Look guys, I've finally made it to the first weekend of March, when I went back to Little Edo in Kawagoe! It's about an hour outside Tokyo, but then everything within Tokyo is always about an hour away too, so it's an excellent day trip.
This time Hannes didn't come, though, and as it turned out, neither NiQui nor Rejon had been before, so it was a real treat taking them to places I was all excited about and walking around together until it got dark.
Renkeiji was also our first stop when we went before, though this time I asked
if we could go in so I could find a place to sit and eat the quinoa lunch I packed.
This Buddhist temple has an unusual and rather sad little shrine for children
and - I would guess but am definitely not sure - for lost and aborted ones.
For some reason I had been unreasonably excited to come back to this little shop, くるみの木, or The Walnut Tree. Like so many things in Japan it's not possible to find anything about it online, but it's full of cute little textilesy crafts, has a cafe and a table of baked goods for sale that are even littler and cuter, and the last time I popped in the woman at the register gave me an information card explaining that their proceeds go toward helping the disabled. So, you know, it's charming and mostly-useless junk but it's for charity.
I bought one of these little kimono fabric pierrot pins last time, but I think the real charm is in seeing all of their patterns and tiny hands together in the box. Those little beanbag cat paperweight decoration things in the back with wee bells on their necks are also very tempting for absolutely no discernible reason.
Frumpy fugu sign
This here is what we headed to after the charming charity craft shop and cafe, because NiQui and Rejon were proper hungry for real food and I was even more excited about this place: a gluten-free cafe. The name is read "Muu".
This is like finding a unicorn in Japan, and look at how derpy that fucking creampuff is though. The signs advertise Japanese-style lunch sets and rice flour sweets.
I had decided before we came that I was going to try "at least three" of their pastries, and it was very difficult to move past this display case full of them, the table of non-refrigerated mini sweets behind it, and the shelves of adorable traditional Japanese gifts, crafts, and miscellany demanding our "Aww!"'s from all sides.
These things, like most things in Japan, are so tiny. Those individually-packaged (also like most things in Japan) cake loaf slices are the size of two business cards placed next to each other. Like, maybe. They might be a little smaller.
Once we finally got out of the entryway we also found that the rest of the place was equally lovable, because it was spacious and had a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
And here's the washoku lunch set, served in a flower-shaped basket!
It was definitely a hit.
In the meantime, I ordered a matcha latte but nearly died before I could try it because of how cute this random stupid handmade clip-on fabric froggo friend attached to the sugar basket was.
Clearly in cahoots with the cream puff, if you ask me
I also tried the tiny - but very dense and rich, don't be fooled - slice of chocolate cake.
And the roll cake!
Don't you love the presentation, too?!
Of course there were tiny handpainted Totoro, daruma, and Heian-style (like the dolls for Hinamatsuri) acorns on the register..
And of course this cultured fellow and elderly gentleman, who, along with the clip-on animals, was my favourite. Yos.
You can only find information, posts, and photos about this great restaurant and bakery if you search in Japanese, so one of my two tasks (see the other one, post-parrot) before spending another quaint and charming af day in Kawagoe is to translate 和カフェ夢宇's Facebook page and hopefully make them better-known and at least somewhat searchable in English. You can check out their website in Japanese if you want, though!
(they're freshwater eels and that is what eels sound like)
Look at this judgemental-ass kokeshi doll right here,
he's never been impressed by anything ever
This was in the same shop as the kokeshi doll and isn't a particularly good picture, but there was something poignant about the sunlight on the old chair. Most of Japan is very dated and tired-looking, but that doesn't automatically give everything a nostalgic feel like I thought this little shop had.
I laughed really, unreasonably hard at this PSA poster featuring little Brotaro getting crushed to death in dramatic fashion by a dangerously unsecured china cabinet.
Glass on glass on glass, why would the window also break lol
Oh and I forgot to mention this ridiculous Engrish sign we saw on our way in.
... I want to enjoy Asian Ethenic Viking & Party?
Hard to see because it was blowing around in the wind, but this mobile of little googly-eyed
squid made from recycled kimono fabric was so cute!
Students painting a sushi mural
Sickeningly adorable little cork people in a restaurant's front window
And finally onto the highlight of the main shopping street, the classic Edo-era architecture.
And also something derelict and partially reclaimed by nature, because Japan
As cute as things in Kawagoe are in general, the highlight and cornerstone of a day walking around Little Edo seems to be this charming English-speaking man, Hiro, and his turquoise-fronted Amazon, who's been with him for 27 years.
The weather was a bit cold for her and she wasn't nearly as active, interested, or friendly as she was when Hannes and I met her a year and a half ago, but her (slower) tumble in the palms of our hands was as charming as ever - just look at NiQui and Rejons' reactions!
