Japan 2014 — Day 15: Tokyo — Imperial Palace, Tokyo Station, Musashikoyama

It's our last day in Tokyo. I love Tokyo but the rain was getting old.

As expected, it's a super soggy day. Rain soaked vegetation can make for pretty saturated photos, which it did last time we were in Kyoto. There's not much vegetation in Tokyo though.

Imperial Palace

 

We'd shuffled our days around on account of the rain, but in doing so had forgotten that the east Imperial Palace Gardens would not be open on a Monday. But that's all right, it wasn't too far out of the way as we were going to explore Tokyo Station anyway.

  

Tokyo Station is a short ten minute walk away. On our previous trip, Tokyo Station was still under renovation and nothing like the bustling shopping mecca that it is now.

On the way, we see a fire extinguisher on the side of the road, and many tall skyscrapers - with so many businesses it makes sense that Chiba, the area surrounding Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace, is the least populated area of Tokyo.

Tokyo Station

  

We reach the iconic building that is Tokyo Station. It had been extensively damaged in World War II, hence the restoration project. The interior ceilings are painted a pretty egg shell yellow.

Having had breakfast at the hot meant we were in for some guilt free snacking. First stop is the Glico Japan Kitchen, that is the amazing company that makes Pretz and Pocky amongst other delicious snacks.

   

We order a chocolate cone with an almond pocky stick. The entire novelty in the experience is in watching them make it before your eyes, although it doesn't hurt that the snacks are super tasty too. There's glass windows surrounding the kitchen area where they make your order so we got to see the lady extract the chocolate mousse from the machine squeeze it into the cone that sits on a stand, before putting the Pocky stick in. Not neurosurgery by any means but still fun.

Next stop is the Calbee+ store that's directly opposite the Glico Japan Kitchen. This is the second Calbee+ store we've visited, the first being at Tokyo Skytree where we tried the fresh and hot Poterico chips.

     

This time we try the Calbee Royce Chocolate Potato Chips. Whereas the Glico Japan Kitchen did not make the cone or the Pocky stick on the spot, we got to watch them fry the chips to order, assemble them into a container that sits on a scale (they are super precise!), drizzle Royce chocolate all over, before assembling some more chips and drizzling more chocolate on top. Fresh chips really do taste that much better, and while chocolate isn't usually a topping for chips, it was very tasty.

We reach a gift store of sorts where I finally get to indulge in my Kitkat quest (prior to this, I'd only found Shinshu Apple in Takayama and red bean and butter in Nagoya). So I bought the two Tokyo ones (rum and raisin, and wasabi). I also bought the ben-imo (purple sweet potato) that's a limited edition for Okinawa and citrus that's a limited edition for Shikoku. I'll talk more about the whacky flavours of KitKat in a later post.

   

Somewhere inside the maze that is Tokyo Station we came across Papa Bumble, one of those stores that make rock candy in front of you. They were making a batch with the words 'Thank You' while we were there and received samples.

  

We'd found a cake store selling absolutely beautiful cakes that we wanted to try. But lunch first because things never end well when you eat dessert for lunch.  We head into the rain outside Tokyo Station and take a short walk to a tempura restaurant. We pass an ecofriendly building with plants growing on its walls (but nothing like the beauty that is One Central Park in Sydney) and a rather geometric and confronting Starbucks.

     

The tempura restaurant is Tempura Tenmatsu. It's a small establishment where you pay for the meal you wish to receive in the first room in from the street before being ushered into the second room where the customers sit around the bench that wraps around the chefs kitchen. There is only one chef and he cooks your tempura to order in front of you.

We each ordered a meal that had some vegetables and seafood, which was around Y1080. A meal with just vegetables is cheaper, and you can add an additional tempura bowl for extra. For our meal, we received some enoki mushrooms, a slice of pumpkin, a prawn, and a piece of fish, as well as bowls of rice and miso soup and a cup of green tea. You also get pickles but D and I have never been a fan of them.

