The worst days will end. The best days will end. Remember that. From 6/25/2020 – 7/12/2020, there is a special MOTHER exhibit featuring works by Americart and 35 different manga artists on the 8th floor of the Shibuya Parco building. As an avid fan of the series, I had to go the very first day the gallery opened up. It’s completely free so if you live in Tokyo you have no excuse not to check it out. You won’t be disappointed!
Though I wasn’t initially familiar with the artists, the artwork on display has a tasteful style that fits the theme of the games. You will see familiar characters from all of the series and be lost in nostalgia as familiar music from the series is plays overhead. Seeing this really made me want to go back and play all of the games again:
There are photo spots where you can pose with Ness’s hat and various characters from the series. I love how the hand sanitizer was creatively incorporated into this exhibit too. It definitely gave me a laugh! There is a monitor where you can see the speed paint process of Americart’s work too. There was a ton of effort put into this and it really shows:
In addition to the Pollyanna art book and comic anthologies, there are T-shirts, bags, pixel charms, jewelry, and plushies for sale. Unfortunately the giant Mr. Saturn plushies on display are not for sale, but you can purchase a miniature one that comes with a house for 2500 yen. I picked up the Mr. Saturn bag for a mere 600 yen. It has amazing quality and is super stylish. I can’t wait to wear it out! I am so happy I had the chance to experience yet another nostalgic videogame exhibit.
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!
If you’ve ever heard of the PS1 cult classic LSD Dream Emulator, then you might already recognize this art. It was created by the game’s producer: Osamu Sato. This trippy exploration game has gained quite the reputation over the years for its aesthetic visuals and for the fact that it rejects most common game principles such as having a clear objective for the player to accomplish. At the start of the game the player is given a diary based on the dreams that director Hiroko Nishikawa recorded for a decade (see Lovely Sweet Dreams). The music and environment changes completely based on your actions making it so each playthrough is entirely unique. Depending on what objects you interact with, you can see very psychedelic dreams or dark and catastrophic ones.
Each time you do an action in the game (such as running into a moving object or falling off the map), your progress on the dream chart is recorded and a day advances. The chart has four labels that produce different visuals: Upper, Dynamic, Downer, and Static. Different cutscenes and pages of the dream diary will be unlocked depending on your actions. There is a “Flashback” option in the menu where you can review your progress.
Many players try to see the dark parts of the game by running off the map and “killing” their character, but this won’t necessarily produce a downer dream—sometimes an upper one is generated instead. People have tried to write guides on this but how exactly the game evaluates your actions is unknown. Still to this day there is much unknown about LSD…
Since the game was never officially localized outside of Japan, physical copies are quite rare and coveted. LSD Revamped is a popular fan-made version of the game that tweaks the original in a more user-friendly way. The web author describes it as:
“The genre isn’t adventure, it’s not action, and it’s not even an RPG. If I had to define a genre, it would be a ‘walking dream emulator’.”
Osamu Sato is a graphics designer and photographer originally from Kyoto that has created digital art exhibitions and also worked as an artist for Sony. He has traveled abroad and used many of his photos as design materials for his works. He also produces music. In his website biography it states his ideas are drawn from both consciousness and unconsciousness in his intellectual level. These ideas are clearly reflected in this exhibition as some pieces appear to have a sense of identity.
“GRATEFUL IN ALL THINGS” is not only the name of this art gallery, but also his latest music album which I managed to purchase along with a T-shirt:
I am very grateful that I could make it to this exhibition. I respect artists that reject the principles set before them and seek to create things in their own methodical way. I hope to attend more of his events in the future and continue to deconstruct the human mind.
While I was in Nagoya two weeks ago eating aesthetic food and seeing the sakura blossoms, my friends showed me around two amazing places I never knew existed. One was Shiratori Park which is one of the best places in Nagoya to see the cherry blossoms in the spring, and the other was Osu Kannon which is a complex of shrines and a unique shopping center full of everything from traditional Japanese food to arcades and tapioca.
In this article I will be sharing my adventures in both places with you. For other fun things to do in Nagoya, check out my Amusement Parks articles~ As I always say, Nagoya is one of the most underrated cities in Japan because there is so much you can do here!
Shiratori Park is hands down my favorite Japanese-style garden in Nagoya. It has a mini waterfall pond that you can cross over with stone steps, a small but beautiful garden of bamboo, and gorgeous sakura trees planted all throughout the park. The pond looks completely aesthetic when the pink petals fall naturally in the water. There is a school of koi fish that dwell inside the pond. We listened to nujabes while we watched children feed them for a complete Modal Soul experience. You could easily spend two hours or more here just relaxing because it’s not nearly as crowded as the parks in Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto. There are also tea ceremonies that are periodically held here. This place cannot be skip if you visit Nagoya, period.
