Japan Trip Report: Tokyo, Part 1

I can’t believe it’s been 3+ weeks since my last entry! I wish I could blog more regularly — but as I get older, it takes more time for me to put each entry together. Plus, on weeknights after work, I am L-A-Z-Y.

Anyway, before I launch into the next installment of my trip report, I have to ask — is anyone else annoyed with Google for shutting down Reader?! I know it’s ridiculous but I read quite a few blogs and it’s so easy to keep up with all of them in one place. So far I’ve tried a few different potential replacements and haven’t found “the one” yet. LOL. Feedly has a sleek look but I’m not loving the magazine style layout. The Old Reader was my top choice because it’s pretty much a carbon copy of Google Reader but DAMN, it is SLOOOOOWWW. Bloglovin is my favorite so far but I wish blogs would get marked as read when I scroll through rather than me having to do that manually. UGH. Are there any other options out there that I should try?

Onwards with my Japan trip report! After leaving the Tokyo Disney Report, we headed into Tokyo Proper for the last 4 days of our trip…

Saturday, November 17
Sadly it was raining HARD on our first day in Tokyo. I was too busy trying to keep myself dry that I didn’t take nearly the amount of pics I normally would, hehe.

Our first stop was the neighborhood of Asakusa and the Sensoji Temple.

As you enter the temple, you first walk through the outer gate known as Kaminarimon (or Thunder Gate). Ugh, the rain.

From the outer gate, Nakamise shopping street leads you towards the main hall.

And that’s the main hall behind me.

From Asakusa, you can see the newly built Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest building in Tokyo. With our limited time in the city, we didn’t have a chance to visit (I guess we’ll save it for next time :)).

It was so incredible to be walking around in this vibrant city!

Our next stop was Kappabashi — also known as Kitchentown. You know you’ve reached it when you start seeing signs with the flying girl. It’s a long street filled with shops that sell all kinds of kitchen supplies from pots, pans, utensils, dishes, etc.

And also the ubiquitous plastic food you’ll find at most of Japan’s restaurants! I thought about picking up a plastic ramen bowl as a souvenir until I saw the prices. WOW! They are incredibly expensive.

The last neighborhood we hit on our first day was Akihabara, the district known for electronics and anime/manga. Oh man, Rob was in heaven here.

So many vending machines, so little time to try all the options. One thing I LOVED about the vending machines is that in addition to cold drinks, they dispense hot ones too! Like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Be careful, though, the cans are HOT!

The Akiba streetscape. We didn’t know where to go first!

We started at Yodobashi Camera to check out the sheer number of products available for purchase – from electronics to toys to beauty products, they had it ALL. Seriously.

Then we found a random arcade where Rob played Street Fighter. He was so happy!

We ended our night with dinner at Ippudo. A big bowl of ramen totally hit the spot on such a cold and rainy day. SOGOOD.

Sunday, November 18
Rob & I aren’t super active (LOL) but when I discovered that the city of Tokyo rents bikes FREE OF CHARGE every Sunday, I knew we had to check it out. They block off streets around the Imperial Palace to create a 3 kilometer cycling route. It’s all flat and surrounded by beautiful scenery so it was perfect for us.

So as we walked from the subway station to the bike area, we GOT STOPPED BY THE POLICE. I guess we look like troublemakers?! He asked us for our IDs but when he saw that we had US passports, he gave them a quick glance and let us go. Seriously bizarre.

Anyway, off to rent bikes!

This is the staging area where you fill out a quick form and pick out your bike. We picked out a tandem.

It was a gorgeous day!

Such lovely scenery all along the course.

Here we are on the bike. 🙂 It wasn’t as hard riding tandem as I thought it would be. Rob sat in the front since I’m terrible at steering. But randomly he would stop pedaling and I had to do all the work. UGH. That was rough.

For lunch we headed to the neighborhood of Ginza where I was in search of tempura – specifically from Tempura Tsunahachi.

AMAZING! The tempura was so light (not oily at all) and perfectly fried. It wasn’t an inexpensive lunch but so worth it.

Ginza is an area known for its upscale shopping. On the weekends during specific times, the main street, Chuo Dori, is closed off to vehicular traffic.

The ability to walk in the street really made the chaos of the crowds much more bearable.

We window shopped at the large Mitsukoshi department store and I bought a few crafty items at the stationery store Itoya — but Rob was looking forward to Hakuhinkan Toy Park, a multi-level store absolutely crammed with all sorts of toys and games. He was dedicated to finding Transformers to take home as souvenirs.

Our last stop was Shibuya. While Ginza has all the upscale luxury shopping (think Chanel, Cartier, etc), Shibuya is more focused on youth fashion.

I was super excited to see the statue of Hachiko that’s located at one of the main subway exits and has become a popular meeting place. The story is that Hachiko waited for his master to come home from work every day at the station and he continued doing so long after his master had died. *sobbing*

We also got to experience the famous Shibuya Crossing, which is when HUGE crowds of people cross the street directly in front of the station. It’s pretty insane. We crossed multiple times to experience the rush of being swept in with the masses but I didn’t get very many good photos — I was too focused on trying not to walk into anyone! The best place to get a birds eye view of the crossing is from the Starbucks that you see to the left above. The only problem is that it’s SUPER crowded so we ended up standing. No one wants to give up their prime seat at the window!

For dinner we had beef bowls at the fast food chain Yoshinoya. They have locations in the US but we had to have it in Japan! The food was the same except that you get more sides and you’re served on an actual plates and dishes versus styrofoam containers. So good!

Dessert was back at our hotel where we finally tore into the boxes of macarons we picked up at Pierre Herme and Laduree — both famous French pastry shops. I’ve read reports online that Pierre Herme is supposed to have the better macaron but I actually preferred the ones from Laduree.

Next up: Final Tokyo recap!

For more pics from our first 2 days in Tokyo, check our Flickr here and here.