18th August 2019: 500 points at Swallowtail {Japan, summer 2019}

I asked D****e to come with me to Swallowtail at Ikebukuro [池袋] once more because I can’t do them alone (yet). Hopefully next time. We got a very nice butler who wanted me to choose my teacup as I had already visited five times (500pts), but I always have my tea iced, so I wouldn’t be using a cup. That was a bit of a communication problem (≧▽≦).

I had a great salmon and salad set (though I pushed the pepper away, because… no thank you), and analysed the butler types. There was one so tall that the poor thing had to get backpain all the time from pushing the carts. There were the kawaii bouncy ones, broad manly ones, and one wearing lipstick. I guess catering to every trope out there.

Afterwards we sang some karaoke and then went back home until it was time for dinner. It was a quiet, unwinding day.

Walked distance: 12979 steps / 9.28 km.

8th (and 9th) January 2017: The jump back to Tokyo… and then completely back… {Japan, winter 16/17}

At an insane hour in the morning, umbrella-less and in the middle of the rain, I got myself back to the point where buses were finally running to the airport. I dozed away the trip, because else I would have kept tying to read quizzes in Hiroshima-ben, the local dialect, that they were displaying on the bus screen.

I made it to Hiroshima airport and pulled a bunch of things off my backpack to conceal them before I got my boarding pass in case my carry on got checked, but once again the ‘I am a scary gaijin’ thing worked and I was free to go.

I was allowed to get my water bottle in, even with it being half-full, and I had a Calbee crisps breakfast because I could not find a sandwich inside, although in retrospective, maybe I should have gone out and back again as I had time. Then again, I would have had to explain that to security… never mind. So I had coffee and crisps. Not the best option, but what I had available.

When I landed and got back to downtown Tokyo [東京], I met B**** at Shibuya [渋谷] for gyoza, and boy did we eat gyoza. And afterwards she walked me to Shinjuku [新宿]to buy some stuff, and then we went to a cafeteria for cake… well, she had cake, I had a coffee jelly with vanilla which was my new favourite thing in the world. I seriously need to learn to make that.

After that there was a visit to Swallowtail in Ikebukuro [池袋], the butler café, which is as always very fun. We had a bit of a lost butler – he felt kind of new – and not the prettiest one. I noticed that they have uniformed the butlers, too, so now they are all wearing the same thing. After that we dropped by the shop and I got myself a bracelet I can’t wear because my wrist is too thin… and here I thought that I would get away with stuff prepared for Japanese girls… nope.

After that there were goodbyes and thank yous and tears because the only thing that I did the next day was going to the airport, more goodbyes, more tears. Very sad. As always.

Until next time, I guess.



31st August 2015: Up and down, Trains and fandom (reloaded) {Japan, summer 2015}

We took the Yurikamome line to Odaiba [お台場] once more.

Kushikatsu tries were more successful this time around, and D****e managed to get a few more Chupacabra out of the machine later. Afterwards we headed off to the Trio2 shop, located in Nakano Broadway [中野ブロードウェイ] for some more fandom shopping. We saw the X JAPAN Tour billboards.

Later, we had dinner at Swallowtail, the Butler café – the first time I’ve not been too pleased with the food. The tea set was just too sweet all around, but all in all quite an enjoyable experience, as always.

To end the evening, we had a look at the UFO catchers, where we got Chupacabra uchiwa, and I raided the local Book Off.

16th August 2014: Pretty people everywhere {Japan, summer 2014}

When a single is released in Japan, shops make a bit of a stand where it is prominently displayed. In the case of Tower Records in Ikebukuro [池袋], a staff-san had gone a small step further, and built a small shrine to L’Arc~en~Ciel. She was very confused as whether we knew who they were, and surprised we knew. We also saw Acid Black Cherry single stand, and as we were leaving we kinda walked into the Eito Rangers.

Promotions for CDs at Tower Records: L'arc en ciel, Acid black cherry and Kanjani 8

After browsing Book Off and K-Books, we had an appointment at Swallowtail, which was great, as always. They have opened a souvenir shop, which was great because I finally managed to own one of their napkins, legally. Now I won’t feel like stealing one whenever I’m there.

Entrance to the Swallowtails cafe, with a fence that has butterfly decorations

After a short Mandarake visit, we headed off towards the Meijiza [明治座], the Meiji Theatre, in the Chūō [中央] area to watch GACKT’s second Moon Saga instalment.

This time round, GACKT had tried to be more discrete, in a way it gave me the impression that he wanted to leave the “idol” idea behind, and he wanted to be taken more as a serious actor. The play takes off a few years after the previous one, and tells the story of how (spoilers) Yoshitsune tried to gain, or re-gain, his brother’s favour and downfall again. Yoshitsune struggles with his inner “evil” self, some kind of mononoke. While he struggles with the idea of whether he should kill himself or not. In the end, Yoshitsune loses control and the play closes with a threat of “hell beginning at that point”. Very… dramatic. It’s a pity that we will never see how it ends though (you might remember there was supposed to be a manga…). I bought myself the novel and I hope that one day I know enough Japanese to read it

Flowers, Moon Saga logo, and lide-sized cut-out of Gackt dressed as Yoshitsune

27th June 2013: Shinjuku, Ōji and Ikebukuro {Japan, summer 2013}

One of the fun things about Tokyo is that combination of modern and traditional that you find merged in quite a bit of harmony. Take for instance Shinjuku [新宿]. When one thinks of Shinjuku, one imagines skyscrapers and neon lights, but just a few minutes away, you find Hanazono Jinja [花園神社]:

Five minutes away from the station there is Shinjuku Gyoen [新宿御苑], which is huge, and holds small wonders like this, Kyūgoryōtei [旧御涼亭], or Taiwan Pavillion (Taiwan Kaku [台湾閣]):

Of course, there are lots of skyscrapers in the Skyscraper District:

There is also this sculpture:

And yet another shrine, Shinjuku Juniso Kumano Jinja [新宿十二社 熊野神社]:

After Shinjuku I went to Ōji [王子] to see the Ōji Inari Jinja [王子稲荷神社].

