Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cute Koenji Cafe: Hattifnatt

My sweet new friend Sara showed me this adorable cafe in Koenji.  I fell in love with it with the first step I took through the door.  A few weeks later, I came back with my friend Megan because I knew she would love it.  These photos are from that trip.  The cafe is located within a few minutes walk of Koenji station.

I thought the name sounded like it could be Finnish and did some googling.  It turns out that Hattifnattar, in Swedish, is the word for a creature in the Finnish Moomin comic series, which the white creatures on the sign above the door resemble.

The best way to describe this cafe is that it feels like a cross between some restaurant out of a Ghibli movie and a tree house... if it weren't actually inside a tree.  Upon entering, you can see the food being prepared behind the counter and it feels like being in someone's home kitchen.  On the right side is a counter with cute packaged cookies and desserts for sale.

The seating area is on the second floor so you have to go up some tiny steps to get there.   All of the walls are painted with colorful murals and there is a lofted seating area that you can access by climbing a ladder.  The cafe also plays a soundtrack of lullaby versions of famous songs.

On my second visit to this cafe, I found out that there is an English menu available.  I'm so happy about that because I was afraid to recommend this cafe to some of my friends who don't speak Japanese, especially because you must place your order over a little intercom system.  However, if you struggle with Japanese, a waitress can come to the table and take your order instead.

mushroom doria looks like it's out of a Ghibli movie

the cutest strawberry milk drink

Hattifnatt is a truly unique location and I highly recommend it for a cozy and memorable cafe experience.

☆ Access ☆
Address: 2-18-10 Koenji-kita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo
Transport: Koenji Station (Chuo line), north exit
Telephone: 03 6762 8122

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Evangelion in Hakone: Eva-ya and 7-11

It wasn't until I moved to Odawara that I started watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, a very popular mecha anime from the early 90's.  The series follows a boy named Shinji who pilots a giant robot called an Evangelion to fight off mysterious monsters called Angels.  Evangelion has made over 150 billion yen by 2013 and now includes 5 movies!  The series is set in a futuristic Tokyo with the location of Tokyo 3 based on Hakone.... and even Odawara as seen in this screenshot below.

Living so close to Hakone and having Evangelion cookies sold in my local station made me feel like I was being disloyal if I didn't give the series a shot.  Although it's in the mecha genre and isn't as "kawaii" as my usual favorite anime, I'm happy I tried it out.

Because of Evangelion's success, Hakone has found some ways to incorporate Evangelion characters into the city's brand.  You can visit the Hakone Evangelion Shop if you take the Hakone Tozan train line from Odawara Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station.  Upon exiting the station, you will immediately be greeted with this large poster of Rei advertising the shop located below the station.

☆ Eva-ya: Evangelion Store ☆

Turn left at this sign at the bottom of the stairs and head towards the area directly below the station to find Eva-ya, the official Evangelion store!

This little window of the shop is where you can order 3 different Evangelion themed food items including ice cream, soda and dorayaki (pancakes with red bean filling).  I tried the soda drink which I think was something like melon soda with purple grape jelly in the bottom.  They also gave me a sticker which they show on the cup in the image but I'm saving it for some special occasion.

Even though the store is kind of small, it's packed with every kind of Evangelion item you could imagine from stationery items to clothes and branded foods!

☆ 7-11 ☆

I stumbled across an Evangelion branded 7-11 when I went to The Little Prince Museum.  This particular 7-11 is located close to the bus stop and has Evangelion images on the wall and refrigerated drink section.  It additionally sells some Eva themed omiyage food items.

A visit to Hakone is a must for any Evangelion fan.  If you are interested, you can find more information about the Evangelion store here but it's only in Japanese.  Plus a quick Google search will turn up results with information about specific locations in Hakone that match scenes in the anime.

Have you ever watched Evangelion?  Who is your favorite character?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Museum of the Little Prince in Hakone

My blogger friend Ashley and I decided to check out The Museum of the Little Prince in Hakone.   I admittedly had never read the famous book by Saint-Exupery but I still really enjoyed my visit.  Hakone is famous for its scenery and this museum is located among the mountains.  What I liked the most is that the museum experience is not limited to an indoor exhibition.  The grounds were made to look like it's in France.  There are many gardens too but because we went during the winter, nothing was in bloom.  I think it would be better to visit in the spring or summer for that reason.

The indoor exhibition was also really informative.  Everything was written in Japanese, but there were books with translations and corresponding numbers that you could pick up and carry with you throughout the exhibit.

We got a little booklet with our admission that had little images to place stamps from various locations within the museum.  So cute!


The restaurant was also super cute.  It was themed but in a less obvious and in your face kind of way.  The food was really good too.  I recommend trying the restaurant during your visit.  Here is a link to Ashley's post about the restaurant!

Overall, I recommend visiting this museum if you have a chance.  It's a little out of the way from the main tourist attractions in Japan, but if you plan to spend time in Hakone and are a fan of this book, I think the trip here is worth it.

☆ Access ☆
The bus fare to this museum from Hakone-Yumoto Station is a bit expensive (~900 JPY) but there is no other way to access the museum without a car.  Check out the official website here.