Japan Tradition: Aoi Matsuri

The Hollyhock Festival

photo credits: mutabi.wordpress.com

One of Kyoto’s three most well-known festivals, Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) takes place every year on the 15th of May. The name of this festival derives from the hollyhock leaves that participants in the festival’s parade carry with them as they walk down the designated route. In Japanese, “Aoi” (葵) refers to the “alcea rosea” or, as the namesake of this festival, the “hollyhock”. This plant produces brilliant colours and beautiful flowers, and its leaves are believed to have the power to prevent natural disasters.

The main attraction of this festival is a grand parade that involves more than 500 people dressing up in the aristocratic styles of the Heian period (794 - 1185 CE).
This annual parade starts from the Imperial Palace, and the participants will walk down the road until they arrive at Kamo Shrine. This name refers to the shinto sanctuary complex that consists of Kamigamo shrine and Shimogamo shrine.

photo credits: amanohashidate.jp, Nobuhiro Suhara

The Origins

The festival first started during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (539 - 571CE), when a period of heavy rains ruined the harvest and an epidemic spread through the country.

It was believed that these tragedies came about because the Kamo deities wanted to punish the people. Thus, the emperor sent a messenger to the temple with offerings and to perform various rituals in order to appease these deities. Part of these rituals also required the riding of a galloping horse.

photo credit: Alex Hurst, Clement Koh

This became an annual event with the intention of preventing further disasters. However, during the reign of Emperor Monmu (697 - 707CE), it was suspended due to the huge amount of people joining to watch the rituals. In the 19° century, Emperor Kanmu established the seat of the imperial throne in Kyoto and this represented the beginning of the Heian period in Japanese history. The emperor recognised the Kamo deities as protectors of the capital and reestablished the Aoi Matsuri as an annual imperial event. The festival was sometimes discontinued in some periods of Japanese history, especially during World War II, but it was actively resumed in 1953. The Saiō-Dai tradition in this festival was also initiated in 1956.

photo credits: regex.info

The characters of the Festival

There are two main characters in the Aoi Matsuri: the Saiō-Dai and the Imperial Messenger.
The Saiō-Dai is a woman chosen from the sisters and daughters of the emperor to dedicate herself to the Shimogamo Shrine. The role of the Saiō-Dai is to maintain spiritual purity and represent the Emperor at the festival. Today the Saiō-Dai is chosen from all unmarried women of Kyoto. She wears twelve layers of silk robes (jūnihitoe), finely colored in the traditional style of the Heian court. To maintain ritual purity the Saiō-Dai has to go through several ceremonies of purification before the festival’s parade.

photo credit: Hong Seongwan

The Imperial Messenger, on the other hand, conducts the procession of the festival by riding a horse. During the Heian period, he would be a Fifth-Rank courtier holding office of middle or lesser capitan. He was also typically a man destined for high office. His role was to read the imperial edict and present the emperor’s offerings. During the Heian period, the Saiō-Dai and the Imperial Messenger would be accompanied by ten dancers and twelve musicians.

photo credits: Hisanori

Celebrations Today

The parade starts at 10:30 a.m. on May 15th at Kyoto’s Imperial Palace. It then slowly departs for two important stops: the Shimogamo Shrine, where the procession should arrive at 11:15 a.m., and the Kamigamo Shrine, where they will arrive at 3:30 p.m. The Saiō-Dai and the Imperial Messenger perform their rituals at these stops. The Saiō-Dai pays her respects to the deities, while the Imperial Messenger intones the imperial rescript, praising the deities and requesting their continued favor.

photo credits: Slugicide, find-your-jpn.com


Japan Modern Culture: Studio Ghibli

photo credits: ghibli.jp

Raise your hand if you didn’t fall in love with Howl, the sorcerer with his wandering castle, or who has not felt tenderness for Kaonashi, the Faceless of "The Enchanted City" ... If you are among those who love the productions of Studio Ghibli too, then you are in the right place!

The Hot Wind of the Desert

June 15, 1985: Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, Toshio Suzuki and Yasuyoshi Tokuma decided to found 株式会社スタジオジブリ or Studio Ghibli Inc. whose name was chosen by Miyazaki with the intention of "creating a whirlwind in the world of Japanese animation". The roots lie in the passion for aviation of the Japanese director and screenwriter, in fact "Ghibli" is not only the warm wind of the Sahara desert but, during the Second World War the Italian reconnaissance plane Caproni Ca.309 was nicknamed "Ghibli". Curious, isn't it?

