Okay, I am jumping days, but yes. I definitely feel like talking about sooner than my other blog entries! After a year of thinking, getting over my nerves, I finally made it to a sento, or a Japanese bathouse. What a nice experience this was. Showers and bathes are always great in my book.
I have memories of watching anime like Ranam ½, Totoro, My Neighbor the Yamadas, One Piece, or other Japanese life anime titles, with the most recent being Higepiyo, that has me just loving the idea of being able to go take showers and baths at a facility that is not just a spa or a gym. The United States does not have communal bathing experiences, based on a conservative or hygienic reason. I imagine that as an Americans, a person who won’t try this is missing out on a Japan or Asian experience.
Prior to Japan 2010, as I was researching the push is for tourists to try the onsen. There are some clear distinction between onsen and sento that affect price. Mineral water vs. tap water is one factor. Another factor is the connection of onsen with a ryokan, so a tourist who is in Japan with a budget, then sento is the answer. Sento by some readings are also considered lesser in numbers, and being swallowed by other factors of apartments having their own bathrooms, or a growing conservatism. There certainly is not as much help in English finding various sento, however there are still some English blogs and resources trying to correct this issue. My concerns were finding a sento that won’t be too shady or too out of place to travel for. Another small reason on why I waited a year to try the sento was a fear of my tattoos, usually Japanese don’t really think highly of tattoos, being synonymous with Yakuzas. Fashion tattoos are questioned though, so my tattoos attracted some attention.
Impressions of Komparu-yu
I found a nice sentou that wasn’t very out of the way, and simple to get to. Ginza’s Komparu-yu, a sento opened since the 1800’s, so with some aspects updated, there are still nuances from yesteryears off Japan. Komparu-yu is definitely a basic sento, and not a super sento. The sento is divided into three main parts, the shoe area, the locker room area and the bath area.
As Rai and I stepped past the blue store sign, past the vending machines, we stopped to put our shoes into individual shoe compartments, each locked and open with a wooden key. I was mentally feeling excited and nervous, and as we stepped into the woman’s bath. We paid an elderly granny, the 450 yen price entrance fee. One of the sento site said that the fee was for 430 yen, but the price has obviously changed. Komparu-yu also has toiletries that a bather can purchase if they didn’t have any. Some sentos said that there are coin lockers, and Komparu-yu had lockers with keys, that bathers can wear like a bracelet on the wrist. After claiming a locker, I stepped into the bath area, where there are also two sections, one a shower/cleaning section where bathers sit first to clean and wash off the body. After going through the normal bath routines, I tested the bath water, and stepped in. Soaking in the tub was great, it was relaxing, and the temperature of the water did take use to. After soaking in the sento, my skin felt egg smooth, so I really hope to be able to go again. After stepping out and rinsing off, I stepped into the locker room, and got dressed. Rai pointed that there was a blow dryer for 20 yen to use. I did see another of those old fashion salon style dryers for 40 yen to use, so there is that option as well.
Rai mentioned to me that there was a majority of elderly woman or tourists at this particular sento, I need to go to another sento to see if that is the case, but with this being in Ginza, I wouldn’t expect differently.
So we left the sento, and got milk from the vending machine. The practice of drinking something after soaking in a sento is definitely for re-hydration purposes. I was definitely thinking about the Japanese animation title, Saki.
So for a cheap way to relax, sentos are a great thing to experience.
Well months – past and yes I can say that this experience was going to be a memory trip for me. I do know that Rai already wrote about this.. so I know the hold up with me, is photographs… I am putting this under a cut, since this entry is pretty image heavy. Read more…
7:38AM Tokyo Time 6: 38PM New York Time
Probably going to end up shooting myself in the leg, more times than not. Hearing some comments on on how much time I should look over my posts, before I actually post them. I decided to put the other posts I wrote previously on hold, until I can put pictures up.
Been pretty busy, and probably should take it easy.. as Rai and a couple of people have commented. Yet time ends up occurring, if I am not doing something. So to not waste time..
An annoyance came up though. My back. Recently been having some back pain. I probably sprained it back in New York, and so now it is coming to bite me. Mom said to rest more, and Rai suggestion for going to the conbini and purchasing a shippu, which sounds like a hot/cold patch to me.. I pray that I can figure out some strategy for this acute back pain.
Current remedies I am doing now: trying to rest as much as I can, taking advil, stretching, applying patches that I have in my luggage.
