On the last day of our trip, J and I woke up feeling sad that our adventures in Japan were coming to an end, for now at least. A had woken up early in the morning and decided to go out by herself, while J and I decided to fit in one last day of shopping in an area we hadn’t yet ventured to- Harajuku.
I also had another activity to tick off the bucket list- the owl cafe in Tsukishima.
Our hotel, Shinjuku Washington, was connected to the Shinjuku subway station through an underground passage, so we walked through that for about 5-10 minutes to get to the station. In Japan, the train stations are enormous, and are comprised of shops and restaurants, so there’s always something to occupy your time if you miss your train. J and I decided to eat at an udon restaurant inside Shinjuku station. The restaurant was designed to be a place where diners have a quick meal. Customers lined up and paid for the meal first, and received their food straight away when paying.
My cold udon noodles had a firm, chewy texture. The dipping sauce had a soy flavour, with thin slices of chicken and shallots. This dish seemed to be a variation of tsukemen, the noodles we had eaten in Osaka, although the dipping sauce was entirely different to the Osaka tsukemen.
J’s opinion on her udon was that it was delicious- although we couldn’t help comparing to the perfect tsukemen we had eaten in Osaka. After eating, we caught a train from Shinjuku to Tsukishima. The owl cafe at Tsukishima was located across the road from Tsukishima station, through exit 10.
The owl cafe at Tsukishima opened at 2pm that day, and was open until 9pm. They don’t take reservations more than a day in advance, so every day they’re open, it’s recommended to go at the opening time to make a reservation for that same day. The kanji characters in the picture below show opening times for Thursday to Sunday, in that order. My DSLR camera ran out of battery during this time, so I only have pictures from my phone for the owl cafe.
When J and I got there around 2:30 or 3 that day, a staff member told us that all the bookings for that day were full, except for the 6pm session. She informed us that the price was 2,200 yen for entry and that we had to pay it right then (cash only). With that, she wrote down our names and told us that we had to be back there at 5:55pm to enter at 6pm, and that we may not get accepted for entry if we were later than that.
After making a reservation at the owl cafe, J and I caught a train back to Shinjuku, and changed there to catch a train to Harajuku on the JR line. Catching trains in Japan can be a bit tricky, as they have different rail systems which consist of a subway line and JR lines. The subway is underground and JR lines are always above ground, so when we got to Shinjuku station we had to go up a few levels to change trains and buy another ticket. From Shinjuku, it didn’t take long to get to Harajuku at all, although J and I had to squeeze on to an incredibly crowded train.
The train to Harajuku was the most crowded train I have ever been on in my life. J and I had to squeeze on and literally just made it as the doors were closing. We were completely pressed up against strangers, and the sweltering heat made it even more uncomfortable- it was definitely an experience. Luckily, Harajuku is only one stop away from Shinjuku on the JR line, so we didn’t have to put up with this for long. When we arrived at Harajuku station, the train emptied out, and we went along with the crowd. Harajuku is known for being popular with Japanese youth, and J and I found this to be the case when we got there. Harajuku had more youth than I had seen on the whole of my trip- I kept wondering where all the young adults and teenagers were hiding, and now, my question was answered.
When we got out of Harajuku station, J and I walked down to Omote-sando. Omote-sando is a shopping street unlike other shopping streets in Japan that we had been to. With its tree lined avenue, it is known as the Japanese Champs-Elysees for good reason- I was instantly reminded of the time I spent in Paris while shopping in Omote-sando.
I ordered the green shaved ice with red bean, while J had a strawberry shortcake.
Like Omote-sando, the cafe had a European inspired feel to it. It didn’t serve traditional Japanese cuisine, and from the looks of it, specialised in cakes and desserts.
I don’t have pictures of our food as my DSLR ran out of battery at this point.
After eating, J and I did a bit of shopping at H&M, Wego, and a few other stores. We caught a train back to Tsukishima and just made the entry time for the owl cafe. The 6pm session was filled with women, and they all seemed to be Asian tourists, like we were. After entering the cafe, the reason for the limited spots became clear- the cafe was a small room, with most of its space taken up by a coffee table, sofas and armchairs.