At first no one thought that the project would been very successful, so to minimize the risk of failure, 70 temporary entertainers were employed and the office of the studio consisted of a 90 square meter office rented in Kichijoji, Tokyo.

photo credits: sgcafe.com

A success after another

Studio Ghibli began its official production with "Laputa - castle in the sky", "My neighbor Totoro" and "Grave of the Fireflies”, three animated pearls acclaimed by critics. However, at first, these three wonderful pieces did not achieve the same success they accumulated over time.

It was "Kiki's Delivery Service” that achieved great results in 1989 becoming the success of the year at the Japanese box office. This allowed for permanent contracts to be introduced into production and to hire new staff. By now the Studio had almost 300 people working and they began to think of moving to a new location just during the production of Porco Rosso, whose quality was not excellent due to the crowding in office.

In 1992 the new study, whose realization was followed in first person by Miyazaki who drew the final appearance, was ready. They were finally ready to move to Koganai (Tokyo). Computer-generated imagery (CGI), which allows a digitized two-dimensional image to be handled in any kind of three-dimensional view, was introduced with "Pom Poko".

In 1994 and 1995 "Whisper of the Heart” was released. At the end of the 90s and the early 2000s the Studio Ghibli signed one of his most beloved masterpieces, achieving the deserved success also outside Japan: Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Howl's moving Castle (2004), directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

In 2006 was the turn of Gorō, son of Miyazaki, to direct the film Tales from Earthsea and, two years later, Studio Ghibli became the only Japanese animation studio to use exclusively traditional drawing techniques for their own productions.

Unfortunately, in 2013, on the occasion of the 70th International Film Festival of Venice, following the presentation of Studio Ghibli’s 19th animated film "The Wind Rises", Miyazaki announced his retirement, with consequent displeasure of the fans. The producer said that his advanced age no longer allowed him to follow the long accomplishments of his films and so, on November 8th 2014, the Academy awarded him with the Oscar for his career.

2015 was a strange year for Studio Ghibli: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of "Arrietty” and "When Marnie Was There” left the production. During a conference in Tokyo, Miyazaki announced his commitment to a new project whose production could have required more than five years of work. In fact, in 2017, through an interview with producer Toshio Suzuki, we discovered that the new feature would have been an adaptation of the 1937 Japanese novel "Kimi-tachi wa do ikuruka?" by Genzaburo Hoshino.

We just have to wait for the surprises that years of experience and passion will gift us!

photo credits: tokyotreat.com

Ghibli Museum

Reachable with the JR Chuo line for the delightful town of Mitaka, the museum presents a variety of rooms that mix the vintage and steampunk style overflowing with references to Japanese folklore and everyday life. Inside, there is also a cinema where unpublished short films of about 15 minutes are screened.

Moreover, at different times of the year, special exhibitions are set up for limited periods of time! Getting tickets for the Museum is not easy as they are not sold in the venue. Reservations must be made some time before through the Lawson ticket offices online or in the Lawson convenience stores on the Japanese territory, or at specific ticket offices abroad where the tickets are placed at available only for 4 months a year.

For any specific information and for all updates, you can check the official website, also available in English here: http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/

photo credits: forbes.com

Exhibition of Studio Ghibli in Tokyo

The "Toshio Suzuki and Studio Ghibli Exhibition", the first exhibition after 3 years of the study at the EDOCCO cultural exchange center, Kanda Myojin Temple in Tokyo, inaugurated on April 20 and it’s running until May 12. It’s a must for anyone who wants to be catapulted into the enchanting world of Ghibli. You can admire the illustrations and documentation revealing the behind the scenes of the plots and production processes of these masterpieces from its foundation until today.

A large merchandise section is also available, including special ema and omamori created in collaboration with the temple itself. Enthusiasts will also find themed menus at the EDOCCO café such as the "Makkuro na kuro goma ohagi no ocha set" in homage to Makkuro Kurosuke (Soot Sprites) or the "Tonari no Kakigori ”inspired by My neighbor Totoro.

It is possible to buy tickets for the exhibition both on-site and online at a cost of 1,300 ¥ for adults and ¥ 800 for students. Official website: https://ghibli-suzuki.com/

photo credits: amu-zen.com


Bringing Japan to Italy: episode 03 – RIADO space design

During the Milan Design Week we had the pleasure of attending a very special exhibition and also the pleasure of interviewing two Japanese artists present in the Lombard capital. We are talking about Sachiko Hiroiuchi, designer at RIADO space design, and Ayumi Shima, designer of fabrics directly from Japan.

Born in Fukui, Japan, Sachiko Hiroiuchi lives and works in Osaka where in her studio RIADO focuses on design for shops, restaurants, offices, apartments, and in the field of interior industrial design. Her activity is focused on the design of furniture, lighting and furnishing accessories.

As a designer, she works alongside a research activity on materials where she has a great sensitivity in the artistic field. And it is precisely here that she develops themes on the paper of the raw material such as "Kozo", "Mitsumata" and "Gampi" with themes focusing on traditional Japanese craftsmanship where each work is made with great care.

