Tokyo part 2: It is the Best of Times

Waking up to a rainy Sunday morning in Tokyo was less than enticing, but knowing that the city had endless fun for us both Fi and I dutifully donned our raincoats, borrowed umbrellas from the hostel and ventured into the city. Starting with culture, we headed to Ueno Park to the Tokyo Modern Art Museum… It was however less modern than we anticipated and we were notably younger than anyone else in museum we split the scene and moved about 300m across the park to the Tokyo Western Art Museum. Unsurprisingly the Museum was full of beautiful art with our trip through the museum made even more fun by playing “spot the deformed boob”. Feeling sufficiently cultured after an hour and a half of museum-ing we navigated our way through the Tokyo train/metro system (a very easy system to use) to Shimokitazawa.

Shimokitazawa is a sort of young/studenty area of Tokyo with a lot of very trendy looking people roaming about. The area is filled with Cafes that sell real coffee and second hand shops (where you can buy just about anything). Our biggest issue with the place was our inability to find Japanese food (that wasn’t beef based)… Endless Italian restaurants and pancake Cafes were at our disposal but the battle to find sushi was serious. Eventually giving in to hunger we caved and went to an exceedingly average cafe that appeared to be trying to make healthy western food but just wasn’t quite nailing it. Aside from our bad lunch we enjoyed delicious coffee (even found a flat white) and had a very enjoyable few hours roaming the second hand shops. One issue did continue to rise to the surface however, Fi and I were often too big for the Japanese second hand clothing and were always too big for their shoes (as we later discovered when we asked for a 42 or 43 and they told us women’s shoes only went to 39 most of the time)!

Real coffee

From Shimokitazawa our adventures took us to Nakameguro, a riverside neighbourhood in Tokyo (although the river was very low and looked more like an oversized drain pipe) where tree lined footpaths made for a picturesque afternoon stroll area. The area was filled with cute little cafes (selling real coffee) and bars, as well as some very beautiful shops stocking clothes both well beyond and within our budgets. Many of the shops there had chosen to combine functions, selling clothes, homewares and coffee all in one location… It made some shops very hard to leave as they had successfully made themselves very welcoming. 

By evening we were ready to gear up for a little bit more of the intense side of Tokyo (and we were starving) so we headed to Shibuya, where the famous crossing is and not so coincidentally some delicious sushi. Watching the Shibuya crossing from the train station was awesome, everyone successfully dodging one another to reach their respective destinations. Thinking that making it across in one piece would be difficult Fi and I ventured down to street level. We were wrong, when you were actually in the crossing it was a piece of piss, partly because everyone in this country is so courteous that they actually pay attention to where they are walking (as opposed to NZ where we all look at our phones!).

Making our way slowly through Shibuya (getting distracted by shops and people watching) we came to Uogashi Nihonichi, an amazing standing sushi bar (where I think the chef sometimes liked to fuck with us and put a wee bit extra wasabi on). The sushi was made as you order it with the ingredients being displayed before you… It was basically the ultimate in dining (in my opinion).

I am certain by only allowing patrons to stand they notably increase their turnover

The last stop of the day was 450m up in the Tokyo Skytree. This was amazing! The view from the Skytree at night just shows more or less endless lights, the city really just keeps expanding out. While up that high Fi decided that in an earthquake prone country she was probably not such a fan of heights. Spending nearly an hour looking at the city lights Fi and I agreed we were the happiest little tourists that ever did live!

Off to a slower start than the previous day we spent the initial part of the day doing stair sprints in Ueno park and then eating our weight in rice balls for breakfast! Excited for Harajuku we were somewhat disappointed when we arrived and there were zero go-go girls to be seen. The slow morning turned into a slow middle of the day where all we found were chain shops that were not particularly exciting (even the Nike showroom). Ditching the shopping and finding Fuglen (a coffee shop we were recommended) the day took a really positive turn. For one, the coffee shop was the coolest little cafe with great music and fantastic people watching and from there we were able to stroll for a couple of hours all the way to our dinner in Ebisu at Afuri ramen.

Vegan Ramen
Yuzu Shio Ramen and a mini donburi
Ebisu Yokocho (very cool food court-ish place with an excellent exterior)

Delicious ramen in our bellies we made it (with some struggle) to the Golden Gai in Shinjuku. An insane series of narrow streets that is filled with even narrower four seater bars (some squeeze a few more people in). While finding the place was a wee bit difficult, it was undoubtedly worth it. 

Wandering into a bar run by an older woman we were treated to delicious drinks and even better company. The woman had travelled the world, was an artists and had many friends who had done amazing things e.g. A permanent photography exhibition in MOMA. Fi and I couldn’t believe the number of times her stories would start with “a friend of mine is/did…”

The second bar we went into had an amazing CD collection… Mainly amazing because it was all music that Mum and Dad love. 

Wary of the early closing of the trains in Tokyo we made it back just in time for the last train to our local station (amazing how time passes with a few G and Ts). 

Fi’s final day in Tokyo started with a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market – this was super cool! Walking through the wholesale market I saw some of the biggest cuts of tuna I have ever seen. Moreover, the place has absolutely no fishy smell because all the fish is so fresh. While words will not do this place justice, it was just amazing to walk through and see the men and women go about their work (and also to comprehend that there was this much fish passing through this market everyday and the ocean still hadn’t run out!).

Standard issue chopping sword

Our final activity was visiting Senso-Ji, an ancient Buddhist temple. This was more or less a tourist trap (mainly Japanese tourists) that was not particularly exciting… Apart from the numerous young Japanese girls dressed in kimonos.

Farewelling Fifi was sad and meant that I was back to roaming the streets alone. I therefore spent the entire afternoon sitting in Fuglen drinking coffee and writing this blog (while planning what I would eat for my next meal).


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