Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tokyo Experience: Tokyo Tower, Tsukiji Market, Imperial Palace

3 months later and I'm still blogging about my Japan trip! =)) This is the last but not the least post!

My Tokyo volunteer guide, Chiaki, fetched me on my hotel's lobby. Months before our actual meeting, we've been emailing each other back and forth about my day 3 itinerary in Tokyo. We agreed on a Tokyo midtown tour from morning until the afternoon. I already had my quick breakfast at the nearby 7/11 before meeting her.

The first stop on our list is Tsukiji Fish Market, it is the busiest and largest fish market in Japan. I'm lucky to be able to visit it this year because there are plans to move it to a new location.

Alight Tsukiji train station, turn left to Ginza area and cross the pedestrian
One of the main attractions in Tsukiji Market is the live tuna auction that happens daily at 5AM. I've read that they serve the first 120 people and registration starts at 4:30AM, I decided to skip this. 
inside Tsukiji Market
Chiaki and I arrived at 9AMish, its the time when the auction is already closed but there were still a lot of trucks and trolleys roaming and delivering goods. Its amazing to see various seafood, especially ginormous fishes displayed on stalls. We're not allowed to take photos but its okay.

outer market
There are plenty of sushi and ramen restaurants on the outer market area but  even after walking for 2 hours, I wasn't able to burn my breakfast. I was able to sample some free taste items but I didn't have a proper sushi breakfast :(

Next on the must see list is Tokyo Tower, a communications and observation tower and a popular symbol of Tokyo. Because I'm a cheapskate, I didn't bother to pay an entrance fee to the observation tower. Chiaki, led me to a beautiful park near Zozoji Temple where I was able to take good shots of the tower and these colorful flowers!
flower power!
From Onarimon Station,  we went to Tokyo Station. The interior can be both confusing and amusing as it has different train lines for intercity and Shinkansen or bullet trains bound for other areas in Japan. The exterior is amazing, the red brick building looks anything but a train station!
train station or old school building?
After a long walk on Marunouchi, the business area, we've finally seen the long stretch of pine trees that will lead to the Imperial Palace
Pine trees, everywhere!
We're able to view the famous Nijubashi bridge. It literally means "double bridge", when you look closely on the front of the bridge, you'll notice that its actually 2 separate bridges (Stone Bridge of the Main Gate and Steel Bridge of the Main Gate) that appears as one.
Monopod-ing in Tokyo
Being a monarchy junkie, I was thrilled to visit a place where an actual Emperor/King lives. The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the main residence of the emperor. Because of that, the inner grounds of the palace is only open for official state guests and to the public on  the "People's visit to the Palace for New Year Greetings (2nd of January) and on the Emperor's Official Birthday(23rd of December). 

Imperial Palace
Japan is famous for their "omiyage culture" or travelers bringing souvenir gifts for those who did not make the trip. I don't know if its an Asian thing but Filipinos are also into giving "pasalubongs" in a form of food or trinkets, usually key chains LOL,  that can be shared with family members, friends and co-workers. I've noticed that its a big tourism thing in Japan, they even have "meibutsu" or products associated per region.

A perfect example is the famous Japan pasalubong, Kitkat! I've stumbled upon the green tea, strawberry, red bean, orange and cheesecake variety from the Narita airport, Don Quijote in Akihabara and convenience stores. I've read that other flavors are assigned to Osaka, Nagoya and Kyoto based on their specialty.
 I went home with this Hello Kitty eco bag filled with souvenirs!
hand carry =))
Speaking of Hello Kitty, Japan's kawaii ambassador, I've found these dolls and interchangeable clothes from Harajuku Daiso!
for my inaanaks
I also bought a box of chocolate mochi from Harajuku. I swear, I wanted to buy all the food boxes on the basement stores and train stations but I only have 2 hands to carry my baggage.
Choco mochi!!
Most of my souvenir shopping was done in Nakamise-dori in Asakusa. I've bought several Kokeshi, geisha and ninja figures!

I also bought a ceramic maneki-neko/beckoning cat, a popular Japanese lucky charm. You'll  notice that the bottom part is round, which makes it constantly moving. My guide said that its movement is to symbolize "come lucky, come".

 .. and a red lantern wind chime!
Kaminarimon symbol
 I found a lot of quirky gifts from Don Quijote in Akihabara. The ninja eye masks and One Piece cards for my cousin since I wasn't able to find Nami's poster or a Pokemon manga.

Tokyo is a big and fascinating city, 4 whole days wasn't enough to fully explore it. I barely completed half of the walking tours, I guess that's another reason to wait for a seatsale and go back to Japan!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Tokyo Experience: Shibuya Crossing, Hachiko, Tower Records

From Takeshita Dori, my guide Kumi and I walked to Omote-sando, the Champ's-Elysees of Tokyo or Greenbelt area of Makati =)).  We passed by a no soup ramen store, which is the trend these days, too bad that I was sooo busog to try it.

When I saw the big, yellow, Tower Records sign, I asked my guide if we can enter inside. Of course, she agreed. I was really excited to go to Shibuya as a CNBLUE fangirl because they have spent their indie days playing in the streets of Shibuya and Shinjuku. I asked the receptionist for "CNBLUE?" and she said that it's on the 5th floor. If I remember correctly, the entire building is for Tower Records only and it has 8 floors! Shibuya branch is said to be the biggest music store in Japan. 

When we reached the 5th floor or the Asian section, I spotted the isle for CNBLUE, during that time they're promoting the "Truth" mini album. It's so good to be a Japanese Boice, this band releases Japanese albums every 3 months or so! 
Can't stop me now...
CNBLUE has a lot of Korean and Japanese albums plus live concert DVDs! I've spent more than 30 minutes in choosing which should I buy! I was supposed to buy 1 but when I computed, its cheaper than the album price in Manila. My 60 year old guide, Kumi,  was scoffing me that "oh, you like k-pop boyband!" I had to outburst "they're a band, they write their own songs!" =)) I always liked their Japanese albums but I've went out of the store with their 2 latest Korean albums, Re:Blue and Can't Stop plus the "Japan Best: Present" compilation album. Its expensive to be a fan girl!
After 30 minutes or so of leisurely walk in Aoyama-Dori, we finally reached Shibuya's world-famous pedestrian crossing. Just like in the movie "Lost in Translation", its surreal to be with the sea of humanity and walk on the coolest intersection while under the neon lights and big video screens. 
Shibuya Scramble
No trip in Shibuya is complete without visiting Hachiko's statue. The movie about the most loyal dog, Hachi, is the only film to date, that my guys friends admit they shed tears to. 
After spending 6 hours together, my guide and I agreed that its time for me to explore Shibuya! I was supposed to go to a cafe that prints 3D models but I ended up shopping in Uniqlo. Yes, we also have this store in Manila but I've found their "Omiyage" or Tokyo souvenir collection too cute! With my pocket wifi and Google maps on hand, I tried searching for that cafe again but my feet was already protesting. I saw this rotating sushi restaurant and I finally gave up on my 3D cafe saga.
Rotating sushiii
My sister and I always wanted to eat on this kind of restaurant but its not very popular in Manila. I think there's one in MOA but its too far from our place. I automatically sent this photo to my sister thru Viber.
Wish you were here=))
I was still full from the Tonkatsu meal in Harajuku so I only ordered this massive ebi/shrimp and avocado sushi. I love the details on the mug, sushi overload!