How to Make Reservations at Ikebukuro’s Swallowtail Butler Cafe

Ikebukuro is my bae of Japan, seriously. Ladies of the interwebs that are interested in being treated like a lady, trying out some delicious teas, or just want to ogle the boys (let’s be real), then this is my recommendation for you.

One thing that really stood out for me with Swallowtail is its relaxed, very comfortable environment. Bit of back story. When my sisters came to visit me in Japan, I wanted to take them someplace where they could experience luxury and calm (in the busy city of Tokyo) and that would give them the culture shock of a lifetime (an experience that they – even today – can recall in STRONG deets).

Back then, I knew that host clubs are typically more accessible, but I also know that they are sometimes dangerous, expensive, and filled with pushy salesman that make you buy lots of alcohol. Just a heads-up for those staying in Tokyo, red-light district Kabukicho Shinjuku, in particular, is notorious for these sort of host club establishments. Avoid, (or visit, if you’re about that kinda life) at your own risk.

To avoid the pushy salesmen and sketch neighborhoods (though Ikebukuro does have its share; it’s a metropolitan city, after all), I decided to give Swallowtail a shot by myself, and if I was happy with the experience, I’d take my sisters with. Which I’m glad I did. And now, I’m encouraging you adventurous ladies to do the same.

For me (especially back when my Japanese was not at the level it is now), making reservations was a little tricky. When making up this tutorial for y’all, I noticed that their website has changed a bit (even an English Guidance page has been added since then!), but the reservation process hasn’t changed. I’m here to walk you step-by-step to get you through those doors and into a comfortable seat, where a butler can then tend to your tea and cakey needs.

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Unlike the infamous maid cafes of Akihabara, you can’t usually just walk into a butler cafe like Swallowtail without a reservation. Well, you can, if the time schedule has a vacancy. Which you can check near their front door, where they have a schedule of their business hours, open, and reserved slots.

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The Reservation Process

1. Check out their HP (https://www.butlers-cafe.jp/) Reservations are only made online, not through phone.

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2. Click 予約 (reserve) on the top-right corner (https://www.butlers-cafe.jp/reserve/)

3. Click on 予約フォームへ進む (continue to reservation form)

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4. Choose your preferred time and date. For this example, I chose 09/04 10:55, 3-4 名様(customers, people attending)

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5. Enter your Email address, Number of people, and Hit the 確認 (confirm) button

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6. Check your inbox for an email from this address “webmaster@butlers-cafe.jp”. Luckily, for non-Japanese readers, they’ve added English instructions to their emails. Do as the instructions indicate and follow the link to get to part 2 of registration.

7. Aaaaand back to Japanese-only stuff. Confirm your email address here.

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8. Fill out your information:

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  • A. Name (must be typed in Japanese characters, katakana or hiragana is okay)
  • B. Furigana (name again in hiragana)
  • C. What you would like to be called by your butler. Options for women: お嬢様 ojou-sama (lady, younger), 奥様 okusama (lady, older), options for men: 旦那様 danna-sama (sir, older), お坊ちゃま obocchama (young sir)
  • D. When it’s time to leave, what kind of send-off phrase do you want your butler to say to you (Options: おまかせ Omakase (Leave it to them.) お出掛けのお時間でございます。(It’s time to go out now.) ご出発のお時間でございます。(It’s time for your departure.) 乗馬のお時間でございます。(It’s time for your horse riding.)
  • E. Phone number. You can use your own number, it doesn’t have to be Japanese.
  • F. This section is if you have a members card. If you do (I do, they’re free, use like a point card, and make for a cute souvenir), you may enter your card number here, not including the front zeros. If no card, leave this whole section blank.
  • G. Are you ordering an anniversary cake or need a cooler bag for the cake? Choose なし (no) or あり (yes)

9. When done, hit 送信 (send).

10. When you get to this screen, check your inbox again to receive your final confirmation email.

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Aaaand you done, girl! Just show up on time, be somewhat nicely dressed, and enjoy your time there.

This blog post is really just meant to show you how to reserve a time slot, but I figured I’d also give you a heads-up about what to expect while you’re there, since the staff does not speak English there, and they do have a process and a couple house rules.

  • Once you arrive, you may be asked to sit and wait on a bench. First, an older gentleman (the owner) will greet you, take your coat and purse for you, if you’d like, and then your butler will introduce himself and show you to your table.
  • Your butler will take his time with you to introduce you to the items on the menu (if you don’t understand Japanese, you guessed it; just smile and nod). Afterwards, he’ll walk away.
  • When you want his attention, ring the bell. You will be asked to ring the bell for two other occasions, too: when you want him to fill up your water or tea (you don’t do this yourself, he’ll do everything for you), and when you want to go to the bathroom.
  • You don’t leave the table by yourself. You ring the bell, he escorts you to the bathroom, waits until you’re done with your business (or if he is busy and can’t, another butler may wait instead) and then escort you back to your table.
  • When it’s time to leave, your butler will lead you back down the hall, collect your things, and the owner may also send you off with a farewell greeting, too.
  • Another predictable house rule, no picture-taking allowed inside.
  • Also, quick tip! If you’re interested in purchasing some of the teas or sweets or some cute souvenirs from across the street, you can do that at the Swallowtail gift shop, where the cashier is also one of Swallowtail’s own butlers! Very nice marketing touch.
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Komeda Coffee – A Recommendation

So it’s 3:00PM. Time for tea. Or in this case, coffee. Nagoya-styled coffee. Your place of choice? Before you get comfortable and say, “Starbucks”, let me first urge you to “give Komeda Coffee a shot”.

