Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dining with the Posh Monsters of Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku, Tokyo

The Mushroom Disco area of Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku, Tokyo. Image from Spoon and Tamago.

When the word "MONSTER" is mentioned, my three-year old princess' immediate response is a somewhat unique and isolated process of its own kind. She instantly freezes with her mouth agape for three seconds, drops whatever she is holding, hesitates for a few nanoseconds before her flight response activates. She runs screaming to the nearest caregiver (usually me) for comfort or to the nearest blanket where she hides like a cute little kitten threatened with a bath. I point out that Mike and Sully from one of her favorite Pixar film are monsters. She points at the empty wall behind me and quietly whispers "A monster. Wearing white."

Either she's learned the art of trolling people back or she has an active third eye. I pray to God it's the former. 

When we went to Japan, however, "monster" took on a different form and meaning that defied all standards. In a cafe named the "Kawaii Monster Cafe" in Harajuku, Tokyo, monsters were all colorfully decked out in a kawaii fashion. What other country can associate creatures that are considered frightening with the word "cute" and turn them into adorable beings with a rainbow-inspired wardrobe? Only Japan.

And so we went to visit the cafe on a rainy afternoon on a spring day just to satiate our intrigue.

A wall mural of Kawaii Monster Cafe will greet you at the entrance.

The reception area of Kawaii Monster Cafe. The purple sludge monster with glowing eyes is the cafe's mascot. Image from Tokyo Fashion.

Kawaii Monster Cafe has four distinct dining areas. Staff will make you choose which area you want to stay before admitting you into the cafe. My princess obviously chooses the Mel-Tea Room.

(Want to see a post about another unique theme park in Tokyo that we visited? Click here.)

Staff said we were going to enter the cafe under the pretense of being swallowed whole by the cafe mascot, that giant purple sludge.

Upon entry into the cafe, we were greeted with the blaring sounds of J-pop-- and a bizarre sight. At the center of the room stood a working merry-go-round fashioned like a cake with white frosting dripping on the sides. While a normal merry-go-round would have hand-painted wooden horses, this one had creatures that looked like something straight out of a twisted version of the Forest Witch's Gingerbread House, like cotton candy sheep with blood-shot red eyes and a hare probably made out of marzipan and covered with melting frosting. I've learned from prior research that the structure was called the Sweets-go-Round. I doubt it was made to instill fear into its guests, though, because it was so cute and colorful that our little sweetheart stood in awe at it for a good ten minutes. I have to admit, even I was awestruck by it.

The Sweets-go-Round. Image from Spoon and Tamago.

They had a Pacman-themed event when we visited.

My sweetheart being hypnotized by the sickening collaboration of colorful lights and sounds.

Unfortunately, the Sweets-go-Round is not openly available for the use of the guests. For one thing, it is used as the stage for the Monster Dance Party, a dance production number put on by the kawaii monsters at certain times of the day. The only time a guest is allowed to ride the Sweets-go-Round is when he/she buys a gummy from the cafe shop or from a roaming monster as this entitles him/her to a photo-op and meet-and-greet with the monsters aboard the carousel after the dance.

My baby is a lot like Beans from the film "Rango"-- she freezes involuntarily as a coping mechanism when she encounters something she fears (in this case, the Kawaii monster named Freaky). She didn't respond to anything me and the monster said until I carried her to our booth.

Before I go on with the rest of the blog entry, here's a Facebook live video of me giving a visual tour of Kawaii Monster Cafe.

And so, without further ado, I present the following photo commentary of Kawaii Monster Cafe in all its psychedelic glory. As previously mentioned, the cafe is divided into four distinct areas.

(Want to read about another themed restaurant that we visited? Click here.)

Mushroom Disco Area. Image from Spoon and Tamago.

The Mushroom Disco area is right behind the Sweets-go-Round. It is where we chose to stay. For me, it's the most convenient location to be in. In this area, you get to dine in your own booth shaded by your very own kawaii mushroom. Secondly, as it's right beside the Sweets-go-Round, you can stay inside your booth to watch the monster dance show or easily secure a more comfortable spot if you want a front-and-center view.

You can play classic arcade games like Gun Barrel, Pacman and Air Hockey in this part of the Mushroom Disco area where there are more thorns and less mushroom caps.

The Milk Stand. Image from Spoon and Tamago.

