The Japan Journal - Day 1 & 2

T O K Y O Districts covered: Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku 12/12/15 "Welcome to Narita international airpot, Tokyo. The local time...

T O K Y O

Districts covered: Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku

12/12/15

"Welcome to Narita international airpot, Tokyo. The local time is 10 in the morning with temperatures of 13 degrees..."

My attention trailed off as I looked out the slightly frosted plane window. My excitement bubbled over as clear blue skies and a sunny horizon were in full view. (I'm like a plant, I thrive when the sun is out). 

Luggages collected and ready to take on Tokyo, we met with our driver who's English was rather impressive. He told us the weather has been unusually warm so far this winter, and just the day before, it went up to 23 degrees. Global warming is real guys. 

After settling into the hotel, our tummies were rumbling so we asked the concierge which is the ramen (of course) place around here. Without hesitation, they suggested Ichiran Ramen which is right around the corner from our hotel. We stayed in the heart of Shibuya, at Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu, which I would definitely recommend for its service and convenience. Plus, you'll get an awesome birds eye view of the infamous Shibuya Crossing which is said to be the busiest crossing in the world where pedestrians scramble and merge together like an army of ants to get to the other side of the road. 


There's just something about an empty pedestrian crossing that sends the perfect message to just stop, look up, and look around every once in awhile despite the hustle and bustle of your day.



Anyways, back to the FOOD! Ichiran Ramen is definitely a must try when you're in Japan. Not going to lie, the queue was pretty long and the wait would've been a good half an hour if they didn't direct the people who were towards the front of the line to another outlet. So we managed to order and get a seat within the next few minutes. In Japan, you'll get the hang of ordering from a vending machine as most small eateries use this technology in replacement of waiters/waitresses. Once you've got your 'coupons' for your order, you get to customise the taste of your ramen. E.g. noodle texture, soup flavour, soup consistency, spiciness level, etc. As for the seating, you have a small little booth to yourself where your meal will be served through a little window that closes once all your food has been served. It's all pretty claustrophobic, but it is very common for small eateries in Tokyo to have limited seating capacity due to how dense this city is. 



The flavour of this broth was unbelievably satisfying. I slurped my way through the noodles and soup (slurping is actually polite in Japan as it is a way to show that the food is good) and could see the bottom of my bowl by the time I was finished.


We decided to take a train down to Harajuku (1 stop from Shibuya via the JR Yamanote line) because the subway route map that we get from the hotel seemed organised and straightforward. Boy were we wrong. There are different entrances for different lines that are not in close vicinity, which makes it confusing when all you want to do is purchase a ticket. Once we were at the right entrance, purchasing a ticket was a struggle as each ticket covers a certain distance and you would pay according to the section you were travelling to. We learnt that asking for directions and help is the least stressful way to go, and thankfully, every Japanese we've encountered when asking for help were so polite and really tried their best to be helpful. After our first successful purchase of our tickets, we felt a bit more confident in the subway system.

Takeshita Street is situated right opposite Harajuku station, and is the main shopping street where you'll find both locals and tourists wandering around. It was a Saturday, and it sure was packed. Here, you'll find fashion mainly for teenagers, and a five storey Daiso where everything is 100 yen (108 yen including tax) unless stated. I might have bought more socks than I needed... 


There are a number of crepe shops along Takeshita Street, and there always seems to be a short queue. The exterior of the stall is always decorated with crepe displays of all sorts of flavours and fillings, enticing passers by to indulge in some sweet (AND savoury!) crepes. You will be spoilt for choice, and with me being an indecisive 'anything-goes' kind of person, I asked mum to choose. So she ordered the tiramisu crepe, and the textures all went together perfectly, especially the spongey cake with the chocolate layer. It wasn't too sweet, but on the down side, there was a lot of cream. I reckon a better option would've been a crepe with fruit filling to make this light dessert less sinful.


Also, be prepared to see vending machines on every street. I love how it dispenses hot drinks too! By the end of the trip, I had an obsession with trying to find vending machines that dispensed matcha latte because that is seriously the best thing ever. I probably drank it more than water... 


Dinner was back in Shibuya, recommended by our hotel. The restaurant is called Han No Daidokuru located on level 4 of the Dogenzaka Center Building situated next to Uniqlo. It's a Japanese BBQ (Yakiniku) restaurant, which seemed very similar to Korean BBQ but the taste and quality of the beef was exceptional. I didn't take many photos because we were too busy cooking our meat, but this photo pretty much sums everything up:




We also ordered a Japanese bibimbap dish, served in a claypot and topped with a raw egg. I love bibimbap (and eggs) so this was one of my favourite dishes.




13/12/15

Day 2 revolved around Shinjuku, but before that, breakfast! There were hundreds of eateries near our hotel, and we were spoiled for choice. We settled for a small eatery that mainly served the typical ramen. My parents and brother ordered the ramen, which was almost as good as Ichiran Ramen! They chose the 'white soup' option as opposed to the 'red soup', and the broth was immensely tasty. 



I ordered a rice dish consisting of some BBQ sliced pork, and I ordered an egg separately to go with my meal because I love my eggs, especially Japanese onsen eggs!! <3  


We caught the subway to Shinjuku, which is only 2 train stops away (after Harajuku & Yoyogi) from Shibuya via the JR Yamanote line. Our first stop in Shinjuku was Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo's largest parks. We were very lucky that we managed to catch the lingering colours of autumn, as the trees boasted their fiery colours. Some however, were in sync with the dreary winter season and bore no leaves. 




And I'm secretly Mary Poppins

After roaming around and capturing some beautiful shots for about 2 hours, we took a walk to Takashimaya which resembled building blocks of designer stores piled high, along with a whole floor of restaurants. Right outside Takashimaya was a sneaker shop which reeled me in like a fish on a hook. It's called Sports Lab, and I spent longer than I expected just trying on shoes I didn't need an admiring all them limited edition Nikes. 



I walked out of the store, proud that I resisted from buying more shoes (although I bought two by the end of the trip). Dad wanted to try a Tonkastsu restaurant in Takashimaya, so tempura it was. This dish that mum ordered was some form of pork katsu submerged in some light gravy/soup, as if it the pork was fried then steamed along with egg. It was great. 



After our tummies were filled, we headed to Hanazono Jinja Shrine (Hanazono literally translates to flower garden), which was only a 10min walk from Takashimaya. Alternatively, if you are coming from Shinjuku station, you could head to the shrine first as it is also only a 10min walk from the station. 




As it was winter, the sky starts to dim at around 4:30-5pm, making the days seem shorter than usual.


Ah, doesn't the subway look so peaceful?




Don't be fooled. During peak hour, the trains are packed to the 'brim' where your face will be squished against the door if you're the lucky last to board the train. In fact, during peak hour, one does not simply board the train. It's the Hunger Games Tokyo edition, where you need to fight (politely) to earn a place on the train during peak hour, even though the train comes ever three minutes... 

Dinner was recommended by the hotel, a restaurant famous for their sashimi. But unfortunately I can't seem to remember the name of the restaurant :( I'm not a huge fan of seafood, but give me salmon or tuna sashimi and I'll be a happy little vegemite. My parents and brother ordered a seasonal course, which looked like this:


Snippets of the courses:

Salmon sashimi (yum)


Assorted sushi (yum, although there were a few sashimi names I had never heard of, which made me uneasy because I didn't know what I was trying).


Sea urchin (ew, the sight of it and its texture turned me off instantly)


Since I wasn't a huge fan of seafood, I opted for the safe option and ordered sushi because you can't go wrong with that!


Check out the vlog from day 1 & 2! :) 


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