Friday, July 9, 2010

Tokyo - Part 2

DAY 3: Our second full day in Tokyo started with a truly Western breakfast: McDonald's! We needed those fluffy Egg McMuffins to get us through the busy day we had semi-planned.

Since it was Sunday, I figured the best place for us to visit would be Harajuku Station and the Meiji Shrine (both locations are busy on Sundays).

When we got to the Harajuku area, I was expecting some outlandish costumes, but all I got was regular folks walking around! Gwen Stefani lied!

Meiji Shrine

The Meiji Shrine is right next to Harajuku Station so it's easy to see both of these areas in a few hours. If you decide to visit Meiji, wear comfortable shoes! The walkway to the shrine is long and made up of gravel; I did see a lot of ladies wearing heels though - why?? As we made our way to the shrine, we saw several ladies in traditional kimonos (and tourists taking pics with them).

On Sundays, the Meiji Shrine is usually the backdrop for several traditional Japanese weddings. While we were there, there were at least two weddings going on amongst all the tourists.

{Notes written on wood by visitors}

{People washing their hands before praying}

Yebisu Beer Museum

After the Meiji Shrine, we got back on the train and went a few stops south to the Ebisu area to check out the Yebisu Beer Museum. The museum is located in a new area called Yebisu Garden Place, which features restaurants and shops.

The museum gives you some insight into the Yebisu beer (now owned by Sapporo) and how it has developed over the years. After you go through the museum, you get to the good part - beer tasting! We tried all the beers they had on tap and determined that Yebisu was the best beer we've had in Tokyo. Although the museum is free, each beer was 400Yen, which is still cheaper than the bars.

{vending machine where you get coins to buy beer} {Yebisu Beer artwork}

{delicious light and dark beers!}


On our way back, we stopped in Shibuya to walk around one of the "hippest" areas of Tokyo. The biggest shock when you step out of the train station is the massive crowd of pedestrians crossing Shibuya Crossing! I mean, it's kind of ridiculous! All of the vehicular traffic stops and hundreds of people cross from all different directions!

{the pictures don't do justice to the ridiculous crowds}

After getting through the Crossing, we walked around and found lunch at a standing sushi restaurant. The restaurant only had room for about 15 people so we waited for a few minutes before a spot opened up. When you give your order to the sushi chef, he makes it then places it on the banana leaf in front of you. The food was great and affordable (less than $20). Micah did make the mistake of putting green tea powder into his soy sauce, thinking it was wasabi! HA!

{sushi counter dining}

After we snuck in a much-needed nap, we went shopping at the Times Square shopping area, less than a 5-minute walk from the hotel. This worked out perfectly since a friend's restaurant recommendation was inside this shopping mall.

In Tokyo, the top floors of a shopping mall usually house several eateries. The one we were going to, Katsukura, was on the 14th floor! The line was long when we got there, but we only had to wait about 20 minutes - and it was worth it! The place specializes in tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlets) but they did have non-meat options as well.

The funniest part of the dinner was trying to figure out how to fix our own dipping sauces. After ordering our respective dishes (pork for me, shrimp for Micah), the waitress gives you a bowl with roasted sesame seeds along with a pestle. This is where the interactive part comes in: you ground up the seasame seeds, add a smattering of soy and other delicious condiments, and voila! your dipping sauce is ready for consumption.

{pestle to ground up the sesame seeds}

{sesame seeds all ground up} {jars containing tons of different sauces}

The dishes came out crunchy and hot. After eating a lot of raw fish, it was nice to have some fatty goodness on my plate!

{fried goodies getting plated - my dish: tonkatsu with a spring fried roll - micah's dish: fried shrimp}

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped off and took a picture of the Tokyo "Delirium Cafe." We've been to the Delirium Cafe in Brussels so thought it would be fitting to take a picture with their Tokyo location. We opted to not drink there since the prices were astronomical.

DAY 4: Since we only had a half-day on our last day in Tokyo, we decided to keep the activity to a minimum.

Tsukiji Fish Market

{Ginormous fish being sold}

This was one of the only places that I had to go to in Tokyo! I wanted to check out this infamous fish market for myself! We opted against the whole "eating sushi at 5 a.m." and got to the market around 8 a.m. Although the main auction was already over, there were still plenty of people working in the market.

{left: giant octopus - middle: japanese fish mongerer - right: I wanted to buy one of these so bad!}

We walked around the market for an hour and took in the fishy sights and smells.

There were some interesting specimens in the market, but nothing I've never seen before.

For breakfast, I bought a rice cake from a vendor near the market. Yummy!


Our last lunch in the city was at the same kaiten sushi we went to before, we had to fit in another sushi meal!

That was the perfect way to end our Tokyo trip!

{I had to get some green tea ice cream before we left the Narita airport!}

Notes on Tokyo: while I really enjoyed Tokyo and the Japanese people, I am not sure this place is on my Top 10 list to return. When it comes down to it, the city is like any other large city (albeit a lot cleaner and safer), it's expensive, and it's kind of sterile. If I were to go back to Japan, I would explore the smaller cities instead. The food is AWESOME though. :-)

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