jpn 052013 chapter 10: tokyo drift

when in tokyo, do as other tourists do … 

tokyo is so big and there are so many things to see and do, it is impossible to cover them all in a few days. inevitably, we all gravitate to the same hotspots ie ginza, roppongi hills, akihabara, harajuku, asakusa etc etc and only cursorily.

here’s some of the places i went, 3rd time in tokyo.

ginza. we came to ginza because we needed to visit some stores ie ascis, uniqlo, shiseido, g.u. because it was golden week, the streets were closed to traffic that day and people could stroll leisurely on those roads. in the evening, while waiting for my pals, i lost count of the number of luxurious vehicles that zipped past. japan is in recession? really? but then, cars there probably cost a fraction of what we fork out here in singapore.

ginza @ night

ginza @ night

roppongi hills is an upclass shopping area but we usually head there to do 2 things:  gawk at tokyo tower and buy stuff from the phiten shop at the basement. the metro station is also connected to tokyo midtown, a sprawling integrated development that has shops, apartments, hotels, galleries. everything is quite pristine. but the other side of roppongi hills is a different story. there’s a hint of sleaziness, the lights are gaudier, the stores are more haphazardly arranged. apparently, foreign streetwalkers had been soliciting for business on the roads. check out the signboard below.

sunset @ roppongi hills

sunset @ roppongi hills

tokyo tower from the sleazy side of roppongi

tokyo tower from the sleazy side of roppongi

notice to foreign streetwalkers

notice to foreign streetwalkers

harajuku is the place to watch fashionable young people saunter by. it was also the place where we would alight, to visit the meiji shrine and head to the immensely popular (with singaporeans) burberry blue/black label shops. alternatively, head to the alleys tucked between the buildings and you would find something interesting.  for example, at takeshita street, we discovered many small shops selling surprisingly cheap, fashionable wares. crowded, but worth the jostle!

harajuku station

harajuku station

takeshita street

takeshita street

for something a little off the beaten path, try daikanyama. daikanyama is an upscale residential area and home to many chic shops. but, my purpose heading there was to see the tsutaya t-site bookstore. it was included in the 20-most-beautiful-bookstore-in-the-world-list so how could i not go? the t-site was rather understated, but the place grew on one. i would have dawdled there the whole day, if my friends didn’t have a plane to catch.

as bonus, a smallish makeshift sunday market suddenly materialised outside; they sold produce, freshly-made bread, fresh eggs, rolls made from those eggs etc. it was reasonably priced too. i bought a whole swiss roll for only $20/-(!!) as a goodbye present for friends. they told me it was very very good.

the tsutaya t-site store @ daikanyama

tsutaya t-site store @ daikanyama

sunday market outside t-site

sunday market outside t-site

the imperial palace grounds is a good place to look at green and relax away from the shopping crowd.  start from the nijubashi, walk through the imperial east gardens to kitano maru park and then cross the road to yasukuni shrine. wear comfortable shoes because it’s quite a walk.

don’t get dragged into the chinese-korean chest-beating over the yasukuni visits. the yasukuni shrine is a place where the japanese pay respects to their dead. that’s all. read more about it here.

imperial palace grounds

bridge 

imperal palace grounds 2

imperal palace grounds

park connected to imperial palace

imperial east gardens

yasukuni is where the japanese come to pay respects to their ancestors. a really tranquil place.

huge tori before yasukuni

huge tori before yasukuni

yasukuni shrine

yasukuni shrine

the new kid on the block is the tokyo skytree. you can take lift to the top of the tower (this will set you back by more than S$30, for a panoramic view of the city) or indulge in retail therapy at the lower floors. we chose to admire the skytree from outside and spend our $30 on delicious confections at the basement instead. there was an excellent selection, better than narita’s. get your omiyage here.

tokyo skytree

tokyo skytree

interesting wall murals

interesting wall murals

interesting eats

soba in japan tastes really good. after having eaten soba in japan, i started to crave for more. i wished i could visit kanda yabu soba again but it was burnt down last year (see my earlier blog here). so, this time we tried another equally famed sobaya, the 200+ year-old sarashina horii. reknowned for its white soba.  it is located deep in azabu-juban, an interesting enclave near roppongi. expect to queue and expect to spend a pretty tidy sum there (if you order other stuff besides soba). to avoid waiting too long, go during odd hours ie between lunch and dinner.

