Archive for the 'Shops' Category

Ootoya and Touya


You can consider this a continuation of my Food Outlets post. This is mostly just for my reference but it’d great if it’s of use to anyone else. Unlike the last time I went to Japan, I tried to minimize the amount of time I eat from fast food outlets/combini. Not only they’re not healthy, its also kind of a waste of my time in Japan to eat the kind of foods that I can get easily back home (okay, so there’s no Mos Burger anywhere else but Japan but a burger is still just a burger). Anyway, there are actually many places you can eat good food in Japan without spending a fortune. The trick is to not go to restaurant but rather to eatery places which are frequented by either families or salarymen. This includes Ootoya and Touya. Expect to spend between 600 Yen to 1000 Yen by going to these places.


Many people often refer to Ootoya as Japanese ‘fast food’ chain. I don’t think that’s a correct way to describe the place because the foods are far from the kind of foods that are sold in fast food chains. Ootoya is one of those unbelievable place because not only the prices are reasonable (between 600 to 800 Yen), the foods are also great and good for your health. I think ‘family restaurant’ is probably a more accurate description for this place. Ootoya’s specialty is Japanese cuisine, the kind that someone’s mother or grandmother usually prepares at home. Regardless of what kind of meat you choose, the food set always come with decent amount of vegetables, pickles, and Miso soup. I’ve tried several of the menus and so far they are unbelievably good.


Ootoya is popular with both young people and office workers so they must be doing something right. The only annoying thing about it is that the chain is rather hard to find. I was lucky that when I was in Osaka, I stayed near one of the chains, which open until 11PM. If you don’t feel like eating inside, however, you can order to take away. Take-aways are generally cheaper since they don’t come with Miso soup. I’d recommend the Saba set for breakfast. That was really tasty and made me realized why Japanese people like to have fish and Miso soup for breakfast. And I really appreciate the generous amount of various pickles that usually come with each menu set.


If you love Chirashi-zushi/Sushi-don like I do, this place is a must. Although I only mention Touya in this post, there are actually many other shops which sells Chirashi-zushi kind of set menu. Chirashi-zushi is basically a bowl of warm rice topped with various Sashimi (raw fish), crab meat, fish eggs, etc. The price range from 600 Yen to 1050 Yen depending on what you order on your bowl. I personally love the “Toro, Maguro, Kani, and Bara” set. The “Hokkai-don” set was also good. Each bowl comes with a Miso soup, which surprisingly taste good and goes well with the raw fish. Obviously this place is not for those who hate Sashimi. However, for those who are adventurous, you have to at least give this place a try. My friend used to just eat the cooked stuff when he first visited a Sushi place. Now, however, he devours everything like a pro.


As a final note, with Ootoya, you have to order manually by speaking to the waiter/waitress, so if you don’t speak Japanese, make sure you point correctly at the menu. With Touya, however, you can order the menu that you want using the vending machine. The machine will then produce a ticket which you must hand over to the waiter. He/she will then give you a glass of water and re-confirm that you do want to order the menu that’s printed on the ticket. They usually will go “(your order), yoroshii desu ka?”. Just say “Hai” (Yes) and they’ll make your order. In a way, it’s less nerve-wracking to order food in vending machine type places than to order from a waiter if you don’t speak much Japanese at all. Having said that, I really recommend gathering your courage and give Ootoya a try at least once.

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Osaka: Shinsaibashi & Dotonbori

Shinsaibashi & Dotonbori

Since I ended up staying at Shinsaibashi during my stay in Osaka, I had a very close access to the Dotonbori shoutengai (shopping street) which has a variety of shops and restaurants. My first impression of Osaka is that it’s a very busy city similar to Tokyo but the people seem far more laidback. The Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori areas themselves are pure assault on your visual sense. You can see large neon signs and various ornaments adorning the shops that line up alongside the street. What makes the Dotonbori special is that the place has a little canal complete with colorful Ferris Wheel which circles around a tall building nearby. Obviously it looks pretty at night.

One thing that I couldn’t stand about Osaka, however, is the heat. Of course with this month still being summer, it’s expected that the weather will be hot. However, the heat in this city is inhuman in comparison to the heat in Tokyo. Actually, I find that the further West you go in Japan, the hotter the weather ended up being. I was soaked by sweat during a visit to Miyajima Island, which was 5 minutes away from Hiroshima. The bad thing about the heat is it makes you feel unmotivated to do any sightseeing. It’s hard to be excited about it when the weather is humid and makes you sweat every step of the way. So if you want to go to Osaka, I’d recommend not to do it during summer.

