Another nice day, around 20C and sunny. Today we were off to Chofu where the Kitaro O-cha-ya [Tea House] and Jindai Temple is.
Early morning onigiri breakfast. This time I went to a nearby supermarket place instead of the Lawsons conbini. Didn't taste very good and they didn't support IC cards as payment so cash only ^^;
I heard Japanese people like to cross their arms in the form of an X to say no to foreigners and it's true. Happened here, lol.
Again, Kitaro was a show I grew up with. I thought there was only a Kitaro attraction down south of Japan in Shigeru-san's hometown of Sakaiminato but, it turns out he had moved to Tokyo and established an attraction here too in 2013, October.
Shame he's passed away last year =(
Hello Kitty is everywhere.
From Shibuya it was 20 minutes train to Chofu station then 15 minutes bus. We just took at taxi from the station to save time. I didn't know taxi doors in Japan were automatic so I tried to close the door myself and the driver ended up shouting at me so, never open or close the doors in a taxi when you're in the country ^^;
And here we were, Kitaro Tea House. Kitaro and his dad inside the tree house home and his Geta weapons on the tree.
Oh, and on the shop roof too, lol.
Not sure what this van was for but...
Spotted Ittan-momen [Piece of Cotton] guy at the back (the pillow looking thing). He was my favourite Youkai in the show when I was kid, lol. Cool and collected personality.
There was a kind of Where's Wally game where you searched for dolls of Kitaro and his gang. Think I spotted 5 of them already, lol.
This Ancient Millstone allows someone to travel through time. When Nyurarihon and the Old Snake Lady tried to kill Kitaro by poisoning him with wine, Kitaro invited them here and fooled them into thinking they could use it to change the scenery. He then pushed them back into the past to seal them away..
Youkai all over the house. Otoroshi stands guard, a Youkai that goes after trouble makers apparently and won't hesitate to drop its heavy weight on them.
Food stalls nearby were selling Kitaro themed food like Manjus (buns) shaped like Medama Oyaji (Kitaro's eyeball father) with red bean filling in them.
Next to the tea house was the gallery.
Here's another example of an unmanned attraction where the owners presume everyone will be honest enough to pay and abide by the rules which most Japanese do. They don't need staff around to stand guard over any petty crime. So here, you just put in 100JPY and enter - with shoes off.
Already amazed the moment I stepped onto the stairs. All these little Youkai figures on the wall!
And these little footprints must be Medama Oyaji's! Cool little touch!
Yay, photos allowed! But no ice cream... Boooo =P
Upstairs we found closed cupboards which we were supposed to open and peek inside.
Cool little Youkais in here. Not sure what the name of this one was.
A sign "Search for the Youkai" is hung above a wall with little holes in it...
Very cool way of looking around the diorama inside!
This was an Spider of the Earths which could spin its web into whatever it wanted and was exorcised by deities.
You'll have to go see for yourself to appreciate how well this was setup! You had to move your head about the hole to see the entire scene bit by bit which meant you looked at it from different angles too. Works great!
This was Kurage no Hi no Tama [Fireball Jellyfish], which usually floats around the seas but sometimes it likes to ride the winds and looks like a fireball in the night sky which, is how it got its name,
Lots and lots of Youkais on display complete with paintings and little descriptions. Unfortunately there is no English translations here. Too many to capture and I think it would spoil the experience too much if I showed them all.
Or you could just appreciate the miniature figures. Kitaro counts as a Youkai I guess since he's half Youkai.
Illustrations were very detailed. This was Kiyohime. Her father pressured her so much into marrying someone she didn't want, she cast a curse on herself and became what you see here. Her father tried to hide inside a giant bell but was discovered by Kiyohime who coiled around the bell.
It's quite a popular story for Kabuki plays apparently.
Back to the cuter, cutified Youkais... Yosuzume, Night Sparrows. They helped transport Kitaro around a lot on a swing.
Must be being watched...
And in the break room we found some props for visitors to cosplay as Kitaro.