the white soba was smooth, crisp and light  – in other words – delicious. but somehow i still prefer brown soba, which is more earthy, more textured. can’t wait for kanda yabu to be resurrected!

sarashina horii soba

sarashina horii soba

the soba is white

the soba is white

the full works

the full works

tender braised pork

tender braised pork

at meiji shrine, we were in need of ice cold beer. and look what we found. not just any ice cold beer, but one with an icy crunchy cold beer head! simply subarashii!

true ice cold beer

ice cold beer near meiji shrine area

i dunno what made us decide to have chicken for lunch. what? have a chicken cutlet in tokyo? how mundane can this be. oh well, how wrong i was. this was no ordinary place. this was tebasaki toriyoshi @ harajuku. which is famous for its fried chicken wings and special chicken broth in miso (which we didn’t try). instead, we had the modest chicken cutlet set which was not just cheap but yummy. i was satisfied. here’s the address and the map.

address: 4-28-21 JingumaeShibuya, Tokyo PrefectureJapan +81 3-3470-3901
toriyoshi @ harajuku

toriyoshi @ harajuku

best chicken cutlet ever

best chicken cutlet ever

one of my most unforgettable meal was at a small hamburg restaurant, otona no hamburg (or grown-up hamburg). the hamburg was served on a sizzling hot lava stone harvested from mt fuji. the whole meal was under S$20/-.  i was surprised that dining in tokyo turned out to be more affordable than in singapore.

another beef place the i’d like to go is this one: meat yazawa.

otona hamburg

otona hamburg – on the rocks

i went to nakameguro for some pudding but it was closed. mahakara happy pudding is really awesome. will come again!

happy pudding

happy pudding

i love calbee prawn crackers and when i saw a calbee shop, i couldn’t resist sneaking in. one of the more interesting items was this: a chocolate flavored prawn crackers!

chocolate flavoured prawn cracker

chocolate flavoured prawn cracker

lost & found – a good memory 

it is true that if you lose something in japan, you can almost be sure that you’d get it back. their honesty quotient is tops.

one night, we dropped a suica card in a busy ramen shop in shibuya; when we went back, we had barely popped our heads in through the door when the staff whipped out the suica and asked cheerily if we were looking for it. yeah! perhaps there was a ‘we lost our suica‘ look on our faces? we were relieved to get it back because there was still more than 3000 yen in the card (almost S$40/-). not a lot of money but losing stuff sucks right.

belatedly, i also realised that my handphone was gone.  i was hoping i had left it in tokyu hands and not dropped it on the streets. thankfully, when i went back the next morning to enquire,  it was with them. after a pretty lengthy verification process to satisfy them that i was the real boss of said handphone, they removed it gingerly from the ziplock jacket they had placed it in the night before.

that day, i felt an immense outpouring of love for my handphone like never before.

gah-brah cadabra

(gah-brah is singlish for making a mess, state of confusion etc)

train timetables in japan may differ from weekdays to weekends. so it’s good to double-check. always ask and then ask again.

i made a major blunder when i bought a ticket for the keisei narita skyacess to narita airport but boarded the wrong train (took me to narita city, instead of narita airport).  turned out i was looking at the wrong schedule (for weekends instead of weekdays).

good thing i could connect at narita station to narita airport without waiting too long.  and guess what, as i was rushing out from the gates, the officer stopped me. geez. what now? actually, he only wanted to refund me part of my fare, since i had taken the slower train instead. i used that money to buy a beer.

thankfully, the ladies at the delta counter was still open and i could check in and move into the transit area.

sunset @ narita hadth never looked lovelier.

sunset from narita

sunset, narita

there were a few other places i wished i had gone:  akihabara, ebisu beer garden and itoya etc.

well, i’ll be back!

 (this is the last chapter of my japan 2013 trip)

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s