It is raining today, just to clear the fact that yes I did not feel the earthquake that was felt by Moy and other people reported. I surmise that I might have been either at Tokyo Hands or on the train while it happened. >_<
Butler Cafes are the female version of Maid Cafes in Japan, and from what I learn is that it is slightly more formal than the walk in Maid cafes, I noticed last year at Akihabara. There are some formal Maid Cafes as well, but from what I can see Butler Cafés reservations must be made before hand, and depending on how popular the Café is, then that would just depend on how long a customer must wait on getting reservations. Butler cafés is a pretty recent creation, alongside the popularity of Otome Road, and the rise of some anime, and Japanese hobby niches.
I expected business to be booming, and especially on White Day, which is the Japanese version of following up with Valentine’s Day. Times are taken quite seriously at Butler Cafes, since the customer pays for the amount of time there is for butlers to wait on them. Depending on how informal or formal a butler café can get, then that is the amount of princess aspect, a customer will feel like.
Now the back story of my experiences with not just one, but two butler cafes would be a last minute and a planned prior meeting. Aya had planned with Rai to take me to Royal Servant, on White Day even before I came to Tokyo. I have been hearing plenty of good things from Rai about Royal Servant which is a cosplay themed butler café. I was excited to get this on my agenda, so imagine my surprise when my other friend who I refer to as Emi invites me to go with her, and another friend to Cafe Edelstein on White Day as well.
Café Edelstein is a slightly informal schoolboy themed butler café. Rai and Aya had gone to both cafes, and they reminded me that I recommended them Edelstien was already recommended from Deb Aoki’s tweets. So at the last minute I went and met up with my friend and her friend at Harujuku in the morning of White Day. We got slightly lost finding the Café in the backward way of Harujuku streets, and when we finally made it, the experience began.
Café Edelstein is on the second floor, and when we walked in, we were greeted with a server, who had us write our names on cards. Shown to our table, we pursued the menu. There are set meals, along with teas, sweets, and special services such as getting to take your picture with the butler etc. My Japanese is not strong enough beyond pointing and looking, so while my friend’s friend and I was talking in English. The butlers pegged us as foreigners, and started to speak really slowly in Japanese. Emi who got the reservations at this café is a student in Tokyo, so while she is an American, her Japanese is great.
In this informal café, I was allowed to tweet, take pics of food and watch as the butlers flitted around. I was surprised that there was a man sitting at one of the tables, and I was slightly charmed by how obviously familiar guests interact with butlers, or read quietly while passing their time. There was this one butler that looking at him, I thought of Teppei, and I was slightly sad that I couldn’t get a picture of him, but with the time and language barrier, oh well.
I realize that there was a serious time limit, so I quickly made my order, of Tomato and Basil soup, Darjeeling tea, and a Carmel Cheesecake, which had a picture card that was drawn specifically by a butler. If I can find it, I remember the picture was of a turtle! The meal was quite delicious and I had a good time. Now it is to Royal Servant, and running late.
The Royal Servant butler café was also on a higher floor, and there was a bell to ring before stepping into the café. Now I mentioned before that the butlers in this café is cosplay themed, and what is special about some of the butlers in this café, is that they are well known cosplayers in Japan, already published in the various cosplay magazines or photo books. Rai remarked to me that there was a butler present that day that normally is not there, and a catch with Royal Servant is that there are well known butlers, but the café will not disclose what days will the specific butlers be present, so that is a draw for customers to keep frequenting the café.
In Royal Servant, the formality was more pronounce. The butler definitely did a lot of things for you, from sitting, to serving. As a customer, you ring a bell on the table and they come. I order a Servant Set, which was two dishes, and Rai ordered a Princess set, with three dishes. Queen set was four dishes. From the start of the meal, Rai had mentioned that I was an American tourist, so I was speaking English with the butlers who would come over, and make conversation. The butlers had to go get on their knees to talk with the sitting customer, since as a princess, and the butlers didn’t want the customers to stretch their necks. I mostly sat and observed my surroundings, and I wasn’t able to converse with a lot of butlers, since their English may not have been great, but one butler who I learned had the best English came over to talk with me, and it was fun.
Royal Servant had a strict no photo policy, so I have nothing but my memories, a photo with three of the butlers, and homemade White Day gifts that Royal Servant provided.
Now to maybe go to a Maid café to see how this measures up.
The butler at the end of all this, ushered us out, and stood by the elevator while we exited the premises.
