Hyper Japan 2015

This Saturday I attended the Hyper Japan Festival at The o2 in London, an exhibition dedicated to all things Japanese. Naturally, being a bit of a Japanophile myself, I was eager to attend.

We opted for the Saturday morning slot (9am – 3pm) which was perfect as it wasn’t too busy when we arrived just before 9am but getting quite hectic by the time we left (around 2pm).

I will admit I spent longer choosing my outfit for the day than I have spent picking out some wedding outfits! Although I didn’t go full on cosplay, I wore some accessories I bought in Tokyo (cat tights, robot earrings, Alice in Wonderland bag) and threw on a light summer kimono over the top of a black skirt and pink top. I also pinned all my hair up and slicked on the red lippy and winged eyeliner… I guess I looked somewhere between a wannabe geisha crossed with a 90s girl band member.

However, I was happy to see that there were plenty of cosplayers walking around inside the o2 and I even asked a few of them if I could take their photographs, all of them happy to oblige. It’s funny because I saw more Harajuku-inspired outfits here in London than I did in actual Harajuku while I was there!

Hyper Japan cosplayers

The festival was quite disjointed within the o2 as it wasn’t in the arena itself, but dotted around outside, where the restaurants are. We headed to the main section first where there were many stalls selling food and gifts. We posed for a picture with Domokun and were given some free Snapea rice sticks from the Yushoi stall – they were pretty good!

Hyper Japan London

I personally found that alot of the stalls were quite expensive, which I guess is understandable as they are selling Japanese imports but when I paid around £5 for a box of KitKats in Japan (expensive enough!) I wasn’t prepared to pay £17 for the privilege here. There were many etsy stalls selling cute crafts and jewellery but many of these were UK based and appealed to the Japanese kawaii lovers rather than being authentic Japanese themselves.

I did end up buying a necklace though. Anyone who knows me knows that-

  1. I love quirky jewellery
    and
  2. I love animals

It seems to me that I have a bit of a thing for baby pandas at the moment and treated myself to this super kawaii necklace from Little Moose.

kawaii-panda-necklace

We were in need of some refreshment so headed up to the Maid Cafe where we had Dorayaki (basically like two pancakes with a filling in the middle). I opted for strawberry and the maid drew a little face on my Dorayaki in chocolate sauce – much like the real Maid Cafes of Akihabara but much much less expensive!

After our yummy pancakes we watched a performance on the stage below. Although I’m a Japan fan I’m not really familiar with any J-Pop acts so I have no idea who the group were but the crowd seemed to love them.

Next we headed into the Hyper Game and Anime Park – a section full of people playing video games and shopping for anime. I know very little about anime and the queues to play the various Nintendo games were too long for my patience so I just stopped by to have my photo taken with Pikachu before moving back to the main section for some lunch.

Hyper Japan 2015

I was surprised at the lack of seating and lack of sushi in the food section, but between us we had vegetable noodles, okonomiyaki, tempura prawns and gyoza. And later on we bought some ice cream from one of the stalls – I chose yuzu flavour (Japanese citrus) sorbet. Yum!

Hyper Japan was a good experience but I definitely didn’t need any longer there, I would have also liked to have seen a few more interactive stalls and freebies but if you need a kawaii culture fix then this is the place to come. Next time though, I think I would like to go cosplay for the full Japantastic experience!

From cat cafes to rabbit cafes

It’s all been a bit quiet on the blog for this past month, but as I said before, I can only be obsessed with one thing at a time – this time it’s Christmas. First was the challenge of finding the perfect Christmas party outfit (I think I may be obsessed with tulle) and then followed the hunt for the perfect Christmas gifts for friends and family. Let’s not also forget that December is the only month where I actually have a busy social life!

Anyway, I am back as intended, to write a lovely follow on from my previous post about cat cafes – RABBIT CAFES!

So the world pretty much knows about cat cafes already, but when I found out that there were also a couple of rabbit cafes in Japan, I knew I had to go visit one too.

