Tokyo, Japan: Sights & Food

sensoji

The next few days in Tokyo were still pretty cold. There are a lot of things to do, to see and to eat in Tokyo. We had planned well before we departed so that we didn’t lose time when were there, trying to think what we wanted to do. It’s just impossible to do everything during our short stay. However, we shortlisted the ‘must-sees & must-dos’ that suited our duration of stay.

1. Akihabara (秋葉原) also known as Akiba (アキバ)

Japan is famous for its technology, especially electrical devices. If you like electrical gadgets, Akihabara shouldn’t be missed! Akihabara is a major shopping area for electronic and computer items.

yodobashi-camera

We were there pretty early, just when the shop first opened. One thing in mind was to check out Yodobashi. Yodobashi  is a chain store that sells mainly electronic products. The store in Akihabara spans eleven floors and have great selections of toys, videos, computers, laptops, cameras and all other high-end items. We went to each floor to check out everything and decided to stop slightly longer at the department that interested us more.

Apart from the cameras and lenses section, another section of the store that got me really excited was household electrical appliances. It really wowed me when I saw so many different electric rice cookers on display! Ok, I have already got one trusted Zojirushi, but, I still couldn’t resist! They come in all sizes and all colours! I saw rice dispensers, which I now regret I didn’t buy one. Perhaps, this is a sign or excuse to travel to Tokyo next time! 😉

rice-cooker

2. Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺), Asakusa

Sensō-ji also known as Asakusa Temple is an ancient Buddist temple located in Asakusa, a central part of old town in Tokyo. The entrance gate to the temple which is called kaminari-mon or Thunder Gate, is very famous as there’s a gigantic red paper lantern painted in red and black which is said to represent thunderclouds and lightning.

thunder-gate-sensoji

Many shops lined up on two sides of Nakamise-Dori after the entrance. A lot of souvenirs can be purchased here and also lots of Japanese sweet and savoury snacks to choose from. Undoubtedly, we stopped by at some stalls to check out food and souvenirs to bring home.

rituals_2

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rituals

A lot of tourists, both from Japan and abroad visit Sensō-ji every year to pray for good luck. A lot of unique rituals are still being practised nowadays, such as folding prayer paper, write prayers on wooden plaques, rubbing incense smoke onto one’s head and drinking the holy water.

prayer

The icon of Sensō-ji is definitely the impressive and eye-catching  five storey Pagoda.

pagoda

3. Sunshine City ((サンシャインシティ)

Sunshine City is a shopping and entertainment complex in Ikebukuro. Namja Town is an indoor theme park that is popular amongst the kids and teenagers. The only reason we visited Sunshine City is to try out some ice-cream there. Well, you must be wondering, why particularly here that is so special that you can’t get ice-cream elsewhere? Well, it is because they have a lot of ice-cream with ‘weird’ flavours that you can never imagine! For example: octopus, garlic, fish sauce, squids, curry, wasabi, viper,…and more to name!

ice-cream-namja-town

We tried a few – curry, fried noodles, cheese risotto and BBQ chicken wings. So, what do I think? Ermm… I didn’t enjoy these flavours as ice-cream. Even though, the curry one started out ok but after a few spoons of it, I felt that I wouldn’t want to eat ice-cream for the rest of my life!

4. Cherry Blossom spot – Meguro River

The most important thing to visit Japan in late March and beginning of April is to enjoy Hanami (花見), which means ‘flower viewing’. Cherry blossoms  viewing is a big event in Japan. It is one of the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of sakura. About 800 cherry trees line Meguro River for several hundred meters and create an amazing sight! Of course, I went crazy and couldn’t stop taking photos when I saw these pretty pink flowers. They were just too pretty to be missed!

hanami_meguro

hanami_meguro_2

5. Ginza (銀座)

Ginza is well-known as the most luxurious shopping district. There are a lot of department stores, boutiques, specialty shops, restaurants, and coffeehouses. Many branded goods can be found here.

