May 02, 2015

Today we travel to North Tokyo where we visit Akihabara for everything Anime, go Cherry Blossom hunting in Ueno, attempt to shop in Ameyokocho market, see the skylines of Tokyo at the Tokyo Skytree and stop off at some of the major temples along the way. You are definitely in for a treat with this post. Just wait til you see the Okonomiyaki we had for dinner! *DROOLS*

First up we decided to grab breakfast from Tokyo underground train station to take with us on our journey. We kinda figured it was disrespectful to be eating in public as we had some strange stares.....
Perhaps they were just hungry? ;)

We took the JR Yamanote line and made our way to Akihabara to see the Kanda Myojin Shrine.  It is relatively small in comparison to other temples we have/will visit but the shrine is a vibrant red that is too hard to miss. Thankfully it is only a short stroll away from the station.We actually came back to Akihabara later at night to eat, to see just how much the scenery had changed. Wow was it different! 

We never found out what these were, but you are supposed to write down a prayer or message on the plaque and hang it up with all the others. There were quite some unique plaques up there, it seems like many people in Japan have a talent for drawing manga!

After paying our respects, we moved on to the main streets of Akihabara where we saw many of the popular stores such as the Anime Centre, Animate, Mandarake, Yodobashi Camera and the Radio Centre. If you are looking for anything electronic, then Yodobashi Camera is the store for you. It was a bit of a waste for us as we had no interest. We did however see a 360 degree camera which blew us away! Matt obviously had the time of his life in all the Anime/Manga shops as you can see..

We also went into one of the gaming arcades (6 levels of games with no exit in sight!). There was a strict no camera policy, but we weren't even considering taking pictures at that time because we were stunned by the amazing talent of some of the gamers there. Almost everyone playing a game seemed like they were playing for their life!!

Oh and these toy vending machines are also huge in Japan. They are everywhere, and the quality of the toys supersedes ours tenfold. We actually got quite a number of cool little souvenirs from these machines!

While you are in the area, YOU MUST, MUST, MUST TRY Gindaco Takoyaki. It is opposite the UDX building and it was by far the best Takoyaki we had eaten during our whole trip!

Just look at them cooking.... hurry up already!

The final result. Smooth texture in the middle with a tender piece of squid on the inside and a nice crunch when you bite into the ball. After experiencing these Takoyaki balls, there was no competition elsewhere. In a way we were disappointed as we had hoped to find another place to better it.
The only disappointment is that we didn't get more!!!

After a quick bite, we visited both the Anime Centre and the Anime Centre shop. To be honest, it was cool to see, but it is very over hyped. We wouldn't recommend visiting either of these places, but rather spend your time in Akihabara exploring in all the smaller hobby and collectibles stores!

There was simply not enough time to explore all of Akihabara, but off to our next destination. We head back to the station and once again catch the Yamanote line to Ueno. This was the location of the National Cherry Blossom festival. Unfortunately we were a couple of days too early and only very few trees had actually full bloomed, but that still didn't stop people from setting up their picnic rugs and engage in the festivity of Sakura season! There are also smaller shrines inside the park that were very pretty, so we got our trusty Selfie Stick out and took a couple of snaps!

White or Pink? Which colour blossom do you prefer? Both are very unique and both stand out from a mile away. It was truly a wonderful experience. So very lucky and grateful that we got the chance to experience the cherry blossoms.

Inside Ueno park there were several food stalls and you can literally smell the Beef and Chicken Yakitori grilling from a mile away! It smelt too good we just had to try it :)

We were reluctant to try some foods, let alone trust them. I'm sure they were perfectly fine and edible but it's always good to be cautious, especially when on holiday!

Instead we decided to order a large serving of Yakisoba noodles, as well as a plate of chicken and beef Yakitori with salt. The meal cost us 1500 Yen for everything. Word of the warning, be careful with the salt. The beef skewer especially was overly salted, but surprisingly it was still enjoyable enough to polish off. Perhaps the soy flavoured beef might have been more enjoyable though...

Walking towards the exit of the park is a giant pond which is swarming with both cherry blossoms and flies. Once again, we were a bit too early in the bloom, so everything around this area was still budding. We didn't sped too much time here before heading out and finding this beautiful cherry blossom tree which was surrounded by tourists. It was very difficult to get a nice picture of the tree, but we managed!

A short stroll from the park is one of Tokyo's famous markets, Ameyokocho in Ueno. They sold everything from cheap Nike and Adidas shoes, to fresh (hopefully) seafood. It is full of smaller shops which is a good place to shop for cheap KitKats and souveniers.
However be prepared because it is also full of people! 
You can expect to be arm to arm with many locals as you try to get through and explore what the market has to offer. We didn't take many photos here, mainly because it was too hectic to even consider it!

Panda Buns?! So cute!
Definitely expect to spend roughly an hour here if you are truly interested in exploring all of the shops.

