As a big fan of Beatrix Potter and her creation, Peter Rabbit, going to its cafe is a must, so I did that on my second day in Tokyo with my friend Mazni and her daughter, Nadya.
This cafe is situated at Jiyugaoka area, a stylish and chic neighbourhood at the southern part of Meguro-ku.
Arriving at this cafe, first thing that I noticed was the beautiful alfresco garden setting. I ran up the stairs and opened the cafe’s door excitedly, just like a little kid entering a wonderland. It was truly a fantastic feeling.
Tell me how would you feel seeing a cafe like this? Amazing, right?
Once inside, we helped ourselves to a table. The setting is very English, of course, to honour Beatrix Potter, the well-known English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist best known for her children’s books featuring animals, such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
On the table there were two copies of Peter Rabbit books (in Japanese), a jar of wrapped cube sugars, a pitcher of plain water, drink glasses, as well as little bell to ring. There was also Petter Rabbit waiting for us.
Peter Rabbit and Dina.
We invited Flopsy Bunny from next table to join us.
We ordered two coffee (with Peter Rabbit art), hot chocolate, and Doubleberry French Toast Casserole. Everything was nicely presented and we went oohs and aahs eating the yummy casserole. The coffee and chocolate was good too.
We spent more than two hours at the cafe just enjoying the surrounding while making photos and videos. Here’s a video made by Nadya, featuring Mazny as the intro:
To sum it all, my summer Japan trip was great; I learned about the things that Japan has to offer in summer. Although my list is not comprehensive, below are the things that I came across:
Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri
One of the many firework festivals that I attended was Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri. This year the Edogawa Fireworks Festival turns 41 – making it one of the oldest fireworks festivals in Tokyo. The venue, Metropolitan Shinozaki Park point on the banks of the Edogawa River, is about half an hour walk from Shinozaki Station. It was a very long walk but nonetheless I enjoyed looking at people along the way. Most local people wore the traditional yukata, summer kimono or jinbei.
Girls in traditional yukata.
The fireworks display can actually be viewed from either side of the river; Edogawa (the side that I was at), and Ichikawa (opposite side), that is known as the Ichikawa City Nohryo Fireworks Festival.
Yukata In summer, most people wear yukata; a casual kimono-like garment worn during the summer. It’s unlined and usually made of cotton to make the fabric more breathable. Yukata are popular for dressing up for summer events like firework festivals. Yukata wearing dates back over 1,000 years to when they were worn by the nobility to and from their baths in the days before bath towels were used in Japan. Because yukata are much cheaper than silk kimono, they became very popular during the Edo period when there were strict laws that prevented people from living extravagantly.
Ayu, river fish
Grilled salted ayu, or sweetfish, is a staple at summer festival food stalls. Ayu, also known as Sweetfish, is abundant during summer time in Japan. When summer arrives, many Japanese go river fishing for Ayu, which has a sweet, distinctive flavour. Catching Ayu is prohibited from November to May, as a measure to protect the species, but becomes legal from June when the skin and bones are especially soft.
Edo furin, wind-chime
Furin (Wind-chime): Introduced from China by monks and used to know the direction of wind and a charm against evil. The soothing sound of Furin is a symbol of summer. Japanese people enjoy that furin changes the wind into sound. Though most furins were made of bronze, glass furins appeared in the Edo period. Glassworks artisans in Nagasaki made furins and started selling them in Osaka, Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).
The summer hand-fan are available abundantly during the summer. I got some free ones during the Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri. There are two types of fan that I came across: Sensu and Uchiwa. Uchiwa are the popular and common flat and ridged hand held Japanese fans made primarily of paper on a bamboo frame. Often the traditional fans were beautifully decorated with a simple art work or design. Although traditional, hand made uchiwa fans remain popular, modern day uchiwa fans are often mass produced from paper on plastic frames with advertising for local businesses, products or festivals printed on them. Popular motifs for the uchiwa include designs portraying cooling streams or breezes, bamboo leaves, goldfish and fireworks. Sensu, on the other hand, a fan that is made from pleated paper, silk, or other cloth, allowing it to be spread into an arc or folded into a neat, rectangular shape.
