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AKIBA CULTURES THEATER Japanese Idols

Hi! I’m Tracy, and I love Japanese idols!

In Japan, irrespective of age or sex, people love Japanese idols who “give dream and hope to fans.” So if you have a chance to come to Japan, remember to spend some time and get to know more about the “idol culture” here!

 

Top Japanese Idols at the AKB48 Theater

AKB48 theater(in) Japanese Idols

AKB48 is the most famous group of Japanese idols and is one of the highest-earning musical performing groups in Japan. The group is formed with its own theater and a concept of “idols you can meet”, so fans can always see them live in their own theater and at “handshake events.” If you want to watch high-quality performance, you should definitely pay a visit to the AKB48 Theater!

At the AKB48 Theater, you can see cute and sweet girls singing and dancing in a small area. Imagine—the “National Idol” is performing in front of you only a short distance away! And you don’t have to worry if you cannot get the show ticket, because the live show will be broadcast on the screens outside the theater. Do not forget to check the live schedule before you go!

AKB48 theater(out) Japanese Idol

AKB48 Theater Information

Website (English) ||| Facebook (Japanese) ||| Instagram ||| Youtube

Nearest Station: 5-minute walk from Akihabara JR Station (Electric Town exit), 8F of Don Quijote Akihabara (click on the Google Map below for walking directions)

Hours of Operation: Weekdays 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Sat-Sun-Holidays 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Estimated Price for Show: ¥3,100(male), ¥2,100(female) *by random lottery, pre-registration is necessary

 

AKB48 CAFE & SHOP

Before going to join the Japanese idols at AKB48 live, you can come here to enjoy a meal in an “AKB48 world.” The original menu here is based on the favorite foods of top AKB48 members with toppings of characters designed by themselves.

AKB48 cafe-food Japanese idols

There are monitors in the cafe which are always playing music videos of AKB48, so you can enjoy your meal while listening to their songs! The decorations here are also full of AKB48 style and signatures of members are everywhere in the cafe.

AKB48 cafe japanese idols

If you became a fan of AKB48 after that, you can just go to the official shop near the cafe to buy souvenirs. Stationery, T-shirts, key chains—there are all kinds of items here which you may want! Photos or names of members are printed on the goods, so you have a chance to bring a souvenir from your favorite Japanese idols home!

AKB48 CAFE&SHOP Information

Website (English) ||| Twitter (via Google Translate) ||| Online shop (English)

Nearest Station: Right next to the Akihabara JR Station (Electric Town exit) (click on the Google Map below for walking directions)

Hours of Operation (Cafe): Monday – Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Friday & days before holidays 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 am – 11:00 pm, Sun-Holidays 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Hours of Operation (Shop): Weekdays & days before public holidays 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Sat-Sun-Holidays 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

 

Meet Underground Japanese Idols

After the boom of “AKB48,” Japanese girls started joining different groups to give performances at the Japanese Idol headquarters of the world, Akihabara! Since most of them have yet to make a debut with a group, they can only give performances in underground venues, so they are called “Underground Idols.” As of this writing there are thousands of underground idols giving performances in different live houses of Akihabara. Here are the five best Underground Japanese Idol Live Houses!

 

AKIBA CULTURES THEATER

AKIBA CULTURES THEATER Japanese Idols

Being the biggest permanent theater in Akihabara, there are performances given by different Japanese idols everyday. Unlike the original type of theater, audience in AKIBA CULTURES THEATER keep sitting while watching the live. Come here to experience a new type of live performance!

AKIBA CULTURES THEATER Information

Website (via Google Translate) ||| Twitter Performance Information (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: 4-minute walk from Akihabara JR Station (Electric Town exit); B1F of AKIBA CULTURES ZONE (click on the Google Map for walking directions)

Hours of Operation: Weekdays 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., Sat-Sun-Holidays 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Estimated Price for Show: ¥2,000 – ¥4,500 *One ¥500 drink will also be charged

 

Dear Stage

There are 3 floors for the Dear Stage. You can watch performances on the 1st floor, relax in the maid cafe on 2nd floor, and enjoy an alcoholic drink or two in the bar on the 3rd floor. Dear Stage is also the headquarters for the popular idol group Dempagumi.inc (でんぱ組.inc).

Dear Stage Japanese Idols

Dear Stage Information

Website (via Google Translate) ||| Twitter (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: 5-minute walk from Akihabara JR Station (Electric Town exit) (click on the Google Map for walking directions)

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 6:00 p.m. – 10:50 p.m., Sat-Sun-Holidays 5:00 p.m. – 10:50 p.m.

Estimated Price for Show: ¥1,000 – *Only drink fee is charged, and “MyDearStage” membership registration (free) is required to enter the 2F and 3F.

 

P.A.R.M.S

P.A.R.M.S Japanese Idols

As the permanent theater of the production company “Alice Project,” you can meet the upcoming idol group “Kamenjoshi (Girls with masks)” here. Curious about their faces? Come here to join the 3:00 p.m. free live shows on Saturday, Sunday and holidays!

P.A.R.M.S Information

Website (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: 3-minute walk from Akihabara JR Station (Electric Town exit),; 7F of PASELA RESORTS (click on the Google Map for walking directions)

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 5:30 p.m. – 19:05 p.m. & 8:00 p.m. – 9:35 p.m., Sat-Sun-Holidays 10:30 p.m.  – 13:40 p.m. & 14:45 p.m. – 16:10 p.m. & 6:00 p.m. – 8:50 p.m.

Estimated Price for Show: ¥2,500 (pre-registered),¥3,000 (walk-up) *¥1,500 “Food & Drink Ticket” is included, plus one ¥500 drink will be charged

 

TwinBox AKIHABARA

TwinBox AKIHABARA Japanese Idols

Being a live house locating in the Akihabara Electric Town, TwinBox is equipped with high-quality monitors and audio equipment. They also occasionally have 500 yen live shows!