ginza_night

It was in Ginza that we found a great place to eat! If you love Unagi (うなぎ), freshwater eels, then, you will definitely love Unagi Kabayaki. Kabayaki (蒲焼) is a term that is use to describe a dish of seafood, which is filleted , boned, and dipped in a sweet soya sauce mixture before being broiled or grilled. Unagi Kabayaki is a very popular dish, always serve on top of hot rice.

unagi_kabayaki

Nobori Tei (鰻 登亭) – Address: 8-3-4 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, has a few branches in Tokyo. One is in Ginza. Nobori Tei specialised only in Unagi Kabayaki. There are a few set of menu to choose and they are usually accompanied with soup and pickles. Of course, green tea is served for free. The Unagi Kabayaki served here is so good that we went there twice!

6. Shibuya (渋谷区)

Shibuya is also another great place for shopping. If you mention about Hachikō, an Akita dog statue, which was a Shibuya fixture during the late 1920s and early 1930s is a popular meeting spot. This place is always full of people and you would have seen and heard about its scramble crossings, which is right in front of Shibuya Station. There are lots of neon lights and large TV screens mounted on the buildings which reminded me the scenes in ‘Lost in Translation’. There are also a lot of restaurants in this area. The best spot to catch bird’s eye glimpse of the crossings is at the Starbucks.

shibuya_crossings

7. Ramen – Ippudo

As a noodle lover, I will never give ramen a miss since I was in the noodle nation of Japan! Noodle shops can be found almost everywhere in Tokyo. I have read on the internet about the lip-smacking ramen at Ippudo. There are a few branches of Ippudo in Tokyo, such as Ginza, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ebisu. It is a place to get a quick fix of comfort food not having to wait for too long! We went to the Ebisu branch – Address: 1-3-12 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

ippudo-ramen

What famous at Ippudo is the Hakata style tonkotsu ramen from the island of Kyushu. The broth is rich, very creamy and delicious. Thin egg noodles are cooked to perfection, topped with think slices of pork. Along with the ramen, there are toppings to be added to the noodles, such as spicy moyashi (bean sprouts), crushed garlic, spicy pickled greens and pickled ginger.

8.  Tsukemen – Yasube

As you read on, you will notice that I really love noodles! Yasube – Address: 2-11-19 Yoyogi, Shibuya-Ku, serves up both ramen and tsukemen. But, it is more popular for its tsukemen. Tsukemen (つけ麺) is similar to ramen but the noodles are served separate from the soup – the noodles are to be dipped into the soup.

Yasube is a few minutes walk from Shinjuku station. This little ramen place is so popular that you may need to expect a queue. One thing that could be a little tricky is that you need to order from a vending machine. What’s so tricky about it? Well, it’s written in Japanese. Unless you know Chinese, you could probably make some sense of  some Kanji. Otherwise, it could be a bit of a problem. It took us a little while to know what to choose after asking the waitress, who spoke very little English.

yasube-ramen-shinjuku

Basically, for the same amount of ¥720 (¥820 for spicy and spicy miso), you can choose your quantity of noodles, from small all the way to extra large. Then, you have 3 different flavours of broth to choose from – spicy miso, spicy, and non-spicy broth. There are some extras like medium-boiled egg and vegetables too.  The broth was full of flavours, contained bambooshoot, small pieces of pork and topped with lots of thinly sliced spring onions, along with small sheet of seaweed.

tsukemen-yasube

We went there twice (again!) as it was so good that I was worried I would miss it so much. The last trip there was for lunch, just before we made our way to the airport! I have tried spicy miso and spicy broth – I love both, they are highly-recommended if you love a bit of spice (for me, it wasn’t spicy at all)! I would certainly go back if I go to Tokyo next time!

Well, this post is a bit lengthy. But, I hope you will find it useful. It’s not it, I will wrap up my Tokyo trip in my next post. So, much more to come!

Meanwhile, I will leave you with a video that I have made!

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo and HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition” http://grantourismotravels.com/2010/05/05/grantourismo-travel-blogging-competition-may/