Autumn Japan Trip | 11 Days in Japan | Day 5-7 Tokyo
After the long train ride, the first thing we did in Tokyo was to check into our Hotel in Asakusa. There are couple of reasons to why I chose to stay in Asakusa. One, it’s because it’s a tourist area (meaning bae could communicate with people using English!) with rich history, and lots to offer. Another main reason to why I chose this particular hotel was because it’s new, the price was fairly reasonable for Tokyo, and there was a direct tube line (the Narita Access) available that could take us straight to the Narita airport without interchanging. Like London, most underground stations had stairs instead of elevators, and that's why not having to interchange was so important to us when we chose our location.
Hotel the B Asakusa was a fairly new hotel opened in October 2018 so it's only about a year old during the time we visited. It is located in a super convenient area where it's about 10 minutes’ walk from the main Tokyo metro system, and only 5 minutes’ walk away from the Sensō-ji Temple. There are lots of restaurants in the area and there was even a 24-hours supermarket that's only 3 minutes’ walk away! We were very confident that all our late-night snacking needs would be satisfied with ease. Although it's not the cheapest accommodation in Tokyo for sure (around £100 GBP per couple per night), I think it wasn't too bad of a choice for its convenience. When we arrived the hotel, it was too early for check-in, so after getting a confirmation from the front desk staff that we could do so any time before midnight, we decided to go out for food while the concierge keep an eye on our luggage.
There was a particular cafe I wanted to visit in Shinjuku, the Takano Fruit Bar. What they offer was a buffet style fruit-themed afternoon tea where desserts and puddings were made with Japanese fruits! Fruits grown in Japan are nothing like those that’s being grown outside of the country. They are so sweet and delicious; they are usually quite pricey and precious and are served as desserts on their own a lot of times. Of course, we could simply buy some from the supermarket but again, they're usually quite pricey especially for fruits like melons. Whereas in this fruit bar, we can eat as much as we want for just 2970 JYP (tax included) per person. Although this cafe was marketed as a 'fruit bar', they did have more to offer than just fruits, such as fruity desserts, breads, freshly made parfaits and pancakes, as well as a number of savoury dishes such as pasta and risottos. Their food was not over the top delicious but they're definitely more than just alright. If you're like me and are here mainly for the fruits, it's definitely worth every penny. We were so full and satisfied after this super late lunch, and I have not been so grateful to have arranged our omakase (chef's selection) style shushi dinner to 9pm that night. If we are to have dinner any time before 8pm our stomach would have exploded.
For obvious reasons we desperately needed a walk to burn off all those sugar and carbs. So that's what we did. Since we're in the Shinjuku area, we were hoping to see the Meiji Shrine or have a walk in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Unfortunately, both of them closed at sunset, which happens earlier in the winter times than in the summer, so didn't get see any of them. If you were in Tokyo, don't make the same mistake as we did. Although it was quite disappointing, we still managed to visit the famous Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Avenue located at the Shinjuku Jingu Gaien. It was quite beautiful indeed. The photo I showed you guys here didn't do it any justice. The real thing was so beautiful! We then found our way back to Shinjuku and we had a quite look at one of the largest Tokyu Hands store in Tokyo, located just next to Tokyo Sushi Ten which was where we were going to have dinner.
Tokyu Hands is one of those crafty department stores which qualifies as a proper boyfriend/ hubby day-care centre. There are a lot of DIY tools and stuff that could keep the boys (or gals) busy while I shop for makeup and clothes in the same building in case they're not interested.
