Headed to Tokyo - lots of palaces, temples and mochi!
Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 3 of 14 › view all entries
After a decent buffet breakfast at the hotel, we got on our bus and headed to the Imperial Palace. It is the home of Emperor Akihito and other members of the royal family. We were told that the palace was practically destroyed during the air raids in 1945 (despite the popular belief that the ponds of goldfish in the palace would "scare" away the bombs). We then headed to Asakusa - where Tokyo's oldest temple is located (the Senso-Ji Temple). There was a lovely shopping arcade here selling a myriad of Japanese sweet treats (mochi, red bean cakes, etc.) and souvenirs. Our guide led us to a hidden little restaurant where I had fresh tofu and seafood casserole (delish!). After our lunch we had some time to explore and shop a little, and we also refreshed our spirits by some prayer at the temple.
We then headed to Ginza Street for more shopping (very much like Vegas shopping or LA shopping - fancy stores and malls at shocking prices)! The highlight there was this little store that sold these mochi wrapped around the largest, most plump strawberries ever, with a thin layer of red bean. It was a juicy delight! Unfortunately you have to eat them the same day so we couldn't bring any home for family and friends. But they were amazing! I also treated myself to a little gift at the Dior shop. (If you can't treat yourself while you are on vacation, when can you? - that's my motto!) After a few hours at Ginza, we went to the Meiji Shrine which is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.
In the evening, we checked into the Keio Plaza Hotel - again, a well sized hotel room, similar to a Sheraton in the U.S. In the lobby, they had several desplays of Chirimen dolls - intricately made cloth dolls in beautiful bright colors. After a quick rest, we headed into the city to explore the yakitori alleys and stores. We had a quick snack at the "standing sushi" restaurant (based on Ellen's recommendation) - a relatively affordable sushi bar, where you literally had to stand and order pieces of sushi. (super fresh and yummy - i still remember the toro and uni ... mmmm). We then explored the underground shops and cafes and had a impromptu picnic of pastries and salads. On our way back to the hotel we did see many really drunk japanese men being supported by their drinking buddies as they sang and stumbled down the streets - quite funny, really since these were obviously businessmen who were finally "letting loose".
On the next day, before our tour began around 9am - we snuck out and took the subway to the Tsukiji Fish Market - where sushi chefs go get their pick of the freshest seafood of the day. Unfortunately tourists can no longer view the auctions, but we were able to walk through the actual market and it was amazing! The tuna was larger than me! My mom was so cute in her excitement - this was her first subway ride ever! We managed to pick a restaurant adjacent to the market (www.ichibasushi.com) and had the "ladies luncheon" - even though it was about 6am! There was so much food and everything was super fresh! This was a wonderful experience and highly recommended! I'm so glad we did this, even though it was a bit weird eating sushi so early in the morning, while still recovering from jetlag.
After our huge meal, we went back to meet our tour group for some coffee and fruit. Then we all headed out to see the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office - not that interesting - I think we were supposed to be able to see Mu. Fuji but that didn't happen.