TwinBox AKIHABARA Information

Website (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: 6-minute walk from Akihabara JR Station (Electric Town exit); B1F of Box’R AKIBA Building (click on the Google Map for walking directions)

Hours of Operation: Depending on the performance time

Estimated Price for Show: ¥1,500 – ¥3,000 *One drink will be charged

 

KamiTower

KamiTower Japanese Idols

The KamiTower is full of amusement. From “Kami Space” on the 3rd floor with near-daily performances to the maid cafe to the game center, you could probably spend a whole day in the KamiTower!

KamiTower Information

Website (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: 2-minute walk from Akihabara JR Station (Electric Town exit); 3F of KamiTower (The entrance is in the right hand side of the game center) (click on the Google Map for walking directions)

Hours of Operation: Depending on the performance time

Estimated Price for Show: ¥1,000 – *One drink may be charged

So you can see that there are many places where you can go to see Japanese idols, and it’s not hard to do! You should go and see, it’s lot’s of fun!

February 1, 2017 0 comment
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Cure Maid Cafe

When people think of Akihabara, the first things that come to mind are typically anime and maid cafes. Akiba maid cafes are central to the super “moe moe” reputation of this part of Tokyo, and draws large number of tourists and Japanese alike. However, don’t assume all maid cafes are the same. Akiba maid cafes offer a variety of different experiences to their customers. Some, for instance, are focused on creating a surreal world of masters and servants, accompanied by extravagant light shows and overpriced photos with the maids. You’d be surprised to know however that it is possible to have a maid cafe experience that is a little less fetishized but is still uniquely Akihabaran.  If being pampered with the use of hyper-polite Japanese is enough for you, then go to Cure Maid Cafe, one of the first maid cafes established in Akihabara.

Cure Maid Cafe

Although Cure Maid Cafe is hidden away on the 6th floor of a building otherwise filled with character goods, it is only a short walk off of the main Chuo-dori close to Suehirocho Station. Upon entering the cafe, there is a noticeable difference from the maids in other establishments. Instead of being assaulted with overwhelming attention and cuteness as you might find in other cafes, these girls are much more demure and pleasantly quiet. They wear a Victorian style maid uniform, which consists of a floor length dress with long sleeves and a high necked collar, complete with an apron. This lends a more sophisticated atmosphere to the cafe as a whole. If you are looking to be called “master,” you will not find that here. There is no cover charge for a table like in other maid cafes, but you are still prohibited from taking photos of the maids or the cafe itself.

The food in this cafe is Japanese with a European flair. The menu often changes with the seasons along with weekly specials, but usual dishes like pork cutlets with spaghetti or rice and a variety of other light but hearty meals are always available. Their selection of desserts is varied and includes items like an Earl Grey chiffon cake and strawberry waffles. For drinks, you can refresh yourself with anything from iced tea to a glass of wine.

Although you are not able to purchase a photo with the maids, you are able to buy several different souvenirs to commemorate your time at this one-of-a-kind maid cafe. Take home a Cure Maid Cafe tea cup and saucer or maybe a tiny porcelain doll that is dressed to look like the actual maids in the cafe.

If you want to go to a Japanese maid cafe during your time in Akihabara but are hesitant about places that seem a bit “sleazy,” you will get the perfect balance of attention from girls dressed as French maids and decent dining at one of the original maid cafes, Cure Maid Cafe.

For more ideas on things to do in Akihabara, visit our articles Akihabara 101: Sorting through the Madness and 36 Hours in Tow: Kids Edition. If you’d like to check out some more weird restaurants in Tokyo, try reading Top 10 Themed Cafes and Restaurants in Tokyo.

Not sure about the Cure Maid Cafe? You could try Maid Cafe Maidreamin, also in Akihabara. Let Voyagin help you book your appointment!

Cure Maid Cafe Information

Nearest Station: 2-minute walk from Suehirocho Station (Ginza line)


Hours of Operation: Mon-Thur 11:00AM-8:00PM
Fri-Sat 11:00AM-10:00PM
Sun 11:00AM-7:00PM
“Why Go?”: If you want to get a maid cafe experience in Akihabara that is a bit more toned down than what you expect in the area.
Click on one of the tags below to explore other shopping options in Tokyo–

June 20, 2016 0 comment
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Ebisu Garden Place Observation Deck, Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is worth way more than 36 hours of your time. Tokyo is such a massive sprawling beast of a metropolis that you could never see the many facets of the city in such a short time. That said, 36 hours of Tokyo is better than no hours of Tokyo, and if you only have a bit of time to spare, we’ll do our best to show you Tokyo at its best.

For lodging, I suggest AirBnB as a way to rent a space because it is less hotel and more apartment. Another idea is the capsule hotel, which is not for the claustrophobic. Yet another adventurous idea is getting an overnight comic book or Internet café room. All of these have options in the Shibuya area, so I suggest starting there. Bring your energy because you’ll need it to run all over Tokyo.

Day 1 – Embrace the Touristy Side of Tokyo

9:00 a.m. Shibuya

For many of the AirBnB visitors, staying near Shibuya area means you will need to ride into Shibuya from nearby stations like Sangenjaya Station, Shimokitazawa Station, or Ebisu Station. Trains are known for being absolutely insane during morning and evening rush hour when workers are heading in and out of work.  Find a safe corner to watch the insanity unfold with a coffee and a bagel.

While in Shibuya it is practically a requirement to check out the famous scramble crosswalk and Hachiko Square. Tokyu plaza is right next to it with some cute shops to wander as well. Once you have had your fill and the station begins to be less of a madhouse, head into the station proper. It is totally worth the trouble to pay the 500 yen for a PASMO or Suica train card because you can repeatedly charge it and skip the trouble of micromanaging your fare. With your IC card pass, take the JR Yamanote line (look for green JR signs) and head to Harajuku, one stop away.

10:00 a.m. Harajuku/Meijinjingunmae

Harajuku is well known for Takeshita Street, the hub connecting Harajuku Station to the Omotesando area. Takeshita Street is full of youthful energy and shops with goods ranging from crazy costumes to female fashion styles like girlish skirts and blouses all the way to goth and punk attire.