The textures you will see in the video are the work of Ayumi Shima, a Japanese artist and textile designer, born in Kyoto, Japan, where she lives and works.
Specialized in the field of textile design, she develops artistic themes with specific research in the artistic pictorial field. Her particular interest is the color related to the textile material and her works are characterized by variations in colors and transparencies related to the material.

In her artistic baggage, she does not forget her tradition and, attracted by older techniques such as the Japanese press, Ayumi works with great sensitivity with references to nature such as natural light, flowers, trees, the forest.

Sunbeams Leaves

With this exhibition "SUNBEAMS LEAVES" the authors Sachiko Horiuchi and Ayumi Shima propose an installation featuring paper and fabric interpreting the four seasons.
Creating a path that accompanies the visitor in exploring the transparencies created by the "ray of light" on materials, the protagonists of this exhibition are traditional Japanese paper and delicate colored fabrics. These materials dance together with the light that is filtered transmitting the color of the sky, water, earth, but also the color of the forest and nature where light is the main character.

The exhibition took place at AD GALLERY focusing on specific themes such as what light and color offer and was the result of a long research work by the artists.

Now we leave you to our video interview and we are curious about your feedback! Enjoy the show!


Japan Travel: Tokyo Rainbow Pride

Spring is here and the Golden Week celebration is upon Japan. This is a significant point in time for the people of Japan, but it is especially so for the LGBT community residing there because it is when this year’s edition of Tokyo Rainbow Pride (TRP2019) will be held as well!

Photo credit: tokyorainbowpride.com

Tokyo Rainbow Pride originated from the very first LGBT movement in Japan was held 25 years ago on 28 August 1994. Back then, around a thousand people gathered to march with the rainbow flag from Shinjuku Central Park to Shibuya’s Miyashita Park in the Tokyo Lesbian & Gay Parade. Since then, it has gone on for almost every year, eventually changing its name to Tokyo Rainbow Pride (TRP) in 2007.

With the theme of “I Have Pride”, this year’s TRP is slated to be the biggest of all, with a record number of 52 groups having pre-registered for the event. Furthermore, the main event, the colourfully flamboyant parade, is free for all to participate in this year. The parade will start at 2 p.m. on Sunday, 28 April, and it is a 3km march in the area of Harajuku and Shibuya, so if you’re going to be in Tokyo this weekend, do watch out for the crowds, or, better yet, show your support and join in!

Photo credit: mainichi.jp

After the Parade concludes, the Pride Parade After-Party/Pride Carnival will begin, lasting through the night at Aisotope Lounge in Shinjuku Nichome, Tokyo’s own gay district. This is, however, not the end of the festivities.

The full run of TRP2019 starts on 27 April and lasts all the way until 6 May, ending with the Pride Recovery Party at TRUNK(HOTEL). It is without a doubt that there will be many more activities which celebrate love being held during this entire week. The full list of events can be found here: tokyorainbowpride.com/week/

Companies like PlayStation, AIG, Visitaly, SEGA, Spotify, BuzzFeed Japan and many others are supporting the event as sponsors and partners as well and looking at how much the event has grown over the years, it can be said that support for the LGBT community and sexual minorities in Tokyo, at least, is growing. And that, for sure, is a heartening thing to see in today’s world.

For more information, visit Tokyo Rainbow Pride’s official website tokyorainbowpride.com

 

Photo credit: tokyorainbowpride.com


Japan History: Sanada Yukimura

photo credits: wikipedia.org

Sanada (Yukimura) Nobushige was one of the greatest samurai of the Sengoku period. Second child of Sanada Masayuki and younger brother of Sanada Nobuyuki, he was never called "Yukimura" during his lifetime, since his real name was Nobushige. It seems that Yukimura was obtained at the end of the Edo period. Known as "Crimson Demon of War" for his blood-red banners and red armor, he was also recognized as "the greatest warrior of Japan" and even "The last Sengoku hero" by his peers.

As a young man, he was sent by his father as a hostage to the Uesugi clan in exchange for Uesugi's support against the Tokugawa. The father who later sided with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, as Uesugi had done, allowed him to return home to Ueda.

