Hidden Spots ☞ Senzoku Ike

Hidden Spots ☞ Senzoku Ike


Along the Ikegami line which is connected to Oimachi line where I lived,
there is a station called Senzoku Ike which translates to Senzoku Pond. It is one of those random stations I wanted to try to explore.



#1 Strolling inside an Ukiyo-e Painting

Senzoku Pond洗足池
Address 2 Chome MinamisenzokuOta City, Tokyo 145-0063

Access  6 minute walk from Senzoku-Ike Station
Price  サイクルボート(大人2人+幼児1人/30分600円)




This pond has a long history and was often the subject of traditional ukiyo-e paintings, going there is like being in an ukiyo-painting.

You can stroll there, take pictures and ride cycle boats.

I took several videos and edited them like ukiyo-e paintings this time.



(ABOVE) Self-initiated experimental b-rolls



#2 Retro Takoyaki

Fuefuki Senzoku-ike Shop (たこ焼き笛吹 洗足池店)

Address 〒145-0064 Tokyo, Ota City, Kamiikedai, 2 Chome−31−2 清泉ハウス
Access  1 minute from Senzoku Ike Station




I read that this Takoyaki place is good on the internet and indeed it was. It was filled with magazines it got featured on, it was a humble retro-looking place. It would be perfect if you takeaway from here and munch on while sitting on a bench overlooking the pond.

3 pieces for 280 yen








Next stop ☞ Meiji Jingu Mae

Hidden Spots ☞ Shimotakaido

Hidden Spots ☞ Shimotakaido

Another lesser known place I fancy. Shimotakaido. Its in the same ward I live in, Setagaya, but I still need to take the train for around 45 minutes to get there. It’s a peaceful place to spend a day especially with the 3 spots I will introduce, they are all within a minute walk from the station. You could catch a morning movie at Shimotakaido Cinema, have lunch at Sakahon Soba and get a haircut at Barber Sakota right after. 🌞

The interesting thing is that I got there by a train line called the Setagaya Line that is rather different from other lines. Firstly, you get on by tapping your card on the train itself rather than the gantry outside(except for the terminal stations). Next, it is smaller in size, like a tram or a bus and if you’re lucky it will travel backwards from where your seat is facing. Its weirdly fascinating to see the sceneries of Setagaya moving backwards haha. 🚃

DISCLAIMER* The opening times might be affected by the covid-19 pandemic.


#1 Indie films in the morning

Shimotakaido Cinema下高井戸シネマ
Address 3 Chome-27-26 Matsubara, Setagaya City, Tokyo 156-0043
Website http://www.shimotakaidocinema.com/
Access  1 minute walk from Shimotakaido Station
Price  1700jpy for 1 ticket (1300jpy if you are a university student)

The first place I would like to introduce is an independent cinema simply known as the Shimotakaido Cinema. The building itself is rather pure-looking and unlike a usual cinema, the interiors are a little old-fashioned and a little cute too😎

Firstly they bring in interesting foreign films that major cinemas do not carry and they also put on certain japanese cult classics from time to time. As you can see in my photos, it only cost a whopping 1000yen on the “cinema day” Doesn’t it have indie vibes? Anyway its a decent place. 🎥  Note that no food allowed though. 🍿


#2 Soba with Nostalgic vibes

Sakahon Soba Noodles さか本そば店 

Address 4 Chome-45-16 Akatsutsumi, Setagaya City, Tokyo 156-0044
Access  1 minute from Shimotakaido Station

Mon-Sun: 9:00~21:00; closed on thursday

This was recommended by a writer of a magazine as well. It has a wide selection of soba and I got one with some mochi in it! I never had mochi back in my home country, even if it was Japanese cuisine, it wouldn’t be included in the menu. Thus, I took the chance and went for it~it was chewy and melting! 🍜

The shop owners are old and the place is old; but I like it all the same. In fact it is the nostalgic showa retro vibes that make it special. Note that there is no English menu, only go if you know some Japanese.