Or “get a shot… of coffee… from Komeda…”

…I tried the pun thing. Maybe I’ll be more creative next time.

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Komeda’s Coffee is a great cafe that offers decently-priced delicacies from Nagoya. My favorite of which is the infamous Ogura Toast, which is basically a thick (and I do mean thiccc with three C’s) piece of bread, slathered with sweet, whipped butter and red bean paste. You can order this Ogura Toast thinly-sliced or thickly-sliced. But let’s be real, thick is where it’s AT.

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Their sandwiches are also excellent. I ordered a Fried Pork Cutlet Sandwich (no pic included) from them, which was quite sizable and tasted fresh. And, of course, I highly recommend their coffee (pic included way above).

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They’ve got coffee. They’ve got Ogura Toast. They even got fluffy, Shiro-Noir Danish pastries. For your viewing pleasure, the menu: http://www.komeda.co.jp/en/menu/index.html

Since Komeda Coffee started off in Nagoya, you can find them all over the Aichi prefecture, but I’ve also seen them around the Kansai area, as well. If you spot one, and if it’s remotely close to 3:00pm, I’d highly recommend popping in to scope out those sweet, sweet (and I do mean sweettt with three T’s, if that’s a thing) tasties.

8 Tips to Help You Out During Jet Lag

Just arrived back in good, cold Chicago, and now a new foe has appeared: Jet lag.

“West is best, East is beast” definitely rings true with me, as coming home from Japan really seems to mess with my body clock. Jet lag usually keeps its hold over me for about 2-4 weeks, but I totally understand that it can effect everyone in different ways for longer or shorter periods of time.

This week, I’d like to share with you a few tricks that help me oust nocturality and get my body clock up and functioning again.

  1. Drink water. If you’re anything like me, you may have issues hydrating after the 12-hour flight to/from Japan. Especially if you’re spending more time sleeping than drinking lately. I know this sounds elementary, but keeping hydrated helps me from waking up in middle of the night with desert-dry feet or a parched throat.
  • Stay awake all day. I KNOW this is not easy. But by all means necessary, drink tea, coffee, or whatever keeps you healthy and caffeinated to last the day. However, it’s really important NOT to load up on caffeine, especially towards the end of your day, when sleep is absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid sleeping in. Set an alarm. I know it’s not easy, but there is a lot of wisdom to be learned from “Early to bed, early to rise.” I strive to go to bed early around 9:00pm while I recover. Don’t figure, “Oh, I’ll just sleep until 3:00pm over the weekend, since I’m so exhausted.” This just makes it harder to adjust into the current timezone and easier to become nocturnal.
  • Stay social among the living. Another thing that helps me stay awake is with I’m surrounded with other people who are awake. Coming home to my big family has proven to be one of the greatest methods for staying awake.
  • Limit phone time before bed. I know we all do it, but sleep is more important right now than catching up on Netflix or Instagram. Some reconnection is good, but don’t let it keep you up until 2:00am. (If you’ve got a blue filter or something on your phone to help you with the harsh, bright lights in a pitch-black room, I’d recommend utilizing those, as well, since I know too much cellphone use at night generally makes me less likely to sleep as well. Just remember, “anything in moderation”, and health is your number one priority.
  • Get some light exposure. It’s very tempting to stay at home and feel the need to relax. But I’d also recommend a drive or just a quick walk outside or to Target or something to get your body some exposure to those fine, vitamin-D-filled rays.
  • Shower before bed. So I know in the West, we most of us generally take showers in the morning, so I tried getting back into that habit when I came back to the States. But what I noticed was as soon as I was done with my nice, hot shower, I felt relaxed immediately ready for sleep. If possible, try showering at night instead, to avoid those sudden napping urges.
  • Eat, but don’t eat too much. I know you missed that Chiptole, but sleep coma is real. ‘Nuff said.

To narrow it all down. Sleep, but not too much. Drink, and eat, but not too much. Stay among the living, avoid the late-night Netflix binges, catch some rays, and reset that body clock by staying awake.

Before calling it a day here, though, I definitely want to add that if you really feel like you need a nap, please nap. Just make it a quick one. If you ever reach a point when you get so tired, you feel sick or you might be nauseous (been there, done that), then please don’t overdo it, and get some rest. Again, health is number one. Be gracious when resetting that body clock.

If you have any other tips for getting over jet lag, believe me when I say they are greatly appreciated. (Help me!)

