A trip to Nagoya is never complete without trying all of the delicious food available. This aesthetic food adventure takes us to many dessert cafes and restaurants that have just re-opened after the emergency state ended. We also drank at Meijo Park near Nagoya Castle which is one of the chillest spots I’ve found in this city with awesome scenery. All of the places I visited this weekend have a lovely atmosphere and I can’t recommend them enough!
I’ll be expanding this list as I find more places, but feel free to suggest any you recommend in the comments! Please see Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 for reference.
Around the time that Animal Crossing for Switch was released, these guys popped up in my recommended desserts feed on Instagram. Though I don’t play the game because I value my free time, who could pass up the chance to try tanuki cupcakes!? Holland is western-themed desserts and confectionery shop near Kanayama Station in Nagoya. They sell individual sweets and customized cakes for a pretty affordable price. The tanuki cupcakes come in strawberry and chocolate flavors. They had both a wafer and cake-like texture underneath the frosting. Honestly they hit the spot after traveling over 2 hours here from Tokyo. I am excited to see what other fun cupcakes they design in the future!
Cafe One in central Sakae delivers breakfast of the champions with it’s signature nekopan. Or should I say breakfast of the champio-nyans? Whatever you want to call it, it’s mouthwatering and delicious. I had ice cream milk coffee that was decorated to look like a cat with a mustache and a cookie tail on the side. I instantly felt energized after consuming all that ice cream and sugar. My boyfriend ordered neko melonpan that had no face but was thicc and tasted amazing. I ordered the nekopan with almond eyes that was covered in peanut butter and marshmallow toppings with chocolate whiskers. Honestly is was a bit overwhelming but was also some of the best bread I had ever tasted. There are many flavors of nekopan available here so I’d love to try more in the future!
Dean & Deluca Deli
After consuming all of that sugar, we walked around for a while and decided we should eat something healthy for lunch. Not too far from Cafe One is the Dean & Deluca Deli where you can order sandwiches and fresh salad for a healthy meal. They offer juices, desserts, and takeout options here as well. I decided to get the vegetable salad with avocado, grilled pumpkin, potato, lettuce, quinoa, and carrots. It was a good balance to what I ate for breakfast and gave me a lot of energy for the rest of the day. My boyfriend had the chicken sandwich and said it had his stamp of approval too. This place is win-win for both vegetarians and people who like meat because it has a number of options.
Poket is a Hawaiin restaurant that just moved to the bottom floor of ASTIR Hotel in Sakae. They are relatively new but have a really vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. Poke Bowls are the specialty here which you can order with salad or rice as your base. I customized my bowl to include sauteed octopus and vegetables. For dessert, I decided to try their one of a kind “banana soft” which is vanilla ice cream that is carefully placed inside of a fresh banana. The result is extremely photogenic and Instagrammable. Bananas sure have evolved a lot! The drink menu has Japanese drinks, Hawaiin beers, and pineapple sours. I definitely felt like we were in a tropical place even though we are currently in the middle of the rainy season in Japan. I would definitely come back here again to try more variety of of Poke and see what other crazy desserts they come up with!
For once I wasn’t the one that found this restaurant—full credit goes to my boyfriend for taking us here. 杏ZU specializes in vegan Chinese food but has a non-vegan menu too. I decided to ordered the vegetables boiled with yuba tofu (vegan option). I also tried some Chinese wine on the rocks. It was bitter but tasted just right paired with the food. My boyfriend got a chicken dish that was served in a delicious rice cracker. What makes this place stand out from other Chinese restaurants is the seasoning they use in their cooking. I tasted a hint of lemon in mine and it was very healthy because they didn’t use any butter in it. I would really like to come back here and try some shrimp dishes in the future. This place will be on my watch list.
Situated next to Nagoya Castle, Meijo Park is one of the ideal places to drink or have a picnic. Unlike other parks and gardens in Nagoya, it doesn’t have an entrance fee and is open 24 hours. It feels like something out of an RPG because it has a giant windmill that looks like it holds secrets, a sundial that could possibly turn back time, and comically huge sunflowers everywhere. Not to mention the adorable stray cats. You could definitely use this place in a game map. Anyway, my boyfriend and I spent 2 hours drinking here before Final Fantasy VII trivia night at Critical Hit. We also tried the new Blue Hawaii donut at Lyrical Coffee Donut which was better than their matcha series. I later came back here to watch the sunset and see the moon before I left for Tokyo. This place has a wonderful aesthetic because all of the trees block the city lights.
That’s all the aesthetic food finds for this week. I’ll have more to write about when I visit Nagoya again later this month! Thank you for reading.
Since I’ve finished my Jeju Island article series, I’m going to write about some of my favorite places to hang out in Seoul next. It’s hard to structure this article because there are literally so many cool areas of the city! My two favorite districts in Seoul are by far Itaewon and Gangnam. Both have extremely different vibes but are perfect for a night out depending on what my mood is. Itaewon is friendliest and most international while Gangnam is the fanciest district is Seoul. Even though I can’t speak Hangul, I never have trouble making friends in this city. Spontaneously getting invited to a bachelor’s party while staying here was one of the coolest things that have ever happened to me in a foreign country. I’ve been to Korea three times and hope to visit again when international travel is possible again.
Without further ado, here are the most fun places that I’ve discovered:
Common Ground is an urban mall that was built out of containers and is really fun to explore. Unlike other malls, there’s not a huge mob of annoying shoppers here because those type of people usually go to the fancier malls in the center of the city. Common Ground features small designer stores and also has restaurants and live music. A lot of stores here import brands too. No matter what your price range is, you can usually find something that fits your taste here. I actually didn’t buy much but I had fun doing photography with the winter illuminations outside. There was also a statue of an astronaut outside and some replicas of Roman statues inside the main building when I visited. How aesthetic!
While I was walking around here, a Korean student came up to me and interviewed me for a university project. Since I didn’t have a strict itinerary during my first trip, I happily participated. She asked me various questions about my country and also gave me some Korean snacks. Though it was a simple project, I was happy that I could help out. Common Ground is close to many universities so it’s great for socializing and meeting people!
