Rich Glen Olive Estate Farmgate Cafe – Yarrawonga, Victoria

For the first time I am finally writing a post about something in Australia! It seems silly that I have posted so much about Korean and Japanese cafes and restaurants but I am neglecting one of my favourite places which is only a 20 minute drive from my house. Visitors to Australia often don’t get to experience this part of Australia, but I think farm gate cafes and wineries are one of the best things to experience here. Nothing can beat fresh local produce and a beautiful setting to enjoy it in with friends and family.

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Rich Glen Olive Estate is an olive grove between Yarrawonga and Cobram in Victoria along the Murray River. They don’t just make olive oil though! They have a huge range of salad dressings, dukkah, jams, flavoured honey, relish, sauces, and even a huge range of natural beauty and skin care products. And the best part is, you can sample everything!

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The best way to really experience some of the delicious products is to get the Farmgate Platter for Two. Although it states that it’s intended for two people, there is definitely enough food to share between at least 3 or 4 people. The platter changes seasonally but generally includes dukkah & oil for dipping, cheeses from local cheesemaker Boosey Creek, home made dips, estate grown olives, salami and prosciutto, a mini salad with their famous Poppy seed dressing and a variety of breads, crackers and fruit.

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It’s not just visually stunning but absolutely delicious! I’ve been to Rich Glen and had this platter three times within the past month with various visitors from Melbourne and lunch today with my best friend and I’m still not sick of it. Honestly if I could just eat cheese and antipasto platters for dinner everyday I probably would.

And don’t forget to get a drink and a cake! Every time I visit I am torn between getting an iced coffee or a ginger and lime cooler. The easiest way to solve this dilemma? Have both!

 

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Just looking at this picture makes you feel relaxed right? You can choose between sitting outside in the sun, under the veranda (complete with heaters in winter and cooling water misters in summer), or inside the beautiful 100 year old store.

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With all the yummy products to sample it’s easy to get so distracted that you don’t notice all the gorgeous details in the store. Make sure to take a pause to digest and have a good look around!

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If you ever end up in in Northern Victoria (or Victoria in general, it’s worth the drive) make sure you let me know, any excuse to go here again is welcomed by me! Have a look at their website for more menu details and info.

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Chibiusa Sailor Moon Cafe – Tokyo Sky View

At the moment on the 52nd floor at Mori Arts Centre in Roppongi is a Sailor Moon pop up cafe and exhibition until June 19th. The official name is ‘The exhibition of pretty guardian Sailor Moon’ and there is a 1,800yen ticket fee to enter the exhibition, this also needs to be paid in order to go up to the 52nd floor so even if you only plan to eat at the cafe you will need to buy a ticket on the ground floor. 


We arrived there around 3pm on a Thursday and while downstairs there was a sign saying to expect a 120 minute wait we actually only waited less than 20 minutes before being seated. I would assume the wait would be much longer on the weekends however. 


I ordered the Sailor Moon Special Burger which is apparently limited to 100 orders per day. The burger itself has a hamburger, lettuce, bacon, egg and tomato sauce and comes with star shaped hash browns and a corn chip in the shape of a moon. The burger tastes just like a McDonalds hamburger and was quite delicious, and the star hash browns were crisp and good. 


My friend ordered the Tuxedo mask pasta which was just a tomato based pasta with rose petals and a pastry mask. She said it was nothing special but not bad if you like this kind of pasta sauce. 


The other main dish which we didn’t order was the 3 types of talisman curry which featured the talismans of Sailor Pluto, Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus. I snapped this photo of the plastic model as we left~


We couldn’t decide which dessert to order so we just got all three~ The first one was Luna P ball berry mouse which was delicious! The mousse is mixed berry and sits on top of chocolate mouse and a layer of plain cake, which is surrounded by fruit. 


The next dessert was the Sky’s miracle romance parfait which was made up of different flavoured jellies, yoghurt, strawberries, berry sorbet and a fondant moon. This was surprisingly good and I enjoyed eating it, however I did notice that we and most other tables didn’t finish all of the jelly. 