Shinsaibashi & DotonboriShinsaibashi & Dotonbori
Shinsaibashi & DotonboriShinsaibashi & Dotonbori
Shinsaibashi & DotonboriShinsaibashi & Dotonbori

Osaka is pretty famous for its foods. Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki are said to be originated from this area. The same thing can also be said for Warabi-mochi. I actually took some photos of the foods that I purchased while I’m here but I’ll save that for another post since this one is already filled with a lot of pictures of the city. The Dotonbori area seems popular with the young people. Despite the fact that the heat makes everyone sweat like there’s no tomorrow, it doesn’t seem to damp their enthusiasm to hang out and eat Takoyaki in the area. Ah, word of warning, if you do go to Dotonbori, do not enter the Dotonbori Gokuraku building. I think it’s a rip-off.

To begin with, you actually have to pay 315 Yen just to enter the building. Once inside, you’ll find out that all that the building have is just a collection of restaurants. The only difference is that the setting is a re-creation of Osaka during Showa period. If you’re really that desperate to see this kind of period re-creation, I’d suggest that you go to the Floating Observatory basement level. They have similar period re-creation but you don’t have to pay for just entering the area (unless you go to the observatory tower). Besides, Dotomburi itself is a street lined with lots of restaurants. If you go here, you should see this giant Takoyaki that one shop sells. Hmm, maybe I should buy that tomorrow.

Shinsaibashi & DotonboriShinsaibashi & Dotonbori
Shinsaibashi & DotonboriShinsaibashi & Dotonbori

How to go to Shinsaibashi: from Shin-Osaka station, take the Midosuji subway line stopping at Shinsaibashi station. Use exit number 6 to go straight to the Shinsaibashi’s shopping street.


Food outlets

Pepper Lunch

In general, Japan seems to be obsessed with food. Almost everyday, one can see a variety program whereby the host will dine on sumptuous meal created by different chef from different restaurant. I also get the impression that Japan has some of the best cooks in the world since I haven’t had any bad-tasting food while I’m here. Prior coming to Tokyo, I’ve always heard that foods are expensive in Tokyo but I think this is an exaggeration. I don’t think it’s anymore expensive than foods in other big cities such as New York, Sydney, and is actually a lot cheaper than London. If you know where to go, you can actually taste some good food here. Failing that, you can always go to Supermarket and get yourself either some Fresh ingredients, if you have cooking equipments. If you don’t have access to cooking equipment, go to combine and get some pre-cooked foods ready to be heated in a microwave. After all, a large Onigiri (riceball) won’t cost you more than 150 Yen. Anyway, what I’ll list below are some of my favorite food outlets. They’re mostly just for my own reference but I hope you can find some use for it.

Pepper Lunch

Pepper Lunch (addendum 13/06/10): Pepper Lunch is now available in Sydney – LOL) serves quality cut grilled beef on top of rice and vegetables. In order to order food from this place, you have to use the nearby vending machine and choose the kind of dish that you’d like to eat. After paying the price, the machine will produce a ticket that you must hand in to the waitress. The price of the meals ranges from 680 Yen to around 1050 Yen depending on the quality of the meat that you choose. Anyway, after handing in the ticket to the waitress, she will usually give you a ticket for free soft drink, which you can use the next time you visit the place. Back then, however, I had to be content with a glass of water while waiting for 2-3 minutes for my food. Once the waiting is over, you’ll be presented with sizzling and only half-cooked meat and veggies on top of a hotplate. If you want, the waitress will cook the meat for you. However, it’s a lot more fun to cook them yourself and add your own sauce, etc. You can find Pepper Lunch outlet on almost every big city in Japan, especially inside the train station. If you’re in Tokyo, however, Akihabara has at least two of these outlets.

Pepper LunchSoba UdonSoba Udon

Soba Udon

Judging from its name, it’s not hard to guess that Soba Udon serves well, Soba and Udon. This place, however, is good because it provides some cheap food for those who don’t have the budget to spend too much. For only 200 Yen, you can get a cold Soba with a sauce and an additional 100 Yen can get you a Kakiage (Fried vegetable tempura). I don’t know about other people’s stomach capacity but in my opinion the portion that they gave to me was quite generous and I was both full and satisfied with the quality of the food. Of course if you have the money, you can always order the more expensive dish such as Curry Udon. Just like other eateries, you’ll usually get a glass of water free and you can refill it as much as you want. You order the food through vending machine and hand in the ticket to the waitress as usual. Although if I remember correctly, you have to tell the waitress yourself if you want a kakiage to go with your cold soba and pay the 100 Yen to her. Soba Udon can be found in various Tokyo station. There is one underneath the Ueno station.

