One of the things that we immediately agreed on was going to Japan’s Tsukiji Market. Reading about it the past years got me interested in experiencing the Japanese’s market day and eating really fresh sushi.
We decided to skip the auction since:
- It is only limited to about 120 people per day
- Tourists have to apply to get a slot, and
- It is freaking early. The auction starts around 5AM but people line up very early to get to the first batch. Knowing us, we wouldn’t wake up in time especially since our first few days were packed.
Aside from Tsukiji, Kate also wanted to visit gardens. I did too. Luckily, Tokyo has a bunch of gardens scattered all over the city. Given this, our fourth day was focused mainly on Central and Northern Tokyo. We had three options to go to after the market: Imperial Palace and Garden, Yasukini Shrine or Koishikawa Korakuen. In the end, we chose Koishikawa Korakuen.
Tsukiji Market (築地市場, Tsukiji Shijō) is best known as one of the world’s largest fish markets, handling over 2,000 tons of marine products per day. It is scheduled to move to a new site in Toyosu in November 2016. Japan Guide: Tsukiji Market
Since we decided to skip the auction, we left at 7:30. In Shibuya Station, we rode the Ginza Line to Ginza Station. There were no escalators going to that line so we had to go up three flights of stairs. My legs were burning. At the Ginza station, we transferred to the Hibiya line to get to the Tsukiji Station.
We were equipped with maps but in the end, we just followed the crowd. Buti na lang tamang crowd ang sinundan namin, hehe. We were at the market in no time.
First, we went through the stalls looking for things to try and/ or bring back to Manila. The stalls offered different items; most sold food like fresh veggies and fruits, dried seafood and snacks but there were also who sold kitchen items.
I’m not really a fan of trying out new stuff; I think I only sampled the dried squid (which I eventually bought to bring home as pasalubong) and yummy tamago.
Content with what we saw (and craving for sushi), we headed to the sushi restaurants. Kate recommended going to the one where Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone went to but the news article we saw didn’t mention the name. We lined up to one restaurant where the line seemed acceptably short. After a few minutes though, Jeto found out that the line went around and we were actually cutting the line. Hehe. We moved to another restaurant. We realized that all these restaurants are getting the same fresh catch so their quality should be about the same.
We were seated right in front of the sushi chef. We had front row seats to the sushi-making genius of Japan! I was really blown away by their skills. With a plate waiting, one hand was molding the rice while the other was holding the topping. It was so automatic the chef looked bored. His hands were red from the ice but that didn’t bother him. Our orders were served immediately and it was time to eat!
All orders had wasabi included so I had no choice but to ingest that nasty thing. Still yummy to the tummy! These were definitely better than our sushi dinner on our first day. Please note that the yumminess of the food is directly proportional to its price. BUT IT IS WORTH IT. I PROMISE.
Koishikawa Korakuen (小石川後楽園, Koishikawa Kōrakuen) is one of Tokyo’s oldest and bestJapanese gardens. It was built in the early Edo Period (1600-1867) at the Tokyo residence of the Mito branch of the ruling Tokugawa family. Like its namesake in Okayama, the garden was named Korakuen after a poem encouraging a ruler to enjoy pleasure only after achieving happiness for his people. Koishikawa is the district in which the garden is located in. Japan Guide: Koishikawa Korakuen
We split up after our sumptuous breakfast; Jeto was meeting up with his friend while Kate and I would continue on our quest (to visit as much places as possible).
On our way to the garden, we chanced upon Tokyo Dome City. It is a complex that has a baseball stadium, an amusement park, a mall and more. What got our attention was the screams coming from the roller coaster riders; the ride was insane!
On our way, I watched a granddad teach his granddaughter to blow a dandelion. It was such precious moment.
The walk was long but bearable. We got there at around 11:45AM. We paid our tickets and I bought bread to feed the fish. Entering the garden, I felt transported to a forest outside of the city. It was just green all around. The pond had turtles and ducks aside from the fish.
The guided tour was set for after lunch pa so we just winged it. We walked along the path following the map. Most of the people with us were seniors and tourists. We found an iris field; the flowers weren’t enough to completely cover the ground but it was pretty nonetheless.