Lotte World is one of the most famous amusement parks in Korea. In fact, it’s the largest indoor theme park in the world—which is why I had to go! It’s located in the massive Lotte Mall that has hundreds of shops and food from all around the world. If you are looking for top tier shopping in Seoul, then this is the place. I came after the start of the new year so the park had a winter theme. Fortunately it wasn’t very crowded and I could ride all of the rides that I wanted! There are carousels, roller coasters, haunted houses, and my personal favorite: The Balloon Ride. You can see the entire indoor park and mall from the top which makes it an amazing experience.
Even though Lotte World is owned by Lotte Co. Ltd., there are actually a lot of parallels between it and Disney Land. For example, the outside of Lotte World resembles the Disney World Castle. It also has a beautiful lake that you can view by walking across a bridge that leads to the artificially created “Magic Island” which is a lot like Disney Sea. Despite these similarities, the attractions are quite different and the entrance to Lotte World is considerably cheaper. If you like one park, you’ll probably like the other too.
I would recommend checking out Lotte World as opposed to other amusement parks because you can come here in any kind of weather thanks to the indoor park area.
Entrance Fee: 32$ for adults (cheaper than most amusement parks in Japan so it’s overall worth it)
The Jogyesa Temple in Insadong, Seoul is probably my favorite temple of all time in Korea. I first came here during the Lotus Festival in April and many bright hand-crafted paper ornaments were hung around the entire complex. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! Jogyesa is actually the center of Buddhism in Korea and many rituals and ceremonies are held here. There are private prayer rooms as well as places that you can make public offerings. The Chinese Scholar Tree was planted on the temple grounds because it is said to convert negative energy into positive energy and happiness. Though I’m not particularly religious, I definitely felt in high spirits here. Please check this place out if you ever get the chance. The monks are very friendly and welcoming.
I enjoyed seeing the English pack of M&Ms being used as an offering when I went:
Entrance Fee: Free
Myeongdong is essentially the Shibuya/Harajuku of Seoul. You can come here at any time of day and find something fun to do. It has street food, hilarious fashion (“say no to kids, drugs”), recreational parks, and cafes galore. The street and night markets have knock-off Gucci and Supreme which you can score for a low price. I enjoyed eating octopus and drinking sochu while I walked through all the streets and alleyways.
Some of my favorite places I found around Myeongdong Station were:
Artbox – An adorable mall with art supplies, cosmetics, and accessories. It reminded me of the LINE Friends store in Japan but had way more variety.
Stylenada 3CE – A pool-themed shopping mall and cafe with beautiful pink decor. It has amazing desserts!
Bbongsin – An amazing restaurant with cold noodles and calzones. Some of the best Korean food I’ve ever had!
Milky Bee – An ice cream shop with flower-shape gelato.
Myeongdong has bars that stay open late, but not much of a club scene. Continue reading to see my recommendations for clubs:
Ever since the song “Gangnam Style” became a hit song, I feel like this district doesn’t really need an introduction but I’ll give it a go anyway. Gangnam is the most upscale district in Seoul but you can enjoy the nightlife here with almost any budget. In addition to some of the most reputable clubs, it has secluded parks you can walk through by the river side and amazing cafes. Gangnam itself is pretty spread out so people don’t normally drink in the streets like in Itaewon. It’s classy and has a club area as well as a quiet upscale residential district as well.
My first memory of Gangnam was meeting up with some of my old college friends here and going to Octagon, where we got invited to VIP tables and drank champagne. If you’re a girl then it’s really easy to meet people that will buy you drinks here. The crowds and sound system are pretty insane too. I honestly got too lit my first time here so I’d really like to come back and just focus on the music next time.
Last year I decided to get my eye bags removed at JK Plastic in Gangnam. I had sunken eyelids that were caused by genetics so the veins under my skin would show and create permanent eye bags. I always looked tired and wanted to fix the issue so I opted for eye surgery. I chose JK Plastic because they are one of the highest-rated clinics in Korea and speak English. It took about a week of downtime in Korea and then six weeks of recovery at home, but the skin beneath my eyelids has been fully restored now! When I woke up from surgery I nearly cried because they did such an amazing job and I could already see the results despite having a swollen face. During my down time I played visual novels and also watched a lot of anime. It wasn’t so bad—just make sure you have enough time off to take care of yourself!
Plastic surgeons in Korea are the best in the world. The advantage of going here is that if you’re a tourist you can get a tax refund from the surgery when you go to the airport. I would not recommend plastic surgery in Japan because my friends have said the surgeons here are not as experienced or friendly. I would recommend doing research, scheduling an online consultation with a clinic you like, and seeing what options fit you best. I may write a full article on this at a later time!
Itaewon is my favorite place to start my night out in Seoul. I have so many fond memories here. It caters to the late-night international crowd and has small, condensed streets as well as beautiful murals that decorate the walls. You can sit at an outdoor bar or go drinking in the street and easily meet people (both tourists and Korean nationals). You can find pretty much any type of restaurant or dessert shop here too. It has the feel of a college town but is much more upscale and classy. Usually I spend my first night going to various clubs and bars then wake up and soak in Itaewon Land Spa.
My favorite club here is called Cakeshop because it features a lot of independent producers from both Seoul and other countries plus it has a great vibe. It originally caught my eye because Carpainter did a set here in 2015 (unfortunately I was in America at the time or I would have gone). The club is small enough with one DJ booth and bar that it’s easy to converse with people and enjoy the music. I have made a number of friends here that I still stay in touch with. The entry fee usually isn’t more than $25.
Besides Cakeshop, Fountain is a great place to check out. The first floor is huge dance floor that’s always usually packed and the upper floors have tables and arcades for bigger groups. The music here is usually western EDM which disinterests me, but the atmosphere of the club is impressive. I have never paid any entrance fee when I have gone in. What I remember of Club Awesome was awesome too!
Next time I’m here I really want to check out a club called Pumpkin. If it’s actually Halloween-themed like its outer decor implies then I’m in.
Other Interesting Places:
Hongdae – Hongdae is a popular spot for college students and those who love K-pop music clubs. I came here to visit the ADERerror store and also to do some shopping. I didn’t like it as much as Itaewon or Gangnam due to my music taste, but I highly recommend you spend a night exploring here and see what you think.
