Bilingual Family Trip- St. Patrick’s Day in Tokyo and “Kawaii” Harajuku Cafe

New Video here 💕☘️

We went to Tokyo to see the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! The parade takes place on Omotesando street in Tokyo, near Harajuku. It was set up by the Irish Network Japan, to introduce Irish culture to Japanese poeple. The parade has run annually since 1992 and has been growing every year.

Along with the “I Love Ireland” Festival that is held in Yoyogi park over the same weekend, it has become the largest Irish event in Asia!

Yoyogi Park where the festival was held

When my Mum, Aunt and their friend came to Japan 6 years ago (Has it been THAT long?!) we went to the parade in all our green glory (for those who don’t know, on St. Patrick’s Day you must wear green!!) and had a fantastic time. I’m sure you could spot (or hear) the crazy Irish tourists a mile away.

Irish in Tokyo

The parade showcases the Irish culture which is flourishing in Japan. Groups from Toyko and all over the country participate. Irish dancers, rugby clubs, even “Oi Ocha” a Green Tea company walked in the parade this year (I think it’s because it’s green?!”. Throw in some guys in leprachaun suits, some giant Guinness beer cans, marching bands andfor some reason a Samba dance group, and you have quite a party!!

Niall Horan of One Direction’s Japanese fan club!

This year, I really wanted to go with hubby and Seán. The festival runs over the weekend, so we decided we would go on the Sunday, the 17th which was St. Patrick’s Day. We took the bullet train from Shizuoka station. I much prefer train journeys to car or bus journeys, and train journeys in Japan are extra special as you can marvel at the beautiful countryside, and if lucky get a stunning view of Mt. Fuji.

The bullet train is, of course, super fast and super convenient. Even the Kodama (“Echo”) which is the slowest of the many types ( There are also Nozomi “Wish”, Hikari “Light”, Mizuho “Harvest” and Sakura “Cherry Blossom”) reaches a speed of 285 km/h (175 mph). There are bathrooms, changing tables and even a room where you can nurse babies.

It took only about an hour and a half to get to Tokyo. After arriving at Tokyo Station, we got took a train on the famous Yamonote Line (which travels in a loop around all of the main Toyko spots) to Harajuku station. If you are traveling on the Yamanote Line, make sure you take a train going in the direction that will take you to your destination quickest. It goes both clockwise and anti- clockwise.

The Parade attracts 50,000 spectators each year.

There are also parades held in Kanagawa, Chiba, and Fukui Prefectures. Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture, once home to Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn who was one of the first Westerners to write about Japanese culture and its folk tales, has its own Irish Fesival too.

Irish Red Setter wearing a lovely Shamrock outfit
Tokyo station looking pink!
Have you heard of/ever seen these Yoyogi Park dancers?

We are yummy Irish food from the stalls at the festival. I wanted to try Irish stew from Tokyo restaurant “Kyojin no Stewhouse” run by the lovely Irish giant Alan. (Check them out!

Unfortunately their food was so popular it was already sold out! But hubby got a Maggie’s Leap beer and I got a Guinness Chocolate brownie, which we both enjoyed thoroughly. We definitely want to visit the stewhouse next time we are in Tokyo.

Alan was so friendly too, he has even written a book of Irish folktales which is published in both English and Japanese!

On our second day in Tokyo, we went to a very special “limited time only” cafe in Modi (a shopping mall in Shibuya), called “Sumikkogurashi Book Cafe!”

We LOVE Sumikkogurashi.

Seán looking delighted with his new friends!

They are cute characters (animals who each have their own story and like to hang out in corners because they are shy. For example, the blue lizard above is called “Tokage” (Lizard), but he is actually a dinosaur in disguise. He ia afraid humans will capture him if they find out he is a dinosaur. There’s also a polar bear who doesn’t like the cold, and a ball of Tapioca that was left at the bottom of a milk tea drink (Aww..).

They are so cute, and the cafe was lovely. We had pancakes and a lunch set (omurice- ketchup and rice omelette). It was pretty good (expensive though, but you pay for the atmosphere and the chance to sit with the big cuddly Sumikkogurashi toys). Hubby got a drink with a cotton candy on top!