#3 Barber for city folks

Barker Sakota

Address 〒156-0044 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Akatsutsumi, 4 Chome−42−19 青山ビル 1F
Website  https://www.barber-sakota.com/
Access  1 minute walk from Shimotakaido Cinema
Price 3000jpy for cut & 1000jpy for wash

Mon-Sun: 10:00~20:00;

I was looking for haircut recommendations in Popeye magazine and most had astronomical prices. The most reasonable one I saw was Barber Sakota–they go only by reservation, no walk-in. If it’s just cutting, its 3000yen and an additional 1000yen for a wash. In an interview, the owner mentioned that if the customer left it up to him to decide the haircut, he would look at the customer’s shoes to decide what kind of person he is; to decide on his cut. 💈

The place had a cozy modern+mid century interior, I like the smell here more than most salons. My hair was cut by the disciple rather than the owner and it was intricate; the hair wash was great too! My scalp felt minty and fresh after the massage! 💆‍♂️





Next stop ☞ ???

Hidden Spots ☞ Shirokanedai

Hidden Spots ☞ Shirokanedai

There is something about less known places that is very charming. Perhaps it’s the feeling of being detached from the rest of the world. Feeling completely on our own in this world. Perhaps its the isolation that makes it perfect for quiet contemplation. Perhaps it’s the sense of discovery when you open a door and out pours unfamiliar music, scents, lights.

There are many such places in Japan, they call it “隠れ家”, which means hideouts of refuges. I think many of such hidden spots do not really want much tourist and are rarely found on english guides. I have no problem with bustling areas, they are cool as well. But I think it would be interesting to document some of such places with varying degrees of mystery.

A lot of the places I find are from a Japanese magazine that I really like. Popeyes. The magazine for city boys. As they like to put it. Check it out, it is really amazing. The first area I would like to talk about is not really too secretive but I highly doubt it is anyone’s first choice to explore, even many locals have not been there. However, if you go at early hours, walk off road to explore, there will be gems. The area is Shirokanedai(白金台)! In Japanese it means platinum street, as the name suggests, it is an affluent neighbourhood. I would like to introduce 3 places that I stumbled upon by personally exploring, from the magazine or online.


#1 indie pancake sets


Address 〒108-0071 Tokyo, Minato City,  港区Shirokanedai, 5 Chome−13−26白金台マンション 
Website  https://www.shirokanelounge.com/
Access  4 minutes walk from Shirokanedai Station exit 1
Price  500JPY ($6.50SGD / $4.70USD) pancake breakfast sets!

Mon-Sun: 6:30~9:30

First is a cafe called ‘Shirokane Lounge’ that closes at 9:30am, you heard that right! You better go early or you might miss the opening hours of 630am ~ 930am. It is a picturesque cafe in a highly affluent neighbourhood but the real catch is their 500yen pancake sets. I can guarantee it is not your usual pancakes, it is thicker but also unlike the thick pancakes that is trending in Japan. It has a slightly eggy taste and you eat it with your hands. The fact that it pairs with decent tea in a beautiful setting for such a nominal price makes it the most satisfying breakfast. You have to walk along a park and playground before you find this interesting establishment. Coupled with the opening hours, it was by no means crowded and really felt like a refreshing hidden spot.

*When I wrote the draft this was still open, but unfortunately it is not permanently closed, so you can consider this a document of what could have been 




#2 an art deco palace

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum 東京都庭園美術館

Address 5 Chome-21-9 Shirokanedai, Minato City, Tokyo 108-007100
Website  https://www.teien-art-museum.ne.jp/
Access  6 Minutes walk from Shirokanedai Station Exit 1; 6 minutes walk from Shirokane Lounge
Price Ranging from 100~1000yen depending on just garden visit to exhibition

Mon-Sun: 10:00~18:00; They are usually on off every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, but do check their website for changes as times like summer vacation period do not apply the same way.

This is a hidden spot, in a true sense. It is an instituition concealed in the middle of a beautiful garden. It looks like a palace from the Art Deco era and it should, it was the residence of Prince Asaka Yasuhiko and his family since 1933. This was built after the prince who studied in France and travelled to the United States got entranced by the Art Deco movement, then at its peak, in the 1920s. It was then built by a panel of architects who travelled to the Paris Expo, the forefront of the Art Deco style, to research and design the iconic architecture with hints of Japanese traditions. I strongly recommend anyone into design and culture to visit this place even if the exhibition on is not interesting, because the interior architecture itself is literally one of the best Art Deco example you can see today.

When you arrive to the gate of the gardens which is in the middle of nowhere, you can’t get a hint of how cool the place is. My father was already suggesting that its not worth it to go in. But after pushing to get us in, he also realised it would be a big mistake not to go in. It is like you are in a movie, living in the luxury of another era. This is not your everyday museum and is a well-kept secret. I found out about it in a tiny column of Popeye’s magazine that featured a reader’s no.1 favourite spot in Tokyo.