Thanks to the the 3 hours of walking around, we have digested at least half of our big lunch and managed to make space for the very exciting sushi dinner to come. I was so glad that I made the reservation online well in advance. Despite it being 9 in the evening, the restaurant was still packed! There was even a short queue outside the restaurant. Luckily, with the reservation, we didn't wait long before we were seated. Unfortunately, we didn't get the counter table this time, meaning we couldn't watch the chef make the sushi right in front of us. But that's ok, as the service and food was still amazing! Tokyo Sushi Ten serves only one menu, omakase style. The chef will serve us whatever was in season and freshest on the day, prepared in the way that he thought was the best. The fact that we didn't get to choose what we're going to eat only made us so much more excited. After all, the element of surprise is the best spice to any dish. There was a total of 15 courses. Started with a Dashi broth which was exactly what we needed in this cold and long evening. We ordered some sake to go with our food; there really is no better beverage than some Japanese rice wine to match with these delicacies of fresh seafood and delicious Japanese sushi rice. After the the soup, we got served a sashimi platter. Everything was so fresh and tender, with no traces of staleness or fishiness. That was how we know only the freshest fish of best quality was being served in this restaurant. We then each got served like 4 pieces of sushi which are all delicious! The one that impressed me the most was the one with shiroebi (white shrimps). They are tiny shrimps that were manually peeled, shrimp by shrimp, and then pile up on to the piece of rice to make the tastiest umami bomb in the world! That was my favourite dish throughout the whole dinner. After the pickles, we had a dish made out of shirako. Shirako is in fact the sperm duct of cods. Some said it's an acquire taste, but I really liked it when it's fresh and properly prepared. It's buttery, creamy and rich; a true delicacy for all the real foodies out there. We paid 7000JYP per person for dinner but it was so worth it. It truly was one of the best sushi dinner I've had in my life. Since they take reservations online, I'll recommend anyone who're looking for a great night with sushi to book with them. You will not regret it! From the photos, it might not seem like we've had a lot of food, but I assure you that we were so full after it. It was the perfect way of ending this long and satisfying day.
On the following morning, I spent about 20 minutes trying to drag bae out of bed, then we headed to the Toyosu Market for some delicious and fresh kaisendon (seafood rice bowl). The Toyosu Market is basically the new Tsukiji. It is the one wholesale market in Tokyo where all the fresh seafood of highest quality are delivered, sold and distributed. The government has moved the Tsukiji Market to the new Toyosu Wholesale Market as a way to control the expanding wholesale centre. The new market is designed to segregate tourists and visitors from the actual auction hall. Visitors could view the auction from above in overhead tunnels that run through the complex. Imagine observing a fish market from above as if it was a factory line. It was quite boring and didn't feel anything like the good old Tsukiji Market.
After some wandering around, we finally found the restaurant street and had our lunch. The Kaisen-don was quite fine indeed, but I didn't see how the quality or the price was better than similar restaurants in downtown. I have to say, I was quite disappointed. Not only because it took us so much time and effort to get here (unlike the Tuskiji Market which was located in central Tokyo, the Toyosu Market was practically built on the sea, nowhere near the main city), the whole experience simply did not live up to expectation. Back then in Tsukiji, I could watch the auction up close, I could also enjoy the food at a much more affordable price right inside the market. It's' the 'local' vibe that made the experience special. In the new Toyosu Market, it felt like we visited a factory and was lead to a food court for lunch. I don't think I will ever come back as it's simply not worth the effort and money (seriously, it took us almost 2 hours to get here form Asakusa). In fact, there are still some restaurants doing business in the old market and whether you're a first timer or not, might as well go to Tsukiji instead to see how things were in the past which would be a lot more fun.
Anyways, after we left Toyosu, we went to the Tokyo Station for souvenirs. The Tokyo Station is always the place to go when looking souvenirs.The underground shopping street in Toyko Station is probably one of the largest of its kind in the city. There is an area dedicated to cartoon and TV drama character where we found lots of cool and cute random stuff, including my favourite character of all time, Kapibara San (カピバラさん). Just look at that fluffy, round, fat ass, isn't it just adorable? While I went crazy over all the puffy plush toy and pillows, my partner went for something more practical: food. Food always make the best souvenir as one could barely go wrong with it. In Tokyo Station, we found souvenirs produced by manufactures all over the country, making this the best place to get that last minute gift for your daughter as you have completely forgotten it while you're enjoying your time in the country side (so to speak). If you want to know what I bought and what I recommend buying here, feel free to visit my other blog post here to check out a full list of items I brought home. After all the shopping, we went outside and took the signature shot of the actual station itself. The Tokyo Station was built in 1914 and itself is a very beautiful historical building for those who're looking to take that insta-famous photo.
