Kimberlycun Does Tokyo Part One.

Japan is one of my favourite countries to visit. Everything is immensely interesting, from the sceneries down to the convenience store. I could browse their 7-11 for hours and still be hesitant to leave the shop.

I’ve finally achieved my dreams of going to Tokyo. I was put up at Hilton in Shinjuku area. It was dinner time when I reached the city. I had no idea where to go for dinner, so I decided to just explore the vicinity of the hotel. I found a place that was packed with people and went in without second thought. I ordered this set meal that consisted of rice, some stir-fried pork with miso soup and salad. It was so-so.

There are a lot of restaurants similar to Yoshinoya but they are way better than the latter. I didn’t check out Yoshinoya in Japan but I’m absolutely sure it’s better than the Yoshitloya we get in Malaysia.

The dinner set that was so-so.

Later that night, a friend gave me authentic dorayaki (Doraemon’s favourite snack, w00t) for supper and it was gooood. Apparently the dorayaki was imported from some faraway place in Japan that produces the best dorayaki and I wouldn’t be able to find anything like it in Tokyo. They came in 2 flavours, green tea (macha) and red beans (azuki). First night in Japan and already I was starting to look like a beached whale.

Best dorayaki ever.

I was rather skeptical about making my way around Tokyo on my own as I don’t speak the language and I don’t understand any chinese character (they are similar to the Japanese characters). Anyway, I woke up really early in the morning, hit the gym and with my mind refreshed, I plotted my tour around Tokyo.

I managed to nick several tourist brochures from the hotel lobby, on which I circled several locations that I wanted to go. I gave the brochures to the hotel receptionist and asked her to direct me to the nearest train station for each location. My goodness, the lady was so patient with me, I must had taken about half and hour of her time when there were so many hotel guests around. She spoke only passable English and at times I had trouble understanding her but she made sure that I understood what she was trying to tell me. Finally, I was convinced that I could get around without getting lost and left her to serve other guests. Props to staff of Hilton Tokyo.

My first stop was Tsukiji Wholesale Market. It’s a 20 minutes journey from Tochomae Station (3 minute walk from Hilton). I alighted at Tsukijishijo Station, the market is just right next to the station. Tsukiji Wholesale Market is famous for its seafood auction early in the morning, but I missed it because I reach there around 10.30am.

Inside the train. It’s got english announcement for n00bs like me.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, commonly known as Tsukiji fish market (Japanese: 築地市場, Tsukiji shijō) is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind.

The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo, and is a major attraction for foreign visitors (few Japanese casually visit the market), especially for visitors with jet lag who have arrived from Narita International Airport; the best times to visit are between 5:00AM and 9:00AM.

Source: Wikipedia

When I reached there, the place was still being visited by tourists. The auction area was quiet but there’s a section of the market where you could get delicious and fresh seafood meals.

Preparing the fish.

One of the rows of restaurants.

I decided to have lunch at one of the restaurants. I came across this place which had the longest queue compared to others, so I joined the hungry folks. The long wait was certainly worth it as I had the best Japanese meal I’ve ever eaten (I know I’ve said the same for the katsudon I had in Osaka but this definitely superseded it).

The meal was very simple, just a bowl of rice topped with fresh sea urchin, tuna tartar, salmon roe and salmon sashimi with miso soup on the side. I had no idea what it was called and after searching high and low on Google, I found out the name of the meal, it’s called Chirashizushi.

Chirashizushi is a form of sushi, a food well-known in the west and often mistaken for raw fish or raw seafood. Raw, slightly cooked or vinegared seafood is properly called sashimi. There are many types of sushi in Japan and rice is the common ingredient to all types. Nigiri, handmade sushi served in pairs, and maki (rolls) served as six slices, are the most commonly known in the west. Oshi is pressed rice cut into squares.

Chirashizushi, an uncaked sushi or scattered sushi, is rice spread in a box or bowl with nine kinds of fish and vegetables scattered on top or mixed in. Because it does not require pressing or rolling, it is an excellent dish to make in a classroom.

Source: Yale

It was so delicious, both light and sinful at the same time, I can’t possibly describe it in words. You just have to find it out for yourself. Unfortunately the owner of the restaurant didn’t allow photography in the restaurant so I couldn’t capture any picture but it was an impressive looking meal, I can assure you.

Look at the queue!

This is the end of Kimberlycun Does Tokyo Part One. Will post the next part when I’m less lazy.

Arigato gozaimas!

I want to go back to Osaka!

Japan’s favourite PJs, the yukata.