The last dessert was Chibiusa’s pudding a la mode which was made up of custard pudding, vanilla and strawberry icecream, fresh fruit and half a macaron with fondant heart with jelly centre. The pudding itself was very similar to the type of custard or creme caramel puddings that you can buy in convenience stores. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, they are delicious! It’s also served in an ice cold glass bowl which is very fancy. 


Overall I was really impressed with the level of detail of all the menu items and I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. My friend had read a few mediocre reviews about the food but I found it to be quite good and better value for money than other character cafes that I’ve been to. Our total bill was 6,450yen. 


After lunch we had a look at the exhibition which begins in the City Sky View so you get the bonus of a fantastic panoramic view of Tokyo. There are a number of items on display and you can have your photo taken with a large cutout of Sailor Moon and the other girls. 


After entering the exhibition they showed a number of original paintings, merchandise from throughout the years, magazines, and drawings to show the evolution of the characters from paper to anime. Even though I am not a Sailor Moon fan I found it quite interesting, and my friend who has read the manga since she was young helped explain a lot to me. 


At the end of the exhibition there is of course a Sailor Moon merchandise store with a huge array of goods such as cookies, stickers, pens, badges, coin purses, paper stationary, clothing and even marriage certificates! 


If you’re a fan of Sailor Moon and in Tokyo before the end of the exhibition I would highly recommend checking it out! Especially on a weekday when the queue is shorter 😉 

Name: Chibiusa Cafe & Exhibition of pretty guardian Sailor Moon

Address: Tokyo City View Observatory at Mori Arts Centre, nearby Roppongi Station.

Vegetable Tarts with Pesto and Goat Cheese

We are currently renovating our kitchen and while there’s still a lot of work to be done I have a brand new oven that I was dying to test out! 

Recently I’ve been craving vegetable tarts, maybe it’s something about Spring being in the air but they are a perfect meal for those transitional months when you want the lightness of a salad but still want something warm. I searched through a lot of vegetable tart recipes but none of them were exactly what I wanted so I did what I usually do and just basically combined some recipes together to get my perfect tart! 

These tarts are actually incredibly easy to make and they look so pretty, a perfect meal to serve to friends and family if you want to impress them. 


You can put whatever vegetables you like on the tarts, I went for a mostly Spring vegetable theme but as you can see I also snuck in some pumpkin. Between the two tarts I used  pumpkin, beetroot (pre-cooked), asparagus, red onion & cherry tomatoes. 

I’ll attempt to write out the recipes below but the measurements won’t be exact as I was just throwing things together as I went! 

Vegetable Tarts with Pesto & Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

Cashew & Pea Pesto (adapted from Minimalist Baker

3/4 cup fresh basil

1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley 

1/2 cup thawed frozen peas

1/2 cup raw or roasted unsalted cashews 

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon grated parmasen cheese

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

Pinch of sea salt

If you are using raw cashews you can toast them either on the stove, in the oven or even in the microwave with a tiny bit of butter for about a minute. 

Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulse until it forms a chunky paste. Add more oil if the mixture is looking too dry. The measurements for the pesto ingredients don’t need to be exact, I just threw in handfuls of everything and it turned out perfect! You can also use store bought pesto instead of making your own, I just happened to already have all these ingredients anyway.

Tart #1 – Beetroot, butternut pumpkin, red onion & bacon

Ingredients:

Pumpkin, diced into 1cm cubes

1-2 Beetroot, cut into chunks  (jar/canned is easiest)

1/2 red onion, cut into thirds

1/2 of 150g pack goats cheese 

1 or 2 rashers bacon, diced

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celcius (375 F). Peel and dice your pumpkin, I used a quarter of a butternut pumpkin which was about a cup of diced pumpkin. You could use any pumpkin or sweet potato. Spread out on a baking tray and drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle some sea salt and ground pepper. Roast for about 20-30 mins, they should be tender but not golden as they will be going back into the oven with the rest of the tart.