As you leave Harajuku and enter Omotesando, the area gets more sophisticated glam. Omotesando has one of my favorite souvenir shops in all of Tokyo called Oriental Bazaar which is well worth a look for gifts. You can either backtrack to Harajuku to ride two stops on the Yamanote line to Shinjuku Station, or you can head into Meiji-jingumae Station to ride the Fukutoshin line up to Shinjuku-sanchome Station. By then, you probably will be getting hungry and can grab lunch.

12:00pm Bask in the touristy glow of Shinjuku

Shinjuku station is the busiest station in the world so can be quite difficult to navigate, but is a great place to people-watch as you try and find your way around to the correct exit. Shinjuku’s East End is my preferred neighborhood in Shinjuku because unlike West Shinjuku, where the government buildings are, East Shinjuku is more a retail area where you can hang out. Catch lunch in one of the many department stores or street level shops. As a personal suggestion, Korean food in Lumine EST is pretty tasty and easy to access on the upper floors of the department store.  Save room though because I definitely have a suggestion for dessert. One of the latest Tokyo crazes for sweets is located right at Shinjuku East End. It is the Croissant Taiyaki. Cronuts (croissant donuts) have nothing on this, I promise you. If you don’t like traditional red bean paste filling, try the custard or a seasonal flavor. If you like sweets, your stomach will thank me.

But what you’ll really thank us for is directing you to the Robot Restaurant, which is one of the craziest dinner shows you will ever experience. Even better, our good friends at Voyagin can get you a discount on your reservation!

After getting your Taiyaki, say goodbye to Shinjuku. From here I would suggest taking the Sobu line to Akihabara Station. This train line cuts across the Yamanote loop. 

2:30 p.m. Nerd out like a boss in Akihabara

Akihabara is called Electric Town, and rightfully so since it is a playground for tech-minded people. It is also a highly unique area of Tokyo that has a different feel from other parts of the city. Arcades line the main streets and girls dressed in frilly uniforms call out to passersby to visit their maid cafes. Play a few arcade games, grab some new headphones, or discover what maid/butler cafes are all about.

Akihabara Stores, Akihabara, Tokyo

Optional: If you take one look at Akihabara area and pale at the idea of spending time here, take the Shinjuku line to nearby Jimbocho Station. A book lover’s paradise, the area contains unique bookshops that will delight a different sort of traveler from Akihabara’s tech and anime fans.

An even better option is putting on a costume, renting a Go Kart, and riding around Akihabara to live out your favorite video game fantasy! C’mon, you know you want to. Let our friends at Voyagin help you book your rental!

Spend a bit of time taking in the sights and emptying your wallet before hopping back onto the Yamanote line again to Tokyo Station.

5:00 p.m. Tokyo and Meguro Station combo

Tokyo Station is a thing to behold. It is a massive complex of train lines all meeting near the city centre, where you can go to any other part of Japan via the Shinkansen bullet-trains. Even if you do not step outside of the station, it will truly amaze you to see all the stores and eateries in the sprawling underground hub. If you do decide to head out of the station, make sure to take a look at the newly renovated Tokyo Station—what’s old is new again because the station is modeled to look as it did a hundred years ago.

If you have had your fill of Tokyo Station and have time to spare, go back on the Yamanote line to head to the next destination, Meguro Station. The inside of Meguro Station is connected to shopping centers Arte1 and Arte2. Arte2 has a fun and well-known conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Eating raw fish and rice is an adventure for the new inductee if there ever was one. If raw fish isn’t your thing, Arte 2 also has a fusion restaurant called Yuuan that has heated food.

After your belly is full of raw fish or cooked eats, get back on Yamanote to go one train stop to Ebisu Station.

8:00 p.m. Get your drink on in Ebisu

Yebisu Garden Place Tower can be ridden to the upper floors to sneak a peek of the city skyline without the long lines or payment like Skytree and Tokyo Tower.

Ebisu

There are also restaurants upstairs if you decided to skip Meguro Station. The Ebisu area has plenty of bars for an after-dinner drink, and I heartily suggest Bar Martha, Red Dragon, or Buri. Bar Martha is one part jazz bar, one part Japanese whisky fan, and one part mixology. The dim, relaxing atmosphere will be a nice place to kick back after running all over the city, and the tasty snack jars will keep you from needing a midnight snack. Red Dragon is a Japanese take on a pub, with plenty of beer types to keep you going if you prefer a more excitable location. If you are looking for something a little more club and a little less straight up bar, check out Buri. It has a full bar, but it is well known for its semi-frozen one-cup sake. It is also a place where a lot of hookups happen, if that is your sort of thing.

Once you are done with your evening bar hop, call it a night and head back to your accommodations. Be warned, Tokyo does not have all night trains and buses so depending on time you might have to get a cab.

Day 2—The Triangle Experience

8:00 a.m. Breakfast in Shibuya

A bright and early morning awaits your fast-paced tour of Tokyo, especially if you’re jet lagged. Fight fire with fire by heading to your nearest Matsuya for breakfast. They have breakfast plates, but I would suggest the beef bowl with egg on top. It comes with miso soup and will help nurse any lingering hangovers you might be struggling with. Double dare you to try it with a side of natto!

9:00 a.m. Corner 1: Hipster delights in Nakameguro

Today is a bit slower pace. Take the Tokyu Toyoko line to Nakameguro Station and head out of the city center into a slightly more mellow area using what trains call the triangle ticket. Nakameguro Station’s surrounding area was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown as a hipster neighborhood. The Meguro River cuts across the station, making it an ideal place for cute cafés and small shops to line the tiny street and there are plenty of places to snack, buy gifts, and take photos.

10:30 a.m. European influence in corner 2: Jiyugaoka

Once you have had your fill of Nakameguro’s charm, take the Toyoko line further out of the city center by four stops to Jiyugaoka Station where you can mill about a very particularly styled shopping area and eat lunch. This area is known for being inspired by French culture and has plenty of places to try. I would suggest the taco rice for lunch at the Okinawan eatery Taiyou Shokudou. After you have wandered around to your satisfaction, get on the Tokyo Oimachi line over to Todoroki Station.