While there were still plenty of sunlight, we headed towards the Suitengu Shrine which was only couple of stops away if we took the tube. This shrine is most famous for its protection on children and pregnancies. A very dear friend of mine was going to have his second child soon and that's why I came here to purchase a protection charm.
After our short visit to the shrine, we moved to another tourist must-see town, Ningyocho. In this old town there was the famous Morinoen sweet shop, well known for their Houjicha ice cream. I admit the main reason I came to Ningyocho was just to get this amazig ice cream. And I was so glad that it met and exceeded my expectation! The deep roasted tea flavour went so well with the creamy milky ice cream base, it's almost better the matcha flavoured one!
Not far away from Ningyocho is the Kiyosumi-shirakawa district, one of the most popular old town among youngsters in recent years. In this lovely small town you could find fancy cake shops and insta-famous cafes. We visited the most beautiful library in Tokyo, the Morigawa Library. Autumn is the best time of visit, as the Gingko tress have turned golden, which made this gorgeous white beauty pop even more.
We then moved on to the Kiyosumi Garden that's located couple of minutes away from the library. The Kiyosumi Garden is a traditional Japanese stroll garden homing a considerable number of Meiseki (famous stones). We appreciated the beautiful landscape and pond here, as well as enjoyed our time observing the breathtaking sunset while we took lots of photos on the stunning autumn foliage.
Since the sun sets pretty early in the day during this season, we decided to take a break in a coffee shop nearby as it's not quite dinner time yet but we didn't really want to be wandering on the streets after sunset. We went to a locally famous coffee shop called the Fukadaso Cafe. The shopkeeper there was so nice and welcoming, they offered us a warm sofa seat with some throws as we entered the cafe shivering. I ordered a caffe mocha while bae got a the caffe latte. I failed to stop myself from being tempted by their very delicious looking cheesecake, and it didn't let me down. It's so rich yet light at the same time. It's decadent but not heavy. And the vibe here was so warm and cozy; we comfortably spent 2 very relaxing hours resting our legs.
When we finally left and headed back to Asakusa, most of the shops had already closed but we still managed to have a good look at the Asakusa Temple while there's barely anyone inside. Afterwards, we went to one of the most famous Ten-don (Tempura rice bowl) place in Asakusa - Daikokuya. This specific tempura restaurant specializes in frying their tempura in black sesame oil (hence the deep dark colour). The dish did have a strong sesame flavour and aroma, yet it was a little too soggy for my taste. Also we definitely paid the tourist spot price on this one. In short, I'm glad that we gave it a taste but I don't see myself returning for the second time. Just a block away, there was a local bar district (Hoppy Street), home to dozen of traditional Japanese pubs if you're up for a pint. Unfortunately we're so full by then we had to skip it. However, on our way back to our hotel, we went to a 24-hours supermarket called SEIYU Asakusa ROX Shokuhinkan and bought some fruits, as well as some other stuff we wanted such as bottles of sake and some chilli oil. I'm the kind of traveller who never visit a place without checking out a local grocery store. We enjoyed the delicious, juicy fruits in our hotel room and pretty much called it a day.
We did try to wake up early on the following day as we knew we were going to out of town. It's so damn cold that day and I was literally freezing. I therefore insisted on having a bowl of hot noodle soup for breakfast. Eating noodles for breakfast may sound odd to some of you but it's a perfectly normal and common practice in Asia! After warming ourselves up with the bowls of delicious soba noodles, we finally visited the Meiji Shrine. It's one of the biggest and most important shrine in the city, dedicating to Emperor Meiji and his queen, Empress Shoken. The setting of the shrine is simply beautiful and spectacular. Also, it's the best place to buy some charms as souvenirs. If you need to buy someone something and can't think of anything better, then just visit a shrine or a temple. A lucky or protection charm never goes wrong.
