There was a lot of walking in Japan. My legs were sore for days. I had a huge blister on the back of my right foot (thank you Puma, you suck), which later popped (bursted?) during my hike at Fushimi Inari Taisha. No worries. I bought a box a band-aids and a new pair of shoes.
If you haven’t already noticed, I like to eat my way through almost every city I visit, especially the ones in Asia. So naturally, the first thing that my friend and I did after we landed in Tokyo and checked in (AirBnB) was eat. Our first meal was at Kimukatsu (there is actually one on Sawtelle) in the Ebisu district. Layers of layers of thinly sliced pork, deep fried and served on a wire rack. It was kinda delicious.
Do you know what else was delicious? The tub of steamed rice that the waiter brought over. If I lived in Japan, I could eat a bowl every day. Isn’t it pretty? Just nod.
We had every intention of making it to the tuna auction at Tsujiki the next morning. Well we arrived at 4:30am and still missed it. But you know what? I can’t say that I’m particularly disappointed. I think I was too tired to feel any emotions. Since we were already out, we decided to spend the morning waiting in line for some sushi breakfast at 壽司大和 (Sushi Daiwa), apparently it’s the 2nd most popular.
Had to add a filter to cover up the lack of make up and puffy eyes.
The following morning we had breakfast at another sushi restaurant, 市場** (Ichiba Sushi). This joint wasn’t listed anywhere, but the sushi was just as fresh. We agreed the experience was actually a lot more enjoyable. The sushi chef was more friendly and didn’t insist that we do omakase. Ichiba is located a few alleys down from Sushi Daiwa.
Betty’s Uni Bowl. I like uni (sea urchin) and all but I don’t think I can eat this much uni. Go Betty!
Where was I? Oh yes. Let’s go back to the first morning after breakfast at Sushi Daiwa. We had a second breakfast at 井上, which was located somewhere in the outer market area. I don’t think they have a website, but I’m sure they are listed on someone’s top ramen list. There was one thing on the menu and one thing only. Ramen. See below. A huge bowl for approximately $5.83, and it taste so much better than the $8.50 spicy chicken quesadilla I had for lunch today.
Had I not stuffed my face with two breakfasts (all before 7:00am), I would’ve had room to eat these rice balls (I love rice) and grilled clams.
There are a lot of shrines and temples in Japan. We visited so many that I think we’re both shrined and templed out for the next few years. The first one we visited was 明治神宮 (Meiji Jingu), which was located in the middle of Yoyogi Park. I’m not really sure which gate we entered from, but the path we took was…very green. It’s quite lovely, no?
Before you enter any shrine or temple in Japan, you must to cleanse your hands and mouth.
The divination stick I picked out at the Meiji Temple said:
One who is spiritually pure feels no shame before the invisible but all-seeing gods (kami). Hence, such true-heartedness is the source of peace and happiness.
Someone please translate that into real speak.
A lot of people, including me, like to write their wishes down on a piece of paper or tablet and hang them somewhere in the shrine/temple. Can you find mine? I did a very Miss Universe thing and asked for world peace.
We bumped into a cute little girl wearing a kimono at the temple. She was attending someone’s wedding, but was also taking pictures with tourists upon request.
One of the top things listed for Tokyo was Shibuya Crossing. Apparently, this intersection is the busiest in the world. Per the recommendations of many travel guides (and my cousin), we ordered some drinks at Starbucks and waited on the second floor to watch the madness. Damn that’s a lot of people. Actually crossing it wasn’t too bad though.
One of the parks that we visited was 新宿御苑 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden). I think it was supposed to be beautiful but it was just…gloomy and green? We should go back during Cherry Blossom season.
Another temple that we visited was 淺草寺 Sensoji. It’s touristy, but totally worth fighting the crowd for. At the temple, I prayed and drew a “吉“ divination stick. My fortune read “all your request and desire will get through and change for the better”, “you can do everything in a hurry and be safe” and “you can meet with so many happiness”. Um…the English wasn’t really that good. I also got “the person you wait for will come but late”. $hit. I got the same fortune at Tokyo Daijingu, “THE PERSON YOU AWAIT: If he comes, will be late”. WTF?
