After four days of adventuring in Kyoto and Hiroshima, the time came to say goodbye to our super comfy and swanky hotel room, pack up our suitcases, and board the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.
But with Osaka sitting right in between Tokyo and Kyoto, we just had to swing by for a speedy shopping pit-stop!
Osaka’s Shinsaibashi shopping arcade is super duper awesome; we stopped into the pink and sparkly Sanrio Gallery so I could get my Hello Kitty fix (photography is now prohibited in the shop, but check out my Osaka post from last year for pics), bright and funky Spinns, and my new favorite clothes shop, WEGO.
WEGO sells a mixture of used, recycled vintage, and new clothes and accessories. There were loads of sales on, so I stocked up on so much cute stuff: headbands, jewelry, socks (SO MANY SOCKS), tops, and an amazing pastel pink and blue backpack with angel wings sewn onto the back. UGH. Shopping in Japan is just the best.
Food displays in Japan are like an art form. I can’t get enough of them! The huge sundae at the top of this one actually spun around in circles.
We had intended on having brunch at a sweet little vegan cafe in Shinsaibashi called “Atl,” but they were closed, so we stocked up on snacks, boarded the Shinkansen, and took our rumbling tummies to T’s Tan Tan in Tokyo Station for some hot and spicy ramen and curry.
UGH. I wish there were more of these. I read that their ‘Smile’ curry contains honey, but aside from that, everything in here is completely vegan and SO FREAKIN’ GOOD.
I had a caramel green tea with brown rice syrup, a bowl of ramen in a spicy, nutty broth, and a side dish of Massaman curry.
Eoin’s noodles. Sorry I can’t remember the names of these ones! They have a picture menu, so you can just point to what you want.
Sweet and sour veggie meat over rice.
Heartland beer ♥
I don’t really know what the majority of Japanese people think of veganism, but in Korea it’s actually viewed as a really unhealthy lifestyle! Korea has such a meat-based culture, that asking for a meal without meat usually raises some concern. The director of our first hagwon always used to laugh her head off when I mentioned being vegan, saying, “OH, VEGAN, I’M ONE TOO, HAHAHA. Teacher, I bought ice cream and fried chicken. Eat some!” Our current director tries to understand it, but I’m pretty sure he just thinks I’m a really picky eater! Anyway, T’s Tan Tan is always PACKED, and I’m pretty sure most of the customers here aren’t vegan, but just appreciate tasty, healthy food.
T’s Tan Tan is located on the Keiyo shopping street in Tokyo Station. Head towards the Yaesu Exit, and it will be on your right; it’s the very last restaurant before the hallway leading to the Keiyo tracks.
After stuffing ourselves full of noodles, we walked from Tokyo Station to our hotel in Ginza: Monterey La Soeur. We had loved this place last time, but compared with the ANA Crowne Plaza in Kyoto, it seemed so cramped and run-down. Ginza’s still my favorite place to stay in Tokyo; it’s easily walkable, and the Ginza line is great for traveling around central Tokyo.
First stop: the Sanrio Flagship Store!
SO MUCH PINK.
Badtz Maru and Chococat were my fave Sanrio characters when I was little, but now it’s totally Cinnamoroll.
Little Twin Stars were super popular here last year, but the range this year isn’t quite as cute. They’ve put a weird floral design on the unicorns; their fur is all swirly like roses, and theses ones had flowery pom poms stuck on their sides. (That still didn’t stop me from buying a huge unicorn plushie with a big bow on it…)
My Melody is definitely Sanrio’s character of choice this year. There was My Melody stuff EVERYWHERE; they’re totally cashing in on the pastel, lolita trends.
The My Melody ice cream themed stuff was AMAZING. I got a little plushie purse in the same design as that handbag, but for a fraction of that price.
I dunno what these are but I totally regret not buying them. SO SQUISHY.
Anyway, after indulging my inner 8 year old, we headed out for dinner at Nataraj: a veg-friendly Indian restaurant. We didn’t take any photos cuz the food was overpriced, super salty, and just not that good. But on the way back to the hotel, we found this spectacular outdoor aquarium:
That guy on top of the tank worked for the Sony Building; don’t worry.
I’ve been to a whole lotta aquariums in my lifetime, but these fish were some of the most gorgeous ones I’ve ever seen. That puffer fish especially. The dude was HUGE!
I’ve got so many feels for eels ♥
This big weird face fish loved sitting right on top of that poor old eel. Why?!
We headed back to the hotel for a super long sleep, and ventured out to Harajuku in the morning ♥
Headin’ down Takeshita-dori, where we were asked to participate in a random dance video. Harajuku’s randomness and promotion of self-expression makes me so happy. Everybody has such different styles, and you really get the feeling that nobody’s judging anybody else. It’s a huge relief from Korea where there are set trends that everyone follows, and a divergence from the norm will definitely earn you some stares, laughs, and dirty looks.