Put a sheet of thawed puff pastry on a baking tray. Use a knife to score a line in a square about 1-2 cms inside the edges of the pastry. This isn’t 100% necessary but it helps the edges to puff up and gives you a guide for where to keep the toppings. 
Inside the inner square spread out half the pesto, then on top of the pesto spread out the goats cheese. I used a 150g packet of goats cheese and used half on each tart. 

Spread out your cooked pumpkin, chunks of beetroot and red onion slivers. Make sure the vegetables are spread out, if the filling is too heavy the pastry won’t cook underneath. Top with diced bacon (omit if vegetarian). Sprinkle some sage and thyme over the top for extra flavour, and season with salt and pepper. 


Tart #2 – Asparagus, cherry tomato, pumpkin, red onion

Ingredients

Pumpkin (leftover from tart 1)

Red onion (leftover from tart 1)

1 bunch of asparagus, bottoms trimmed

Cherry tomatoes, halved

Score the pastry in the same way as tart #1 and spread with pesto and goats cheese. 

Lay out the asparagus first, leaving gaps between them. Spread out leftover pumpkin from tart 1, halves cherry tomatoes and red onion. Sprinkle with sage, thyme and season with salt & pepper.

Put both tarts in the oven for 30 minutes and remove when the edges of the pastry are golden brown. 

You can serve the tarts as they are, or be a bit fancy and top with fresh greens. I used rocket and tossed it in a quick dressing made of 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp honey and a pinch of salt & pepper. You could also use spinach or watercress. I forgot to take a photo with the greens on top of the tarts! 

That’s all there is to it! It might seem complicated because I wrote it out but the basic idea is, spread some puff pastry with pesto and goats cheese then top with whatever vegetables you feel like! If you only want to make one tart then you can use the rest of the pesto and goats cheese to toss through cooked pasta and that’s your dinner for the next night too 🙂 Enjoy~

An Afternoon Tea Tupperware Party

Yesterday I hosted an afternoon tea Tupperware party as a start-up party for me to make my way into the Tupperware world! Yes I am a freshly minted consultant! I’ve considered doing it a few times before and the idea came up this weekend as I was lamenting to my bestie about how bored I am and how I really wish I could save money faster for my new car/New York holiday/house deposit(??). There’s nothing to lose in giving it a shot right? I can always bail out after a month if I’m not into it. 

So as a bribe to get my Mum’s friends to attend my start-up party we decided that I would make it an afternoon tea as well. My Biggest Morning Tea party last year was a big success and we had to cancel it this year due to a family member passing. It was nice to have an excuse to bake again as I’m not indulging my baking temptations much these days


First thing I made were macadamia, cranberry and white chocolate Florentines. These were inspired by similar ones that my boss bought at the Violet Town market and we decided that I could probably make them myself for much cheaper! As it turns out, macadamia nuts are expensive so I don’t know if it really is cheaper or not. This is the recipe that I vaguely followed however obviously I changed most of the ingredients. I really liked my flavour combination, but there are a million ways you could do it and they’d all taste great! 


The second item were herb and cheese scones with cream cheese and chive filling. I used this recipe from taste.com for the scones and then filled them with a mixture of cream cheese, finely chopped chives and salt & pepper. These were a good savoury item and quite filling. In fact I didn’t even eat dinner last night after eating two of these during the party! I had to bake them a lot longer than the recipes states but that is probably due to our dodgy oven 😐 


The last item which was a completely last minute decision but turned out to be the most popular were coffee eclairs! And I’m proud to say that this is the first time I’ve made eclairs and they worked on the first batch! I used a different recipe to my previous post about eclairs as I needed a full batch, and I followed this recipe for the coffee cream and glaze as well. I drizzled with white choc as I had leftover white choc melts from the florentines. I used espresso to put in the coffee cream and glaze and they tasted amazing! I’ll definitely be making these again. 

I’m really nervous about hosting parties on my own, it reminds me a lot of the anxiety I had as a teacher in Japan, however it might help me get out of my introvert bubble for once 🙂 My mum and my best friend have been super supportive and I’m so happy there are at least a couple of people in life who support all my spontaneous & crazy life choices! 

