Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 20 (Friday 6/3)- Our final full day in Tokyo...

We woke up this morning feeling like we had so much we have left wanting to do and knowing we couldn't fit it all in. We still wanted to get some really good ramen, and Menya Musashi was highly recommended to us by numerous people. Adrian said there was one by Shinjuku station, so he said he would show us where it was for lunch. Score!

Since we still had this habit of getting up by 5/6am, we were already hungry by 8am, and I wanted to go to the local bread bakery "Takagi" one last time.

Here is what I picked up- Cheesy bread, and...

Japanese sausage bun

We took a shower, packed a bit more, and then headed out with Adrian to Shinjuku station. Menya Musashi was just a 5-10 minute walk from the Shinjuku West exit, and thank goodness Adrian was there to guide us because it would have been difficult to find it on our own. I took a lot of pictures, so I hope they aid you in finding it. It is definitely worth it!

Here is the storefront of Menya Musashi

You walk in and place your order in the vending machine

Once the machine drops your meal ticket, then let the ramen chefs know the # of people in your party.... they'll tell you where to sit

The interior is pretty small- all counter seating. It could possibly seat 15-18 people

Once you sit, the ramen chef asks you 2 questions- strength of broth (kotteri- heavier flavor, or assari- lighter flavor), and size of the bowl (regular or large). They mark your choice on your ticket and then start preparing your food.
When the ramen chefs make the ramen, they all sing this "chant" that was really catchy. I noticed they only do this as they're removing the hot ramen noodles from the boiling water and then they swing the basket to remove excess water from the noodles.

Darin, Adrian, and I all ordered the same thing- kotteri flavor and regular size ramen bowl. Here it is! The pork in this was decadent- extremely tender and literally fell apart. The meat melted in your mouth, and the ramen broth was amazing. Fantastic and deep flavored broth, and you could tell the pork was stewed in the flavorful broth for hours.

The egg was yummy

Mmm, ramen!

Adrian warned us of this, but as we left Menya Musashi, we were literally waddling out of the restaurant. Definitely carb-overloaded, all we wanted to do was find the nearest bench and go to sleep. Adrian headed off to work, and Darin and I had about 30 minutes before we planned to meet Naomi to go to Meiji Jingu Shrine in Harajuku.

Before I tell you what we did next, can I just mention how crazy hectic Shinjuku station is?
  1. In 2007, 3.64 million people used it daily- When we were there (which was often, and almost daily while we were in Tokyo), it was easy to lose someone in the crowds of people if you weren't focused
  2. It is still one of the busiest train stations in the world (based on the # passengers that enter/exit)
  3. It is easy to get lost, yet the signage is really good- just keep focused, and you'll be fine
  4. I could seriously live underground- with the amount of restaurants, cafes, shopping, and department stores- why would I ever have to leave underground?
OK, back to the blog...
To pass the time before we met up with Naomi, we window-shopped at Odakyu department store in Shinjuku. I passed by this rack of what looked like baby clothes made of terry cloths, but wondered why it was located in the kitchen goods area. Can you guess what it is?

These are actually hand towels! Instead of a regular towel, you can just hang these terry "dresses" as actual hand towels in your bathroom. I loved the idea, but at $25 per towel, I moved on.

We purchased a few things for the home, and hopped on the train to meet Naomi. We walked to Meiji Jingu Shrine- Wow, I am so glad we came here as it has become one of our favorite shrines we have visited on our entire trip, and it's conveniently located right in Tokyo (Harajuku area). Meiji Jingu Shrine is located adjacent to Yoyogi Park, and it was a great relaxing stroll. Since it is heavily covered with trees, it blocked out Tokyo's sun and was pretty cool temperature-wise. It was so relaxing and beautiful! You didn't even feel like you were still in Tokyo. Here is the entrance to Yoyogi Park (which you need to walk through to get to Meiji Jingu Shrine)

A relaxing stroll...

Halfway through Yoyogi Park, there was a "rest stop" that sold souvenirs and food. Right before the rest stop, there were barrels and barrels of sake- they were so colorful and beautifully painted

Naturally, Darin found more soft-serve ice cream. The flavors were (L-R): Vanilla milk, Green tea, Salted milk, Strawberry milk, Sweet miso, Orange Sherbert

Naomi got the Salted Milk

Some of the soft-serve machines are really different in Japan. Instead of being made in a machine, the soft-serve is actually in a plastic cup, which is inserted into the manual machine. The handle is pushed down, and pushes the soft-serve through a shaped mold to make the soft-serve "lines"

Darin ordered the Vanilla milk

I got the Sweet Miso (which didn't taste like miso at all....)