Rai and I stopped briefly at Animate, and then headed over to Shinjuku, where we met up with five other people after a period of waiting, until an accident off the Yamanote was cleared. I got to go back to that Taiyaki place at Shinjuku like I did last year. Memories…
Emi, and her friend Kat met up with Aya and I believe were at Harujuku seeing a parade celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? Moy and Jan also met up.. and we decided to try and find the niku tabehoudai place I went with Coralie, and Rai last year. So after a lot of searching, we found it!!!! Niku.. I was pretty stuffed with the double Butler Cafe experience, but it was pretty interesting to see Rai out eat both Moy and Jan.. or did Jan keep up? >_< It was fun!
After all this was done and over, we took a brief look at Kabukicho. Rai told me where the fugu restaurant was, so that’s another blog experience. We took sticker pictures, and played some arcade games. Fun times.. ^_^
More images are available at my Flickr account.
March 14 -9:42 Tokyo Time/March 13 7:42 New York Time
Happy White Day!
My day started as I did with opening the tiny television in my room to check the time. My posts are off by two or three day, and pretty delayed as I try to supplement my posts with pictures? While Moy is at his concert, Jan decided to spend the day with my friends and me. I previously arranged to meet up with Rai and Aya at Ikebukuro’s HSBC bank..so we made it out at an early time to Ikebukuro, and exited the wrong exit. Backtracking, along with asking a Japanese police officer, we made it the East Exit.
The night prior, Rai wanted to have lunch, so I jumped at the chance for Milky Way… and my god, it was fabulous. One of my most memorable restaurants in Tokyo, service and food great! I recommend it to anyone who visits Tokyo, and Ikebukuro. They do serve foreigners, with some limited English, and a colorful menu. Now I had a hamburger gratin doria… and it was delicious…the rice was melting in my mouth. Then I had a parfait…and mentally sobbed since it was so much better than Hiroko’s Place.
After lunch we walked to Sanrio store, where I was surrounded with pink and cuteness, purchased some things, including a new Neko character wallet. Kinda sad that there were no Chococat products, but I assume that if I decided to go to Purio Land, which I am opting out of, that I would find Chococat products. Originally was going to go BookOff hopping with Aya, but really got distracted by Otome Road.
Some thoughts about Otome Road, nothing has changed much since my last visit, except for the various different products I see there. Personally I still had the same weird awkward feeling stepping into the very small hentai sections meant for guys who go in there. Probably because of the amount of hentai was a lot more than I was use to, so I am still thinking about this post I wrote last year on Shit Storm. There is way more openness about erotic aspects, as I am noticing in terms of what type of stores is around me this time around. Since I took pictures of Otome Road last year, this year wasn’t as focused on taking as much pictures. Although I was shutter happy for the most part in some other parts. I am going to to be throwing up images onto Flickr, but it will be more controlled, rather than like last year’s images.
First attempt to sell cards to K-Books 3, fail – since the series, Ouran High School Host Club wasn’t bl-enough, will sell to Mandarake instead.
After Otome Road, we finally did what Aya’s wanted to do. Made it to two BookOff locations, before we got lost trying to get to the third one. Before walking though, I had to try out Japanese version of Starbucks’s Sakura Frappachino.. yum!
A lot of walking, and ended it with Ebi Burger from McDonald’s. Later today…visiting two butler cafes’… Expect a lengthy write up soon, although my thing is that I will be doing wordy posts, and then upload pics when I have my chance to.
8:50AM Japan Time 6:50PM New York Time.
Ahh this entry, is turning into a formula similar to how Rai blogs. Japan and New York time on top, definitely would be easy, since the television always says what the Japanese time is and my computer NY time. That said, I turned on the television and see a cute children anime about a penguin. Prior to that I saw the comedian couple from Lovely Complex live action. They were trying to talk about “gettai” which are two things merging together. Lots of “ehhhhhh” “ehhhh.” It is kinda fun staring at children programing, because they actually show hirigana on the bottom of the screen. Very much how Sesame Street definitely teaches children in the U.S. their numbers and letters.
Then I see an advertisement of the Japanese McDonald’s California Burger, had the Hawaiian Burger already, photo should be included later. But would like to try California Burger, yet I see Doraremon toys being included in the happy meal. >_< Meeting up with Rai and Aya later today at Ikebukuro, going to be going there twice, but that will be fun!
Yesterday though, I made it to Yokohama with Moy and Jan. Woke up quite early, and it was a very long day. Since I purchased my prepaid phone, am using my cell phone to tweet a bit, and actually took a picture of Bay Quarter Yokohama, which is a place of restaurants in a mall setting. I waited for Aya for about an hour, and walked back and forth. I even saw a Natural Lawson, which is the organic and supposedly healthier version of Lawson. I thought that I had some issues with my phones, so went to Softbank, where Aya translated and I ended up purchasing an extra converter. I still got an 3000 yen Japanese iTunes music card, and I plan to get more.