Recipes:

Florentines

Herb & Cheese scones

Coffee Eclairs

Robot Restaurant – Shinjuku, Tokyo

The Robot Restaurant is probably one of the most touristy things you will experience in Tokyo. This show is obviously 100% designed to fulfill the ‘weird and wacky’ tourist experience that many people crave when coming to Tokyo. 


I first heard about the show when I was watching an Anthony Bourdain program about Tokyo and he went to the restaurant. He freely admitted that it was crazy and tacky but still enjoyable and I would have to agree with that. However as an American in Japan everything is much more afforable than as an Australian, therefore the 8000yen ticket might seem reasonable to Americans at around US$70 however to us Australians it is a big splurge at AUD$100. This might explain why it seemed the audience was largely filled with Americans, or perhaps it has just been advertised more in the US. I was set on experiencing it just once to see what the fuss was about so I booked the ticket anyway.

One thing to know about the Robot Restaurant is that it’s not really a restaurant at all. You have the option of ordering a bento to eat during the show however I’ve heard that it’s fairly average and not worth the price. There are also various dinner & show packages that you can book through online sites which include a dinner at a few different nearby restaurants. Throughout the show you’re also encouraged to visit Ren which is “The Robot Restaurant’s little sister” and I overheard a guy saying that the interior is just as crazy as the lobby for the Robot show. 


Speaking of the lobby, after you have receieved your ticket you take an elevator to the 2nd floor where you can sit and enjoy your free welcome drink before the show begins. The lobby is decked out in giant golden shell chairs, flashing LED lights everywhere, mirrors and a couple of talking robots. 


It really is sensory overload even before you go in for the show. There are a limited number of gold shell seats however so if you aren’t early then you’ll miss out and have to wait at the standing bar tables instead. It’s probably worth coming early just to hang out in the lounge for a bit. You’re already instructed to come 40 minutes before the show in order to queue pick up your ticket (even if you have reserved online you still need to pick up your ticket), so come earlier if you want to enjoy the lobby for more than 5 minutes.


The other thing to know about the Robot Restaurant is that the term ‘Robot’ is probably used quite loosely. The show features a lot more than just robots, with taiko drumming, dancing, LED lit costumes, people wearing robot costumes, giant puppet/robotic animals and insects, and an incredbly random pantomime about a war between robots and forest/water people. 

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The end of the show is the most random of all with various types of robots, blow up puppets, dancers, and floats all coming out at the same time. You are allowed to take photos and videos of the performance as much as you like provided you don’t use flash photography or have any wifi and bluetooth features turned on. 


For the finale they hand out light sticks to everyone in the audience to wave around during the last performances. At the end of the show you are left with a feeling of “what the hell did I just watch” and probably a headache as the entire show is ridiculously loud. There are quite a few intermissions during the show in order for the performers to change costume or organise the robots so there are a lot of chances to grab a drink or some popcorn from the stand which is brought into the room. 

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I personally think that the ticket price is a bit too high, and while it’s a crazy experience it’s not quite worth 8000yen. In comparison, a ticket to Disneyland is almost exactly the same price and for that price you also get three parades (including the electric light parade) and a fireworks and castle storybook illumination show. However it’s clear that people are willing to spend the money on the Robot show, so I can’t imagine that price ever going down. 


If you are not on a budget and are happy to have a bit of a splurge then sure go ahead and watch it, just don’t try to make any sense of the whole thing 😉

Name: Robot Restaurant

Address: 新宿ロボットビル, 1 Chome-1-7-1 Kabukichō, 新宿区 Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0021, Japan

How to book: You can book online through a lot of different websites, I booked through TripAdvisor. If you stay at a hotel apparently some of them will give you a 2-for-1 tickets so it’s worth looking into when you book your accom. 

Kawaii Monster Cafe – Harajuku, Tokyo

Kawaii Monster cafe is a psychedelic Alice-in-Wonderland-esque cafe in the heart of all things kawaii, Harajuku. It’s only been opened for a few years and usually has a queue to enter, it opens at 11:30am and we arrived at 11am to queue so we were one of the first few people to enter.