1:00 p.m. Escape the city without stepping out of Tokyo at Todoroki Valley

Todoroki Station is a way to escape the city without ever leaving it. Truly the definition of suburb, this adorable neighborhood is not a shopping hub like previous locations. Instead, head into Todoroki Valley to experience another, greener side of Japan. Todoroki Valley is amazing. Others have gone so far as to call it a godsend. After all the experience of the city, the trees and quiet sounds of water flowing downstream is a relief. Walking along the river from the station leads to a set of stairs that go up to the temple Fudoson where you can pay your respects, enjoy the view of the waterfall, or relax at the seated cliffside view. Backtrack to the station and re-board the Omiya line for Futakotamagawa Station.

3:00 p.m. Futakotamagawa: Last corner of the triangle

Futakotamagawa Station is based along the Tamagawa River. The side you are on is the Tokyo Metropolitan area and the other side is Kanagawa prefecture. It is worthwhile to walk a bit out of the area first (approximately 20 minutes) or to cab it to the Okamoto Park Old Farmhouse Garden. The park contains an old thatch roof farmhouse where you can see Japanese architecture and culture from the late Edo period (1860s), and it feels like you are stepping out of time. It is open until 4:30 p.m. and closed on Mondays, so mind your timing to ensure you get to see the house and surrounding area. One of the impressive parts of the area is how seamlessly it blends old and new Tokyo together as new shopping malls exist alongside older establishments. Any last minute shopping you need done can be taken care of at the mall surrounding the station or once you get to your airport. 

Ebisu Garden Place Tower, Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan

For more ideas on how to spend a short stay in Tokyo, visit 36 Hours in Tokyo: Kids in Tow.

June 13, 2016 0 comment
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Gundam Cafe, Odaiba, Tokyo

Listen man, I know your secret.

How? Because it’s not really a secret. I have a kid too. And I love the little guy, just like you love your little guy or girl. But we all know that some kid activities are excruciating. Yes, it’s for their development, bless their dear little hearts. So we go to dance recitals and school plays and soccer games that look like a greased pig chase.

Which is ok, when you’re home. You can sit on the sidelines and wave in between emails, or chitchat with the other parents. And when someone finally catches that greased pig, you can escape back to the homestead and relax in familiar surroundings.

Well, that’s not what’s going to happen here. Maybe the Big Meeting is over early; maybe you’re on vacation or an extended layover. Whatever the reason, you are in one of the most exciting cities in the world with your spouse and your 2.3 children. You’re in Tokyo, darn it, and you’re going to do something fun. Together, as a family! And you are going to do something that you cannot readily do back home. No, Mom and Dad (or however you organize yourselves), there’s not going to be any waving from the sidelines on this trip. Put on your walking shoes, we’re gonna do Tokyo!

 

WHO WANTS BREAKFAST?

Who wants breakfast? You want what? A Japanese breakfast?

No. No you don’t. Trust me on this one. Your kids are thinking “Anime-Os” with a Giant Robot Prize inside the box, but that’s not what they are going to get. A Japanese-style breakfast comes with things like baked fish, rice, pickles, soup, and other assorted unidentifiables. I’m pretty open-minded about what I eat, but fish and pickles is too much culture for that early in the morning.

For a Western-style breakfast, your hotel will be the most convenient spot. But if you must go somewhere, you can try Anna Miller’s in Shinagawa (visible across the street from the Takanawa exit; open daily 0730-0300) or the Terrace at the Westin Hotel in Mita (closest train station is Ebisu on the Yamanote line, and you’ll have to take a taxi from there; breakfast 0630-1030 daily).

But we’re traveling with kids here, and we all know how this goes. You pay a wad of cash for the buffet, and all the kid will eat is a single forkful of eggs and a half-bowl of cereal. Past experience tells you that he or she will be hungry in half an hour, but the little ankle biter adamantly refuses to eat anything else. Until, of course, you encounter the first McDonald’s after you leave the restaurant, at which point they begin howling about how hungry they are. Thus, the big fight begins.

If you suspect this is about to happen to you, avoid the stress and go to a bakery. They are everywhere in Japan—in department stores, in front of train stations, and in their own little shops on the street. Japanese bakeries have breads, donuts, croissants, pastries, and all kinds of other baked breakfast goods. Some of them even have coffee, mom and dad! And even if the kids don’t want all of whatever they get, you can put it in the bag and save it for later. Or eat it yourself, which is my recommended solution.

 

AKIHABARA

Akihabara Stores, Akihabara, Tokyo

This is where your nerd children want to go. If they’re older, coming here is probably the only reason they will risk being seen together with their parents in the first place. Akihabara is on the Yamanote line, is very easy to get to, and is foreigner-friendly.

If you are into anime and video games, you will be in heaven. Akihabara is the place where good nerds go when they die. Shops selling toys, figurines, video game paraphenalia, t-shirts, and related items are located here. There is no one best place to shop, so browse everywhere! Half the fun is souvenir-hunting through the bins and the little shops. The back streets are also a treasure trove of oddities, full of ¥100 bottle holders for your backpack, keychain bubble-wrap popping simulators, and possibly your very own camera drone. It’s worth a look.

Akihabara duty free shopping, Akihabara, Tokyo

Thanks to the huge duty-free shops, souvenirs of other kinds are also available. Everything from ninja t-shirts to fridge magnets all the way up to cameras and household appliances, the duty-free shops have them here. English-speaking staff are available at all locations to answer your questions. If you must have an appliance, buy it here. Items from the duty-free stores are adapted to work in your country of origin, which likely has different voltage/amperage requirements than Japan. This may not be the case if you make a last-minute stop at a department store before getting on the plane to go home. And many of the duty-free shops deliver to hotels!

Then there’s Don Quioxte. I have no idea what this store’s connection is to the literary figure, but it is a must-see. The best way to describe this place is as a cross between Wal-Mart and Spencer’s Gifts. It has the mundane (snacks, drinks), the strange (poo-shaped hats, Engrish-printed clothing), to the outright bizarre (boob pillows, maid outfits). The top floor is the AKB48 theater, where you can watch members of the famous all-girl pop band perform (for tickets, go to http://www.akb48.co.jp/english/overseas/index.html).

