On Sunday we decided to, as we say in my language, ‘sniff some culture’. ^^ I had read about an older part of Tokyo named Asakusa, which both my dad and I wanted to visit, but we wanted to buy tickets to Tokyo Disney Resort first! I had read that you shouldn’t visit Tokyo Disney on Friday or during the weekend, so we had decided to go on Monday. Since our hotel was really near the Takashimaya Times Square building, where the Shinjuku Disney Store was located, we decided to just go by foot after breakfast at the hotel. The weather wasn’t too bad, but we didn’t know it would be one of the most beautiful days of the whole trip!
We crossed the road and walked up the stairs we saw every morning through the windows of the hotel’s restaurant. On top of the stairs we encountered the biggest black bird I have ever seen! I think it was a raven. After we snapped pictures of him he flew away, which made him seem even bigger! We also took pictures of our hotel, which looked really nice in the morninglight.
You see those small windows in the middle? The highest one was in our hall. We really liked to look at the people on the street for a moment when we walked throught he hallway.
After walking up more stairs, we arrived at a huge square. I never expected there was such a big place behind those stairs! We just followed the people walking around and we quickly found the Takashimaya Times Square building. It wasn’t very hard to find by the way, since it was enormous!
To get to Takashimaya, we had to cross a bridge over some railroads that went to Shinjuku Station. My dad is taking pictures of them.
Takashimaya turned out to be a huge, kind of shopping centre with all kinds of expensive shops on the floor where we entered, like Chanel. We walked around a bit helplessly: we were just looking for the Disney Store! I did however find a shop that sold Q-Pot jewelry, so I was able to take a good look at them. ^^
After walking around some more, we found an info desk and asked for a floor guide. After checking the list three times, we spotted ‘Disney Store’ on one of the highest floors and after finding the elevator we went up. Yes, Takashimaya is a very complicated place. XD When we got upstairs, I noticed a window with a beautiful view over Shinjuku. It was next to the ladies’ room and I was hoping there would be a window too and there was! Behind the two sinks (with chairs in front of them?) there was a big window. Of course I had to take a picture.
Going to the ladies’ room with a beautiful view? Check!
After crossing the children’s section (I saw an actual Barbie brandstore, not for Barbies, but children’s clothing!) we found the Disney Store and we bought our tickets. The store was awesome by the way. The merchandise was great, which promised a lot of good things for the next day!
We took the elevator downstairs and went to Shinjuku Station. That station has so many entrances and exits… This one was also new to us! Apparently this one was a little older, since the big sign hanging above it showing the stations was only in Japanese!
Luckily I had written down some important station’s names in Kanji for when this happened. We also had found a little shopping guide that had the metro map with both signs and ‘normal’ letters, but I’m not sure we already had it on this day…
To get to Asakusa, first we had to travel to station Kanda. We bought our tickets and went on our way.
While in the metro, the sun started to shine!
Getting to Kanda took quite a while, but I didn’t mind at all. Since the metro drove above the ground, there were lots of things to see! It was interesting how the view changed once we got closer to the older part of Tokyo.
At station Kanda we had to transfer to a different metro line from a different company. The station wasn’t very big, but we just couldn’t find the ticket machines! There was one option left: follow the tunnel that led to the station from where our metro would depart and hope for the best. It turned out that these ticketmachines were just in front of the gates to the station. XD This metro went underground, but luckily Asakusa was close.
When we got out, we found ourselves in an old metrostation. It was completely different from the stations we had been before, but I can’t really explain why. It just seemed older. We followed the people and bumped into two foreign, young people that provided translations and folders. They gave us a map and told us (in English) where to go. We thanked them and walked up the stairs, where we found ourselves in a completely different Tokyo.
Welcome to old vs. new to the max!
