The man is a world-class bargain hunter. When we were booking our flights from Australia back to Italy, he discovered that a stopover in Tokyo would cost the same as a direct flight so we might as well fly to Japan! We’ve always wanted to visit there (he is sushi obsessed I kid you not) so who could argue with that logic?
We (and my little sister) stayed only in Tokyo as we planned for a six day trip, our itinerary was based on exploring the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Welcome to Tokyo!
We were at the fish markets three days out of six! The man had found his kindred sushi spot – a tiny bar run by one man where you eat standing up. And there, you get one of the best maguro (tuna) sushi.
Famous for its electronic good and maid cafes.
We visited Sensō-ji temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple. The nearby streets are filled with traditional stalls and food markets, a fun place for souvenir shopping.
One of my favourite things to do in Tokyo is people watching. They are ridiculously fashionable! Even people-watching watching people is fun haha
Stand up sushi bars were interesting to me, as I am only used to seeing stand up espresso bars.
Top left clockwise: Puffer fish sashimi (still alive to write this blog lol), real wasabi, whale sashimi (ugh not a big fan as it was too fatty for my liking) and a sweet potato custard dessert. We passed on the chicken sashimi though, no thank you!
Yakitori bars were great fun due to its lively atmosphere. Lots of office workers would come to relax after a day of work with cold beer and delicious skewers. The secret to having extra yummy skewers is to add a dash of shichimi (seven-flavoured chilli powder). I was hooked on that stuff!
As for this, I cannot describe how heavenly this bowl of goodness is. I can only say that my sister and I had a taste from our friend and we ordered one IMMEDIATELY, plus we just had dinner ten minutes ago. It is definitely the best best best ramen I had ever eaten in my life!!
Tonkatsu ramen from Go Gyo (I saw a ramen 2014 winner sticker on their front door). We had much preferred this dish over the burnt flavoured ramen. Trust us.
On the weekend, our friend took us to a traditional ryokan near Mt Fuji, in the village of Hakone. We stayed at the lovely Ichinoyu Honkan, which dates back to 1630 as a hot spring retreat. The accommodation and meals were excellent.
By far our favourite area. Lots of little alleyways, fashionistas and surprisingly – sneaker stores everywhere!
We spent a relaxing afternoon at the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife.
We were delighted to see a wedding procession.
On the last day before flying out, we went to the tuna auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market. It was a fascinating sight for the eyes, the only catch is to rub sleep off as it starts at dawn – 5:30am. Entrance is free, however in order to secure a spot as there are only 120 people allowed in each day, I highly advise you to drag yourself there as early as possible. We arrived at 3am and by 3:30am, all coveted spots were taken. After that, it was a two hour wait in a hall so bring something to keep yourself occupied with or make new friends 🙂 Tokyo Cheapo gives out super informative advice on the whole experience.
A funny story was, for that night I had not booked any accomodation and the three of us had agreed (my sister less so) to roam the streets of Tokyo. We had just returned from Mt Fuji and were flying out the following day so we thought “sod it”. She was the smart one. By 11pm we couldn’t feel our legs anymore and were hallucinating soft beds, so we checked into a hotel near the fish markets *exhales*
The auction seemed to have finished in a blink of an eye! The buyers would check for the fat content of the tuna using a metal hook to dig into the tail end of the fish. Then they would touch the flesh, rub their fingers together or give them a little whiff. Finally the auction dealer orchestrates the bidding in a sing-song chant with the tinkling of a bell.
Tokyo was a very interesting eye-opener of Japan. At times I felt like I was in a futuristic world (especially in public toilets lol), but at other times transported back into a different century. I wished we had more time to visit other parts such as Kyoto, Osaka, Hokkaido and much more!
There will always be next time 😀