Sanada Nobushige served Hideyoshi directly. His first wife, Aki-hime, was the daughter of Otani Yoshitsugu even though adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Nobushige had seven daughters and three children with four wives, the last was born two months after his father's death.


photo credits: samurai-world.com

Ueda Castle, built in 1583, was the home of the Sanada clan. The fact that it was well built was first tested in 1583 when the castle resisted the attack of a numerically superior Tokugawa force. The defeat would have been embarrassing for the Tokugawa in the future. Another similar siege of Ueda Castle in the 1600s at the time of the Battle of Sekigahara also saw Tokugawa Hidetada, son and heir of Ieyasu, who led his army along Nakasendo, strategically important. Along the way, he stopped and besieged Ueda Castle. Although there was a great distance from the battlefield of Sekigahara, events at Ueda Castle would have almost destroyed the intentions of the Tokugawa legions. The Sanada resisted long enough for Hidetada to arrive late to the battle itself, depriving Tokugawa of about 38,000 men. Nobushige commanded only 2,000 men inside the castle.

Sanada Masayuki and his son Nobushige kept Ueda's castle as an ally of Western forces, however, Sanada Nobuyuki, was fighting for the Tokugawa. This ensured that at least one member of the Sanada family would be among the winners, regardless of the outcome. This was clearly a plan to preserve the family name. Following Sekigahara, Nobushige and his father were deprived of their domain and exiled to the holy mountain, Koya.

Photo Credits: tozandoshop.com

14 years after Sanada's father and son were sent into exile, Nobushige would rebel against the Tokugawa again during the winter siege of Osaka, and again the following year in the summer campaign. Nobushige had built a crescent-shaped fortress in the southwestern corner of Osaka Castle, known as Sanada Maru. The fortified outpost was surrounded by a wide, deep and dry moat. The earth of the moat was piled up inside, and along the top of this embankment, there was a simple two-story wooden wall, with platforms at regular intervals. Apparently, the Sanada Maru was armed with cannons along the walls. Sanada Nobushige and about 7,000 men repeatedly repulsed around 25,000 Tokugawa allies. Sometimes the Sanada samurai left the borders of the Sanada Maru to counter the enemy troops.

The following year, during the summer siege of Osaka, Sanada Nobushige commanded the right flank of Toyotomi's forces. On June 3, despite being completely exhausted from the battle against Date Masamune's forces, Nobushige and his men had returned to Osaka Castle to find the 150,000 Tokugawa men preparing to make one final assault. Hoping to catch them off guard and destroy their formations, Nobushige sent his son, Daisuke, to instruct Hideyori to look for opportunities to get out of the castle and attack the Tokugawa.

photo credits: pinterest.it

However, at the time of the attack, Hideyori appears to have lost control and failed to launch a counterattack that could have reversed the siege. The Sanada troops were overwhelmed. Seriously wounded in the fierce battle against Matsudaira Tadanao who had pledged him for most of this day, from 12 to 17, Nobushige sat under a pine tree in the Yasui Shrine grounds, unable to continue. When the wave of enemy forces approached, he calmly said his name, and saying that he was too tired to continue fighting, he allowed a Tokugawa samurai named Nishio Nizaemon to take his head. Sanada Nobushige was 47 years old. The news of his death spread rapidly and the morale of Osaka's troops fell.

The name Yukimura was known throughout Japan due to its fearless fighting.
Shimazu Iehisa of Satsuma praised Yukimura, writing "Sanada was the greatest warrior in Japan, stronger than any warrior in the stories of ancient times. The Tokugawa army was half defeated. I say this only in general."

A statue of the weary warrior is now found under the second-generation pine tree in the ground of the sanctuary.

photo credits: samurai-world.com


Japan Italy: Far East Film Festival

There is a very special event from April 26 to May 4, we are talking about the Far East Film Festival, an event dedicated to Asian cinema that will fill the city of Udine and the Teatro Nuovo "Giovanni da Udine".

At its twenty-first edition, the Far East Film Festival 2019 once again follows the Silk Road. Opening on April 26 with a world premiere will be Birthday, directly from Korea. The story is about the sinking of the Sewol ferry which marked a "before" and an "after" in the history of South Korea. The film tells the pain of two parents who lost their son and a nation that lost more than 300. It tells the present that, despite everything, becomes tomorrow. Always. With Birthday the FEFF pays tribute to that enormous wound (human, political, social) so difficult to heal.

Someone who remembers the very first FEFF is surely one of the super guests of this year, who in 1999 accompanied the legendary Beast Cops by Gordon Chan-Dante Lam to Udine and returned here to accompany two films: My Name Ain't Suzie di Angie Chan, with its the now distant debut title (1985), and the magnificent Still Human by Oliver Siu Kuen Chan. We are, of course, talking about Anthony Wong, the star and legend from Hong Kong, who will collect the Golden Mulberry for his career joining the names of other giants such as Jackie Chan, Joe Hisaishi and Brigitte Lin in the Udine hall of fame.