I found an amazing “Magical Item Shop” called Creamy DD with tons of Sailor Moon and other magical girl accessories here. It’s easy to spot the sign if you walk down the main road:
Ihwa Mural Village – Since I went to Busan and saw Gamcheon I skipped this village, but if you are looking for beautiful murals and art to see then please check this place out! I want to go here in the future.
Secret Garden – A scenic area around Changdeokgung Palace that I recommend checking out if you have the time. It is one of the most beautiful gardens in Seoul!
Nami Island – A scenic island near Seoul where many K-dramas are filmed. Click the link to read my full article on it!
Places to Stay
As a backpacker, I favor cheap hostels but the majority of accommodations in Korea are less expensive than in Japan. You can likely find a nice hotel for $45 USD or less too.
Here are some of the places that I stayed at and enjoyed in Korea. I booked them close in proximity to the clubs I was interested in checking out:
Guesthouse Yacht (Itaewon) – A very inexpensive apartment-style dorm in the heart of Itaewon. This is my go-to place if I’m spending the night there because it’s safe, quiet, and conveniently located.
Kimchee Guesthouse (Gangnam) – A guest house near Gangnam City Office that has private and dorm rooms. I stayed here during my eye surgery recovery period and it was perfect because my room had a shower inside it. This is the cheapest you will get in the fanciest part of the city, I assure you.
Neo Seoul Guesthouse – I wanted to try staying in Hongdae for a night, so I chose this place because of the cool name. It was cheap and I could easily access the airport limousine the next day so I recommend it for its convenience (Itaewon and Gangnam are a bit further away).
This will be the last article about Korea that I write until my next trip! Since I live in Japan, I can sometimes find cheap round-trip flights for under $150 so I come here usually once a year for a week long vacation. Usually new restaurants and venues open, plus cosmetics and beauty clinics are really cheap here so I always have something to look forward to. Until next time, Seoul!
After exploring the east and west side of Jeju Island and climbing Mt. Hallasan, I decided to spend my final day on the island relaxing and seeing some of the places that most tours don’t cover (such as the sex museum and private beaches). Since I don’t have an international license, I had my hostel help book me a private taxi driver. The average cost of private taxi drivers in Jeju is about $150 USD per day but hiring one is much easier than trying to use the local buses. The duration of the taxi session is around 9 hours and you can easily see all of the things you want to see without hassle. Hilariously, all the English-speaking drivers were booked already due to high demand but I was able to book a Japanese one. Without further hesitation I set off for my fifth and final day on the island and hoped for the best! Fortunately the weather was on my side.
See Iho Tewoo Beach & Gwakji Beach
Jeju has around eight popular swimming beaches in total, but I chose to travel to the two most photogenic ones. Iho Tewoo Beach is famous for its two horse-shaped lighthouses. I wanted to see them in person so this was the very first destination I chose! Unfortunately it was bit too cold to go swimming, but I just liked being on an empty and relaxing beach. Apparently this beach is extremely popular during the summer because you can go for boat rides here, but during late April when I went it was extremely peaceful and quiet. Just what I wanted after all of the exhausting hiking that I did!
I picked up some amazing octopus at a nearby restaurant here. Raw Korean octopus tastes amazing:
After I had my fill, I decided to head to Gwakji Beach which is much livelier because there are a lot of resorts around it. None of the resorts on Jeju are particularly fancy, but the cafes sure are. I decided to try Mônsant which is owned by G-DRAGON purely because of its flawless architectural design. You can see the ocean through the panes of glass while sipping on delicious coffee. I ordered a strawberry smoothie and couldn’t believe the view that I was seeing:
I tried to go swimming here, but the beach shore was a bit rocky so I was reluctant. Jeju’s beaches are more designed for soaking up the atmosphere rather than actually getting soaked. I didn’t mind though, because Gwakji Beach definitely had a nice vibe. In addition to posh cafes there were squids being sun-dried and local food stalls around. I appreciated the diversity of food here.
One hilarious and slightly creepy trend here I saw was having photos of couples and babies printed onto lattes. I’m usually quite adventurous when it comes to food, but I don’t know if I’d have the courage to drink myself… This is just too realistic:
Nexon Computer Museum
The next stop was my favorite museum of all time in Korea: The Nexon Computer Museum. Nexon is the company responsible for creating Maple Story and the longest running commercial graphic MMO in the world: Baram, also known as Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. I was really surprised to see that a modest company in Korea had this award; which makes me think that Nexon is seriously underrated so naturally I wanted to learn more.
Ah yes, the infamous Sex Museum of Korea. I’ll admit I was a bit embarrassed coming here by myself, but I was on vacation so I figured why the hell not? Jeju Loveland is an art museum of erotic outdoor sculptures and has an indoor collection of various adult toys. What’s good is that it promotes a safe approach to sex and only admits entry to adults (honestly I’ve seen enough pedophilia in Japan bookstores and this was a much classier attraction). “Various romantic and sexual art works are waiting for you.” the official website says. I liked the ambiguity of the upside-down sculptures submerged in water… But I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. Definitely see it if it fancies you!
Entrance Fee: $9 USD (not bad)
Jeju Horse Park
Before having my driver drop me off at the airport so I could take my flight back to Seoul, I decided to make one more stop at Jeju Horse Park. I was wearing the most extra outfit because I was shooting pictures on the beach just before, but once again I figured why not! I was on vacation and I wanted to ride a horse one last time. This was the perfect way to end my Jeju Chronicles. I had successfully accomplished everything that I had planned so this was yet another perfect trip to commemorate. The park has a really laidback approach and you can choose multiple routes around the mountains and seaside. I couldn’t use my camera because I was riding, but I had an amazing time! There was a guide who was keeping close watch on me so I felt safe at all times. Horseback riding is a great way to see Jeju Island and is relatively cheap so you should try it at least once while you’re here.
Entrance Fee: $10-$20 USD depending on how long you go.
As this article implies, I had a phenomenal time on Jeju Island and would recommend it to all my friends. There were a few issues with the language barrier here and there, but island people are some of the friendliest people that you will ever meet. I really treasured all of my time here. I was also able to speak Japanese in a few instances and find my way around. Google Maps aren’t always reliable in South Korea so I would do your research on what attractions you want to see before coming here. That’s it really. Once you arrive at Jeju, you’ll find that the island is small enough that you can easily navigate and fit in all the activities you want. Jeju is by far the most beautiful place in South Korea and you should definitely give it a chance because it has activities for everyone!