This was a “pop- up” limited edition cafe, of which there is almost always going on somewhere in Tokyo. This one was in MODI Shibuya, in HMV & Books. Currently running themed cafe’s include Detective Conan in Harajuku and Hello Kitty x Crayon Shinchan in Hokkaido and Nagoya (full list here

Mmm pancakes!

There are also permanent themed cafes, sich as the Pokem on cafe, Alice in Wonderland and the Kawaii Monster Cafe. There are also robot themed, ninja themed and prison themed restaurants in Tokyo.

After lunch, we took a walk around Harajuku. Harajuku is the birthplace of “Kawaii” – cute. It is always bustling with people, and the center for cute fashion (think anime characters/ lolita). Harajuku fashion is particularly popular with young girls. On Takeshita Street, you can find cute fashion stores galore, and sample the food culture of Harajuku. I am pretty sure the food you will see most is crepes! People holding crepes, colorful display os every kind of stuffed crepe imaginable, photos/ signposts advertising the best crepe shop in the vicinity. Crepes are closely followed byy Tapioca drinks, colorful ice creams and cotton candy in popularity. Harajuku is a pastel- coloured wonderland.

We really enjoyed our Tokyo trip. Getting to see the parade, eating at a cute cafe and walking around Harajuku. However, we went to Tokyo during the spring vacation, so there were crowds of children, families and young people everywhere enjoying the break. Which is great! But with a baby it’s not ideal to be winding your way through crowds. I was worried about Sean the whole time, I wondered if he would be nervous with all the people around, and was anxious someone might bump into us unexpectedly. So, personally, I would not recommend Harajuku during vacation or weekends if you habe a small baby. Unless you are willing to chance it! I just couldn’t really relax! A part of me was in fact quite relieved to return to quiet, peaceful Shizuoka.

Says the girl who has stayed in a 3000 yen capsule hotel and taken the first train home in the morning after a night out.. Shows my age, I guess! And that I’ve become a mum.

On the way back, we picked up rice balls at a shop in Tokyo Station, apparantely the absolute favorite of a member of AKB48! They were really good.

The top 5 must try foods at the Kawazu Sakura Festival!河津桜祭りの食べ歩きベスト5!

As well as looking at beautiful cherry blossoms, there are many festival foods to be tried at the Kawazu Sakura Festival.

We tried a LOT of them, and chose our best 5 to introduce in our new video.

Here it is!

Many of these can be eaten at any festival in Japan, but there are a few special ones too.

What are our must- try festival foods?

Number 5 – Odango! お団子

Odango are balls of mochi on a stick.

Mochi is a kind of paste made from mochigome or mochi rice. The sticky paste is rolled into balls and put on a stick. It’s then dipped in a sweet sauce called tare.

There are usually three or four balls on a stick of dango. In Japan in the past, the number three was considered lucky so older, more traditional sweet shops will sell dango with three balls.

Hubby’s tip! Find a store selling “Three

balled” dango to get a taste of history! There are also different ways to prepare and serve dango in different parts of japan. Three colored dango 🍡 from Kyoto are pink, white and green.

Number 4 Ama senbei! 海女せんべい

Senbei is a Japanese rice cracker, but this senbei is about 10 times the usual size! “Ama” 海女 means “Sea Woman”, and it was a profession in Japan years ago.

The Ama‘s job was to dive to the ocean floor to collect shellfish and other seafood to sell.

These Ama senbei are from Shimoda and come in flavors such as shrimp, squid, sazae (shellfish) and Sakura!

Senbei is a Japanese rice cracker, but this senbei is about 10 times the usual size! “Ama” 海女 means “Sea Woman”, and it was a profession in Japan years ago.

The Ama‘s job was to dive to the ocean floor to collect shellfish and other seafood to sell.

These Ama senbei are from Shimoda and come in flavors such as shrimp, squid, sazae (shellfish) and Sakura!

Number 3 Ichigo Daifuku. いちご大福

These are also made from mochi.

Ichigo means strawberry and Daifuku means great luck!

