12 Dec Second Time Visit to Tokyo
On my first visit to Tokyo I visited tourist sights such as Shibuya Crossing, Ginza and Asakusa, which is home to the famous Sensō-ji temple. I got to explore Asakusa on a rickshaw and even had a go at some Samurai training…which I wasn’t very good at! This time however I got to explore a different side of Tokyo; a side that tourists might not see all so often. It wasn’t a long time in Tokyo, just 24 hours before flying to Kagoshima, but it was enough to get a taste of the real Tokyo. Here’s what we got up to:
Toden Arakawa Line
First we got to experience places along the Toden Arakawa line, which is a hybrid light rail/tram line, and the sole survivor of Tokyo’s once-extensive Tokyo Toden streetcar system. We walked around Sugamo, a shopping district that is popular with the elderly, and is affectionately known as the “Old Ladies’ Harajuku” (Harajuku being one of Japan’s most youthful shopping and fashion destinations).
We sampled some local sweets made of sweet potato and visited the Koganji Temple, which is home to the Togenuki Jizo statue. The statue is said to cure ailments, so people line up to wash it with hand towels and press them to their ailing body parts.
Next up we stopped for lunch at Yatsumeya Nishimura restaurant, which has been serving eel (unagi) since 1960. It was my first time trying eel but it was very tasty and I’m told it’s very nutritious. The restaurant grills it over Japanese charcoal, called kishu-bincho.
Joyful Minowa Shopping Street
Next up we visited Joyful Minowa Shopping Street – a pedestrian street with shops and stalls. Since it was a very cold day we decided to stop and warm up with a hot chocolate, served by the lovely Papa Noel. His coffee shop is small, with just a bar and a few stools at the back of the shop for customers to sit down and have a drink. He prepared the hot chocolate in front of us, telling us about his efforts to learn English, and talking about his visits to New York. These are the moments of travel I most enjoy – talking with locals and relaxing in local hole-in-the-wall places.
Sumida Hokusai Museum
From there, we stopped at Sumida Hokusai Museum, which a museum dedicated to artist Katsushika Hokusai, who produced well-known works such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa and Red Fuji, which are prints from his collection, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. High-quality replicas are on show in the permanent gallery and you can learn about Hokusai’s life and work.
To finish off the day we took the Sky Bus to Aqua City Odaiba, taking in sights such as Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower along the way. The views were beautiful, even if it was freezing sitting on an open-top bus in autumn! (Definitely bring gloves and a hat and wrap up warm if you’re not doing this during summer).
For dinner we ate at Tsukiji Sushiko, where we ordered lots and lots of nigiri and sushi rolls. My favorite!
I still feel like I have yet to really uncover Tokyo, so hopefully next time I will really get to grips with the city. It’s a sprawling place with so many different areas and things to do that you really need a few days here, but if you want to see something a bit different, definitely check out some of the places on this itinerary.