Although a bit outside the main center of Tokyo, it was definitely worth the trip here. My friend is an animator and we are both fans of anime, so it was a treat to come here and learn about the animation process.
Original drawings and cels are on display, and visitors get an understanding of the methods used to create animated movies. Several interactive displays convey the magic of animation, breaking the motion down moment by moment.
During our visit, an entire wing was dedicated to Ponyo, the latest movie, with a big glass box containing all the finished handdrawn cels from the movie. We were also treated to a free showing of a 15 minute mini-movie.
Every visitor also gets a souvenir of 3 scenes from a Miyazaki movie.
Whether or not you were an animation fan beforehand, you will definitely gain a new appreciation for the animation process and the hard work that goes into it.
My friend really wanted to do this experience, and I'm glad we did it. Even though it was a bit pricey (18000 yen regular price, but 3000 yen off for the Maiko and Geiko plans with a coupon on their website), it was well worth every yen spent.
The staff is very friendly and accomodating. It was a 2 1/2 - 3 hr process (faster if you aren't so kimagure like me), and they applied white makeup on our faces, fit us into our kimonos (who knew geisha wore so many layers!), and gave us a choice of which color umbrella or handfan we posed with in our pictures. After the photo shoot in the studio, we were given 10 minutes of free time in the garden for as many poses as we liked.
As a bonus to the pictures we paid for, the staff also took additional pictures of us with our own cameras throughout the transformation process and during the professional photo shoot.
Afterwards, we were presented with the pictures they chose already printed out. The optional digital CD and printed sheet of proofs cost an extra 3000 yen.
Honestly, I couldn't recognize my friend nor myself! But we were absolutely beautiful and felt so graceful in our new identities.
This experience will definitely give the tourist a new appreciation for the daily lives of a geisha.
My friend and I should have been more familiar with Japanese fancy cuisine. This restaurant is upscale, but still affordable. Perhaps because of its location on the very top floor of this building. (There is no elevator, and it's on the 3rd or 4th floor of this building.) The door was jammed when we were there, but if you knock hard enough, they will come and open the door for you.
I ordered the recommended dish of Toukibi Gyuu no Tataki (Indian millet Pounded beef - for 1280 yen), which was rare beef, seared on the sides in a delicious sauce. It was pretty good, and was served with a type of leafy veggie (perhaps romaine or spinach?).
My friend ordered chicken sashimi in lemon marinade, or soushuu Kohaku dori sasami remon marine (for 680 yen). We were both pretty scared to try rare chicken seared on the sides, but it was surprisingly good! The lemon marinade and leafy greens complemented it nicely.
For a drink, I ordered oolong tea, which was OK.
We were given the utmost in customer service, and our waitress had the ultimate patience as I explained to her of my friend's allergy, and inquired about the dishes served. After our meal, she escorted us all the way downstairs to bid us goodbye. Very hospitable, indeed.
The only drawback? I was still a bit hungry 2 hours later.
The absolute BEST part of our stay was the FREE breakfasts. Don't be fooled by the description of Toast and Coffee. They definitely go the extra mile. Breakfast was surprisingly refreshing and delicious.
Served on English-style chinaware, our breakfast consisted of thick bread with jam and butter on the side, coffee with sugar and cream on the side, fruit juice (one day was orange juice, another it was apple juice), and a side dish (one day it was tamagoyaki with sweet rice inside; on day two it was a half banana and a korokke with a dollop of sauce on top).
Our bedsheets were changed fresh each day and our room came with a flat screen liquid TV which included many channels.
Staying at this ryokan, guests feel as if they are immersed into the culture. Our room came with minimal furniture: 2 futons on the tatami mat floor, a traditional low table and floor cushions. Also included with our room was fresh hot water each day to brew free green tea.
When coming in, make sure to remember to remove your shoes and put on your slippers, so as not to tract dirt onto the delicate tatami mat floor.
For a further traditional experience, you have the option to reserve a room without a bathroom.
There are private showers and a private Japanese style bath available to any of the guests if they reserve this kind of room.
However, the convenience factor was very important for my friend and I, and shampoo and rinse were provided for us in our bathroom.
As with all the guests, we were also provided a face towel, body towel, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, and a yukata bathrobe and obi. We stayed in the largest room including a bathroom, which comfortably fit 2 of us.
Words to the wise, if you get the bathroom included in your room, make sure you are small enough to fit in the bathroom (both my friend and I are petite), and are not claustrophobic. It may be a bit small for the average American. The toilet is a western-style toilet with a bidet wash, which made us feel so fresh and so clean, clean, afterwards.
There was a slight mixup on the price when we first arrived, but the owners graciously fixed the issue promptly.
There is a curfew, so if you are the type to stay out late, don't forget to let the front desk know that you will be out so that they can provide you a key.
This is an ideally located ryokan if you are only planning on scoping out the Ueno and Asakusa areas. It is a 2 minute (literally!) walk to Sensouji temple and Nakamise street. And there are several karaoke bars and restaurants nearby, as well as a Denny's, 7-Eleven and a 24 hour convenience store.
However, we had to make a transfer to get to Shinjuku. The Ginza line will be your best friend, also.
Great prices and nice combinations of sushi. I had one which included okra, and another with natto on the top. The natto added a nice nutty flavor to the fish. A third piece, was the traditional slice of salmon on top of slightly sweet rice.
The sushi was pretty fresh, with the sushi maker getting rid of the older ones.
For a drink, you can fix yourself a mug of hot green tea.
This is like Walmart (complete with toys, shampoo, electronics, and liquor, although I didn't see any guns) plus a sex shop... with a maid cafe thrown in for fun. We came here looking for tiny screwdrivers for my friend's camera, but only one or two sets would fit a screw that tiny. We also had fun looking at all the well-made costumes (most are maid costumes that cost around 7000 yen).
Unfortunately, even with all the stuff they sell here, I couldn't find the particular face lotion I needed. Oh well.
The famous At Home Maid Cafe is located in the Akihabara branch, but we missed last order by a few minutes.
I came here with a friend. They have great prices for the very hungry. 800 yen gets you a huge bowl of ramen, so make sure you have a big appetite. My friend and I could only finish half of each of our own bowls, so it was a bit embarassing to leave without finishing our food.
She got chashumen, but the meat was not of best quality. However, the yakiniku ramen I ordered was delicious. The meat was tender inside and bursting with marinated flavor on the outside. And the veggies in the soup complemented it well.
If the chashumen was as good as the yakiniku, then Sengoku Ramen would have a rating of 5 stars, no doubt.
For those of you who have limited Japanese, they do have a picture menu, but only a few items are displayed. And nobody spoke English when my friend and I went there, so make sure you have some knowledge of spoken Japanese.
The waiter we had was extra friendly and went the extra mile to make sure we got what we wanted. My friend has an allergy to tree nuts, and the waiter definitely put us at ease.
They have a very extensive selection of the popular singers -- Amuro Namie, Crystal Kay, Utada Hikaru, Hamasaki Ayumi. However, they did not have the Double song I wanted to sing. Otherwise, they are pretty solid, with the choice to sing in Tagalog or English, as well as other languages.
The milk fruit drink I ordered wasn't very impressive, however. I didn't drink it until I was finished singing the song, and by then, the gel had separated into a thick layer floating above the watery milk. Fortunately, my friend ordered regular fruit juice, and hers was good.
Sound proofing is good in general, although you can really hear the people in the next room if they started belting it out!