"Are you gonna give me the bird or what?"
"Alright, let's see what this is all abou-"
"Ohh nooooo! Too cute!"
Background dude: "Damn, that is hella cute tho."
Background dude: "Damn, that is hella cute tho."
What a handsome bird!
Hiro is unfortunately very sick: he described his diabetes as "severe" and has fought off cancer twice. He lives with and takes care of his mother (?!) and would love to go to America, but it doesn't seem within the realm of possibility anymore. He told us about when he went to Australia on business 40 years ago, though, and how some racist little kids threw rocks and shouted at them and how they totally underestimated how much money they'd need to bring and just ended up going to the beach and hiking instead of doing the kind of sightseeing you have to pay for.
We promised to come back and talk with him again, and NiQui exchanged phone numbers with him. April and May have been incredibly busy, but I am definitely determined to go back. It's very difficult to find things here for special dietary needs, as I've complained about absolutely nonstop, but after some Googling I found a health food shop in Shibuya that, among other things, has sugar-free items. Before going back to Little Edo I want to get something for Hiro, because he's such a lovely man.
Also can you fucking believe he duckfaced for our group selfie? lol
Rich, charred, heavy, tiled, classically Edo-era mercantile. Approved.
We also found out that a charcoal shop is a thing? And that you can not only
use it to remove shoe odor but wash it and use it for years?!
I'm proud of these two creeper photos. I really, really like them.
Here's the famous (reconstructed, because it has of course burned down however many times, also like so many other things in Japan) bell tower, the symbol of Kawagoe, along with the sweet potato.
Yes, that's right: the sweet potato! Japanese sweet potatoes are rich and delicious, and eating a plain steamed one is very much like eating sweet potato cake. From the left and from an adorable street stall, we had: Coedo beer (yes, sweet potato); purple sweet potato soft serve with a sweet potato chip stuck in it; purple sweet potato latte; cup of more giant, horizontally-cut sweet potato chips; and buttered and grilled sweet potato mochi. Delicious!
Also we are adorable and make a fantastic team.
Check out this incredibly old-fashioned milk machine! It reminds me of the one I noticed at Ryugashido Caverns outside Hamamatsu.
Lovely sunset is lovely, mhmm
We wandered back to the main street running perpendicular to the bell tower road, and were drawn into one of the cuter antique shops by this eye candy rich display of kanzashi.
And wouldn't you know it, she mostly had kokeshi dolls for sale!
That little old guy right there, haha.
We also dug through a box of random paintings and framed prints and photos, and uhhhh, Rejon's face says it all - we found one of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the nude? I told my mom about it later and she said we should open the frame and see if it's an original print, so I guess there are three things we need to do upon our triumphant return.
There's also a heckin' cute bagel shop with lots of vegetarian options.
Cute creepy toystore by night
Oh, the vending machine is a special Kawagoe- OH GOD FUCK
Terror Bird: "Soon."
Terror Bird: "Soon."
The buildings became another layer of charming (I should go back through this post later with a thesaurus, that and "cute" are probably in here way too often) when the street lights blinked on.
It was very Spitited Away-ish.
And this camera is so good that it can full-on turn night into day if the situation calls for it?!
A lot of people have koi like this just, like, outside their houses, or even in a section of canal behind their houses.
Super kitschy antique and paper ephemera shop from which I bought a pair of teacups for like a dollar, which Hannes was not happy to see once I got them home
And one more shop, one of the main ones, on the way out.
These are the touristy ones and are mostly pretty pricey, but we couldn't help but be drawn in by the colourful floral displays.
Once a couple of years ago I took a crappy phone picture of this tea because the packaging
design is so on-point; here's a non-crappy picture.
And more adorable vintage-style tea canisters!
Why is Japan so collectively godawful about using social media, English, and marketing
effectively, but so good at the aesthetics of packaging design?
Urgh god fuck! See what I mean?
Ramune, cola, and melon sodas - and they're just adorable.
I tried to focus on the woman behind the bar under the wine glasses, but I'm still learning how to use this camera and the flash went off with setting I had it on so that I had to run away awkwardly. Just like when I snapped a pic of the manga reader on the street in Shimokita with Makiko lol.
I think the top half of this almost looks animated or otherwise drawn.
And finally, the haul. Don't ask me why I built this day trip up in my mind and was so excited about things like the charity craft shop, but man oh man did I end up with lots of cute crap! Including one more of those googly-eyed creampuffs for later, and an apple custard bagel for Hannes! Now I just need to do all of those things I explained before, and we can go back and do it all over again..