Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 3 - Fish, Gardens, Crafts, and Clothes

It was our first morning in Tokyo and we were off for an early start.


It was about 6 am, we were out before breakfast at our hotel, some salarymen were already out in their suits but not many, the streets were empty. We needed something to eat so we had our first encounter with a Japanese convenience store (7-11 was a block away)

!!! A wall of rice balls! What was this magical place? Who knew that such wonderful things could be bought at such a simple store. No Slurpees or Doritos here, instead we would onigiri, bento boxes, salads, light and fluffy sandwiches, and even an udon pot by the register.

She had to buy some mochi, here (in the US) it's pretty rare, but there it's everywhere, she was ecstatic.

We ate our food (standing still and not walking with it, of course) and were off to our first destination of the trip.

Jet lagged early morning tourist destination of choice, Tsukiji Fish Market. We did not wake up early enough to get to the fish auctions, which we didn't plan on anyway since it requires getting up before even the subways start running, we did have plans on a fresh sushi meal at one of the more popular sushi restaurants around the market.

I suppose we go

After wandering around alleyways and side streets we asked a shop owner where to go and he pointed us in the right direction. "Make a right, a right, a left, then a right". Sure thing.

Amongst the crowds on one of the numerous same looking streets we found our place.

Sushi Dai. When you go make sure you take a picture of the sign for yourself, there is nothing in English and if you can't read Kanji you'll have no idea where to go. Just show anyone in the area your print out and they will be able to direct you to where this place is. Being that it's quite popular prepare yourself for a wait. Even at 6 something in the morning we stood in line for 47 minutes.

Lost amongst a sea of people. Once we made it in we ordered the set, which is basically a chef's selection of what is fresh on the menu, but not just any set..

The beer set! Nothing like Japanese beer and sushi at 7:30 in the morning.

A special note about this one above, it was still moving, sort of pulsating, when it was served to us. Now that's fresh.

In order they were (I think) tomago (egg), octopus, tuna, some kind of white fish that I forget, red snapper, tuna and sea urchin, the pulsating clam?, another one I don't remember, a baby shrimp roll (the white stuff on top are tiny shrimp), a nice easy tuna roll, mackerel, and salt water eel. Was it all good? Well, it was fresh, and they gave us some crazy stuff that we wouldn't have been able to try elsewhere. We could have just ordered the basics like salmon and tuna but this gave us a chance to try somethings we would not have otherwise. Doubt I'd do it again though.

When we got out the line was wrapped around the corner. If it was 45 minutes when we were there early the wait now must be hours.

Into the inner market we went.

While making your way back there look out for the guys on the carts. They will mow you down if you are not careful. There are hundreds of them zooming everywhere and you are simply a nuisance to them.

Back in the inner market you will find yourself in a never ending maze of stores selling every possible form of sea life imaginable.

Ever wonder what they do with the tuna once they get it?

Choppin' tuna.

Heading back out towards the train station we stopped at what we think is the local shrine where the fish business people go to show their respects.

With the fish market done we headed off towards Hanz┼Źmon to check on the sakura at Chidorigafuchi. It seems like I read the map wrong as we instead ended up at the Imperial Gardens, an unexpected destination which we did not even know existed, but was a pleasant quiet diversion.

Passing the entrance to the palace.

Crossing the inner moat into the Imperial Palace grounds. The first thing you'll notice after you get your entrance pass (free) is a huge stone structure.

It is the remaining foundation of the original castle tower which burned down in 1638 (a common theme in Japan, things burning down) and was never rebuilt. Now it just sits there and looks huge.

With a tree on top.

We walked around one of the main gardens.

View from the opposite side facing the donjon

Some of the cherry blossoms were in bloom.

We left the gardens and decided it would be a good idea (I came up with the idea) it would be a good idea to walk to Shinkjuku. We didn't quite make it all the way, at the Yotsuya station we hopped on the subway and let that carry us the remaining distance.

Outside the station we were greeted by a very busy area, complete with huge TV screens and loads of lights.

The main goal of the day was Closet Child (one of three that we would eventually visit) but on the way (meaning, looking for it) we stopped at Okadaya yarn shop, a huge two building multi floor craft and clothing store.

No pictures allowed but I did take one of the bathroom door, everything there was just as cute and the people were incredibly polite, which was amazing, not something I was used to in America.

On the way to Closet Child we passed a conveyor belt sushi place. Fascinating to see one in real life! We never did stop in at one but it was cool to see. Closet Child was found (use this site for directions) and she bought a bunch of stuff. Everything in Japan is just her size.

Homeward bound next, back to Ueno and our hotel. We stopped at Don Quijote one last time, were once again amazed by everything we found, headed back to our hotel and promptly fell asleep.


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