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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!