Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tokyo day two

Our plan yesterday morning was to walk to the famous Tsukiji (Fish) Market for a seafood breakfast and to buy some fresh fruit. However we were disappointed to find on arrival these markets are closed on a Wednesday!!

So feeling increasingly hungry and in need of a coffee we started walking towards the Ginza shopping district, until eventually we found these yummy (red bean filled) rice balls to fill the spot

...... and eventually a great coffee in one of the cafes under these big glossy towers lining the streets of the Ginza.
We crossed under the Yamamoto JR line at Yurakucho Station and wandered past all the noodle shops and eateries built into the alcoves of the overhead rail line. We were too early for most of them - but it looks like would be a great place to visit at the right time.
We walked all the way to the grounds of the Imperial Palace, the residence of Japan's Imperial family.
We couldn't access the grounds of the inner palace but we did enjoy the surrounding parkland - views of the palace wall and moat - and the exquisite landscaping of this area.

Walking back to Tokyo Station from here we were very struck by the beauty of Tokyo's high rise buildings - very minimalist, perfectly proportioned and with a beautifully balanced colour palette of earth and metal tones.

 ...... and my favourite designer too........
We made it back to our hotel by 1.00pm in time to meet up with our friend Haruko. We'd last met up with Haruko in 2005 in Osaka (on a stopover to Paris) but we had no trouble recognising her - she hasn't changed a bit - and it took no time at all to feel like it was only yesterday since we'd seen her last.

We caught up with each other's news over lunch at the same ramen joint we'd found on our first night in Tokyo. Haruko gave it her seal of approval, assuring us it was part of a well known group of ramen shops that originated in Fukuoka (her home town) and is renowned for its quality.
We set off together then for Asakusa, a very old area of Tokyo where Edo era buildings, shops and crafts are still very much in evidence. It didn't take us long to find the Kaminarimon Gate, marking the entrance to the Sensoji Temple area (the oldest temple in Tokyo - maybe dating from  around the 600s).
The 250 metre long Nakamise shopping street leading to the temple is a maze of shops - dating from the Edo era - with lots of arcaded laneways leading off it from right to left.

Haruko pointed out this small fan shop which takes orders from all Tokyo's leading theatrical and dance companies for their traditional fans.

We noticed that just like in Seoul a lot of young people enjoy dressing up for their day's sight seeing.
 Finally, we reached the beautiful Sensoji Temple....
 time for cleansing smoke....
 and water......
....then some quiet time sitting under the ancient gingko (God) tree......
 First time I have seen one bearing fruit.....

As we walked away from Nakamise Street I was very struck by the calm order of the street at the back of those crazy crowded shops leading to the the temple.

We walked as far as  Kappabashi Dogugai Street the famous "kitchen street" of Tokyo. I was struck by these decorative USB drives in amongst the shops filled with kitchen and restaurant supplies.

We got great views of Tokyo's Skytree Tower too.

And the Asahi building (designed to look like a foaming glass of beer - but I don't know what the gold thing is meant to be lying beside it!)
Then it was back to the hotel, quick shower and then we're off again to Shinagawa railway station- absolutely full of "rivers of people" tonight at peak hour (Wednesday night is no overtime night in Tokyo so people leave work "early" - around 6.00-6.30pm).
We were exiting the station at this point and these thousands of people were all entering.
But we were on our way to the waterfront where our cruise boat was waiting for our dinner cruise around Tokyo. Shinagawa was originally a fishing town that served as major producer of dried seaweed during the Edo area. These cruise boats and the timber buildings around them are the only signs left of this area's heritage.
We met up with Haruko's brother Shin and his wife Kyoko for our traditional seafood dinner and cruise around Tokyo tonight.
This is a very traditional Japanese seafood meal: eel, sashimi, shrimps, tiny snapper, with very delicate accompaniments: tofu, fish cakes, potato, pickles - things I had never tried before but everything so fresh and delicious. Haruko's bother was worried we wouldn't like the food - but we loved everything.
These tiny dishes proved to be just the starter as it was followed up by about 5 servings of tempura: eel, a couple of different fish, shrimp, sweet potato and green onion- so much food - then soup, rice and a delicious (thankfully tiny) coconut flavoured dessert.
..and the beauty of the passing scenery.....

Just as much fun was spending the time with Haruko, Kyoko and Shin. Shin speaks no English, Kyoko understands a lot, Haruko is the translator but as always it is remarkable how we can all communicate a lot without knowing a language. We learnt a lot about how hard its is to live and work in this amazing city and how expensive it is to play golf (about $200 per game) - among many other things!!

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