The exhibition on at that time is coincidentally about “interiors of 1933” where they replicated how the Prince’s house looked in its original glory. It felt very Wes Anderson, I liked the arrangements, textures, lightings and even the tiny motifs designed. There is also an absolutely classy café in the museum’s extension, I did not dare to enter but I spot some fancy cakes and a full glass view of the beautiful garden outside.


#3 treehouse magic

Biotop Nurseries ビオトープ 

Address 4 Chome-6-44 Shirokanedai, Minato City, Tokyo 108-0071
Website  https://www.biotop.jp/
Access 8 minute walk from Shirokanedai Station; 7 minute from Shirokane Lounge; 12 minute from Teien Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

Mon-Sun: 11:00~20:00

I found this place after googling Shirokanedai area. It is a green rusty building that looks like it is overtaken by plants. Apparently there’s a treehouse according to the website I found this on, but I did not go. It is supposed to look like a secret base for adults where there is a guestbook you can leave a message in. I did however visit the 3 main floors of this building. The first floor includes plants, planting and gardening tools and even cosmetics. The second floor is a stylish clothing store, probably carrying not-your-usual brands. The third floor is a restaurant which is the highlight, I will discuss this place separately in the following portion. Overall this is an interesting place with a greenhouse-like interior and exterior. You can take some nice pictures which I did–for my parents.


#4 avant-garde bourgeois cuisine

LIKE ライク

Address 4 Chome-6-44 Shirokanedai, Minato City, Tokyo 108-0071
Access  3rd floor of Biotop

Mon-Sun: 11:30~23:00; Off on Mondays and every second and fourth Sundays

When I found biotop online, they said that the 3rd floor is a café called “irving place” and they did not say it had impressive food. When we arrived it was instead a restaurant called “Like” and it had really impressive food.
It was only after leaving the place that I found out that the restaurant is recently opened by Chef Harata, who has been featured in Michelin’s Bib gourmand for 6 years running. It is his third restaurant. It is not on any travel guides since it opened this year but its probably gonna be on some soon!

Ok back to the story, we looked at the menu outside set in plain text. Pretty simple items like “katsu curry” or “sea bream” that we often see in Japan and the price was pretty normal as well. They were like maybe 1500 yen which is really middle class by Tokyo standards. So went in being the only customers(we are a tad early maybe 11+am). It was like an open kitchen concept we can see a bunch of young chefs in T-shirts but working very seriously in silence.

When the food arrived, we were surprised that it was not what we expected. It was like every part of the meal offset our expectations by 1 point. The eggplant has purple tiny flowers topped on it, the rice was fermented brown rice, the curry was spiced differently from usual japanese curry and had a sour undertone, the katsu had a slightly different crisp to it as well. It was not normal tasty, it was avant-garde tasty.

(ABOVE) Notice their lighting in broad daylight.

(ABOVE) Many of the chairs were different and I noticed a good one





Next stop ☞ ???

Homestay in Ōbama, Japan 2018 小浜市ホムスティー

Homestay in Ōbama, Japan 2018

Previously:  DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE ☞ Christmas in Tokyo’17

Thanks to participating in the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Japanese Speech Contest, I got a free homestay to Japan. This time we visited an area which just opened up for homestay for the very first time, it is a fishing town called Obama in the Fukui Prefecture. It got some publicity for sharing a name with the former US president but it is much more than that.

They are closeby to Kyoto, the former capital, which is why they were once the emperor’s food supplier. It was also the port where travellers from Korea or China enter to visit japanese nobles. The people here are historically brilliant in their food and entertainment culture. They are experts in fishing, understanding the various species of fishes and their seasons. The local fish market1 has a wide variety of fresh seafood-striped, transparent, you name it. They are just caught nearby so you can eat them at the restaurant right beside without paying much transport cost. It has a kaisen don with 11 types of seafood all in one. They are also great at fermenting or preserving fish5. They were the start point of the Mackerel road or Saba Kaido(鯖街道) where they transport fishes further inland, this takes days thus requiring preservation expertise.
More than seafood, they also have farmlands and mountains for a variety of vegetable stock. People usually buy gifts for the nobles from here which is why they are also the biggest lacquered chopstick provider2 in Japan. This is accompanied with centuries old sake brewery3 and a japanese sweets shop4(they have one of the 3 shops in Japan that holds 2 of the highest accolade in the industry) Working side by side with the food culture to host travellers going to the capital, they also have a geishas6 to entertain people. What they have today are interesting music and point-based games that are rare to find elsewhere. My friend and I managed to experience all of these historic goodness in our short time here.