There is anko (red bean paste) and a strawbery inside. Seán tried the strawberry too.

The word Daifuku 大福 means “Great Luck”. But if you use different kanji (Chinese characters) it can also mean “Big tummy”. In the past people ate Daifuku because they kept you full for a long time!

Number 2 Sakura Ice Cream!


Side note! Personally my favorite ice cream ever is Teddy’s ice cream in Dun Laoghaire in Dublin where I’m from!

But after trying this Sakura ice cream I must say it’s a close second.

It’s cherry blossom flavored.

What does cherry blossom taste like you ask? Hmm. Difficult.

It has a slightly salty taste. I think you’ll have to try it yourself to fully understand!

The ice cream also contains little pieces of mochi.

I was really pleasantly surprised with this ice cream💕

And it looks super cute too.

Number 1- Sakura Taiyaki!

I am a huge Taiyaki fan, so this was always going to come high in the list.

Taiyaki is like a pancake shaped like a fish (a “tai“- red snapper) and filled with anko red bean paste.

Usually Taiyaki is the same colour as a pancake and served freshly cooked so it’s lovely and warm.

This Taiyaki is pink and filled with pink Sakura flavored anko! This festival really has Sakura everywhere!

There is a kind of saying in japan that there are two kinds of people; those that eat Taiyaki head first and those that eat it tail first.

My husband was told as a child that if you eat from the head first it will make you smarter!

Also highly recommended

Hubby tried Nihonshu (Japanese sake) and Ayu no shioyaki (Roasted salted sweetfish) which he adored.

I also had a festival favorite chocobanana.

And, on the way home, as if we hadn’t eaten enough, a must do when traveling in Japan, tachigui soba “standing up soba”. Soba are buckwheat noodles and one of my favorite Japanese foods.

Stand- up soba shops are common in train stations in japan, you can grab a bite before your train!

Soba can be eaten hot or cold and are in a special tsuyu soup. There can be a variety of toppings on top, like tempura, soft boiled egg, fried tofu, nori seaweed.

We ALSO ate konnyaku (I think it’s called Konjac!) which is made from a root vegetable like a potato. It’s crushed and mixed with water and left to set, and becomes like a jelly.

Which is put on a stick! Then it’s covered with miso (a paste made from soybeans). It’s very low in calories and good for your digestive system, so you can buy lots of konnyaku snacks and sweets, like konnyaku jelly which has 0 calories and comes in a variety of flavors!

Check out our new video to see us eating our way through the top 5 foods at the festival!

Kawazu Sakura Festival 2019 – 河津桜祭り 2019

We went to the Kawazu Zakura Festival, which runs every year from the 10th of February to the 10th of March. Sakura means cherry blossoms, and spring when the cherry blossom trees bloom is one of the most beautiful times to be in Japan. Japanese people talk of “Wabi Sabi“, which is a similar to the English “fleeting beauty” or transience, or the idea that beautiful things last only a moment before being gone. The idea comes from the Buddhist teaching of sanbouin (the three marks of existence), mujou (impermanence), kuu (suffering) and ku (emptiness or absence of form).

Cherry blossoms are a perfect incarnation of this concept, as they bloom and are beautiful for a short space of time, before falling to the ground. Japanese people enjoy the cherry blossom season and the beauty of the flowers, knowing that they are impermanent, like everything is. Japanese people look forward to the season every year, and when the trees bloom, they do Ohanami (flower viewing) in parks or near rivers, wherever cherry blossom trees are to be found.

The end of March/ beginning of April when the trees bloom coincides with the end of the working year, school year and fiscal year. Students graduate alongside the blooming and falling petals, and people enter into a new phase of life, whether it’s a new school, new grade level, new job. So the cherry blossoms have a huge significance here in Japan. There are countless graduation songs about cherry blossoms sung at ceremonies every year (that would bring a tear to the sternest of eyes), and companies and friends hold Hanami parties, sitting under the trees eating, drinking and bonding. Hubby and I actually got engaged after taking a walk under the cherry blossom trees🌸💕

Kawazu Town is located in Shizuoka Prefecture where we live, and is in the eastertn part of the prefecture, on the Izu Peninsula.