The rabbit café I visited was called Ra.a.g.f which stands for Rabbit And Grow Fat. It is situated in Harajuku and is a bit of a mission to find, to be honest, if I didn’t have my husband and his pigeon instincts with me, I would probably still be wandering round Tokyo like Alice in a labyrinth looking for it!

The rabbit café is the same sort of set up as the cat café, you pay for the first 30 or 60 minutes you are there and then additional yen for time after that. Ra.a.g.f is 600Y for the first 30 minutes, which to be honest is all you really need. The café is tiny (and I mean tiny!) there are literally 3 little tables, where you sit on a cushion on the floor. A drink is included in the cover charge and for an extra 100Y you can purchase some nibbles for the rabbits (carrots or apple I believe).

rabbit-cafe-1

While we were there, only 1 rabbit was out and about, the rest were shut away in their cages although we could pet them if we wanted to. I was told this was because the rabbits either fight or try to mate if there are too many out socialising together. I must admit I was a little disappointed by this but understand the café staff’s reasons. The rabbits apparently all take turns in being allowed to roam the café but I do hope that there is somewhere else they go (beyond the café) where they can stretch their little rabbit legs and hop around to their hearts content.

Anyway, as cute and quirky as it was, we only stayed for half an hour and then we left. I would recommend visiting if you’re a rabbit fan or just want lots of quirky experiences, but if you only get chance to visit one animal café then the cat café wins hands paws down.

rabbit-cafe-2

From maid cafes to cat cafes

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So I ticked maid café off of my Japan wishlist, but one of the other cafes I really wanted to visit was a cat café. When I stayed in Tokyo for 3 nights several years ago, I came close to visiting one but didn’t (I don’t know why) so I made sure that this time round it was one of the first things I did!

And sure enough, our first full day in Tokyo we spent wandering around Ikebukuro in the pouring rain. I’d done a little online research and found out about a cat café I quite liked the sound of so we headed to Ikebukuro mainly for that reason (although I do enjoy Tokyu Hands!).

NOTHING is easy to find in Tokyo. We walked around in circles a few times and just when we thought all hope was lost, we saw it – Cat Café Nekorobi!

cat-cafe-1

It was quite strange climbing the stairs, it felt a little like we were intruding on someone’s apartment building but sure enough we found the entrance to the café. We had to leave our umbrellas and shoes at the door but once we were inside it was so toasty and warm, and lovely to see the friendly smiling face of one of the staff members, a young girl who spoke very good English. She instructed us to hang our coats up and place our belongings in a locker. We were also required to wash our hands before interacting with the cats.

Cat cafes, similar to maid cafes, charge per the hour. Each cat café operates differently, at this particular one you pay a set price 1,100 yen for the first hour (1,300 on weekends/holidays) and then 250 yen (300y weekends/holidays) for every 15 minutes afterwards. Included in that price you can help yourself to snacks from the basket on the table and drinks from the vending machine. We were also given a small bag of cat treats each to encourage the cats to interact with us.

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The concept of cat cafes is to give those who cannot have pets in their own homes, for reasons such as housing restrictions etc, what I like to call – a cuddly wuddly fix. Although you aren’t allowed to pick the cats up yourself, you must let them come to you.

I tell you what though – in my next life I am coming back as one of these cats! They were sprawled out snoozing all over the beanbags while us mere humans were made to crawl all over the floor!

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cat-cafe-japan-4

I really enjoyed the cat café and because it was so cosy in there away from the horrible weather outside, I could have easily stayed for much longer than an hour.