Besides the traditional food culture, we also saw a side of Obama that is forward-looking and evolving. Due to their pristine location, next to the Japan sea, they could carry out marine studies well. Thus, the Fukui Prefectural University1 has a campus here just for that. They continuously carry out research to better the understanding of marine livestock. A recent result of their study is feeding sake remnants to fish to make them tastier! Next I will like to talk about my host family4 , a young good-looking couple. They built their own house and its almost like its from a magazine. Its modern and has great wood, feels real good. They have a mini library(we call it that haha) with many books, boardgames, projector and even a hammock! I think they are redefining what an attractive lifestyle is for young couples in the countryside.

The husband runs a company3 that revitalizes barren land in the town to make them fertile again. This is a great initiative in a time where many leave the countryside for big city dreams. The countryside should not lose in cool places and Obama has a green cafe2 that is just that. They have vintage vibes and hanging plants, they also occasionally organise hipster sustainable Scandinavian-inspired pop-up markets outside the place. They are a couple of retro cafes around that has chimneys and cool drinks and all but green cafe’s owner is kind of obsess with plants. it shows. We were talking about Isamu Noguchi, nomad culture and other things, real interesting guy. Lastly, building something new on the existing rich food culture of Obama is a italian restaurant called La Verita5. The owner showed us cheese making and we got to eat raw cheese! I really love the texture , slightly chewy haha. We eat wagyu spaghetti as well.

Overall, it has been a great trip. Like many towns in the country across Japan, the population of young people are falling and leaving for saturated cities. It warms my heart however seeing the efforts the young people here make not just in preserving their edge in traditions but also in evolving and redefining their lifestyle to make it exciting for young people again. This ignited my thought about branding local communities and social problems in the flailing countryside.



Model & Sketch #1

Back to the basics again. My first semester in Japan marks my foray into product design. I think I will do alot more model-making from today. I also got back into something I have not touched on for years. Realistic sketching. Something that I am comparably weak in, however I may want to document it and hopefully improve in the future.

#1 The evolution of shape 

Our first product assignment is for having sensitivity to ‘R’ which is the radius of objects. Each block varies 5mm in radius till it becomes a sphere. A similar block-shaped clock would have different functions based on its R, if its more rounded it would be a travel clock and if it had no R, it would be likely for being placed on the table. We are supposed to make these shapes out of giant urethane blocks. It doesn’t look that way but it is incredibly tedious to sandpaper it to the current shapes with accuracy.


#2 Planes

Another model-making assignment was making boxes using styrene boards and we were taught a bunch of cutting techniques for it. One box is supposed to be roundish and one squarish, the design is up to the designer. Working with styrene boards is tricky as well, borders might stick out, there are be crinkles, pencil or glue marks or things might just not align. However, I managed to get the radius to match despite the thickness and the boxes are chosen for exhibiting in my school’s open campus. hehe.

The square box I made opens up to two tiers.

Despite having similar measurements in the exterior, it opens up to a simple box as compared to the squarish box.





#3 Still life

Arrrhh. I recall getting a ‘C’ for basic drawing classes during Poly. Actually this is an improvement since then but still a far cry from the local students. Probably last place in terms of skill. I have much less texture, less interesting composition and my table’s perspective is all wrong. This is done on grey paper using black and white charcoal. The takeaway for me is that I now understand light better.


#4 Campus Scenery 

This is literally my first ever acrylic painting. We had to paint a scenery in the school and I chose a strange thing, I chose an electric or control panel sort of item, where I show the buttons and typography in a flat manner. Miraculously, it was chosen for exhibition, I think mainly on the basis of having an interesting choice of composition. This time I narrowly made it but I will attempt more such renderings that uses traditional mediums rather than the computer. Hopefully next time I can execute it in a cleaner manner.



DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE ☞ Christmas in Tokyo’17

Previously:  DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE ☞ Hong Kong’16

Once again, another long overdue post. I visited Japan in December 2017 when I had my university entrance exam. It was the christmas period and Tokyo was full of beautiful illumination. I won’t talk about the illumination much below but some great places for that were Tokyo Midtown and the area around Tokyo Station. Really classy places. You won’t get that level of illumination in Singapore, Japan really prides itself in its lighting design.

