For once an easy start to the day. There’s no hurry today, everything revolved around places within Tokyo.
Breakfast had a makeover and all the dishes were different from yesterday. The egg became Japanese eggroll, the fish a traditional grilled fish, a broccoli vege and seafood stirfy, and ginger stir fried pork.
First stop today was Tsukiji… or outer Tsukiji anyway. Because poorly behaviours from tourists they’ve banned tourists from visiting the inner market before 10am. Most of the fish shops are closed at that point and not much point in visiting. What is it with modern tourists…
It’s one stop from Shiodome to Tsukiji. It’s also walkable if I wasn’t feeling lazy, about 1.2km.
The outer market had changed a lot since 6 years ago. More people, the shops sold more things catering to tourists, and a lot more sushi shops. Some shops are even tax free though I have no idea how that is meant to work.
We did a general loop through the outer market to the border of the inner market, to the Namiyoke Inari Shrine then back out through each of the outer market streets.
The line outside Sushi Dai extended from the alley to a long line on the side of the thoroughfare. To be a gourmet in Tokyo required zenful patience.
We passed a Yoshinoya. I did not realize at the time, only found out when we saw a memorial stone at the shrine, that the cheap gyudon chain originated right here at Tsukiji.
Should have gone in for a bowl if I had known.
At the crossing that lead to the inner market, a security guard escorted two tourists away from the inner market while holding up a sign saying no tourists allowed before 10. They’re treating the ban quite seriously.
Many fresh seafood shops offered service to cook them on the spot, the smell of grilled crab legs and oysters was salivating.
I checked out some of the knife shops, looking to see if they sold those special knives used to cut specific fish like tuna and eels. Looks to be all sushi and chopping knives though, perhaps the demand for fish cleaning knife is less and aren’t on display.
Next to Tsukiji is the Hongan-ji, quite different from the usual wooden temples found in Japan, is built of concrete in the architectural style from buddhism’s birthplace India. There was strangely an organ on the second level by the entranceway.
Hibiya line station is just outside Hongan-ji. A quick transfer at Ginza to the Marunouchi line gets us to Ikebukuro.
The Sunshine Aquarium is about 10 minutes walk from the station.
The aquarium is one of several within Tokyo. There’s something cultural about Japan and aquariums, it has to be one of the most common attractions in Japan. Perhaps it’s a combination of love for fish and cute things, and who doesn’t like a cuddly seal or penguins.
Sunshine Aquarium is situated on top of Sunshine City shopping complex. It recently renovated its penguin enclosure into something it calls flying penguin experience. The penguin tank consists of glass on both side so visitor can see out through the tank at the Tokyo skyline, with the interior forming a convex cave that visitors can stand underneath, when penguins swims in the tank it looks as though the penguins are flying through the air.
I had bought the tickets beforehand and skipped the ticket booth queue.
The aquarium has indoor and outdoor parts. The indoor aquarium exhibiting various habitats and the outdoor area where penguins and seals are.
We headed indoor first, there was still time till the penguin feeding.
For an urban aquarium with limited space, the place had a good variety of different fishes and other aquatic animals Though the enclosures tended on seemingly too small, Y pointed out.
I don’t think Y like aquariums too much, a miss on my part.
Just before we came the aquarium had an accident where the air bump to the largest tank was turned off and the tank lost most of its fishes. The tank thus was ironically spacious.
All else not being too bright, there’s still the penguins. The penguins here are cape penguins, much smaller and more resistance to heat than the more popular adele or emperor penguins, making them more suited for urban Tokyo.
Adorable adorable little penguins, so clever and so silly. Before proper feeding time the staff came out with small bucket of fish. The fishes were likely specially prepared, either with medicine or special supplements, since the staff went out of the way to ensure each penguin was fed one fish.
At feeding time one staff tossed fishes at the waiting penguins while she introduced the penguins, another staff at the front held up placards showing photos of what the first staff talked about, such as the photo of the coastal environment where the penguin came from. The little birds scampered and flapped each other to get at the fish. Those that had their fill wriggled down little holes back to their nest.
At the end of it the staff held up a penguin and brought it closer to the fence. Visitors weren’t allowed to touch the penguins, this was as close as people were allowed to the cute litte thing.
After the feeding we moved to the penguin swimming tank. The tank was quite large which allowed the penguins to pick up speed in the water. The curved glass tank design works very well, while it’s not quite flying penguins, it’s amazing to see the penguins swim past the shoulder or even over head.
Then we finished looking at the indoor areas, then searched for penguin goods in the souvenir shop. There was a disappointing lack of giant penguin plushies.
Lunch was where I messed up again. The original plan was to go to sushi train but my mind had gotten blanked out. The aquarium had not been as interesting as hoped, I was not sure whether going out of the way to the sushi train that likely had a queue was a good idea.