When we looked behind us, we saw the Sky Tree, the new broadcasting and observation tower under construction, behind some buildings I had seen once on pictures, like the Asahi Beer Tower with the strange-shaped flame (I thought it was a bean at first) in front of it. The weather had become super beautiful: a clear blue sky and it had gotten quite warm! I was glad I wore a good outfit for this kind of weather.
We turned our back on the modern buildings and kept walking until we saw a crossing with on our right a templish gate with a huge lantern in it.
Wow, welcome to Asakusa!
The gate is called the Kaminarimon (the Kaminari Gate) and it leads to a famous shopping street, which leads to a big temple. After taking pictures, we decided to just browse the shops a little. We were happily surprised: almost every shop sold touristic goods, like chopsticks, fake food in boxes, lanterns and Maneki Nekos! We also saw a little shop filled with paper umbrellas. My mom had asked us to bring one if we found a shop, so we decided to return later. The street was very crowded and it was the first time I saw multiple tourists on one day. They stood out a lot: they were taller than the Japanese. My dad and I are small, we stood out a little less. But only a little. XD
At the end of the street there was another gate with a huge lantern. In front of it were all kinds of stalls with food, but we ignored them since we weren’t hungry yet. Behind the gate there was a crowded square and a big temple. On both the left and the right side there were some kind of wooden cabinets with hundreds of little drawers. People put something in them (I think maybe pieces of paper with a wish on them?) and then shook them, which made a rattling sound. Other people were standing at some kind of well with smoke coming out of them. They waved the smoke in their own direction, but I prefered not to, so I walked around it.
The Sensoji (Senso temple). I look so freaking touristic here, I love it. XD The sky was so blue!
We walked up to the temple, when we noticed that in front of it, an old man in a uniform directed people to the left and to the right, as if they had to walk around something. But there was nothing but a small desk! I really wondered what he was doing..?
Inside, there was a big hall with beautiful ceilings and pillars. Behind a fence, there was a ceremony, I think with a priest. In front of the fence was some kind of well, with small wooden beams over it. People threw coins in the well and then prayed or wished something. I threw coins in the well too and I wished something, but I’m not telling what. ;)
You can see a bit of the ceremony. The people are standing in front of the well.
We didn’t stay for long, since it was crowded and it got hot. We didn’t take the same route back, but instead we got out at a different side of the temple with large stairs with gardens and a beautiful view at the pagoda.
The view on the left. This is what I imagine when I think of Japan beside Tokyo: beautiful temples in red and white shades.
We decided to go into the garden/park and we immediately found a pond with carps and a little waterfall! Picture time, of course.
I just love carps so much! I think they’re really cute!
The park was incredibly beautiful, with large trees, big and small temples, ancient bridges you weren’t allowed to walk on (they were probably that old) and shrines with statues in them. We took many, many pictures.
Eventually, after walking around some more, we ended up in a street with some old buildings and something I hadn’t expected: a themepark! Behind a small gate where you had to pay entrance fee there was a small theme park with rides and a carroussel! I totally didn’t expect something like that to be in this old part of Tokyo.
We took a left, walked past some old buildings and found ourselves on a little square with the grave of Toda Mosui (I believe he was a writer or a poet). Two ladies were sitting at the foot of a big rock, accompanied by two cute dogs. There was also a statue of a friendly-looking old lady. Her name was Uryu Iwako and she did lots of great things in her life.
We left the square and after walking for a while and passing several food stalls, we got back at the square next to the Senso temple. I really wanted to try some Japanese shaved ice and there was a stall, so we decided to sit down on some rocks like more people did and I bought a cup of shaved ice with cherry flavour.
My first cup of Japanese shaved ice! I loved the bright colours of the stall.
After the lady of the stall poured the cherry syrup over my ice it immediately started to seep through the ice, giving it its flavour and I can tell you: it was delicious! It was very sweet, but so nice and refreshing!
Next to the shaved ice stall were two other stalls. One sold meat I believe, but the first one sold multi-coloured, chocolate-covered bananas on sticks! And they looked quite… amusing. Of course, we had to try one! Blue for my dad, brown for me.
