Tag Archives: Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty Saryo (Tea House) in Kyoto

MAKES

In the winding narrow shopping streets leading to Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, you can find all sorts of traditional Japanese delights. Step into a shop and the vendor will offer you a tray full of samples of yatsuhashi, a typical Kyoto confectionery—thin layers of mochi wrapped around sweet bean paste. Start with the lightly cinnamon-dusted original before sampling all the other flavors—green tea, roasted sweet potato, strawberry, chocolate, and black sesame (to name just a few). Next, wander into a kanzashi (hair ornament) shop, or pay a visit to Yojiya, the famed Japanese cosmetics shop.

Or, if you’d prefer, the streets of Sannenzaka offer another type of traditional Japanese experience. Hello Kitty Saryo (Tea House) is like a lot of typical tea houses in Kyoto… except for the small fact that everything somehow features Kitty-chan (as she’s known in Japanese).

As a lifelong fan of Kitty-chan, I had to investigate Hello Kitty Saryo for myself. And what I found was actually a little surprising.

I think I was expecting something along the lines of a typical Sanrio store: bright colors, lots of pink. But what I found instead was a sophisticated Japanese tea salon… with just a hint of Hello Kitty in every detail.

Here’s the entrance. Note the muted color palette, minimalist design, and traditional noren curtain (featuring Kitty-chan’s signature bow).

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I arrived soon after the shop opened for the day, so only one other table was occupied and I had my choice of seats.

The host let me know I could sit wherever I wanted, so I opted to sit at one of the tables closest to the window so I could admire the garden view.

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Large plush Kitty-chan dolls sat at a few of the tables. There was one directly across from me, but soon after I sat down, my waitress brought it to sit next to me. She took a Polaroid photo and asked me to write a message that they would later share on their bulletin board. I also asked her to snap a shot of me and my dining companion.

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The menu at Hello Kitty Saryo includes Kyoto-style obanzai lunch plates, ochazuke (rice and pickles served with tea), Western-style pasta, and a range of tea and coffee.

There’s an English menu available and there are handy icons to help you identify which dishes contain common allergens.

I opted for matcha (powered green tea) and a traditional Japanese confectionery made from purple sweet potato and shiroan (white bean paste).

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And, of course, I had to check out the bathroom. LOVE the sink basin and the wallpaper!!

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Once you’re done eating, you can head next door to the shop and stock up on souvenirs. They have everything—wallets, coin purses, yukata (light cotton kimono), ceramics, jewelry… the list goes on and on.

Shop info

Hello Kitty Saryo, 363-22-2 Masuyacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0826

Tel: 075.541.1210

Restaurant open: 10:30am–6pm (last order for food at 4:30pm, last order for sweets at 5:30pm)

Shop open: 10:30am–6:30pm

The San Francisco J-Pop Summit 2015

When I first heard of the J-Pop Summit, I wasn’t sure if it would be my thing. I’ve never really gotten into the J-Pop genre of music (for whatever reason I find K-Pop to be much more enjoyable—maybe because it’s so similar to American pop).

But it turns out that the J-Pop Summit was about much more than just music. This weekend-long event (which took place August 8 and 9 in San Francisco) celebrated several aspects of Japanese pop culture, including food, fashion, and anime.

The events took place at two main locations: Fort Mason and Union Square. Fort Mason featured a half a dozen food trucks and a large hall with musicians, dance performances, and booths promoting various aspects of Japanese culture.

The main draw at Union Square was a sake tasting area. (Fun fact: In Japanese, “sake” is a general term that means “alcohol.” The specific type of alcohol that we call “sake” in English is actually called “nihonshu” in Japanese.) There were also a handful of vendors selling food and a few vendors whose food and drinks featured matcha (green tea powder).

Here are a few of the highlights from my visit to the Fort Mason event. Many thanks to the talented Eva Vargas for the photos!hello kitty cafe foodtruck

When we arrived at Fort Mason on Saturday afternoon, I was thrilled to see the Hello Kitty Café. This adorable pink food truck sells donuts, cakes, macarons, and other confections that are adorned with Hello Kitty-inspired decorations.

I had tried to visit the Hello Kitty Café when they were stationed at a festival in Japantown a few months ago, but after seeing how many people were waiting in line, I decided to skip it. Luckily the line was short at the J-Pop Summit, so we got our treats right away!

hello kitty donutsA close-up of the Hello Kitty donuts. So kawaii!! 

One of the parts I was really looking forward to was the recreated ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) where we could watch videos about different regions in Japan. It turned out to be a not-so-subtle commercial for each of the ryokan, so it was a little disappointing in that respect.

But they did have yukata (light cotton kimono) that we got to put on—they even had several staff members on hand to make sure we were wearing them properly. Wearing a yukata and going to a matsuri (festival) is a typical summertime activity in Japan, so it was fun to get to experience that here in San Francisco!

eva and melissa in yukata

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We also had the opportunity to meet two Japanese pop stars, Yana and Kiku, whose celebrity was unfortunately a little lost on us. They were really cute, though!

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Wandering around the large hall in Fort Mason was a bit disorienting. There were all sorts of unusual sights and sounds, like this giant head, a woman in a bathtub with a lot of cash, and various people doing cosplay.

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It was a colorful, fun way to spend the day, and I look forward to attending again next year!