For an extraordinary Hong Kong icon, an extraordinary Chinese icon: the beautiful Yao Chen, diva (the media like to compare her to Angelina Jolie) and legend (80 million followers), great actress and tireless activist, who will take the stage at FEFF to present the social thriller Lost, Found by Lue Yue (produced by Feng Xiaogang). A vivid reflection on civil rights and the condition of women in contemporary China that finds in Yao Chen the "politically" perfect protagonist. Time Magazine has included her among the 100 most influential people in the world.

With 76 titles on the program (51 in competition) from 12 countries, a retrospective, a monograph, a tribute to the new independent Korean cinema, 2 “strange couples”, a world-premier restoration and more than 100 thematic events organized in the heart of Udine, the Far East Film Festival is the perfect setting for a new connection between Asia and Europe and more specifically, Italy.

A real "island of cinema" where cinema is not only celebrated - 3 world premieres, 12 international, 18 European - but it is also declined to the future. This 2019 marks the choice of 15 projects chosen for Focus Asia, the Festival market, and 10 for Ties That Bind, the international Asia/Europe workshop. Over 200 industry professionals are expected in Udine, from 36 countries, and there is an important innovation to highlight: the Co-Production Day, set for May 1st. A large working table that will gather European and Asian filmmakers and producers, to analyze and develop the Italy/China co-production agreement of 2018.

Today's films and the ones of “tomorrow”, movies that speak the language of current affairs, often directly from the news, starting with the collective story Ten Years (after Hong Kong, the narrative axis moves to Japan and Thailand) and with 14 first works included in the line-up. Films that sometimes investigate the same theme from completely different angles, like the three wonderful senile ballads Only The Cat Knows by Syoutarou Kobayasi, Romang by Lee Chang-Geun, Heaven's Waiting by Dan Villegas: a Japanese, a Korean, a Filipino. How does the perception of reality change from country to country?

A fascinating "game of differences" that does not end here and not only in the long-awaited Korean remake of Perfect Strangers (by Intimate Strangers by JQ Lee), thanks to which the FEFF 21 built on a special segment, The Odd Couples, edited by mister Roger Garcia. Four “strange couples” of cinema twins where the East is measured with its western “double” and vice versa (My Name Ain't Suzie by Angie Chan/The World of Suzie Wong by Richard Quine and City On Fire by Ringo Lam/Le Hyenas by Quentin Tarantino, a tribute from the Festival to the recently deceased dear Hong Kong friend.

If the contemporary Korean cinema selected by the Festival will range from the epic action (The Great Battle by Kim Kwang-Sik) to the police comedy (the irresistible Extreme Job by Lee Byeong-heon), passing by the most entertaining zombies of the year (The Odd Family by Lee Min-jae), even Japan, ready to enter the New Era - Reiwa -, will enjoy spacing between genres. From the unmissable documentary Kampai! Sake Sisters by Mirai Konishi, in Udine as a world premiere, up to the surprising Melancholic by Seiji Tanaka (one of the 14 debut features we have already talked about), passing by the European premiere of Fly me to the Saitama (Tonde Saitama) by Takeuchi Hideki a comedy film based on famous manga of the 80s with the same name written and illustrated by Mineo Maya, Every Day on Good Day by Tatsushi Omori that we can consider the last, beautiful, greeting of Kirin Kiki.

China will be represented, as always, by very strong titles (we mention Dying to Survive by Wen Muye, which puts the spotlight on the market for drugs for terminally ill patients, and The Rib by Zhang Wei, an unexpected family transgender-themed drama), while Hong Kong will field all the creative energy of the “old school” thrillers (Project Gutenberg by Felix Chong) as well as all the subversive force of the independent scene (Fruit Chan's Three Husbands), without forgetting the return of Herman Yau (A Home With a View).

And on the Southeast Asian front, where genre cinema dominates (in Udine, among the various titles, we will see the excellent Malaysian horror film Two Sisters), there will be two guests that the audience will particularly enjoy: Chito Rono and Joyce Bernal, dear and affectionate friends of the Festival.

A network of friends, old and new, literally scattered around the world, a magic circle that opens and closes year after year. It means getting away from your center, traveling, moving, exploring, raising the threshold of curiosity and then returning with something new inside your eyes. A precious different look, this is the Far East Film Festival 2019. We are waiting for you!

How to Participate?

You can watch the screenings by purchasing a ticket or by accreditation.

The accreditation is recommended to all those who have a professional or cultural interest in Asian cinema and wish to attend as many screenings as possible at an advantageous price.

Information

The screenings start at 9.00 am and end late at night. The program includes two screenings in the morning, two in the afternoon and two or three films at the end of the day, in the evening.
Entry is forbidden to children under 18, as films are not subject to Italian censorship visas.

