Sunday, October 9, 2011

Japan - Day 7 - Exploring Tokyo

Today started bright and early at 7:30 so we could get to the Fish Market.  Along the way, we passed a really tasty French pastry place that had chocolate croissants, sausage croissants, and a ham/potato croissant. 

All of them were delicious. 

We went down to the railway and bought a day pass since we knew we’d be all around Tokyo today. 

After a change-over, we got to the fish market.  I don’t think I’ve seen such a busy place ever before.  After trying to walk into one section we were turned away since it was off limits to visitors.  We walked down a crowded street with lots of stalls; some selling spices, vegetables and fruits, and fish. 

We went into a small marketplace where we tried a sample of apple. 

We thought these were interesting.  Pumps that came down from the ceiling instead of from an island on the ground.

We then found another entrance to the market where a guard gave us a map showing where everything was and the areas that were off-limits.  Off-limits because they were dangerous to have people wandering around.
Theresa wondering if there's anything around the corner coming for us. 

An officer directing traffic.

And then it was a mad rush.  There were so many carts delivering things all around to different stalls and there was so much traffic

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many fish ever before, even in an aquarium.  And how the whole thing stayed organized I have no idea.

There were stalls everywhere you looked, and fish from tiny little anchovies and roe, to huge tuna. 
Surprisingly the place didn’t smell nearly as fishy as I would have thought, and the whole time there, I think I only saw one fly.  

Now coming out of there, we were wondering what the bottom of our shoes had on them and Ruston wondered what would happen if you licked the bottom of your shoe.  That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.  We eventually decided you'd get some sort of super power and be able to talk to fish, but no one wanted to try it. 

We exited the fish market and went through more of the local shops.  I found a place selling skewered meats and tried chicken and beef.  Both were tasty.

Theresa came to a place that had apples and both she and Ruston got one of those.  I never did happen to see a sushi place I wanted to stop at, so even though that’s probably the freshest I’ll ever find it, I still haven’t tried sushi.

Someone is happy.

We jumped back on the railway and got to the Ginza crossing, which was supposed to be one of the busiest crossings in the world.

Apparently on a Saturday around 10am, not so much... 

As luck would have it, we were right across the street from Mitsukoshi department store, and they had just opened.  As we walked down the halls, all the employees were bowing to each customer.  And when one would bow, it set off a chain reaction and the next person would bow and then the next.  Theresa collected something like 7 bows. 

We went down to the lower level where the food was sold.  There was all sorts of variety here.  I was amazed at the sheer number of different stalls on this one floor.  And at every one of them, presentation of the food was the most important thing.  Everything just looked amazing.  There was even a Korean stall selling lots of different kinds of kimchi that you could smell from a little ways away, though T didn’t end up getting anything.

Jake did find some mochi.  Going down one more level we found what must be the most expensive steaks I’ve ever seen.  They were 4900 yen / 100 g, which worked out to $290 / pound.  Yikes!  They sure did look tasty though.  Here's a photo of a 3000 yen / 100 g ($175/lb) Rib Eye.  There were even refrigerated lockers to leave your purchases in while you kept shopping.  We found a pastry place that had a chocolate chip bread that looked good so we got some of that to go, and then made our way out. 

We passed by the Apple store and saw so many flowers and post-its to Steve Jobs.  He had died 3 days before and there were so many tributes to him there.

Then we walked to the Tokyo International Forum.  It looked really amazing with all the glass and steel. 

While there, Theresa saw a place just across the way had a Halloween pastry that she wanted to try.  We stopped by and all got something, including the pumpkin pastry we saw.  We all bought a tasty treat and sat down to enjoy.

Heading back to the train station, Jacob found another mochi place and bought a strawberry/whipped cream mochi that was really tasty.

Monty Python's Spamalot is apparently showing here. 

Jumping back on the train to go to our next stop.

We then went to the biggest electronics store I’ve ever seen.  This was 9 floors of electronics on a floor where you couldn’t see the end of the building from one side to the other it was so big.  I didn't take many photos while in here. 

The home theater section had a Sharp Aquos 70” tv 3-D capable for only 7800 yen (~$10000).  Guess the prices are a little inflated here, since that same TV sells at Costco back home for $3000.  Our absolute favorite find was on the 6th floor where all the foot massage and back massage chairs were set up and available to try.  Seriously we must have spent 30 minutes just trying out all the different ones they had and just enjoying some time off our feet.  The foot massage units weren’t even that expensive ($100) and at one point, I think Theresa was considering buying one and taking it all over Japan with us for the rest of the trip so she could get foot massages after a long day of walking around.  She didn’t do that, but I’m thinking we’ll be getting one when we get back home.  They also had some medical massage chairs for just $4000.  We weren’t sure if they were available to try, but Ruston was bold and sat in one.  A short time later, one of the employees working the section came over and checked to make sure he was getting the full experience with the back, neck and calves.  Apparently it was encouraged to try them out.  After slowly dragging ourselves away from the massage section, we made it to the 8th floor for lunch.  There were lots of different places that looked tasty, but we decided on an Indian Curry place.  The other 3 got curry w/ rice and nan and a white sweet yogurty drink that was pretty good, while I got the fried basket including fried chicken (boneless thigh pieces, really tasty), onion rings and fries, plus some garlic nan.  It was all very tasty.

The 9th floor was golf equipment, which we weren’t really interested in, but figured we’d check it out anyhow.  We were happy we did because we saw a small driving range just outside that was fully enclosed on the top of this building.  The wall was only something like 30m from the tees.  The other interesting thing they had was an automatic contraption to put a new ball on the tee.  When you hit the ball, the tee lowered into the ground and then popped up a couple seconds later with a ball on top ready to hit again.  I'm not a golfer so maybe these are all over the states and I just don't know, but it was my first time seeing something like that. 

Another short trip on the train and we headed to the Imperial Gardens.  We’ve really been impressed with how friendly the Japanese people have been here.  All the shopkeepers have been super nice, everyone says good morning.  We were even on the street just with our subway map out and someone came over and asked us in English if we needed help finding something.  Besides the occasional pushing and shoving when in a line for something, everyone has been super polite. 

We started on a small forest trail.

Very pretty views in here.

Pretty nice to have this big garden in the middle of bustling downtown Tokyo.

Oh Ruston...

You're so crazy.

We then made our way to the older walled off areas.

Quite a contrast seeing all this green open space when just outside the walls there are multiple skyscrapers and busy streets.  I tried to keep them out of the photo, but a lot of other people were enjoying it too.  We saw an older businessman enjoying his lunch, a couple ladies enjoying a meal, an older gentleman getting a little grabby with his younger girlfriend, and then there was us.  Four people from the States enjoying a few minutes rest on a beautiful day on the green palace gardens lawn thousands of miles from home in downtown Tokyo.

The palace grounds were closing at 4:30pm, so we had to take off.  It was just a quick train ride back to our hotel.  Along the way, we stopped at the grocery store for supplies for the next day.  We're heading to Hakone and we had read that there are limited food options there and everything is pretty expensive. 

We were all pretty full from snacking all day, so instead of dinner, we just stopped by the Choco Cro where we had bought breakfast and grabbed a couple more pastries.

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