One more thing that I could find easily in Japan during summer was watermelon! I even had a watermelon ice-cream that looked exactly like watermelon. Around the late June grocery stores and super markets start selling watermelons and it gives the feeling of beginning summer.
In Japan, the cicada is associated with the summer season. On my recent trip, I heard it at the park, and on the trees along the roadside. I like to think that the sound of summer cicada is melancholy, and it has been featured in literature. Cicada is one of the summer kigos in haiku (Japanese poetry). Matsuo Basho wrote in “Oku no Hosomichi”—
At a quiet and empty temple in the deep mountain,
a cicada start to sing,
but its sound gets sucked into a rock.
And here’s my take on Japan in summer in the form of haiku poetry:
add joy to the green and blue,
cheeks flush a pink blush.
I was looking forward to attend the tea ceremony at Keio Plaza Hotel but due to a mild fatigue and swollen feet, I had to stay in my room and rest. Luckily, Mazni and Nadya attended the ceremony and they told me all about it.
Here’s the write-up by Mazni:
Tea ceremony in Japanese culture could be conducted either in formal (chaji) or informal (chakai) way. The ceremony is conducted by a tea master, normally using matcha – the powdered green tea, in a small tea room. A simple chakai is usually started with some sweet confectionery just to balance off the sweetness and the bitterness of the tea, followed by a thick tea, meal, and thin tea.
During my recent stay at Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo, I was invited to experience the chakai. The hotel’s Japanese Tea Ceremony Room ‘Sho-fu-an’ is situated on the 10th floor of the main tower. We were served by a lady tea master, Miss Michiko Yano. She is the 3rd generation in her family who pursue the art of Japanese tea ceremony.
Michiko-san guided us throughout the ceremony by washing up our hand and mouth first. This act is said to purify the body and soul. During the yesteryear, a tea house was used as a social gathering place. The samurai, the businessmen, the ordinary people will enter the tea house by leaving their swords, ranks and social status outside. Inside the tea room, everyone becomes equal no matter what their hierarchy in the society. This reminds me of some similarity in my Muslim culture. We take ablutions before entering the mosque just to purify our body and soul too. Inside the mosque, everyone’s also treated equally as human being no matter who you are.
While preparing the matcha, Michiko-san told us some beautiful custom in the tea room. The room is usually decorated with the seasonal flowers and a quote written in Japanese calligraphy. I found out that the Japanese really appreciate nature in every single way of their life.
The culture is also meant to respecting the others. For example, when the tea is offered to you first, you should acknowledge the person next to you by saying ‘Osaki ni’ – which means, ‘Sorry to drink before you!’ Then if you were the last person offered, you should say, ‘ It’s nice to enjoy the drink with you!’
I was told by the tea master, the type of ‘furo” or the portable brazier use in the tea room will depend on the seasons. If it is spring or summer, the braziers are placed at the corner as to distance the guests from the heat. In the autumn or winter, they are placed in the centre of the room so that the guests could heat up their body.
My daughter, Nadya shared her Japanese tea ceremony experience with us. It is interesting to know that she drank from the same bowl with her friends. Her tea ceremony was conducted by her sensei during the graduation day. At Sho-fu-an, we were served in different bowls. The tea master chose the beautiful part or design on that bowl and place it towards the us. We took the bowl and turn it slightly, take a sip and turn the bowl so the beautiful part is positioned back to where it begins.
Thanks to Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, I had a wonderful time experiencing this simple yet memorable tea ceremony with my daughter.” — Mazni.
That was a beautiful experience! Thank you Mazni for the write-up. I will try to experience the tea ceremony if I go to Tokyo next time.
Japanese Tea Ceremony Day:
Everyday except for Thursday, Sunday, and days upon which the room has been chartered through advance booking.
I am thankful to Mazni for taking me along to learn about Kamishibai from the masters at The International Kamishibai Association of Japan (IKAJA) in Tokyo recently. Frankly, I am not up to the storytelling performing part but I am more to the part on how to write and illustrate Kamishibai.
