>> Thursday, June 17, 2010
The third night we were in Kyoto we went up to the eighth floor of a building at the heart of the city's commercial district in a quest to discover the meaning of "Sweets Paradise," which we had seen advertised before in Harajuku in Tokyo but never investigated.
Anything that promised to be a paradise for sweets meant paradise for Jo, so we went in to have a look.
What we expected was a traditional sweets shop, where you buy pastries and things from glass display cases.
What we found instead was a sweets buffet. For roughly fifteen dollars (about eight for kids), you could purchase a ticket that allowed you to eat anything and everything you could for eighty minutes. You read that right: eighty minutes to stuff yourself full of as many sweets as you could handle. A place like this would go bankrupt in America.
In addition to the main sweets buffet with all kinds of cakes and pastries, Sweets Paradise also featured a chocolate fountain...
...a gelatin buffet...
...a sno-cone machine, soft serve ice cream machine, even a popcorn station. They had actual dinner-type food, just in case you wanted to eat something real before you had your dessert.
They even had a salad bar! (Of sorts.)
But honestly, most of the customers--almost all young women, it must be said--stuck to the desserts. When Jo saw the spread, she begged and begged to get a ticket. What the heck, we figured: we were on vacation, and this would undoubtedly be a highlight for our little sugar fiend. Wendi signed on too, and we bought two tickets to (sweets) paradise. As there was nothing I would eat, I merely sat back and documented the experience.
A ticket machine at the door dispenses slips with your deadline stamped on them. We checked in at 4:40 p.m., and Wendi and Jo had until 6:01 p.m. to do as much damage as they could to the buffet and their tummies.
As soon as she could grab a plate, Jo was faced with a monumental quandary: where to start!?
She started with chocolate cake, strawberry cake, and an orange.
She couldn't resist dipping something in the chocolate fountain, of course, so her first plate also included a chocolate covered marshmallow or three.
Jo already approves of Sweets Paradise.
The buffet also had a soft serve ice cream machine, which had all the flavors written out in Japanese. Jo was distraught--order an ice cream you aren't sure of in Japan, and you're likely to end up with flavors like soy bean flour or green tea. I swooped in to the rescue, grabbing one of the Sweets Paradise buffet-stockers and hauling them over to help us identify which spigot produced chocolate. Then it was off to the toppings bar to give Jo's ice cream some extra zest.
With eighty minutes, you don't have to pile each plate full. There's plenty of time to go back, and back, and back.
One of Wendi's plates, with a bit more experimentation and variety. According to Wendi, one thing the Japanese don't seem to get right is cheesecake--what looks like cheesecake (and is often called cheesecake) isn't really what passes for American cheesecake. In Japan it's more like, well, cake.
Wendi tries what she hopes is strawberry ice cream, with corn flakes sprinkled on top.
Look at Wendi, with a plate of noodles and greens! Jo shows her how to really get your money's worth at Sweets Paradise.
Sharing was of course allowed, even encouraged.
We sat near the window in the restaurant, which gave us a really nice view of a major intersection in downtown Kyoto. The Kyoto Takashimaya, an upscale department store with an incredible food court in the basement, sits across the street.
We could also see a big digital clock on the building on the corner, which was a great way to mark how much time was left on our ticket. I would occasionally point out the window and tell Jo time was running out, which sent her scurrying back to the buffet to try something new. She's still got an hour left at this point!
All in all, it has to be said that Jo was, indeed, in paradise.
And in the end, Wendi and Jo put away their fair share of sweets.
A thumbs up from Jo. She would tell us later that she couldn't figure out why her tummy hurt, but ultimately nothing could dull the ecstasy of Sweets Paradise for her--certainly a highlight of her visit to Japan.