Japan 2016: EkoNeko

I seemed to be naturally drawn to cat cafes when I am overseas. Perhaps it’s the attachment I have to my cat, being away from my cat makes me feel a little… empty and void of furry-loving.

While my travel mates went mildly hysterical at Pokemon Centre at Ikebukuro, I took a short train ride out to EkoNeko.

Alight at Ekoda and walk through this alley

You can read more about EkoNeko on Rocket News. The concept is quite simple: All of the cats are rescued and up for adoption. The cat cafe serves as a temporary foster home for potential adopters to spend time with the cats. However, you can’t just pick up a cat and head home, there is a stringent interview process to ensure your commitment and responsibility.

The entrance fee for an hour is 1100Y with proceeds going into the upkeep of these strays. The staff doesn’t speak much English but enough to understand your request.

The cat cafe is about an apartment size big with plenty of cat toys, climbing posts and cages all around. No nasty smells.

Bearing the social enterprise concept in mind, the cats at EkoNeko are run-of-the-mill but friendly and fun to be around!

Hi Kitler

I really liked what Ekoneko stands for and their concept of utilising the cat cafe as a pre-adoption centre. Please visit if you’re in the area!

Attraction EkoNeko
Address Japan, 〒176-0005 Tōkyō-to, Nerima-ku, Asahigaoka, 1 Chome−73, 旭丘1丁目73−1
Opening hours 1200 – 2200
How to get there Stop at Ekoda station
Google Map Ekoneko

 

Midori Sushi: familiar contemporary sushi

As compared to Iwasa Sushi, Midori Sushi veers onto the more commercial side. In fact, Midori has been rated to be one of the better sushi chains with higher quality dishes that do not break the bank.

Let me put this up front, I am no connoisseur in food. In my world, I rank it by:

  • Good: I would eat this 1-2x a week
  • Meh: I would eat this 1-2x a month
  • Bad: I would eat this 1-2x a year

Midori falls in the good category of course.  The sushi is familiar to me, I have seen most of them before and most importantly: The chef asked me if I wanted wasabi!

There are multiple Midori outlets throughout Tokyo. Venture into the more popular outlets and you’re probably going to wait 45 minutes or more. We were at the Kichijoji outlet at 7pm or so and waited about 20 minutes.

There was a more expensive option at 2,800Y but we were so full and satisfied with the 2,000Y option.

Each 2,000Y set comes with a crab paste salad, chawanmushi and soup. The crab paste salad did not look appetising but tasted amazing.

Between the more traditional sushi I had at Iwasa and Midori, I had a more enjoyable meal at Midori. Perhaps, I had grown up with more commercial sushi and Midori was more familiar and easier on the taste buds for me.

Attraction Sushi Midori
Address 1-1-24, Kichijojiminamicho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo Attrait Kichijoji B1 (Within Atre mall)
Opening hours 1100 – 2300
How to get there Stop at Kichijoji station
Google Map Sushi Midori

 

Traditional Sushi: Iwasa at Tsukiji Market

We were all geared up ready to get up at the crack of dawn to queue for Sushi Daiwa (the shop operated by legendary Sushi Dai’s son) but alas, holiday sleep got better of us.

We reached Tsukiji Market at 10am or so on a Saturday.. and we didn’t even qualify to queue which was snaking a few bends complete with a burly chef at the end of the line to stop potential tourists.

Oh well, we trooped off to Iwasa for our Omakase experience.

We went with the Omakase set although, on hindsight, I might have enjoyed the dons more.

I think we were there about 10+ am on a Saturday and the queue was manageable, about 30-45 mins before we got a seat. Most people seemed to eat very quickly and leave.

There wasn’t much of small talk, the chefs mentioned that we’d be very full from the meal.

I didn’t really recognise what I was eating except the usual suspects: eel, sea urchin, tuna and salmon roe and maki rolls.

Can I put my hand on my heart and say that I enjoyed this?

Not really, while I appreciate the traditional settings of the shop and the methods of preparation, these shops typically include wasabi in their sushi to keep the most authentic flavours.

