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Japan 2014 — Day 10: Tokyo — Tsukiji, Odaiba, Shibuya

Sightseeing, or being out­side gen­er­ally, isn’t much fun when it’s rain­ing and windy. You make the most of it when you’re on hol­i­day, though, so off we head to Tsukiji.

Tsukiji

We weren’t crazy enough to wake up insanely early for the chance (not even the guar­an­tee) to see the tuna auc­tion at 6AM. But we did skip break­fast with the inten­tion of eat­ing at one of the res­taur­ants in Tsukiji, which were rumored to have tuna fresh like you wouldn’t believe.

We hit the out­er mar­ket first. The store own­ers are used to Chinese tour­ists vis­it­ing so they try to lure us into their res­taur­ants, but uh, we don’t speak Mandarin so we keep walk­ing to the res­taur­ants in the inner mar­ket. There’s also shops selling sea­food (of course), as well as giant slabs of steamed egg (above, left).

We got a bit lost try­ing to find the entrance to the inner mar­ket (above, left) — we walked straight past it think­ing it was just for cars. But the entrance is at the left, and you walk through the build­ing and its puddles. D’s shoes weren’t water­proof so that made the walk rather gross.

And we hit the entrance to the inner mar­ket (above, right). It’s pour­ing down buck­ets, we’re hungry, and D’s shoes were not hold­ing so we decide to skip the inner mar­ket (we’d seen a doc­u­ment­ary on it just a few weeks pre­vi­ously, and it was puddles, puddles, puddles, even on a fine day, so…) and head to the res­taur­ant sec­tion (above, left). There’s a res­taur­ant fam­ous for its sushi. Each res­taur­ant only has 10 – 12 seats, and the huge queues out­side this one didn’t make us want to join it.

So we head next door. We order sushi (fatty tuna, tuna, and sal­mon) and a tuna (fatty and nor­mal) don­buri. The fatty tuna was like nor­mal tuna with less of the “meaty” tex­ture, while the sal­mon was sal­mon gen­er­ally and this was so of the best I’ve eaten, but I didn’t think the exper­i­ence was worth the prices (~Y2200) — they’re the most I’ve paid for sushi. And it’s not hard to find good sushi in Japan, so for the premi­um, I’d want mind blow­ingly amaz­ing sushi.

Honestly, though, I’m not all that dis­ap­poin­ted. I didn’t expect the tuna to be mind-blow­ingly amaz­ing — I have my mis­giv­ings about the ‘fresh­ness’ of the tuna because it’s not auc­tioned alive, and most of the tuna used in sushi is from defros­ted frozen tuna, so I don’t see how it could taste so much bet­ter. I did want to try it out, just to under­stand the hype, though. Later on dur­ing our time in Tokyo, we’d have sashimi fresh from a fish that was alive just 10 minutes ago, and that was truly amaz­ing.

The rain comes down only heav­ier after we’re doing eat­ing, so we take refuge in a cof­fee shop right at the entrance to the out­er mar­ket. I order a hot chocol­ate with marsh­mal­lows, while D orders a mocha. These were pleas­ant drinks with rich chocol­ate hits. It was a quaint cof­fee place to spend some time in, but unfor­tu­nately also the one place we ate at in Japan that were keen to have us on our way before we were ready. All oth­er places hap­pily let us sit for as long as we liked.

We’re on our way des­pite the heavy rain and walk­ing to Tsukishima in search of mon­jayaki. It’s a short walk just across the bridge from the Tsukiji Fish Market. We nev­er end up find­ing the mon­jayaki even though we made an effort to look around the side streets off the main road. I’m told you can­not miss it com­ing out from the sta­tion, but miss it we did. The rain was com­ing at us side­ways that we really just wanted to be under shel­ter.

Odaiba

At Tsukishima, we catch the sub­way to Toyosu to take the driver­less yurikamome from its first to last stop. Now, we’ve nev­er been keen on vis­it­ing Odaiba itself, but I was inter­ested in see­ing it and the view of Tokyo Bay for only Y380. We’d have seen bet­ter views on a fine day, but even in the rain we saw most of the sights in Odaiba — the fer­ris wheel, Miraikan, the shop­ping malls, the giant Gundam, the sphere at the Fuji TV build­ing, the Odaiba Maritime Museum that’s shaped like a boat (above, bot­tom right), the rep­lica Statue of Liberty, Tokyo Big Sight (the place for anime con­ven­tions) and Rainbow Bridge.

Each sta­tion on the Yurikamome line has a dif­fer­ent pat­tern dec­or­at­ing the glass doors of the sta­tion, and at the last sta­tion (Shimbashi), there’s a sign fea­tur­ing all the pat­terns (above, top)

At Shimbashi Station, we see an apple ring. The extra car­a­mel­ised pastry from the ring shape made it par­tic­u­larly tasty — def­in­itely one of the bet­ter apple pastries we tried in Japan.

