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Published: December 4th 2018
Bubble tea i've missed you!
Milky tea with tapioca balls
After a bit of investigation from my lovely colleagues at the airport (it's good to have contacts), I find out my case is currently at Narita airport and has been since yesterday. I'm a bit miffed as to why they haven't delivered it already, especially as my only pair of boots are starting to fall apart on me and I really don't want to have to go out and buy new ones. I'm ruminating over the situation when a second later the room phone rings and I perk up with the hope its good news about my case. I am absolutely ecstatic when she confirms it is, and I practically run down to reception. My good karma for helping a women with her case has paid off lol. I run back up the stairs with the case and Greg is amazed at how quick I've been with such a heavy case and no lift. I am definitely pumped with adrenalin.
We treat ourselves to a (celebratory) morning coffee from the fancy coffee machine in the room and head out in search of some breakfast. We have lots planned to do today and so rather than have a proper
Myths of tomorrow murial
A painting of the Hiroshima bombing
sit down meal, we opt for a few chicken yakatori skewers and steamed pork buns from the local supermarket instead. Followed on by a yoghurt and banana to make us feel a little healthier. I also pick up a bubble tea from a little place just along the road as I do miss it from my days teaching in China. But in China it cost me the equivalent of 1 euro whereas here it is 3.50!
Fed and watered we head to the subway armed with our itinerary for today. However what we fail to realise is there are actually two subways for Asakusa and we head to the wrong one for the line which we need to take today. This results in us walking in a huge loop trying to figure out where we are, but eventually we get our bearings and make it to the right place – ironically only 100 yards down the road from the other station entrance!
The train takes us directly from Asakusa to Shibuya so that part is nice and easy – the difficulty will be trying to work out where we need to go when we
get to Shibuya as the subway has multiple different exits… however i've got my itinerary so i'm secretly feeling quite organised and hopeful we'll find our way. We get off the train and go in search of the myths of tomorrow murial, which is a depiction of the hiroshima bombing. We actually stumble upon it without too much trouble and then follow directions for the North gate exit to visit the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was a faithful dog who waited at the station every day for his owner to return from work, and even after the owners death,he still waited at the station for another 9 years. The statue is a lot smaller than expected, but he is still cute and its a lovely story if nothing else. Whilst we're at the station we figure we might as well exchange our JR rail passes and enquire about booking tickets to go from Mount Fuji to Mishima in a few days. Its just as well we do as we find out the date we are travelling is a public holiday, and the train is nearly sold out already.
Just outside the station is the famous Shibuya crossing, and
we stumble upon a place called Magnet which boasts incredible views of the crossing from a skydeck on the top floor for free. We wander inside apprehensively expecting there to be a catch, and are pleasantly surprised to find a free skydeck as advertised, boasting ariel views of the crossing. All the guidebooks and websites suggest heading to starbucks, but this place is much better and also free!
We're getting a bit peckish again so head back down to the station which has a food market underneath it which is meant to be really good. I'm not sure what to expect after the disaster of last night's evening's food recommendation, but i'm instantly relieved and excited as I see counter after counter of amazing looking food of all varieties. It's really hard to decide what to have but Greg opts for a scotch egg covered in panko breadcrumbs and then we share some chicken meatball skewers and cooked aubergine.
Our next port of call is the large Don Quijote department store which is meant to be several floors filled with any souvenir you could possibly want. However, i'm a bit let down that it's
more like several floors of packet noodles, electronics and general household stuff. If you go hunting then there are a few bits and pieces dotted around, but not like the type of souvenirs I was hoping for, and the senso-ji market street has a much better selection so I decide we'll head back there again another day instead. I do manage to grab a few packets of different flavoured kitkats though, including green tea, panacotta and strawberry cheesecake.
We move on towards Yoyogi park which sits halfway between Shibuyu and Shinjuku. We haven't got a detailed map with us of where it is, but know the general direction so start walking (what we hope is) North. After 15 minutes of walking we seem to have strayed from the main shopping district to a little town which has no street signs and no sign of a park anywhere. By sheer fluke I happen to turn my head just as we walk past a junction, and through the gap in the houses I spot a burst of green in the distance which must surely be the park we are looking for. We walk towards it and are happy to
discover it is the park we are looking for. The park is absolutely HUGE (so i've no idea how we nearly missed it) but also quite disturbingly filled with black cravens everywhere. They are in the trees and on the ground in big groups all sqwaking away and its quite unnerving. Alfred Hitchcock was onto something with his film the birds. We spot a sign for the mejii-shrine which I hadn't included in our original itinerary but we have time, so decide to make a detour as it's more or less on the way anyway. It's quite a nice temple with a gorgeous walk up to it, so we're glad we decided to visit it. We head out of the park and grab the nearest subway to get to Shinjuku, as its a bit of a longer walk then I realised and we've already clocked up a fair few miles on the fitbit.
Shinjuku station seems treble the size and volume of Shibuyu station and we feel a bit intimidated by the swarms of people rushing towards us from all angles. Not great when we're a bit lost and trying to figure out which exit to choose.
We consult our map which guides us in the right direction and thankfully we then follow street signs to get to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings which you can go up for free (there's the magic word) and get 360 degree views across the whole of Tokyo. We've came at the perfect time as it is still light but the sun is beginning to set so we should get some nice views, and we do. The only slight issue being the glass is very reflective and its very light inside the building so its hard to get good photos to do the scenes justice without getting glare. But its only a very minor complaint!
We head back down to Shinjuku station in the search for Memory lane (also known as Piss Alley). Its not very big and many people have said its quite difficult to find, so we have searched for detailed directions online. Even with directions, we still struggle to find it, but eventually manage to suss it out and follow an underpass which then leads to the start of the lane (for any future visitors who happen to read this – take the B13 exit at East Square, cross the road and there is an underpass to the right of the road which takes you straight to it – there are green signs marking the entrance). For anyone who hasn't heard of it before, memory lane is a little network of narrow lanes and tiny eating establishments where, in the past, business men would finish work and head here for a snack and some beers before staggering home.
The smell of smoke and chargrilled skewers rising out from each little bar is making our mouths water, and immediately we are drawn to a little establishment. We order a selection of pork belly skewers (which are actually heavenly), a rice ball (a bit bland to be honest) and some cucumber with miso (also delicious). The only downside is there is a cover charge (code = tourist tax) of 400 yen each for the privilege of eating here, but for that we do get a plate of edamame beans which I guess is something!
We head back to Asakusa on the train and of course, stop off at the 7-11 for a little steamed pork bun and a few beers as standard. We relax in the hotel for a bit after our 12 mile walking day again, then head out to a ramen chain restaurant for a quick and cheap dinner.
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