Where to buy tickets

Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine & Cinema Centrale
Morning shows (weekdays): € 6.00 per film (or 10.00 for both films).
Morning shows (holidays): € 10.00 per film (or 15.00 for both films).
Afternoon performances (weekdays): € 6.00 per film (or 10.00 for both films).
Afternoon performances (holidays and pre-holidays): € 10.00 per film (or € 15.00 for both films).
Evening shows: € 10.00 per film (or € 15.00 for both films).
Night show: € 6.00.
A daily ticket will also be available at a cost of € 25.00 which allows you to attend all the shows on the day of issue.

Presale: at the Teatro Nuovo ticket office

Opening time:
Friday 26 April: from 11.00 am until the beginning of the last screening of the day
from Saturday 27th April: from 8.30 am until the beginning of the last screening of the day

The presale for the projections of the following days is suspended during the movie start times. For information (from 24 April): tel. 0432-248484


Bringing Japan to Italy: episode 02 – Masami Suda

Here we are with the second episode of our series Bringing Japan to Italy, where we interview people that help spreading Japanese culture in Italy and in the world.

After the huge success of the first episode dedicated to Alberto Moro, today we share with you our talk with Masami Suda, character designer of many animes such as Hokuto no Ken (Kenshiro), dr Slump & Arale, Yo-Kai Watch, Mach Go Go Go, Candy Candy, Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman F, Ai Shite Knight and many other works that have defined the childhood of hundreds of adults of today.

Enjoy the video and we are curious to read your comments!

 


Japan Travel: Character Cafes

Japan is the richest land when it’s about magical places, in every sense! Even stopping for a snack can become a unique experience when you immerse yourself in a fantasy world like that of the "Character Cafes" scattered throughout the territory. What are these places? Particular types of themed cafes that allow customers fond of comics and animation to savor incredible kawaii dishes in a room totally inspired by a specific character.
There are temporary concept cafes that open about every two months, but fortunately, there are also permanent ones and they are a fundamental step for anyone who wants a bit of sweetness.

Fantastic Character Cafes and where to find them

PomPomPurin Café

photo credits: dangonews.com, straitstimes.com

Entering the PomPomPurin Café is like entering the room of this sweet big dog, a famous Sanrio character. You are welcomed by the yellow and brown of the furnishings, a quiet and relaxing place where you can enjoy sweets, drinks and specialties of various kinds. Inside the café there are "photo corners", dedicated points to take a picture with your favorite pudding! There are also limited edition goods that can only be purchased at the in-house shop.

photo credits: thechibirain, littlemomiji, klawsbykatya, xxakira0412xx

Official Website: http://pompom.createrestaurants.com/jp/
Address:
TOKYO: 〒150-0001 Shibuya, 1-7-1 Jingumae, CUTE CUBE HARAJUKU 3F
OSAKA: 〒530-0012 Kita, Shibata, 1−1−3 Hankyu Third Avenue South Building
NAGOYA: 3 丁目-32-6 Sakae, Naka Ward, Aichi Prefecture 460-0008
YOKOHAMA: Yokohama City Nishi-ku 2-1-5. YOKOHAMA SOTETSU SQUARE

Final Fantasy Eorzea Café

photo credit: favy-jp.com

Final Fantasy Eorzea Café is a small sanctuary for all fans of the famous Square Enix game FFXIV. Eorzea takes its name from the region where the video game takes place. Its interiors are beautifully decorated and the café in Akihabara also has a bar where you can order alcoholic beverages.
The food and drinks served at the bar are constantly changing, just like in the game! By ordering different drinks you can receive a collector's coaster and the restaurant has a point collection system with which special goods can be won, in addition to those that can be purchased at the dedicated sales corner.
Reservations must be made at least two hours in advance if you wish to find a place in this space.

photo credit:japantravel.com

Official Website: https://www.pasela.co.jp/paselabo_shop/ff_eorzea/
Address:
TOKYO: 2F, 1-1-10 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku,
OSAKA: 4F Pasela Resort, 1-4-27 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka-fu

Cinnamoroll Café

photo credit: sanrio.com

Cinnamoroll, a white puppy with long ears, blue eyes, and a curly tail, is one of the most adorable characters of the Sanrio brand. The environment of this café creates an extremely relaxing atmosphere thanks to its delicate colors and its irresistible dishes. Here it is possible to taste the Omu rice, the Stroganoff fillet, the special Shortcake and some seasonal dishes. There is also a shop with limited edition goods.

photo credit: rainbowholic, Japan Italy Bridge, rietiru 

Official Website: http://www.cinnamorollcafe.com/shinjuku/
Address: Shinjuku Marui Annex 3 Chome-1-26 Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0022