And me? I don’t do wasabi at all. Initially, I tried the sushi with wasabi but found it very pungent and overpowering for my senses to truly enjoy my sushi (which I paid quite a sum for please) that I did probably one of the most unspeakable things – I dug out the wasabi. 😦

If you’re here and you don’t take wasabi, gather up the courage to tell the chefs! The sushi here is fresh and impeccable. My spirits rose as I had a better sushi degustation at a more commercial shop.

Attraction Iwasa Sushi
Address 6 Chome-27-3 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Opening hours 6am – 2.30pm (or 3pm on Sat)
How to get there Stop at Tsukiji MRT station
Google Map Iwasa Sushi

 

Japan Wireless #3

This is my third time using Japan Wireless and I can’t emphasise how much more convenience and accessibility it has brought to my travels in Japan.

On my first two trips to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara, I had used Japan Wireless too.

In Tokyo, I experienced the same superb connection, no breaks nor glitches and great customer service. This trip, I used the Premium 4G wireless egg instead of the Business Wifi I had used on my previous Japan trip in 2015

All about the Premium Wifi

Some comparisons I noticed between the Premium and Business Wifi:

  • Way faster connection at 187Mbps
  • Ability to stream YouTube videos and download necessary apps for navigation
  • Loads apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Pokemon Go instantly
  • Longer battery life of about 10 hours connecting to 3 mobile devices
  • No difference in connections between Tokyo city and suburbs

Collection of Wifi rental

I picked up my Wifi router rental at Narita Airport’s Post Office with no issues. Prior to my arrival, Japan Wireless provided me with a tracking number. I was assured that the Wifi router had reached Narita before I even touched down.

This is what the package contained:

  1. Mobile Wifi
  2. Power bank
  3. Cable
  4. Labelled envelope for easy return
  5. A pouch to hold everything

Travelling with the Wifi

The mobile Wifi is also small and easy to bring around in an outside pocket of your backpack, just chuck the extra power bank in your bag. The mobile Wifi is smaller than an iPhone 6.

The Wifi password is pasted on the mobile Wifi itself and is super easy to set up. Just search for the network and key in the password and you’re gold.

Working perfectly in Yokohama

My friend brought it out for Pokemon hunting at Ueno Park and reaped Dratini returns.

And Ueno

At Ueno Park: A Dratini spawning spot


And.. guess what we managed to catch?

My take on Japan Wireless

There are various packages available at Japan Wireless.

  • Business Wifi: If you’re using the wifi just to stay connected, go for the Business Wifi.
  • Premium Wifi: If you’re Pokemon hunting, Snapchatter, YouTube junkie and hooked on Instagram Stories, Premium Wifi is the way to go.

As with most rentals, the price is cheaper with additional days. Japan Wireless is also perfect if you’re travelling to multiple countries, hence, services like Changi Recommends do not make sense.

Amongst the other rental options, Japan Wireless provides one of the best options in terms of value, ease of picking up/returns and customer service.

As much as Japan is a technology driven country, you’ll be surprised at the lack of wireless options. My friend, who speaks Japanese, did not have data the last time she travelled to Tokyo shared that having data on the go really makes commuting a breeze. You can look up the correct train on the complicated transport system or find the correct exit in a huge station like Shinjuku, Shimbashi or Shibuya.

Returning process

Returning the Pocket Wifi was easy too, just slot everything into the pouch, seal the envelope and drop it into a mailbox or post office.

Rental details

Rent here: http://japan-wireless.com/
Product details: http://japan-wireless.com/products.html

P.S. This post is done in collaboration with Japan Wireless.

Kyoto sight: Kitano Tenmagu Shrine and Flea market

Temple flea markets in Kyoto are fun to walk through. They’re filled with traditional products, pre-loved items and kitschy stuff. You can even pick up a kimono!

I’ve collated the dates below:

For a list of events, I’d refer you to Kyoto Guide that compiles a monthly list.

Even though 25 May was on a weekday, the Tenmagu flea market still had a crowd going on. These people, do they not need to work? We had a wander around the temple grounds before strolling through the flea market.

Continue reading “Kyoto sight: Kitano Tenmagu Shrine and Flea market”

Kyoto food: Torikizoku

One of the lesser known spots but Torikizoku is an established food chain in Japan with multiple stores throughout the country. Selling all items (even alcoholic drinks!) at 280Y, it is no wonder that Torikizoku is popular, especially amongst the students.