At that time I was really into Lisa Ono and Bossa Nova, hence the music choice, but now when I look back it might be cheesy but oh well. I shot and edited all these back in December 2017 but I missed the time to upload during christmas then. But now I finally decided to make a post on it. I am living in Japan now so I will probably have even cooler places to show in the future. This list of 6 places include some places you will not find in other english media that I really like such as “CHOCOLATIER PALET’DOR”. As mentioned before, it would not just be places of design interests, but anywhere I enjoy. I merely named it “DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE” because it is a list made by a designer, me in this case. 

DISCLAIMER☞All these photos are shot and edited in 2017 so the state of the shops reflect that time.




CHOCOLATIER PALET D’OR ショコラティエ パレ ド オール
Address 〒100-6501 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Marunouchi,
1 Chome−5−1 新丸の内ビルディング

Access  5 minutes walk from Tokyo Station

Mon-Sun: 11:00~21:00
Photos courtesy of CHOCOLATIER PALET D’OR’s
instagram and relevant parties.

I’m used to seeing big global chocolate brands like Godiva or even Japanese ones like Royce. However, ever since I watched a Japanese drama on chocolatiers, I have developed an appreciation and curiosity for chocolatiers. I found a Japanese chocolatier –not in a food guide book– but in a brand identity compilation book. It was chosen as an example of brilliant brand design and I could not agree more. Typographically state-of-the-art. From the chocolates to the store and packaging, this is the kind of experience I was hoping to find in Japan.

I went to the store near Tokyo Station, in the Marunouchi building, overall a beautiful area. The store had seats with certain dine-in menu, the ice-cream looks great but what was really interesting (in 2017) was their transparent cocoa drink. It was fascinating. Their stuff is actually pretty expensive, but I think they make very decent souvenirs for slightly more important people. Especially since it is not a global brand and can only be obtained there.



Website  http://www.nissei-com.co.jp/cremia/en/
Access  Various locations

Hugely recommended at that time, but these days I find it everywhere. True to what everyone says, its a really great soft serve. I even watched a video that explained that the people behind it used science and years of research to develop the perfect taste, texture and even the perfect cone that complements it.


La Mère Poulard ラ・メール・プラール

Address 3 Chome-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda City,
Tokyo 100-0005
Website  http://www.la-mere-poulard.jp/
Access 2 minute walk from Tokyo Station

Mon-Sun: 11:30~22:00

I saw a facebook video about fluffy omelettes and after further probing, found it to be La Mère Poulard. It originated as a french inn in 1888, with their giant omelettes cooked in a wooden hearth being hugely popular. It was also on an island which was the reference for their original logo. As of now, it seems that this restaurant can only be found in Japan besides its home country of France, which makes it worth a visit if you are in Japan. The brand identity design is pretty impressive here as well, they keep the consistent red and the interiors make you feel like you are transported to that french island where this place was first opened on. I had the omelette which is really interesting texture-wise but it was not too spectacular for me personally, but I did notice the Japanese customers finish it well, perhaps it is more fitting for the Japanese tastebuds.


Ghibli Museum 三鷹の森ジブリ美術館

Address 1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka
Tokyo 181-0013
Website  http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/
Access  Take the cat bus from the JR Mitaka Station

Mon-Sun: 10:00~18:00;
closed on tuesdays;

“Let’s get lost together” is the museum’s slogan. Photography inside is forbidden so I cannot show much but this is a magical place. There are delicately crafted exhibits in every corner, many layered or have moving mechanisms. This means even the manhole are designed and there are places you have to crouch to go through. It really feels like you are in a Ghibli movie.

The exhibition on that time was about food in their movies and they remade several kitchens into sets that we can explore. It also documents the tedious behind-the-scenes process in creating an animated film. In line with the theme of food, they had a short film called “Mr Dough and the Egg Princess” screened in a delightful mini theatre. From the art deco lamps outside the theatre to the illustrations on the ceiling of the theatre, its a dream come through–I mean having your own themed theatre showing tailor made films and perhaps even have deliberately crafted trailers before the film is super cool. The short film is also a silent film such that tourists from any country can understand it without having a hundred different subtitles. My entire family loved it. The short film they make are specifically made for the museum and they renew them once in a while, along with new exhibitions, giving the museum a lot of revisit value.