Each section of the cafe has a different theme and before you enter you get to choose which theme room you would like to sit in. We chose the Milk Stand room but actually ended up sitting further back around a corner. I would recommend the Psychedelic Mushroom Disco section as you get to sit in some pretty crazy looking booths. 


Other sections are the Mel-Tea Room, Bar Experiment and Milk Stand. In the centre of the cafe is the “Sweets Go Round” carousel which “represents all things kawaii” according to the staff who showed us around. It is also where a small performance takes place later in your meal. 


There is a 500yen entrance fee per person and you are allowed to stay for up to 90 minutes.


Apart from the main service staff there are also three “monster girls” who are dressed in different styles of Harajuku lolita fashion. On the day we went there was the Happy monster in bright pop lolita fashion, Baby monster in cutesy babydoll fashion and Nasty monster in goth lolita fashion. We were shown around by the goth monster as she is half American (though born and raised in Japan) and therefore can speak English. 


All of the monster girls were incredibly sweet and they spend their time walking around the cafe and speaking with customers and posing for photos. The lighting is quite dark and pink especially around the carousel so I’d recommend trying to get them to go to another area to take photos. 


Even though the Baby and Happy monster girls can’t speak English well they still enthusiastically interacted with foreign customers and happily showed off their costumes and talked about their style while also complimenting the customers’ fashion. There are also a couple of other Monster girls (and a cross dressing monster boy) who must work on other days. You can even follow their twitter accounts!


After you’re seated at your table the menu is presented on a tablet which is shaped like a giant slice of cake. You don’t actually order from the tablet but you can scroll through the whole menu which includes pictures. We ordered the Popcorn Shrimp, Colourful Rainbow Pasta, baby icecream, strawberry smoothie and experimental non-druggy cocktail.


On the painters palette for both the shrimp and pasta were a variety of different coloured sauces including tomato sauce, mustard, wasabi, cheddar cheese and sour cream & onion. The pasta itself tasted like aglioi with oil and garlic, which is quite a popular pasta dish in Japan. There were also options of a tomato based pasta sauce or cream pasta sauce. The food was not bad and the drinks were quite nice.


 The one thing I wanted to order most on the menu I didn’t end up getting as it was 2300yen for a parfait and I just could not justify it. While we were there they had a little photo shoot set up for the menu items so I stole a quick snap of them while it was unattended 😉


The performance towards the end of the meal featured Baby and Happy Monster girls, in which they basically just danced on and around the carousel. They are so bubbly and infectious that you can’t help but have fun to be around them. It happened to be a customer’s birthday so they pulled up up onto the carousel to join in the dance and at the end presented her with a rainbow cake and encouraged her friends to get up onto the carousel to take photos together with the monster girls. 

 And when you go to the restroom you are met with another crazy theme! The sink area is designed like a ball pit and there is a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. A great place for some bathroom mirror selfies!



Overall I found it to be quite a nice and fun experience with the highlight of the cafe being the monster girls who gave you a chance to see lolita fashion up close. The customers seemed to be a mix of Western tourists (including quite a few families) and Japanese girls. My recommendation would be to go early or on a weekday to avoid having to queue for a long time (and go there on your birthday if you want to be the highlight of the show!)



Name: Kawaii Monster Cafe

Address: YM スクエア 4F, 4 Chome-31-10 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001, Japan

Website: kawaiimonster.jp/pc


You can easily walk from Meiji Jingu Mae Station or Harajuku Station, if you come from Harajuku station you can walk down Takeshita St which is the main shopping area in Harajuku. 

Neko Atsume fever in Tokyo

You know Neko Atsume has reached peak popularity when a mid-late twenties British guy sitting next to you at a robot show (more on that later) sees you on your phone and says ‘oh you play Neko Atsume? I love that game!’. 


You can also find stacks of Neko Atsume UFO/crane catchers in Akihabara, they are currently running a release event where different nekos are released on different dates. 


There are both the smaller plushies and big huge ones to try to win. I had a few goes and as predicted I was a complete fail, so good luck to anyone who tries! 

