30th October – Arriving
We arrived Sunday night and I can’t believe it, at last we are visiting Japan.
As usual I have decided to get sick! I have a head cold – I can’t think straight and I feel like my head is going to explode! Feeling like this, I can’t help but think we are off to a bad start.
So my initial thought is “Why this week to get sick!?!”
Second thought… OMG! We are going to Japan!
Third thought: I need a couch and an old movie, I need to feel sorry for myself!
So, with Tim’s expert navigation we find our hotel – Granbell Hotel, Shibuya.
(That’s why I married him… I have no sense of direction!)
First Impressions: The entrance door, is awesome! A big wooden door, which rotates from its centre axis.
The hotel is located in the heart of Shibuya, close to the station and minutes away from the Shibuya Crossing. Fantastic place to stay.
Next – unpack.
Next – get my act together (cold and flu tablets, reapply lipstick).
Next – Go to that famous scene we all recognise as Tokyo: Shibuya Crossing.
You can’t come to Tokyo and not take a walk across the famous intersection. It’s featured in ‘Lost in Translation’ and ‘Baraka’. The place is packed with all types. When the lights turn red at this junction, they all turn red at the same time in every direction. Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides. It’s a moment of organized chaos.
Drinks tonight at Udagawa Café, Shibuya
My cold has really kicked in so cold and flu tablets to the rescue!
Anyway… Off to Harajuku to Yoyogi Park which is one of Tokyo’s largest city parks.
We spent the morning wandering through this beautiful park. Located in the park is the Meiji Shrine*. The shrine was magnificent. We saw two traditional Japanese weddings when we where there which was a lovely surprise.
Tim has just declared that we should come to Japan every six months for the rest of our lives. Get back to you on that!
Then surprise, surprise, we went shopping. We walked down the main drag, ”Omotesando St”. Where there are lots of luxury stores, but Japan is all about the kooky so we need to take the side streets to see some really unique Tokyo fashion.
We stumble across an wonderful toy shop called ‘Kiddyland’. They had some awesome “Alice in Wonderland’ toys which I purchased. Then down Takeshita –dori for some serious Japanese style fashion street watching!
Apparently, on Sundays all the Japanese youth dress up in their comic style outfits. We wish we were here to see that. But unfortunately, this is only a Monday to Friday trip.
On our wander down the streets we came across the Prada building designed by Swiss Architects, Herzog & de Meuron in 2003. “This store is a strikingly unconventional 6-story glass crystal that is soft despite its sharp angles – as a result of its five-sided shape, the smooth curves throughout its interior, and its signature diamond-shaped glass panes, which vary between flat, concave and convex “bubbles”.
Then back to the hotel to reset, a change of outfit and more cold and flu tablets.
Dinner was close by, actually just up the road at a little to a restaurant called AKIYOSHI. This is an open grill, yakatori restaurant, which has a English menu. Since I’m such a fussy eater having the menu in english is a relief as I don’t want be eating gizzard or heart by mistake, as the whole bird is featured on the menu. I loved the ambience of this place, patrons are just chain smoking, drinking beer and eating. Japan has obviously not turned into the rest of the world when it comes to smoking in public places… They basically don’t give a shit! No warning signs on cigarette packets. If you love to smoke, Japan is your country.
Drinks tonight at Bar Fire, Shibuya
*Meiji Shrine was completed and dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken in 1920, eight years after the passing of the emperor and six years after the passing of the empress. The shrine was destroyed during the Second World War but was rebuilt shortly thereafter. Emperor Meiji was the first emperor of modern Japan. He was born in 1852 and ascended to the throne in 1867 at the peak of the Meiji Restoration when Japan’s feudal era came to an end and the emperor was restored to power. During the Meiji Period, Japan modernized and westernized herself to join the world’s major powers by the time Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912.
My cold is subsiding…thank god!
Off to visit the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, to see an exhibition of 20th Century Modern Art and its progression within the Japanese art world.
Then into Tokyo City to visit the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, which has an exhibition on Toulouse-Lautrec. Quite an extensive exhibition of his works, lots of drawings and studies along with many major lithographs. Great exhibition in a really nice museum, which apparently recently opened in April 2010. Part of the building has been restored from an existing 1894 building, so it brings the old into the modern era.
Now, over to Shinjuku for a look around.
Here we found the original Kinokuniya Book Store, which was founded in 1927. It’s pretty extensive with 9 floors of books to get through. I got a few more ‘Alice in Wonderland’ items to add to the list. We also found a great kid’s book on a story about a poo!! Way too funny…
Dinner tonight was at ‘Rakushokushu Maru’ in Aoyama.
The most elaborate and interesting Japanese meal I have ever had. The presentation was exquisite.
Hotategai to yuba kikuzeri
Fresh Scallops and soy milk skin with chrysanthemum jelly
Irodori mame salad
Salad of persimmon beans and sweet potatoes with endives
Special free-range chicken with salt and yuzu pepper
Butter sweet potato with honey and butter
Hotatekai to yasai
Tempura fresh scallops and vegetable tempura
Grilled yellowtail teriyaki
Oita shiake sumiaburi
Grilled shitake mushroom
Kyoto’s traditional bun made with wild duck and lily bulbs
Drinks tonight at MIXX Bar and Lounge at the ANA.