Don Quijote, Akihabara, Tokyo

Arcades are also a big part of Akihabara. They may be as common as dinosaur stampedes where you’re from, but Japan’s arcades know what they are up against–few games here are something you could get on a console at home. UFO Crane games, a taiko drumming game, Puzzles and Dragons Battle Tactics (which is apparently a thing), multitudes of fighting games, and head-to-head Gundam battle arenas were the highlights of my visit. Go inside and check out the card game/video game hybrids so you can see what your grandkids will be wanting for Christmas in 2040. Drop a few coins in the newest gee-whiz game or play a few of the classics. What kid doesn’t want to tell his friends at school that he played video games in an actual Japanese arcade?

Here’s another fun thing to do at the Sega arcades. The bathrooms have “peeing games” at the urinals (sorry ladies, I have no idea what’s in your powder room–couches and “Gone With the Wind” on continuous loop?). The screen is over the urinal, and to play you just step right up, no coins needed. Walk around, load up on liquids, then go into the arcade and do your business. I played one with a full bladder and ended up filling four and a half cans of pee. I don’t even know what that means or why you should be impressed, but there it is.

There are places to eat once you get hungry, but Akihabara is a grab-and-go kind of place. For fine dining, look elsewhere. If you are not planning to go to Odaiba (see below), there is a Gundam Cafe here (outside the Akihabara JR Station Atre1 Gate), where you can get lunch and some souvenirs. The Gundam Cafe is right next to the AKB48 Cafe, if you are more into the girl band than you are into giant robots. There are several coffee cafes in the area that offer sandwiches, and of course, two area McDonald’s for your picky eaters.

CAUTION NOTE #1: If you want to purchase anime, video games, or other electronic material, make sure that they will be compatible with the media systems you have back home. The small store owners will tell you, but it might be safer to buy that sort of material at one of the many duty-free shops in the area.

CAUTION NOTE #2: Ok, I know you’ve heard of it, so here it is: anime porn. Keep the kids away from anyplace that is bright pink, has the “No Under 18” sign, or has artwork of improbably-proportioned anime models over or around the door. The shops that sell these kinds of items aren’t ubiquitous and are usually subtle in their sidewalk advertising, but you could encounter them. Forewarned is forearmed.

CAUTION NOTE #3: “Not smoking indoors” is not a thing that has caught on in Japan yet, and arcades are particularly heinous. Check the floor signs to see if smoking is allowed on that floor. If your kids are particularly sensitive to smoke, going into an arcade that allows smoking may not be a good idea. If they can take it, have fun, but it’s always a good idea to limit your exposure to secondhand smoke.

 

ODAIBA

I am a married man. Women want to shop. Therefore, it is inevitable that I (or maybe you) will get dragged on a shopping trip. It’s a cliche for a reason. Are you done not laughing? Good. Let’s continue.

It will do no good to explain to your significant other that (beyond the obvious regional variations) they have the same stuff at Japanese malls that they do in the malls where you come from. The same stores, even. That just makes her mad and even more determined to get her retail therapy on. But I am here to help! With a little mental judo, convince your one-and-only that Odaiba is the place to go for all of her shopping needs. That way, you and the kids can do something besides drag yourselves through the same jeans store you have back at your local mall.

GETTING THERE

At Osaki station (on the Yamanote line), change to the Rinkai line (dark blue; get on the train going towards Shin-kiba). Eleven minutes and ¥330 later, you will be at the Tokyo Teleport Station, in the middle of the Odaiba shopping area (what, you don’t have teleport stations in whatever backwater you’re squatting in? You poor dears). From here, you can walk or taxi to any number of malls. Here are the highlights–

AQUA CITY

Ramen restaurants, Odaiba, Tokyo

What? You’re going to Japan, and you are going to eat at McDonald’s?!?!? I think not. The Me-Matsuri Food Court on the fifth floor of the Aqua City Mall specializes in ramen and is easily accessible to English speakers. There are actually several different styles of ramen, all reasonably priced (¥600-¥1100, depending on what you get). All menus are in English–just choose, point, and pay. If the weather is nice, you can even sit outside and get a view of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower. I remarked that I saw a blue shell fly across the bridge to knock out the leader; my son rolled his eyes. No one likes the blue shell. (open 1100-2300).

For the picky eaters, there are a couple of American fast-food places in the food court on the first floor. But maybe you can convince them to try Kua’aina Hawaiian Burger place (same food court) or the Longboard Cafe on the third floor. It’s worth a shot.

Sony Explora, Odaia Tokyo

After lunch, you can occupy the time of younger children at the Sony ExploraScience Museum. Obviously, the “science” focuses on Sony products, but the interactive exhibits are a lot of fun and it’s a neat thing to do for an hour or two. My son and I enjoyed the voice pitch-switcher and the motion-capture puppet screen (I got a robot to dance the Robot!). Be sure to compete in the electronic Smile rankings and try to get the best smile of the day! (5th floor, open 1100-1900; Adults ¥500, Children ages 3-15 ¥300, under 3 years old free).

Sony Explora, Odaiba, Tokyo

DECKS TOKYO BEACH SHOPPING MALL

Alright, Lego fans, here’s your spot. Decks Tokyo Beach Shopping Mall is right next to Aqua City. And inside on the third floor is Tokyo’s Legoland Discovery Center! Even if you’ve been to one of the other Legoland theme parks, you can come here to see Japan-specific brick sculptures, like a Lego sumo match, or a room-sized model of Tokyo. Stop in the shop; even though the Lego is waaaay more expensive where you are from, you can snag a ¥350 minifigure from the current collector’s edition set, or a ¥700 keychain of your favorite Lego character. Singing an awesome song is optional, but if you forgot the words, don’t worry–it’s playing constantly while you’re in the store. I’m sure the clerks love that. (open 1000-2000 on weekdays , 1000-2100 on weekends; admission for all ages is ¥2200 walk-up)

Legoland, Odaiba, Tokyo

Decks also has a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, so older children who may not Lego-inclined can go inside and have their picture taken with their favorite celebrity. (Open daily 1000-1900; Adults ¥2000, Children ages 3-15 ¥1500, discounts available online.

