8 Days in Japan - Day 3 in Tokyo

Jul 4, 2017 -

Day 3 in Nihonbashi, Chūō - Shibuya - Taito - Asakusa - Tokyo, Japan

Key Highlights

- Breakfast Japanese Pancakes at Shinwase no pancake Omotesando
- Walking around Uenoonshi Park
- Tourist shopping around Ameya Yokocho
- Japanese Curry Lunch at Bondi jinbocho
- Visiting the Emperor's Imperial Palace
- Exploring Sensō-ji Buddhist temple
- Dinner at the Two Michelin Starred Omotesando Ukai-Tei

My travel buddy and I woke up and the first thing she wanted was Japanese pancakes. The Japanese pancakes are known for their fluffiness and lightness. We found a place in Shibuya at Shiawase no pancake Omotesando. The underground metro took us about twenty minutes from the hostel and then we walked about ten minutes to get to the hidden cafe. When we got to the pancake place, we noticed that you had to take the stairs down to get to the cafe. Luckily for us we came early enough around 8:00 AM to escape the line that would form just after we left. They were delicious to say the least and definitely not something I've found back in the United States.

We then backtracked and made our way to Uenoonshi Park in Taito, which probably took about 40-50 minutes from Shibuya. When we arrived at Ueno station, we noticed a huge shopping area across the street in Ameya Yokocho. There were a lot of street vendors trying to sell cheap stuff or touristy things. We passed by a crepes place that we sadly did not get to try. There were tons of little adorable Japanese trinkets, which I presume would've made good souvenirs. We even stumbled upon a small bakery selling animal shaped pastries near the Ueno station.

This is the Imperial Palace where the Emperor lives!
Uenoonshi Park itself was huge. We walked through the temple area and passed by a couple gardens. As with most high traffic places, there were street performers. I watched a westerner play a huge cello on the side of the street. Unfortunately, we didn't get to explore all of the park, I would have definitely loved to strolling around longer.

By the time we was finished exploring Uenoonshi Park, it was getting pretty close lunch time. We had some hungry bellies to feed. So off we went to look for our next food adventure. We had made plans to meet up with a buddy of mine in Chiyoda at around 1:00 PM. He is from the States, but lived in Japan for almost three years. We picked that spot because we also wanted to see the Tokyo Imperial Palace. This is where the emperor and his family lives. Nowadays the emperor and his family are largely figureheads much like the King and Queen in Britain. The family's palace was enormous and surrounded by a body of water, which created a huge moat. At every entrance there were multiple guards surrounding the premises. The grounds were immaculately kept. I can only imagine how much of the Japanese tax payer money goes to ensuring the place is secured and maintained.

Let's not speak of the bill, but enjoy the memories that came with the experience. 

In any case, our stomachs made the case for food. Luckily, we found a hole in the wall curry place that locals frequent. Bondi jinbocho was hidden just above an old bookstore where the entrance was in a back alley. We had difficulty finding it, but was able to ask a local couple on the street for help. Actually, my travel partner found it before they had a chance to figure out what I was saying. When we arrived it was around 1:00 PM. We were already late in meeting our friend. But he had to run some errands so he encouraged us to continue with our quest for food. The wait was about 20 minutes and well worth it as it was by far the best Japanese curry I've had anywhere in the world. Though you have to take that statement with a grain of salt. I've only eaten Japanese curry in the U.S. and now Japan.

We met up with my friend close to the Imperial Palace and circled around it to take pictures. There is a famous spot where you can take a picture of the water and have the backdrop be one of the palace's buildings. The Japanese do not allow people inside the Imperial Palace without being in a tour group and there wasn't that much to see outside, so we left after about 30 minutes. Our next stop was Sensō-ji Buddhist temple in Asakusa, Tokyo via Tokyo Station. Tokyo station itself was remodeled with a 1920s kind of theme. This was around the time when they were trying to westernize Tokyo.

Sensō-ji Buddhist temple with a bunch of people
Sensō-ji Buddhist temple is Tokyo's oldest temple and a famous touristy location easily recognized by the large lantern dangling at the entrance. Once you enter the temple grounds, there are a lot of different vendor stands to the left and right leading up to the temple itself. We spent some time at the temple just walking around and admiring the architecture. The crowds were enormous and there were a lot of school children on field trips.

By the time we finished at the temple, it was starting to get close to 7:30 PM. Another friend of mine had helped us make a dinner reservation at one of Tokyo's two Michelin starred Teppanyaki places. This would be our splurge meal and let me tell you it was quite the experience. Omotesando Ukai-Tei was located on the top floor of what looked like a shopping mall. My friend was kind enough to walk me to the door because he was also curious what the restaurant entailed. When I arrived at the door, I said in my broken Japanese that I had a reservation. The hostess replied quickly in Japanese and I was left befuddled. When I turned to my friend who was still standing beside me, he said, "she is asking for your name".

She welcomed us in and I bid farewell to my American friend. We were taken to a waiting area just past the hostess podium. I asked in Japanese if shoes were okay to wear at the waiting area, which they were. Immediately, I did a 360 view of my surroundings and noticed the high quality Japanese luxury decor. What have I gotten myself into? Am I going to have to pay an arm and a leg after we are all said and done? 

Within 5 minutes of sitting down, we were taken to our seats in another room. I could see the chef lined up and people from all sides were greeting us as we made our way to our seats. I'll have to admit, I was a bit nervous, so I asked to use the bathroom to gather myself. I asked in Japanese of course. To my surprise, the hostess led me straight to the bathroom door. When I came back to my seat, they started asking me in Japanese what would we like to drink. I was thrown off and told them I didn't speak Japanese. So, they started to speak English and asked if English was okay. Of course, I replied in Japanese yes. They got really confused when I answered them in Japanese, but told them that I don't speak Japanese. 

Anyways, when we finally ordered our drinks, they started pushing out the dishes. Now I am not a huge foodie, however there were some great dishes in front of me. My friend who made the reservation had already put in our orders. We had the abalone and Ukai selected beef course. The meal started with a small prawn marinated in jelly followed by foie gas roasted with eggplant and bonito marinated. When they made the Ukai-Tei's specialty abalone, it was steamed in its shell covered in a mountain of salt. The salt doesn't season the abalone, but instead was used to keep the abalone fresh and juicy. After the abalone, we had corn cream soup. The Ukai selected beef steak followed shortly after. I will tell you this is by far the best steak I've ever had. The steak melted in my mouth and had rich flavorful natural taste. It was cooked to perfection. We were then served steamed rice with small shrimps. By the end of the meal we were full.

Kobe Beef! Look at that meat marbleization!
When I was about to ask for the check, they insisted on taking us to another room for dessert and coffee with baked confectioneries! We were led to another part of the restaurant where we were allowed to select two desserts from a list of five or six. Then they brought out a cart with a bunch of desserts. We were in heaven. All in all, the meal took about 2 hours. Let's not speak of the bill, but enjoy the memories that came with the experience. 

When we finished our desserts, the hostess escorted us out of the 5 stories shopping mall. I thought she was going to walk me to the entrance and then just leave us. But, she literally walked us out to the street! I thanked her for the meal and left a satisfied customer.

We somehow found our way back home and knocked out in our pods.

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
8 Days in Japan - Day 2 in Tokyo
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