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.
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! 😉
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.
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.
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.
The icon of Sensō-ji is definitely the impressive and eye-catching five storey 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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/
Hi Lee Mei! Such joy to see your Japan pics. I always love your travel photos because you are so good at photography. The video is so cool! 🙂 The toilet bit is just hilarious!!! I would go crazy in Japan with the food and shopping and sights!!!
Thanks for your kind compliments, Ju. 🙂 The toilet is really something that I have never seen in my life!
While i was reading your story about the ice cream. I was imagining, the Westerners tried sweetened avocado shake (jus alpukat). They felt weird for the first time since they accustomed to savoury avocado (guacamole).
Savoury ice cream is just too difficult for me to accept.. haha
You made me miss Tokyo so, so much. Love the photos! I still remember during my last trip to Japan, I spent two full days at Akihabara, can you imagine that! I'm a closet anime and video games fan hehe
Oh, do they not drink the holy water? I probably didn't notice they spit it out..
Where about are you based in Japan? I am not sure if you can try those weird ice cream flavours anywhere else.
You made me want to visit Tokyo. Never visit Tokyo before but surely will someday. 🙂
I am amazed by the rice cookers 😀 …..
Nice video – seems that you caught a lot of locals sleeping…? ;p
A great overview of Tokyo 🙂
But people don't drink the holy water, you wash your mouth out and spit it out! I made that mistake once on my first trip to Japan…. ahhh so embarrassing to think about now!
I'm interested in those weird icecream flavours…. I wonder if I can find them in my town in Japan?
Wow.. 2 days at Akihabara!! We spent probably 4 hours there! So, you are big anime and video games fan… you have a good reason to go to Japan again!! 😉
You should.. it's really a nice country.
Yeah.. those rice cookers, probably the widest choices!! Oh yeah, I find the locals sleep a lot on the train, I think they don't get enough to sleep.
Nice photos…weird ice cream flavors.. I am willing to try it though..
The Peach Kitchen
peach and things
To try for the experience is worth it 😉
My hubby and I were just talking about the newly opened Ippudo at Orchard Road. Guess we have to give it a try soon even though it is quite pricey for the local standard and some mixed comment about this shop.
Well, the one in Tokyo was pretty good but I prefer Yasube if I were to choose one.
Li Mei, looks like you’re on a world tour! So much fun! I love Japan but haven’t been to Tokyo, only Nagoya, Gifu & Takayama during my cultural exchange days ages ago. I absolutely fell in love with everything Japanese back then. Tokyo is so interesting, definitely must visit one day.
I am far from a world tour!
Have to admit that it was fun and it was my very first time to Japan! I will return for sure. You should make a visit one day…
Please tell me: What style/size camera lens did you shoot with? These photos are beautiful!
I use Nikon D90 and shot with mostly 70-200mm while in Japan.
Leemei this is a wonderful post. I'm dying to visit Japan one day. Such a fascinating place with incredible food. Thanks for sharing. That ramen looks amazing.
Thank you, Syrie. The food there was just incredibly yummy… I love it so much that I am now on Japanese diet.. haha
YUK YUK YUK… i WILL not even try that ice cream!! but wow, everything else looks AMAZING!!!
It's worth a try.. trust me!
useful information. It’s the best
Thanks for sharing all the beautiful photos of your vacations. I wish I can go to Japan one day especially during the Cherry Blossom 🙂
It's my pleasure. Yeah, cherry blossom season is probably the best. 🙂
Wonderful post! I desperately want to visit Japan sometime. Oddly enough, one thing I want to do is order my meal from one of those vending machines 😛
I find the system works and efficient!
Would love to visit Tokyo one day! Everything looks so interesting and amazing esp the weird ice-creams..haha
I fall in love with Japan overall, find it difficult to leave.
Love all the pictures. Lovely post. Thanks very much for sharing. I have always been fascinated with Japan. Hope to visit it one day.
Thanks for your compliment. Glad that you like the post. I have always been fascinated by Japan and I am glad that I made it there and I will return too. 🙂
The Thunder gate is the only place I loved,can find some nice cute souvenir and authentic food there. Beautiful pictures you got there !
Ya, nyonyachef! They have some really cute souvenirs there! I didn't get the chance to try the food but only mochi.. 🙂
Hi Lee Mei, wow, stunning photography as always. My boyfriend is really keen to go to Japan and I must admit it looks beautiful in cherry blossom season, although I think I would get sensory overload (but in a good way!) – there is just so much to take in! I will definitely bookmark this post for future reference.
Also, you should enter the travel blogging competition our Grantourismo team are running this month, as the theme for May is 'Food & Travel'. There are some great prizes on offer, including a holiday in a HomeAway Holiday-Rentals property plus tour vouchers, cameras and more! Here is the link to the blog post on the competition instructions, terms and conditions:http://grantourismotravels.com/2010/05/05/grantou…
Thanks for dropping by! Cherry blossom season is probably one of the best seasons to travel to Japan. The Japanese really celebrate the Hanami like I've never seen before – picnic in the park from dawn to dust!
There was really so much to take in, even as an Asian.. it's overwhelming for me!
By the way, thanks for letting me know about the blogging competition, will definitely try my luck!
Fantastic! look forward to seeing your entry!
When I went to Akihabara, I was overwhelmed by the electronics stores too. I love their miniature version of everything 🙂
The unagi on rice looked so delicious. I love the red color of the temple gate. Thanks for sharing your adventures.
Yeah, Akihabara just blew my mind away! The unagi is so good that I had to eat it twice.. hehe
Wow Lee Mei, looks like you really enjoyed your time there. And a cool vid too 🙂 Thank u so much for sharing, I must visit one day.
Oh yes, I had a wonderful time.. one of my most memorable travel experiences. Glad you love the vid 😉
Hi Lee Mei
Love this post – due to the trouble in Thailand, it looks like we will be going to Tokyo instead of Phuket as part of our Grantourismo project – we haven't been to Tokyo in about 17 years (or more! Eek!) so your tips will be helpful.
Thanks for entering this into the Grantourismo travel blogging competition, however, unfortunately, we require only one photo for the entry and it must be an original entry written for the contest. Up for the challenge of writing a new post with one photo? We'd love you to enter!
Thanks for dropping by! I am sure you will enjoy Tokyo and glad that you find the tips helpful. Well, Sarah dropped me a comment asking me to enter this post, so I did it. Wasn't aware that there should be only 1 photo, oh well.
Really nice photos !
Is that dishe a “kasudong” ?
You meant katsudon? no, it is unagi kabayaki…basically eel over the rice.. very very nice!