The owl cafe had both English and Japanese speaking staff. We started off the hour with a staff member speaking to us in Japanese, followed by a staff member speaking to us in English. I found it strange that a very long speech was given in Japanese, while the staff member that spoke English didn’t speak for very long (a ‘lost in translation’ moment, perhaps). The English speech went for about a few minutes, and mostly consisted of do’s and don’t’s. During the long Japanese speech, we were given drinks- our options were soft drinks, teas and Calpis style flavoured drinks.
After the speech, we were able to start moving around the room and touch the owls. We were allowed to touch most of the owls in the cafe, with the exception of two large ones, which happened to be babies.
This owl bit me twice- after the second time I asked one of the staff to remove it from my arm. We were allowed to pat the owls on their heads, but we had to get assistance from the staff to perch them on our arms and heads, and also to remove them.
After some time, we were made to sit down again, and the staff let us choose souvenirs to take home, which was included in the price of our entry fee. J chose a small bag, while I chose a larger bag- however the larger bag had a funny smell to it. We finished up around 6:55pm, and J and I caught the subway back to Shinjuku.
After getting ready, J and I walked to downtown Shinjuku, around our hotel and decided to eat ramen for dinner. We walked inside the restaurant first before being told by someone that we placed orders on the machine outside the restaurant. Our meals were both less than 1000 yen each. The machine was easy to use, and we did so without asking for assistance.
The restaurant was small with enough seats for about 10 people, and was comprised entirely of bar style seating. Our meals were served in a matter of minutes, J and I both ordered the same dish- tsukemen. Obviously we still weren’t over the Osaka tsukemen yet, and were looking for a dish of the same quality. However, we didn’t find it here.
The noodles at this restaurant were very different to both the restaurant we had eaten at in the morning, and in Osaka. The noodles here were large, thin and flat. They reminded me a little of pasta. The dipping sauce also had a thin consistency and was watery. I didn’t enjoy eating these noodles, and was disappointed with this, as it was our last meal in Japan.
After eating, J and I walked to Maniac Freestyle Bar for our second visit, and had nomihodai again. This time, we drank more but stayed a shorter time, as we had plans to go to a club in Roppongi called Feria.
I’d been to Feria earlier on the trip, but wanted to return as I didn’t remember much of that night. J and I caught a taxi to Roppongi, which only took about 15-20 minutes, and wasn’t particularly expensive. We walked to Feria and got in straight away. We had discount vouchers so we only paid 1,100 yen for entry each, and these vouchers also got us 2 free drinks each. It is relatively easy to get these vouchers, as they have nightclub staff around Roppongi subway station handing them out.
Feria was comprised of 4 levels. J and I didn’t go to the basement level that night, which was basically just a bar and a dancefloor which I remembered from my first drunken night there. J and I met a friend there, L, who bought us drinks. L took us to a table to sit, and J and I became acquainted with the girls who were sitting there. Another thing I loved about Japan was that people at the clubs were so friendly.
After a few drinks, the night was a blur once again. We noticed that Feria have special people who clean up vomit, and vomiting in the clubs is apparently not a problem here. J and I caught a cab home in the early hours of the morning after having had the messiest of nights. I didn’t sleep for long and J didn’t sleep at all before we had to get ready and leave for Narita airport. We left the hotel late, and ended up having to catch a taxi there, which cost 30,000 yen, about $300 AUD. Split between the three of us, we paid 10,000 yen each, which I thought was worth it, considering that Narita would have been a 2 hour trip by train from Shinjuku, and that I was severely hungover.
The three of us were so late we had to run for the plane, and just made it. J and I couldn’t stop thinking about how sad we were on the plane going home, and wishing we had more time in Japan. Thinking back on our Japan trip, I realise that Japan was the first country that made me get the travel bug- I’d been to other countries before, but had never loved traveling so much before I came to Japan. I loved everything about Japan, and have gone travel crazy for the country.