Sunday, September 7, 2014

[Travel] Itinerary to Tokyo (东京), Japan.

Tokyo, the capital of Japan and a world renown metropolis. There are many things to do, to see, to eat and to shop there. Fortunately, I did manage to drop by Tokyo for three days on my recent trip to Japan. We did not manage to do a lot of things due to time constraint and of course, shopping. Here's a list of what we did in Tokyo (and what you should include in your trip too):

On a side note, it is highly recommended that you purchase a Tokyo Metro Pass from Narita Airport or Haneda Airport before you start your tour. The Tokyo Metro Pass is available either for 1 Day (800 Yen), 2 Days (1,200 Yen) or 3 Days (1, 500 Yen). We opted for the 3 Day-Tokyo Metro Pass which allowed us to board on any Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway Trains. It does not include JR Trains and any private trains either. Please do note that this Tokyo Metro Pass is only available for oversea visitors on tourist visas only. 

Tokyo Tower/ 東京タワ

A landmark or an icon, whatever you call it, Tokyo Tower is a must-visit place in Tokyo; well, at least take a photo right in front of the tower. The 333 meter-tall tower can be easily spotted anywhere. To get there, take a train to Akabanebashi Station and follow the display signs for directions. 

A ticket to the main observatory hall costs 900 Yen, steep price but good for novelty sake. I did not think it was worth it though, but since I was there, I would not mind to pay extra more just to experience and have a look at the view, overlooking Tokyo city. There is also a souvenir shop, a cafe and some photo-booth available up there. We spent 15 minutes exploring the area and decided to leave for other attractions. Tokyo Tower is open to the public on 9 am to 10 pm while the last admission is at 9:45 pm. 

Zojo-ji Buddhist Temple/ 増上寺 

To make your train ticket worth every single penny spent, it is recommended that you check out Zojo-ji Temple as well. Approximately 5-minute walk from Tokyo Tower and you will reach Zojoji. Nothing spectacular but since you are in the vicinity, I see no reasons for skipping the place. Not as "zen" as compared to other temples but good to stop by though. Free admission.

Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Edo-Tokyo Museum exhibits real life Edo era architecture; visitors get to experience and learn on the culture and history of the Edo era via some reconstruction models and interactive materials. Do spare a few hours if you wish to examine and have a closer look on the artifacts. Entrance Fee is 600 Yen and the visiting hours will be from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm while Saturdays will be on 9:30 am to 7:30 pm. English/ French/ German/ Spanish/ Russian/ Chinese and Korean voluntary guides are available from 10 am to 3 pm at 6th floor voluntary guide desks. It closes on every Monday. Edo-Tokyo Museum is accessible by a couple minute walk from Ryogoku Train Station. 

Tsukiji Fish Market/ 築地市場

Head there as early as 4 am in the morning to witness the auction but it is not possible for us who do not have a car as most trains run at 6 am. We were not financially ready to take a cab either. Hence, we decided to take our time and we only managed to reach there at 10 am. The place was still busy as usual and long queues were spotted right in front of the famous Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. 

To reach Tsukiji Market, take train to Tsukiji Shijo Station but NOT Tsukiji Station. It is still possible to reach there from Tsukiji Station but with an unnecessary 10-15 minute walk. From Tsukiji Shijo Station, follow the direction on the display signs and locate Exit A1. You will reach right in front of Tsukiji Fish Market once you are out from the station.

While we were taking our sweet time to browse the area, we noticed an old lady was selling Sakura Mochi and we were tempted to try. We were glad we did, it was soft-chewy with a sweet red bean filling and a gentle aroma of Sakura/ Cherry Blossom. Good experience on the traditional Japanese snack. 

We could not afford to wait for Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi; the half-price promotion outside Sushi Maru caught our attention. We did not want to spend so much for breakfast and thought that this could be a very good option for us to kick start the day. The place was quite empty on our visit, the staff was not that friendly either. The Chef kept asking us if we would be interested to try on some other seafood and we were a little irked by that. We decided to go for the limited 30 set offer- 2,000 Yen per person for 11 pieces of Sushi with a bowl of Miso Soup. 

