Today was our time to explore Tokyo.
We popped into the hotel sandwich shop for breakfast. One good ole Sausage egg and cheese on an English muffin later, and we headed out the door. We headed to the subway, where we bought all-day passes to the trains. It proved much more economical, as we were hopping from place to place and train to train.
Our first stop was the Tsukiji Fish Market. We were a little late in the morning to see any auction action, but the commercial stalls were still packed with locals and tourists. We walked among the stalls selling fresh seafood and miscellaneous retail goods for a little while. It really had the same vibe one might get from a farmer’s market. Good people making a living off simple goods. Notable for me was watching an older gentleman sharpening a hand crafted knife on a stone at the front of the stall. Knives seem to be a popular non-fish commodity there, as there were several stalls selling every blade you’d need to turn a fish into dinner.
We stopped by a stall in the market for a snack. I had what will likely be the freshest sashimi I’ll ever experience. Some tuna, salmon, and amberjack served up fresh with pickled ginger and wasabi over rice made for an exotic meal to this american tongue. It was quite tasty, though.
From there, we made our way to the Tokyo Skytree. It’s the tallest structure in Japan, and the second tallest in the world. It was quite a sight to see. Our goal was to go up in it to get a good view of the city from some 350 meters up. After a confusing tour of the first shopping mall-like 5 floors, we found an information desk that pointed us in the right direction. Eventually, we found ourselves with vouchers that provided us the opportunity to come back in a few hours to stand in line for a chance to buy tickets. We weren’t even guaranteed a shot at it. We all agreed that if we happened to be available at the time we’d try, but it was otherwise not terribly important.
We made our way from the Skytree, and headed to Senso-ji Temple. Another site full of tourists, we made our way through the maze of people to catch views of the temple buildings. This is definitely home to the biggest paper lantern I’ve seen thus far on the trip. We shot some photos of the gates and the pagoda, a few with the Skytree still visible in the background. Then we ducked down a less crowded street and headed onward.
Our next stop was to be Kitanomaru Park, to see the cherry blossoms there. We took a beautiful stroll amongst the cherry blossoms and gorgeous trees. There were some form of crow hopping about the branches of the pines, and a lovely lake at the center of the park. After walking the grounds, we made our way to rent a boat to paddle out into a moat-like section of water. With Rachel navigating and Evan doing all the work, I was free to relax, take some pictures, and casually spy on some beautiful young women whose boating expertise had them floating in circles. After a few near misses with boats as we pulled back towards shore, our 30 minutes were up and we were on our way. Before getting out of the park, we found a soft-serve truck. Led by Rachels sweet tooth, we dropped a few yen and I had another culinary curiosity- green tea ice cream. I must say, I found it surprisingly tasty. I’ll admit, though, that my taste buds wished it had been a little sweeter.
We hopped a train and headed toward a shrine on a different side of town. Unfortunately, this is the one time today we got turned around. The flip side is that we ended up in the high-fashion shopping district, Harajuku. We were surrounded by marvelous architecture holding brand names the likes of Prada and Cartier, as well as some local fashionistas showing their colors. After our brief stroll through, we got back on track.
Meiji Jingu is a shrine tucked away in a hand planted forest. Outside of some grand torii and a couple unique architectural elements, it was much like the other shrines we’ve seen on this trip. We took a break and sat on the benches inside the walls of the shrine, but soon we were on our way out.
We dropped into the nearby Double Tall Cafe for a light dinner. I decided to try out a BLT, since that’s a back-home favorite. Japanese bacon compares to American bacon in about the same manner that Canadian Bacon does. It’s a shame, but it’s still delicious. The most notable feature of the sandwich was the inclusion of what tasted like thousand island dressing rather than the mayonnaise i’ve usually used back home. I think it’ll be something to try again when I can get some crunchy, smoked pig in my sandwich. We followed with coffee and dessert, which was a vanilla espresso, expertly decorated, and a rare cherry cheesecake, the color of the cherry blossoms, and which had a light taste of fruit. It was served with what we’re assuming were little mochi balls.
From there we headed back to the hotel to rest our tired legs. It seems that they’re getting more sore and sooner each day. Hopefully I can last until we hit Okinawa, where I’ll be a little more free to relax rather than cram in the sight-seeing. We hit the hot tub, where we shared a conversation with a retired couple who are spending their time travelling. After a quick shower, we headed to the hotel bar for garlic fries, onion straws, and some tasty drinks. I ordered myself a hot chocolate spiked with an orange liqueur. It did not disappoint, and it was a good way to end the evening.
We’ll be finishing up Tokyo tomorrow and heading out to Kawasaki and our next hotel.