The Milk Stand is located adjacent to the Mushroom Disco area where diners can also get their own booths. The decorations in this area are macabre (but cute) figurines of the heads of a hare, a horse, and a sheep drinking milk from baby bottles that hang from the ceiling, and red lips. Lots of red lips.

I wasn't kidding about the "red lips" part. Image from Travel Caffeine.

Their eyes glow bright yellow-- typical villainy in a somewhat cute way.

The Bar Experiment takes after the appearance of a bar under a jellyfish-- at least, I think so. You can order alcoholic drinks here and the seating is individual facing a counter.

Yes! The jellyfish changes color!

The Mel-Tea Room! Everything looks good enough to eat! Image from Spoon and Tamago.

In the Mel-Tea Room, the walls are decked with macarons and multi-colored chocolate bars. There's frosting and melted ice cream dripping from the ceiling. Truly, everything is "melty" in here.

Halfway between the Milk Stand and the Mel-tea Room is a mini-souvenir booth selling official cafe merchandise.

Frosted biscuits sold per box! On the upper left corner of the photo, you can see the jellies being sold for 500 JPY apiece that also entitles you to a photo-op with the Monsters after their number.

We were thankful that we arrived at the cafe as early as 10:00 AM for three good reasons: (1) there were not a lot of people at the cafe, and (2) we were able to eat before the Kawaii Monsters' dance number at 12:30 PM. Tip: arrive early.

I was able to take a video of the Kawaii Monsters dancing to an upbeat remix. Please enjoy!

Kawaii Monsters' Dance Number.

Much can be said about the cafe's food and drink. For one thing, they are definitely pricier than average. This comes out as a marketing ploy because there are more foreign tourist visitors in the cafe than Japanese when we went. While the serving sizes are a bit small for the price, we were all very impressed with the presentation and the taste of the food. Not wanting to deviate from the sickeningly colorful monster theme, even the food were presented in a way that is not only satiating to the tummy but also pleasing to the visuals.

Complimentary Japanese garden salad came with the main courses. Note that Japanese put corn in their garden salad and in their pizza, too! The drink is Ginger Ale (JPY 300) that came with two test tubes containing fruit syrups, apple and orange. While the sparkling ale tastes bland by itself, the idea behind the whole drink is rather interactive: you have to pour out the flavored syrup of your choice into the ale to your desired taste.

Monster Chicken Burger and Fries (JPY 2, 600). 

The Paletto Pasta (JPY 2, 300). It has five different sauces as represented by the different colors of "paint" in the palette.

Chicken Breast Teriyaki (JPY 2, 000) with a dollop of mayonnaise. This very delicious entree is probably the only Japanese one in the menu!

Roast Beef with Potato Wedges and Rice (JPY 3, 200). I absolutely loved this! The beef strips were soft and perfectly-seasoned!

By the time we visited, the cafe had a Pacman collaboration. For just JPY 2, 500, you get a set meal composed of a Pacman cheese pizza, Pacman cheesecake, a drink, a free game in the Pacman machine, and a freebie (we got a Pacman face mirror)!

Pacman cheese pizza-- looks a little messy but cheesy and yummy all the same!

Pacman cheesecake. It has a chocolate mousse base. Its sweetness was just right for my liking.

Because we went on a spring day in April when cherry blossoms were at their peak bloom, the cafe also had a promotion where customers get a free scoop of sakura-flavored ice cream when they bring in a few fallen blossoms and show them to the servers.

Upon payment, we were given loyalty cards so we could avail a glorious discount on our next visit! (It has an expiry date, though. It's best to use them as soon as possible.)

Colorful cafe coasters.

Take a look at the cafe's toilet room! So cute!

And on your way out, near the exit, there's another more comprehensive souvenir shop. Last chance to stock up on Kawaii Monster goods!

Photo-op with the cafe's mascot, this adorable purple thing!

While there are many things in life that may scare us, Kawaii Monster Cafe's unique approach of turning usually scary stuff into something that is more socially acceptable and less frightening is the most appropriate attitude to adopt, especially now that the world is turning worse by the minute. If people will only see things in a more colorful light, then maybe differences will be set aside and fear may be cast away-- giving way for a much more beautiful life.

And with that, I end this post leaving you with pictures that I took of Takeshita Street, Harajuku's fashion central.


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