Once we finished eating (I feel like that is all we did in Japan), we made our way to Meiji Jingu Shrine- it was beautiful. The entrance is marked by a large wooden torii gate.

Here we are approaching the shrine:

The shrine had these beautiful wooden doors

The Shrine was exhibiting a bonsai exhibit

The main reason why I wanted to come here was to pick up an omamori- mamori means to protect, and these are small amulets to protect someone. They are usually specific to the cause- sickness, safe travel, entrance to college or passing a test, etc. These are supposed to bring good luck and ward off bad luck. Many Japanese people purchase new omamori every year on New Year's Day, and return the previous year's omamori back to the Shrine to be disposed of correctly. They normally carry it in their car (if it's for safe travels), or more commonly in their wallets or purses or bags. I specifically picked this up for a close friend's mother- it is a Prayer to protect the bearer from diseases, injury, suffering, or worry of any kind.

We toured the Shrine, and then took the train home. Darin and I were so tired, and we didn't have dinner plans to have sushi until 10:15pm, so we ended up taking a nap... I ended up napping sleeping for 3.5 hours! I groggily got up at 9:45pm, and off we went to Fujizushi, a local popular sushi house by Naomi's home. My uncle used to live in the Nakano home, and he befriended the sushi chef here. The sushi chef and his wife run this restaurant, and they have a son who worked as an apprentice with Morimoto, the Iron Chef. Pretty cool! The sushi house is quite small (what Japanese restaurant isn't?) and reservations are definitely needed!

Naomi ordered the "Ume Sour" drink- A sour drink with 2 pieces of umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum)

When Naomi placed our reservation, she ordered us the sashimi omakase set- omakase means "chef's choice", and usually entails the day's fresh caught fish (whatever was brought in for the day). We had plate after plate of sashimi and seafood brought to us. Here are some of the pictures:

Large picture of some of the sushi

We planned to do some fireworks following dinner,but my stomach started hurting and we ended up going home :( As we were falling asleep, we felt another strong aftershock. Our bodies were shaking as we lied on the futon, but we eventually drifted off into sleep.


jacqui + erik said...

that ramen sounds amazing!!! omg i want it!!!! i searched for it too, and i think i found it (another long link):

so i have added it to our list of things to eat! and thanks for telling us about kotteri and assari! i don't know those words yet in japanese hahaha...we will be ordering the same thing as you though i think! seriously looks soooo good :)

those "hand towels" are too cute! and we loved the meiji jingu shrine/garden area so much. we would always walk through it. it's so peaceful and gorgeous with the tall trees.

and i was happy to read you got the miso flavor soft serve! when i saw it, i knew that would be the one i would pick too, but i was sad to hear it didn't taste like miso! :( bummer!

Sara said...

Hi Jacqui- really, this ramen was so so good! And yes, the link you put in your comments is correct- that was Menya Musashi.

I hope you like it when you're there! My sister Naomi calls it "ramen shop with the hot guys"- I'll let you be the judge :)

Anonymous said...

Heh, that sausage bun looks like an ebi tempura!

I'll have to check out that ramen place, since my post-tour Tokyo base will be just south of Shinjuku Station (So many places to try, so little free time).

BTW, my packing cubes from eBags arrived today! Planning to test them out on a trip to L.A. soon. Thanks for the heads up on them!


Sara said...

Khyron82- I hope you find it- it was a fantastic place. The packing cubes are wonderful- they kept my clothes neat and organized... especially near the end of the trip where Darin's clothes were everywhere (and he couldn't tell which ones were clean vs. dirty), but mine were all neat and organized due to the cubes. I hope you like them as much as I did.

Anonymous said...

Sara - Actually, your first photo of Menya Mushashi ramen shop makes it a bit easier to find, mostly because we can see it's next to the Sakura House foreigner apartments. The Lonely Planet Guide specifically calls out the location of the Sakura House on the Shinjuku Station area map (Page 110, #53(?) on the 2009 version), and having a Tully's Coffee across the street is a good landmark for the alleyway.

That's all I can find as far as any mention of the ramen shop in the Tokyo guidebooks I have, so thanks again for the photo tour!


Anonymous said...

HI Sarah

I have so enjoyed reading your blog and am so sad its had to come to an end. Your pictures are fantastic and so clear, did you use an slr?
Thanks again for letting us share your trip, we are so excited about our trip but its not till November.
Sue - Australia
Shasuu Travel Forum

Sara said...

Hi Sue, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I thoroughly enjoyed writing it as well.

As for the pictures, we used both an SLR and point & shoot, but the majority of the pictures were shot with a point & shoot camera because it was easier to whip it out.