Bye Ueno, you were fun.
Now back on the train! This time we used the Subway lines. As mentioned earlier, so long as you remember the number of the station you need to depart at, then you are safe. It is relatively easy to travel here compared to Osaka and Kyoto!

We caught the Ginza line to Asakusa where we walked (unlike the lazy couple in front of us who are getting pulled by a single man!) to the Sensō-ji temple. Not only is this temple Japan's most significant Buddhist temples, but it is also Japan's oldest temple. It is also famous for lighting up at night which we were told to be a truly amazing sight.

The temple was jam-packed with people from all over the world. Everyone came to either pay their respects, pray for good health or come to marvel in Japan's history. 
Being at this temple truly made me feel like "I am in Japan".

We donated 100 Yen to receive a fortune. We got number 8 which was the "Best fortune". Luckily there was an English side which basically told us that everything would be great for us this year, but to be weary of traveling. Well that would have been good news to have BEFORE we left Australia hahaha. Thankfully we came back with nothing but a cold, some KitKats and a luggage of souvenirs.

Outside the temple there is a smaller marketplace where you can find souveniers specifically related to the temple. We also got to try a Warm Cream-filled Puff which was AMAZINGGGG.

Oh and a traditional Red-Bean fish, similar to what we tasted on Day 2 but this had much more filling than the other. The pastry was also much better! Perfect to warm our hands on a cold afternoon!

We set our sights on our next location, the Tokyo Skytree! The Skytree actually has it's own train station, however to get there you must walk from one Asakusa station (10 minutes) to get to the other station which has the Tobu Skytree Line. That is why we recommend stopping at the Sensō-ji temple on your way!

The Tokyo Skytree is.. well big. 
If you are a Tourist, you can show your passport to the ticket counter and for a slightly higher fee you get to skip the elevator line and head to the top ahead of the queues! We HIGHLY recommend this as the queues can take up to 2 hours on busy days. We got up in 5 minutes!

The views were astonishing. I would say breathtaking but I don't want to sound cliche. We were lucky enough to see the transition from afternoon, to dusk and then finally night time. This is where things get special, you truly see Tokyo light up around you! It is rare to find an area that is not light up like a Christmas tree!

They also take pictures for you which you can purchase for 1100 Yen, or roughly $11AUD. Which is quite cheap when comparing it to the professional photographers in Sydney. They are also kind enough to take a picture for you on your personal camera if you don;t want to purchase the photo. Win Win!

Akihabara how we missed you. We missed it that much that we decided to come back for dinner! The place was crazy, completely filled with lights everywhere you look! The lights and signs were so bright that at times you began to question the time of day. 
You must visit Akihabara at night time. 
Only when you visit at night can you truly get the full experience of Electric City.

We visited the UDX building which houses 2 whole levels of restaurants and cafes. Yukaru caught our eye immediately as we saw all the yummy looking pictures of Okonomiyaki. The waiter has very little English but is very accommodating. He tried very hard to communicate with us and was a very pleasant man to speak to. We listened to his recommendations and away we went to our table! We also apologies because we do not know the name of these dishes as everything was in Japanese.

There is a hot plate in the middle of the table where they come and cook your food. There are also small compartments in underneath your seats to ensure that your belongings don't get in the way of the chefs! Such a great idea! But the best thing about this place was the fact that we got to keep all the different types of sauces and toppings to then further add on later. We ended up drowning our Okonomiyaki in that yummy sauce!

Okonomiyaki with Yakisoba Noodles
They mix all the vegetables and eggs in a bowl in front of you before tipping it onto the hot plate. Here is sits and they add Bacon to the mix to also start cooking it. 
Next comes the Yakisoba noodles which they fryup to ensure they are nice and crunchy!

Lastly, you add all our toppings and sauces and voila! We have a simple yet filling main meal. It is probably recommended to share this and grab some side dishes as we did. We saw a couple next to us struggling to finish a single dish on their own, that is why we opted out.

Fried Egg Omlette with Pork Katsu - Side Dish.
I was skeptical at first, but it actually tasted really good. The pork's crumbing was a little soggy from the moisture of the egg, but it didn't bother us too much.

Do we really need to further explain after all the Gyoza we have already eaten?  It was nicely cooked on both sides rather than just the one so the Gyoza was extra crispy. It actually wasn't a bad idea!

That was the end of Day 3! Please let us know if you enjoyed our experiences and don't hesitate to contact us if you would like our full itinerary for the day. 

Day 4 is next up and it is an exciting one for sure! 
We take a guided tour to the 4th sub-station of Mount Fuji where we get to see some amazing views at over 2000 meters! We were also lucky enough to see the rare sighting of a complete (and clear) view of Mount Fuji! Keep posted for our next post!

Want to read more about our Japan trip? 

Don't forget to join our mailing list so you won't ever miss a post!!