view out of the hotel room, it's raining.
We woke up to a rainy day. Looking out the window from our hotel room, I saw people walking on the streets with umbrellas. The train track is right next to the hotel and we could see trains go by. It turned out that the hotel has access to the subway underground, so we didn't even have to get wet going to the station. For brunch, we walked back to the Shimbashi train station and checked out the fine food markets inside. There was a small supermarket where last night I took the photo of the very expensive honeydew melons. Along the market are many stalls of various food vendors selling all kinds of good looking foods. It was very hard to decide on what to buy, everything looked good or interesting. We had to make a decision, so we did. See photos for what we ended up.
The train tracks right next to the hotel.
I must say mine was very tasty, costing about 1200 yen, We wanted to find a place to sit and eat, and almost gave up and went back to the hotel before seeing the cafe near the hotel, and gave it a try. Kevin got a latte and I got a cup of tea. Not having many other customers inside with many free tables, we just ate our brunch there.
Well stuffed, we set up to find the fish market. It didn't look very far from the hotel on the map, and it was probably a 15-20 minute walk because we had to look for streets to turn on etc. I even asked directions at a small eatery. But I think her direction was not the most direct route. Kevin thought his navigtion would have taken us directly to the main entrance anyway. We walked through some streets which didn't look very pedestrain, up an overpass to cross a street, and over a bridge.
Interesting concert shown on TV
We saw the side markets next to the fish market, which sold everyday wares like kitchen knives, pots etc. Not a touristy place which must mean we were close. And then we saw a shrine, and it had a row of stone monuments for fish and other sea creatures. Two big lions were in their own shrines on the side, one was the big lion, another was the big black lion. Photos next to them showed that they were taken out and paraded around on special festivals. We could clearly see the fish market now, and a map near its entrance showed that we were actually at its north entrance, which was a block further than the main entrance. It was not almost 11:30 am, and most of the stalls were empty or being washed down with a hose. Many workers were driving around in these “mighty cars” which were some flatbed transport vehicles.
bento box for brunch
There were hundreds and probably thousands of white styrofoam boxes being moved around or piled high. Very litle fish were visible by now, but I did manage to find some for photos. I can imagine the bustling activities happening here had we been here a couple of hours earlier, but it was still fun to see it.
Exiting the fish market from its main entrance, we found the subway entrance right there. Deciding this was the day for subway travel, since our Japan Rail pass will start tomorrow (for the most efficient use of the 7 days). Trying to use the ticketing machine was probably not something we wanted to do at every station, so we opted for a One Day pass (1000 yen for both of the subway systems, Toei and Tokyo
lines, unlimted use for the day) It made our life so much easier.
I would highly recommend it to others visiting Tokyo, We also had the Eyewitness book on Japan which had a subway map, so were able to find our way around. You can also print out a subway map available on the web, The challenge was reading the tiny prints!
First stop was Roppongi. We emerged from the subway unto something called “Midtown Tokyo”. It looked like a fancy mall with many brand-name shops. We walked around, and stopped at a Dean and Deluca, where we tried out some green tea ice cream for me, and just chocolate for Kevin. There was a pizza restaurant which had a huge line out its door. It has a window where you could see pizzas being made and put into a big brick oven. There was a pet spa and shop where many pooches were being bathed and tended to, there was even a “real” dog being brushed after his bath.
street view of Shimbashi buildings
(small dogs are toy dogs to me, real dogs are ones which are of a size you can not easily carry in your arms!) We walked out to the garden terrace and to a small park. We were right next to the Ritz carlton hotel, but it was kind of cold outside. So we headed back and took the subway again.
We went to Shinjuku
, first the East Shinjuku area. As we came onto the first landmark, Studio Alta with the huge screen on its front, it was obvious that this was a happening place, with lots of fashionable-looking young people walking down the main street and lots of shops on both sides. We went down a street next to the theater and then back toward where we came, and then down a side street to reach the Golden Gal alleys where tiny little bars line up almost shoulderto shoulder.
A sign saying tgv.co.jp
Since it was early afternoon, the bars are not in business. After a couple of these alleys, we went to Shinto shrine called Hanazono Shrine. A couple of small cherry trees had started
to blossom. A shrine of the fox god Inari was in the garden area. Several crows can be heard and seen, and they definitely sounded different from the ones we hear at home. After lingering the grounds for a whie, we went to the Toyko Metro Government office building in West Shinjuku after a short subway ride (it's good to have the 1 day pass for such short hops, no stress and convenient). The twin towers of the building is in front of a semicircle shaped building and plaza. It was quite impressive looking. If you like architecture, don't miss this if you are in Tokyo. There was a group of people demostrating outside the subway exit, singing and passing out flyers, and lots of uniformed guards or police were watching them carefully.
in a shrine near the Tsukiji fish market
Next is another building which caught my eye in the book, the Tokyo International Forum, a glass building whose roof is shaped like a ship's haul above an atrium of 60 m high! This place is used for cultral and trade shows. It was impressive to view from within the building. We took the subway to the Yurakucho station, and noted that even though it was about 5pm, there were not that many people on the subway. Later we figured March 10 must have been a holiday, it was definitely good to have our first subway adventure when the crowds were lighter than usual.
After visiting the internaional Forum, we walked a few steps and then we were in Ginza
. We went into a building called 0101 and I suppose it's a department store and it had lots of boutiques inside, many selling women's handbags.
Big black lion deity at the shrine near the fish market
The last thing I need was a bag to carry more stuff so I just looked but there were many good looking bags in all sorts of colors. We also walked by some stores which puts blings on your cell phone or I suppose anything else you fancy. As you probably knew, Japanese girl or women really deck up their cell phones. There are also things they hang from the cell phone to personalize it. However, we didn't see any really tiny cell phones,
maybe because they want to play videos on them, it's no longer practical to make them real tiny. Some were thin, but they were all about the same size. It was getting dark, and the lights were a good show. A landmark in Ginza is the Sony showroom. It was fun to see what the latest Sony has to offer in the 5 stories of showrooms! I haven't been using a video camera on trips since my Antarctica trip, and the technology has certainly improved by miles.
water spoons below the black lion statue at the shrine
A tiny 1080 HD video camera with 120 GB stores 6 hours of HD video made surprisingly good 10 megapixel still photos too. They had “face” and “smile” recognitaion features and can snap a photo when you smile! You can also personalize your laptop cover surface in many ways and colors here, blings also possible. On the 8th floor they have a communications room where you can surf the net and also watch a large screen showing some movie on blueray. Back down to the street, we admired the large street intersection which allows crossing in diagnoal lines too, and a sea of people flood it at every light.
We were hungry by this time and started looking around for a restaurant to have dinner. Across the stree from Sony and the pretty glass building, we looked into a
side street and I spotted a restaurant sign pointing to a restaurant in the basement, so we ventured into it, Some handwaving and we decided it was OK to not have a menu in English, we would just have an adventure.
The shrine near the fish market, the black lion is to the left, and another big lion is on the right
The restaurant had a small river on the floor, and we went into some Japanese style booths next to the river, A bamboo curtain separated us and the next booth. So we definitely had ambience here! The waitress spoke almost no English, but we managed to order because I could read the Kanji characters in Japanese (which looked like Chinese, except not all meanings are the same). With the sound of running water accompanying us, we had a very good dinner even though the bill was not cheap in the end. It turned out to be only a five minute walk back to the hotel, we were pretty tired by then and concluded our first full day in Tokyo.
Observations in Japan (1), very few wastebaskets/trash bins available on the street. (2) There are so many food stores everywhere, you are tempted all the time by interesting looking foods.
map of the fish market area