This is a must-go, however tickets are hard to come by. Tickets for the month go on sale on like the 10th of the month but they sell out real fast. It was the case for me and I had to ask a friend residing japan to help me get it. Apparently they have separate quotas for buying in Japan and from overseas. You should google it.


niko and … ニコアンド

Address 6 Chome-12-20 Jingumae, Shibuya City,
Tokyo 150-0001
Website  http://www.nikoand.jp/
Access 4 minute walk from Meiji-Jingumae Station

Mon-Sun: 10:00~23:00

This is actually a retail franchise but I really like it. I appreciate brands that has a strong concept and art direction that they use throughout consistently in different areas. They can be as diverse as having food, furniture or even clothes in the same brand. A good example is IKEA and MUJI whom also have a strong typographical system throughout their brand, be it in furniture design, price tags, food menu or catalogues. 

Ok so in a nutshell, “niko and …” is most well-known for its clothes but they also sell potted plants, furniture, daily necessities and some stores have a coppe café in it. The idea is that you can attach any other brand name behind [niko and …], so they manufacture original items, carry certain brands and also collaborates with certain brands (from Casio to).

However all of these things are designed or selected in line with “niko and …”s strong and unique visual language. I remember when I first visited, I really love how everything is done originally in its brand universe. They had such wide variety of original goods that you don’t know what you might find, they even have their own gachapon machines that sell tiny potted plant figurines. I remember when I purchased my first item then, I got a beautiful receipt that has an exclusive QR code to a beautiful brand film they made that season. I still store that advertisement in my phone, because they really make some of the best advertisements.

(ABOVE) Not my favourite advertisement of theirs, but still a good one.

The soul of the brand can actually be found in their special “niko and … ” dictionary which is a special edition publication designed by award-winning graphic designer Naomi Hirabayashi who also did the brand’s identity design. This dictionary explains every tiny preference and inclinations that guides the brand. An example is that dictionary states their liking in old luggages full of stickers and scratches or their emphasis on the combination of metal and wood. All of these principals and values culminate to guide the diverse brand to have a hard-to-define yet consistent colour or tone.

BTW, you can check out their painter denim, it sells quite well and I have it. Perhaps next time I will write a post just talking about their advertisements. LOL.

I passed the entrance exams!



Next stop ☞ Taiwan ’18

Sony RX100 Mark IV: Model Trains

I bought a second-hand Sony RX100 Mark IV about a year ago during my earlier days in army. I was bringing it around till I went to this model train exhibition at Japan Creative Centre where i frequent.  I tried it for the first time, since it is known for its video recording function. Never really a filming/cameramen guy at all, but the handheld manual focus was a joy to use! I stringed the footage and uploaded it a year ago, and since I came across it again, I thought it’s a waste not to leave it in this blog 😂


Hong Kong’16

Previously:  DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE ☞ Taiwan’16

Back in 2016 July, I visited Hong Kong and although long overdue I have been wanting to post about it. When I think of Hong Kong, I think of Wong Kar Wai. It is a city with a unique soul. I listed a few places of my personal interest, as mentioned before, it would not just be places of design interests, but anywhere I enjoy. I merely named it “DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE” because it is a list made by a designer, me in this case. 

DISCLAIMER☞All these photos are shot and edited in 2016 so the state of the shops reflect that time.





#1 Morning Hawks

China Cafe 中國冰室

Address Hong Kong, Mong Kok, Canton Rd, 1077A舖
Access  2 minutes walk from Mong Kok Station exit A2
Price  I can’t remember but pretty sure that it’s really cheap

Mon-Sun: 6:00~19:00

I tried hard to find a place with the Wong Kar Wai vibes. The very unfortunate thing is that the very western restaurant where “In the Mood for love” was filmed, had closed down a year prior to me coming to Hong Kong. Rather than actual locations I have only managed to find retro places reminiscent of Wong’s movies. One such place was “China Cafe”, established in 1963. It has terrazzo tiling on the walls and floors and they serve ovaltine but no milo. LOL. Absolutely no regrets going there as the feeling was definitely there. It makes the mostly drab trip sort-of worth it. I also learnt that eating macoroni for breakfast is a thing in Hong Kong.

The photos had the vibe of the painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper and just nice, Wong Kar Wai once said that he compose his scenes as though they are like the paintings of Edward Hopper.