If you want to see both a Lego Tokyo Tower and a wax Angelina Jolie, you can get a discount on a combo ticket pack.

DIVER CITY TOKYO

This mall is a little farther away than the other two, but don’t worry; you can see it from Aqua City or Decks. It also gives you time to spin a tale. This one requires a little bit of prep.

Seed this dad joke with a few episodes of the Gundam anime series in the months before you come to Japan. You can find it on your Netflix. Before you get to Diver City, make sure the kids know that you flew a Gundam and had all sorts of interstellar adventures before settling down and becoming their dad. “Yep, all that’s over now,” you might say. “I parked the old girl around here somewhere before I walked away. I wonder if it’s still here…”

Gundam Statue, Odaiba, Tokyo

Then you take them behind Diver’s City, and look! Dad’s old Gundam is still here! The 18-meter tall attraction is constantly surrounded by people taking pictures, and surely no one would mind helping out the former pilot by taking a picture of him with his kids in front of his old rig. Afterwards you can stop by the nearby Gundam Cafe and pick up a souvenir or two (I recommend a coffee cup). There is a Gundam Front trailer outside near the Gundam, where you can pick up a model if you feel inclined.

Gundam Cafe, Odaiba, Tokyo

On the seventh floor is the gold mine–there is a Round1 Stadium and the Gundam Front Tokyo, right next to each other!

The Gundam Front Tokyo contains a museum of Gundam figures (free to enter), a shop, and a clothing store. You can also visit the inner areas and see the art museum and some awesome dioramas (open daily 1000-2000, Adults ¥1200, Children ages 3-15 ¥1000, you can buy in advance for ¥200 off)

Round1 Stadium is an indoor amusement park/recreational facility. You and your kids can play some indoor basketball, try a batting cage, go roller skating, and even ride a mechanical bull. There are video games all over the place, including a four-player Pac-Man machine and a strange game in which the objective is to do as much damage as possible by rage-flipping a table. There is a rest area with massage chairs (great for worn-out adults) and a classic video game arcade with hits from the 80s and 90s. The pricing scheme for all of this entertainment is rather bizarre (if you can make heads or tails of it, you are a better man than I), but the mall has an interpreter phone service you can use to figure it all out. As you can see from the price list, it can get expensive, but I never had a bad time there. Also, the odd hours mean that if you are suffering from jet lag at a nearby hotel, you can sneak out and get in a few rounds on the mechanical bull. (Open 7 days a week. Monday – Thursday 1000-0600 the next day; Fridays and public holidays 1000-all day; Saturday 24 hours; Sundays and holidays open until 0600 the next morning. The facility will not allow children aged 15 and under in after 1800 or 16-18 year olds after 2200).

Have a little extra time to spend in Odaiba? Check out our photo tour of Odaiba for some more ideas on things to do. 

For  more tips on traveling in Tokyo with kids, visit our article Getting Around Tokyo with the Family.

36 Hours in Tokyo: Touristy/Off the Beaten Path Mix has even more ideas for you!

June 13, 2016 0 comment
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Robot Restaurant Shinjuku

Part of the thrill of visiting Tokyo is experiencing all of the delightfully strange things that make the city unique. And the biggest thrill is to check out some of the awesome theme restaurants in Tokyo. Here are the top picks from Enablejapan.com for theme restaurants and cafes in Tokyo.

Tokyo Theme Restaurants : Cat Cafes

Although not strictly in the “theme restaurants” genre, cat-lovers from around the world always ask us about cat cafes. There are several cat cafes in Tokyo where you pay to enjoy the company of cats. Most have an entrance fee or require you to buy food and drinks, but this doesn’t bother you, right? After all, you’re there to meet the kitties! There are lots of cats around who want to play or be stroked. For more information, visit our top 15 recommendations for Tokyo cat cafes or watch Part II of our Tokyo Animal Cafe video series featuring Cafe Neko JaLaLa.

Cure Maid Café

Cure Maid Cafe Theme Restaurants

Maid cafes are a uniquely-Japanese thing, and can be off-putting for visitors with conventional tastes. Given their propensity for the cutsey-poo dress-up and antics (particularly in Akihabara), you might walk away feeling kind of like you have just accidentally committed some sort of perverted act. However, Cure Maid Cafe is more Victorian and less cutesy, allowing you to enjoy the experience without having a crisis of conscience. Check out our review of the Cure Maid Cafe in Akihabara here!

Fukuro no Mise Tsukishima

Fukuro no Mise Theme Restaurants

Owls! Really, owl cafes are like cat cafes in that both animals seem to regard humans with thinly-disguised contempt. But you can visit this Tsukishima cafe and meet big owls, small owls, and many owls in between! Check out our review of Fukuro no Mise here!

If Fukuro no Mise is too far out of your away, you could always go to the Lovely Owl Cafe in Harajuku. Even better, you can make a reservation through Voyagin!

Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku

Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku Tokyo Japan

You don’t know Tokyo Weird until you know the Kawaii Monster Cafe. From the Monster Girl floor shows to the bizarre decor, it’s every stereotype of Japan kawaii culture all in one location. Go there, and have your camera ready for your future Facebook shots! Check out our review of the Kawaii Monster Cafe here!

You absolutely MUST go to the Kawaii Monster Cafe during your trip to Tokyo. Let Voyagin help you with your reservation!

The Lock-Up Shibuya

The_Lock_Up_Shibuya_Tokyo Theme Restaurants

This chain of izakaya horror-prison theme restaurants that has a presence in most of Tokyo’s busy areas. The Lock-Up experience starts immediately when one of the waitresses handcuffs you and leads you to your table. Once seated, you can choose from their menu of unusual food and unorthodox drinks. A cocktail served in a smoking science beaker, anyone? Sporadically throughout the evening, alarms will sound and the lighting will go dark as escaped criminals come to scare you at your table. Check out our review of the Lock-Up here!