10 Pieces of assorted Sushi

Anago Sushi

A slightly heavier vinegar flavor for the Sushi Rice but every single piece of Sushi was made to order. We especially enjoyed the Charred Salmon Sushi for the extra hint of smokiness while maintaining the tender, juicy bite. The Sashimi was sliced thickly to my liking but the Sushi that steals the spotlight was Anago Sushi. It was absolutely lovely, though not as fat as Unagi, the seawater Eel stands out with its unique flavor. It was lip-smacking with the additional touch of the sweet sauce.

While the meal would have cost more in the two famous establishments, we thought it was a pretty good deal at 2,000 Yen per person. However, we did not find the Sushi here mind-blowing. Nemuro Hanamaru at Sapporo, Hokkaido serves better Sushi than them (at least to me). 

Odaiba/ お台場

Fuji Terebi/ Fuji Television Building

Rainbow Bridge

If you have purchased the Tokyo Metro Pass, please do note that the JR Line to Odaiba does not include in the Tokyo Metro Pass. You would have to purchase a separate ticket from Shimbashi Train Station (for the Yurikamome Line). There are plenty of things to do in Odaiba. The place itself houses two to three big shopping malls. Tourists may want to go to Fuji Terebi to have a look but we decided to skip that. 

A gigantic Gundam right in front of Diver-City Tokyo

Palette Town and Ferris Wheel

A 10-minute walk from Odaiba will land you right in front of Palette Town, which is next to Toyota Mega Web, one of the largest showrooms by Toyota. Guests can experience some of the latest technologies from Toyota including braking system or to look at the latest car models that have yet to be released. We get to experience and play a couple of the interactive games but the queue can be quite long, so do spare some time here. 

Shibuya Crossing

It was indeed a unique experience to join the crowd in crossing one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. A very good place to see the crowd will be the Starbucks located on Second Floor of Tsutaya. Starbucks took the prominent spot where guests get to enjoy their Coffee while watching the world goes by. We spent quite some time up there taking photos and to rest our shopping legs. 

Kitkat Chocolatory

The world's first Kitkat Chocolate boutique opened in Tokyo earlier this year (2014) in Seibu Departmental Store of Ikebukuro district while the second boutique opened at Tokyo Station. It is not a boutique entirely, but rather, more like a kiosk housed within a supermarket. It has four flavors- Sublime, Sakura Matcha, Cream Cheese and Chili flavors. Each box of 4 bars is priced at 432 Yen. Overpriced and I did not find it outstanding either. Go for the usual ones (exclusive flavors in Japan) will be good enough. Good to buy as souvenirs though. 

Meiji Jingu Shrine/ 明治神宮

Another tourist attraction- Meiji Jingu (5-minute walk from Meiji Jingu Mae Station) which I did not find special at all. It was just another Shrine with long walk. Probably too touristy that it loses the "zen" feel. Free admission so you may want to check it out if you have the time. 

Yoshinoya/ 吉野家

Yoshinoya, one of Japan's largest fast food chain restaurants that serves good Beef Don and Pork Don. Yoshinoya can be found all over Japan, the fast serving speed and wallet-friendly price tags are something that make them special. 

Buta Don/ Pork Rice (550 Yen)

Gyu Don/ Beef Rice (700 Yen- Large)

My friend had the Buta Don which he thought it was okay, tender Pork slices completed with toothsome seasoning and sauce. Good for the price but not gloriously delicious. My Gyu Don, on the other hand, was impressive. A raw Egg was given, the correct way of eating should be: to beat the egg first before pouring it over the rice. I did it on purpose to show the freshness of the Egg which it was clearly shown by the firmness of the Egg Yolk. A generous amount of chopped Spring Onions will then be added onto the Don. The Beef was tender and even smoother with the addition of Egg, the sauce complemented the dish instead of overshadowing it. The Gyu Don I had in Malaysia seems to be a lot sweeter and I would prefer Yoshinoya's. 

Have Fun in Tokyo!