The garden was huge; just when you think you’re done exploring, you’ll stumble upon a new place. The garden recreated famous landscapes in miniature which I thought were real at first. We hiked up to see the garden at a better viewpoint and it was just refreshing. Who knew that a modern city like Tokyo could still hold this much scenery? It is inspiring how the Japanese instills their culture and history despite their fast-paced progress. As a contrast, and maybe as a reminder of reality, you can actually hear the screams from Tokyo Dome.
Ueno Park (上野公園, Ueno Kōen) is a large public park next to Ueno Station in central Tokyo. Today Ueno Park is famous for the many museums found on its grounds, especially the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Science Museum. It is also home to Ueno Zoo, Japan’s first zoological garden. Additionally, Ueno Park is one of Tokyo’s most popular and lively cherry blossom spots with more than 1000 cherry trees lining its central pathway. Japan Guide: Ueno Park
I knew of Ueno Park early because of Kit. He went there during their Japan trip in January and he loved the zoo. Naturally, I wanted to visit too! Kate was also sold because it is said to be one of the famous spots for cherry blossoms and is still beautiful even if it was not cherry blossom season.
We were really overwhelmed with the size of Ueno. We only an hour and a half for this park so I already accepted that the zoo and museums were out of the picture. We were already hungry and couldn’t find any food establishments at the entrance. We decided to just walk around until we reached the middle where food stalls were set up. We ate and then we were off to Sensoji Temple!
Sensoji (浅草寺, Sensōji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. It is one of Tokyo’s most colorful and popular temples. Japan Guide: Sensoji Temple
I especially wanted to visit Senso-ji temple because our family sort-of adheres to Buddhism and this goddess is very familiar from my childhood. If I’m not mistaken, Kannon is the goddess that also has a huge statue in Macau.
There was some ongoing construction so we weren’t able to see the Kaminarimon gate. We passed through Nakamise-dori, a street lined with stalls selling Japanese items. We looked through some hoping we can find some souvenirs but the prices were too steep for our wallets. Unlike other sites we visited, there was a huge crowd of locals and tourists moving towards the temple.
Since it was almost closing time, the locals were also in a hurry to finish prayer for the day. Holding their lighted incense, they enthusiastically offered their prayers. We lined up to see the inside main hall since it was already closed for the public. One by one, we each offered prayers when we were directly in front of the altar. I noticed people throwing coins to a wooden box and making wishes. Knowing nothing going into this place, I looked for coins in my pockets, threw one in and made a wish like a little girl. I think my wish came true 🙂
We decided to look at the other sights inside the compound. We found some food stalls and bought fresh orange juice and takoyaki.
With a height of 634 meters (634 can be read as “Musashi”, a historic name of the Tokyo Region), it is the tallest building in Japan and the second tallest structure in the world at the time of its completion. Japan Guide: Tokyo Skytree
Our plan was to be in Tokyo Skytree after sunset to get a nice evening view. It was around 6PM when we left Asakusa but the sun was still bright. Our best guess was that the sunset wouldn’t be for another hour. We also didn’t want to walk anymore because we were too tired from all the walking. We decided to skip the Skytree and just went home for some downtime i.e. leisure shopping. Truth be told though, we were only able to visit Uniqlo and Adidas. Hahaha!
After dinner, we met up with Jeto and people-watched from the Starbucks near Shibuya Crossing. 🙂
The next day, we checked out from the Airbnb and transferred our luggages to Jeto’s friend’s Airbnb. Our flight wasn’t until 11PM so we had a lot of time to shop. We headed to Shinjuku for lunch and then Harajuku for shopping until it was time to head back and get our luggages.
Overall, I can say our short Tokyo trip was a success. We made our own itinerary- took in and took out places as our trip took its course. We took our time and were able to get to go to key places that we really wanted to go to. We enjoyed the food, the culture and each other’s company. We were childhood best friends, grew up separately and this trip made me feel like nothing has changed. Cheers to more DIY trips!