If you told us that we’d be dining at a rooftop bistro in the presence of shining suits of armor adorned with jewels, we wouldn’t have believed you. But since the burger place that we wanted to go to was sadly closed, this was where we ended up. Nagoya food and restaurants are seriously underrated, which is why I’m writing Aesthetic Food Finds Vol. 2 today. This is just the beginning of greater food adventures that are yet to come.
I’ll be expanding this list as I find more places, but feel free to suggest any you recommend in the comments! Please see Vol. 1 for reference.
Bis-Tria Gatsby is by far the fanciest restaurant I’ve been to in Nagoya, but it’s surprisingly welcoming and affordable. As we walked in we were amazed by the huge collection of wines on display and the rare Dark Souls DLC suits of armor. Despite us being in casual wear (because we were only planning on eating burgers before), we were politely seated and handed three different menu. After some careful thought, we decided to order the tomato and cabbage pasta, a platter of octopus and marinated vegetables, a fancy pineapple frozen cocktail, and some chocolate cake for dessert. This was the best meal I had in Nagoya and we only paid around 3000 yen when we split the bill.
I will never forget these aesthetic suits of armor:
This bistro is ideal for dates and birthday parties (we saw two Japanese girls celebrating their birthdays here). I would gladly come back again given the occasion.
I was going through food recommendations on Instagram when this giant glorious egg caught my eye. ANDY CURRY offers some of the most satisfying curry dishes in Nagoya with a selection of seafood, chicken, and vegetarian options too. I chose the seafood option and enjoyed the mussels in my curry sauce. The egg on top is perfectly prepared so it melts into the rice giving it a zesty flavor right as it is served to your table. You can customize the level of spiciness in your order as well. I was very impressed to see that they offered takeout options during the emergency state of Japan. We chose to eat in, but in the future I would love to grab a curry that I could take on the go or eat in a park!
THANK YOU, BAKE
THANK YOU, BAKE was yet another spot-on recommendation that came up in my feed. The cute crocodile mascot totally sold me on coming all the way out to Kanayama to try the delicious vanilla ice cream topped with strawberry sauce. They have delicious cookies, cakes, and pastries you can order to go as well! The crocodile on their packaging bears and uncanny resemblance to the popular Japanese web comic “The crocodile who dies in 100 days” that ended just as the COVID pandemic started. It’s definitely worth a read as it adds a layer of irony to this bake goods shop. All the more reason to come out here and try their food!
Menya Hanabi is a seriously amazing noodle joint that I had no idea existed until my boyfriend pointed it out. The store originated from Taiwan and specializes in mazesoba which consists of noodles mixed with soy sauce, vinegar, minced pork, and other toppings that you can choose. Since I don’t eat meat, I opted for raw egg and as many vegetables as they had on their menu. The flavor it packs is out of this world. The broth is extremely light so you can focus on the taste of the toppings. I would say that mazesoba tastes a lot better than ramen, but I would still recommend trying both!
Vegi Kitchen GuGu
Vegi Kitchen GuGu is a healthy vegan restaurant located on the outskirts of Nagoya. I had my very first meal in Nagoya here after World Cosplay Summit dressed as Futaba from Persona 5 so it was extremely on-point. Their star-shaped vegan curry is to die for! I still remember the taste even though it was nearly 3 years ago. Unfortunately due to the emergency state, the restaurant is only offering takeout options. Fortunately there is a Campfire Fund for small businesses in Nagoya that has already met its goal, so hopefully in the future this restaurant will offer its full menu again! When it does, I’ll be sure to go back and eat there again.
6/30/2020 EDIT: The full menu has returned to the restaurant and you can dine in now! The vegan curry I ordered with my boyfriend earlier this month looks even better than before:
Antico Caffeé is a modest cafe located in the Dai Nagoya building near the main station, but it never disappoints. Their spinach and mushroom sandwiches, coffee, and canolis are all very fulfilling. If you are looking to grab a quite bite to eat on your way out that’s affordable, then this is one of your best options. Though quite simple, this cafe will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first place that my boyfriend and I went on a date together. I think it will always be a place I come back to!
I saved the best for last—Critical*Hit is one of my favorite gaming bars in Japan and also the a place I always make my rounds to each time I’m in Nagoya. Whenever I’m here, I either make a new friend, discover a new game, or having extremely invigorating discussions with other people. There are a number of console games plus rare games (such as LSD and other classics) that you can choose to play, or you can sit and converse with others which I usually do. I still stay in contact with a lot of the people I’ve met here because Nagoya has a really close-knit community. There are a mix of foreigners and Japanese people as well that frequent here. I am really fortunate to have met my first boyfriend here on a night when he was playing Metal Gear Solid!
That’s all the aesthetic food finds for this week. As more places in Japan open up, I’ll hopefully have a lot more to write about!
Three years ago I decided to go backpacking through Okayama for the main purpose of visiting Washuzan Highland so I could ride the infamous pedal-powered roller coaster of terror through the sky, but I got sideswept into come crazy adventures in the city before I even made it there. Some of these are too good not to share so I’m writing this story in three separate articles.
It all started while I was walking from Okayama Station to Jiyuu Kuukan, the net cafe where I was staying for the night because I didn’t have much money, when a Japanese guy around my age started talking me up. Unlike most people I encounter in this type of situation, he wasn’t trying to hit on me (or at least he didn’t make it obvious). He invited me out for drinks because he was taking the TOEIC [English proficiency exam] soon and wanted to practice his English. He also noted that it was quite rare to see solo woman travelers here in Okayama, but I get that a lot wherever I travel. It doesn’t really phase me at all. I agreed to go out for drinks with him because well, I love drinking!
I didn’t really teach him much English because I don’t consider myself qualified (despite being an English teacher previously), but I did answer his questions and make him feel more confident. He informed me he worked at a car company nearby in Kurashiki; a place in Okayama that I had planned on visiting. In return for my English lesson (if you could call it that), he offered to drive me around Okayama since many parts of the prefecture are difficult to reach by just using the trains. So the next day I hit him up with a series of destinations I had come up with. Buckle up because this is a crazy ride!