Omosubi Gonbee/Omosubi Honnori

These two are basically food outlets selling Omusubi (Onigiri/riceball) using the finest ingredients you can find in Japan. You can read more about Omosubi Gonbee here. I really like Onigiri although the one one can get from the combini is usually not the best quality ones. Gonbee and Honnori, on the other hand, are two places that I usually go to if I want some good Onigiri. They have a wide range of selection from Fish roe to tuna to chicken. However, because they use the best ingredients available, the price of their Onigiri tends to be more expensive in comparison to the ones you can get from a combini. For example, a typical Onigiri from a combini won’t set you back more than 150 Yen while the one from these outlets can cost you up to 200 Yen. However, I think it’s worth it to give it a try from time to time. And these Omosubi/Onigiri are very filling so most people don’t need more than two Onigiri if this is all that they intend to have for lunch. Onigiri is also perfect as a light breakfast when consumed with Takuan (pickled daikon) during breakfast.

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Parakiss Shop + Venus Fort

Yukari/George, Paradise Kiss

Right, as I promised, I would write about The Parakiss Shop, which is located inside Venus Fort. It’s been a few days since I visited the site so the detail is kind of sketchy. But basically you can just walk from Odaiba to Venus Fort and it’ll basically take you around 5 to 10 minutes. You won’t get lost because all you have to do is to look where the giant Ferris Wheel is located. Once you find that, you’ll pretty much find Venus Fort. Venus Fort is basically a shopping mall for those who are interested to purchase good brand name clothing at a good discounted price. Well, when I went there, most of the items were discounted so I got that impression. But then again it’s probably because it’s January/February, the time when big discounts usually are on offer by most shops.

I actually didn’t have any intention to come here. But while I was inside Fuji TV building, I saw a brochure advertising Paradise Kiss. Upon asking the shop attendant, I found out that Venus Fort is only within walking distance from the building, so I set out to find the place. It was a good decision too because I was looking for a long coat since I didn’t have any warm clothing on me besides a jumper and a thin jacket and the weather was cold. Oh right, Parakiss shop. The shop is located on the ground floor, IIRC. You have to get deep inside the shopping mall and you know that you’re close to it because you’ll see a tree decorated with blue lights. It’s not really a ‘shop’ but more like an open exhibition. The place basically showcases Yukari’s, George’s, and Miwako’s dress from Paradise Kiss series.

Ferris Wheel on the roof of Venus FortBlue treeYukari's gown
Yukari and George's costumeButterfly ringAll costumes

Yukari’s showcase dress looks okay in my opinion. I think I was a bit disappointed with it because IMO the dress would have been better if it was darker in colour. But then again, I’m not the bloody author/designer, so what do I know? George’s shirt looks good for exhibition piece but is too over the top for my taste so I don’t think I’ll touch it with a ten foot pole. There is also a Blue Rose that Yukari wears in the fashion show being sold for 8,925 Yen (around $90). Last but not least, the butterfly earring that George gave to Yukari retails for around 39,900 Yen ($400). For visitors who just want less extravagant items to purchase, there are Happy Berry statue, notebooks, clear plastic files, etc. I’m not really a Parakiss fan so I decided to save my money for more Honey and Clover items.

Anyway, sorry for the lousy photographs. Just like anywhere else in Japan (except outside temple areas), I’m not sure if I’m allowed to take photograph. But there was no forbidden sign so I was in a hurry to take as many photographs as possible before the store attendant flashes the ‘Batsu’ (X) sign. After taking those photos, I moved on since I did need to buy a coat. As I said before, Venus Fort itself is basically a place for anyone who intends on shopping for clothes. So it was kind of lucky that I managed to get one quite easily before moving on to take some more photograph. There is this rather nice Venus statue/water fountain in the middle of the shop. Almost every single tourist that stumbled upon the area was busy taking pictures so it was hard to take a good angle. It doesn’t help that I’m not a professional either to begin with.

Venus statueVenus statueVenus statue
Exhibition AreaVenus fort shopping mallFor pregnant women, the elderly, and alien

Eventually I’ve had enough of everything and decided to go back to my hostel especially since I already promised a friend to meet later on that night. On my way back, I decided to take the subway and realizes that the special seating area (where pregnant women, the disabled, and the elderly normally sit) is actually marked with a sign that looks like an Alien’s head. Okay, it’s actually a picture of a chair but for a second I thought it’s some kind of subliminal messages that it’s also special area for Gaijin. :P Anyway, I think I’ll talk about food on my next post since I realized that I have some eateries in Tokyo that I visited quite often. Maybe after that I’ll talk more about Akihabara and anime shops.