So I said to walk to the station and grab whatever we find okay along the way.
A restaurant was right across the main intersection leading to the station front district. It’s a oyakodon place, similar in concept to Yoshinoya. I looked the menu then looked at Y who didn’t have an opinion either way, so we ended up eating there.
The ticket machine really did not like 100Y coins. In the end I fed it a 1000Y note for it to grant me food.
While we ate I thought about where to go in the afternoon. There were a number of options. The original plan were Rikugien or Koishikawa-Korakuen, the two autumn leaves garden in Tokyo. Though Y was not that eager, having seen the autumn leaves in Hakone yesterday.
I went through the alternatives. Ginza, Meiji Jingu/Omotesando/Takeshita. Not too big on those shopping destinations. Maybe Ameyoko.
Then it occured to me. How about ginkgo leaves, not the same as red autumn leaves and they should be almost at their peak at Tokyo Uni which is also on the way back Shinbashi.
Y agreed. But before we got to the station we were sidetracked when passing a Matsumoto Kiyoshi pharmacy store. They had several items on sale which Y was interested and we spent some time there looking. Apparently to be eligible for tax free required minimum 5000Y before tax, good to know.
We took the Marunouchi line to Hongo-sanchome. From there it’s about 300m walk to Tokyo Uni. At the Hongo-Sanchome intersection there was a Doutor and I went into a long story about how my fondness for the cafe developed.
I had actually been to Tokyo Uni before, on my first trip to Tokyo. Only back then I did not even realize this was Tokyo Uni, I was merely looking for a way to get to my hotel. That first trip was a harsh lesson.
The main thoroughfare of Tokyo Uni from the main gate to the auditorium is lined with giant ginkgo trees against a backdrop of brick gothic brick buildings. Shimmering leaves crowned the tall trees standing tall over gilded carpet, golden flakes snowed in the air. Poetic, painted.
People stood beneath the trees taking photos. Some sat before canvas stands capturing the moment with their brushes. Others slowly walked in marvel.
When the ginkgo trees at Tokyo Uni were planted in the early 1900s, ginkgo were not typically used as street landscape trees. In a way the ginkgo avenue here became a prototype and gave birth to the ginkgo tree lined streets that became the symbol of Tokyo.
We took a break at Doutor before getting back on the train to Shiodome back to Super Hotel. There was no direct train between Ikebukuro and Shinbashi/Shiodome, by coming to Tokyo Uni the transfer was done away.
I think it was maybe 4.30 by the time we got back to the hotel. A little break before the night’s schedule starting with dinner at 5.30.
Dinner was at Gyu-katsu Motomura near Shinbashi station. A fried steak grill place.
The steak is slightly fried first with batter with the inside still raw, then the customer can grill the steak to the desired degree at the table.
Because of various photos I had actually thought the steaks were meant to be eaten as is, till Y explained to me what the steak actually is. Apparently a similar place opened near Y’s home recently. There’s something about food which I’m just no good at researching.
We got there at about 5.40 and just managed to not get in by a matter of seconds. The group just steps ahead of us took the last table. We waited maybe 15 minutes for a table to be made available.
The place was a little dive hidden in a basement off the main street, about seats for 20 people only.
They were well prepared for foreigners and had menus in english, chinese and korean. We were given a menu and asked to decide while we waited and have to order and pay before sitting down. Not that there was much to decide, there was only standard set, standard set with extra side and set with extra meat.
Okay Y did get an extra beer.
The server sat us down and our order was brought over with extreme efficiency. There’s rice, miso soup, two kind of sauce, plate of beef cutlets with shredded cabbage salad and mash potato, and a hot plate over open flame iron plate grill.
The beef was very nice, the deep fried outside giving a slightly crunchy texture and the inside soft and succulent. I tried grilling several pieces at once to different degree to see how to best cook them but it hardly mattered, the meat was always very soft unless it’s obviously charred and overcooked.
The evening was Caretta followed by Tokyo Midtown.
The illumination theme at Caretta this year was Beauty and the Beast. The main component was similar to the Winter Forest in 2011, though with a lot more light and a much worse song and choreography.
We just missed the performance so headed upstairs to the observation deck first. From level 46 the observation deck looked down at tsukiji and Tokyo bay.
After the Caretta illumination performance, then headed to Roppongi from Shiodome.
I’m not sure whether it’s just this year, but the illuminations did not seem as good as before. Whether Caretta or the Midtown one.
I was expecting the kind of crushing crowd I met in 2011 but Midtown only had a small crowd. The display this year was also quite disappointing, forgoing the birth of planet theme for a shorter, much simpler swirling galaxy.
We ended up returning to the hotel early and had a late night snack party together in the breakfast area, with the black egg we bought yesterday and the unpasteurized sake the day before.