On our 1st day, we headed to Akihabara or Akiba in short. Yes, it is known for its many electronics shops and is also home to Japan’s otaku(diehard fans) culture , with many shops devoted to anime, manga, figurines, video games, card games, and many other collectibles. However, our 1st mission was to have our lunch, which on the recommendation of my cool Japanese teacher Takeda Sensei, we went to this cool unagi-don restaurant where you can have grilled unagi in four different ways. You can even eat the unagi intestines!
Eel intestines soup anyone?
While shopping around after lunch (we needed some ‘exercise’ after our unagi adventure), we would always check out the 100 Yen shops around the area, like Daiso and Seria. In fact, they are actually cheaper than the $2 Daiso shops in Singapore! 100¥ is only about SG$1.30! For me, I had especially liked Seria than Daiso.
While shopping at Takashimaya Times square, the largest Taka store in the whole of Tokyo, we decided to take a break listening to the fine music that they provide. Haute couture on the shopping floor indeed!
We then had to go to this really cool and awesome place that is not in many people’s tourist itineraries. But for us arcade fans, it was definitely worth the ‘ride’ heading there! (We wondered why the heck hadn’t we been there earlier in our previous trips!)
Welcome to SEGA. JOYPOLIS.
where the car games are ones that you can really drive a LIFE-SIZED CAR and you can play games while peeing in the loo as well! Don’t believe me? Check it out here!
You might think that cycling is non-existent in Tokyo but you will be surprised that that’s not really the case. Cycling is still commonly used by some locals for commuting. Why did we choose to cycle in crowded Tokyo when transport is so convenient and train stations are everywhere? Cycling allows us to unearth unique places beyond the usual tourist spots, like the Yushima Tenjin Shrine, which is worshipped by many scholars, or the Yotsuya neighbourhood where there are lots of food that are much cheaper than the usual Tokyo prices. It was also on bicycle that I found my favourite Tai-yaki (fish-shaped Japanese pancakes with filling) store, which I have since revisited numerous times whenever I’m in Tokyo.
Renting a bicycle is also dirt cheap. We rented from Tsukuba Express station’s basement floor in Asakusa, and it was only 300yen for the entire day. Riding through the crowds was a challenge initially, but once we got used to it, we realized how patient and considerate the locals were. There were no signs of tension between the cyclists and pedestrians along the streets. Cyclists would just follow behind the crowds patiently and not ring the bell if they were stuck behind pedestrians, similarly, pedestrians would make way for cyclists when they are aware of your presence.
We didn’t catch the Maguro or Tuna Auction as it was really early in the morning at an unearthly hour at 4am and we needed some rest! My Yokohama friend Michiko recommended a good time to visit where is not too overly crowded and yet still catch the “essence” of the market is around 9am. Any earlier, it will be quite chaotic as the market will be bustling with many buyers while going any later, there will be nothing left to see. This is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and it didn’t disappoint. The wonderful variety of seafood here is just sight to behold and be in awe. Even if you’re no a sushi fan, you still gotta see this place before it moves soon.
After an hour plus of seafood sightseeing, we then headed to a sushi store located very near the market for our lunch – just a mere 50 metres away from the “action”, where fish were being cut and sliced! There is a rule that we have; the nearer the sushi store to the market, the better it is and hence our choice! The sushi at the store was soooo goooood that I ended up having an orgasmic experience at the sushi store! When Michiko asked me how it was, I could not talk and did not reply to her for like a good whole minute, just to fully and slowly savour the aftertaste of the wonderful Chutoro sushi that I had just eaten. It was that good! The fish-imbued miso soup was also so so good and the best thing was that it was complimentary at our store! It was the best sushi that I ever had. Period.
As baseball is popular in Japan, catching a baseball match would be one of the to-do items. However, being soccer fans, we opted to watch one of our favourite teams, FC Tokyo, in action. The stadium is only an hour away from central Tokyo, and the match-day mood can be witnessed on the train, with many fans donning the home team’s iconic blue jersey. There was even a replica soccer ball hanging from the ceiling at the nearest train station, showing its dedication to FC Tokyo.
Everyone was in an upbeat mood, and we managed to catch the team’s mascot, Tokyo Dorompa, a cute raccoon. The fans cheered enthusiastically throughout which was quite a contrast to matches here. What I thought was impressive and that we could have learnt a thing or two from the locals was the way they cleared their rubbish after the match, not leaving a trace behind, and the way they left the stadium in an orderly manner.
Fascinated with the convenient transport options in Japan, we went round the famous Yamanote line, the most popular and recognizable line in Tokyo that runs in a circle both clockwise and anti-clockwise. You can literally stay and fall asleep on the train for the whole day as there is no ending. There are 29 stations and it takes approximately an hour to complete one entire round. Since we had the JR pass, we exited all stations to check them out, and to take photos of each station’s signboard. Some stations were very crowded, some were in neighbourhoods which were relatively quieter. Some stations were so huge, that they have shopping centres inside the station itself, which is soooooo different from what we have in Singapore, where people enter train stations for the only purpose of travelling.
Our love for mountains brought us to the nearest mountain from central Tokyo, Mount Takao. It is good for a day trip away from the urban city. Less than an hour by train, we had a great hearty soba meal (soba is popular here, the street at the base had many soba shops) before starting our climb. On clear days, Mount Fuji can be seen in the distance. It was wonderful to have a little exercise after after all the food!