Le Soleil Patisserie
My favorite dessert place in Okayama is hands down Le Soleil. Their double-layered cheese cake (literally called double cheese cake) is the best cheese cake I’ve ever had in my life. The whipped cream on top is immense, but not overpowering. It melts like butter in your mouth. They have tons of other delicious sweets and pastries available too. What originally inspired me to come here was banvox’s birthday post:
He originally used to reside in or near Okayama so the chefs of Le Soleil sent him this giant cheese cake. Since you can’t order this specific cheese cake in Tokyo, I made it a mission to try it here. The bakery is conveniently on the way to Kurashiki so it’s easy to stop here even if you don’t have a car (though it may be a bit of walk, it’s not too far).
88-3 Nakaobie, Kurashiki, Okayama 710-0013
Kurashiki is the beautiful canal town of Okayama with a European aesthetic and design. You can go for canal rides and browse the traditional shops that line the riverbed. There are beautiful buildings covered with ivy in the Ivy Square and the Ohara Museum, which is the oldest Western art museum in Japan. I didn’t have time to check everything out but I did manage to take some awesome photos. Being here was extremely relaxing.
While I was here, I convinced my friend try the local dish, takomeshi, with me. Despite being an Okayama native, he had never tried it before. This consists of chopped octopus with rice and is very delicious! I forget the name of the restaurant we went to, but most seafood restaurants will have it or some kind of variation.
Kurashiki Station is only 15 mins and 330 yen from Okayama Station (no car needed).
My friend asked me if I wanted to go to a hotspring, and I said sure, why not! Yubara Onsen is probably the most unique onsen I’ve been to because it’s outdoors, mix-gender, and open 24/7. Plus it’s completely free unless you need to rent towels or swimwear. The hotsprings are remote and secluded enough to where it pretty much has developed its own nudist culture. Of course you can choose to wear swimwear, but be aware that many people will bathe naked. Though once you start soaking in the hotspring, you completely forget about the other people and focus on the nature around you. The backdrop of the mountains and the dam is simply breathtaking. This was the first time I had ever bathed naked in a mixed hotspring but I felt very safe and welcome.
Yubara Onsen is about an hour away from Okayama City by car, and 2 hours by bus (for 2600 yen one way). Since the onsen is free, this is not a bad price to pay.
Makido Rainbow Caves
After a relaxing trip to the onsen, my friend and I decided to end the day with a trip to some psychedelic rainbow caves. I’m not making this up. I’ve been to caves all over Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam, but I’ve never seen any cave as colorful as the Makido Caves in Okayama. These look like something straight out of a Final Fantasy game:
They nickname this place the “Dream Palace” for a good reason. Makido is a limestone cave brought to life with carefully placed illuminated lights. These lights bring out the colors and beauty of the cave and make it a very fun place to explore.
For those who are looking for a more normal cave experience, Makido has you covered. You can find a non-illuminated section of the cave by following the main route. They have an area where you can throw coins into the lake for good luck:
It takes about 30-40 minutes to see everything here. We walked around the cave twice so we could watch all of the changing illuminations.
2276-2, Toyonagaakouma, Niimi City, Okayama Prefecture
This cave takes about 1.5 hours to reach from Okayama City. Some of the roads are quite narrow so it takes a lot of concentration to navigate (fortunately I was with an experienced driver). If you are going by train, you must first take the Hakubi Line to Niima Station then take a bus to get here which takes around 2.5 hours and is 2000 yen.
I could not wrap my head around how amazing this day was. We had managed to see so many things and I felt extremely grateful for this experience. I owe it all to my friend who drove me around! Unfortunately I lost contact with him after this trip, but I sincerely am thankful for his kindness and hope he passed his English exam.
Here is a video I took in 2017 on Snapchat to commemorate my hitch-hiking experience. I remember playing all of my favorite Nakata Yasutaka-produced songs for my driver:
Right before Japan declared its widespread emergency state in response to the COVID-19, I took a final trip to a place that has been on my travel list for quite a long time: Hida-Furukawa. Located in the mountainous region of Gifu, this town is the real-life location of the fictional town “Itomori” in the movie Your Name.Like its fictional counterpart, it is removed from the city and has a lot of wonderful nature you can explore. In this post, I will be detailing my experience here and all of the main places captured in the movie.
Please see my photo documentary for detailed side-to-side comparisons with the anime!
The major points of interest are:
Hida-Furukawa Station (so you can see the cattle mascot Hida-gyu)
Hida City Library
Ajidokoro Furukawa (the same restaurant where the characters eat mochi)
旧落合村バス停 (the infamous bus stop)
Hie Shrine in Takayama
But there are many other museums and hot springs to see during your trip!
Traveling to Hida-Furukawa Station
I woke up at 6am and rode the shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Toyama Station which took around 2 hours but was a scenic trip. From there I switched to the Hida Limited Express and traveled 1.5 hours to reach Hida-Furukawa Station—the main location of the movie outside of Tokyo. The journey takes 3-4 hours and costs around 14,000 yen in total, but is worth it for the amount of things you can see. Even if you’re not a diehard fan of Your Name, Hida has a rustic charm that you won’t find in other places in Japan.
As soon as I got off, I was greeted by a cute cutout of Hida-gyu. Hida is famous for its beef so it would make sense that its mascot looks like this:
Dining in Hida
Since I was starving I decided to stop by a local eatery called Fab Cafe Hida. This restaurant is not in the movie, but it’s definitely worth trying because they have sweet sake chai and delicious salmon sandwiches. I came here in early April so it was still snowing a bit even though there were some cherry blossoms in bloom. I was happy to see that they had space heaters scattered throughout their cafe so I could stay warm.
A restaurant that is in the movie however is called Ajidokoro Furukawa, where the characters feast on glutinous mochi. You’ll know this place when you see it because it has posters of the movie hung up around it. The staff is extremely friendly and will give you a guestbook to look at and draw in while you wait for your food. I was amazed by all the detailed drawings that people had sketched inside. In addition to mochi, there is a lot of Japanese food here that you can order too. I’m not a huge fan of mochi, but this was exceptionally delicious. I can see why the place was featured in the movie now!
