Our second full day in Tokyo started with some unfinished business. We needed two things, a solar-powered sushi chef bobble head (Yes, for real. Yes, this was for my benefit and not Carolyn’s. Yes, I have a
ridiculous huge collection of kitsch. Don’t judge me.) Near the gate of Sensoji temple there was some sort of ruckus, and being the curious nosy busybodies we are we needed to have a look. At the gate was a unite of the Tokyo Fire Department posing behind a banner with two geisha. This time we were ready and had cameras out of bags. Photos ensued. Even in the middle of an open space, these ladies are quite good at avoiding a photo.
Akihabara – because best buy isn’t big enough
The first stop of the day was Akihabara Electric City. We didn’t really have any good reason to come here, as there was absolutely no room for any electronics in our bags. The true reason we came here was to experience Tokyo’s premier electronics market. Holy cow. Akihabara does electronics right. We stopped by the wall of quarter-toy machines (except instead of a quarter it was 200 yen, that’s what, $3 or so?) and picked a few machines to get some surprises for our nieces and nephew
and my kitsch collection. After a quick look around, it was off to our next stop.
Shibuya, Shi, shi, Shibuya – ROLL CALL!
Shibuya is a place I was familiar with far before we visited Tokyo as it’s the setting of Square Enix’s The World Ends With You. As you can see from the top picture, they feature the scramble crossing that is kind of the main intersection of the area pretty extensively in the game, in real life it’s pretty similar, just way way way more densely populated. We checked out Shibuya 109 to have a look at some of the hard styling locals of Shibuya, had some nice ice cream, and oh yeah. LUNCH.
Tonkatsu Ramen – the best noodles in asia because I say so.
For lunch we stopped into a ramen-ya in Shibuya that specialized in tonkotsu ramen. I don’t even know how to start to describe tonkatsu ramen and how much I love it, so prepare for word-vomit. Tonkatsu ramen is served in a thick, meaty pork broth that I’m pretty sure has marrow in it somewhere. The flavor is rich, like the creamiest pan gravy you’ve ever tasted. The noodles have a little bit of a chewy texture, and the meat is served falling-apart tender. A bowl of this will set you back about 800 yen, but it’s worth every single solitary individual yen coin to have a bowl of this set down in front of you. A squirt of soy sauce and a little puff of shichimi set the whole thing like a fission reaction of flavor and texture that sends me into umami heaven. End word vomit.
Shinjuku – Skyscrapers and another video game setting
Shinjuku is an area of skyscrapers, shopping, food, lights, sounds, and entertainment. Our main objective was to visit the Kabukicho area. As with Shibuya, I was already kind of familiar with Kabukicho as it’s the real life counterpart to Sega’s Kamurocho from the Yakuza series. It sparkled just as much as I thought it would. It’s also where we found dinner.
Sushi in Shinjuku, or how to really overdo it.
We found a sushi-ya in Kabukicho and saw that they had an affordable plate of nigiri in the window, so of course sushi was the dinner plan. I really really wanted to be sure to get a piece of uni (sea urchin roe). All of the chefs on television make it look like it’s the best foodgasm you could possibly have, and it was pretty expensive at between 400-500 yen per piece. I had to try it. When we sat down, the menu was conspicuously missing the less expensive order of nigiri I saw in the window. The server came over and showed us how to work the electronic ordering machine, and I had him help me add an uni, because there seemed to be no uni in the picture. A few minutes later a beautiful platter of nigiri arrived, and lo and behold it had TWO pieces of uni. Well, nothing went to waste, and the uni was good. I don’t really think I’m a huge uni lover that will be talking about how amazing it is on TV or anything, but it was pretty good stuff.
At the end of the day we stopped in for a beer at the Asahi brewery and hung out next to the Sumida River for a while. Cherry blossoms were blooming on the trees behind us (but it was after dark and the camera just wouldn’t catch it right, but it did catch the boat traffic on the river pretty well.
The next morning we packed up, checked out of the Smile Hotel and went out to do just a bit of shopping before our long flight back to New York. Our stay in Tokyo was short, but it was certainly plenty sweet. Tokyo is a delicious, vibrant, and chaotic place to visit and you can’t really do it justice in three days, but if you’ve got a layover you’d be doing yourself a real disservice to just stay in Narita and order room service.