Hmmm yeah… They were nice though!
After asking someone to take a picture of us in front of the temple, we headed back for the shopping street via one of the gates with the giant lantern in it.
After my dad took this picture, an old man smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up.
One stall sold some adorable small key chain-like souvenirs: small, hard plastic bags with seven tiny figures in it. The woman I bought it from told me they are the seven divine protectors I believe. Before she handed it over to me, she took it in her hands and closed her eyes, as if she was praying. Then she gave it to me and smiled. I also got a little bell with it.
I am in love with this picture. It’s just so… perfect!
While walking through the street my dad discovered the most awesome shop I had seen that day: it was entirely dedicated to dogs! It had everything. From costumes (they even had a Geisha costume, ahem) to plushies, from bags to statues. They even had a little grooming salon in the back! They also had some amazing pug statues that really looked like our own dog! I really loved how my dad loved this shop! XD
This one’s for my dad!
After spending some time in the dog shop, we went back to the paper umbrella shop and bought a beautiful red one. We put it in my dad’s backpack, since it wasn’t very big. We didn’t walk back to the other gate at the other end of the street, but we walked into a roofed street and took a right, after which we arrived in the street where we got out of the metrostation.
It was only 2 o’clock in the afternoon, so we looked around to see where we should go. My dad suggested to walk up to the river and check for a river cruise.
Before we went to Japan, my dad had received an email from a man who had lived in Tokyo for a while. He sent us a list with cool things to do, one of them was taking a river cruise from Asakusa to Odaiba, an artificial island with a beach. When I read it, I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m glad we tried it!
After crossing the road, we didn’t have to look for the place where the river cruises started. It was right in front of us! After examining the map and asking if we understood it right, we decided to take a river cruise to Odaiba, via another station.
After buying tickets (and going to the toilet) we walked up the stairs and followed the people. We didn’t have to wait long for boarding, but we enjoyed the view nonetheless.
That man just looked so peaceful.
Our boat was a pretty big one, painted in bright red and white. It reminded me of a Swedish house. We chose to sit on the second deck, but I was a bit disappointed: the roof and walls had a lot of wooden beams, so there wasn’t really a great view. After we took off, I decided to just stand in front of a window on the front of the boat and enjoy both the warm autumn breeze and the view. The boat crossed about seventeen bridges, I believe. And all of them looked completely different!
It was quite warm on the boat, so standing in front of a window was quite nice.
After about an hour, I suddenly saw the famous Rainbow Bridge in the distance! But before we got any closer, the boat took a right and we reached the harbor where we had to get out and wait for the next boat. Again, we didn’t have to wait for very long and Tokyo’s skyline was amazing, so it was okay anyway. ^^ Even though we had a couple standing in front of us with two children (the youngest one was really whiny and annoying).
Our next boat was entirely different from the first one: it looked really modern and it had an upperdeck with no roof! Of course, as soon as we could board I jumped up the stairs and made sure I reserved enough room for two to sit. Then we took off and we approached the Rainbow Bridge!
The famous bridge and the Tokyo skyline.
Funny thing: even though we approached the sea, I didn’t smell that typical salty scent the sea has. We also saw a lot of airplanes and we realised that the Haneda Airport was pretty close.
After quite a while, we arrived at Odaiba’s harbor and I was pleasantly surprised.
After reading the email from that man I had formed an image inside my head of an artifical island and beach: a giant dome with a swimming pool and sand or something, but it was nothing like that! The island was in the open air, with lots of buildings (like the Fuji-TV building) and a real beach with tiny stones and real water!
After buying a drink from a vending machine (orange soda with a smiley face on the can) we walked up to the beach and enjoyed the afternoon sun.
I never would have thought to to go a beach in Tokyo!
The view was so amazing! The beach with the playing children in front of us, the water with the Rainbow Bridge to our left and green trees and apartment buildings to our right.