Hitting the Library and Local Shrines
One of the early scenes in the movie takes place at the Hida City Library which you can easily reach on foot from the station (almost all the major attractions I listed are within walking distance from here). It’s quite an expansive library with multiple floors, toys and reading circles for children, and a number of classic titles. This is the biggest library I have ever been to in Japan so I will always remember my experience here. It brought back the memories I had renting books as a child in the days before ebooks existed. What a time it is to be alive!
In addition to the library, you can check out the Hida Tourism Center for a free map and also stop by some of the city’s local shrines. There are three shrines that are said to bring good luck in love if you visit them: Enko-ji, Shinshu-ji, and Honkou-ji. Every January 15th there is a festival here that celebrates them. Though the festival had long ended since I arrived here, I still had a lot of fun checking them out!
One of the major shrines in the movie (called Hie pictured above) is actually in Takayama. Fortunately, Takayama is very easy to reach. From Hida-Furukawa, you can take the Takayama Line to reach Takayama Station in 30 mins for 290 yen. Hie Shrine is around a 25 min walk from the station and is free to enter (or you can take a taxi).
There’s not much else to see in central Takayama, so I would recommend coming here after you fully finish exploring Hida-Furukawa.
The Infamous Bus Stop
This bus stop is arguably the most difficult place to get to, but is totally worth it for the comparative picture. It’s literally out in the middle of nowhere—forests and a single vending machine are the only things that surround it. Only a few number of buses stop here per day making it a real challenge to get here and back (you may be waiting for hours). The nearest train station is Tsunogawa Station, but since this area is somewhat remote the trains are infrequent too. But if you come all the way out to Hida, you might as well go for the gold. I opted to pay a taxi driver 6900 ($60) for a round trip from Hida-Furukawa Station to here and fortunately he cut me a deal.
Inside the bus stop are more sketch books and posters of the movie. It’s amazing to see how many people have made it out here!
Address:旧落合村バス停 (If you show this to any taxi driver in Hida, they will know).
Other Points of Interest
While walking through Hida, be sure to look out for the Setogawa Canal! This street is lined with beautiful buildings and you can also see koi fish swimming around. It’s extremely picturesque:
There are also a number of sake distilleries you can walk in and see. I found a sculpture of a life-sized robot near one of the shrines too! It truly surprised me how much there is to see in this little town.
Though I didn’t have enough time to visit any museums, here is a list of some I’d want to visit in the future:
Traveling to Hida and Takayama was definitely a great excursion out of the city for me. I had the chance to relive some of my favorite parts of Your Name and also create my photo documentary so I will forever remember this trip. However, even if you’re not a fan of the movie you will still enjoy this area if you like exploring rural Japan. I did this entire trip in one day, but you could easily expand this into a 2-3 day trip if you stay at an onsen resort or ride the Hida express all the way to Nagoya or Osaka. The local train that runs through Gifu is considerably less expensive than the bullet train.
In my next article I will be writing about Gero Onsen which is between Hida-Furukawa and Nagoya so it makes the perfect side-trip for those who are traveling here. Please look forward to my future adventures!
After eating the legendary floating noodles and having some aesthetic dining experiences in Kyoto, I figured I’d point out two of my favorite cafes there as well. They both involve two of my favorite things: small animals & videogames so naturally I had to check them out. I will be detailing my experiences below so hopefully more people will decide to visit!
Pug Cafe Living Room
Pug Cafe Living Room is a small space where you can interact with adorable little pugs dressed in colorful jerseys. It was opened in the living room of the Japanese family’s house who owns it and currently there are 15 friendly pugs that reside there. The system is very simple; you pay 1500 yen to enter and you have a full hour to play with the pugs. The entry fee includes treats so naturally the pugs will come to you if you feed them! They are quite energetic so it was difficult for me to take photos, but I really enjoyed my time here. You can extend your visit for 500 yen per 30 minutes if you wish. The cafe is a bit more crowded on the weekends but I was able to walk in on a Saturday and not have any wait time. Be sure to check their calendar to see if they are open because they do have some irregular holidays. If you are a pug lover, this is an experience that you can’t miss.
Cafe la Siesta is a retro gaming cafe located in central Kyoto with 8bit-themed drinks, old school games, music events, and more! I lucked out by coming here on a Wednesday night when all of the arcade games were free to play. I ordered a Space Invader drink that had Crab-shaped ice cubes which was highly aesthetic and tasted awesome. The wall of cartridges was also quite fun to check out because their collection of games was massive. I’ve been to many gaming bars in Asia, but this and Space Station in Osaka are my favorites due to the friendliness of the staff and the welcoming atmosphere (not to mention the interior decor). I was only here for a short time but got the perfect buzz.
Here is a collection of aesthetic food finds in Nagoya, Japan (Volume 1). ♥
This country has no shortage of of aesthetic foods so I will continue to share cafes that I stumble across in future posts! Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, most dessert cafes in Nagoya remain open as of March 2020.
On the very first day of my recent trip to Nagoya, my best friend and I decided to rise up to the challenge and order all 3 bears on the “Spring Fair” menu at Ai Cafe. This included sakura ice cream bear soda, strawberry bear toast, and a whopping king bear parfait. This challenge is not recommended for the weak due to the large amounts of aesthetic food you will receive—we were completely unprepared for the massive pink ice cream and extra thicc toast and waffle dishes all shaped like bears that stared back at us. But with careful strategy and pacing, we defeated them all and washed them down with a Kenshiro Coffee. The staff was super accommodating to take the time to make this for us.
A professionally Tweeted summary of the 3 bear challenge:
OKAY. TIME TO SEPERATE THE BOYS FROM THE MEN. IF YOU’RE NOT ON AT LEAST THREE BEARS BY LUNCH, GTFO OUT OF MY FACE SIMP. pic.twitter.com/KayVHVuPmC
Interestingly enough, Ai Cafe’s closest station is Gokiso Station, which I made a hilarious Japanese pun of: ごきそさまでした！
You may not think it’s funny, but I do.
Psychedelic Pattern Smoothies at Tuwl’s
While exploring the charming little shopping area of Osu Kannon, we stumbled upon a very small smoothie stand called Tuwl’s that sells psychedelic pattern smoothies. Unfortunately this place does not seem to be on a map yet, but it’s easy to find if you are walking towards the Taito Station. The smoothies are not only intricately designed, but they also taste out of this world. You can choose the fruit juice you want with a base of seeds, tapioca, or granola. I chose avocado juice with the seed base and was happy to find it was mixed with chopped strawberries too. My friend got the raspberry banana version which looks very similar to mine but has a different taste and pattern. All I can say was that the smoothie trip was worth it and it’s worth trying at least once.