The Temple of Osu Kannon is (unbeknownst to me) one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Nagoya, but in addition to that there’s a flea market on certain weekends and tons of interesting shops you can see. They have everything from ceramic plates to replicas of old guns for sale outside of the temple during the flea market which really amazed me. We walked by a lot of vintage clothes stores and food stalls as well. My favorite place I came across was a flower store called PEU CONNU. They have a vintage approach to their flower displays that I enjoyed seeing. We also saw mini shrines with fox deities along the way there.
After investigating the flea market and flowers, we decided to head to the anime / gaming district of Osu. The super potato there was maybe the best gaming store in Japan I had ever walked in to. On the left was the “gamer fuel” section full of chocolates, energy drinks, and imported sweets (some were in English), and on the left were a selection of classic cartridges (all Japanese). Everything from the Famicom era until now. A true gamer experience:
The upstairs had a shrine devoted to Kirby (my boyfriend kindly bought me a Waddle Dee), and also a picture of Isabelle fishing up a Luigi. Nice.
Some other great imagery I saw around this area was a picture of Darth Vader saying “BAZINGA” and a shirt of the crocodile that will die after 100 days (though his death still remains ambiguous in the Japanese webcomic).
The things that you find in these Buddhist shrine complexes is truly mindblowing. There are a couple of places that have short shows you can see on the weekends. I am planning another trip to Nagoya very soon and am excited for the other things that I will discover!
Over the past few months I’ve explored the rural northern parts of Kyoto including the fishing town of Ine and the beautiful beach of Amanohashidate, but in this post I’d like to highlight the main tourist spots from my earlier archives just for reference.
I first visited Kyoto in 2013 during my study abroad trip in Japan, and returned in late 2015 for a visit during my epic job search. I now visit Kyoto 3-4 times per year for music events (mainly at Metro) and also for eating aesthetic food.
The longer I live in Japan, the more I come to appreciate this peaceful city. From nearly anywhere in Kyoto you can see the mountains and be reminded of the beautiful terrain this country has. As the former capital of Japan, Kyoto has almost everything you could want in a place to live; shopping centers, street food, temples filled with years history, and a variety of night clubs. Not to mention Nintendo HQ! Though Tokyo has the most opportunity for foreigners, I often fantasize about what my life would be like if I lived here. It definitely would be an exciting one~
Here are my recommendations on things to see during your first trip to Kyoto:
The Golden Pavilion
Out of all the building structures I’ve seen in Kyoto, the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is by far the most breathtaking. Built overtop a pond, you can see it shining elegantly with its gold leaf coating during any time of the year. I first came here in Autumn when it shone with a beautiful contrast to the leaves that were turning a bright shade of red. The best time to come is during the golden hour (5pm) because the lighting is optimal and you can see a perfect reflection of it on the water. Though you are not allowed to enter the pavilion, you can still admire its impressive design from afar. I learned from the pamphlet I was given the gold lacquer is thought to dispel and purify pollution and negative thoughts. Being here definitely put my mind at ease and I think it’s somewhere that everyone should visit at least once. I have never seen any other place that’s as gold as this besides the Golden Buddha in Nara.
From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Line to Kita-Oji Station then Bus 205 to the Kinkakuji Bus Stop. This costs 490 yen and takes 30 mins.
Entrance Fee: 400 yen
The best way I can think to describe Fushimi Inari is “a shrine of shrines”. If you want to experience one of the biggest shrine networks surrounded by nature in Japan, then all travel guides will point you here. Similar to the Golden Pavilion (but much more red in color), there is really no place quite like here. You will be stunned by the thousands of red torii gates and trails that lead to the summit of Mt. Inari. The climb takes about 2.5 hours to reach from the base. You will notice that there are many fox statues here which are said to be the messengers of the shrine. Though this place is a tourist hotspot, I definitely recommend it. If you are looking for a less crowded shrine, you can try going to Daigoji in Kyoto too because it is similarly red and historical.
From Kyoto Station, take the Nara Line to Inari Station. This only takes 5 mins and costs 150 yen.
Entrance Fee: 300 yen
Before I came to Japan most of my time was spent gaming or watching anime. I have some of my best adolescent memories and have met many friends through Nintendo games and events. So coming here—to the main HQ building of Nintendo in Kyoto—was surreal to me. Of course you’re not allowed to enter, but you can walk by the building and are free to take pictures. There is not much else to see in this district, but this building is definitely worth seeing if you’re a Nintendo fan.
From Shiokoji Takakura bus stop near Kyoto Station, you can take Bus 205 to Kyoto Shiyakushomae and walk 3 mins there. You can also take a cheap taxi or rent bikes to get here.
