Tokyo Second Time Around

Disclaimer : this post is written by Junda

During my first trip to Japan, I gave myself five full days in Tokyo back then and spent them going to Akihabara, Nakano Broadway, Tokyo Big Sight, Metropolitan Building, Harajuku, the two towers, all those things. As for Mira, she spent almost all her first Japan trip in Tokyo. Therefore, we both thought that we already had enough of Tokyo from each of our own first trip to Japan a couple of years prior to this trip. Apparently, it was a shortsighted evaluation. Tokyo really has everything, and mere days was not enough to comprehend all what Tokyo has to offer. When arriving the second time with Mira, I had a plan to skip Tokyo and go directly to the suburban area, which Mira strongly disagree. Now I'm glad that she did, because Tokyo proven to gave us a good foothold to start our 15 days Japan trip.

We started our journey by landing at Narita and took the Keisei train to Ueno. As we landed quite early and the appointment with our Airbnb host is not before 6PM, we had to spend quite a lot of time around Ueno. However, Ueno is flanked by shops, huge park, malls, and picturesque neighborhood, so it was very easy to fill the time.

After stowing our backpack in a coin locker in Ueno Station, we suddenly found ourselves in front of Ueno park. We missed huge open spaces, so it was really nice to be there even if only just to stroll without exact destination. Mira told me that she couldn't get to vacation mood even when we landed at Narita, but as soon as we stroll Ueno park, that changed. It's hard to not get excited for all these greens when all you could see in the past one year is buildings and people. Well, Tokyo is also buildings and people, which might explain why Mira was not able to get into vacation mood at first, but among these buildings and all these people, there were huge greens, and this is the thing that we have missed dearly.

The first food that we ate in Japan was the halal ramen Ayam-Ya

Spicy miso ramen

At Ueno park, I caught a glance of my first real sakura. I have already resigned from all the hope to seeing sakura, considering that we were a full month too early for any sakura to bloom, but apparently outliers do exist. It was as beautiful as I imagined. When I walked along the path full of unblooming sakura, I could only picture it inside my mind on how much more stunning it would be when the sakura bloomed en-masse. And it gave me a bit of hope to see full-bloom sakura somewhere along our trip.

I always pledged Mira to buy me this milk tea every time we passed a vending machine (which she refused most of the time), since she was the one making sure we dont turn to begpacking.

Ueno Park

The egg mayo sandwich from Lawson that is recommended by the one and only Anthony Bourdain

At around 5, we picked up our backpack and got back on train to go to Tsurukawa where our Airbnb is. We bought our groceries along the way, with a little bit of extra rations of pastries and desserts from Lawson. You can't go wrong with Japanese convenience store foods. We found out that Glico milk pudding is heavenly.

Masaru, our Airbnb host, greeted us as soon as we exit the Tsurukawa station gate. He is a very chatty middle-aged man, who automatically switched to Japanese as soon as I drop a hint that I might be speaking a tiny bit of Japanese. Not only he drove us to his home, he also showed us various landmarks around his home and the station, such as expensive supermarket (Odakyu), cheap supermarket (Maruetsu), curry shop, ramen shop, big convenience store, small convenience store, book store, and even a shortcut to his home if we are walking.

Once we arrived at his home, a very cute pomeranian waiting for us right in front of the door. We immediately played with her while Masaru cooked dinner for us (bless you Masaru!). After dinner, Masaru showed us the picture of his guests. He has a habit of taking picture with all of his guests and amazingly, he remembered almost all of their stories. Mira thought it was a little bit creepy (courtesy to serial-killer movies / tv series that she watched everyweek), but I think it was sweet. And of course Masaru took a picture of us as well.

The vegetarian curry, fish sausage, salad, and miso cause he knew that we are Moslem

Yuri, the 12 years old Pomeranian who loves carrots!

Going through the map around the house - could you see all the pictures behind us? That's Masaru's victi..... I mean, guests

On the next day, we got out really early to go to Tsukiji fish market. The old one where street food vendors are, not the new one where the fish market actually located. I liked the fish market vibes where food vendors is busy selling and making their goods. We tried omelette, some teas, and fish soups. Considering that that day is really cold, these refreshments warmed us up from the inside.

The fuwa fuwa tamagoyaki, Mira liked the salty one but I opted for the sweet one.

We managed to watch the butchering of this big tuna

From tsukiji, we went to Shibuya to look for a pair of glove because we only have one pair from home, after going in and out of various stores, we found a suitable one in Daiso. Afterewards, we went for a lunch. We ended up having lunch at Sukiya, a rice bowl shop much like Yoshinoya. It was a very good decision. The price is very cheap (500 yen for a set of beef rice with triple cheese, free flow ocha, and miso - or 300 yen for beef bowl set without cheese). Afterwards, every time we were at lost on what to eat, Sukiya is our go to plan.

The busy Shibuya crossing

Love of our live, Sukiya

Since planning the itinerary, Mira always reminding me to put Shimokita-zawa in our list, she did it beyond annoyance level. We ended up going there on this second day. Along the way, we stopped at Yoyogi-Uehara and visit Tokyo Cami Mosque for a quick rest, then walked all the way from the mosque to Shimokita-zawa. I can understand why Mira is curious to go to Shimokita-zawa, everything about this place exudes hippieness, from the goods on the shops, the way the shops are decorated, even the poeple walking on the street. Mira said that a lot of Japanese indie band that she liked to listen to are originated from Shimokita-zawa.

Shimokitazawa, where the grandmas were cooler than us!

We strolled Shimokita-zawa until sundown, where we start going to Shinjuku to meet Martin, her high-school friend who look a lot like a local. Our meeting point is a Teppanyaki restaurant where we make our own Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki. We were both had no idea how to do it correctly, but fortunately Martin is an expert on this. He said that if a couple go on a date to an okonomiyaki restaurant, the guy is expected to be able flip the okonomiyaki without ruining it. Otherwise, he will loose lots of points from the girl. Martin seemed to have scored lots of point in this regards :))

After dinner, we strolled around Omoide Yokocho, an old-style alley in Shinjuku where lots and lots of street-side bar lined up. It was a really nice change from typical modern Tokyo. When we talked about our plan to go to Kamakura on the next day with Martin, he suggested that we go somewhere else instead, due to strong wind that is forecasted around Kamakura.

Sakura-tei, the restaurant, has a special part in our heart - which made us visit it again on our last day.

Monjayaki which kinda similar with okonomiyaki, but has more gooey texture

Lots of bustling food stalls

Didn't realize that there was a giant Godzilla at the top of the building until Martin told me.

Martin said that this croquant is quite a famous one and there usually a long line to buy this. Lucky that we could get it easily

We arrived back at Masaru's Airbnb around midnight. Have a quick chat with him where he told us that he is going to drive us to the station (bless him again!), and after a dip in the bath, we went to sleep with tired muscle from all these walking around but a very happy mood.

These two days in Tokyo set us on a very good path for our overall trip. It made us checked weather forecast every night to plan for the upcoming day. It also made us know to look for 100 Yen shops everywhere we go, because we knew that everything on sale in there is interesting and cheap, by the end of our trip, we bought kitchen scale, chopsticks, miso bowl, a cute ceramic plate, umbrella, and almost all the souvenirs from the 100 yen shops. Other than Daiso, there were Can-Do, Seriya and 3 coins shop.

We also knew the existence of expensive and cheap supermarket for our grocery shopping, at first we thought that every supermarket is basically the same. We also got introduced to Sukiya!

Mira tought that it might be a good idea to follow-up on cheap tips on Japan, perhaps we will write it on separate post (or not?). 

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