Medama Oyaji lanterns...
And a shrine dedicated to Nezumi Otoko (Rat Man), lol. Must be another of his scams xD
It was a nice peaceful spot just listening to the water outside and being surrounded by greenery.
Too bad no eating or drinking even though there was a table and cushions to sit on.
There were some books and Manga to read too.
And that's it. Shigeru Mizuki's photo was by the entrance.
The Kitaro we see here is the tamed down version. Originally Shigeru-san had created Kitaro the way he is in Hakaba Kitaro who was a half Youkai and didn't care much about humans. But that didn't sell well with the public so eventually he changed Kitaro's image to be more hero-like and this is what you see now.
Oops! Not quite finished yet. Giant spider in the loft!
Back outside, we dropped into the souvenir shop. How about an eyeball shaped soap?
There were all kinds of goods...
Miniatures and... Yes, even toilet rolls.
I wanted this little ornament of Medama Oyaji but alas, it wasn't on sale yet unfortunately. Just had to go with something else instead.
Kitaro Tea House gallery was such an amazing place. There was so much crammed into the place yet, so many creative ways of presenting Kitaro and the other Youkais. Awesome place to explore!
If you're a Kitaro fan you won't be disappointed coming here! Even if you're not, all the Youkais based on Japanese folklore should be interesting - there's just so many in this tiny little place!
Since we were here, we thought we'd visit the nearby temple which was just next to the tea house.
Very nice little street here with some sakura blossoms blooming.
This was the second oldest temple in Tokyo apparently, built in 733. Oldest was Sensoji.
Pretty much your usual Japanese shrine items such as the coin boxes for wishes...
And bad o-mikujis being tied up in knots.
Architecture looks quite different from Sensoji's bright red colours though.
Names of patrons could be seen on the roofs.
Famous toss a coin and wish, up close and personal. There wasn't a bell here though like you see in so many J-dramas and Anime.
There was an old storage shed.
Which was off limits inside. You were allowed to take a peek though.
Not sure if it counts as lucky but they happened to be ringing the bell when we were there. Gathered quite a crowd.
And we headed back to the station by bus. The buses here operated quite interestingly... You don't pay until you get off, either by change or an IC card like the Suica.
Next spot was Kawagoe which was quite far out from Tokyo. Around 30 mins train and then a little walk.
Didn't know about this place until I saw it on Japan Guide while I was researching for the trip. It was known as "Little Edo" for its old buildings and despite the low rating it got on the site, it looked interesting so I decided we should go have a look.
This building reminded me of Mr Ajikko, the little restaurant he and his mum ran. His skills eventually leads him to fame as he gains admiration from Japan's top food critique.
It's a fun cooking Anime with some edutainment in it too, informing viewers about the different dishes that are shown.
Anyway, area was full of warehouse built during the Edo era (1603-1867) in the Karazukuri style.
You can see some of the buildings have very thick windows. The thickness were used to help minimise damage in case of fires in this area. Don't want your goods burned down to nothing after all.
The place might look great in photos.
But most of the buildings felt very artificial...
Like only built recently and painted like a movie set. Quite disappointing.
Streets were filled with traffic too. Very little room to walk in with the narrow pedestrian paths and crowds.
I kind of see why this area didn't get much of a good rating on Japan Guide... All I can say is, the media is good at framing places so that certain things are cropped out.
There was an interesting bell tower though which was destroyed in 1893 during the Great Kawagoe Fire before it was rebuilt.
It rang 4 times each day - 06:00, 12:00, 15:00 and 18:00. We missed the 15:00 one.
It was under maintenance apparently but seemed there was a way in...
Inside was actually a shrine.
I think it was dedicated to the god of medicine.
All the Emas were wishing for good healthy eyesight. Some were quite sad to read such as a relative losing their sight and someone hoping they will get better soon =(
Kimono hire seemed to be quite common in Japan. Prices were from 2000JPY (13GBP) here so it wasn't just local Japanese people that were walking around in traditional attire. Sometimes it's Asians like Mainland China or Hong Kong, Taiwan etc.
