Archive for February, 2013

Tokyo and a Cat Cafe

My Cat Cafe experience occurred in December, but as nothing fascinating happened in my life this week, I thought I should bust out some cute cat pictures to distract you from the lull of not having anything worthwhile to say. 😀 I can tell you’re excited.

When patronizing a cat cafe one pays by the hour to enjoy the presence of cats, essentially. It’s actually a really nice, relaxing place. It’s pretty spacious (especially considering you’re in the country of NO SPACE EVERRRR), with lots of comfy couches, chairs, footrests, and kotastsu. Kotatsu are low tables (you sit on cushions on the floor when using them) with a blanket attached, which the tabletop goes over the top of. There’s also a heater on the underside of the table. So, when you sit at one of these, it’s like your legs have entered a lovely cave of warmth. I have actually fallen asleep under one of these once. They’re very pleasant. For pictures and wikipedia’s wisdom of kotastsu, please follow this link which I have quite lazily provided: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kotatsu 

The cat cafe also had several large bookshelves full of books (all in Japanese…womp womp), games scattered throughout, laptops, and outlets, all of which are free to patrons once you’ve paid the hourly price. The hourly price I think was around $12 for the first hour, but then less after that. The initial price also includes a hot tea or coffee of your choice. 

I have a little card from the cat cafe that explains to me, in Japanese, the rules of the cat cafe. I believe they are essentially…be nice to the cats, don’t pick them up, and don’t wake them up or bother them if they are sleeping. There were no children there when I went to the cat cafe, and I have a feeling that children under a certain age aren’t allowed, though I’m not sure. I also now have a punch card for this cat cafe, so that if I go back a million times, one day I will be allowed to be in the presence of cats for free. 

The cats are all very sociable and calm. They’ll play, but they’re all very well acclimated to each other and to people. The humans who work at the cat cafe also clean the place obsessively, so even though there are cats everywhere, there in no cat hair on any of the furniture. It’s really quite impressive. 

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I named this cat Mr. Shags

All in all, it was a really nice, warm, quiet, comfortable place to unwind and rest after a long day in Tokyo, and I’d go again. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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A Walk Through Ota

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Orchids for sale outside the flower shop.

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Traditional blue tiled roof.

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Typical Japanese ‘yard’.

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A stream that flows through Ota.

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A tree in winter.

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Houses are built close together and the yards are sometimes barren.

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The flower shop near where I work.

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A graveyard.

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Hanging lanterns outside of a hostess bar.

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The façade of a hostess bar or restaurant.


Onsen Again and Kimonos

Sunday Mika and I went adventuring in order to prepare some Valentine’s Day gifts for her boyfriend. This involved going to a variety of places, including another onsen (though that turned into more of a relaxation event than anything related to Vday), and a mall with a kimono shop in it. (Really we just went to that specific mall for the Baskin Robbins, so…once again. Not related to Vday. I guess the day got a bit sidetracked by ice cream and onsens).

This onsen, unlike the first one I went to, is not a hotel. It’s next to the local mall, about ten minutes from my apartment. It costs 700 yen (about 8 dollars) to use the onsen for (from what Mika’s Japanese-reading could determine) apparently as long as you want. It’s open until 2 am, has indoor and outdoor hot springs, as well as a few which are augmented with different scents and/or minerals (I think, once again, I can’t read anything in the place). You can bring your own towels, or rent a large and small one for 100 yen total. It’s super cheap, and a fantastic way to relax. I will definitely be going back to this onsen.

After leaving our shoes up front and paying, we received keys for lockers in the locker room. This onsen is also gender segregated (most are, but not all). We stashed our stuff in out lockers, stripped down, grabbed the smaller towel (which is used for washing yourself and/or keeping your hair up and out of the water), and headed into the onsen. The antechamber of this onsen had a bubbler and an ice machine where you could come and cool down if needed, and a small sink. Once you enter the actual onsen, about half the room is full of bathing stations, and the other half are small pools and tubs. There’s a fountain/sink of water where you can rinse yourself off as soon as you walk in (we spied on a woman who walked in before us to see what her routine was, and she took a ladle out of the fountain and rinsed herself off pretty thoroughly before moving onto the bathing stations). The bathing stations were quite similar to the other ones. A mirror, stool, movable shower head, shampoo, conditioner, and soap. We washed ourselves off and hopped into the nearest pool, which was deserted. There was a pink pool next to it, which had like…some kinda rose and sandalwood thing going on, and a couple of smaller pools, including some which where essentially like hot tub seats with jets. The water was of course, quite hot, but leaves your skin feeling really soft and refreshed. (Though I’d definitely advise bringing lotion to apply after, the extremely hot water will definitely dry you out). An older Japanese woman adopted us for a short time, and took us to the outside springs, one of which was even hotter.

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It was really nice to have the contrast of the cool fifty degree breeze on your skin outside of the hot water.  We didn’t last long at the onsen, probably less than an hour; the hot temperatures are a lot to take when you’re not accustomed to it.

Later in the day we headed to Midori in search of ice cream. We wandered around the mall where the Baskin Robbins was located and happened upon a kimono shop. We were obviously gawking at the kimonos, and Midori is even further away from Tokyo than Ota is, so we stood out pretty obviously. One of the older women working in the shop started talking to us, and I don’t know what she was saying, but by and by she offered to help us try on kimonos. She allowed us to pick from a selection of a certain type of kimono, I picked a light blue and Mika chose a cream. One of the girls dressed Mika while the woman dressed me. First came the high white collar which is on a sort of harness that goes under your breasts. Next she wrapped and tied the kimono. Next came a sort of hard rectangle of fabric that goes under the obi, probably to give it structure. Then she wrapped the obi (though didn’t tie it in the back), then she folded a pice of accent fabric which was stuffed into the front of the obi, then she tied a red decorative rope-esque thing around the obi, and finally, gave me the traditional toe socks to put on (made to wear with traditional Japanese sandals). They’re separated like mittens, one part for your big toe, and then the rest of the toes together.

The process was arduous, but didn’t take that incredibly long, however, it also didn’t involve the proper undergarments or the tying of the obi, which seems pretty intricate. Nor the traditional makeup or hair ornaments. It still probably took a solid fifteen minutes of someone else dressing us. Movements in kimono are very restricted. We couldn’t bend over to reach things on the ground, and we could pretty much only move in small shuffles.

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The kimonos were beautiful, although not the most flattering on our curvaceous western figures. Kimonos are pretty much designed to flatten everything out…so we sort of looked like really pretty rectangles.

Definitely an exciting experience though; at some point I’d like to get completely dolled up in the full traditional outfit, hair, and makeup.