There was a big market in front of the temple with lots of souvenirs and treats. Below was the fried mochi filled with red bean that I ate. One of the few sweet snack that I had that didn’t taste like I had swallowed a jar of sugar.
Before our train ride to Osaka, we had breakfast at Tsujiki again. I can’t get enough of this market. This time we didn’t have sushi, we had curry. I ordered beef curry (not shown below). I think I may have ate two tiny pieces of beef. It’s ok though because that just means I have more room for the rice. I did not touch that big glob of shredded cabbage.
We took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka, and stayed at an apartment (AirBnB) in Temma. There were several covered streets with lots of restaurants and shops. One in particular looked like a snack shop threw up on itself. Look at all those treats. There were so many to choose from that I left empty handed. Yep. I didn’t buy a thing. I don’t do well with multiple choice.
One of our best meals in Japan was at a yakiniku restaurant in some random alley. The staff spoke minimal English, the menu was in Japanese and there were no pictures. Thank you Google translate. The only character I recognized on the menu was “牛“ for beef. I think the restaurant was called 天滿燒肉 + a couple of Japanese characters. It was dark so I didn’t get any good pictures. Sorry.
The next day, we ventured out to 金閣寺 (Kinaku-ji). If you can squeeze your way through all the tour groups, you get to see this:
The view was so breath taking you can almost forget there are swarms of people around, totally invading your personal space. Almost.
I ate more rice after Kinkaku-ji. You can really work up an appetite fighting the crowds. Yes that light brown stringy stuff on top were dried fish. Those silver dots were eye balls. I ate them all. Don’t let me hear or see you cringe. I will judge you. What’s the word for people that don’t venture out of their comfort zone? I’m thinking “boring” but that’s not it.
Our next destination was Fushimi Inari Taisha. Photo Tip: if you want to get a good picture without all those tour group photo bombers, you need to keep climbing those stairs. The tour groups only get to stay here for maybe an hour at most, so they all hover at the bottom of the hill.
After our hike to the top, I tried a black sesame ice cream made with silken tofu. It was one of the few times that I devoured all the ice cream and cone. My friends know that I don’t often finish my drinks or desserts.
In the afternoon, we ventured into the city of Gion in hopes of catching a glimpse of a real geisha. We saw three, but my camera wasn’t ready for any of them. My camera was ready for the okonomiyaki and grilled mochi balls though.
Betty (the one in the black sweater and pony tail) loves walking through the alleys of Gion.
Betty’s mom bought these sweet rice things filled with red beans. Oh my god they were awful. Again, it tasted like I swallowed a jar of sugar. They are pretty though.
We tried to go to Nara, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’re still not sure how we got lost on the train for three hours. Anyways, after we gave up we decided to go to Dotonbori in Minami a little early to have lunch. We had tofu and dumplings (not gyoza) at 大板王將. It was surprisingly satisfying. The sauce for the tofu had a tiny bit of spice to it. The dumplings were perfectly pan fried on the outside with a juicy meat filling on the inside. What more can you ask for?
Kani Doraku, the restaurant with the big giant crab on the store front is apparently the most popular place to have dinner. Their specialty is crab. We dropped by the restaurant around 2:30pm to make a reservation for a 4:10pm dinner. I quite enjoyed my grilled crab legs and it wasn’t expensive at all.
At some point during our trip, I got tired of taking pictures. All the temples and shrines were starting to blend together and I could barely tell which is which. The last temple that we visited was 清水寺 (Kiyomizu-dera). Again, there were many tourists. You do have to hike a bit to get up here though.
We spent our last 1 1/2 days back in Tokyo, doing some last minute shopping and sightseeing. My friend Akko took us to Imahan for real sukiyaki on our last night. We left our shoes at the door and went around the whole entire restaurant bare foot. I learned that I’ve been eating sukiyaki all wrong. The meat and vegetables should be cooked in a shallow pan of broth, not in a pot. Thank you Akko for making the reservation.
That basically summarizes my first trip to Japan. I’m already trying to figure out when I can go again. I miss the food, my daily bowl of rice, the fish market, and public transportation. I wished I had more time to explore, shop and try some of the bento boxes. Next time I want to go the Alice in Wonderland restaurant and visit SkyTree at night.