Following our brief visit to the shrine, we left for a place called Jiyūgaoka. Located at outskirt Tokyo, Jiyūgaoka is a very special place. I loved visiting here ever so often as it's such a cool and chill place. Unlike the downtown area, Jiyūgaoka is peaceful, bright, and I could always find something new and interesting here. This is also the place to visit if you're looking for vintage items (apart from Shimo-Kitzawa and Koenji which are closer to central Tokyo). This is also the place for those with a sweet tooth, like myself, and want not to miss out on any fancy patisseries. Patisserie Paris S'eveille is one of the best and most well known patisserie in Jiyūgaoka. We were so lucky that we got a table straight away as this place is usually packed! It's probably because it was a weekday and a rainy day, so no one was spending their time in a suburb area when it's freezing cold. Just look at that shinny chocolate cake! It was so gorgeous. Delicious, rich, sweet, and the perfect bit of tang from the raspberry made it even better. The cup of thick, rich, brandy infused hot chocolate was exactly what we needed to thaw our frozen fingers!
We spent the rest of our day here in Jiyūgaoka looking at vintage shops and shopping interesting home goods. The bad weather is unfortunate but we had a really good day regardless!
You know what's the best dish to have in Japan when it's freezing outside? Ramen! Nothing beats a bowl of warm and comforting ramen on a cold autumn night. We did some research online and decided we want to give this place called Fuji Ramen (富士ラーメン) in Asakusa (literally 5 mins walk away form our hotel) a go. Among all the ramen I've had in my life, which is a lot, this was easily my top 3 champions! It's a very local place, a small ramen bar with only 2 chefs working in a small kitchen. But seriously, it's so good! Although the shopkeepers were not fluent in English, but they're very welcoming and tried to help us ordering from the vending machine. Oh yes! I should inform you that in local ramen bars like this one in Japan, the common practice is to purchase food tickets from the vending machine, then hand it to the chefs once you're seated at the bar table, and your food will be delivered to you. Just look at how delicious this bowl of ramen looks! Pungent black garlic oil, crunchy and sweet cabbage, flavourful tonkotsu and gyokai (pork and fish bone) broth, homemade, chewy noodles... if heaven could be scooped into one bowl, this is how it would look like. It was so good that I seriously considered coming back for another one on the following day! This bowl of ramen was a perfect way to end the day and it made us so happy! Despite how my partner always have super bad luck and always make shit decisions, he definitely made a good call on this one.
On our last day in Tokyo, we didn't go to places too far away as we needed to come back on time so bae could catch the Narita Access train and make sure to arrive airport on time. Both of us are big anime fans, so we could not possibly leave Japan without visiting Akihabara.
If I'm being completely honest with you, our main purpose of coming to Akihabara was these delicious, melt-in-your-mouth cheese tarts by Pablo. Pablo is most famous by its medium rare, running cheese tarts which, frankly speaking, was quite big for a morning snack. Fortunately, they also had these mini ones which were perfect for second breakfast. Just like their regular sized ones, the mini cheese tarts also came in an array of different flavours, including seasonal ones. We weren’t feeling too adventurous, so we ordered an original one and a matcha flavoured one. They were just as good as I remembered! Rich and tangy cheese filling and crunchy shortcrust base made the best ever tart in this world. I will never leave Japan not having some Pablo cheese tarts. They really are that good. For the record, Pablo aren’t sponsoring me in any ways to say this, but they totally should!
After looking around in different shops for couple of hours, and when my companion was finally done fiddling with some mysterious electric parts in those small alley shops, we stopped by a popular chain conveyor belt sushi restaurant called Gansozushi (元祖寿司) for a late lunch. The reason why this place is so popular is because it's super cheap! And yet their sushi isn't half bad at all! Despite being marketed as an affordable place, their sushi are still handmade by the chef, one by one. A good sushi should never be made by a machine (which is a common practice outside of Japan) and ta proper Japanese restaurant will always make sure of that. These aren't bad sushi indeed; but if you could afford to spend just a bit more, I do prefer another sushi chain called Nemuro Hanamaru Sushi (根室花まる) even more.
