The Garden Cafe in Kagoshima

I fell completely in love with this cafe.
Wind No Mori is located on the property of a lovely couple, Mr. and Mrs. Nagase, who opens their home as an outdoor cafe on the weekends. And what a cafe it is.
Everything from the entrance sign, park benches, and garden deck were all handmade. Mr. Nagase even showed us the DIY pizza oven he made outside (which I forgot to take a photo of). Their property is vast and you can tell that they really enjoy their time there. I loved all the country home details.
The three of us chose a pretty blue picnic table to lounge while we had our cakes, coffee, and tea. Everything is self-serve here, so after giving our orders, we sat around the main house chatting with the owners while they got everything together. We were also introduced to their very shy but adorable dog!
Once everything was ready, we took it all back to our picnic table and enjoyed every last crumb and sip! Yum!
Here are some photos of the quaint garden cafe:
1576-4 Kirishima-taguchi
Kirishima-shi, Kagoshima JAPAN

TEL: 0995-57-3721
HOURS: 10:00am-4:00pm (open Saturdays & Sundays)
CAKE & DRINK SET: 500 yen

The Day in Kagoshima

After our amazing trip to Yakushima, we came back to Kagoshima and I got to spend the whole weekend with S and her husband before heading back to reality (aka Tokyo). 
Kagoshima is a really beautiful prefecture surrounded by many volcanic mountains (most of which aren’t active anymore). This means that they also have many onsen (温泉), or hot springs, to enjoy. Kagoshima is famous for many things including Sakura-jima (桜島), the still active volcano, and Kuro-buta (黒豚), the Kagoshima black pig (which I’ve never eaten because I’m vegetarian…but I hear it’s really good!).
They also seem to be very proud of the rich history they have, such as the Satsuma-han (薩摩藩), and you will see statues of various scenes from history all around the city. You can even listen to a recorded explanation of each scene. If you’re into history, you’ll love it.
The city of Kagoshima also has a very convenient tram system. One of the things I noticed was that every tram station had grass growing on the tramway. Apparently this is one of the city’s countermeasures for the urban heat-island effect which they started in 2006. And according to data regarding these areas, not only has the temperature gone down but so has the noise level. Isn’t that great?
I have a few more Kagoshima posts coming up, but until then, here are some photos of our day hanging out in the city! x
The beautiful tram station in front of the JR Kagoshima-chuo Station.
The statues of a scene in Kagoshima history…my friend said they are life-size statues!
Heading to the organic chikyu-batake cafe for lunch!
I got the delicious korokke set, which also included a salad bar.
We had a choice of regular, brown, or black rice to go with our set menu.
The tempura set looked delicious, too. You can see we were pretty happy with our lunch!
Kagoshima is also known for their Shiro-kuma shaved ice. Yum!
S and her husband are always fun to hang out with…love them both!
The prestigious Hotel Shiroyama has a fantastic view of Sakura-jima.
It also has a great view of the city below…and it’s all free! 😀

CHIKYU-BATAKE CAFE (地球畑カフェ 草原をわたる船)
3-17-1 Shimo-arata
Kagoshima-shi, Kagoshima JAPAN
TEL: 099-201-7000
HOURS: 11:00am-10:00pm (closed Tuesdays)

41-1 Shinshoin-cho
Kagoshima-shi, Kagoshima JAPAN
TEL: 099-224-2211

The Cafe Jurin in Yakushima

On our first day in Yakushima, we stopped by this quaint cafe for lunch.
Cafe Jurin is located close to Yakushima Airport and we both fell for the outdoor seating behind the old building. The interior was mostly made of sugi wood and 
826-31 Koseda Yakushima-cho Kumage-gun, Kagoshima JAPAN
TEL: 0997-43-5454
HOURS: 10;00am-5:00pm
CLOSED: Mondays

The Afternoon at Granny Smith Apple Pie & Coffee

Did you know that ‘bestie‘ is now officially a word in the Oxford English Dictionary?

 I use it all the time and I know some people cringe over the word…but I like it! It’s so easy to say. Although that could just be my Japanesey side taking over. You know how we love to abbreviate everything! ;D

Well, I mentioned all of that to say…I went to eat pie with my bestie!

M loves apple pies something fierce so we decided to stop by Granny Smith Apple Pie & Coffee, a small cafe in Aoyama. And when I say small, there are literally only 4 tables-for-two and 1 table-for-four. But the store concept is take-out pie and coffee, so I guess they don’t need as many tables.

