Monday, March 4, 2013

Tokyo 2013 Trip Highlights: Day 4 - Sensoji Shrine, Nakamise Street, Kappenbashi, Ginza, Miyazaki Clock

Starting the day was a breakfast of pastries from Anderson Bakery, at the north end of Ikebukuro Station, one of several really good bakery chains in Tokyo.  The bakeries in Tokyo are soooo good - smoke free too!  However they usually have small seating areas so it can be hard getting a seat if it is not to go.  Their bread and pastries were delicious.  For the ladies in my party there was a shop called Chocoholic right across from the bakery with an amazing assortment of cute accessories and an amazing assortment of yummy cakes on the other side.  All very distracting from the main sightseeing mission.
Anderson Bakery Pastries.  Chocolate Cornets, Flakey Croissants, Cherry Danishes.
Clockwise from the coffees.  A sweet bean bun, melon bread, apple turnover, bacon and cheese bun, sugar pastry.  So good.
To get to Asakusa Station we took the Yamanote Line from Ikebukuro to Ueno Station again.  Transfer to the Ginza Line to get to Asakusa - the end of the line.
Looking out the Front of the Ginza Line
Subway Car
Today was more of a non-anime related sightseeing day that focused on big tourist attractions such as Sensoji Shrine, Nakamise Street, and Kappenbashi (Kitchen Town) all in Asakusa.  The area here is steeped in tradition.  These attractions are primarily for Japanese people, but they have been developed so they cater to both Japanese and foreign tourists.  Despite the areas being touristy there is a very down to earth authentic feel to them.  If you are looking for traditional handicrafts and souvenirs these are good places to get them and the prices are usually pretty good.
Kaminari-mon Gate
Sensoji Shrine has the famous Kaminari-mon Gate (Thunder Gate) that is seen on many a post card.  The Thunder Gate has the two famous guardians flanking a huge lantern that leads right up Nakamise Street and the temple proper.  All around the shrine grounds are various shopping streets which all have their own unique shops.
Nakamise Street
Fan Shop
Souvenir Shop
Roasting Sembei
Buy A Roasted Sembei to Eat (100 yen each)

Nakamise Street is a wonderful place to find traditional souvenirs of Japanese Candy, various treats to eat, and plenty of handicrafts and little key chains and such.  Many Japanese buys souvenirs here of their trip to Tokyo so the selection is real good.  Treats you should try include the traditional sembei or freshly roasted rice crackers dipped in soy sauce.  Sembei are yummy!  Try colorful candy such and kompeito which is also the candy that was being fed to the soots in the movie Spirited Away.  You can buy masks, fans, tea cups, lucky cats, little sumo wrestlers, etc.
Kompeito sugar candy / Wikimedia Commons
The main grounds of the temple are pretty impressive and the inner gate and shrine are quite large.  It is the oldest shrine in the central Tokyo area.  You can even get a fortune here by tossing the old sticks.  Just remember to tie the paper fortune off if you get a bad one so that the kami of the shrine can help remediate it.  I got fortune #5 which was the end of the world as it indicated that as nothing I did would succeed.  Misfortune on you, your family, your ancestors, etc.  Had to tie that one off pronto and everything was pretty good after that!
Inner Gate and a Pagoda
Main Shrine Building
At the main shrine you can again make an offering of coins and pray to have your wish come true.  I'm not quite sure what the giant sandals on the back of the inner gate are for, but if it is a good journey, it is going to be a good one.
Skytree + Giant Sandal
Visiting this time there were very few bus tours going through as there were none of the tour guide ladies with the orange flags, but there were plenty of school kids in their uniforms.  The school kids had these cool little writing boards suspending on strings from around their neck so they could take notes while walking around.

We visited a couple of the surrounding streets to look for an artisan's shop that sells hangings and this really good taiyaki place I went to last time.  Fujiya is not a big shop, but it is now run by the son of the original artisan who made beautifully printed towels.  If you're looking for something Japanese to hang on your wall this is a pretty good place with reasonable prices.
Fuji Ya Shop  http://ryoma.cantown.jp
Examples of the the beautifully printed, thin cotton, tenugui towels (think tea towels) that are ideal gifts and look great hung on a wall.
Yummy Taiyaki.  They were as delicious as the last time I had them!  I have the shop marked on the map below.
Cooking the taiyaki.  Different Flavours Available.
Fugu or Poisonous Blowfish Restaurant across from the Taiyaki Place. Not to be confused!

The map above shows Kitchen Town and Sensoji.  Click on it to zoom in and get a legend of the landmarks. 

