu pizza!) there. There was even a small building with train memorabilia.

The bridge to Enoshima was really chilly. It is by the sea, so it can’t be helped, but be prepared for strong breezes.

Crossing the bridge to Enoshima

Crossing the bridge to Enoshima

Once we arrived on the island, there was really just one, thin road up to the shrine. All around were shops and restaurants and even a stall selling shirasu (and even wasabi) ice cream! I was thinking I’d try it, but I never did. Which might be for the best.

I also got lost in the crowd a few times. The street up to the shrine was really crowded, and if you don’t keep track of your companions, they’ll up and leave you behind and head to the shrine themselves.

Enoshima is also a popular couple destination. There’s a bell on the island that couples are supposed to ring together (you’ll stay together forever, or some other superstition if you do) and there are fantastic views. The shrines seem to be famous for love, too, since I saw some heart shaped ema requesting you write names of the boyfriend/girlfriend and your own name.

You pass through the loop to get to the area where you pray

You pass through the loop to get to the area where you pray

There are also tons. of. steps. The place has so many stairs, and, like a the smart business it is, there are escalators you can use at some points on the island – however, you have to pay to use them.

Well, at least you can get a ton of exercise. But, trust me, you will get super tired.

Something else I found interesting about the island was that they have specific areas with stands specifically for taking selfies. It’s convenient but also really funny.

There are more than one shrine on the island and we passed by them, but made our way to the caves. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside, since it was about to be high-tide, so we instead, watched the sunset from the shore/rocks. It was a really pretty sight and there were a ton of cameramen about, probably swarming there to get the perfect shot. Wish I did that.

Enoshima has amazing views

Enoshima has amazing views

It was really relaxing and beautiful.

At night, the Sea Candle is lit up. I was thinking of going there, since I saw an ad for it at the station, but I didn’t feel like climbing more stairs, so we quit and went up and down a ton of stairs to get back to the entrance to look for a place to eat dinner.

Enoshima's Sea Candle

Enoshima’s Sea Candle

There was a garden near Enoshima Shrine that was filled with lights. Even after dark, Enoshima is gorgeous.

We found a cheap shirasu don shop near the middle of the narrow street back down to the bridge we took to enter Enoshima. The amount of food you get for the price was really good. Sadly, the wait was super long. The restaurant was called Tobiccho.

Shirasudon bigger than my head for ¥850

Shirasudon bigger than my head for ¥850

But still, highly recommended! Fresh shirasu is really good. Unlike when I had shirasu sushi at Hamazushi, the fish didn’t have a strong, sea taste. It was refreshing, and there was only slight fish taste. It might be uncomfortable to some to eat tiny fish that can still stare at you, but I advise you to try it at least once. If you’re fish shy, though, they have shirasu tamagyaki, which hides the fish pretty well in layers of egg. They even had shirasu beer and ice cream!

Just be sure not to buy the bowl that has a huge fried something on it (it’s fried veggies, maybe) – it’s way too much and way too greasy, my friends who all got it were tired of it after half the bowl. I had to finish it off for them (but even that is ill-advised, since I had a severe stomachache after the huge amount of food I consumed). So, sadly, my day ended on a bad note of indigestion lol.


But, overall, the trip was absolutely wonderful. I kind of wish I spent a whole day just at Enoshima, though. It would’ve been nice to do all the activities there. But definitely go for the views and food! A+++