Gudetama Café

photo credits: digjapan.travel, picsunday.com

Gudetama is a lazy egg who thinks that everything is mendokusai (a pain) and never has any motivation. And he is the protagonist of the cafe located on the seventh floor of HEP FIVE, a shopping center near the Umeda station in Osaka. Recognizable thanks to its designs, this café offers an exquisitely evolving menu that reflects the lazy and unmotivated nature of its character, in an environment that combines all the shades of pastel yellow with large plush toys by Gudetama in its classic lazy poses.
Cups, magnets and gadgets of various kinds are available to be purchased to bring with you the memory of the most lethargic experience ever!

photo credits: gudetamacafe_hepfive, cafe_shirokuma

Official Website: http://gudetama.createrestaurants.com/jp/info.html
Address: 〒530-0017 Osaka, Kita-ku, Kakuda-cho 5-15, HEP FIVE 7F

Peter Rabbit Garden Cafe

photo credits: japantravel.com, blog.we-are.com

Through the winding streets of Jiyugaoka in Tokyo, a small garden café is hidden, inspired by the stories told in the world of Beatrix Potter whose protagonist is Peter Rabbit. The atmosphere inside the cafeteria is very welcoming and inviting. The blue and white checkered tablecloths cover every table that is decorated with the author's books that you can read and draw on and, sitting next to the customers, you can find the stuffed animals. The wooden floors and furniture give warmth to the environment while various photographs are hung on the walls. On the shelves we find flowers, woven baskets, gardening tools and small objects that evoke images of the picturesque English countryside. Every dish on the menu is carefully designed and, of course, there is a small section dedicated to souvenirs if you want a small piece of sweetness to keep as a souvenir.

photo credit: nemui_ohirune_shitai, luv_barbie_pink, lolitandthecity, curetofficial

Official Website: http://www.peterrabbit-japan.com/cafe/
Address: 1 Chome-25-20 Jiyugaoka, 目黒区 Tokyo 152-0035

Pokémon Cafe

photo credit: digjapan.travel, jw-webmagazine.com

Have you ever dreamed of shouting "Gotta catch'em all!"? You may not be able to do it literally, but the most loyal fans will find joy at Pokémon Café. Opened in 2018 and associated with the Pokémon Center DX, this restaurant is spacious and bright, furnished with simplicity and minimalist decorations, with wooden floors and large tables.
As in any self-respecting character café, Pokémon-themed food and drinks are available, in addition to the seasonal menu available only for a limited period of the year. The unique gadgets always attract collectors. In fact only here is it possible to find poke-thermos, Pikachu stuffed animals in a cook version and the famous Pokéball-shaped cups! Unlike other cafes, online booking is required in advance as the seats are highly sought after.

 

photo credit: nane0v0, xx.asu.pika.025.xx, hanrutmoe

Official Website: https://www.Pokémoncenter-online.com/cafe/
Address: 2-1-2 Nihombashi | Nihombashi Takashimaya SC East Bldg. 5F, Chuo 103-0027, Tokyo

Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory

photo credit: tripadvisor.com, trip101.com

A solitary sign with 3 small painted Totoro signals the existence of this small café in the quiet neighborhood of Daita, hidden among many plants and tree trunks. Adorable puffs inspired by the famous Studio Ghibli creature are served in various flavors. From traditional vanilla and chocolate to seasonal matcha, white peach and Adzuki beans. But if your stomach demands something more, just go up to the second floor, to the Toto Café where tasty pasta dishes are served with iced coffees.

photo credit: onetheycallbela, eliseaki, cooki3zz

Official Website: http://www.shiro-hige.com/main/
Address: 5-3-1 Daita, Setagaya 155-0033, Tokyo

Shirokuma Cafe - Polar Bear’s Café

photo credit: tripzilla.com

Shirokuma-san, the big polar bear who stars in the manga written by Aloha Higa and owner of a bar that welcomes animal and human friends, is also the inspiration for this cozy café. Lots of masterfully modeled bear-and-panda shaped dishes will inspire customers to take lots of photos, captivated by their beauty and tenderness. The restaurant is cozy and guests can pose for many souvenir photos with adorable cartoon characters, while children can have fun in the corner dedicated to them, full of toys and a television! Do not miss the small shop where you can find soft stuffed animals, notebooks, t-shirts, bags, stationery and bento boxes.

photo credit: chillintokyo.wordpress.com, airvarie

Official Website: http://www.shirokumacafe.net/.en/
Address: Tokyo-do Shinjuku-ku Takadanobaba 2-1-2 TOHMA takadanobaba 1F

Alice in Wonderland Café - Alice's Fantasy Restaurant

photo credit: materialicious.com, yanderette

Five restaurants inspired by the Lewis Carroll novel have permanent locations in Japan.
Each of them is extraordinarily engaging and transports visitors to the different scenarios of Alice's world. There are five themes to choose from: the maze, fantasyland, the fantastic book, the magical land, and the old castle. The menu is strictly inspired by British cuisine. To enter the wonderland it is necessary to book online or you can do it in person by going to the restaurant a few days before.

