Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 14 (Saturday 5/28)- Off to Tokyo, Day #2...

We got up this morning and headed to Tsukiji Fish Market. The Tsukiji Fish Market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. I wanted to go to the fish auction (which starts at 4/4:30am), but ever since the earthquake/tsunami, I was told that this was closed off to foreign visitors :( Apparently, it's quite the sight to see. Within the market, there is an "inner market" (where the auction and processing of fish take place) and "outer market" (retail shops and restaurants). I had read blogs and seen pictures of these enormous fish that weights hundred of pounds, and was excited to see this fish market in action.

The Fish Market was located pretty much right outside the Tsukiji Shijo train station. Just follow the signs at the station to get to the Fish Market

We arrived there around 9:00am, and I was pretty disappointed. I had hoped to see all these large fish and bountiful seafood, and I barely saw any. I guess it could have been because the fish auction was already over? What I did notice how busy the market was. Carts and trucks whizzed by you constantly, and it was a fairly large area.

Since we didn't get to see the fish auction, we went to the outer market and saw lots of small stands selling restaurant supplies, food, and fresh produce. For instance, edamame

There were lots of restaurants (offering fresh sushi, of course)

We did manage to see some fish, but this was pretty much the extent of it

One of the most popular and most talked about restaurants located at Tsukiji Fish Market is called Sushi Dai. All the restaurant names are written in kanji, so make sure you know what the restaurant you want to go to looks like (Google Image it online). Just an fyi- Sushi Dai had a large line by 9:30am!

Here is line extending past the restaurant around the corner

Here is the kanji storefront for "Sushi Dai"

Other sushi restaurants

For more in-depth information, visit here. I would really like to visit the actual fish auction the next time we're here.

We ended up taking the train back to the Shinjuku area, and decided to see if we wanted to grab a bite at Takashimaya department store.

The Japanese department stores are so beautifully decorated, spacious, and you don't feel cramped

Ahh, shoes!

The Shinjuku Takashimaya department store has 14 regular floors and 2 basement floors!

We went down to basement floors to look for some lunch, and some of the department stores still have the "elevator guides" in them to assist you. These "elevator guides" main job is to greet you as you enter the elevator, press the button to take you to your appropriate floor, and thank you as you leave the elevator.

There were a ton of shops in the basement floors, but we just wasn't feeling anything.

I forgot how expensive fruit in Japan can be- 2 mangoes for ¥1,050 for $13~!

This Takashimaya department store also has a floor for the ABC Cooking Studio- I briefly looked into taking a Japanese cooking course for Darin and I, but decided we just didn't have the time to do it.

Doesn't it look like fun though?

It was getting around 1pm, so we decided to grab a quick lunch. We had ventured into a McDonald's last week, and they had this burger that's not sold in the US- the "Mega Mac" sandwich. It's essentially a Big Mac sandwich, but it's got twice the amount of beef patties (4 patties)! Darin has been talking about wanting to "conquer" this sandwich (¥710- $9- for the meal), so we thought he'd give this a try today. I ordered a "Shrimp Burger" meal, which was just a bit cheaper than Darin's. I can't remember the last time I spent $20 at a McDonald's- yikes.
This McDonald's had 3 floors- the first floor was where you order (and the 2nd and 3rd floor were all seating)

We then walked to the 2nd floor to grab a seat. Luckily we found an empty table (it was quite packed). Here is Darin's Mega Mac sandwich

Here is my Shrimp Burger

We were sitting next to these 2 teenage girls, who literally each had a suitcase. They were dressed REALLY outrageous (think: Harajuku- lots of makeup, jewelry, and loud clothing). When we first sat down, they had a ton of makeup/jewelry on, and during lunch, they were removing the makeup, jewelery, and putting them into their suitcases. (I asked my 22yo cousin Ayumi about this, and she said that many high school students go to school in their uniforms with their suitcases, and then after classes are over, they change into "after school" gear to go out with friends... interesting...) Here, she is just about done putting all her stuff away into her suitcase

Did Darin conquer the sandwich? No problem for him

After lunch, we decided to go to Akihabara, which is known as the "Electronics District". The Akihabara train station had these pink floor guides to take you the "Electric Town" street.

