Lucky for us the flight wore us out the night before, so we knocked out at a reasonable time. Therefore we were not jet lagged at all. In the morning, we took advantage of the Nihonbashi hostel
providing coffee and two croissants for breakfast.
After which, we immediately decided to head to the famous Tsukiji fish market
where there were over 400 different types of seafood. Tsukiji fish market was a couple of subway stops from our hostel and less than half a mile of walking from the nearest subway stop. Along the way we passed a lot of skyscrapers and a couple of small restaurants. If you get to the Tsukiji fish market early enough say like 3:00 AM you have an opportunity to see the famous tuna auction. Evidently, we did not make that time.
|Tsukiji Market Tuna with Head|
At around 7:30 AM, we made our way down the outskirts of the fish market and stopped at our first food adventure. For the record, if you see locals line up, it is a good sign that the place is good. We had a second breakfast and this time it was a small ramen stand called Wakaba
that barely fit the old couple running it. By the time we made it to the ramen shop, there was already a small line forming! I used my Japanese to ask for one bowl. The lady asked me to wait. Once the previous round of noodles was served, she took my order and I gave her my money. Apparently the ramen stand was featured in the New York Times as an article was taped to the side of the stand. Needless to say, the ramen was perfectly cooked and broth was flavorful, but not overly oily or salty. Definitely worth the 900 Yen or so.
By around 9:00 AM, we started to see random lines form in front of what looked like restaurants. Some of these restaurants just blend in with the building and look like people's houses. The Tsukiji marketplace had a tons of people trying to usher you into their restaurants. One booth purposely put out a large tuna head just to attract attention. When in fact they were only selling small pieces of the tuna for expensive prices. Other vendors would stand on a stool and pretend to be sorting out dried squid. One vendor had white strawberries, which were about 1,500 Yen or $15 USD. We hadn't seen anything like it before and had heard they were super sweet, but we resisted at the time.
The whole marketplace was about half a block. There were so many booths that we didn't know where to have our third breakfast. After circling the place about three times, we stopped at Tsukiji Sushisei Honten
where it appeared to have a lot of locals lining up. We decided to line up as well not knowing if the place was good or not. After about a 30-40 minute wait the door opens and they start seating people. We were close enough to the front of the line to become one of the first 12 to be seated.
|Sushi Restaurant with only 12 Seats. Best Sushi we had in Japan.|
Not knowing what to get, we defaulted to the infamous omakase or meal selected by the chef. 12 pieces of sushi from the freshest fish market in the world ran us 3,600 Yen per person. The small and intimate sushi restaurant had 3 chef serving 12 people. I'm not sure if it was the fact that we were in Japan eating sushi or the fresh fish that made it good. But, every piece of sushi was incredible. You get different kinds of seafood in Japan then you do in the States. The toro part of the tuna is a lot better quality in Japan. We had a squid that was exceptionally smooth and tasty not chewy at all. We finished our third breakfast satisfied and ready to head towards Shibuya.
|Exotic Fish and Delicious Mouthwatering Toro Sushi|
Our next stop was Shibuya, Tokyo, which was made famous for the Shibuya crossing
. Shibuya is also known for its fashion and nightlife. There are literally tens of department stores filled with people. After browsing through 9 floors of all women clothing and accessories, we found a department building with 8 floors of just men's clothing. All this walking meant we were ready to get some cremia ice cream. Creamia ice cream
consists of Hokkaido milk and heavy whipped cream served in a thin cookie twisted into a cone shape. If you are looking to try this, we found ours at Silkream was where we spent $500 yen on one cone.
|Cremia Ice Cream|
One of my favorite stores was the Mugiwara store
where I spent about an hour before purchasing three pieces of One Piece anime mugs and cups. We also stumbled upon a fruit store that sold some outrageously priced fruit. Something like a $50 USD (translated from Yen) cantaloupe. Ultimately we held off on buying any big purchases and the day was spent browsing because we didn't want to have to carry it throughout the trip.
|One Piece Anime Shop in Shibuya|
Next on our list was the Meiji shrine
, which is also in Shibuya. The shrine itself is located in a forest consisting of 120,000 trees and over 360 different species. On the way to the main shrine up the hill, there are a couple touristy places to visit such as the cultural hall and large stacks of sake wine barrels.
When you do get to the shrine, it is important to respect the Shinto religion. You can do this by bowing at the entrance gate each time you enter and leave. Also by rinsing your hands and mouth at the temizuya and offering coins at the shrine. There is a certain way to do all of this, but it is easy enough to learn from others or by reading the instructions located near the temizuya. We witnessed two weddings ceremonies while we were at the shrine.
Near the Meiji shrine is the Harujuku metro stop, where we went down yet another busy street. We passed by a candy store with locally made candy. It was almost like a Sugarfina, but not as fancy. They made children's candy packaged in small pouches. Further down the street, we stumbled upon yet another department store. This one had a Starbucks on the top floor and then a Coldstones that served cotton candy surrounding ice cream in a cone.
|More Ramen for Dinner|
By the time we finished all of that, it was close to dinner time. We met up with a couple friends from United States who happened to have moved back to Japan after elementary school. Their English was not great, but we made it to Menya Musashi Ramen
for our dinner. This was the first time in Japan where we saw a ticket machine. Instead of having a server take the order, there is a machine who does it. Basically what you do is put money into the machine and select the type of ramen you want. Then a ticket pops out and you give this to the chef. In any event, Menya Masashi Ramen
is famous for there Tsukemen which is their dipping ramen. We ordered a couple bowls of that. All of us agreed the broth was a bit fishy, but still tasted great.
For the after dinner, we struggled between going to a bar for drinks or just doing something more low key. We learned from our Japanese friends that the Japanese love to drink and unwind after work. First we ended up at a loud drinking bar/restaurant. When we noticed that the crowd was college freshmen, we decided to go to some where quieter and get shaved ice. A lot of the department stores have specialty restaurants on the bottom floors. The malls close around 10:00 PM, so we decided to retire for the night after the scrumptious matcha shaved ice.
8 Days in Japan - Day 3 in Tokyo
8 Days in Japan - Day 4 in Hakone
8 Days in Japan - Day 5 in Kyoto
8 Days in Japan - Day 6 in Kyoto/Nara
8 Days in Japan - Day 7 in Yamazaki/Osaka
8 Days in Japan - Day 8 in Tokyo
8 Days in Japan - Day 1 in Tokyo