 

After lunch we head back to the food section of the Daimaru department store for our beautiful cakes. Tokyo Station and a bunch of trains as far as Yokohama are decked out in paraphernalia celebrating 100 years of Tokyo Station.

I don't recall the name of this stor, only that it was located at the back of the section near the escalator. And that it sold the most beautiful and stunning cakes at prices that make Australian cake stores look juvenile and extortionist.

They were all so pretty and the flavours so palatable that we had a hard time choosing which ones to get, especially between the pear and apple cakes. We ended up getting the apple cake and the chocolate, and contemplated getting the pear cake afterwards if we weren't all 'caked out' yet.

 

We found a Starbucks to camp in and eat our cakes. I'm mildly amused that Starbucks drinks in Japan have the same Starbucks taste to them as they do in Australia. At least when it comes to the fruit drinks - they always have a floral taste to them.

 

When you buy cakes (or cream puffs even) in Japan, they always ask you how long you will be walking around with them for. Your answer determines how they many ice packs they include with your cakes. Aside from the ice, they are thoughtful in packing your cakes to make sure they don't get destroyed in transit (which it may well get in peak hour).

 

This is the apple cake. We were seduced by its resemblance of a real apple and the shiny red glaze. Apple cream wraps around sponge, while the centre is filled with cubes of cooked apples (like in a apple pie). The cake then sits atop a crispy crust. This is truly a work of art - just look at the gold flecks used to suggest the brush on an apple! So much so that it pained me a little to poke a fork into it.

 

This is the chocolate sphere. It is beautifully rich chocolate mousse wrapping around moist chocolate sponge atop a crispy chocolate base. We could not find anything wanting in these cakes! We were too much in a food coma to go back for the pear one, alas!

  

We spent an embarrassingly long time inside Tokyo Station trying to find Gran Star - N is terrible at describing the places she's been to and the maps interlinking the various parts of the vastness that is Tokyo Station weren't all that helpful. So it took a ridiculously long time, and D resetting his Suica card, to figure out that it was behind the ticket barriers.

Musashikoyama

 

To cap off our time in Tokyo we head to Musashikoyama, a chiefly residential area of Tokyo. It's an area detailed by Danny Choo on his Culture Japan blog.

 

It was late in the evening so while most of the shops on the shopping street were still open, there weren't that many people - most seemed to be transiting through. But we did spot a giant Snoopy gracing the entrance to what I believe is an insurance company's shop front. And an umbrella store whose 'a' had fallen off their sign and they just filled it in using a marker.

 

At the end of the shopping street is a Jonathan's, a family restaurant we'd been wanting to try after living across from one on Nagoya.

   

After the surreptitious event in Ueno where the corn soup I thought I was ordering turned out to be corn pottage flavoured French fries, I'd had a craving for corn soup. So I ordered corn pottage and tomato spaghetti with crab meat. The corn pottage was on the watery side without much of the corn flavour and corn kernels that I appreciate about corn soup at home. The spaghetti had actual crab meat as opposed to meet from crab sticks (the worst!) which was delightful. D ordered a steak set with fried prawn, croquette and a jugaimo. He'd been on the look out for jugaimo since we had it at Osaka Castle - and here they put the slab of melty better in the middle!

 

A major advertising point at Jonathan's was their tea selection that's included in their all-you-can-drink menu. And of course I take advantage of it! They had 'ceylon tea', 'ginger tea', 'deeply steamed Kagoshima tea', 'caramel and chestnut tea', 'apple and cinnamon tea', 'elegant earl grey', 'darjeeling tea', 'brown rice tea with matcha', 'tea of black soybean and buckwheat'. I tried the 'caramel and chestnut tea' (rather mild) and the 'tea of black soybean and buckwheat' (pleasantly nutty), while D tried the 'brown rice tea with matcha' -- he likes brown rice tea with green tea leaves, so he thought he might like it with matcha, but the matcha left a rather bitter flavour.

And that's it for Tokyo -- onwards to Yokohama!