Not sure what these wooden dolls are called but they remind me of the story of O-shin. It was such a sad story of a little girl who left home to work for a wealthy family so that she could put food on the plate for her ill mother and baby sister. Her mother gave her one of these dolls to remember her by if she got lonely or sad.
An off limit building for retirement or rest I think.
Kawagoe wasn't very tourist friendly because there weren't many signs around unlike say Asakusa, around the Sensoji area. Finding where everything was was quite difficult even with a guide you can pick up from the Kawagoe train station.
They don't seem to use indexes on their tour maps!
Saw this big frog when I was scouting out the area on Google Street View. Should be quite close to the Candy Lane (Okashi Toori) Kawagoe was known for.
Lots of Koi gathered together. Trying to hide from all those coins being thrown in? ^^;
And here we were. this area was famous for selling old Japanese confectionery instead of snacks you could get in conbinis.
Soft sweet sake candy, good fortune candy...
Was worried about losing another tooth so didn't get any ^^;
Eventually we decided it was time to leave and tried to call a taxi using Skype's voice calls. It turned out to be more difficult than we imagined. I thought we could just tell them the name of the bridge we were at and the area code on one of the lamp posts but, apparently that wasn't enough information.
The thing about most of Japan is that there are no street names. They are basically numbered areas mostly.
One of the taxi companies even said, go find someone who can speak Japanese so I felt quite helpless at this point.
In the end we walked to a tourist break area and asked a staff member to help call a taxi for us. He told us to call one ourselves...
Then, when I told him I already tried and couldn't describe where we were, he told us to say we were in the Kanagawa Rest Centre.
That worked. At the same time, we also learned from the man that the train station was actually just a straight 10 minutes walk away too. Oh well. Google Maps wasn't working very well for us in this area ^^;
Saw this tree while we tried to call a taxi at the bridge. No idea why those tree roots were so green! No Photoshop trickery here!
We hadn't had any lunch yet but we saw a takoyaki stall (octopus puff balls) so bought some. They definitely tasted better than the ones I had in Hong Kong!
You pretty much see them in Anime all the time.
I've discovered that finding bins in Japan is a bit like treasure hunting... Most of them are plastic and cans only. If you ever want to throw away other rubbish like used tissues or food wrapping, you'll probably have a hard time finding bins for combustible rubbish so, be sure to carry a bin bag around.
It was getting late by the time we took to local trains back to Tokyo but there was still time for some shopping. Chain stores like Yodobashi close at 10pm so we decided to drop by Akihabara, geek heaven!
Kept seeing the place whenever I visit Anime fan's blogs about Japan, lol.
Right outside the station gates were the luminous Yodobashi store signs. While my friend went off to look at electronics, I went straight for the games.
Tri-Ace's Star Ocean 5 was going to get released soon. Didn't enjoy the PS3 game because the battle system wasn't very exciting and the animation graphics were so stiff. But, there weren't many PS4 JRPGs due out for some time so I decided I'd get this when it's out.
And they finally had a release date for Final Fantasy XV! Bet the social networks were going crazy at the time!
Display for one of the Ace Attorney spin-off games. I played the first three games out of curiosity then stopped following the series.
Visual novels weren't really for me these days unless it's something that really stands out like Steins;gate ^^;
Played the Summon Night Swordcraft games waaay back on GBA and enjoyed them so I was considering the latest Summon Night 6 game. Character art didn't look too exciting. Hope the gameplay's good.
Kind of surprised my translation scripts for those GBA games are still up on GameFAQs ^^
I was looking at second hand games because a lot of the PS4 games I wasn't sure about but... Since I was lacking games just now, I thought I'd get them second hand.
Need some games to tide me over until the big titles are out later in the year.
Didn't know there was a Durarara game. Series is hilariously exciting. Quite enjoyed Bacanno before this show too.