Ninja Akasaka Restaurant

Ninja_Asakusa_Tokyo_07 Theme Restaurants

A little more expensive than the café options, but this theme restaurant is all about ninjas! At Ninja Restaurant, you can watch as they’ll break out into tricks and performances suddenly throughout your meal, set within an atmospherically designed dining room. The menu varies from Japanese to European, and the quality of the food is generally excellent. Check out our review of Ninja Akasaka Restaurant here!

Q-pot CAFE.

Q-Pot Cafe Harajuku Tokyo Japan

Life is sweet at the Q-pot CAFE. in Harajuku! Come by for the cakes and tarts, and then visit their store across the street for fashion accessories based on the sweets you just had! See our review of the Q-pot CAFE. here!

Robot Restaurant Shinjuku

Robot Restaurant Shinjuku Theme Restaurants

The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku is a fairly recent addition to Tokyo’s lineup of theme restaurants. Here, you can enjoy a dinner show where the main feature is giant robots being controlled by pretty girls.  It’s an extremely flashy show, with lots of lights, noise and excitement that’s a fun one-off experience. See our review of the Robot Restaurant here!

If you plan on adding the Robot Restaurant to your “must-do” list, you can get a discount on Instant E-Tickets from Voyagin!

Tori no Iru Asakusa

Making New Friends at Tori no Iru Bird Cafe Asakusa Tokyo Japan

Once you’re done at the Sensoji Shrine, this little cafe is a must-see. They have several owls and a walk-in bird room where you can interact with dozens of parakeets and other birds. Re-enact Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” by buying a small box of birdseed! See our review of Tori no Iru Asakusa here!

For more dining and entertainment options in Tokyo, check out the links below–

June 2, 2016 0 comment
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Akihabara Electronics FI, Tokyo, Japan

Behind the bright lights and glamour of the main streets of Akihabara are a large number of tiny shops that sell specialty “junk.” These stores usually focus on one type of item,  but many have a thrift-store feel where they offer various random “junk.” Even if you aren’t one of those people who build or repair things, it’s amusing to wade through the Japanese kitsch to see entire stores dedicated to electrical wires or retro electronics or strange little key chain devices that you now suddenly can’t do without. One of my favorite stores was the light bulb shop (near the AKB48 café) that specialized in every kind of light bulb you can imagine.

Akihabara Tokyo Light Store

Light Store 2 Akihabara Tokyo
In this row of Akihabara Electronics junkyard shops, you can also buy used phones and laptops. So if you’re visiting Tokyo and something happens to your phone, a cheaper alternative might be to just visit Akihabara’s back streets and get a used iPhone (stores had a used iPhone 5 16gb priced at ¥17,800).

If you’re the kind of person that builds your own stuff, Akihabara Electronics stores on the backstreet is your best source for equipment. Here you can purchase inexpensive electric and electronic parts in order to repair your older items or to bring your mad-science projects to life. While one store might focus on electric parts, another might focus on light bulbs or radios. In addition to the electronic parts, the stores here seem to focus on various niche markets. I even found a store selling used Nintendo DS for ¥1000! I wonder if it works…and if it doesn’t maybe I can fix it with some of the parts I can buy here!

Nintendo DS Lite Akihabara Tokyo

Finding the back streets is not difficult. Simply follow a side street from the main road (Chuo Dori, away from the JR station) and follow the people into the alleys and between the buildings. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you feel like you’re in a flea market.

Akihabara Back Street Electronics Tokyo
I would recommend coming before night time, because you will need a good amount of time to look through all of the nick-knacks and doodads that crowd every part of Akihabara’s Junkyard Row.

STREET INFORMATION

Location: Akihabara. Take the Electric Town exit from the Akihabara JR station (either side). Cross the Chou Dori and go back a street or two.

Hours: Various. All stores are usually open by noon.

“Why Go?”: Replace your broken phone with a cheap substitute, buy some electronic parts, and discover weird little devices for yourself or to give as a gift.

February 25, 2016 0 comment
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Cafe JaLaLa, Akihabara Cat Cafe, Tokyo, Japan

Cafe JaLaLa, located in Tokyo’s electric town, Akihabara, is a small and cozy cat cafe. It may take a little time to find, but is still a good experience for those who want to experience Japan’s cat cafe culture. This is another cafe where you must remove your shoes before entering, however no slippers are provided so customers enter in socks or bare feet (remember to prepare accordingly beforehand to your preferences). There are cubbyholes near the front of the entrance to place your belongings. Cafe JaLaLa is an animal cafe that allows you to order at least one drink (per customer) on top of the entrance fee. While there are a variety of tasty drink and food options, you may want to check out some of the other cat cafes we have covered before, such as Nekorobi or Neko no Iru Kyuukeijo 299 to avoid unwanted costs.

Like many cat cafes, Cafe JaLaLa provides cat toys for free. They also have a scrapbook that identifies the breed and name of each cat. One rule that Cafe JaLaLa has is that you cannot touch the cats when they are eating unless you yourself purchase kibble for them to eat and feed them yourself. The staff is very kind, and explains the rules (in English for foreigners) after you enter. We hope you enjoy!

Note: Cafe JaLaLa has a noticeable cat odor, so it may not be suitable for people with strong allergies. That being said, the average time spent at a cat cafe is 30 minutes to one hour, so depending on the severity of your allergies, this may not be a huge factor.

You can check out their Japanese homepage at: http://www.nekojalala.com

Be sure to check out next week’s review of two more cat cafes, Nekobukuro and Neko no Iru Kyuukeijo 299. Until then, enjoy our first video in the animal cafe series!

Visit 15 Tokyo Cat Cafes for our list of the top cat cafes in the city! 

August 29, 2015 0 comment
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Akihabara is the global cultural hub for all things related to anime and manga. With such a vast treasure trove of varied literature found within the bustling district, K-Books is the place to go for an organised and centralised shopping experience. K-Books is by far the best location for discovering everything that has to do with anime, manga, otaku, and Japan’s underground culture. Just off of Chou-dori, K-Books is a monolithic multi-story building that is jam-packed with all things Akihabara inspired and desired.