Aya and I walked around the area, and I saw a hostess 18+ bar, and snapped some pictures. >_<. Still it is kinda weird to take pictures in Japan, since there is like a “no photo” policy at a lot of places. My Nikon D40 DSLR is considered extreme by Rai. (As I went to fix some images, the door is a couple, that I cannot fix, so can’t share it… T_T) Waiting for Moy and Jan, we walked back to the Quarter Bay and got some delicious Custard Taiyaki.
Went to to Yokohama’s Chinatown. It was nothing but restaurants, and groceries around this area of what was like two long blocks. I also saw a lot of chestnuts being sold. Who knew? I always felt that chestnuts was a winter thing, but apparently the Japanese see it as a Chinese snack. There is a lot of Mandarin speaking people in Japan. But lots of Hong Kong tourists, if I see people speaking Cantonese.
After Chinatown for lunch, we walked over to the Pier to try and see the Pacific Ocean as Aya requested. Everything kinda looked the same, but the area had a pretty neat view reminding me of Midtown Piers where the Intrepid is docked in New York City.
Traveled to Shin Yokohama, where Moy checked into his hotel for his Nana Mizuki concert.
Then we walked to find the Ramen Museum. I liked this place a lot. It was about 300 yen entrance for an adult, but the experience was quaint. Neko Ramen Taisho was featured there, and I ended up with a grab bag at the end.
Took plenty of pictures in the museum, and was amused by the Noodle Ramen croquette seller. Being amused, had a Ramen croquette as well.
A ramen croquette, noodles fried on the outside, and inside the filling was typical ramen ingredients. Moy and Jan went back to the hotel, but Aya and I ate at a Ramen stand, where I had a Konbu Scallion Ramen dish, with a good broth. This definitely is cheaper than Ippudo! A definite contrast to this museum was the scenery was a post war Japan yet when you walked into the bathroom, it was direct opposite to the theme of the museum. Modern Japanese toilets… well I doubt visitors would want to go to a historical style bathroom. ^_^ Yet there’s even a sign that said as you were exiting the museum, that you were going back to the future.
Walking to meet back with Jan, thus leaving Moy. We went to the Yokohama BookOff where I found a dated Vampires Princess Miyu artbook, but decided to pass it up.
Memories of March 10
I barely slept at home the night before, and was therefore exhausted. Left home at 7-ish in the morning and went to the airport. Found out that the exchange rate was like 78 yen to a dollar if you sell it at Newerk, so didn’t exchange money. Boarded the plane with no issues.. and soon found myself bored. Left my iPod in my checked luggage… so for 14 hours, nothing, but relying on airplane entertainment. Movies on the plane were meh. I saw a lot of the children’s movies all ready, and the recent movies was not in my interest. Saw Ashes of Time Redux as a foreign movie, and fell in love with the movie, all over again. If Moy and his friend were up for it, I would have gone on a slight spiel about it. I love the movie when I watched it several years ago. I have the soundtrack somewhere in my home. >_<
Reached Narita around 3-ish on Thursday. Found the HSBC bank ATM. Then went to get on the train for travel. After traveling on the Keisai Line for two hours, reached the hostel. Yes my room is tiny. Did take pictures, so will have to do a photo dump on Flickr.
Thursday evening.. March 11
After settling into my room, I had to run to Harujuku to meet up with Aya and Rai. From my experiences of last year with a rental, this year I am opting for purchasing a Softbank prepaid phone, which is slightly different than what I remember Danny Choo mentioning about cell phone solutions for travelers. It was about $200 USD. I miss Rai and Aya a lot, well Rai is coming back to the states but Aya.. she is staying in Asia permanently, I don’t expect to see her again for maybe a while after I leave Japan this time. Will try to hang out with her as much as possible. Picked up a dessert Tea from the vending machine prior to meeting up with them. Got there slightly early, and when we went to the Softbank store, I saw an actual autographed SMAP Softbank poster in the store. Rai sneaked off an image… ^_^
Of course there is issue with the charger, so will have to go back to a Softbank store to see what happened… but if I can manage to tweet, then I will be tweeting my travels. This is not easy, since there Verizon phone is a horizontal flip keyboard, my Softbank phone has a keypad for texting the regular way a phone is. Still practice makes perfect.. so fight-o…
Technically woke up slightly earliest, going to pay of it later, but heading to Yokohama today with Moy and friends. Testing some features of Softbank cell still.. ^_^
Picked up some onigiri from the local 7-11. Going to head out soon.