The moment I entered my hotel room, I couldn’t help but notice how everything was built for short people. The height of the bed barely reached my knee, the chair was considerably lower than average, the mirror couldn’t be used without bending my knees and so on. I believe it has something to do with the age of my hotel, as the Japanese population nowadays is considerably taller.

My hotel room.

The hotel was nothing to shout about, it’s got a funny smell to it, as if the room had been bleached for hundreds of times. However, I was very comfortable as anything beyond air conditioning and hot water shower is considered luxury to me.

After a quick nap, I ventured out for lunch. I was determined to eat authentic Japanese food. No Chinatown bullshit and all that. After walking for a bit, finally stumbled onto this restaurant that specialises in katsudon. I had the house special at 500 yen and I have to say it’s the best money I’d spent in Japan. The deep fried pork chop was succulent on the inside and crispy on the outside. Soaked in miso gravy and topped with a freshly cracked egg, it was served with a bowl of rice. The looks of katsudon left nothing to be desired but the dish really titillated my tastebuds. I devoured every single grain of rice with it.

Katsudon. Deep fried pork chop soaked in miso sauce with egg. OMG I’m missing it already!

After lunch, it was time for a bit of shopping. I decided to go to Namba, the shopping and entertainment district of Osaka. It’s 30 minutes walking distance from my hotel but I thought taking the train would be way more fun. I went to Uehonmachi Station, which was just right smacked next to my hotel.

Stepping into a train station in Japan was quite a nerve racking experience. Firstly, there was little information in english. Using a small and skanky photostated map (with bad english) courtesy of the hotel, I managed to make out which station to go. Secondly, the names of the stations are just too long. I suggest that you jot down the exact name of the station you’re going to and coming back if you’re not proficient in Japanese. Thirdly, there were so many people! They are well-behaved though. I suppose you could call it controlled chaos, but it’s quite a scary sight for a laidback Malaysian like me.

Train ticketing machine.

The ticketing machine has english labels so it’s fairly easy to use. The cost of ticket from Uehonmachi to Namba is 150 yen.

Uehommachi Station.

Waiting for the train….

Inside the train.

Namba Station is only 2 stops away from Uehonmachi Station. I was very relieved when I saw the Namba Station’s signboard as I had this nagging feeling that I would get lost in the humongous network of train stations. Turned out it was only stupid paranoia.

Namba is only a couple of steps away from the station…

Entering the centre of consumerism.

Namba1ban. Cheesy but quite clever. It’s a pachinko parlour.

Inside the pachinko parlour. The game that destroyed one too many families -_-

There are many famous landmarks in Namba.

Dotonbori Street. A popular street lined with restaurants, shops and entertainment centres. Very, very colourful.

Posing with Kuidaore Taro.

Ebisubashi Bridge. Notice the weird looking Ferris Wheel?

Ebisubashi Bridge has very interesting stories to it.

….lacking someone to imitate gaijin MVP Randy Bass, the rabid crowd seized the Colonel Sanders statue from a nearby KFC, and tossed it off the bridge as an effigy. This impulsive maneuver was to cost the team greatly, beginning the Curse of the Colonel. Legend has it that the Tigers will not win the championship again, until the statue is recovered. Attempts have been made, including sending divers down and dredging the river, but so far the statue remains in the murky depths and the Tigers cursed.

In 2003, the Tigers won the qualifying Central Tournament, and fans figured this was good enough. Over 5,300 fans repeated the plunge into the canal. However, for 24-year old Masaya Shitababa it was a tragedy. He drowned in the canal, with all reports being that he had been shoved in by the revelers.

Source: Wikipedia

Another section of Ebisubashi Bridge. It’s under construction, probably in an effort to deter happy jumpers.

Japanese schoolgirls.

The infamous Glico Man!

Just for you, bitch.

Many people in Osaka use bicycles as means of transportation. I wish Malaysia were cooler, cause I definitely wouldn’t mind cycling around.

Rows and rows and rows of bicycles.

And then it was dinner time…

Dinner time at a sushi restaurant.

Freshly hand-made sushis.

My top favourite salmon sashimi!

My sushi chef.

If you’re going to Osaka, watch out for 100 Yen shops. Yes, everything’s sold at 100 yen (105 yen including tax). These shops are everywhere and you just have to look out for them. It’s really a joy to shop, they’re not unlike our RM2.99 shops, but the products have way better quality. They sell things from cosmetics to kitchen utensils to underwear to food. Lovely! (Please refrain from buying fakeplan Pokka Pokka sticks though…they taste like mouldy cardboards)

Osaka is one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited. It’s like being in another dimension, very surreal. The people, the food, the ambiance, the billboards, the toilets…they belong to another level of reality. I’d love to go back one day, to experience it all over again.