Izu is well known around Japan for having delicious seafood, onsen (hot springs) and lovely beaches. My husband’s grandparents live in Izu, so we go there quite a lot. It is a popular holiday destination for all Japanese people, and even the Emperor has a place there he visits in the summer. Shimoda at the southernmost point of Izu is super popular with surfers as it has beaches that are not too crowded and great waves.

Kawazu is home to the earliest blooming type of cherry blossom tree in Japan, in February compared to the usual April, and every year tens of thousands of people come from all over Japan to see the beautiful pink blossoms. You can even see the 60 year old ancestor tree from which all of the Kawazu Zakura trees came from. There are over 150 stalls, selling festival food of all kinds, special “sakura” sweets, and you can even purchase your own Kawazu Sakura sprig to bring home and grow yourself.

We left Shizuoka station at around 7am and took a train to Atami Station. If you are traveling from Tokyo you can take the Shinkansen “Bullet Train” from Tokyo station to Atami station. At Atami station, there is a ticket office where you can purchase a ticket for a train to get you to Kawazu station. Around this time of year there are many deals, offers and day trips you can take. You can also reach the festival by regular train. We opted to take the Resort 21 train which travels from Atami Station to Shimoda station all the way at the southern part of Izu Peninsula. This train is a little more expensive than the regular JR train. It has seats that face the window, so as you travel down the eastern part of Izu, you can look out at the sea and see the many islands that make up Izu. Our train was red and designed like a kinmedai (red snapper fish) which is a fish caught in Izu and a speciality in the area. The seats had cute fish characters on them.

There is another train called the Odorikko “The Dancer” named after the book “The Izu Dancer”. I think it is more expensive and has to be booked in advance. I can’t recommend enough getting to the train early and snagging a good seat (if you want the ocean view), about 10 minutes after we had sat down a huge group of tourists spilled onto the train and many of them were left standing.

At Atami station we picked up Ekiben or station lunch boxes. You can get ekiben at most train stations in Japan to eat during your journey, and some stations sell special lunched with ingredients from the local area or famous cuisine. Hubby got raw red snapper and aji sushi and I got cooked eel, red snapper and salmon on rice. We ate our lunch on the train on the way to Kawazu, looking out to sea. How romantic! They were delicious and a great way to sample Izu’s famous seafood.

About an hour later we arrived at Kawazu station. It was quite crowded depite being a weekday and there were quite a few tour groups being rallied by their guides. Just outside the station we got our first glimpse of the Kawazu Zakura in full bloom. The weather was beautiful, we were so lucky. Seán kept pointing at the flowers, so we like to think that he thought they were pretty too.

Walking from the station to the main festival area by the river takes just 5 minutes, and the trees line the little road on the way to the river. There are some stalls here, selling things like Himono (dried fish), and ume youkan (plum jelly) .

Then when you reach the river you will see the double line of cherry blossoms like a tunnel you can walk through.

There are festival foods galore to be sampled. I personally love Taiyaki, a warm pancake-like sweet in the shape of a tai (aforementioned red snapper fish) filled with anko (red bean paste). At the Kawazu Zakura festival everything is Sakura related, so the taiyaki is pink, and the anko is too! The sweet paste inside also has cherry blossom leaves in it, and is “sakura” flavoured, I think it has a slightly salty taste.

Sakura ice cream was yummy too!

You can also get Ama Senbei, actually this was my first time trying it. Senbei is a rice cracker and an Ama (literally “sea woman”) is a woman whose job it was to dive to the bottom of the sea to collect shellfish. The Ama senbei is huge, and comes in different flavors, including ebi (shrimp) ika (squid) sazae (horned turban shellfish) and, you guessed it, sakura!

Hubby also got nihonshu (Japanese rice alcohol) and Ayu no shioyaki (salt roasted sweetfish on a stick) which he said was meccha umai (totes yummy) and I got an old favorite festival food choco banana (chocolate covered banana on a stick. Seán tried some of the banana!).

All in all a wonderful day and a highly, highly recommended Japanese festival! My favourite so far.

We made a video of our trip to the festival!


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