So, what is Kamishibai? Kamishibai is a form of visual and participatory storytelling that originated in Japan that combines the use of hand drawn visuals with the engaging narration of a live presenter. ‘Kami’ means paper and ‘shibai’ means play/drama, but Kamishibai doesn’t mean just paper drama, it is a form of culture, spreading in the world! Typical kamishibai consists of a presenter who stands to the right of a small wooden box or stage that holds the 8-16 cards featuring the visuals that accompany each story. This miniature stage is used to be attached to the storyteller’s bicycle. The presenter changes the card, varying the speed of the transition to match the flow of the story he is telling.
From the first look, I thought it was easy to create Kamishibai, but as I attended Kamishibai short classes conducted by Ms. Etsuko Nozaka and Madam Kyoko Sakai, it became more clearer that creating Kamishibai story is more difficult than creating picture book story because the former needs to be in a format which later be told by a storyteller in front of audience.
Mazni brought her Kamishibai story and illustrations (in Kamishibai card format) and performed in front of the masters. And the input by the masters were very valuable. They practically go through from one card after another, advising on how it should be done, what to do, and what not to do. And they also advised on how the story should be told. Being in the picture book scene for many years, Mazni and I found that it is quite difficult to change the tone and style of storytelling that we are both accustomed to.
From the classes, I learned that Kamishibai extended into the real space, the real world. It involves social interaction and it has to be conveyed to audience in a correct manner. Do you get what I mean? To write and illustrate the story, I have to position myself in a storyteller’s shoes, which I am not. I told Mazni that I can try to write and illustrate Kamishibai because I am good at storytelling when no one is looking, but she has to be the one to tell it to the real audience. She agrees. Haha. She knows me too well to not let me tell the story myself.
Since the class was conducted at Kamishibai Hall at the office of Doshinsha Publishing Co Ltd (the main publisher for Kamishibai story cards in Japan), I get to view many Kamishibai stories and illustrations. Mazni herself bought some 16 sets of Kamishibai stories to bring home for her future storytelling sessions. Mazni is really into Kamishibai because she loves telling stories to children. It is her passion, and frankly, I think she is one helluva of a storyteller because I attended some of her storytelling sessions.
I know for a fact that if I create a Kamishibai story for a start, I have to go back to Tokyo and seek advice from the masters. Anyway, I am just glad that Ms. Etsuko is also in the picture book business (besides being a translator); she has written some picture books herself. And that means, I get to meet her at book fairs and get advice, because I don’t think that I can nail it by communicating through e-mail. They need to at least have me perform the storytelling in front of them for them to feel the story that I am telling; to feel the kyokan. The word kyokan refers to people confirming the meaning of life together through sharing the same feeling about something. Creating kyokan is the most important and essential aspect of Kamishibai.
Maybe what I understand and wrote here might not be correct at all, but I have high interest in writing/illustrating Kamishibai and I know that the learning process is not easy. Mazni and I, we have high hopes in improvising Malaysian folk tales into Kamishibai format and to be able to tell the stories in such a beautiful way. To do that, we just have to keep on learning until we get it right. God willing.
Madam Kyoko and Ms. Etsuko giving their inputs about Mazni’s story.
From left: Ms. Hina, Ms. Etsuko, Mazni, me and Madam Kyoko.
If you are interested in hiring Mazni for a storytelling session, be it at home, school or children event, please contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will reply back with her rates and storytelling activity.
Hello Kitty is one of the most popular Japanese characters, loved by many people around the world; not only children, but adults too. Hello Kitty has quite a fan-base here in Malaysia and the first time Hello Kitty made her debut appearance in KL was in 1987. Everybody knows who Kitty is. Kitty is a global superstar since its creation in 1974 by Yuko Shimizu for Sanrio Co Ltd. The popularity of Hello Kitty around the globe has been built on the dramatic expansion of overseas licensing through collaborative initiatives with business partners and brand names around the world. As such, at home front (Tokyo), the idea of collaborating with Sanrio attracted Keio Plaza Hotel’s management team.
Hello Kitty Rooms were opened in 2014 and Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo offers a total of eight Hello Kitty rooms, in two themes of Kitty Town with the delightfully pop décor, and Princess Kitty, equipped with furniture dedicated to the charm of Kitty. These rooms have gathered media attention from around the world and have been popular among both Japanese and overseas guests.
