This post covers the remaining days we spent in Tokyo. I have attempted on request of friends and family to include a few more photos. I have a generic point and shoot digital camera and am not brilliant at photography but hopefully they will still provide some viewing pleasure 🙂
Our fourth day began extremely early. All I can say is, thank goodness I was still jetlagged because in any other circumstance, a 5.30am start would have had me in an extremely grumpy mood. I am not a morning person! The reason for the early start was because we wanted to get to the famous Tokyo fish market before it wrapped up for the day. We could have gotten up even earlier and attempted to make the renowned tuna auction – but decided against it, given that only around 20 tourists are apparently given admission anyway.
Unfortunately when we arrived (at 7.30!) we were told tourists were not given admission until 9am! We think our guidebook may have been out of date and I regretted not checking the internet at this point. Usually, I do, but for some reason I hadn’t. Anyway, cue a coffee shop break and wandering around the surrounding shops and stalls (there are many), where we found some very reasonably priced strawberries and bananas.
Also, during these wanderings we noted that there were many clearly well-known little sushi restaurants all dotted in amongst the shopping stalls, some with long queues. We knew we wanted to try sushi but our stomachs were not ready so early in the morning!
When we made it to the fish market, it really was very impressive. I personally wasn’t that excited about the market, unlike the other three people I am travelling with, but was going with what the group wanted to do. However, I am glad that I’ve done it, because it is one of the most famous things to do in Tokyo and it was fascinating seeing all the different types of fish, from absolutely massive tuna to tiny little things I don’t know the names of because I am unfortunately not a sea expert. You got used the smell after a while as well. I would advise wearing trousers and shoes you don’t care much about / are able to easily clean as there is a lot of….water and….debris littering the floor!
After, we went to a seemingly chain restaurant that was packed but didn’t have any queues for sushi. I’ve never liked sushi but gave what I think was salmon a try, and it was okay. My partner loved the experience. All customers sat at a long oval table with a space in the middle, and the chefs took orders directly from customers and prepared sushi in the middle of this space in front of you. A mini conveyor belt displayed samples.
As mentioned earlier, we had planned to return to the zoo to and so this was what we did in the afternoon. The zoo is quite large, but for me personally, the enclosures are too small for comfort. The main attraction are the two giant pandas; there were lots of crowds surrounding their enclosure snapping away on phones and cameras.
We had planned to do more on this day, but were too tired from our early start and so we had a chilled evening, picking up a takeaway from ‘Mo’s Burger’ which seems to be the Japanese McDonald’s.
This was the first noticeably warm day of our travels so far, and the first stop was the Asakusa district, to visit the Sensoji temple. Despite being really warm, and both us girls in the group taking our cardigans off, we noted that we were the only ones – the significant rise in temperature did not seem to have an impact at all on the locals, who kept their coats and jackets on. My only conclusion is that they don’t want to take too many layers off before the temperature gets really hot, because they’ll have nothing left to remove.
The approach to the temple is lined with all sorts of different shops and stalls, and is a very pleasant walk. Our fellow couple picked up some beautiful chopsticks as a souvenier at a more reasonable price than we’ve been seeing elsewhere.
The temple itself and the surrounding gardens is a peaceful area, and we enjoyed going around. It costs nothing and you see some interesting sites, including a pair of giant sandals and also big structures out in the courtyard where incense is burned, leaving a sort of fragrant smoky smell on the air, which I really liked. I would say that Asakusa and the Sensoji temple are definitely worth a visit if in Tokyo for a few days.
We returned to Tokyo station, where ramen street is based, to eat at a Japanese curry house. I sampled the traditional Katsu curry for the first time and can safely say that I actually enjoyed it – success!