Once we got off at the station, they were not kidding. There were hugely tall buildings that contained more electronics that I've had wanted to see. We went there in the afternoon, but I can only imagine the use of electricity to not only light the interior of these stores, but the neon signs that light exterior of the store? Geesh.

This area is known to have anime/manga maid cafes (where maids serve you drinks/food)- here is one promoting the cafe

There were many girls dressed like this to promote their cafe or store

We didn't know which store to visit, but ended up going to Sofmap

This store had 7-8 floors full of electronics- video games, camcorders, cameras, toys, PCs, etc. It was seriously a Best Buy on crack with 7-8 floors. Every floor looked like this with a ton of advertising and signs. I was literally getting seasick. How can people even process all this wording?

Here we see a silver PS3

A 3D camcorder

Darin looking at teeny tiny tablets

This tablet had the QWERTY keyboard as well as the Japanese hiragana keyboard

A full wall of headphones

A Japanese iPod Touch with Japanese apps

There were quite a bit of toys and dolls- I'm assuming these are from anime (animation), manga (comics), or video games?

... And then there were more "adult" dolls as well

Can you imagine these being sold at your local Best Buy?

Then there were manga (comics) dolls as well

We went on every floor, and it was a lot of fun to see what kinds of electronics were being sold in Japan.

We then left Sofmap and went into Animate, which is an all anime and manga store, down the street from Sofmap.

I thought I was seasick before- I have never seen so many magazines and comics in 1 building

There were so many floors of this. Floor after floor.

After a few floors, we got the gist of the store, so we took the elevator down to the ground level. Even the elevator was plastered with comics promotion and solicitations

Our next stop was Harajuku. Harajuku is known for its extreme Japanese teenage girl fashion. They were not kidding about this. Once we got off the train, we entered Takeshita Street.

It was raining but it was still super crowded. We just saw a see of umbrellas

One of the stores we went into had a full wall of these. I'm assuming its the equivalent to cards of celebrities you can collect and place on your bedroom wall?

We also passed a McDonald's near the entrance and they were selling "Flavor Burst" soft-serve, but Darin passed (maybe the Mega Mac really did make him full).

They did look good though, I must say

Takeshita Street was full of hair accessories, shoes, and clothing stores

A store dedicated to just socks and tights

The fashion ranged from conservative to out there

We passed by this clothing shop which we originally thought was a costume shop. Turns out, this store is for real- not a costume shop at all

This store was so awesome

A teenage jewelry store

We saw lots of pink and frills everywhere

There were even goth-like stores

And teenage lingerie stores

We went into a store called "SoLaDo", which had just about everything girly you can imagine. I would have loved this in my teenage years

I was so surprised to see a ton of crepe eateries. Takeshita Street isn't huge, and we must have passed 5-6 crepe eateries

They all looked so good- there were savory and sweet crepes

I was surprised to really enjoy Harajuku's Takeshita Street. Yes, it was a bit out there and definitely aimed for teenage girls, but it was fun to see the outfits and what was considered "popular".

Next, we went to Omotesando Street. What a world of a difference. The street is lined with trees, and has much more of a classy vibe. Definitely upscale shopping here with high-end designers lining the street (Bulgari, Gucci, Prada, etc).

We went into a store called "Oriental Bazaar"- they sell traditional Japanese items, but quite expensive

We were pretty much soaked by the time we got back to the hotel, so we took a shower, rested and relaxed a bit, and then headed out for dinner. We hadn't had really good tempura (Japanese deep-fried vegetables, seafood), and heard great things about a restaurant called Tsunahachi near Shinjuku. Since the Japanese address system is so confusing, we decided to grab a taxi from the hotel to take us to the restaurant. He input the address into the taxi GPS, and even the GPS couldn't figure it out. From reading reviews, I had a good idea in the general vicinity where the restaurant was located, so I asked him to take us there and we'd walk on our own to find it.