After have a snack of Taiyaki we headed off to Kappenbashi or Kitchen Town to buy ceramics, those realistic food models, and other kitchen or cooking equipment.
Covered Shopping Arcade in the Area.
Kappenbashi is more interesting than you would think.  You can buy very nice ceramics - plates, bowls, cups, etc. here for your collection.  It is a very Japanese type of souvenir.  Looking for ramen bowls, then this is the place!  You can also buy the red lantern kitchen / restaurant signs for Ramen Shops, etc.  Places here will sell the curtains (noren) that help to divide off the kitchen from the dining area too.  Specialty cooking equipment like ginger graters, sesame seed grinders, cooking chopsticks, coffee filters for your Hario, etc., can all be found here.  Everyone shops here to get this stuff so it isn't just for tourists (I've even read interviews with chefs that indicate it is famous in the cooking community).  Most importantly, you can get your food models / replicas here, just like what you see in the restaurant windows!  While walking by pots and pans there was this one shop with neon signs that had a giant head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex inside - not sure what kind of restaurant needs that.
Main Corner of Kitchen Town. Look for the big chef's head.  There are two big ceramics stores on either side of the intersection here.  Upper floors have more expensive stuff.
Cheap bowls.  More expensive stuff on the second floor.
Ramen food models.  Two main shops on the same block. Marked on the map above!
Food model key chains and fridge magnets.
There are a few knife shops here too.
Sign Shop
Even a kappa is here!
 After we completed our shopping here, we caught the Ginza Line down to Ginza at the nearby Tawarawachi Station.  Don't walk all the way back to Asakusa Station!
Ginza Line
At Ginza Station we arrived late afternoon kind of hungry.  At the station there I saw this vending machine with fresh apple slices in it.  Looked pretty good actually.
Apple Slices Vending Machine. Ginza Station.
We popped upstairs at the famous intersection with the Rico sign and the Sapporo Beer sign.  The venerable Mitsukoshi Department Store is here too.  Many of the expensive shops such as Dior, Cartier, etc., are way above my price range, but you can window shop.  The area looks nice during the day, but it really looks nice at night when it is lit up.

We were hungry so we went looking for the Ippudo Ramen in Ginza (marked on the map).  We actually ended up going next door to try curry udon instead and it was really good too!  The staff at the restaurant here was really nice again and helpful to the foreigners.  Curry Udon tastes curry-like of course, has a thick soup, and was like eating noodles, but not eating noodles as it was pretty different.
Two noodle shops.  Choose your fate!
Curry Udon with Egg
After a good meal, and a nice resting of the feet, we went back out to shop some more.  I wanted to visit the flagship UNIQLO store here.  It is a nice store.  Very techie looking and well decorated.  We went up to UNIQLO T, their only T Shirt floor in the world.  They have a pile of artist designed tees with great looking designs that are anime and non-anime related.  I ended up buying a bunch of Evangelion T-shirts for 1000 yen each ($10) which was a bargain and there were some designer tees even cheaper.  This was some of the older promotional tie-in merchandise, but newer shirts were 1500 yen, so still a good deal.  Lots of other good clothes too.
Front of UNIQLO Store Ginza

UNIQLO T (visit this if you have a chance!)
We also had a look at the designer store out back and by the time we got out it was dark.  Ginza had lit up and it was really nice to walk around and look at the lights.  I took a whole whack of photos here.  Tokyo after dark is amazing with the lights and signs.  Animated signs and shifting building colors abound.

The same intersection shot earlier looks very different at night.



After taking in the lights we headed back down to the Shiodome which is next door to catch the next sounding of the Miyazaki Steampunk Clock.  The sound and animations for the clock are harder to see at night, but I never knew the clock face lit up!  Our dinner tonight was just a quick hit of ramen at a little shop in the Shiodome.  Not some of the outstanding ramen we had already had, but good enough as we were in a rush.


Shiodome.  Miles of malls and underground passages.
This pastry looked delicious, but there was a lineup to get them.
Massive Shiodome walkways.
Simple Ramen
Ramen Shop
Miyazaki Clock Face.  I do like this clock.
 I made another stop at Akihabara on the way back to Ikebukuro on the Yamanote Line to visit the Yodobashi and shoot a few more pictures.  Couldn't find my electronics, but I found a Yamanote Line coin bank that plays the station tunes for three of the stations - score!
Akihabara Again.

Continue onto Day 5 here.

View the Tokyo Travelogues Master Page here.


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