The first floor of this sprawling store is mostly dedicated to manga and anime magazines. The sheer variety of manga on this floor is astounding, but everything is neatly organised into subsections, allowing for a streamlined shopping experience. You will be able to find those old classics from your childhood (Hello Inu Yasha and Sailor Moon!) in their original bound volumes as well as stumbling upon brand new series that you never knew existed. Although there is a dearth of mangas with English language serialisations at the store, those who have yet to master the Japanese language will be happy to find art books of some of their favorite series that can only be found in Japan. No matter what your language level is, manga fans of all backgrounds will be able to find something to sink their teeth into.

Reaching the upper levels of K-Books is when things get interesting, intriguing, and downright weird. Some of these floors are mostly 18+ because of the nature of the photo-books and the body-pillows, but the other levels of this store are open to fans of all ages. A combination of both vintage and fresh new toys of a plethora of series are found throughout the various floors. Especially check out the third floor where you will find a maze of keychains and miniature action figures. K-Books also caters to those who are fans of the girl group AKB48 as they sell an impressive collection of idol goods as well as the light-up wands that you see fans waving at AKB48 concerts.

If you are already a fan of Akihabara or intrigued by the culture that fuels this electric town then K-Books will be the perfect place to dedicate a few hours of your day.

K-Books Akihabara Store Information

Website (via Google Translate) ||| Twitter (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: Two-minute walk from Akihabara Station (Keihin-Tohoku, Hibiya, Yamanote and Chuo-Sobu lines)

Hours of Operation: Open weekdays 11:30 am – 8pm, Saturdays and Holidays 11am – 8pm

“Why Go?”: A taste of Japan’s diverse literary culture in a world-famous electric district

Click on one of the tags below to explore other shopping options in Tokyo–

October 22, 2014 0 comment
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M’s is one of the few adult stores located in Tokyo.  Found in Tokyo’s electronic/otaku district, Akihabara, M’s is seven stories tall filled with adult videos, toys, and even used panties.  Couples and singles alike come from all over the city to peruse its shelves, looking for that next exciting fetish.  Not intending to buy?  No need to worry because browsing is free at M’s, and there is definitely much to be seen.

Starting at the top, M’s Adult Concept Store Akihabara ‘s fifth through seventh floor are dedicated almost completely to DVD’s.  Three floors covering every niche imaginable.  Making way down to the fourth floor, cosplayers will be delighted to find an extensive collection of adult cosplay uniforms and accessories.  The third floor houses two rooms full of women’s lingerie.  Things get a bit fancy on the second floor where customers will find a large collection of sexual aids.  Needless to say, M’s carries a wide variety to choose from.  Finally, M’s Adult Concept Store Akihabara ‘s first floor features a plethora of fake vaginas, anuses, along with many other orifices, each promising to be as realistic as the real thing.

With Tokyo’s largest collection of adult goodies, M’s Adult Concept Store Akihabara certainly caters to all of its customers.  Perhaps the greatest element of M’s is how casual the environment is.  It’s not an awkward atmosphere, unlike in many other adult stores.  The staff is also friendly and more than helpful.  M’s is definitely a must see for anyone in the Akihabara area. And if you’re too shy to go in person, there’s always the online option–

M’s Adult Concept Store Akihabara Location Information

Website (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: 2-minute walk from JR Akihabara (click on the Google Map for directions)

Hours of Operation: Open daily 10am – 11pm

“Why Go?”: Oh…you know why. 😉

Click on one of the links below to explore other shopping options in Tokyo–

October 21, 2014 0 comment
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You will be amazed by the artistic work and taste brought to every pastry here. Pablo now has more than 30 stores located in Japan and six stores overseas.

Japanese-style cheesecake is known as “rare cheesecake.” This is slightly different to the New York-style. The rare cheesecake is composed of melted cheese on top of the regular cheesecake, maintaining the sweet taste. The smoothness of this coating forms a golden brown top layer of the cake, which is placed on top of a tart.

Besides the Japanese-style cheesecake, you can find New York-style cheesecakes with caramel topping at Pablo. They usually offer limited time menus to keep customers coming back for something new. There’s mini cheese tart with chocolate and baked marshmallow in February, and then there’s the cheesecake with a mixture of fruits on top in the summer. Kiwis, raspberries, and blueberries over a layer of orange marmalade and custard cream do make a good combination, don’t you think? In autumn, you can try their seasonal cinnamon apple cheesecake, which is half-apple pie and half-New York-style cheesecake.

There are 6 Pablo shops in Tokyo, with the largest being in Omotesando. They sell not only cheesecakes, but also the delightful “Pablo mini.” These are cheese tarts that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand. They come in many different flavors, including “rich and creamy chocolate,” “matcha green tea,” and other seasonal flavors.

If these tasty cheesecakes aren’t enough, don’t worry. There are other menu items for you to choose from. There are cheese pudding, cream cheese and chocolate fondue, soft-serve ice cream, sandwiches, and Pablo’s original drinks. After ordering, you can enjoy your dessert at the premium café space located on the second floor of the shop.

Want more than just the memory of how your cheesecake tasted? You can find Pablo t-shirts and tote bags at the larger Pablo shops.

You can also find other Pablo shops at Shinjuku, Tachikawa, two shops at Akihabara and Kita-Senju (the mini-cheese tarts are only available here). But honestly? Any Pablo’s location is fantastic! Why not grab a cup of hot milk chocolate or a whole cake to share with friends?

At most shops,  you can find cheese shortcake cookies, or sable le cheese” and cheesecake mille-feuille.   You may find limited flavors sold at each particular city. In some shops at Tokyo, you can buy cheese-honey sable cookie. You can find the cheese-sweet potato sable at Okinawa stores. These sure make excellent souvenirs for your family and friends!

If you don’t want to line up during peak hours, you can have Pablo cheesecakes and delivered to your hotel! You can order their products from Amazon Japan and Rakuten.

If you’re lucky, you might find Pablo’s ice cream and cheese tarts at irregular intervals in various convenience stores. All in all, be sure to try these limited products if you find them at convenience stores during your stay in Japan!

Pablo

Website ||| Facebook ||| Twitter||| Instagram ||| Online Stores- AmazonRakuten ||| Locations

October 20, 2014 0 comment
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