The last couple of days I’ve mostly been wandering about on my own while waiting for my friend to finish at work. As a result I’ve taken a small break from the bigger tourist sites and have mostly been meandering about in various districts just seeing what is there. The standard approach is get off at a train station and just walk until I run out of things to look at and then use my phone to navigate to the nearest station to wherever I’ve ended up. It is an interesting way to get a feel for the day to day rather than just seeing the same chain stores that dominate most tourist areas.
But I haven’t totally gotten off the beaten track. I did wander around Ginza for a day and walked through Harujuku after visiting the shrine and going to Government Building 1 and using the observation deck where we met this really nice volunteer guide who gave us a history lesson on the architects of the buildings in the area, some of the features of some of the sites, and a bit of history about how Tokyo developed as a region. Nice guy, lots of videos on his phone to show details like a fold out helicopter pad that was attached to the building opposite and the inflation of the Egg roof. Considering he isn’t a paid guide he was incredibly informative as he showed us the sites.
However, a trip to Nakano was really great as well as I found a plush Little Fox from Natsume and a small Natori figure that I just had to have (also a giant Nyanko pillow that I walked away from if only because it would not have fit in my bag).
Then again, it is all about the food. And yes, I’ve eaten a lot of it. Notable meals include the ramen. Yeah, I didn’t even manage to eat half of it because it was massive, but it was absolutely delicious. Ordering was easier than normal because it was one of those places where you use the ticket machine to place your order and then just hand the ticket over when you enter the shop (and there were lots of pictures to help where my lack of kanji knowledge became apparent). However, inside they then ask you a whole series of option questions about the noodles and what not and I will admit I couldn’t follow. I ended up having to get them to write the question down so I could sit and translate it but ultimately I managed to get some great food so probably worth the effort.
I found on previous trips and this one that ordering ramen is incredibly intimidating. The vast majority of ramen places have no English on their menu (which is fine) but a lot don’t even have pictures or any kind of visual. Some just have the different dishes listed vertically along a wall and there’s a lot of kanji. There’s also a sense that you need to order quickly and so it is a bit of a struggle (admittedly, there are more chain type restaurants you could go to and order ramen with less pressure if you really wanted to). I also always feel bad because I cannot eat a whole serve of ramen in one sitting even if I skip lunch. It is just too much food piled into the bowl.
Anyway, outside of ramen, we hit a yakitori place that is part of a chain, but the restaurant we went to is under the train line near Ginza. There’s some great food places there and I strongly recommend a walk along the train line from Shimbashi heading toward Ginza because you will find some really fantastic places to eat. Not to mention, the atmosphere of low ceiling and periodic table shaking as a train passes overhead is just kind of fun.
The place we ate charged 300 yen just for sitting at the table per person but that came with unlimited bowls of cabbage. Fortunately, it was a very tourist friendly place because there are some nights when you are tired and don’t want to struggle with a language barrier. They had an entirely English menu that they brought over for us without us asking with the Japanese written underneath so ordering was as simple as point at what you want and let the waiter read it. I will admit, we may have severely over eaten by the time we were done but it was so incredibly worth it.
Anyway, my friend is about to get three days off work so we are going to be out and about and I’m pretty sure we’re doing an overnight trip somewhere and then I’m pretty much done because I’ll be having to start preparing to fly home which is kind of sad but at the same time I feel I’ve done most of what I wanted to in Tokyo this time. There’s still the kitchen street to hit up and I want to spend a bit longer in some of the gardens but mostly I’m happy that I’ve been where I want to go.
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