Our main destination this trip was Kyushu, western part of Japan. But as we missed the direct flight promotion on SQ, we took ANA which allowed a free transit in Tokyo. This was what we did in 2 days, 2 nights.
There’s just so much to do. Some we like to repeat. The best time to visit is April during the Sakura season. I like that very much but Himself had an official trip then and I was in London. So we chose the beautiful red maple leave season to visit.
1. Another reason we stay in Shinjuku is the pilgrimage to Yodobashi, the large electronics department store with 5 levels. “Bic Camera” where Himself bought yet another latest model of Olympus. He claims that there’s lots of savings than buying it from my home country. If you pay in cash, there’s a 1% cash back and also tax free for foreigners. Bring your passport to claim on the spot. Usually it’s for around US $100 and above.
Shopping at Uniglo is cheaper and on top of that; tax free.
2. Tsukiji Fish Market – this time around I’m not hanging around to wash the slicing of tuna. I did that the last time. The outer market is where the action is – to enjoy really fresh seafood, so skip breakfast. We had breakfast of raw fish slices with fresh scallops and uni in a bowl of rice. Each customer must have your own order. So Himself had a bowl of miso soup. We are reserving our stomach for the scallops and egg rolls stick and coffee and mochi dessert.
Take the Toei-Oedo line to Tsukijishijo station. We left at 930am and reached at 10am. Keep right and walk towards the Buddhist temple. You will see a round multi-storey car park. Anyway there are so many tourists you can’t miss it
The metro line was packed like sardines even at that time. Possibly not as bad as the earlier traffic as otherwise you see staff with white gloves pushing and packing passengers.
3. Next stop: Edo-Tokyo Museum
[Journey wise, it’s also on Oedo line as Tsukiji and a few stops away. Alternatively go to the National Tokyo Museum which we didn’t visit as the Terrace Cotta warriors from Xi-An are here (Dec 2015) and we didn’t wantto squeeze with the crowds.]
Recommended museums: visit is the Mori Art Museum in Roppongyi, Ghibli Museum, Edo-Tokyo Museum and the National Tokyo Museum.
For children, it’s highly interactive.
We chose the Edo-Tokyo Museum also on the Toei-Oedo line. Exit at Ryogoku station (6 stops from Tsukijishijo station). Museum closed on Mondays. Always ask the Station staff where is the platform for the train. They’re very well informed and helpful. Screen shot the name of your venue and exit station in case they don’t understand your accent.
Buy your tickets at 3F, deposit your bag at 1F and take the lift to 6F for the permanent exhibition. Check out the volunteer guide counter. Proceed to 5F. You may wish to watch a sumo match nearby.
The Museum has lots of dioramas and reconstruction of buildings destroyed by the Great Earthquake and Flood. Gives a depiction of lives during the different periods.
If you’re here to view ancient artifacts, then the British History Museum is a better bet. Here at Edo-Tokyo Museum is a celebration of the architect and people living behind these buildings (some destroyed) over the centuries.
The Museum is next to the Sumo stadium. Instinctively, Himself bought a block print of sumo wrestlers of Edo Nishiki-e style by artists from the Katsukawa school.
Patrick Smith of “Japan, a reinterpretation ” explains that sumo is a ritual celebration of the distinction between the included and the excluded. There’s almost nothing to see and the match is over in one or two minutes. What matters is the consequence. The sumo contest produces not so much a winner and a loser as a change in status. The vanquished is the one pushed out of the circle. Belonging vs Exclusion. Revelation vs concealment.
On our way to the train station after the museum, I passed by a school where students were being dismissed. Surprised to see a teacher (?) standing outside supervising the dress code as students trooped out. “Tug your shirt tails in”, he seemed to be saying to one student who promptly did so. Wow. School image to be maintained.
If you’re visiting the Tokyo National Museum, factor time to visit the Ueno Park and the Akhihabara.
The Mori Art Museum is very good too. Himself went but didn’t take any photos.
After the Museum, we took the subway to Asakusa area where the famous temple is. Although we didn’t visit the temple, the grounds are filled with Japanese and international tourists. We are reminded not to eat and walk.
We are here because a few months back, himself was brought to Tatsumiya, a fantastic sukiyaki place by his Japanese hosts. It has a nice ambience with a fire place. But we have to each order a portion. The person in charge speaks English. A hip looking young man with a samurai air about him. Address: 1–33–5 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo, Kanagawa-ken, 111-0032, Japan
I do like the Sukiyaki restaurant at Haneda airport. As well as the Imahan 今半 at Ginza. http://www.imahan.com/guide/shop/ginza_shop.html
Expect to pay around $50 per pax, with a minimum order for 2 pax. I went to a tempura prawn restaurant, which I saw advert at the subway station. It was quite good but not fantastic for S$30 per bowl of 3 tempura prawns. The prawns weren’t piping hot.
Tokyo and Japan has a very unique way of borrowing from the outside world and make it uniquely Japanese in spirit. On our last trip it was Michelin star restaurants. This time we had Japanese version of Italian spaghetti and Japanese burgers. Oishi. Yum-yum. Possibly because the sauce has something of the 6th taste – umami kick. Little Asian surprises such as sprinkle sesame on the side and nicely grilled crispy seaweed. Texture of the noodles is firm and taste home-made of local buckwheat. There’s spinach and pumpkin version. Ask for the checku and not the bill when you’re done. And Japanese cheese cakes and chocolates from Meiji and Royce.
Back to Shinjuku, which never sleeps, for my favourite Japanese udon-spaghetti in Japanese ume sauce at 7th floor of Lumine Est. Check out the crossing at Shibuya but I think the shops seem to close by 9pm.