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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tokyo - 4

Ikebukuro

Early in the morning we did our packing and checked out from the Ryokan. We have booked another hotel for our remaining days in Tokyo.


We went to the JR Yamanote Ikebukuro Station and took the train to JR Shinokubo Station. It is just a 5 minutes ride for 150 Yen.


Hotel Empire in Shinjuku


This hotel is just 250 meters from the JR Shinokubo Station.

After exiting the station, turn left and walk 70 meters, then take the first available left after McD. Just walk straight for 150m and the hotel is on the right.

This hotel is in a small alley and some of the nearby shops here open up to 4 am.


We booked our room for 3 person with en-suite bathroom for 5 nights at 42,000 Yen @ RM 1644.30. The room is equipped with air-conditioner, TV, fridge, toiletries, hot shower and free WiFi. It is just a 1 star hotel but it is clean and big enough for the 3 of us. 

It was too early for us to check-in so we just left our bags at the lobby and headed out again. The earliest check-in time is at 3 pm. 


Shinokubo is famous for its Korean Town and there are many Korean Shops around the Shinokubo JR Station. There are also a few bakeries and this is our favorite. 


Before we headed to Harajuku, we reloaded our Suica Cards for 2000 Yen each at the station.

HARAJUKU

Harajuku is famous for its extreme teen cultures and fashion and on Sundays, if you are lucky, you'd be able to find youngsters in cosplay around the Harajuku Station.  We only came across a few and even that was exciting! :)


Just a short walk from the Harajuku Station is the Meiji Jingu and there were many families in traditional costumes heading there.

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu is a major shrine in Tokyo and it has become one of the main tourist attractions. It opens from 9 am to 4 pm and there is no entrance fee.



This shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and there is a large green oasis shared with the Yoyogi Park. It is quite a long walk before you can see the main building.


Inside there was a big crowd and most of them were wearing their national / traditional costumes. The kids got the main attention of the visitors because all of them were so cute in their outfits.


There were also a few wedding ceremonies and each of the couples were posing to their own photographer. We took the chance to snap some photos of them too.


Out of the Meiji Jingu, we went back to the main street to explore Harajuku.

Omotesando

Omotesando is a 1km street where they sell all sorts of branded stuff. Some actually call it as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees. Along this road there is the LaForet mall, Tokyu Plaza (picture below), Kiddy Land, Louis Vuitton and others.



We went in the Tokyu Plaza and found Starbucks :) . It was nice to hang out here


Below is the Oriental Bazaar which is a large souvenir shop and they sell kimono and samurai, among others. Maybe the souvenirs are of higher standard than the normal souvenir shops since the price is higher as well :)

Then we found yet another dessert to try which is this nice churro. Tawaf bought the choc flavor and it tasted more like a cookie rather than a churro. It was good, nevertheless!!


We had our lunch at this Lotteria. We've gone to the Lotteria in Korea in our previous trip and this is actually the franchise from there. We ate the shrimp burger set since the rest are non-halal. We couldn't eat McD in Tokyo since at McD, even the fries and the fish fillet are cooked in non-halal oil.



Takeshita Dori



Takeshita Street is a 400 meter street that is full of trendy and teenage culture shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores and fast food stands. We could also see teens in cosplay here and there. It was a lot of fun and we lost track of time.

It was almost dark when we headed back to the hotel.

SHIBUYA

At night we went out to Shibuya to have dinner. Tosh actually found this shop at the last minute and we found our way by using the map at the JR Station. It was a good walk and it wasn't that far either.


We were all starving and quite clueless what to order, so we just chose the set on the menu. When the food came, we were surprised to see the amount of meals on our table and none of us could finish it, but it was very delicious! We would love to go there again.


After a good dinner, we walked to the center of Shibuya to see the big and famous Shibuya crossings.

Shibuya is a popular shopping and entertainment area. It is a very colorful and busy district with many shopping malls and nightclubs.One of the prominent landmark is the Hachiko Statue, which is a statue of a loyal dog named Hachiko. 

Then we made a short visit to the Kabukicho, which is Japan's red light district.