In the months leading up to my trip I kept asking when there would be a Neko Atsume cafe opened, as it seems like every character in Tokyo has its own cafe these days. Then on the Neko Atsume official Twitter account I saw an announcement that there would be an event at Namjatown (an indoor ‘amusement park’ in Ikebukuro). I had assumed it was a pop-up cafe but turned out I was completely wrong. 


After paying the entry fee we wandered around the completely deserted Namjatown in search of the ‘Neko Atsume cafe’. In our search we came upon Gyozaworld which is a food alley with a bunch of stalls all selling different kinds of gyoza, along with a few icecream stalls in the same area. We noticed that on the menu signs for each stall was one item of the Neko Astume menu that we had seen advertised. We were completely confused for awhile (our Japanese skills are very sub-par) then realised that you simply have to go to each stall to find each different Neko Astume menu item, after receiving your meal you also receive a small postcard to match the Neko in the meal. 


We tried 4/5 of the menu items, the only one we didn’t try was the kotatsu omurice dish as it looked pretty unappetising. 


We started with the Conductor Whiskers bento box. In Japan you can buy bento boxes at train stations to eat during longer journeys, so it was quite appropriate. The bento itself was pretty so-so, there was fried rice, two fried dumplings, egg and corn salad. There was also a seaweed cutout in the shape of a train. 


Next we had the Tubbs curry. It was really not good.. I’m not generally a fan of Japanese curry anyway but this has a very strong canned tomato soup flavour. The gyoza in the sauce would have been ok without the sauce, we ended up just eating the rice without touching the sauce. 


After this we had Peaches icecream cone. It was really cute with a chocolate filled marshmallow with Peaches stamped onto it. The cone was filled with three fruit flavoured sorbets and has various decorations stuck all over it. 


Lastly we had the Guy Furry sundae which was really cute as it matches the sundae he makes in the glass vase in the game 100%! Even the colour of the syrup and the fruit and cookie decorations are spot on. The sundae itself was not bad, mainly just vanilla icecream with chocolate and raspberry syrup and some cornflakes in the middle. 

There was also some kind of stamp event which you could join to win Neko Atsume goods however it didn’t open until 1pm and we were there around 11am. You also had to pay a few hundred yen just to play so it didn’t really seem worth it. 

Namjatown is such a weird place and I can’t really imagine who it was designed for. It is mostly a series of alleys and hallways that are set up like some creepy Japanese ghost town. The ‘games’ are also super random, like a haunted house type ride where you are attached by giant mosquitos and have to act like the pest control… weird. Most of it seems way too creepy for kids but then too childish for adults, it’s definitely a strange place and I wonder if it was ever popular. Also all of the games and rides are 100% in Japanese so it’s not really tourist-friendly. If you read some older reviews about Namjatown you will notice that it used to be a lot bigger and has undergone renovations to make it smaller.


As we were wandering through Ikebukuro back to the station we went past a Sega game arcade which had a big poster on a pillar advertising a Neko Astume event in their ‘cafe’ upstairs called Ichiban Cafe. We went upstairs and found that the cafe (more like a refreshment station in a room with standing tables) had been decorated in Neko Astume wallpaper and there were various upcoming UFO machine goods around on display. If you paid 750yen you could get a hot or cold drink and two lucky dip Neko Astume items. One was a keychain and the other was a coaster, each had about 5 variations. 


I said to my friend how funny it is that we’re willing to spend money on UFO games and lucky dips but we didn’t actually buy any of the merch at Namjatown 😀 I guess it’s just more fun when it’s a game of chance!


There was also a big whiteboard where everyone could draw their own Neko Astume fan art, it was really cute.  


In all it seems like there are a lot of opportunities for Neko Astume fans to find goodies related to the game around Tokyo. I also saw a few gacha (capsule) machines for figurines, key rings, stickers etc. Head to Tokyo before our cute nekos are replaced by the next latest crave! 


Name: Namco Namjatown 

Address: ワールドインポートマートビル, 3 Chome-1-1 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 170-0013, Japan


Namjatown is part of Sunshine City shopping centre which is about 13 minutes walk from Ikebukuro station.