#2 Exotic
and Happy

Happy Lemon 快樂檸檬

Address 65 Argyle St, Mong Kok, Hong Kong
Website  www.happy-lemon.com/tw/global/address.php?id=10
Access  1 Minute walk from Mong Kok Station Exit B2
Price Same as most bubble tea

Mon-Sun: 11:00~23:00

The highlight of my trip. Even though it is just a drink franchise, I have long ties with it. Back in my secondary school days, Singapore used to have Happy Lemon and it truly gave me happiness. That was the time when Taiwan milk tea was starting to get popular but they offered a totally exotic range of beverages–Green Tea with Rock Salt and Cheese, Milk Tea with Cream Puff(蛋糕奶茶), Matcha Latte with Coffee Jelly, Lemon Yogurt with Aloe. Needless to say, they were amazing, but they were too ahead of their time and their prices were considered too high then, leading to its eventual closure in Singapore.

They had one of the most brilliant brand identity deisgn as well. I tried so hard to find the studio and creative director who designed the brand and years later I eventually found that it to be Lawrence Choy, a creative director who heads a studio in Hong Kong. It actually casted some doubt onto my appreciation for design, I’m a big believer that design should be functional and support the business, so having Happy Lemon close down in Singapore bothered me. However today I realised that there are many other aspects to make a business work as well and their timing in Singapore was not good, but their branding is still effective. Today they have over 800 stores in many countries.

Ok, back to the main topic, I found Happy Lemon in Hong Kong and I bought 2 large cups straight away;since it is a rare occasion. Of course, I tried menu items that I’ve never tried before. “Salted Cheese Osmanthus Lychee Green Tea” (right) and “Milk Tea Smoothie with Oreo and Creme” (left). It tasted as interesting as the names sound.


#3 Pink Dolphins

Tai O Fishing Village 大澳

Website  www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/great-outdoors/…/tai-o-stilt-houses.jsp
Access 2 and a half hour bus ride from the city

Tai O is a fishing village a bus ride away from the city. You see a different Hong Kong but frankly I was not impressed. I saw dolphins and ate decent fish cakes. I tried to look for hidden gems in the backstreets but I could not find anything particularly interesting. Unfortunately.



#4 Homegrown design & zines

PMQ 元創方

Address 35 Aberdeen Street
Website  http://www.pmq.org.hk/
Access  10 minute walk from Sheung Wan Station

Mon-Sun: 07:00~23:00

I actually had a hard time finding design savvy places as opposed to say–Taiwan. However I did manage to find one cool place in Central called PMQ. It is like one hotspot where many design brands, indie bookshops and other craftsmen gather. The bookshops were particularly unique as they carried locally-published books. I got myself 2, the first is a play on Hong Kong film classics and the second the magazine “100, an icon in chinese typography. The title of this issue of “100” is pretty controversial, it says “We are yellow skin, black hair but we are not chinese(mainland)”





I went to victoria peak as well, when I got up I realised you need an extra fee for the grand view.

I am a cheapskate so I just got a cheap shot from the sides.



Next stop ☞ Christmas in Tokyo ’17



I’ll be making a series called “DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE”, where I’ll just be documenting adventures to cool places, both local and abroad! It would not just be places of design interests, but anywhere I enjoy. I merely named it “DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE” because it is a list made by a designer, me in this case.

The first stop is in Taiwan! I went before I enlisted and I felt that there are 6 places worth sharing that people might not know of. Its my third time in Taiwan and it never disappoints! There are tons of design places, especially after Taipei was named a design capital along with the recent rise in fame of a wave of Taiwanese Designers. Taiwan —  definitely a satisfying and therapeutic trip.


#1 Themed
Mini Golf

Mr. Mini-Golf ’s Club 米尼.葛夫俱樂部

Address No. 71, Guanqian Road, West District, Taichung City, Taiwan 404
Website  Event Link
Access  On the right side of National Hotel & Behind Park Lane by CMP
Date 7th July – 4th September 2016
Price  $100 TWD for each set of stick and golf balls

The only place that is not in taipei in my list is this miniature golf club in Tai Zhong. There are many tiny huts each housing a mini golf course of varying themes – From sci-fi to horror etc. Its a really delightful place, definitely an interesting place to visit and play. You can even eat small round cheesecakes at the store right beside it!

This golf club is housed by CMP Block of Museums and unfortunately is not a permanent fixture, check out the website for the latest cool events they host!