Sakura in Osaka – a Hanami Recommendation

‘Tis the season for cherry blossoms! If you’ve heard of hanami, then you know it probably has something to do with family, friends, or punch-drunk salary-men picnicking under the cherry blossom trees.

You’ve heard correctly.

To each person, hanami has its own different meaning. Some people prefer quieter, local areas, sharing a few snacks with their kids, friends, or special someone, while some people prefer to go out, get drunk, and get happy with a bunch of coworkers (depends how pushy their company is to attend, I guess). In general, everybody is just a lot happier, as they all break out of hibernation and get out to take pictures of their local sakura.

Things you can expect to experience around this week (give or take) of hanami are:

  • Seeing various food stands, selling takoyaki, ice cream, or mini castella cakes
  • Finding lots of random sakura pedals kind of scattered around the sidewalks
  • Getting some strong whiffs of sake/beer in more crowded areas
  • Getting some whiffs of other flowers that start blooming around this time
  • Seeing loads of different parks with their own festivals celebrating the season
  • A ton of birds, and some bugs starting to emerge into Springtime
  • Seeing lots of sakura-themed goods when shopping (probably the most impressive sakura collection I’ve seen so far is at Afternoon Tea. Check this shit out)
  • Seeing sakura-watching boats traveling up and down the rivers
  • Showing up in the background of tourists’ selfies

Just as quick as the season started, it’s already starting to end. It’s a shame that such beauty has such a short lifespan… But maybe that’s what makes them so beautiful? I guess the sakura means something different to each person, but to me, they kind of represent a beautiful, yet somewhat tragic similarity to life and life’s fragile impermanence. It makes me step back and appreciate things a little more. Makes me feel smaller and humbler in the whole scheme of things.

But then again, this could just be the long-awaited Spring talking, and making me feel all emotional.

Without further ado, I will now include photos of Sakuranomiya, Banpaku Memorial Park, Yodo River, Nara Park, and Osaka Castle – for your viewing pleasure. Although I’d recommend any of these places for next year’s hanami (if you can’t make it this year), I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Catching some early sakura at Banpaku Memorial Park:

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Osaka Castle:

Nara:

Yodogawa:

Sakuranomiya (my top hanami location recommendation for you):

Quick factoid side-note: As you can tell by the many photos I’ve included, the five-petaled somei yoshino, yamazakura, are the most common and popular wild cherry blossom trees out here in the Kansai area. They look more white than pink and have a very soft, cloudy appearance, especially when the sun hits them juuust right.

Osaka’s Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018 Results

So White Day, March 14th, has just passed me by. The day in which women receive a return gift from those they have given Valentine gifts to. Since I, too, participated in the Valentine gift-giving, this March 14th, I received some Mister Donuts from my wonderful boyfriend, who knows me so well.

To those unfamiliar with Japan’s “Mister Donut” shops, I beg you to try their “Pon De Ringu”. https://www.misterdonut.jp/m_menu/donut/ That stuff is fluffy gloriousness.

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This Valentine’s Day, I was fortunate enough to visit Osaka Hankyuu’s very own St. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018. There’s not much else to say, other than “Holy chocolates, Batman!”

There were lots of hungry consumers, and there were lots and lots of glorious chocolate stands, all of which had a different theme to them.

For example, there were the “cute” styled ones.

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There were “cool” themed car ones, which you could actually “take apart” and eat. Very creative.

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There were “Godzilla” themed ones, the largest of which cost 7,560en (about $75!).

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The most popular ones seemed to be the “sake chocolates” and the “animal” themed booth, which I had a hard time taking a picture of because of the extensive lines and crowds surrounding the poor stand and its very busy, underpaid part-time workers.

 

There were also very badass “outer space” themed ones, Foucher Olympus, and I’m telling you, I felt like the Chocolate King of the Cosmos, going back a second time to actually buy these (shameless Katamari reference). http://valentine.season-evt.info/foucher/

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I’ve searched the web to try and see if you could order these, but all I’ve found is, “There are no more products found for this product”, meaning they’re probably sold out… Which sucks, because I would definitely buy these suckers again.

They had a very mature, kind of sophisticated taste about them, most of the flavors dealing with an alcoholic beverages, like brandy, vodka, and more. Very quality, creamy, and light stuff. If I can ever find a link that sells these, rest assured, I’ll be posting.

All in all, I had a fun time at the Expo, contributing to the heavily-marketed Japanese Valentine’s Day. I’ve noticed that, to Japan, Valentine’s Day is really money-oriented, rather than the more traditional Western representation of a “holiday of love”. (Taking it a bit further, White Day can also be observed as another “Japanization of Western culture”, as it created the day – pessimistically speaking – to make some more money.)

However, when you think about it, gift-giving has ALWAYS been a big part of Japanese culture to begin with. And as a consumer, I think the products they deliver are very creative, and the holiday can be a lot of fun; especially the giving part. And with Mister Donuts, I mean, who can complain?