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.
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.
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.
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