Thereafter, we went to the Kabuki-za theatre in Ginza to experience some traditional Kabuki theatre. It is possible to queue on the day of a performance to buy single act tickets for about 1000 yen and we were able to easily obtain seated (there are standing for the same price once the seated ones run out) tickets for the thirty minute Act 4 of a six act play. You can click here for the story – conveniently, they provide you with a synopsis leaflet in English before you go in, and thank goodness, because I don’t think we would have been even able to guess what was going on! It was fascinating to watch. The costumes were incredibly elaborate with many layers, as was the intricate face paint. Every movement and line delivered seemed slow and exaggerated and at times, the audience would burst into applause at something that to us did not seem very impressive, but clearly held meaning, for example when a costume layer was removed. Also, there were what I have dubbed ‘stage ninjas’ (I do not think this the technical term) who were dressed in plain clothes and there to remove costume layers, catch flung slippers and do prop changes.
The evening saw us return to the local Indian restaurant and then we sat at our apartment and planned a day trip for the next day.
On this day, we decided on a day trip to the coastline. We took a train from Tokyo to Ito, and from there a bus to Mt Omuro, a dormant volcano. This is 580m high, but there is no climb up, much to my partner’s disappointment. By the way, he’s called Dave. He’s had a look at the blog and tells me to refer to him by his name so this will make things easier.
Instead, there is a small fee for a cable car to the summit, where there is a comfortable circular path around a crater (in which, bizarrely, archery takes place!) that takes about twenty minutes to do and offers some really good views, including of Mt Fuji, though during our trip the view of Mt Fuji was very faint and you can’t see it much in photos.
There are also some interesting sights along the path. The signs are all in Japanese, though, but this is fair enough.
Everything seemed quite barren as we were doing the circular path and we learnt via some signs that there is something called the ‘Burning of the Mountain’ that happens on the second Sunday of February. This probably accounted for the barrenness.
After this, we took a bus and train to Jogasaki-kaigen station to walk to the Jogasaki coastline which is very beautiful. We attempted to use the guidebook to do a recommended hike of 6.5km, however, about an hour in we were thoroughly lost, and Google mapping was not helping.
That first hour was gorgeous and we got some excellent photos, but afterwards, we ended up quite far inland in a little town, which didn’t seem right.
We asked some lovely local ladies for help, and they were quite shocked that we had even embarked on such a hike, but did their best to assist us, even asking for a photo of us at the end with them…they may have asked for this so they could reminisce later and giggle at us foolish tourists, but I think it’s because they simply enjoyed meeting us! Between them and Google maps, we realised we had walked entirely the wrong direction. Given that we had only an hour left until sunset we decided to find the nearest train station and head back to Tokyo. Erm, we were supposed to see a suspension bridge and also a lighthouse. We think the lonely planet description, which is what confused us, leaves a lot to be desired, but maybe it’s just us and you can make more sense of it.
In the evening, we had a little late night shopping excursion (love the fact that shops are open so late here!). I’ve brought three pairs of shoes with me – walking boots (bit sturdier than trainers), comfortable sandals, and a pair of black flat pumps. However, the black flat pumps are a bit bulky and not designed for walking. The other girl I’m travelling with owns a pair of Toms and suggested I invest in a pair whilst out here – she and her partner are returning to the UK soon (whilst we carry on travelling) and offered to take my bulky (useless) flats back. If their weight limit doesn’t permit, I’m giving them away whilst out here. Tokyo conveniently has a dedicated Toms store, and so we went there, and now I’m a proud new owner, and all I can say is – they’re amazing.
For dinner, we sampled a different sort of Japanese cuisine, Okonomiyaki – pancake dishes cooked in front of you, combining potatos, cabbage, pork, eggs and suchlike…and I loved it! I’m so so so pleased to have found a Japanese dish I love 😀
Random things I have learned
- There are a worryingly high number of Tsunami warning signs on the Jogasaki coastline
- I love Okonomiyaki
- Toms are absolutely amazing and I don’t know how I’ve lived without them for so long
I think I probably learnt more than that but my brain is melting right now. Thanks so much for reading. Again if I’ve made any mistakes or appear to have misunderstood/misrepresented Japan in anyway please do let me know.
I’m going to attempt to, once we have finished here in Japan, make a ‘Japan’ page with general tips for travellers.
We are now in Kyoto, so check back to hear more about our experiences here!