We had food on our minds (as usual), so we sauntered down the wide, tree-lined Omotesando to Pure Cafe: a pricey but oh-so-tasty vegan cafe in Aoyama.
They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner sets throughout the day. Eoin got this bread with a tofu spread, which included a tiny salad and an iced tea.
I got this luscious chocolate blueberry muffin, an iced coffee, and a chocolate parfait…which was totally acceptable to eat for breakfast because it had oats and fruit in it, too.
Playing with my spiffy new Fujimax Mini instant camera. I wish I’d had one of these ten years ago, wahhh! So fun ♥ Anytime we asked passersby to take our photo with it, we offered to take theirs, too; I bought Rilakkuma and Little Twin Stars-patterned film, so it was extra super cute. It’s nice spreading a little bit of kindness, especially in a country where there’s already so much joy and friendliness.
Did I mention how many socks I bought on this trip?!
☆ Creamy Mami ☆
Remember the Pinklatte bus in Kyoto? Well there’s a Pinklatte airplane in Harajuku!
We checked out a new spot in Aoyama for lunch: Sincere Garden Cafe.
The ground floor is a spa, but enter through the door here and walk up the stairs to get to the cafe. Don’t take the elevator, as we first did, cuz it drops you off in some weird, cluttered storage area…
The menu was really complicated-looking (it made ordering lunch look like some sort of math equation), and it was entirely in Japanese, so we did a lot of pointing and nodding. And there was one English-speaking staff member who kept getting dragged out of the kitchen to translate for us (sorry!)
Anyway, we ended up getting a lunch set with what I think was the curry of the day. I’ve read that they use honey and bonito fish flakes in some of the dishes here, but aside from that it’s all vegan (and organic!)
Go ahead and make all your poopy, snotty jokes, this curry was unexpectedly delicious; so rich and creamy with just a bit of heat. I got mine with rice, and Eoin got his with a homemade cinnamon raisin bagel (curry + bagel = another unexpected taste sensation!) The meals came with uniquely infused teas, which took the English-speaking server like five minutes to explain. I ended up getting a cinnamon-based one and Eoin got a rose and lavender one.
We also got these amazing desserts, like, holy schnitzel, super good! Extra fudgey, dark chocolate brownie bites with vanilla ice cream, and a caramel banana nut tart, plus soy lattes. We grabbed a couple extra moist and fruity muffins on the way out the door, too.
For our final evening in Tokyo, we ventured out to Roppongi for dinner at the veg-friendly Chinese restaurant, Chien Fu. But first, I’d heard rumors of a swarm of Doraemon descending on Roppongi Hills, so I had to check it out for myself!
Doraemon is a robotic, time-traveling cat from a manga series which started in 1969, so his fanbase includes an even mixture of children and adults.
There were 66 unique figures on display, and everybody had a favorite. (Mine was that one with the ink-spitting octopus.)
Everybody was out taking advantage of the photo opportunity, even this little cutie!
We eventually dragged ourselves away from Doraemon’s irresistible charms and resumed our quest for dinner. Chien Fu is super easy to find; just walk straight past Roppongi Hills and it will be on your left; keep an eye out for a green sign (it’s on the 4th floor.)
UGH why can’t all Chinese food be animal-free?! Seriously, this is the best Chinese food I’ve had anywhere, and I really don’t think omnivores would be able to taste the difference.
Sweet ‘n’ sour ‘pork’ balls.
My all-time fave crispy noodles with fake chicken and shrimp (vegan shrimp is a revelation, seriously.)
Glorious steamed Chinese buns. Oomph. While we were here, we could see fireworks going off through the windows behind our table. There are loads of summer fireworks festivals in Tokyo around this time.
Thoroughly stuffed and satiated, we ventured out to Roppongi Midtown to catch a sighting of one of Japan’s most famed celebrities…
…I’m totally resisting the urge to type ‘GODZIRRAAA’ here.
The big guy was on display to promote the new Godzilla flick, and also featured a brief smoke and light show every half an hour in the evening.
At this point, all the kids started screaming and running around in circles. I was tempted to join them, but that probably would’ve been weird.
Tokyo, you really need to find a permanent home for this guy somewhere. He’s too good to stuff away in storage.
So, that concludes our summer trip to Japan. I’m so mega envious of all the people who get to visit this amazing country for months (and the people who get to live here for years!) A week just wasn’t anywhere near long enough to see and do all the things I had planned.
Stay cool, Japan; you can bet your butt we’ll be back again soon!