Toys were on the same level as the video games so, thought I'd browse around them too. Plenty of Pokemon goods.
Was tempted to get a Kirby toy ^^;
Gatchapons galore. Was tempted to get a few but then remembered all the ones I have back at home stashed away.
Doraemon still a big favourite despite the Anime's roots going way back to 1973. I still enjoy the movies these days even though it's supposed to be a kid's show. They don't focus on gadgets like they did before. Show is more character development oriented these days - how everyone gets along, supporting each other in times of need instead of depending on gadgets.
Not a bad thing I guess.
After, spending a fair amount of time browsing the toys and video games floor. I made my way down. Wanted to see what else Yodobashi had to offer before closing time. Japan has was known for it's weird and wonderful gadgets too after all.
Not exactly weird and wonderful but these washing machines looked bigger, more fancy and high tech than the one I had at home ^^;
The famous electrical toilet seats with their equally famous "Made in Japan" slogan the country is so proud of.
They are a bit more than a novelty... Especially the ones with stench detection that gets rid of stench on the fly, lol.
Attack on Titan delivering water to your office today.
Doubt the Special Operations Corp comes with the service.
Anime was really good... and gory. Been following the Manga since the first season finished and story picks up quite nicely. Will be interesting how well it translates to Anime in the second season.
Ooo, they do the Gorillapod here too.
As long as you spend more than 10,000JPY which is roughly 70GBP you were eligible for tax-free shopping. Doesn't have to be on a single item, just the final total.
Didn't know they reached the point where you can buy full-frame mirror-less cameras now... I'm out-of-date with cameras. Costs a fortune though... 267,000JPY (1650GBP) ^^;
I kind of wanted a 4/3 or APS-C mirror-less camera but, you have to change the pancake lens if you wanted zoom so, not very ideal if you needed it quickly. It's still a fair bit bigger than the premium point-and-shoots that have 1.0/1.5 camera sensors.
Sensor size and better lenses really make a difference if you want that artistic bokeh (background blur) and details still sharp once the photos are blown up to 100%. That's why cameras like these still have an edge over smartphones.
I brought two 128GB cards with me since I planned to take a lot of photos in RAW and Full HD video. Was going through multiple batteries already but card was still quite empty. Just our second day I guess.
Maid Cafe - Maidreamin
Soon it was closing time at Yodobashi. We were tired and wanted some place to sit before heading back to the hotel. Right before us was a maid cafe so we decided to drop in...
This was one of the chain maid cafes, Maidreamin. You can pretty much see their stores anywhere where there are lots of Anime merchandise stores.
Didn't really know what to expect other than what I've seen on TV and YouTube videos but, this place certainly didn't match the impressions they made on me...
There were a few foreigners inside and a lot of drunk business men... Girls in maid costumes were greeting people and talking in Anime-like voices but you could catch hints of their real voices in-between.
They refer to you as "Go-shuujin-sama (Master)" just like all those videos tell you but, they talked in such a way it was like a daily routine for them.
Fees on the other hand were quite interesting. You basically get charged 500JPY for every hour you spend in the cafe and when they brought you drinks, they would cast a "moe moe kyun kyun" spell. Standard procedure in maid cafes, lol.
You could choose to join in or not. Most people seemed to ignore them but... I decided to play along anyway.
There was also a live performance on where you (optionally) paid 200JPY for a glow stick to cheer the girls on. We didn't stay for long because the place didn't feel very lively or welcome. Different parts of the room were labelled something like "Fairy Land" but wasn't very well designed.
It definitely wasn't a very exciting experience. It felt more like a place where bored business men sat around.
Perhaps it's better during the day or better at the non-chain maid cafes.
End of the Day
Well, at the end of the day, Kitaro Tea House had to be the highlight of the day!
Didn't really buy anything yet being our second proper day in Japan.
But I did get this card holder stand since the Medama Oyaji ornament wasn't available. Still quite cool though since it still had him in it along with Kitaro and two Youkais ^^