steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Princesses by the Ponycart (30 May-9 June)

There are few things more depressing than writing up a blog of one's exciting adventure abroad after one returns, jetlagged and deflated, to one's own home and pile of utility bills. Therefore I do not propose to put myself through that, but will post the last substantive account of my Japan adventure this very day, prior to my return on Monday.

Since I came back to Tokyo I've been mostly engaged in seeing old friends, going to Cotswold/Britain related places, and taking part in various events, primarily a four-day Contents Tourism symposium at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, although I also gave talks at Taisho, Seisen and TWCU universities. Rather than give you a blow-by-blow account, here is a fun photo gallery of some of the sights I've been to.

I started with a few days in Nakano, which included a visit to the shop known as "Cotswolds" in Kichjouji, which does very much what it says on the tin.


The nearby cat café is also worth a look:


I met up with my friend Yuki and went with her and her friend Maiko to the Tokyo Edo Museum, where I was able to experience being an Edo-era princess, at least to the extent of sitting in a ... er ... what is the proper word for these things?


Next up was the "Alice in Fantasy Book" restaurant in Shinjuku (in Japanese, 絵本の国のアリス or "Alice in the Land of Picturebooks", which is interestingly different). I ate the "Dancing Humpty Dumpty", with egg liqueur, and the "Small Island where the Jabberwock Lives Roast Beef and Vegetables Open Sandwich" - and no, it doesn't really lose anything in the translation, although it was pretty tasty.


The following day I tried out Alice on Wednesday in Harajuku, which sold various Alice merchandise and gave me another chance to pose as a princess:


The next couple of days were in Ikebukuro with Haruka. The main event of the first day was the Swallowtail Cafe, which offered yet more princess opportunities. Swallowtail is a Butler Cafe, and (like maid cafes) photography is not allowed in the main (basement) room, but I can tell you that each customer is assigned a butler in a swallowtail coat, addressed as "Ojou-sama", and waited on as if she was the daughter of a stately home. When we visited, there were about 30 customers, all female. (I was the only non-Japanese.) The decor was all chandeliers, swaggy nets, paintings of dejeuners surs l'herbe and so on, to a background of light classical movement. Even going to the toilet involved being escorted by one's assigned butler, to and from. At the end of the visit we were told that our "basha" (carriage) was waiting, and that the "mongen" (curfew) for our return was 10pm. Food of course was cakes, scones, crustless sandwiches, and Assam tea.


The following day we compared that with the Cure Maid Cafe in Akihabara, an older establishment in which the uniform is that of the traditional English tea room (think Betty's in York or Harrogate), but the decor is more frankly related to anime and the menu - need I say more? - is laminated. Clearly the Swallowtail clientele is both richer and more committed to immersion.

Finally, two supernatural visits. The Contents Tourism meeting has involved a visit to the Youkai Street in Choufu, a must for fans of Gegege no Kitarou:


And then tonight, I was with Mikako and her husband at Yuurei in Kichijoji, part izakaya and part obake yashiki. There were many nice touches, and also a chance to take a practice run towards the grave:


Seeing that final picture reminds me that it's late (even if I'm not, yet), and I have another day of the Contents Tourism symposium tomorrow, so I'll post this now and be done for a bit. I've left out a lot - going to see Isle of Dogs in Tokyo, for example, the low-down on Nakano life, the izakayas of Sugamo and Gotanda, the bookshops of Jimbocho, and life in Fuchu. But life's too full, and too short, to do all these justice. I'll try to do something towards them in the coming days and weeks but for now, good night!
Tags: cotswolds project, nippon notes, real life, voyage to japan
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