photo credits: samuelponce.cl, satokomorimoto, mydreamsofdisney, kiki_0_0

Official Website: http://www.alice-restaurant.com/
Address:
ALICE IN LABYRINTH (GINZA, TOKYO) 104-0061 東京都中央区銀座8-8-5 太陽ビル5F
ALICE IN FANTASYLAND (UMEDA, OSAKA) 530-0012 大阪府大阪市北区芝田1-8-1D.D.HOUSE1F
ALICE IN FANTASY BOOK (SHINJUKU, TOKYO) 160-0021 東京都新宿区歌舞伎町1-6-2 T-wingビルB2F
ALICE IN MAGICAL LAND (NISHI-SHINJUKU, TOKYO) 160-0023 東京都新宿区西新宿1-5-1 新宿西口ハルクB3
ALICE IN AN OLD CASTLE (IKEBUKURO, TOKYO) 171-0022 東京都豊島区南池袋2-16−8 鈴和ビルB1

Vampire Cafe

photo credit: dd-holdings.jp, ginzavampire

A macabre atmosphere, red velvet curtains, and luxurious chandeliers catapult customers into Medieval Europe, into a real "vampire house". Inside the café, there is even an altar, a coffin and a cross struck by a beam of light to allow total immersion in the gothic world of the legends concerning the creatures of the night. Of course, the menu is also thematic: dishes and cocktails with unique names belonging to the Italian and French cuisine and are served by staff in a vampire costume.

photo credit: prtimes.jp, ginzavampire

Address: 7F, La Paix Bldg., 6-7-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Moomin House Cafe

photo credits: yelp.com

The Moomin, despite belonging to the Finnish tradition, have also found a way in Tokyo to welcome fans into their world. The environment recreates the natural woods in which the Moomins live, giving the café that relaxing and timeless aspect whose goal is to allow everyone to have a place to get together and where they can witness many fun moments. Big puppets live in the café and keep company to the lucky visitors who are able to sit next to them. The dishes are tasty and as always perfectly presented to pamper the heart of those seeking a moment of tenderness.
The most famous menu is the "Souvenir Moomin House Pancakes" because the pancakes are served at the table along with ceramic figurines as a souvenir to take away with them.

photo credit: moomincafe.jp, japantravel.com, moomincafe

Official Website: https://benelic.com/moomin_cafe/
Address: 1F Tokyo Soramachi, 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Square Enix's Artnia Cafe

photo credits: sweetkammi.wordpress.com

Located in Shinjuku, Artnia mixes its being Square Enix's official goods store with the café whose dishes are based on the company's prestigious game series. Inside, it’s divided into 3 areas: the "Fancy Area", the area dedicated to the merchandising of Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, the real "Café & Bar" that occupies most of the space and the splendid "Luxury Area” located behind the bar and designed in black granite. This luxurious area is a real museum containing replicas of the sagas, statues, works of art and jewels, but it is the fountain that rises in the center to be the real attraction of Artnia. It contains a red crystal suspended inside a waterfall that pours into a pedestal with all the spheres of Materia of various colors.

photo credits: favy-jp.com

Official Website: http://www.jp.square-enix.com/artnia/index
Address: 1F Shinjuku East Side Square, 6-27-30 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Maid Café

photo credits: cat.m.mayberry, theginger1nch, maidreamin

Better known as "Meido Kissa", the maid cafes are places where customers are served by Victorian-style waitresses, with their clothes full of lace. These maids have the specific task of satisfying customer requests, so the customers are called "Masters" if they are men, or "Princess" if they are women. These places are mostly concentrated in Akihabara and are always full of extremely accurate details. Once inside, a Maid will accompany the visitor who can only stay for 1 hour to the table and will have to choose whether to drink, eat or another of the available proposals. Moreover, the waitresses interact continuously with the customers and if these are not very talkative, then they will start to do ballets and sing little songs. They are very fun and carefree environments, for a more original break than usual!

photo credits: wheresmy_dang_food, ranamajid007, pegsfordays, debydraws, m00nvixen

Some of the most popular Maid Cafes:
At-Home Café, 1-11-4 Sotokanda Mitsuwa Bldg. 4-7F, Chiyoda 101-0021 Tokyo, https://www.cafe-athome.com/info/
MAIDREAMIN, head store: Sumiyoshi BLDG.6F 3-16-17 Sotokanda Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 101-0021 https://maidreamin.com
MELCAFE, 4 Chome-9-9 Nipponbashi Naniwa-ku Osaka-shi, Osaka http://mel-cafe.com