We were just aimlessly walking around, taking in the Tokyo nightlife, and... found it!

Some of the meal sets were posted outside of the restaurant, and yes- there was a line

We were patiently waiting outside in line, and when it was close to our turn, we were able to peer into the restaurant to get a glimpse

Once we got inside, we were taken to the indoor seating area. Darn!

The downstairs was a small room (maybe 8-10 tables in a separate dining area) as well as counter seating where the chefs make the food in front of you

We specifically asked for counter seating in the non-smoking section (which is located upstairs). Once we were seated, we were given an English menu. We both ordered the Tempura Zen meal set ($25 pp)

There were other meal sets too

You could also order tempura a la carte

... and seasonal tempura

I thought this was neat- they had an "umbrella area", where they will place your umbrella into a numbered bag

We started off our meal with a hot oshibori (wet hand towel), which is very common in Japanese restaurants. Here, we had a warmed hand towel to wipe our hands before dinner

We loved the counter seating- we were able to see our food being cooked right in front of us

At the counter was a stacked seasoning set
The 1st jar was empty with a scoop- this is where you could place your seasoning for yourself

This is wasabi salt- neat, isn't it?

Rock salt

Black pepper

We got some grated daikon (Japanese horseradish), which you place into the tempura tsuyu (dipping broth)

They also served us this grated Japanese horseradish with ume (Japanese pickled plum)- this was delicious! This ume horseradish is not placed into the tempura dipping broth; instead, you dip your tempura right into this and eat it

Here, one of the chefs cooking up some tempura

2 pieces of shrimp, tsuyu (tempura dipping broth) with horseradish placed inside (left), and regular horseradish (right)

Every time he cooked some tempura, he'd add some to our plates. Thus, we were constantly getting fresh tempura placed on our plates. Here is our eel tempura

This miso soup had mini clams in it, and was one of the best miso soups my mouth has ever had the pleasure of encountering

Tsunahachi was delicious, and definitely lived to the positive reviews we read online.

Once dinner was over, we decided to walk the streets a little and take in some of the nightlife. Since Japan is trying to conserve energy, we had read that the lights were as bright as it once were. (You can see the difference in a video here.) Definitely a bit disappointing since I used to love seeing all the bright lights that literally illuminated the area, but I understood why.

We stopped at some stores, a bookstore, and a few small shops and then headed back to Shinjuku station. I needed another chocolate croissant from Choco Cro! We also stopped by Maplies Bakery in Shinjuku station, which offered reasonable and delicious cakes. I love Japanese cakes since they aren't super sweet- just right.

We were able to catch the last hotel shuttle back to the hotel, and pretty much crashed after eating the cake.


jacqui + erik said...

wow! i never knew how edamame looked while growing, so that was really cool to see :) we plan to go there too! maybe we will eat at that popular sushi place lol...if the line isn't a mile long >_<

that burger darin ate at mcdonalds was cracking me up!!! erik probably would have done the same thing, and i would have been with you with the ebi burger! YUM! that looked so good! and i love akihabara because it's like looking into the future lol! all those electronics that we dont have! they are so advanced from us.

i can't imagine what takeshita street must have been like with umbrellas! it's already so packed without them! wow...what a cool pic you got though. it really did look like a sea of umbrellas. and those ice cream cones looked AMAZING! i think in the hot summer i will be eating a fair share of soft serve ice cream lol...

oh and that tempura at the end. wow...looked so good. and so cool that it was always hot because of the way they served it to you! so smart. maybe we will try to find that place too! :) i have never seen miso like that! erik and i both thought it looked really interesting and good :)

Nicola and Scott said...

Awww Sara . . . you've made my Japan blues worse!! I absolutely love your blog and you have some fantastic photos.

When are you going back???? . . . I'm already planning my trip and now I want to do some of the stuff you did! The list of things to do is getting longer by the day haha.

Glad you had a great time

Sara said...

I know, right? I want to go back so badly already. Darin said- let's just go back to Japan next year for our vacation!

Thanks to you both Nicola and Jacqui for the sweet comments :)