We love the vending machines here, they can practically sell anything in these machines!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tokyo - 3

In the morning we walked to the Marunouchi Line Station at Ikebukuro, which is Gate no 6 and it led us to this Giordano outlet :). There was a sale of 3000 Yen for 2 pairs of jeans! Giordano shops can only be found at subway stations in Tokyo, they are no where to be seen at the malls above the subways.



And as the previous day, we stocked-up some bread and pastries for breakfast.




ASAKUSA

Our train ride:
From Ikebukuro, we took the JR Yamanote to Ueno Station.
Then we transit and took the Metro Ginza Line to Asakusa Station.
The journey was 28 minutes for 320 Yen / pax


We were already hungry, but nobody eats or drinks in the train here, so we kept our breakfast for later. There is no rule or anything, it is just impolite to eat in-front of people and we respect that.


 As soon as we reached Asakusa we went to 7eleven and Tawaf bought this delicious chocolate ice-cream bar.

Asakusa is quite famous for the Jinrikisha which is a guided tour on a rickshaw, where a lady or a man with ninja shoes and dressed in black would pull the rickshaw around. A 30-minutes ride would cost 8000 Yen for 2 pax and there are also shorter and longer courses available.

We didn't take the ride since there are 3 of us and decided to explore this area on foot.



Nakamise

This is the Kaminarimon Gate @ Thunder Gate which is the first of 2 large gates of the Sensoji Temple. It was built more than 1000 years ago and it is the symbol of Asakusa.


Before we reached the temple, we went through Nakamise, a 200 meter shopping street between the Kaminarimon Gate to the temple. We didn't arrive early enough and Nakamise was already packed with people.

Nakamise opens from 9am to 7pm and it offers numerous things from local snacks to souvenirs such as folding fan, yukata, t-shirts, rice crackers and fridge magnets. 


It was actually a National Holiday, which is the Cultural Day called the Bunka No Hi and they have just started their parade in-front of the temple. 


There are also food stalls selling numerous food including the Octopus Ball @ Tako Yaki, but it's a bit more expensive than what we had yesterday at Ameyoko. And Tawaf bought this chocolate coated banana for 200 yen.


Sensoji Temple



There is no entrance fee for the temple and the temple grounds are always open, meanwhile the Main Hall only opens from 6.30 am to 5 pm. It is a popular Buddhist temple and it is the oldest in Tokyo.


The temple consists of a main hall and 5 pagodas. It was once destroyed in the war and the building was reconstructed recently. Next to the Sensoji Temple is the Dempoin Temple, and it is known for its beautiful garden, but it's not open to the public.


Asakusa Shrine


On the left of the temple main building is the Asakusa Shrine. It was built in 1649 and it is famous for the Sanja Matsuri festival, which is celebrated annually at this shrine.


Tosh found this antique skyline at the Temple parking area :)


After we were done with the temple and shrine, we went back to Nakamise to try the local delicacies..Yumms!


Nakamise

We are not sure what this is called, but it is crunchy and has custard filling.


There are so many souvenirs here and while shopping there was another parade led by a lion dance.


Then we tried this Asakusa Ice-cream Burger! There have 6 flavors; Vanilla, Green Tea, Soy Bean Powder, Black Sesame, Red Bean and Taro Sweet Potato and they sell it for 300 Yen each. We bought the Green Tea flavor, it was good but a bit bitter to our liking.


This is the Ningyoyaki, a small cake with red bean filling and it was freshly baked and still warm!


Next is the Rice Cracker Shop. They have the rice crackers @ Osenbei in soy flavor, sesame and a few others. They sell in packs thus it is cheaper, but they don't sell single rice crackers, or even a mix of all the flavors. We could only choose 2 flavors per pack.


We had a bit more time to spare thus we went to this Shin-Nakamise Shopping Street or so called the New Nakamise. It has a roof on top and it opens from 10 am to 8 pm.

 

Here we found another Rice Crackers Shop, which is the Ichi - Ban - Ya, which has a LOT of flavours to choose from! They sell the rice crackers from as low as 50 Yen per piece. And here they sell the crackers per item, so you can buy as many flavours as you want.


Saei bought the normal flavour and Tawaf bought this sugar icing coated rice cracker. Nice!!


Time's up! We walked out of Nakamise and headed to our next destination; the Sumida Park.