The pies all looked delicious! There were so many choices that it was hard to decided (see menu here). Very hard. But I had absolutely no problem deciding that we were just going to have to keep on coming back until I’ve tried every one of their pies. Every. Single. One.
I ended up ordering the Apple Cobbler (because you could only get it when you eat inside the cafe…I really AM Japanese. Ha) and a cappuccino. M got the Dutch Crumble and a latte. It was scrumptious and we had a great time chatting in the cafe, surrounded by the lovely fragrance of freshly baked pies in oven. I’m already pondering over what I’ll order next time I’m there!
Here are some photos:
My Apple Cobbler.
M’s Dutch Crumble
Isn’t my bestie gorgeous?
5-8-9 Minami Aoyama
Minato-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10am-9pm

The Brooklyn Ribbon Fries in Minami Aoyama

I love all potatoes whether they be baked, mashed, or fried.
So when I passed by this food stall last year, I had to give it a try. The potatoes are cut all strung together like a ribbon, thus the name Brooklyn Ribbon Fries. These fries were a mixture of soft and crispy. So so delicious.
After the hanami picnic last weekend, my sisters and I stopped by 246 Common, the outdoor food court where the Brooklyn Ribbon Fries stall is located. We ordered sour cream and onion, which was a special flavor on their menu.
The best thing about these fries are that they make it after taking your order, so you are given a freshly fried batch. This means that you have to wait a little, but it’s worth it. Plus, it gives you a chance to take pictures of the stall or of your shoes (like we did) ;D
We got ours to go but it was gone by the time we reached the station. Yum!
Here are some photos:

246 Common
3-13 Minami-Aoyama
Minato-ku, Tokyo

The Bonenkai Season in Japan

Bonenkai season is upon us here in Japan.
I mentioned before that Bonenkai (忘年会) is the year-end gathering of co-workers and/or friends. If you look in a Japanese dictionary the word Bonenkai means a gathering at the end of the year to forget the troubles of the year. That’s kind of dramatic but I think it’s a way of patting ourselves on the back and saying Otsukaresama for getting through another year. And we do this by eating, drinking, and being merry together.
The tradition of Bonenkai dates back to as early as Kamakura (1185-1333) or Muromachi period (1336-1573), although back then it was more of a quiet gathering of poem readings. It’s during the Edo period (1603-1868) that Bonenkai became popular among the common folk as a time to drink and party together.   
Do you know the story of Chushingura (忠臣蔵)? (Ru tells the story beautifully here!) It’s one of my favorite kabuki plays and it a famous story of revenge based on a real story here in Japan.
You might wonder what that has to do with Bonenkai. Well, you know how the 47 ronin invaded the Kira fortress on December 14, 1702. It’s said that the reason they were able to invade and finish the job so swiftly is because everyone was still hungover from the Kira household Bonenkai the night before! Quite the story, right?
I never realized the history of Bonenkai in Japan was so long and even interesting. The tradition has been evolving over the years from large-scale company Bonenkais in the 70s to the private and lavish Bonenkais during the late 80s bubble economy years. Then the small-scale affair with close friends and coworkers after the economic bubble burst, which is kind of how it is now (although not as gloomy as the 90s, I’m sure). Good thing for me because I don’t think I could survive a company Bonenkai in the 70s (when sexual harassment was still not in our vocabulary). I like our small-scale ones with close friends and coworkers 😀
And in keeping with the season, I thought I’d introduce you to a really great traditional Japanese izakaya in Yoyogi. You have to make reservations because they are pretty popular but they have delicious food and even better umeshu! Yum yum!
Have a wonderful Bonenkai season everyone! x

1-34-5 Yoyogi
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Everyday: 6:00pm-11:00pm

The Afternoon in Chicago

Chicago is my city.
It was the nearest large city for me growing up. We would take school trips here to visit museums. My family would camp along Lake Michigan and go to Six Flags Great America every summer. It’s just a city full of old memories for me. And now that I’m older I get to see it from a different point of view and I love it even more.
I get pretty excited about the fact that I know my way around Chicago a little more each time I’m there. I took the metro to my friend’s apartment, then found my way over to where he works all by myself. It felt so good (even though I did have my handy sidekick Google Map) that I almost wished someone would stop me on the street and say “Wow, you seem to know your way around this city!” Kind of crazy…but that’s how proud I was of myself. Haha.
Anyways, my friend T took me out to lunch that afternoon at the Water Tower Place. This is where my girl friends and I would beg our parents to take us in grade school and also where I first saw the classic movie Clueless (remember that one?) in sixth grade. I hadn’t been inside in years but it brought back memories.
We went to Mity Nice and I ordered their amazing veggie burger that is made from a blend of portobello, spinach, pumpkin seeds, parmesan cheese and covered in panko. It was hands down the best veggie burger I’ve ever eaten. Especially with the sweet potato fries on the side. So so good.
We spent our lunch catching up and talking about anything and everything. T and I stepped into kindergarten together and we’ve known each other ever since. He’s like the big brother I never had and has always watched out for me. I still feel like that hasn’t changed, even though we live hundreds of miles apart, and I really love that. xx

