24 February 2014, i woke up that morning like a champ! i had very deep sleep close to panda’s hibernating on a long northern winter. thanks to the firm bed my room has. Again, i can easily recommend this hotel just for its bed and pillow alone. you can read my review for the hotel at tripadvisor here. The schedule is tight today, Asakusa Sensoji, Tokyo Cruise, Tsukiji, Hama Rikyu, Imperial Palace and Tokyo Government building.. and all were accomplished
my breakfast was provided by lawson next door, it was chicken katsu onigiri, priced at 180 yen. lawson was quite packed that morning, i discovered that many Japanese haves their breakfast from convenience store too such as bread with cream cheese filling, various bentos, onigiris, eggs, sandwich and etc.
i had booked a travel guide in advance from travelience.com, cost me 4000 Yen, and it doesn’t include public transportation cost and lunch (and you have to pay lunch for the guide as well). The trip starts point was at Asakusa tourism centre, so i headed there. It required a train line change before i arrived at Asakusa. There, Makoto-San was waving blue-flag with Travelience Logo on it, beside him was a board that says ‘Asakusa walking tour, 500 Yen’. Makoto said that he might be giving personal tour if no one else joining, yipee! Soon after that, Nao and Mae (founder of travelience) greeted me and hand me a notebook with culinary guide for Asakusa area. The book also point out which restaurant has english menu and english speaking staff. very helpful!.
So my private tour began! it started from Kaminarimon paper lantern, the first gate of Sensoji Temple, an icon of Historical Tokyo. Its really made of paper which raised my curiosity and asked a silly question if people ever throw a rock and broke it, to which Makoto said ‘no, but it’s really a hard paper with solid construction’. Kaminarimon is the entrance, connected by Nakamise Dori to Hozomon Gate and the inner temple. Nakamise Dori is a street with various souvenir shops on its side. Most shops are selling knick knacks and rice crackers. I got to try some rice cracker sample and bought home a small one. I also tried Agemanju (deep fried and battered soft cake with hot filling). This link has nice info on what Japanese snack you can try along Nakamise Street
Along the way, there are some painting that illustrate the history of the temple. Makoto briefly explained what story each illustration has. It was long long time ago when 2 fisherman, instead of netting a fish, they found a small golden statue of Buddha. Then the statue become talk of the town and people start praying to it. It’s been sacred generation to generation, until now, it’s kept safe and cared by the Monk at the Temple, although no one really ever see that Golden Buddha Statue
At the End of Nakamise Dori, i got to try Omikuji for a donation of Y100. Its a Japanese fortune telling where i should shake a metal hexagon box until a bamboo stick come out from a little hole. At the edge of the stick, there is a Japanese letter (number) that i should match to one of the many small drawers. Inside the drawer was my fortune paper awaited me, may it be super bad, bad, okay, common luck, great luck, or super luck. If you got a bad a one, you have to tied it into a pine trees branch so the bad luck doesn’t follow you home. But i pulled out a ‘great luck’ one so i brought it home :). read more about Omikuji here
Next stop was Tokyo Cruise which starts from Asakusa, it basically cruise through Sumida river and pass several bridges. The guide at the boat seems to explain the name of the bridge and the area that is passed by, but its in Japanese so i couldn’t understand. They just look like regular bridge anyway. But observing Tokyo from riverside is quite interesting as it looks very quiet with riverside jogging track, some expensive condos by the river and also a very calm river. The cruise sail off at Asakusa and stop at Hama Rikyu Garden.
Hama Rikyu Garden was originally built during Edo Period (1603 – 1867) for a Duck Hunting ground by some feudal Lord’s (yes, they hunted duck). At the entrance of Hama Rikyu Garden was some Ume (plum) blossom trees, although it wasn’t as beautiful as Cherry blossom, but it sure looks good for Micro Photography!. At the garden, there are couple small ponds, different species of trees and a tea house. Inside the tea house, you can enjoy quick Japanese tea ceremony for small fees. Being at the centre of business area, i’m sure salaryman can enjoy to take a stroll here to relieve some stress.
Then we walked to Tsukiji Fish Market, one of the world biggest Fish and other sea resource exporter. unfortunately, at 13:30, the inner market activity was pretty much ended. We had sushi at one of many Sushi Bar around Tsukiji Market, each with their own long line. Sushi bar here is well known for serving only the freshest ingredients, catch of yesterday.
Well it isn’t overrated. I had great time enjoying the sushi. Although i was a bit skeptical on how a ‘freshness’ can be significantly improve the taste of Sushi, particularly Sashimi, compare to what i usually have at Indonesia. God i was wrong, i ordered a sashimi set that has 10 pieces of mixed sushi in it (Y2500). And although not all of its taste fits my appetite, the freshness does have significant different. Here’s what i had
Lean Tuna (great)
Medium Fatty Tuna (omg great! taste so strong)
White snapper (isn’t very tasty, maybe because my Tuna taste was too overwhelming)
Squid (chewy in the beginning then it start to melt in my mouth, taste more squid this way compare when it’s battered fried)
Shrimp (great, very sweet)
Sea Urchin (the first and last time i tried it, the strong fish taste quickly overwhelm my entire mouth while it slowly melted). Sea urchin is usually very expensive as well
Stomach full of sushi goodness, we strolled around Tsukiji Outer Market where many shops, scattered in several blocks, are selling cooked sea product in plastic packaging. Walking with local such as Makoto sure has its advantage, the shop staffs often offered me sample of their product whenever Makoto mentioned that i came from Indonesia. I ended up buying a packaged diced tuna soaked in wijen and soyu sauce (Y1000). Most of the foods they offer there are cooked the same way.
we took the train and long walk to reach the Imperial Palace, where the emperor and his family lives, generation to generation. The area cover 3.41 square kilometres, and comprise of gardens, small rivers and lake, hall for celebrations, music hall and etc. Makoto explained how it was planned and constructed as one of the strongest stronghold in Japan, so the attacker will find layers and layers of defence point before reaching the Emperor building. We entered from south gate (sakurada) and admired the Nijubashi Bridge (double bridge) before leaving (very tight schedule!). You have to apply for a tour appointment if you want to see the inside of the palace.
My travelience ‘personal’ tour ended at Tokyo station (which is quite a long walk from Imperial Palace), where Makoto showed me JR line to reach back to Shinjuku station. Thank you Makoto-San! it was very full, tiring and amazing day!. Anw, Tokyo station has beautiful architecture that reminds me of Amsterdam Centraal.
having rested 10 minutes at the hotel, i quickly headed out to Tokyo Metropolitan Building, behind Keio Plaza Hotel, hoping to get sunset and night view from the free observatory deck at floor 45 (that’s 202 meter high). The view was excellent and there wasn’t many people! The only hate was for the lamp which create reflection on the glass.
i bought a ‘Sakura White Chocolate’ at Starbucks on the way back to the hotel. It tasted like strawberry and vanilla milk with sprinkle of pink coloured sugar icing on top. This is a seasonal and country-specific Starbucks menu, so you won’t find it at any other countries. It’s quite good! thats it for the day!
Today total expenses: (should add this later)
My Fitbit Stats: (should add this later)