Suffice it to say, in spite of the hilarity of the holiday closures, we have constructed a busy couple of days for ourselves here. Having been to Tokyo before allows us to focus our energies nearly exclusively on eating and shopping since everything we “had” to do (that wasn’t closed) we did the first time we were here. I know, I know, even in cities we have never been to before we focus exclusively on eating and shopping. But humor me, OK?
The morning view at the Park Hotel yesterday (Wednesday) was lovely as always, though the haze that portended a 100 degree day ahead blocked the view of
Two breakfasts down, we hopped on the Yamanote line for Ebisu and wandered through Daikanyama, a sweet residential area we had particularly liked the last time we were here. We did a bit of shopping first in the giant mall complex attached to the subway station and then braved the streets. In our walking, we even stumbled upon the French bakery we had visited before, and so naturally that required us to get a chocolate croissant as a reward for such good location finding. (Breakfast tally currently at 3). We continued our wandering in spite of the astronomical heat through Ebisu and down to Meguro, where we hoped to try a tonkatsu (fried pork) restaurant that had been closed the last time we were here. Lucky for us, closed again through the rest of the week. Fortunately, the kind folks at Skadden Tokyo had given us recommendations for kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi right nearby, so we found the restaurant in the train station and took our place at the counter. It was such fun—conveyor belt sushi may be my (EB’s) all-time favorite way of eating—and the sushi was great. It was a total hit. In addition to the food, we enjoyed watching very small local ladies scarf very large nigiri sushi in a single bite.
Already in the train station, we took a stroll through the supermarket (located one level below-ground, of course; highlights included a $50 bunch of grapes) and then got back on the subway for Harajuku. Yes, like the Gwen Stefani song. There we walked down the main street and enjoyed the extremely questionable fashion choices of the Harajuku set. Right now, girls are into maid costumes and things that make them look like Little Bo Peep, boys are in flavors of punk and bizarre reimaginings of urban wear. From there, we cruised the main drag of Omotesando, which I describe as the SoHo of Tokyo: big fancy shops with funky architecture—think Prada store on
One observation about
As it grew dark, we headed to Yurakucho and to an izakaya we had read about under the train tracks, notable for being run by an English expat. We had a nice chat with him and even nicer plates of agedashi tofu, fried chicken and sautéed mushrooms. The food was great, but because he spoke English it didn’t count as a real Japanese meal, so we checked out various other little yakitori like places under the train tracks (nerd city planner note—there were a ton of restaurants under the tracks that seemed popular and super successful. Clearly something we need more of in NYC. But the noise of the train overhead was sort of a pain. Perhaps if we has elevated train tracks but no trains. Like an elevated park or something. That would be perfect.) We had some beer and skewers and with eating occasion number seven for the day under our belt, we headed home.
Today began much the same way, with a pastry and a bowl of soup from a shop with the mystery ticket machine (this time cold noodles with raw egg dipped to be dipped in hot broth), only once full, we headed off for the Ueno neighborhood to the north of us. There we explored the park (saw the outsides of museums, visited a temple) and realized quickly that though it was only 9:30, we were already dripping sweat and the day was going to be a heat killer (final word from weather.com was 97° feeling like 105°). As any normal people would, when faced with sweltering temperatures we headed for a giant outdoor non-shaded market, where we explored much of the junk on offer. We bought a green tea ice cream but nothing more—I think our negotiating skills got used up in
Post Ueno exploring, we headed east towards Asakusa, an older neighborhood with low-rise buildings and more historic character. It was charming, as we remembered, with little temples all over. We stopped in a local spot – just ducked under some otherwise unmarked curtains on an otherwise unmarked building on the street – for what turned out to be a delicious made-before-our-eyes tempura meal. We were the only ones there when we arrived, and so felt a bit ill-at-ease, but we’d been seated for about three minutes when the place became more-or-less instantly packed with locals appearing out of thin air. It was a treat and a perfect little neighborhood experience. We kept walking through Asakusa and visited Kappabashi dori, the kitchenware street where they sell every type of kitchen implement you might dream of, including the plastic food that is ubiquitous at nearly every restaurant in the city. We bought knives a)because it seemed fun—when in
Bellies full of not one but two lunches, we walked through Asakusa to the river and then to the subway, where we headed to the excellent Edo-Tokyo museum. There we learned all about the history of the city including our three favorite facts: 1. Japanese commoners didn’t have last names until 1869; 2. In Edo, a typical family lived in an 8 sq meter row house—makes 340 East 11th Street seem like a palace; and 3.Commodore Perry was sent to Japan by the otherwise forgettable Millard Fillmore.
The museum was definitely worthwhile and we wished we had more time, but we had to rush back to the hotel and to
After saying goodbye to Suzuki-san, we strolled through