I can appreciate Tokyo is a large airport, but coming in to land on parallel runways with another plane is a little unnerving. The coordination to bring these planes so close together to land at the same time, is impressive.
After being on a schedule during our travels in South East Asia, we decided to take it easy in Tokyo. No bookings / reservations other than our flights home. Therefor, this blog post is going to be heavy on food. Although we do actually do stuff during the day, most of it is maybe not so interesting to share on here. But the food in Tokyo is worthy of sharing.
Our first stop is a fast food style Donburi Joint. What makes this place interesting to foreigners is the ease of ordering. Japan loves its vending machines, and restaurants are not immune to this technology. You enter, order and pay at the machine, choose a seat and your food is delivered forthwith.
Tokyo is massive, and as such has many downtown areas. I will specify if we ever leave Tokyo, if not we are just in a different area, such as below we are in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Kaiten Sushi Dinner (Conveyor belt, with a twist, really there is no conveyor belt here, but it is still called Kaiten, which means conveyor belt)
You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.
While in Ueno, we stumbled across this food truck of sorts- Sweet Potatoes. These are not what you are thinking, forget that mashed up orange stuff on the table at Thanksgiving. These are like candy, so sweet. This man let us sample the three varieties and we pulled the trigger on the sweetest variety. These things are delicious.
Time to get our Groove on: Karaoke is insanely popular in Japan, we scratched it off our imaginary list. The only English songs were oldies. I am not complaining- I could listen to Fleetwood Mac all night.
A visit to a Temple with Aya’s Family:
Yebisu is a high end mass produced Japanese Beer Company. This particular glass above is beer mixed with cassis and coffee, it was actually delicious.
Alert! Alert! We are leaving Tokyo.
Train travel south to pay our respects at Aya’s Grandfather’s grave, and then Lunch as we are close to a fishing port.
ok, lets grab some chow. We are 70 minutes south of Tokyo by Train in a fishing port that is famous for Tuna.
Time to head back to Tokyo
Tokyo- The city of Museums. While trying to decide what we wanted to see in Tokyo, we discovered that Tokyo has an astronomical number of museums. Most of them are free or $2-$5 entrance. According to Wikepedia, Tokyo has 128 Museums, ranging in content from a Beer Museum to a Sword Museum to War Museums to a Sewer Museum. Of course there are many art museums and galleries, but that is not really of interest to us. We picked 5 or 6 that were of interest to us, available time will dictate how many we can see.
Hukkoh-Kan Earthquake Museum: (Admission: Free)
The Great Kanto Earthquake struck Tokyo at 11:58am on September 1st 1923, the earthquake and ensuing fires decimated Tokyo. Due to the timing of the noon hour earthquake, which registered 7.9 on the Richter Scale, most people were using gas stoves / charcoal, and that caused massive fires to rage out of control. It was interesting to see the aftermath and the rebirth of Tokyo in photos. 20 years later Tokyo had to rebuilt again, after the Allies essentially destroyed the City again.
Because the earthquake struck at lunchtime when many people were cooking meals over fire, many people died as a result of the many large fires that broke out. Some fires developed into firestorms that swept across cities. Many people died when their feet became stuck on melting tarmac. The single greatest loss of life was caused by a fire tornado that engulfed the Rikugun Honjo Hifukusho (formerly the Army Clothing Depot) in downtown Tokyo, where about 38,000 people were incinerated after taking shelter there following the earthquake. The earthquake broke water mains all over the city, and putting out the fires took nearly two full days until late in the morning of September 3. An estimated 6,400 people were killed and 381,000 houses were destroyed by the fire alone.
A strong typhoon struck Tokyo Bay at about the same time as the earthquake. Winds from the typhoon caused fires to spread rapidly. Estimated casualties totaled about 142,800 deaths, including about 40,000 who went missing and were presumed dead. The damage from this natural disaster was the greatest sustained by prewar Japan.
The Museum also had many artifacts on display including many damaged infrastructure pieces, bikes, newspaper ads and melted currency.
Of course it’s food time again. Off to Ikebukuro in search of food, and we were not disappointed.
True Kaiten sushi, this place is a little pricy, but it is reflected in the superior quality of the food that passes right under your nose.
The color of the plate denotes the price of the dish. You keep all of your plates and keep stacking them higher and higher until your stomach is full. Prices vary from $1-$5 per dish.
The Japanese have most things figured out (except for starbucks) Restaurants have display plates in the front window. This takes window shopping to a whole new level.
More on the Starbucks fiasco, and weird Japanese rules. It was cold outside, we were cold after being outside for a few hours. So we headed into Starbucks for a warm up. All of the tables were taken, so we thought we would order our drinks, and wait for a table to open up and then sit down. But you need a seat before you can order. We tried to order anyway, and play the foreigner card, and again were told, wait for a seat and then you can order. This is a Starbucks not a black tie establishment?
This is the outdoor patio on the 9th floor of a department store. Excellent selection. Japan is home to 5.6 Million vending machines nationwide. Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita in the world, with about one machine for every twenty-three people. You can buy pretty much anything from a vending machine. Hot and cold bottled drinks, snacks, fresh fruit, Instant noodles and full meals (hot ready to eat), cigarettes, beer, clothing, ice cream, cappuccino / fresh coffee, full size umbrellas and bulk rice.
It is actually very convenient, a cold drink is never more than 2 minutes away.
Kasai Subway Museum: (Admission $2.10)
Public transit namely the Tokyo Metro Subway is an integral part of life in Tokyo. Visiting the subway museum sounds interesting, so after riding the subway to the Museum, it was time to learn about this vast world.
Anyone who has been to Tokyo will immediately recognize these- Automatic fare gates. The Museum ironically uses them to ensure everyone has purchased a ticket.
You can’t understand a city without using its public transportation system. – Erol Ozan
And finally, who would pass up the chance to drive a subway train, at least the closest you can get to driving without all the training.
More on Tokyo coming in Part 3