#2 Exotic

Snow King Ice-Cream 雪王冰淇淋供應中心

Address 100, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Wuchang St, No. 65
Website  http://www.snowking.com.tw/
Access  8 Minutes walk from Ximending Station Exit 6
Price Ranging from $80-150 TWD

Mon-Sun: 12:00~20:00

Snow King is an ice-cream store here since 1947. Located at a corner near the popular street, Xi Men Ding, its a really cool hideout with 73 flavours.

Let me name out some crazy ones: Taiwan Beer, Rice Cake, Tomato, Bitter gourd and Tofu. Sounds bad right? But its really great! I tried Basil and Pork floss flavours, and they had a rich creamy taste, its still sweet and nice with just hints of the basil fragrance and salty floss bits. Of course, for the less adventurous they have friendlier flavours like their signature Watermelon, Mango, Banana, Melon and Milk.

Since it is nearby such a hotspot, I would really recommend making a trip down to this “only in taiwan” shop that serve ice-cream flavours (I dare say for some) that you would not find anywhere else in the world.



#3 Papers, Books & Designs

Pinmo Pure Store 品墨良行

Address No. 63, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Website  http://www.pinmo.com.tw/
Access 9 minute walk from Dongmen Station

Tues-Sat: 12:00~20:00
*Closed on Mon & Sun

PinMo is a renowned Taiwanese design studio who opened their own stationery, lifestyle, design, book store/cafe.

While I was there, they were giving some bookmaking workshop at the side tables, and the whole place gave great vibes. I often visit various paper shops in Singapore and what I found here is a great range of paper(over 200 types) with textures that you couldn’t find back home. This was valuable to me as a designer and I bought some samples home.

Again, this was something unique to Taiwan as an establishment by a homegrown studio, a place that reflects the local design culture.


#4 World-
Class Design Exhibits

Song Shan Cultural Park: Measuring Exhibition 松山文創園區: 單位展

Address No. 133, Guangfu South Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Website  http://www.songshanculturalpark.org/
Access  10 minute walk from Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station

Mon-Sun: 09:00~18:00

A former tabacco factory warehouse has turned into a site for the newest design exhibitions. More than just various museums like the Red Dot Design Museum, there is also a famous Eslite book and lifestyle store.

I visited there when an exhibition called “Measuring” was on; A notable thing is that it is imported from Japan where it was curated for the renowned 21_21 Design Sight Museum. It is not hard to imagine that it was an exhibition filled with obsessions about all sorts of unit measurements. Very OCD indeed.



#5 Consulate turned Cinema

SPOT Taipei Cinema 光亮 電影院

Address No.18, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei City 104, Taiwan
Website  http://www.spot.org.tw/
Access  3 minute walk from Zhongshan Station Exit 3
Price Standard Tickets at $260TWD

Mon-Sun: 11:00~22:00

This place was once a US consulate that the American President Nixon once stayed in. It has since been converted to a arthouse theatre and cafe. I gotta say, this place has the summer vibes, very cool. I mean its like an such a beautiful independent cinema, kind of like a rendezvous spot.

The movie I watched there is a german film called “The Most Beautiful Day” about how 2 terminally ill patients document themselves going on the craziest adventures in their last days. Great movie! Make sure to check out the movies available as well as timings in the website before you go there! I was too late because there was a controversial hong kong film, ‘Ten Years'(banned in china) that aired there till the day I went.


#6 A Novel Night

海辺的卡夫卡 Kafka by the Sea

Address No. 2, Lane 244, Section 3, Roosevelt Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City
Website: https://www.facebook.com/kafka.republic/
Access  8 mins walk away from Taipower Building Staion Exit 1 or Gongguan station (公館) Exit 4

Mon-Thu: 11:30~22:30
Fri-Sun: 12:00~24:00

With the cafe owner being a band member(of Rock act 1976) and also a big fan of Haruka Murakami, you know this is going to be good. The cafe/bar doubles as a live stage on weekends, offering gigs to budding musicians. Like how the cafe is named after the famous novel, there is a poetic atmosphere. There was an array of albums and books sold there. Almost as though I was in the painting Night Hawks!

I got myself irish coffee and it was the first time I tried alcoholic coffee. I would say you need an acquired taste, it’s too bitter for a boy like me.

Of course, its advisable to go at night for the vibes.





Next stop ☞ Hong Kong’16