Reading about the extensive publicity, I was intrigued with the idea of spending a night at Hello Kitty-themed room (because I am a fan of Kitty myself) and decided to check out the room during my trip to Tokyo recently, all thanks to Keio Plaza Hotel for responding to my request for a complimentary stay in Hello Kitty room. I invited my friend Mazni and her daughter Nadya (who studied in Tokyo), to join in the fun spending the night with Kitty.
Here’s a video by Nadya (you can hear us ‘jeng, jeng, jeng’ in joy at the beginning of the video!):
Guess who tagged along with us? Dina!
Big Hello Kitty and Little Dina. Can you see her?
The Hello Kitty room we stayed in is provided with specially created Hello Kitty amenities including Hello Kitty letter sets, pens, plastic bags, slippers and other goods to take home as souvenirs.
The room also comes with a special room service breakfast that include omelette, sandwich, soup and others created in the concept of Hello Kitty. As for Muslims, they can serve a vegetarian breakfast, still in the manner of Hello Kitty concept, but do take note that the hotel’s kitchens are not halal. It is safe to just eat-out at Halal food outlets available around Shinjuku area. More notes about this below.
Amenities in the room include free Wi-Fi service, Japanese Tea, Coffee and Tea, Kettle, Mini bar, refrigerator, hairdryer, in-room safe, TV and many more.
Overall view of the room.
The pop decor.
Drinking facility in the room. You can take the bottles home. 🙂
Bathroom with Hello Kitty bath gel, shampoo, conditioner, tooth brush, cottons, and facial cleanser.
We had a blast staying in the Hello Kitty room. Honestly, it is better than I thought it would be. The bed was very comfy and the pink tub rocked. The yutaka nightwear was awesome, and we loved the tea/coffee making facility. The view from the room was great too. All together, we loved everything about the room and most importantly, we loved our stay.
In addition we got to experience certain areas of the hotel such as the lounge at 45th floor where we can see buildings around Shinjuku area.
Mazni and Nadya experienced the tea ceremony at the hotel the next day while I was down with a mild fatigue because I had been forcing my feet to walk more than they could. Will tell you about the interesting tea ceremony (according to Mazni) in another blog posting soon.
Let me sum up all the perks of of staying in Hello Kitty Room:
Exclusive reception desk. Quick and easy check-in/check-out service available for the Hello Kitty room staying guests at the exclusive premier counter.
Special room service breakfast that include omelette, sandwich, soup and others created in the concept of Hello Kitty. Great for non-Muslim guests.
Access to Sky Pool, lounges and many more. They will consult you upon check-in.
Hello Kitty free gifts; Hello Kitty letter sets, pens, plastic bags, slippers and other goods. There will be notes in the room on which items you are welcome to take home.
With great perks, come great price. For 2 adults and 1 children, the rate is from JPY 52,000/Night (without breakfast). With breakfast, the rate is from JPY 61,000/Night. Around MYR2,000 and MYR2,400 respectively.
Note for Muslim guests
Keio Plaza Hotel is working towards on facilitating Muslim guests a comfortable stay, and is providing praying mat and Qibla compass upon request.
Unfortunately, the hotel’s kitchens are not halal and they are not providing separate dishes yet (should you wish to eat only vegetables, fruits and seafood).
About Keio Plaza Hotel Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, located in Shinjuku at the very heart of the nation’s capital Tokyo, is one of Japan’s leading international hotels. The hotel boasts of over 20 restaurants and bars, and hosts a wide range of local and international guests who visit us for our open and welcoming facilities, top-notch services, and warm hospitality. For more information about the facilities and services, please visit their website, YouTube, Facebook or Instagram.
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
Keio Plaza Hotel Tama also has Hello Kitty rooms. If you are planning to go to Sanrio Puroland, the home of Hello Kitty, which is is only a in five-minute walk from the hotel, maybe it is a good idea to consider staying there.
More photos for Hello Kitty rooms below. Enjoy!
Hello Kitty Town room.
Princess Kitty room.
Disclaimer: Although the stay was complimentary, my opinion in this blog post is hundred percent honest.