And just the Ōji Jinja [王子神社]:

Then I headed to Ikebukuro [池袋] where we had a reservation at Swallowtail for 80 minutes of indulgence, and hell did we enjoy it XD”””

13th July 2012: Modern & Hip vs. Spriritual & Traditional {Japan, summer 2012}

There was nothing to fear about Friday the 13th, considering that Kinkakuji had predicted me an excellent fortune (yay!), and it started with a niiiice breakfast – Swallowtails‘ cheesecake.

The first stop of the day was skipped due to a train mishap: I missed the stop and did not realise until I had transferred to another line, so backtracking would be expensive. I was not deterred and moved on to my second destination: Ginza [銀座]. Ginza would be the expensive shopping district, and to be honest it did not give me too much of a good vibe.

Not too happy with the place, I decided that since I could ride the Yamanote line for free (Japan Railway Pass = ♥) I would do a couple of other exteriors. The first one was Tokyo Station [東京駅] which was being renovated, so most of it was covered in white fabric.

Afterwards I headed off to Akihabara Electric Town [秋葉原], the place of Tokyo that seems to have more gaijin per square metre. Akiba lives up to its reputation of flashy, hentai, and maido-café infested. Sadly, the Mandarake was doing some kind of renovation and the usual entrances were closed, so I could not find the way into the… interesting section.

On top of the usual Akihabara scenario, I also found some remains of old Tokyo, among them this old stone bridge, Mansei Bashi [万世橋]

The evening’s destination involved a transfer in Ginza again, so I backtracked towards it. Instead of going into the shopping district, though, I headed off to Hibiya Koen [日比谷公園], which reportedly was were the first shogun houses were, around the Imperial Palace.

After some rest and chocolate cookies, I set off towards quite literally the other corner of the castle, to Kudanshita [九段下]. We have heard about the Chidorigafuchi Toro-nagashi, a matsuri (festival) that involves a number of boats releasing lit lanterns on the water in the Palace Moat at Chidorigafuchi Koen [千鳥ヶ淵公園]. Sounds a pretty thing to see, right? Right. Thing is that Kinkakuji fortune kicked in, so when we arrived there had been a cancellation on one of the boats and… we became part of the festival.

Chidorigafuchi Park is close to Yasukuni Jinja [靖國神社], where yet another festival, the Mitama Matsuri, was being held. We had matsuri food (yakitori), admired the lanterns and heard a bunch of young men doing taiko (traditional drumming). It was beyond amazing an evening.

12th July 2012: Ikebukuro {Japan, summer 2012}

I have decided to give my blistered feet a bit of a rest and take it easy for a couple of days. Thus, I’m indulging in my newly-found love of canned coffee and karepan.

A breaded bun, open. The inside is white, with a golden filling in the middle

Yesterday, Thursday 12th I spent most of the morning updating the blog and refusing to move from the chair. Then I headed off towards Ikebukuro [池袋], where my first stop was the Ikebukuro West Gate Park [池袋ウエストゲートパーク]. Ikebukuro West Gate Park or IWGP, is a series of urban mystery novels by Ira Ishida. It was adapted into a very successful TV series directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko and starring Nagase Tomoya. And Chibi Yamapi. [spoiler] And then Yamapi dies. Really sad. [/spoiler] Loved it.

An urban park with a decorative fountain in the middle. There are a couple of trees, but it's mostly surrounded by buildings

I found the Ikebukuro Station Owl. Somehow. After missing it a couple of times.

Sculpture of a big barn owl with a red vest. There are three smaller owls on the left, one of them is carrying a heart

And while there is not an Aquarium at the top of the Shibuya 109, there is one at the top of the Sunshine 60 – the Sushine Aquarium. Literally at the top. They have also some non-aquatic animals like an armadillo, a tapir and a lovely couple of desert foxes or feneqs.

A glass wall that opens up to a tropical aquarium

Small jellyfish swimming in a round aquarium

A cuttlefish, an anemmone and some coral

An octopus huddled in a knot so most that is shown are the suckers against the glass

A shot from the open roof of the aquarium building. Some pathways for the animal residents have been built, they are made of glass. A sea lion is swimming through one

A feneq fox curled up sleeping

A Humboldt penguin colony

After a quick browsing through Mandarake and K-books, we had a reservation for dinner at Swallowtails, which is a butler cafe. I was a bit on the apprehensive side, because my level of Japanese is enough to guesstimate some normal conversation but… yeah, not Keigo or polite Japanese in a formal environment. It turned out really, really nice, too. A cool experience sponsored by my insiders in Japan.

Themed cafés are common in Japan. They are normal restaurants which sell passable food and great experiences, or at least an experience. There are cafés for all tastes and personalities – some are related to animals, others to fantasies. Swallowtails has a number of young men “butlers” who treat you as a royalty and take care of you to almost ridiculous extents. I absolutely loved it, because being the doormat I normally am, it feels nice to be… spoilt a little.

A screenshot of a Japanese webpage. It shows a fancy entrance to a tea house, and reads Swallowtail

Afterwards we headed off for a quick sneak peak of Tokyo by night from the observatory in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Tōkyō Tochō [東京都庁] before coming back home and crashing for the night. Today will hopefully be another slow day…

A view of Tokyo at night, from above the roof tops. The buildings are dark, bit there are thousands of lights and lit windows.