We take the train from Shinjuku-Okubu Station to Harajuku, the cutest place in Tokyo. We hope to eat breakfast surrounded by Hello Kitty and Line Friends at one of the many adorable cafés on Takeshita Street. Exiting Harajuku Station, we pass boulevards of high end stores. On a corner, an escalator ascends into the reflective, disco ball entrance of Tokyu Plaza.
After walking a couple more blocks, we see a giant silver arch decorated in flowers and balloons welcoming us to Takeshita Street. We enter the pink, cartoon, cotton candy scented wonderland. Animated characters and bubbly writing adorn the colorful buildings. At 9:30am, we are surprised to be the only visitors. Passing empty windows and closed doors, we see a sign announcing: OPEN 11:00am.
We follow the smell of fresh baked waffles to Noa Café. Mitch orders a waffle and I order a cheese omelet sandwich. A fried egg, lettuce, and tomato sandwiched between ketchup and mayonnaise coated white bread isn’t quite what I was expecting.
Finishing breakfast, we walk outside at 11:10am to a bustling street of open cafés and boutiques selling clothes, makeup, French fries, ice cream, shoes, frilly lingerie, backpacks, and costumes. We pass Owl Café, Cat Café Mocha, Totti Candy Factory Shop selling the world’s largest cotton candy, stores dedicated entirely to items decorated with adorable characters, and carts selling over one hundred varieties of crepes on every street corner. Teenagers showing off their unique fashions crowd the street. We walk slowly, browsing the boutiques, and enjoying a perfect prerequisite to our next stop, Kawaii Monster Café, translating to Cute Monster Café.
Kawaii Monster Café
We haven’t walked far when we see a sign directing visitors to the third floor of a nearby building. Exiting the elevator, we step into Choppy’s pink and purple lair. Choppy is a fuzzy, purple, one horned monster representing the crazy Harajuku culture taking over Japan. It gobbles up everything in sight.
While we wait to be swallowed by the monster, we flip through the dining rooms on an IPad deciding where we would like to be seated: Sweets Go Round, Mushroom Disco, Milk Stand, Bar Experiment, or Mel-tea Room. It’s a tough decision, but we choose Mushroom Disco. When it’s our turn to enter, two giant doors open. Following the red tongue carpet, we pass under two giant eyes, and step into Choppy’s world.
We pass Sweets Go Round, a frosted pink birthday cake carousel slowly spinning in a circle. A white unicorn, melty yellow dripping bunny, purple and pink striped top hat, and frosting topped cherries surround the cake as they bob up and down. We can see Milk Stand behind the merry go round. Hanging from the ceiling is a circle of giant baby bottles. A pink unicorn head, purple rabbit head, and green lamb head with glowing yellow eyes connect to the baby bottles by a strand of white lights. The outside of the booths are decorated in pink, blue, and purple wavy stripes.
Our Monster Girl, wearing a fluffy lavender wig with a white and blush tattered tutu dress, leads us to a table in Mushroom Disco. She hands us a giant slice of double layer, pink frosted cake, our touch screen menu. Above us are poisonous multicolored mushrooms, Venus flytraps, and flowers. Our booth is decorated with blue and yellow wavy stripes, matching the weeds sprouting from the floor. We abandon our cake menu and mushroom table to explore more of the café.
To the left of our table, purple, pink, and green polka dot walls surround green cacti with yellow and pink thorns sprouting from the floor to the ceiling. Behind us is an area for gossiping ladies. Giant red lips cover the gray and white zigzag walls surrounding red tables and chairs. Walking back to our table as our Monster Girl returns, we order a Fruity Heavenly and a Druggy Cocktail Experiment to wash down a Colorful Rainbow Pasta Painter and side of French fries.
Walking towards the back of the café, we pass Bar Experiment on the way to Mel-tea Room. Stacks of huge pink, green, and purple macaroons are piled from the floor to the ceiling along the walls. A trail of giant ants weave through the yellow, pink, and green melting ice cream cones dripping down the walls. Giant forks stick out of the strawberries floating in the stream of yellow ice cream. The booths are colorful tea cups. We see our Monster Girl arriving with our food and return to our table. Colorful rainbow pasta sits on a painter’s palette surrounded by brush strokes of red, yellow, green, orange, and blue sauce. Our French fries sit on a plate outlined in blobs of colorful sauces.
After we finish our colorful food and drink, we relocate to Bar Experiment. The bar is under a giant, blue glowing jellyfish reaching from the floor to the ceiling. As we are enjoying our new blue skin tone and sake, the bartender asks us to head over to Sweets Go Round for the show.
The lights dim as the Monster Girls enter. Our waitress accompanies a girl with long, blue, braided hair in pigtails with an orange plastic dress and knee high socks. The third girl wears a small black top adorned with a black monster arm on her shoulder, black puffy skirt, and short bubble gum pink braided hair. The girls sing and dance to Japanese music around the carousel.
Brook’s Me-Byo Cafe
Returning to a more familiar atmosphere, we walk down the street to get a coffee from Brook’s Me-Byo Café selling fresh, organic food and smoothies. We sit at a light wooden table by a wall of lettuce sipping our coffee. Next to us is a relaxing area that resembles the outdoors. On a patch of green grass two swinging chairs hang from trees. After relaxing, we take the train back to our Airbnb to get ready for dinner.
New York Grill
For our last evening in Tokyo we have 5:30pm reservations at the New York Grill Park Hyatt. We trade in our shorts and t-shirts for fancier dinner attire. We take the train from Shinjuku-Obuku Station, transfer at Shinjuku Station to the Oedo Line, and arrive at Tochomae Station. Entering the Park Hyatt hotel lobby, we are directed to three elevators before reaching the fifty-second floor. Arriving early, we have a seat at the New Yok Bar and admire the breath taking view. Enjoying an Asahi and crispy rice snacks, we wait for our table. Looking out the giant windows, the city stretches as far as we can see.
We are lead to a table by the window. Ordering two glasses of sake, we browse the menu. I order the vegetarian option: tomato curry, seasonal vegetables, yogurt, and garlic rice. Mitch finally having his opportunity to order a Japanese steak, chooses the Hokkaido Akaushi Sirloin with a side of broccoli. Not being seated at west facing window we are unable to watch the sunset, but the view of city lights coming to life is magical. As the sky fades from a powder to midnight blue, the building lights flicker on one by one. After a delicious dinner we reluctantly leave the incredible view and begin our walk back to Tochomae Station.
Tomorrow we will take the JR Yamanote Line to Nippori Station, transfer to the SkyLiner, and then arrive at Narita International Airport. Our first flight to Detroit is eleven and a half hours. After a quick layover and one hour flight from Detroit, we will be home in Pittsburgh. Sayōnara Tokyo!