Wednesday 26th April 2017 – Tokyo
After our day of independence we met back up with the group for a walking tour with Meg around her adopted home city. She started by taking us to the Tsukiji Outer Market which is set of streets outside of the famous fish market that sells everything from raw ingredients, to prepared food, and the knives and bowls needed to prepare and serve them.
It’s a slightly mad with lots of tourists but good fun with lots of weird and wonderful produce, giant tuna head anyone? We met back up with the group and went into one of the local restaurants for a sushi breakfast. Fiona, Jen, Wayne and I, ordered a couple of the specials and the chef behind the counter whipped it all together in the standard Japanese super stylish way.
There were a fair few things we hadn’t tried before – sea urchins, the black spiky ones that cause so much pain if you stand on them so fair revenge, were bright orange, had the texture of pate and not much flavour, tiny transparent whole fish served raw were slightly gelatinous, and horse mackerel was a tasty surprise. It’s not something I’d rush to have for breakfast but it was all totally fresh and served so beautifully I’d have to say it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.
We then had a wander round the fish market itself, after 10am once the stalls have finished trading tourists are allowed in, before that a small number are allowed in but as you have to queue at 3am we declined. It’s a huge building, with stalls for each trader showing hundreds of different types of seafood. We watched a team process huge frozen tuna using a band saw, and a group inspecting sea urchins – it’s really clean and surprisingly doesn’t smell of fish at all… very different from the fish market in Myanmar.
Tour complete we got back on the train and headed up to Asakusa to visit the Senso-ji temple. It’s the oldest temple in Tokyo, said to have been built back in 628, and famous for it’s main Karminarimon Gate, where a giant lantern hangs. To get to the temple you have to walk though the Nakamise shopping street – which is lined with shops supposedly dating from the Eco era, it has been brought up to date with iPhone covers, toys and sweets made with green tea (macha) or sweet bean paste. Neither are particularly to our taste, so Wayne had a wasabi ice cream instead – yuk! (I think she means yummy – Wayne).
Having made it through the market, we visited the temple itself which is slightly calmer than the market. On either side of the Hozomon Gates are giant straw sandals hung high above the street which if you can reach them to touch are supposed to bring good luck.
We also tried out the temples ability to tell fortunes. You pay your 100y and then shake the silver pot until one of the chopsticks comes out of the small hole. You then match the number on the chopstick with the number on a set of small drawers and take out your fortune. Mine was okay, as it was a ‘regular’ good fortune, Carolyn got an ‘excellent’ fortune, butler Jo and Bert got really bad fortunes, at which point they had to tie them to the rails provided next to the stall, where every evening they burn the unwanted fortunes to take them away.
We headed over to the Sumidagawa River to take a look at the Asahi Brewery head office on the opposite bank. Designed by Philippe Starck in the 80’s, the first of the 2 buildings is designed to look like a pint of beer and the second.. actually I’ve no idea, the locals call it the ‘golden turd’. More entertaining was the round white sphere, which once you poked your head into one of the holes, turned out to actually be a garden – no idea how you cut the grass?
Back into town, we headed for Ginza and the Hama-rikyu Gardens. It’s traditionally set out, with a central tidal pond with a tea house set in the middle. The planting is amazing – lots of wisteria ready to pop, and lots of cherry blossom just finishing – it’s surrounded by the tower blocks of Tokyo so a tranquil spot in all amongst all the modern views.
End of tour and as some were going to a Kabuki show, we went our separate ways, and we did what only a proper tourist should do in Tokyo – got coffee with our faces etched into the foam, chatted with a robot and visited the Sony showrooms for a peak at the tech in our near future.