Lyrical Coffee Donut
At one point during my trip to Nagoya, I thought I woke up in an alternate universe where coffee and donuts were “lyrical”, flowers grew from the ceiling, and it was snowing in Tokyo during sakura season but still sunny and pleasant in Aichi Prefecture. However, I learned that this was just every day life at Lyrical Coffee Donut (almost). This little cafe and flower workshop is tucked away near Kamejima Station making it still somewhat central to Nagoya. We ordered the sakura and coconut donuts (which we shared with our son, Waddle Dee), and also tried a floral jelly drink with the sandwich set. It tasted beyond delicious, and because it was sakura season the flower donuts were quite popular. I hope to come back here and try some more variety in the near future.
Not wanting to completely break our bear diet, we set off to Yama Coffee near Osu Kannon to try the infamous marshmallow coffee set. The marshmallows come in various shapes and sizes, but I had my heart set on the panda ones because they were the most aesthetic. I was delighted to see that they had added pink ones to the set to commemorate sakura season. I ordered a latte and they drew a macha leaf pattern on it which added to the panda theme. I feel like I can never drink coffee without marshmallows again because they add a perfect fluffy texture that packets of sugar can’t obtain. Yama Coffee is a coffee experience that I think everyone should have.
Queen’s Healthy Diner
Soy Chicken is Best Chicken.
After experiencing a sugar-induced coma from consuming all the bears, we realized we should eat something a little more healthy for dinner. My friend introduced me to Queen’s Healthy Diner which is not far from Sakae Station. This little diner is owned by a nice woman who prepares much of the food all by herself. I had a vegan salad and soy milk macha drink with alcohol, and my friend ordered the soy karaage (fried chicken) with homemade mayonnaise. I have to say that they karaage was by far the best thing on the menu. It tasted like like fried tofu and had the texture and appearance of karaage but was much healthier and easier to digest. In addition to this, there are vegan burritos, pizzas, and pastas available. This restaurant is every vegan in Nagoya’s dream come true.
Ogura Toast at Cafe Gentiane
I’m not sure who exactly came up with the strange idea to spread azuki bean paste on top of buttered French toast, but it somehow became a popular dish in this region after the first World War movement. Bean paste isn’t the first thing I’d think to add to my toast, but it surprisingly makes a delicious topping. The texture is a bit thicker than jam or jelly, but it’s just as sweet and usually comes with a side of butter or whipped cream as well. This dish is dubbed “Ogura Toast” and can be found all over Nagoya and other places in Aichi Prefecture. Since we were short on time, we settled for a place called Cafe Gentiane in Nagoya Station, but you can find Ogura Toast in a lot of other cafes here. You really can’t go wrong with French toast in Japan because it has a lot of rich variety.
Now Closed: Little Baby Dogs
When I first attended World Cosplay Summit dressed as Futaba from Persona 5 in 2017, I stumbled upon a small ice cream place in Sakae called “Little Baby Dogs“. The beautiful chocolate-dipped ice cream cones and heart-shaped toppings made this place a real charm (not to mention the name). Unfortunately this shop is now closed, but my memories of cosplaying and eating ice cream here will last forever.
Have you ever had a craving for Balllls? Though most tapioca places in Japan seem to be closing due to the trend dying off, Balllls Tapitera in Osu is actually just moving to a new location. I look forward to its grand re-opening and seeing more strange places like this in the future.
Thank you for reading Volume 1 of my aesthetic food journeys in Nagoya. If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments! I will be writing more volumes in the future.
Last month I wrote about my aesthetic adventures to the Capybara Zoo and Planet Cafe, but here are some other noteworthy spots in Hamamatsu that are worth checking out. If you go to Shizuoka Prefecture, you should definitely try the eel here because it’s some of the best in Japan. In addition to that, there is also a tiny fantasy-themed village you can explore. I’ve only been to Hamamatsu twice for music events, but I ended up stumbling into a lot of cool things on my journey.
As soon as I arrived at Hamamatsu Station, I immediately decided to go to an eel restaurant so I could finally try this city’s prized food. I chose a small shop called 八百徳 that was about a 3 min walk from the station because they had a set meal for a nice value. Cooked eel has a nice texture and is rich in protein so it’s a fit choice for an adventurer. I ordered the main unagi set served with rice, a side of vegetables, and miso soup which was delicious. You can eat eel all over Japan, but you can tell by the exquisite taste that they are farmed to perfection here. Most eel sets will cost 1500 ~ 2700 yen here but is worth it in my opinion.
For those that are up for fishing, there is a lake in Kosai City where you can catch them yourself! I have not been to this place, but it is somewhere I will consider traveling to in the future if I come back here again.
This fairy-like village nestled in a forest was designed by famous architect Shigeyoshi Sasaki and feels like something straight out of a Miyazaki movie! Originally Nukumori Village was a furniture workshop, but due to its beautiful European architecture it has attracted a lot of people and expanded. You can find small boutiques, restaurants, museums, and other aesthetic designs here. I enjoyed walking through the miniature houses with stained-glass windows and taking photos of them. There is an owl cafe called “Warmth of Owl“ here as well (I didn’t go but found it interesting). Despite it being a tourist destination, I arrived around 2pm and found that it was serene and quiet. It felt like less of a tourist trap and more of a relaxing day trip from the city to me.
From the crafty eel-shaped banisters to the one-of-a-kind unagi pie ice cream dessert served at the cafe here, this eel pie factory is truly a gem. Here you can learn all about the process of eel pie baking and buy some fancy souvenirs for your friends (I handed out several to my friends at the club). What exactly makes up an eel pie, you ask?
“Eel extract, garlic and other such flavorings are blended together with carefully-selected fresh butter to make the confection.”
The description sounds a bit fishy, but I can confirm that all of the samples I tried tasted like salted butter cookies. In other words: Eel Pie is absolutely delicious (especially with ice cream)! You can buy eel pie at various souvenir shops in Shizuoka, but coming to the factory is the best experience because you can order it fresh at the cafe. As someone who loves weird food, I simply could not pass this opportunity up.