Know before you go

  • Don’t be disappointed if the cats aren’t very playful. In a room full of cats and with a handful of biscuits, there was only one cat remotely interested in socialising with me and climbing onto my lap. The rest were sleeping or had climbed up high to observe their kingdom below. The sleeping cats are fine to stroke though.
  • If they have a guestbook or a little book with cat biographies in it, don’t forget to have a look. It’s a nice little touch.
  • Cat Café Nekorobi also had a laptop and games console and stuff like that, so if cats aren’t your thing and you’re dragged here against your will by a crazy cat lady or something, there is still stuff other than cats to look at.
  • There are many cat cafes dotted around Tokyo, but if you want to visit this particular one then head for Tokyu Hands in Ikebukuru and follow the building around. It’s kind of behind the department store (although there is one inside the store as well).

cat-poking-its-tongue-out-by-quirkylittleplanet

One of the strangest hours of my life…

…took place at a Japanese maid café.

I find Japanese culture and all that kawaii stuff fascinating so I was curious to see what the fuss was with a maid café, much to the surprise of my husband. So one evening we took a walk around Akihabara and were approached by one of the maids of MaiDreamin. After a very mixed up conversation of her little English and our very little Japanese we made our way via elevator to the café. Upon the doors opening we were greeted by enthusiastic cutesy Japanese cheers and the tiniest cutest little maid of all took us to our table, calling us “Master” and “Princess” as she kneeled down and ‘lit’ a battery operated candle for us and handed us our menus.

The menu choices are basically a package, you choose either an omelette, katsu curry or ice cream, plus a drink, plus a gift. Or instead of food and drink you could just have an alcoholic cocktail and a gift. Yes a little confusing but thank goodness for the Japanese love of picture menus! My husband chose an ice cream, a soft drink and a keyring that looked like a little maids outfit, I went for a cocktail and an A4 sized poster of MaiDreamin (?!). The ice cream was pretty cute looking and normally I love ice cream but I was feeling a bit off colour that night. The curry and omelette however looked pretty gross, no matter how adorable they make them by drawing smiley faces in ketchup on the omelette or shaping the curry to look like a teddy bear.

Kawaii ice cream
Kawaii ice cream

Now, Maid Cafes require some audience participation. I can’t remember if we got involved singing one, two or three songs in our over all time there, but what I can remember is being adorned with some fluffy animal ears (bear? mouse?) and then the maids came over to our table to sing a song something like “miow miow cute” and “delicious delicious”. We had to get involved with the singing, clapping and actions, and as bizarre as it felt, it was kind of fun.

When my cocktail arrived, the shaker and glass were placed down on the table, so I figured I would just pour it. However, I was wrong. The maids came rushing over because there was a little song that had to be sung before the cocktail could be poured and so there were two or three maids stood at our table clapping and singing about who knows what.

After that they pretty much left us to it, there was a bit of singing and dancing on stage but other patrons were arriving, thankfully there were some other female tourists in there and not just pervy Japanese men.

As you pay by the hour in these places, we decided that 1 hour was enough for us, so before we left, the maids invited us on their little stage and two of them had their photos taken with us as extra little souvenirs. I asked the tiny girl that had been our main waitress how old she was, because her English was pretty good and I was beyond curious.

“Seven” she replied
“Seven?” I questioned. I wondered if I had misheard her, so I began to count in Japanese – which of course, she loved and counted along with me. And when we reached “nana” she said yes!

I couldn’t believe it, it was about 11pm when we left the maid café, how could a 7 year old be working, let alone working at this time of night? In hindsight, I think she was lying to me, I can get away with knocking 10 years off my age so this girl was probably doing the same!

So that was our surreal café experience, definitely one to do once in your life as it’s not quite the same seeing it all written down. But given that was the most expensive ice cream, coca cola and cocktail we’d ever had it won’t be an experience we’ll repeat (I think it cost £25-30 GBP all in all!).

If you fancy going to a Maid Café yourself, then you can mostly find them in the district of Akihabara, aka Electric Town – well-known for it’s manga, anime, video games, electronics and otaku (geek) culture. Also note that while you may take photos of your food, it is not permitted to take your own pictures of the room or the maids.

MaiDreamin souvenirs
MaiDreamin souvenirs