Maidreamin’

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As if a visit to a cat cafe wasn’t enough, I also visited a maid cafe while in Tokyo. Apparently the Japanese really like their themed restaurants and stores. I hadn’t planned on going (in fact I’d never heard of this phenomenon before), but some boys from my hostel wanted to check the whole thing out and my interest was piqued as well.

We ended up at Maidreamin in Shibuya, part of a chain.This location had vaguely Nintendo-themed decor, with Mario Bros. wallpaper and color-changing blocks hanging from the ceiling. That totally wasn’t the weird part, though, and actually the interior design seemed like a bit of an afterthought. It was all about the maids here, and ended up being one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. Continue reading

Tasting Death: eating fugu in Japan

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I’m a bit of a foodie (though honestly I dislike that word… can we come up with something better?) and I live for new experiences, so of course I had to try eating fugu, the poisonous pufferfish that is a delicacy in Japan. After doing a bit of research it turned out that it’s not really as dangerous as I had previously thought, since the preparation of the fish is so highly regulated in Japan and fatalities are quite rare. I was also a bit misled when I thought it was illegal back home in the United States, since apparently a couple restaurants in New York serve it. So that was a bit of a let down, but the idea of taking (however slight) a risk and trying some great sushi was still appealing when two of my new friends invited me to join them. Continue reading

The night I didn’t end up staying in a capsule.

Though I spent my first two nights in Tokyo at Khaosan Original Hostel in Asakusa, I felt that no trip to Tokyo would be complete without staying at least one night in a capsule hotel. I first came across this concept years ago while reading William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic Neuromancer (which has since become one of my favorite books), where the down-and-out protagonist, Case, is staying in one at the beginning of the novel because he can afford nothing better.

Now there are tons of capsule hotels in Tokyo that cater mainly to salarymen who have stayed out too late (or gotten too drunk) to catch the train home. Some are actually quite luxurious with tons of amenities, while others are very basic and a bit seedy. I apparently had the misfortune to find the seediest one in all of Tokyo. Continue reading

Cat Cafe Asakusa Nekoen

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There was a ton of buzz last month when a pop-up cat cafe opened for a week on the Bowery. Seriously, this thing was like front page news, with people live-tweeting updates about how long the wait times were and how far the line was wrapping around the block. I’m pretty sure I saw one publication that called the cafe’s doorman/bouncer “the most powerful man in New York”. It was an Event.

I probably would have been swept up in all the hoopla myself (standing on a 4-hour line to pet cats? I’ve done crazier things), except that in total hipster fashion, I went to a cat cafe before they were cool. Continue reading

The magical fairyland of Japanese 7-Elevens

7-Eleven may have originated in the States, but let’s face it, the ones here are pretty beat. You go in if you’re on a road trip and need snacks or are otherwise desperate for sustenance and/or cigarettes. We didn’t even have them here in New York until a few years ago and trust me, we weren’t missing anything. Let’s face it, no one is going in there and eating the hot dogs out of choice. The only reason to stop in is a slurpee, right? And then half the time the machine isn’t even working.

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