Water Tower Place
835 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60611 U.S.A.
Sun: 12:00pm-8:00pm
Mon-Thu: 11:30am-9:00pm
Fri-Sat: 11:30am-9:30pm

This was taken on T’s iphone but I loved it so much, I’m posting it here.
It was a rainy day but it didn’t dampen my day at all.

Architecture in Chicago is one of it’s charms.
The John B. Murphy Memorial Auditorium I ran past on my way back…isn’t it pretty?

The Afternoon at Sweetgreen

Have you ever heard of sweetgreen?
I’ve had a big vegetarian crush on this store ever since I read about it on this blog. It’s an amazing store that mainly serves delicious and healthy salads, pressed juice, and frozen yogurt. The organic produce are from local farmers, which I think is a great concept. Naturally I looked up where their stores were but found they were mostly located in the DC metro area.
So imagine how excited I was to hear that my friend E started working for them! Woohoo!
During my stay in DC, I begged E to take me to her store and I got to try their seasonal October Salad! It was a bowl full of organic mesclun & shredded kale with local apples, pears, organic basil, organic white cheddar and candied pecans, and topped off with balsamic vinaigrette. Doesn’t that sound fabulous? Oh, and I got roasted tofu, too. It was so so good and surprisingly very fulfilling! 
I feel like we need more places to eat like this in Tokyo. I’m am now hooked on their salads and I’m crossing my fingers that this store makes it’s way to this side of the world sometime soon. *hint hint*
Here are some pictures:
Checking out the store with this sweet girl.

Did I mention the bread? It was also amazing…yum yum!
You can get one of the salads on their menu, or you can make your own salad, too!

K and I shared a cup of frozen yogurt 😀
Doesn’t the salad look delicious? I could eat it every day. x

I loved their shelf full of salad greens.
This is actually a different sweetgreen and not my friend’s store…but you get the idea! 😀

The Lunch at Panino Vino

This weekend my college friend M was in town!
She currently lives in Australia and is newly engaged! (Whoop whoop!) So you can imagine, we had a lot to talk about. A LOT. We were literally there for hours.
It felt good to talk. I know how we have technology now so we can phone, email and/or skype each other even though we live far away. But still, there’s nothing like an official gabfest face to face, don’t you think?

We had delicious panini and tea while we caught up. I love the bread they use here. So good. We also had dessert, which I didn’t even have time to take a picture of because we scarfed it down so fast 😀
M brought me my absolute favorite Australian omiyage, Tim Tams, but even better, she also gave me one of her drawings!
 I love it. M draws so beautifully. Her drawings are always so sweet and kind, you can really see who she is through her work. I already have this drawing up on my wall and smile every time I see it! x
Happy long weekend everyone! (Also, happy regular weekend for people who aren’t in Japan!)

Panino Vino
Sepia Harajuku Bldg
4-5-12 Jingumae
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
セピア原宿ビル 1F
Open: 11:00am-11:00pm

The Dinner at Union Square Tokyo

We had a little reunion last Friday night.

D and I used to both work under Mr. T when we first started with the company. He was a great person to work with and I think we both learned a lot through his work ethics. We now no longer all work together but sometimes Mr. T takes us out, despite his busy schedule, so we can all catch up.
This Friday, he took us out to Union Square Tokyo, which apparently is a very popular restaurant at Tokyo Midtown. They had a bar near the entrance, further down a seating area with high ceilings, and a terrace outside facing the Midtown park.
We had an amazing dinner inside (yes, they will make some dishes vegetarian for you!) but since it was such a nice night out, Mr. T asked the waiter if we could have dessert outside on the terrace. I adore this man. You know I love the outdoors, even if it’s smack in the middle of the city. And having delicious wine, dessert, and coffee out on the terrace with some of my favorite people completely made my night!
Cool summer nights should always be spent outside with interesting conversation, don’t you think? x

Midtown Tokyo Galleria B1
9-7-4 Akasaka
Minato-ku, Tokyo