Actually there are other places in Asakusa that we would like to visit such as the Kappabashi Street, but didn't have enough time. Kappabashi Street is a 1km street lined by wholesale shops for kitchenware, tableware, kitchen utensils, samples of plastic food, traditional Japanase wares, furniture and lanterns. It is between the Asakusa Station and the Ueno Station. It opens daily from 9 am to 5 pm but many shops are closed during national holidays and on Sundays.

There are also the Rox Department Store and the Rokku Entertainment District. This Rokku District has cinemas, pachinko parlors (pinball or slot machines) and Rakugo theaters.


We were walking by the roadside towards Sumida Park when this other parade started in the middle of the road. Everyone stopped and many sat down on the road to watch.


There is a halal kebab store just before the Sumida Park, where we bought our lunch. Please note that only the chicken kebab is halal here, not the beef. Actually at first we ordered the beef kebab and then changed our order after the staff informed us that only the chicken are halal.



SUMIDA PARK

Sumida Park is along both sides of Sumida River. Visitors are able to board the water bus to go to places such as the Hinode Pier or the Hama Rikyu Garden.


In this nice weather, there was a well dressed guy singing somewhat a traditional song which was very interesting. He has a powerful voice!



This is the staircase to go down to the Sumida Park, where we had our lunch while enjoying the beautiful view of the Tokyo Skytree.


We were enjoying our kebabs and persimmons when a flock of birds came and attacked our food. At first there were only 1 or 2 but when they saw that we have food, a lot more came and gathered around us. Saei almost got attacked twice by a big white bird while eating her kebab. Maybe the bird was really hungry and determined to get her kebab. So Tosh ended up giving bits and pieces of bread to the birds to distract them and it worked! And the kebab was really good!


The Tokyo Skytree is 634 meters high and it is the new tv broadcasting tower, which is also the tallest building in Japan. It opens from 8 am to 10 pm and the entrance fee to go up to the first observatory is 2000 Yen, where else going to both, first and second observatory would be 3000 Yen per pax. The ticket for the first observatory can be bought on the fourth floor.

The base of the Skytree is a shopping complex with a large food market, a food court and an aquarium. 


Our initial plan was actually to visit the Tokyo Skytree either by taking a train from Asakusa Station to the Oshiage Station or to walk for 20 minutes across  the Sumida River. But after we've had our lunch, we decided to change our course and head to Akihabara instead.


We walked to the Asakusa Station and took the subway to the Suehirocho Station. The ride was only 8 minutes at 160 yen per pax




AKIHABARA


Near to the Suehirocho Station is this shop that sells anime related stuff at a great discount! After Tosh did some shopping, we walked the alleys to find Mandarake.


There are many different selection of drinks in each of the vending machines and Saei is always excited to try out the different flavor drinks.


Mandarake

Mandarake is claimed as the largest "manga and anime shop in the world" and it has pre-owned goods, rare, collectible manga, figurines, dolls, posters, CDs, toys and other types of manga and anime related goods and it opens from 12 pm to 8 pm.



Maid Cafe

This Maid Cafe has it's waitresses dress up, act like maids and they engage in conversations and games with the customers. There are a few floors and each floor has different theme to it. Most waitresses only speak Japanese, and this Home Café has English speaking maids on only one floor, which is the top floor. We went there but it was full and people were already queuing. So we decided to go to other normal cafe :)



Mister Donut

This Mister Donut has 2 floors and it was also full but we managed to find our table on the top floor. They have good donuts!!!


Next we went back to the Suehirocho Station and took the subway towards Ginza for another 8 minutes, 160 Yen per pax.


GINZA

Ginza is a famous upmarket shopping area in Tokyo. It is also the most expensive real estate with more than 10 Million Yen per 1sqm land.

It is best to visit Ginza at noon during the weekends when the Chuo Dori Street is closed to traffic and becomes a large pedestrian zone, which is from 2pm - 5pm on Saturday and 12pm - 5pm on Sunday.


Ginza has a HUGE UniQlo mega store!! This whole 12 FLOORS building only sells UniQlo items from the basic apparels to the special editions! It is in fact the company's biggest store in the world.


After we were done with the shopping and window shopping, we took the Metro from Ginza to the Ikebukuro Station and rest for the night in our warm Ryokan.