Hachikuro Cafe + Odaiba

Hachikuro Mascot
Hachikuro merchandiseHagu statue

Anyone who read Memento on a regular basis will know that I really like an anime series titled Honey and Clover. The series was one of the most popular series in Japan last year. For some reason, the popularity propels some people to create a cafe called, Hachikuro cafe. The cafe is located in Odaiba, in order to get to Odaiba, you can either take the JR Yamanote line or the Tokyo Metro’s Ginza line to Shimbashi station. From this station, you can take the Yurikamome Monorail which will drop you at Odaiba Koen. After this, walk towards a building called Decks. The building consists of cafes and shops and is divided into several areas. If you go all the way here with the intention of finding the Hachikuro cafe, you need to go the the 3rd Floor of an area called ‘Island Mall’. Near its entrance, you’ll find the cafe.

The first thing that I noticed is that this is a very small cafe which doesn’t have that many chairs/tables in it. After I took some pictures, I approached the souvenir sections. There are several goods on sale here but unfortunately I am not interested in most of them because they are the kinds of things that I don’t collect (stuffed animals, shot glass, mug, cell phone straps, etc). I did buy some clear files. I’ll try to scan them and post the picture on Memento once I go back home. The cafe is decorated with pictures of the characters (with signatures from the voice actors) and a big Hagu statue. There’s also a big stuffed animal in the form of Hachikuro mascot placed on the entrance of the shop so you can’t possibly miss the shop when you enter the ‘Island Mall’ area.

Inside the cafeFrom outsideMessage from Yuki
Hachikuro cafeRainbow bridgeMcDonald's Ebi burger

Unfortunately it seems the menu on the cafe has changed from the first time it was opened. I remember that it used to have a much more fun and diverse menu. Nowadays, however, the cafe only serves drinks and snacks. *sigh* I was so looking to have that blue-cheese/honey Pizza. Oh well. I ended up only ordering the lemonade since I wasn’t that hungry back then. The lemonade was pretty good although it is rather pricey for a lemonade (around 350 Yen). Since there’s nothing else to see inside the cafe, I decided to walk around the building and after a few minutes, decided to get out of it. There seems to be an interesting area on the top floor that tries to imitate the back alley of Hong Kong inside a shopping mall. I was too tired to do further investigation, however, so I didn’t bother to take any picture. Maybe next time.

Having said that, it’d be silly to come all this way just to see the Cafe. Odaiba itself is a landmark place. From the Decks’s observatory area, you can clearly see the Rainbow Bridge. Yes, this is the bridge where Seishirou and Subaru from X TV staged their final fight against one another. Since I took the monorail, I actually went through the bridge. The view was really good although I’ll bet it’s even better at night. If I have time, I think I’ll try to go again during night time. There is actually a Ferris Wheel nearby in Venus Fort. I don’t think this is the one that the gang from Hachikuro went to. However, I think Mayama mentioned about it in the series. Anyway, eventually I got hungry and I decide to have McDonald’s for a change. Besides, McDonald’s in Japan tends to be better than the ones in other countries.

Fuji TelevisionVenus Fort's Ferris Wheel
The view from the escalatorYour Shounen Jump friends

True enough, I actually managed to have a rather decent burger here. It’s a new one they introduced for the season called Ebi-burger. It’s a burger filled with prawns, topped with some kind of thousand island sauce. This and Teriyaki Burger has to be some of the better McDonald’s burgers, I’ve tasted. After lunch, I decided to head towards the Fuji Television Building, thinking that they may have some good merchandise there. The building itself looks really good. There is some kind of tower which you can go up to (after paying 500 Yen) if you want to take a good look at Tokyo’s Metropolitan area from a high place. I personally think it’s a waste of money though so unless you’re that desperate to see it, I suggest that you save your Yen to buy other things.

After the tower, I decided to go to Fuji TV’s shop, which I kind of hoped will sell either Hachikuro or Nodame Cantabile merchandises. Unfortunately, the shop doesn’t seem to have that many merchandise for Noitamina series or for that matter, the more mature series aired on Fuji TV. I did, however, see many One Piece and Dragonball merchandise so if you like both series, you’re in luck. There’s also some kind of exhibition on the new live-action Saiyuki starring Katori Shingo. Anyway, since there isn’t that many things to see inside the building, I decided to go to Venus Fort, where apparently Paradise Kiss shop is opened. That, however, will have to wait until the next post since I have to go now.


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