I apologize in advance for this long post. I have been writing this post over the course of the last few weeks. Each time I come back to it I add more and what should probably be a few short blog posts has turned into one epic about Tokyo, so thanks for hanging in there if you get to the end☺.
As we approach the end of the school year, I am thinking back to the long weekend at the end of March when we went to Tokyo. In thinking about my time in Tokyo and looking through the pictures I took I feel like I can summarize our time in two categories: food & family.
To begin food in Japan is the real deal. I did not have a bad meal in Japan. Even at the airport the food was still tasty. I was looking forward to eating ramen, okonomiyaki, sushi, etc… The list is long and I am sad to report I did not eat everything on my list, but everything I did eat was great.
The first day I got up and wandered around the neighborhood while everyone else was still getting ready. I stumbled into a grocery store and bought tea and other random food snacks for breakfast. The grocery store was surprisingly busy for a Friday morning as the neighborhood was teeming with activity. We had soba for lunch and made our way to D’s aunt’s house.
For dinner we went to a food market in Shibuya. This is a foodies paradise. Aisles upon isles of different bento boxes where you could find any kind of food you desire… maybe not Mexican, but that is for another blog on another day. In true Tokyo fashion it was crowded. Trying to keep up with D’s Aunt weaving in and out of the crowds of people trying to decide what to bring home for dinner as D’s Uncle waited in the car with the flashers on (this is an interesting phenomenon we have experienced in Asia). Takeout for dinner was delicious. I am still unsuccessfully trying to replicate the homemade tofu with a dash of sea salt.
It has been years since we have seen D’s Aunt and Uncle, so it was nice to catch up and hear funny stories about D’s last time in the apartment, when he was three I think.
The next day we woke up checked out of our AirBnB and met up with my cousin whom we had not seen since we got married! We got okonomiyaki near Tokyo station. According to him, okonomiyaki is best eaten in Osaka, but the restaurant we went to was run by a chef from Osaka. It is one of my favorite foods to eat in Japan. There is something fun about the sizzle of the pancake on the grill at your table. It pairs nicely with beer and is also a nice way to stay warm since the grill is part of your table.
From there we went and did some sight-seeing of Tokyo station and the Emperor’s palace. It was cold, but at least it was not raining. I had been to these two tourist spots before when I came to Japan with my Grandmother in 2005. It was fun to go back with D. It was our first time in Japan together and fun to merge our different memories and todo lists. There is a commemorative statue of a samurai warrior next to the palace. It is pretty imressive and ties in all the samurai movies we have watched togther with D’s old roomate whom we of-course sent a picture to while we were there.
Later that night in we walked through the streets of Ginza. Another meal, but a snack with dessert meals of mochi and red beans and tea. I enjoy the labor that goes into making everything pretty to look at. The food is already good, but the attention to detail in making it look fancy makes it taste that much better.
We met up with D’s cousin and new wife as we explored Ginza. Expensive shopping, but I did spend quite awhile in the 9 floors of stationary and things related to stationary. I am a sucker for all things office supplies, so it was fun to wander the floors especially the one dedicated to handmade washi paper. After walking off the sweet snack it was time to eat yet again. Dinner was a family a family favorite tonkatsu restaurant. Again I really at this point don’t have to tell you, but the food was delicious.
It was also nearing prime cherry blossom viewing so D’s Aunt took us to a restaurant the following evening that had a wonderful view of cherry blossoms. Not to mention some of the best miso soup I have ever consumed. So simple, but at the same time rich and decadent. This park also had a model Mount Fuji or “Fuji-san” as the locals say that had a light show at night. We watched the show, but also went to the nearby grocery store to stock up on Japanese Green tea. There are so many different kinds, so we had to get a few to enjoy here in Taiwan.
D & I also started exploring the streets of Shibuya at night after our days of family time. We were told it was safe, but his Aunt reminded us to scream if we got into any kind of trouble😃. It was a relatively quick walk from our room at his Aunt’s apartment to the heart of Shibuya and there were a surprising amount of stores, bars, and shops still open. Even a few shrines to visit. Tokyo is a world city, which is teeming with visitors from all over the world, but there still is that sense of homogeneity that we experience in what seems like most of Asia (spoiler and nod to the Hong Kong trip, which I am writing about in another post).
A day of shopping in Shibuya and the famed Harajuku districts was a whirlwind of people, shops, and actual sunny weather! This was the day I had Ramen for breakfast. My cousin said one of the foods that Tokyo does best is Ramen and it really was memorable. You order at a vending machine. The machine spits out tickets and the server takes your ticket and then brings back the food that you ordered. It makes ordering fun or at least novel for us and probably easy on the staff.
We both ended up buying a pair of Onitsuka brand shoes as our souvenir and even visited a cafe that is famous for their latte art. You literally show them any picture and they will put it on your coffee… even some cool 3D foam art. I had too many options since they were fairly limitless, so I just showed them a husky photo.
We stopped in the park to see the cherry blossoms and got stuck in a momentary torrential downpour. It was pretty funny. People were out in the park for Ohanami, which is the term for flower viewing. It is a good excuse for people to drink and eat out under the cherry blossoms. There was a news story about how office employees would claim these coveted spots the night before! Imagine literally camping out for 24 hours just to get a good picnic spot. This downpour brought rain, wind, and even lightning. We watched more than one tarp blow over and many paper plates blow by.
The rain made us cut our park visit short and we proceeded to meet up with D’s family to eat sushi on my last night in Tokyo, D stayed the remainder of the week, but alas the students needed to be educated, there were AP tests coming after all. Conveyor belt sushi in the United States usually consists of sub-par sushi heavy on the California roll and drenched in sauce. Conveyor belt sushi has the same instant eats, but the quality is impressive. I took a video for you to enjoy because it even had a train that would deliver your special orders to your table. You can also see the tablet in the corner of the video that you could place your special orders on, so convenient.
On my last morning in Tokyo we got up early (yes it is possible that D got up early) we walked to a nearby soba shop and had soba for breakfast before I headed to the airport because my long weekend had sadly come to an end. It is nice to know that we both have family living in Tokyo and it is a short flight from Taiwan, so we will be back and have more delicious meals to enjoy in the future.