There is a large variety of skewers and plenty of seating. There are English menus available, just request for one! This is more of a casual fast service restaurant.

How wrong can you go with skewers right? The food quality is not as fantastic as perhaps, Katsukura or Donguri. It is cheaper, faster and great to have a drinks or two with friends.

The funny thing is I remember the Caesar salad being amazing. There was this half boiled egg instead of hard-boiled eggs and it went perfectly with the romaine.

 

Attraction Torikizoku (multiple outlets)
Address 3-27  291 Narayacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture (Sanjo-Kawaramachi outlet)
Opening hours 1700 – 0500
How to get there Nearest train stations: Sanjo (Keihan line)
Google Map Torikizoku

 

Osaka: Rinku Outlet Malls – Sports Depo and Rinku Tempura

So… you can’t resist Rinku Premium Outlet at Osaka. Since you’re in the area, there are two other spots that you should probably check out too!

Pro Tip: There is a shuttle bus from Kansai Airport to Rinku Premium Outlet at 200Y per adult. I’d suggest for you to leave your luggage at Kansai Airport’s luggage hold if you’re flying on the same day.

Sports Depo

If you haven’t already guessed it, this is a mega sports warehouse just a few minutes from Rinku Outlets. It probably takes about 5-10 minutes to stroll over.

If you’re in the Fit Fam Bam, this is the place for you. Lots of sports gear here!

They even have camping gear

 

Attraction Sports Depo
Address 3-27  3-27 Rinku-Ourai Minami, Izumisano City
Opening hours 1000 – 2100
How to get there Nearest train stations: Rinku Town
Google Map Sports Depo Rinku Town

Tempura Store

After you’re done shopping and is hungry, grab a bite at the Tempura store for a satisfying meal. The portion is huge mind you, I think one meal can feed two perfectly. A typical meal is about 1,500Y.

There isn’t a name for the store but it’s on level two, near the restaurants, right by Lacoste, you can’t miss it.

Attraction Tempura Store, Level 2, near Lacoste
Address Rinku Premium Outlets,

3-28, Rinku Ourai Minami,
Izumisano-Shi, Osaka, Japan
598-8508

Opening hours 1000 – 2000
How to get there Nearest train stations: Rinku Town
Google Map Rinku Premium Outlets

 

 

Kyoto Sight: Nyan Chu 2

Nyan Chu 2 is the second outlet of the more popular Wan Nyan Chu original outlet and is next to hostel that I was staying at.

The price was steeper than the other two cat cafes in Kyoto that I have been. It was probably because of the central location and that, it was riding on the coat tails of the popular original cat cafe.

I wasn’t there but I heard the cafe recently launched a kitten room where you can purchase some extra time with kittens.

As compared to the Cat Tail and Neko Time, Nyan Chu offers drinks and a sweet pastry. The hot drinks are refillable, go for the hot roasted green tea!

The cats are more sleepy than friendly but still fun to hang around.

This is also one of the bigger cat cafes, made up of two spaces.

 

Attraction Nyan Chu 2
Address Kyoto-shi, Nakagyou-ku, Isayacho 354-1, Kyara Bldg, 3F East.
Opening hours 1200 – 2100
How to get there Nearest train stations: Kawaramachi
Google Map Nyan Chu 2

 

Kyoto sight: Kyoto Manga Museum

If you’re a manga fan, you’d probably enjoy this place. I still wonder why is it named a “museum” when it is more like a cafe. There are no exhibits if you want history about how manga started, however, there are plenty of dated comics.

There are even comics from before World War II.

The main segment of the Museum is paid. Place your belongings in the locker and get a ticket!

Continue reading “Kyoto sight: Kyoto Manga Museum”

Kyoto Sight: Nishiki Market

I love exploring markets. It’s always one of the must-do things for me when I go overseas. Immersing myself in a foreign country’s functional daily life makes me feel like one of their own.

Although Nishiki seems to be more of a tourist than local spot, it was still fun to explore, look around and stuff ourselves with the street food. Don’t eat breakfast before you come here, there is so much food to taste.

Nishiki Market spans across 2-3 streets probably.

One of the shops that is often mentioned online

Continue reading “Kyoto Sight: Nishiki Market”