We’re also on a mis­sion to find a chick­en and mush­room puff. We see this one at Delifrance at Shimbashi, but it’s noth­ing like the one from Nagoya. It’s very dry and not creamy at all.

Shibuya

We catch the train to Shibuya. Even on a rainy day, the Shibuya Crossing is inund­ated with people. This view from above shows all the pretty umbrel­las. The Starbucks, a pop­u­lar vant­age point to view the cross­ing, is dir­ectly across.

Lunch is at CoCo Ichibanya Curry House, our second time eat­ing here this trip. I order a half por­tion of the cream crab cro­quette with mild curry — I like the taste of curry but don’t appre­ci­ate the burn, and mild hits all the right spots for me. D orders his veget­able and chick­en curry with a spi­ci­ness level of +1, but decides that the added burn ruins his enjoy­ment of the curry. Normal spi­ci­ness it is!

Shibuya has one of the biggest Loft stores we’ve vis­ited with one of the largest vari­ety. I buy an apple, mel­on and mint tea (a post for later!), as well as some sampler tea bags for my col­league who’s into ginger teas. Nearby is also a large Tokyu Hands store with funky stairs that tell you how many cal­or­ies you’re burn­ing by walk­ing up the stairs and not tak­ing the lift. By and large, Loft and Tokyu Hands are the same type of store, the main dif­fer­ence being that the former has great­er emphas­is on kit­chen ware and food, where­as the lat­ter has a sec­tion ded­ic­ated to mini­ature hobby crafts (!).

The rain hasn’t let up all day and extends into night­fall. We buy new shoes for D who wears his two pairs of shoes until they fall apart, unlike me who has enough pairs to wear a dif­fer­ent pair for a few weeks. Two days in the rain had com­pletely des­troyed his already dying shoes, so we headed to ABC Mart.

While there’s a Christmas pres­ence in Shibuya, it’s quite mel­low com­pared to oth­er places in Tokyo,which deck their trees up with lights.

And the Black Diamond Burger from Burger King! Prior to our trip, we were dis­ap­poin­ted that this nov­elty would end in early November. And it did at every oth­er store we walked past except the one in Shibuya. Lucky!

It’s a nor­mal bur­ger with black buns, black cheese, and almost black sauce. The black col­our is achieved using char­coal and you can def­in­itely taste it — it’s pleas­ant — although it’s not over­power­ing. Internet accounts have found the black­ness to be con­front­ing, but hav­ing encountered char­coal breads before in Asian baker­ies, it really was just nov­el. 

We want to take a break before head­ing to din­ner, so we try to find a cof­fee shop facing onto the Shibuya cross­ing for some people watch­ing, out of the rain. Other people had the same thought, it seems, because every cof­fee shop had long queues. Amusingly, even the L’Occittane over­look­ing the cross­ing has a cof­fee sec­tion!

Our people watch­ing plans hav­ing failed we decide to have a light din­ner and call it an early night. Dinner is at Genki Sushi, a sushi train. As with many oth­er sushi trains in Japan we saw, they have wax rep­licas of the sushi they sell as decor for their win­dow.

How Genki Sushi dif­fers from most oth­er sushi trains is the way you order and receive your food. Normally, you pick what you want from the options cir­cu­lat­ing the con­vey­er belt sur­round­ing the kit­chen. At Genki Sushi, you order what you want from the touch screen, wait a couple of minutes, and your order whizzes out on a plat­ter on the tracks and stops right on front of you. You take your plate off the plat­ter, press a but­ton and it whizzes back to the inside kit­chen.

You make your own green tea with sup­plied matcha powder and a per­son­al hot water tap.

We have 11 dishes, most of which are Y100. I’d say their mod­el of a sushi train keeps costs down to just one or two floor staff and the kit­chen staff. The qual­ity of the sushi was good and they had a large vari­ety to choose from.

They do slice their fish dif­fer­ently (I don’t know my fish ter­min­o­logy but it would seem to be sliced “across” rather than “along” the grain). We tried raw scampi and decide to stick with cooked ones in the future! They also had one with a slice of grilled meat that we’d not seen else­where that D liked so much he ordered seconds!

Once you order over Y1000 of food, a game of rock paper scis­sors pops up on your screen. If you win, you receive a vouch­er tick­et from the floor staff redemp­tion of either a 10% dis­count off your final bill or a Genki Sushi eraser. Of course I go for the souven­ir — from the lucky dip, I pick a tuna sushi. Kawaii!

The rain makes days feel far more exhaust­ing and longer than usu­al, but none less fun or inter­est­ing