In Part 2 of this article I will be talking more about the touristy things I did in Kyoto when I first moved to Japan. Often people look down upon tourism, but it is essential to the economy of most Asian countries and also has been valuable in my understanding of the culture here. You should never feel ashamed for being a tourist.
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.
One of the best perks of living in Japan and being a gamer is having the ability to attend the amazing pop-up cafes that are available here for a limited time only. During my stay here, I have been fortunate enough to been able to dine at both the Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal Cafes held at two different locations. Making a reservation for these cafes can sometimes be a bit difficult as they are quite popular, but I will be sharing my experience in this post to hopefully help and inspire other people to come and visit!
The Original Persona 5 Cafe at Pasela Resorts (Shibuya)
If you’ve played the game, you’ve probably seen a building called “Pasela Resorts” located on the map. That is because ATLUS had a collaboration with the popular karaoke chain Pasela Resorts in Shibuya from 10/14/2016 – 11/23/2016 with the series. The original Persona 5 Cafe was located on the 2nd floor of this location and required winning an in-person lottery to attend (meaning it was so popular at the time that you could not make a reservation online).
This was quite a heart-racing lottery, but I was determined to win! I remember arriving at 10am, lining up with around 100 or so other people on a 6 floor spiral staircase in front of the cafe, and drawing a ticket from a box. Fortunately, I drew a winning ticket! However, many people were unable to win. I went on a Saturday morning due to my hectic work schedule at the time, but perhaps if you went on a weekday you would have a better chance.
Even though I went alone, I had a ton of fun! I ordered the Ann and Joker drinks as well as the Leblanc curry and dessert pizza. Being in a room surrounded by other Persona fans filled my heart with joy. This was one of the first themed cafes I had been to, so it really left a good impression on me.
Persona 5 Royal Cafe at SEGA Collab Cafe (Akihabara)
3 years later I made it to the Persona 5 Royal Cafe in Akihabara–but this time with friends! Since this was a collaboration held at the SEGA Cafe, the reservation process was much easier. Online reservation in advance was possible, but you could also look at the cafe’s available seats and walk in on the day you wanted to go if there was space. That is what we did as a group of six, and we all managed to sit together! Between all of us, we were able to order almost every item on the menu and swap coasters. This time they had coasters of both the new P5 art and chibi versions of the characters given randomly with every purchase of a drink or food item. This cafe lasted from 11/2/2018 – 12/1/2018. Though I have not played the game yet, I am super excited to now!
If you have missed the dates for these cafes, fear not! Whenever a new game, movie, or even musical are announced, usually these cafes pop up and you can always search for the special merchandise online. I hope to attend many more Persona Cafes and events in the future, as it is one of my favorite series that has taught me much about how social relationships can affect you and the world around you!
Laugh of the Day
On our way up to the SEGA Cafe, we noticed a very special claw machine game filled with dozens of Anns… and one sole Ryuji! What a lucky fellow–if only it were Morgana instead!
Since the beginning of my early childhood, I had always dreamed of escaping reality and entering a virtual world. Not because I had a bad life (because I actually had a really good life), but because I was heavily influenced by anime and games as a kid and wanted to live in a fully interactive world where I could freely express myself. My fascination with VR started when I first watched Digimon as a kid, then later grew as I became engrossed with Yu-Gi-Oh! (specifically season 3) and Sword Art Online. When I entered college, I had the opportunity to test VR games with an Oculus Rift through my university’s gaming program, and even got to try some indie VR games at Tokyo Game Show last year! Just recently in 2017 the Shinjuku VR Zone has opened in Tokyo as an experimental VR gaming arcade and playground for the public to try out, so naturally I had to go and visit! Currently boasting 15 different immersive activities and an interactive VR exhibition by Tokyo Art City, this zone is growing at a rapid rate and was definitely worth the trip!
I came here early Saturday morning with my friend visiting from America who is also a huge nerd like myself. We purchased 4 different colored tickets online (each for a different selection of games) so we could ensure that we got in. Tickets are available at the door, but some attractions are so popular that you may not be guaranteed entry so I recommend booking in advance online. You can buy tickets in sets of 4 (for 4,400 yen) and also individually (for around 1,200 each). After showing our tickets at the door, we were welcomed in by friendly staff and decided to explore the area! At the center of the building we saw a hologram projected on the wall and a giant glowing VR tree structure looking like it was radiating powerful energy. This was such a fitting atmosphere–I already felt like I was the hero of a sci-fi series!
