Monday, 8 May 2017

Powerpuff girls cafe in Harajuku

Sugar, spice, everything nice; these were the ingredients chose to make the perfect cafe, but they accidently added something extra....Chemical X!
Growing up watching Cartoon Network, I idolized a different kind of magical girl; Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup and, apparently, they have developed somewhat of a cult following in Japan, too. Recently American cartoons such as Adventure Time are also gaining increasing popularity, for their own unique brand of kawaii. The Powerpuff Girls alongside other American animations also inspired the anime "Panty, stocking and Garterbelt". This style of cartoon drawing is also becoming popular amongst Mangaka and animators in Tokyo, especially the quirky sense of humor and dark connotations, I look forward to a lot more western style Japanese anime in future.

Naturally, when something becomes popular in Tokyo, a pop-up cafe soon follows and we were eagerly awaiting the PPG cafe for a long time, which was made possible due to the collaboration between Spinns 2.5 - a street wear clothing store hysr off Takeshita dori in Harajuku and a new collection of Powerpuff girl themed clothing from ACDCrag, also in Takeshita dori.

I wore the Bubbles oversize T-shirt from the ACDCrag line to wear to the cafe and styled myself into a casual Bubbles cosplay. I always related to Bubbles the most - a  happy-go-lucky crybaby with a strong sense of justice, so luckily I could purchase a lot of Bubbles themed goods at the cafe.

The cafe itself is situated on the 3rd floor of Spinns, up a huge PPG themed staircase that's a perfect place to take photos, but on busy days there could be a line of people waiting all the way down the stairs but if you go on a weekday, you might be lucky enough to walk straight in.

The inside of the cafe is bright and spacious, decorated with character stickers, posters and a projector screening episodes of PPG, a perfect haven for Cartoon Network fans.
There were also giant Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup plushies to take photos with, complete with a photo area.

As for the menu, it wasn't extensive, but the items they did have were well-crafted and aesthetically appealing, of course most of them were desserts. I chose the  Bubbles soda -  a bubblegum flavored soda with candyfloss topping, adorned with a little Bubbles shaped rice cracker (with no traces of chemical X). My friend went for the Bubbles parfait - Bubblegum and vanilla ice cream with blue Hawaii jelly and Lime. There was also a PPG themed hamburger and a Blossom burger, but we came for the sweets.

For dessert I had the "Power Power Rainbow" pancakes; butter pancakes with whipped cream, maple syrup and a side of fruit to give the illusion you are at least trying to be healthy. I would recommend this out of everything because the portion was big and there were a lot of individual delicate flavors on top of being rainbow.

We sat by the huge windows and enjoyed people watching, as it was Sunday, the most busy day for Takeshita dori, it was nice to get away from the endless sea of tourists and shop staff screaming bargains at the top of their lungs.

After paying up, we took some photos with the novelty plushies in front of Townsville and checked the goods by the door, before heading down to the Spinns store below for even more goods. Some are shipped from overseas while other designs are Tokyo exclusive.

The whole experience was amazing for me; a lifelong Cartoon network and PPG fan, but irregardless to that I think it would be a good experience to those who aren't a fan of the series. My only complaint was that although they had Mojo Jojo themed items and a coffee based around him, I didn't see my favorite PPG character anywhere - "Him" the androgynous and somewhat sexy lobster-devil-creature thing. I'm not sure if its down to licensing or people in Tokyo purely don't like that character, but that was the only disappointment for me.

If you are a Cartoon network fan, love sweets or even just like cute things, give this cafe a visit. As its a limited pop-up cafe it may change, but the theme is always cute with a ton of goods to buy, I will report on the next theme, too.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Secret garden cafe in Koenji

In Tokyo I am always on a quest to find new and exciting cute cafes. Sometimes for something to be "kawaii" it doesn't have to be disgustingly pink, sparkly or pastel, it can just be aesthetically pleasing in a whimsical way, much like the hidden-gem I discovered when vintage shopping in Koenji. The cafe goes by the name of "エセルの中庭" meaning "Ethel's courtyard".

This cafe is not very well known and seldom visited by tourists, the first floor is actually a library, so you can enjoy reading some old, worn books whilst enjoying your coffee. The first thing you will notice when entering is that the floor starts off being made of soil and grass, even though you are on the second floor of a building, everything is made of old wood and the walls are adorned with forgotten treasures and things long dead. There are various plants, statues, fountains and fish tanks which formulate a wonderful secret garden atmosphere complete with old washed out black and white photos that hang from the walls. Stepping in the cafe honestly feels like stepping back in time, it is the kind of cafe I could imagine pirates or adventure seekers frequenting hundreds of years ago.

The menu is pretty small, but unique and changes almost every week. I usually order iced chestnut milk tea, but they also sell sweets and they have a vast array of teas and even cocktails. They always serve their tea in lavishly decorated tea cups and the staff are friendly and always up for a chat. The cafe itself is in the center of Koenji shopping district, just off of the main arcade strip and is a nice oasis from the hustle and bustle.

The only downside is that the cafe itself is quite dark inside and while very relaxing, isn't great for taking photographs. The calm atmosphere and classical decor more than make up for it though and, on the way out, the cafe also sells a variety of colored crystals! I really recommend this cafe if you want to see something that not many people have seen on their trip to Tokyo and have a curiosity for old, whimsical objects.

Magikarp shaped sweets!

Taiyaki is considered of one of the more tradional types of Japanese sweets - a sweet, fish shaped pancake usually filled with red bean jam. Usually sold as street food, tasty and inexpensive, tayaki has always been a favorite, especially amongst children and has led to an array of different fillings such as green tea, custard, chocolate and even savory options such as tuna mayonnaise.
Kurikoan is one of the most famous chain stores, selling the sweet delicacy and have shops all around Tokyo, recently releasing their latest concoction - Magikarp taiyaki.

For those of you not familiar with Pokemon; Magikarp is possibly the weakest of them all. Small, weak and unable to attack with its most popular move "splash" never achieving anything, Magikarp has always been a favorite.  Especially as in later levels it evolves into one of the strongest Pokemon on the series, Magikarp is a true underdog tale, and who doesn't love that? It made sense that sooner or later Magikarp would be reimaged into this sweet snack, so I took a trip down to Akihabara to try this snack for myself.
Kurikoan is on the main strip of Akihabara and is almost unmissable if you follow the sweet scent of pancake batter, the store itself sells many variety of taiyaki including the most popular - vanilla custard and the slightly weird egg and bacon. Magikarp unfortunately only came in two varieties; red bean with cream cheese and green tea. I went with the red bean and I was not disappointed. You even got to see the staff make the taiyaki fresh from scratch!

The puffy pancake comes still warm with its own Pokemon themed packaging and filled to the brim with sweet paste, not too sweet and with a hint of salt it was the perfect snack to munch on while we strolled around Akihabara. If you are travelling to Japan then of course you will want to head to the nerdy Mecca that is "Akiba" and if you do, make sure to grab a Magikarp taiyaki on the way!