The water was really nice!
After standing in the water for a bit, we walked up and down the boulevard and just looked around us. We passed a bar (with a big Heineken beer bottle in front of it), where two men were playing Hawaiian music on little guitars. I wondered if that was their job? We also saw a special rail where people could hold onto and surf on the water. The guy who was trying wasn’t very good at it. XD
We also saw a lot of dogs! Especially chihuahuas. In Tokyo, we barely saw any dogs, but here there were so many! And many of them were dressed up. We also saw two men with three dogs, all three of them dressed in a little dress. I honestly think those two men were a couple. ^^
We saw them later again, walking on the boulevard. The man with the glasses carried the white dog in a bag in front of him.
We looked around some more. Oh the view, it was just so breathtaking! I really loved looking at the bridge and the skyline. I think I took over 50 pictures of it! My dad also took pictures of a really fast, modern boat (althought when we looked at it taking off, it wasn’t that fast). It really looked like a spaceship! We could have taken that one to Odaiba, but it would depart much later than what we wanted. Finally, we decided that we were pretty tired and we decided to go back to Shinjuku.
I had noticed that there were trains riding through the Rainbow Bridge, so when we arrived at Odaiba I asked a staffmember which trains would take that route. He showed me a map and I discovered we would take that exact train to get back!
After a little searching we found our station, Shimbashi. The trains I had seen turned out to be fully automatic monorails. When our train arrived, the doors of both the train and the station opened automatically and there was no driver! We started driving and I filmed the view while we drove uphills, through the Rainbow Bridge. It was amazing! The sun was setting while the train made a big turn and we looked one last time at the famous bridge.
We went all the way through it!
While we arrived at the station where we needed to transfer, it had already gotten dark. While leaving the station, I noticed some big windows and I was sure I had seen those on a picture before!
It took us a while again to find the right station for our line, but eventually we sat down and we realised how tired we were! Yet we still needed to eat, so we decided to go to Lumine Est. My dad had seen something in one of the restaurants a couple of days ago that he wanted to try.
We got out at Shinjuku Station and we went to restaurant ‘Sauté’. The waiter gave us a table in the corner, at the window, so I could look at the people passing by (I swear I saw a girl wearing dolly kei).
I think my dad looks so sweet on this picture. And very tired.
The food my dad had seen turned out to be okonomiyaki, Japanese pancakes, that you can ‘customize’ the way you want. My dad chose pork and egg, I chose shrimp and egg and asked for some mochi rice cake topping as an extra. We could look at the food being prepared, since we were almost sitting next to the baking sheet. When our food arrived, it was pretty cool: the flakes on top of the pancake were moving from the heat! But I can tell you: this was delicious!
My dear readers, try this some day. Please, try it!
It reminded me of a sweet pizza that was just perfect! It was so tasty!
By the way, this was the only restaurant where we didn’t get water, so we ordered something similar. It turned out to be super bitter! I didn’t finish it.
After finishing our delicious meal we headed back to our hotel, but we decided to take a different route. We ended up in a totally different place than we had expected, but it caused us to find an ice cream bar where they sold those two-coloured ice cream cones you often see on pictures! I really wanted to try some so we bought two cones, one in gray(!) and one in lightbrown. And will you believe me when I say mine, the gray one, tasted like peanutbutter? I loved it!
I’ve never tasted ice cream like this before!
We finally returned to our hotel at half past 7, where I took some pictures of the room, sent pictures of our day to my mom and after that we talked to her on Skype. I had made sure I hadn’t sent her pictures of the paper umbrella store. We didn’t want to tell her we bought one for her, it had to be surprise. ^^ So when she asked if we had seen any, we just said: ‘No, nowhere to be found!’ When we got back from Japan, she told us she had noticed we were lying, haha!
We were very tired, so we went to sleep. The next day we had to get up early, since we were going to Disneyland!