Immersive Horror Room
After staring in awe at all of the cutting-edge decorations, we made our way to our first game, which was the Immersive Horror Room (IHR), just because we wanted to be thoroughly spooked before we had to wait in line for the more popular attractions. IHR was overall the best way to start our VR experience because the wait for short and the game was extremely entertaining and high quality. The aesthetic was very Silent Hill-esque and some parts of it actually made me scream out loud. Fortunately, I was not the only one!
While sitting down with VR helmets, you and your partner control characters in a wheelchair and navigate through a haunted house full of wicked obstacles and enemies that try to kill you. It was a bit hard to get used to at first, but you could use a flashlight to choose different directions so the gameplay was easy to learn. At one point, I triggered an alarm and was blindfolded and captured by the enemy. Once I regained my vision, I was strapped to the floor and couldn’t move my character was twisted figured surrounded me and other victims. I watched them murder characters around me one by one with gruesome weapons and was truly terrified that I was next. Luckily my friend was able to solve a puzzle and save me just in the nick of time! The game has multiple scenarios, and you can see and talk to your partner through a headset. Though we won the game, it had a “To be continued…” screen at the end implying that it might be developed into a “real” full-length game someday. I really hope that it is because it was a lot of fun and it was truly immersive making me feel a lot of terror, suspense and excitement! I would rather pay for this than go to a horror movie any day.
Evangelion: Throne of Souls
Next, we decided to go to the Evangelion Throne of Souls attraction, because who doesn’t want to pilot a giant robot!? Since I was 14 (the same age as the pilots) I’ve wanted to volunteer myself at NERV HQ, so I am happy that nearly after 10 years later I can finally achieve my dream! This VR attraction was extremely personalized and you could choose to pilot Unit 00, 01, or 03, and see a launch sequence that made you feel like you were in midair! After launching, you need to stealthily navigate through Tokyo-3 and pick up weapons along the way to destroy the AT field of a giant Sachiel with your partner co-op style. The simulation was amazing because when you looked down at yourself, you were wearing a plug suit, and piloting the Eva felt a bit narrow and clunky just like its frame implies. It felt genuine–like nothing else I have ever experienced before. My only complaint is that there weren’t multiple stages and the simulation was so short. In the future I really hope they give you the option to pay more to continue, because I definitely would!
VR Mario Kart
Next we made our way to everyone’s favorite attraction–VR Mario Kart. The wait for this was nearly an hour, but there were places to sit while waiting in line (unlike Tokyo Disney and Universal) so the wait was actually quite pleasant. The game was complete with 4 different players going against one another! They let you choose your character (Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, or Peach), and I of course chose Princess Peach! The game sequence begins with the 4 of you lined up at the starting point, and all of you can communicate through the headset! Then 2 popular villains show up, and you must all race them to the finish! Along the way you can pick up and throw turtle shells, whack other players with hammers, and also throw bombs at one another! Fortunately blue shell VR technology has not been developed yet (and for the sake of friendship, it hopefully never will). The game was very fun and had a lot of obstacles that balanced out who stayed in first. You could not customize your car so everyone plays on equal ground. Being launched in the air and flying through the sky was my favorite part! I came in 3rd but I had a wonderful time and was glowing after the experience. I highly recommend doing this one, because before a long-term VR world like SAO and Accel World is developed, this is a once in a lifetime experience.
The last attraction that we did was one called Panic Cube which is a non-VR activity where you are locked in a prison cell and must solve puzzles on a giant touch screen while handcuffed or else a giant balloon will pop and you will meet your end! We were specifically asked not to publish any hints about this game online by the staff so I will respect their policy, but one thing I recommend is not sharing the cuffs with your partner. We did this thinking it would make the game easier, but it did not! We sadly lost in the simulation, but it was still a fun way to die.
After finally processing this mind-blowing experience, I am eternally thankful for my trip here. To those who truly interested in VR and have the money, I highly recommend it because currently this is one of the most cutting-edge public areas where you can have a hands-on VR experience. However, unfortunately the long wait lines and ticket purchasing policy ruin some of the momentum, so if you are just looking to spend the day at an arcade playing with a friend then I would recommend going to something like a Taito game center instead. I really liked how clean the place was as well. They make all players wear a face mask before putting on the VR helmet and also thoroughly wipe down the controls before the next players get in (hence the long wait). It is reassuring to know that the facility is well-maintained and treated with respect so it was last long! It is clear that this is a very experimental project and a lot of the games they have are still in development, but it is drawing a crowd and gradually expanding! Being one of the first to try it out truly made me feel like a hero.
Because I know that my money is going to a good cause, I will likely return in the future. I would really like to try the Gundam, Dragonball, and VR rock climbing games next time. I have high hopes that they will develop more angels for me to fight and more courses in Mario Kart that I can go back and triumph over. From 8bit to virtual reality, I will always appreciate the glorious gaming world that has forever influenced my life.