Thursday 16 April 2020

What to do in Tokyo, part 1

Tokyo is a ginormous metropolitan city which is located in the Kansai region of Japan. With a population of over 9 million, the city is divided into 23 special wards. I think of them as boroughs in London, or mini cities, but who knows if that's correct. The wards are then made up of various districts with interesting sights to visit. You could spend months wandering around the streets of Tokyo and still not even scratch the surface as to what the city has to offer. Some things to consider:

  • You definitely need to rely on Google maps to get around to get to where you want to go
  • The train stations will be hectic a little lot of the time. Try to avoid rush hour as much as possible and know which exit to take from the platform
  • There's food and shopping experiences everywhere. Be like me, shop until you drop and eat until you're in pain 
  • When it rains, you will find it difficult to manoeuvre around crowds of umbrellas. Didn't pack one with you? No problem, hit up the local convenience store (konbini). There's only over 10,000 of them
  • You will lose money to claw machines but continue to play them anyway. Try and hit up ones that other patrons have recently played on
  • And last but not least, you will yearn to go back as soon as you step foot back onto your home turf. Sorry but it's inevitable 

I tried to split up my time in Tokyo based on the wards so that I was able to hit up all of the popular spots in that area however, no avail, there just wasn't enough time. Guess that means I'll have to go back to visit the places on my itinerary that I didn't get to this time round.

On the first day in Tokyo, I stayed at the b asakusa hotel which is conveniently situated near all of the hot spots in Asakusa. You're able to experience the atmosphere of 'old Tokyo' in this area.

Nakamise Dori
  • Opening hours: 10am-5pm 

Nakamise is a famous shopping street which you can walk down to get to Sensoji temple. It's approximately 250m and has vendors on both sides of the street selling souvenirs, yummy snacks and sweets. I indulged in fried sweet potato, hello kitty shaped taiyaki and kibi dango from Asakusakibidango Azuma, mini dango on a stick, covered in soybean powder which gave it a delicious nutty flavour. 

Be warned, it can get very crowded so if you need a quick breather, take a step into one of the side streets around nakamise where you will come across more shops selling traditional goods such as wooden combs and chopsticks. When these shops are closed and have their shutters pulled down, you can see all kinds of beautiful street art which include drawings of geisha and samurai. Take your time to explore the area and soak in the atmosphere.

Sensoji Temple
  • Opening hours: 6am-5pm for main hall, October-March opens 6.30am
  • Admission: free

Sensoji is the oldest buddhist temple in Tokyo. Dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of mercy and compassion. Apparently, two brothers caught a golden statue of Kannon when fishing one day. They tried to get rid of it numerous times however, it kept coming back. They decided to keep it and showed it to the chieftain when they returned back to their village. The chieftain was a devout Buddhist and decided to build a temple to house the statue and so, Sensoji was born.

To most common route to get to Sensoji is by walking through Kaminarimon, or the thunder gate. The gate houses a large lantern and two statues guarding the temple, the god of wind and the god of thunder and lightening. On the way to the main hall, you'll come across:

  • A beautiful, 5-story pagoda 
  • An ablution fountain with houses a bronze dragon statue
  • A large incense burner which is thought to treat and purify ailments if you rub the smoke over your body
  • A few shops selling trinkets, goshuin (stamps to signify you have visited a specific shrine/temple) and omikuji

Omikuji are fortunes which can be bought at temples and shrines. They're usually in Japanese however, the one at Sensoji is also translated into English. You have to pay the fee of 100yen, shake a container filled with sticks and slot one out through the small opening. Each stick has a number written in kanji on it so you have to match the number to one of the drawers nearby. Put the stick back into the container once you've retrieved your fortune. Hopefully you'll be luckier than me - I got bad fortune - twice! When this happens, you have to fold the piece of paper and tie it onto the gate or tree nearby so that the bad fortune doesn't follow you home. My partner also received a bad fortune and when tying it up to gate, he almost broke it...

The main hall closes at night time however, I do recommend visiting the grounds which are open all hours during dusk as the area is beautifully illuminated.

Tokyo Skytree Town
  • Opening hours: 9am-11pm, varies depending on activity 

Tokyo Skytree Town consists of:
  • Tokyo Skytree: a 634m tall observation deck which gives a panoramic view of Tokyo. Costs between 2000-4000yen depending on the type of ticket you purchase
  • Tokyo Solamachi: a shopping complex at the base of the tower. You can find the usual department store fashion stores and boutiques, restaurants, basement food halls and character goods including the Pokemon store and Jump store
  • Sumida Aquarium: a modern aquarium with animals such as penguins, seals and jellyfish

I decided to try my hand at the gachapon machines within the Tokyo Skytree Pokemon store and was rewarded with a cute Pikachu figure in a swimming doughnut. I've yet to test whether or not it actually floats in water.

In the basement food hall, we treated ourselves to some cheesy takoyaki, a jumbo-sized prawn tempura and a bunch of grapes for £25. They were the most delectable grapes that I have ever consumed. Plump, sweet and juicy. We found that they tasted better with the skin peeled off. The food hall had other hidden treasures such as square fruit. Why, I hear you ask? Because Japan, that's why. 

Yakiniki Panga
  • Opening hours: 11.30am-2pm, 5pm-8pm, closed Sunday

The best meal I had in Japan. Finding halal food in Tokyo can be tough but to find halal meat wagyu of this quality?  I would return a thousand times to this BBQ restaurant, that's how delicious it is. Juicy, marbled wagyu served with an assortment of pickles, salad and sauces. Simply dip it into the sauce, grill for a few minutes (don't overcook it!) and eat over rice.

I kick myself over the fact that I only ate here once on my trip. You definitely have to make a reservation in advance as it's a small shop with a few seats. As we were being seated, there was already a queue forming outside.



Saisai said...

Good read, deffo wanna go now!!!

TeaPot said...

The meat at Yakiniki Panga is to die for, I could taste it right now 🤤😋. I wish I could have more 🥺