Please note that the factory is a bit far from the main city, but you can take a taxi or walk 18 mins here from Okubo Bus Stop via city bus.
My friend and I were looking for a place to pregame before an event at Planet Cafe and stumbled upon a place called Chillwood Bar not far from the station. Not only is this bar cozy with a wide range of cocktails and bottles of wine, but the owner looks and acts just like Sojiro from Persona 5. We had some real-life anime going on here. I ordered a sakura fizz cocktail and my friend and I split a bottle of wine. Everyone was very friendly and asked me various questions about my life and travels in Japan. I was more than happy to share my experiences with them since the alcohol was flowing. I am glad to have made this website [Resurface to Reality] so I archive these memories and continue to create more.
Here is a collection of recent aesthetic food finds in the Kansai region of Japan focusing on Kyoto and Osaka (Volume 1). ♥
This country has no shortage of of aesthetic foods so I will continue to share cafes that I stumble across in future posts!
While wearing a butterfly-patterned dress, I managed to find butterfly ice cream at AKICHI in Namba (Osaka) that perfectly matched my drip. This colorful little alley functions as both a photo space covered in murals and a nook full of bakeries and cafes. I tried the strawberry and vanilla milk-flavored ice cream from Deglab; the “soft cream laboratory”. Not only was it topped with an elegant white chocolate butterfly and edible pearls, but it was also mouthwatering delicious! It felt like a dream come true. There is also a tapioca shop and bakery upstairs if you are looking for other desserts, but the ice cream is some of the best in town.
There’s nothing like eating a bowl of noodles in Kyoto. Or a Mont Blanc ice cream dessert disguised as noodles, because that makes perfect sense. At Wagurisenmon Saori in downtown Kyoto, you can confuse your taste buds by digging into these dessert noodles with a spoon and tasting a thick layer of cake and ice cream below. Kansai cooking is nothing short of amazing:
The taste of this dessert was average due to the “noodles” being somewhat tasteless, but as an aesthetic food enthusiast I could not pass this opportunity up. Definitely try it if you like the concept, but regular Mont Blanc sold in French bakeries throughout Japan taste a lot better and are cheaper. I will never forget this experience though.
All of my Japanese friends that travel to Osaka continually talk about butter unagi (eel) sushi, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I’ve eaten eel many times and think that it’s tasty and a good source of protein, but the downside is it’s considerably expensive compared to other foods. However, Jinen Sushi offers a pretty good deal on their nigiri and sushi rolls and you can order them individually. I eagerly ordered the unagi butter and confirmed that it was worth the hype. Eel normally has somewhat of a tough texture, but the sticks of butter add a softness to it that you normally wouldn’t expect. Because you can only get this in Osaka, I ordered another round. In America butter is a normal topping found in mass quantities, but here it’s far less common so you really treasure moments like this.
Happy Labo Popcorn
While I was going to a show in Osaka one day, I noticed mysterious steam coming from a street vendor. Curious to see what it was, I was surprised to find that it was actually frozen rainbow popcorn that turns your breath white! Happy Labo Popcorn definitely has a unique theme going for it and sells some interesting ice cream too. Usually I’m not a fan of flavored popcorn, but when frozen it actually has a sweet but still mild taste. It’s definitely attention-grabbing and fun to walk around with.
I was browsing Instagram one day when I came across an orange on my feed, but it wasn’t just an ordinary orange. It was an orange (wait for it)… WITH A FACE. Not just any face, but it had googly eyes and mustache. Truly blessed with poise and perfect symmetry. Whatever it was, I had to order it. My aesthetic food journey took me to Cocochi Cafe in Kyoto which is a cozy dessert place near the Imperial Palace. I can proudly say that drinking orange juice out of an orange with a handsome face is one of my biggest life accomplishments. There is also a cute dog at this cafe that is happy to greet you!
JTRRD Cafe started out as a small restaurant in Osaka that eventually became so popular that it opened branches in Kyoto and Nagoya mainly due to its patterned rainbow smoothies. Unfortunately the day I went they were out of ingredients for the smoothies, but I still enjoyed the paprika curry and omelet rice (which I shared with a friend because the serving size was so big). It was probably some of the best curry I have ever tasted due to the way it was seasoned. Paprika is truly an underrated ingredient. Next time I come back to this area, I will make an effort to try the famed smoothies too!
By this point I’ve experienced a lot of unique desserts in Japan, but pancake skewers are a new thing to me. At Panbo Osaka, you can choose the size of skewer you want (which consists of mini pancakes and fruits on a stick) then add chocolate, sprinkles, and other toppings to flavor it. The mini pancakes are surprisingly filling, and the marshmallow at the top makes me feel like I’m at a campfire. Speaking of camping…
Picture a hammock cafe where you can relax and drink with your friends in hammocks. Now picture that same cafe with all you can drink alcohol. Welcome to Revarti Osaka, maybe one of the best watering holes in all of Japan. I’ve been to hammock cafes in Tokyo before, but they sure didn’t have the all you can drink option (maybe they will in the future, but this place was way more relaxed). I was brought here with my bartender friend from Space Station, and with a group of 4 people I’m pretty sure we only paid around 1500 yen each. They had everything from wine to high balls to vodka cocktails too so I indulged in everything. We also tried dunking crackers into chocolate fondue with huge marshmallows baked into it. This was by far one of my best drinking experiences in Osaka that was followed by a 12 hour party at club dapnia. A night I will never forget!
The Longest Softcream in Japan
At Long Softcream on American Street in Osaka, you can eat the longest soft-serve ice cream in Japan standing at a whopping 40cm. But be quick~ It will melt fast if you try to eat it during the summer. The irony is perhaps compared to the average size of American desserts, it’s not so long after all. The taste is pretty ordinary, but I bought it mainly for the meme factor. I will be writing more in detail about the wacky things you can find on American Street in the future because this is just the beginning!
BONUS: Individually Sealed Sliced Pieces of Bread
I can’t remember exactly where this place was, but the fact that it sells individually sealed sliced pieces of bread is simply amazing. All it needs is a side of unagi butter!
Thank you for reading Volume 1 of my aesthetic food journeys in Kansai. If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments! I will be writing Volume 2 focused on Nagoya in the near future.