Wallpaper suggested MIXX at the ANA. This bar is located on the 36th floor and it was a chance to look over the city of Tokyo. But quite frankly I have been spoilt with living in HK, the view just seemed a little underwhelming and the drink cost a little overwhelming, not to mention the 2000 yen table charge.
I order a cocktail called the Cutie Pie which took me an hour to get through (more like a desert than a drink) and Tim had his usual Vodka Martini(s).
Wallpaper has an iphone app that you can download.
Unfortunately now Tim has a fully fledged head cold!
Today is all about checking out Shibuya.
First stop Shibuya 109. Outrageous!! You know those girls that look like little Blythe dolls. I now know where they work. HERE! Every girl looks fantastic. It was a great start to the day. The fashion is excellent, the shortest skirts and the cutest blouses, with such detail.
If I was only 5 feet tall, with no breasts or hips then I could fit into everything, but alas…
We spent the whole day in and out of shopping malls and small boutiques. We basically shopped till we dropped this day. Tokyo is mainly flat, so very enjoyable to walk around and doesn’t have that debilitating humidity that HK has.
Back to the Granbell to reset, a costume change and the off to dinner.
Dinner tonight was at Midori Sushi in Mark City. Don’t let the location put you off or the long waiting line to get in, it moves fast. I felt myself welling up over this experience, as silly as this sounds I really felt like I was in Japan. We sat at the counter and saw them making, with such precision, this exquisite meals. There are about 5 Sushi chefs behind the counter. All the chefs greet you at the same time. I wish I knew what they said? Generous amount of fish sits on top of the rice. Tim had the house speciality “Broiled Conger Eel”.
Japan is so unique. It is so unlike anywhere else and can’t be compared to any other place. Hardly anyone speaks English and they just rabble on in Japanese and that works fine for us.
After dinner we went to a Games arcade. I saw a cute little doll that looked like ‘Alice’, but after eight attempts of trying to win this doll we gave up. With 100 Yen left, we swapped machines and in one foul swoop we won this cute little kitty cat with a cross for an eye! So we walked out winners!
Now time for a drink…
Drinks somewhere in the heart of Shibuya, don’t know the name of the place. Straight up it will cost you 500 yen just to walk in. Really quaint bar probably fits 30 people tops, everyone smoking of course!
Tim threw up last night…it was probably the eel? (It did look like a giant tongue, lying over rice.)
We thought it best not to start the day shopping, maybe add a little bit of culture to our holiday. So we started the morning at Shinjuku Gyoen National Park. Beautiful gardens that featured a traditional Japanese Garden (go figure) .I think it must have been a public holiday today as there were lots of families out and about.
On the way back to the station, we discover TOPSHOP. You guessed it, a need to check it out, since there in no TOPSHOP in HK or Australia.
Then back over to Harajuku to have a good wander around and check out all the street fashion and boutique shops. After 4 days of looking around Shibuya and surrounding areas, I really like Harajuka the best. Lots to find if you have the time; even a really large vintage shop if you head towards Jingumae. Again, it’s tricky if you have breasts or biceps and over a size 12… just forget it. They don’t cater for this. I’m so glad I married a man who loves to shop!
Tonight Dinner was at a Teppan restaurant called “BOTEJYU”, in Shibuya
We tried for the first time a Okonomiyaki. It’s a Japanese savoury pancake served on a hotplate.
Time for a drink.
A walk through the street of Shibuya to a bar called ‘Bar Valley’. A beautiful warm style bar with a faux log fire. It was like sitting at a upmarket ski resort lodge bar, but with high heels instead of ski boots! Here they chip their own ice. The drinks were made with love and care from the very studious bartender (or mixologist) that delivers the drink to you personally and pours them at your table. A couple’s bar, nice and dark for those late nights. Did I mention the drinks are strong!
Early start to the day as our flight is at 10am.
As we were really late booking our last night we had to swap to a smoking floor. NEVER AGAIN! I felt like I was going to vomit when I woke up! Stale ciggy smell!!
But a lovely cab ride to the airport made up for me not being able to breathe!
This was an excellent holiday filled with a lot of snot!!!!
We both agree our best purchases where shoes.
We both agree the best restaurant was Rakushokushu.
Most spoken word “Ach-hoo!” followed by a close second, “My feet hurt”.
Most beer drank “Asahi”
Best find… Big Purple duffel bag to get all our new find purchases back home.
As we only had a very small taste of Japan and our visit was more on the cosmopolitan side. It seems we have only scratched the surface of this very unique country. We will definitely be back and probably next time to see a more traditional Japan with its cherry blossoms and geisha girls.
A special mention to Mike who recommended the hotel, great call as it suited us perfectly. And of course my awesome husband Tim and his trusty iphone, pointing us in the right direction literally!