Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Japan - Day 2 - Tokyo

In preparation for our trip, Brian and I scoured many strangers' travel blogs for tips, tricks and things not to miss. One of our favorites, Boutique Japan, had a perfect one-day tour around the city to see all kinds of sites. I won't bore you with the whole play-by-play, because a lot of it was just walking through neighborhoods, but here are the highlights.

The first stop was at Turret Coffee for a yummy latte, close to the Tsukiji Market.
While we waited for the infamous market to open to the public, we strolled around the outer markets. The stalls were packed with everything you can imagine - from beautiful sushi knives (too bad that won't work in a carry-on bag) to sea urchins to the strangely sweet rolled omelet that Brian is trying (verdict = one bite was enough).
The morning's main event was going into the Tsukiji Market, which is Tokyo's central wholesale market. You can get in to see the tuna auction if you want to be in line at around 3:30am, otherwise you have to wait until 10am when things have "slowed down" a bit from all the business activities of the morning. Guards stand at attention, blocking people from entering early and then transform into crossing guards, trying to prevent visitors from getting run over by the many forklifts whizzing about. It was amazing to see this place that I've watched documentaries about before it moves into its bigger, more modern space.
For lunch we headed to Ginza Kyubey for an out-of-this world sushi experience. Sitting shoe-less in a sunken tatami room, we had an amazing view of the sushi chef preparing each delicious bite of our nine piece meal. I decided to brave every bite as it was prepared (eel, wasabi and all!) and enjoyed it immensely, well except for the eel.
One of our next stops was Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine, and Yoyogi Park. I liked the giant wall of sake barrels wrapped in rice paper, just outside the shrine, along the park's trails.
For dinner, we met up with a childhood/family friend of mine who lives in Tokyo. Navigating all the cuisines of Japan can be a challenge - there are more than 100 types altogether - but it's easy with someone who is in the know. We headed to a kushikatsu place, where you select individual items on the menu to be fried up on a stick. It was so good - asparagus, onion, scallop, lotus root, ginger, mochi, shrimp - yum! It was wonderful catching up and strolling around a park afterwards. Then, since I'd woken up at 2:30am, we headed home.

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