My favorite thing to eat is sweets. Japan has some of the most amazing sweets in the world in my opinion. One of the most trendy sweets in Japan is fluffy or souffle pancakes. These pancakes are known for being extremely giggly and delicious. Naturally, I had to try these pancakes.
If you come to Ibaraki prefecture, you must go to Mito city. Mito city has lots of fun things to do. Mito has a movie theater, game center, and many good restaurants. However, the reason I went there one weekend was for the cafe called Gram.
Gram Cafe & Pancake is known for having some of the fluffiest pancakes in Japan. The premium pancakes are only served three times a day, so you must go at one of these times. They are served at 11:00, 2:00, and 6:00. During these times, they only serve 20 plates of the premium pancakes, so get there on time!
The pancakes were well worth the wait! They literally were melting in my mouth. They were also super fluffy and giggly just like I had heard. The pancakes are very very filling, so make sure you don’t eat anything before going.
Even if you don’t get the premium pancakes, there are many other delicious things on the menu! If you love sweets, you must go to Gram. There are also a few locations in Tokyo.
The Team Lab Museum is a digital art museum with two branches one named Borderless and the another named Planets. If you come to Japan I highly recommend that you visit one of these when you are in Tokyo. Not only are they great for Instagram worthy pictures, but they are also incredibly interactive. The Borderless museum in Odaiba is especially popular, so you should reserve your tickets online before you go. The ticket is about 3,200 yen but it is well worth it!
I went to Team Lab Borderless in Odaiba with some friends. Getting to the museum is very easy and scenic, you just have to take a few trains. The last train you will take has some amazing views of the city!
The museum is made up of a lot of different rooms with different digital art exhibits. There is no map of the museum because the creators wanted people to just wander around and discover the different art. All of the different digital art pieces are absolutely stunning. I easily spent four hours in the museum.
There are interactive parts to the museum as well. My friends and I were able to draw different fish templates. A museum employee then scanned in our drawing so they appeared on the wall. It was a lot of fun!
Tip: If you are a girl don’t wear a short skirt or dress to the museum. Many of the rooms have mirrors on the floor. If you do wear a skirt or dress you will probably have to put on a black cover that the museum provides.
One of my favorite weekend activities is visiting animal cafés. There is a cat café in nearby Mito, located very conveniently inside Mito Station. If you go to Tokyo, there is an overwhelming number of animal cafés—I have seen signs for hedgehog, shiba inu, owl, and even a penguin café.
My favorite café I went to, however, was the snake café, the Tokyo Snake Center, located in Omotesando in Tokyo. It’s conveniently located right near Harajuku station, although, as it’s on the eighth floor of a random building, you have to keep an eye out for the sign!
A lot of people are scared by snakes, but the snakes in this café were all very friendly (and sometimes too friendly—I watched one wind its way into a girl’s ponytail!). The staff was very kind, and one of the women who worked there spoke very good English. It was also much cheaper than other animal cafés, probably because not as many people are interested in snakes as they are in cats. The cover charge to enter, which included one drink, was about 500 or 600 yen. With entrance, you can also select a snake from beside the register to sit with you on your table. You are welcome to switch the snake out for another whenever you want!
There is an additional charge to handle the snakes. For two of the smaller snakes, it was about another 500 yen for fifteen minutes, and the handlers are happy to take your photo! They will also place one of the snakes around your neck and help you handle them. To handle one of the larger snakes is a little more expensive, maybe around 1000-1500 yen. The snakes are not scary—I saw a girl around 10 years old handling them with her father, and she was not concerned at all. It was also a great topic to talk about with students—they were always surprised when I told them that I had gone to a snake café! When I sent my mother pictures of my experience, she insisted that she didn’t know how we were related.
All the animal cafés are a lot of fun, but in Tokyo, there
are definitely a lot more options for different types of cafés. I thoroughly
enjoyed the snake café, but please take the time to explore other animal cafés,
in Tokyo and elsewhere!
Before even arriving in Japan for my internship at Ibaraki Christian, I had a bucket list of things I wanted to do during my summer here. On that list included visiting Tokyo, going to the Ghibli Museum, venturing out to Kyoto, and of course: trying out an onsen. There are no onsen in America. Just the concept of public bathhouses is pretty surprising to those hailing from the states. I was definitely no exception to this. However, upon visiting the onsen, I was pleasantly surprised and left wishing America had onsens too!
My host family invited me to go to the onsen with them on a cool Sunday morning. We drove out to the onsen sight, which was conveniently located right on the coast. The first thing I noticed about the place was how clean, calm and quiet it was. The wooden floors of the building were smooth and shiny. The staff were kind and smiley, and not invasive(like how resort staff can sometimes be in America). They let us go about our business and enter the bathhouse.
The bathhouses were gender-divided. I’d heard that some onsen were gender-inclusive, where men and women bathed together. I was already a bit nervous in general about being completely naked in front of strangers, so I was thankful that this onsen was gender-divided. My host mom assured me that no one cares about my nudity, because it’s a bathhouse and everybody is naked. The point is to bathe and relax, not stare at other people. I was probably the only oddly uncomfortable person in the building, but I couldn’t help it! The experience was so new to me. Though, once I got into the bathhouse, I calmed down and was able to relax and enjoy the different baths.
The onsen was divided into different baths with varying temperatures and purposes. Some were bubbling, others were calmer with water flowing from taps. I enjoyed trying out the various indoor baths before venturing to the ones outside. Because the onsen was located right on the coast, the outdoor baths had a wonderful view overlooking the ocean. I loved the outdoor baths the most because the cool breeze was a nice relief from the bath’s heat. I tried just about every bath in the bathhouse, but the outdoor one was definitely my favourite.
After enjoying the baths for a bit over an hour, we left and enjoyed some kakigori(a shaved ice dessert) in the lobby. My host family told me more about Japanese onsen and how frequently some people visit them. By the end of our visit, we were all feeling so relaxed.
Visiting the onsen has been one of my favourite things that I’ve done in Japan thus far. The ambiance is the most relaxing environment. If you’re a foreigner considering visiting an onsen, I highly recommend it! Push your nudity nerves aside and enjoy the naturally heated baths. Onsen is an experience you can only have in Japan, so I suggest you make the most of it and enjoy one whilst you’re here. I definitely plan to visit more onsen during my summer here!
*Note: All pictures included in this article are not mine. Naturally, pictures were prohibited, so the above images are from Google Images.*