So I have been totally MIA on the blog front. My apologies to my devoted readers. And by devoted readers, I mean my favorite friends of all time. Domo arigato for adventuring with me.
Chris and I went to Tokyo over Thanksgiving. This year I was extra thankful for our amazing world and all the wonderful cultures in it. We can learn so much from one another, it is such a great gift. That statement is pretty ironic when you think about the origin of Thanksgiving… I won’t bore you with my thoughts on the holiday.
One thing is for sure: I am more grateful to eat sushi over turkey, so we took a sushi class the first day we arrived. I promise an amazing Tsukiji Fish Market and How To Make Sushi post in the coming days. Here’s a sneak peak…
We started off at Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest fish market. We saw every kind of fish imaginable, as far as the eye could see. Hundreds of fishmongers busy negotiating prices and filleting the giant tuna won at the day’s auction. When we left the market, we headed back to Tokyo’s professional sushi school to take a private sushi class. This was the highlight of our trip for me. I worked in a sushi restaurant for 4 years during high school, so the opportunity to learn sushi techniques from a Japanese sushi chef was an amazing experience. Our instructor only spoke Japanese, however we had a wonderful translator who was also a great photographer. If you ever get a chance to go to Tokyo, Tsukiji Fish Market Tours and Sushi Class is MUST do! I could not recommend a more amazing experience. After we ate our delicious sushi, we headed over to Ginza district for a little window shopping. I wish I could say it was real shopping but Cartier, Louis Vuitton and $5,000 Kimonos are just slightly out of my price range.We stayed with a good buddy, Jeff, who was born and raised in Tokyo. We got his inside perspective on what to eat, see and do in Tokyo. It was awesome to understand the Japanese culture from his point of view. His parents have an amazing apartment in Roppongi Hills. We woke up to this amazing view every morning. The beautiful tower that looks strikingly similar to the Eiffel Tower is the Tokyo Tower, was designed to copy the Eiffel Tower but is taller, reaching 1,093 ft. On our first night in the city, we decided to pack a few drinks and go to the top observatory deck where we saw stunning views of Tokyo City. On a clear day you could see Mount Fuji, or at least that’s what they say…The next morning, we headed to Northern Tokyo to visit the districts of Asakusa and Ueno. In Japan’s great history, when Kyoto was officially the capital of Japan, Tokyo was known as Edo. During this time, the Northern districts, Asakusa and Ueno were known for the merchants and artisans who thrived there.
The main road, Nakamise-dori, leading to the Senso-ji Temple is packed with amazing shops, filled with traditional Japanese items like Kimonos, Samurai swords, fans, hair combs, chopsticks and more. This was without a doubt the best gift shopping area that we visited in Tokyo. I highly recommend visiting this area and buying ALL your gifts here. We couldn’t find anything else like it on the rest of our trip and trust me we tried. We almost went back just so we could buy more stuff. Next time I am totally getting a Samurai sword. As you make your way down the rows of shops, the Five Story Paragoda can be seen through the trees. The Senso-Ji temple is Tokyo’s most beautiful and sacred temple. It was originally built in 628AD, when two fishermen found a mercury statue of the Buddhist goddess of mercury, Kannon. A shrine was built in het honor, then in 645AD, a holy man built a beautiful temple, whose fame and wealth grew throughout the years. The original structure did not survive the World War II bombings, but the modern-day reconstruction follows the original layout. The Hozo-mon Gate which was built in 1964, is a two-story structure with a treasure room on the second floor. It holds national treasures from the 14th century.Just outside the gate, we were stopped by a Japanese News Crew, who interviewed us on our understanding of Samurai armor. I wish I could see what they did with the footage.We made our way through the Hozo-mon Gate and made our way to the Incense Burner, where people stood wafting the incense over them for good health and prosperity. As you walk up to the Main Hall, you see the gold-plated main shrine and the original Kannon image. Visitors drop coins to pay their respect and make a wish. Inside the main hall there are several large paintings that are breathtakingly beautiful. After we left Senso-Ji Temple, Chris and I grabbed a couple of drinks at the Japanese Liquor store, and by liquor store I mean vending machine… man the Japanese have it all figured out!With drinks in hand we made our way to Ueno Park, a place rich in history and filled with beautiful adventures. The site of Ueno is known historically as the location for last great battle in Japan. In 1868, Emperor Meiji’s forces defeated the Tokugawa shogunate. At the entrance to the park, we were greeted with a great statue of Saigo Takamori, the leader of the victorious Meiji forces. I took on the classic Japanese photo pose… the only slight adjustment I could have made was lean my head to one side.As we strolled through the park, we passed beautiful structures including the Kiyo-mizu Hall which was part of the original Kanei-ji temple, dating back to 1631.We walked over to the lake and Chris decided he wanted to take a romantic boat ride… in a SWAN. It was one of those perfectly romantic and unexpected adventures that make traveling so fun! It was especially funny and cute because we are way bigger then Japanese people and we barely fit. After our lovely boat ride, we walked through the park where we saw the Tosho-gu Shrine and The Great Buddhist Pagoda. During the spring time, this lovely walk is surrounded by beautiful cherry blossom trees. I hope to see them some day, I bet it is wonderful. Other great attractions in Ueno Park included the Ueno Zoo, which is home to beautiful Giant Pandas, The National Museum of Western Art and The National Science Museum. I am always a big fan of National Science Museums and Zoos. Because we only had time for one stop we chose the zoo. I mean, does it get any better than Pandas? No. No it doesn’t. Ueno Zoo also has a beautiful Pagoda on site. I am not going to lie, I sure am a sucker for Pagodas. They are such beautiful representations of Japanese culture. That night we met Jeff in Shibuya, known as the sakariba (party town) of Tokyo. It is like the Times Square of Tokyo, where all the latest in fashion, food and excitement can be found. We partied there every night after. The liveliness and fun resonated in every bar we walked into. We were even lucky enough to find an American bar where many foreign travelers converged to talk about their travel in English. Which was lucky because very few people in Tokyo spoke English. On our last day in Tokyo, we visited the most famous structure in the city, The Imperial Palace, which was built in 1590 by the first Tokusawa shogun, Ieyasu. During the Edo period, the Imperial Palace became the worlds largest castle and is where the Emperor and his family still live today. We walked through the expansive gardens of the palace, and passed the guard houses where hundreds of Samurai used to live and protect the palace. We also saw the most famous structure of the palace, Nijubashi, a beautiful stone arched bridge, with a perfect view of the Imperial Palace.It was the perfect way to end such an amazing adventure in Tokyo. The beauty and the culture of the city were awe-inspiring. I learned so much from wonderful and kind people during our trip. With a greater understanding of their culture, I fell in love with the food, the history and everything about Tokyo.
We loved it so much that are already planning our next Japanese adventure! Next on the list are Mount Fuji, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although we will have to wait awhile, we will fill our time with dreams of Tokyo and the wonderful adventure we had there.
I can’t wait to share a few more posts from our adventures in Tokyo. Stay tuned! Domo-Arigato- which is the only thing I learned to say while I was there… it is a hard language that’s for sure!