After our lunch, or afternoon tea depends on how you view it, we were ready to head back to our hotel and to send bae to the train station. But before that, guess what... we went to Pablo, again, and bought another cheese tart! This time we bought the proper one that they're most famous for and my partner took it to the airport with him and enjoyed it there while he was waiting for his flight. He too agreed it was the best cheese tart he's ever had.
After we grabbed our luggage, we headed to the Asakusa station trying to catch the Narita Access. The reason why we chose this line instead of the Skyliner airport express was: one, it's much cheaper and two, it's a direct train that will send a poor guy, who speaks nor read no Japanese, to the airport. If you too are considering taking this route, make sure to pay attention to the schedule as this train runs very sparsely. On top of that, The metro station in Asakusa is very chaotic and the signs were very messy and are super annoying to read. Seriously, we saw two signs, pointing us to the same place but at different direction. It's unbelievable. The people in the area were not at all friendly to tourists (even if you speak fluent Japanese like myself) and will not help you out whatsoever. We couldn't locate the right entrance to get to the station and this old woman in a pickle shop literally told me to go away and go to the police station which was like 10 minutes walk away. Well, we didn't have 10 minutes, we had 5 before the train comes and yet we're still stuck at the point where we were outside the station, trying to find our way in.After wasting too much time finding the god damn entrance, we literally arrived the platform 1 minutes before the train arrived. So for those who want to use the Narita Access, do make sure you arrive well in advance, and be prepared to find the right platform yourself with little to no help. Despite all that unpleasant experience, it was very cheap and the traveling time is short so I probably will still use it next time I'm in Tokyo.
After that 'exciting' race and I've sent bae onto the right train, I took my time and took another train to Yokohama, which was where I will join my friend Carrie. Since she was going to run slightly late, she recommended me a very nice coffee shop in the area called Antico Caffe Al Avis. While I was waiting, I couldn't help but to get not only a cup of warm coffee, but also one of their super yummy looking chocolate covered danish. Time really does fly when one's doing something they enjoy. To me, that means good coffee, something sweet, and a good book.
My bestie finally came and pulled me out of the world of imagination. She took me out for dinner after I dropped my suitcases at her apartment, which was not far away from the train station. She brought me to a beef tongue chain-restaurant called Negishi (牛タン ねぎし). I loooooove beef tongues and the ones they offered were simply delicious. Super affordable as well. Not only the beef tongue was prepared to perfection, their rice are not the standard white Japanese rice, but they have barley mixed into it. It gave the rice great flavour as well as an interesting texture. Included in the set there was also a bowl of tororo (grated yam) which is another of my favourite when served on warm, steamed rice. Although this is a chained restaurant, it was not a place I'd have visited myself if she didn't introduce me to it. This is the best part of having a local friend as tourist guide. After all, the locals always know the best.
Takano Fruit Bar: 3-chōme-26-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tōkyō-to 160-0022, Japan
Tokyo Sushi Ten (Shunjyuku): 5 Chome-24-55 Sendagaya, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0051
Fukadaso Cafe: 1 Chome-9-7 Hirano, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0023
Daikokuya: 1 Chome-38-10 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
SEIYU Asakusa ROX Shokuhinkan: 111-0032 Tokyo, Taito City, Asakusa, 1 Chome−25−15 Roxビルb1
Fuji Ramen (富士ラーメン): 1-chōme-24-5 Asakusa, Taito City, Tōkyō-to 111-0032
Pablo Mini Akihabara: 1-15-8 Sotokanda, Chiyoda 101-0021
Gansozushi (元祖寿司 - 秋葉原万世橋店): 1 Chome-16-1 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021
Antico Caffe Al Avis: 〒220-0005 Kanagawa, Yokohama, Nishi Ward, Minamisaiwai, 1−5-1 ジョイナス
Gyutan Negishi: 〒220-0011 Kanagawa, Yokohama, Nishi Ward, Takashima, 2 Chome−16, 横浜 ポルタ店 B1