Sleeping in Tokyo is so comfy. Maybe because I was too tired from all the walking the night before, or maybe the cool weather? One thing for sure I didn't get up until 9 A.M. Truthfully, I'm not those holiday-nazi (read: Dr Cakra) who wakes up early morning in a vacation for the sake of visiting all the places in the itineray. I'm more laid back, kinda lazy I might say LOL
So after a long process of waking up and taking a shower, I was ready for the first full day in Tokyo. Destination: Ueno Park - Hanami
But first... BREAKFAST!!!!!!
Deef fried chopped potatoes and rice balls with ham from Lawson
Just steps from Yanagibashi Hotel, we found this fast food kinda place (small joint, vending machine to order, cheap) that sells gyudon, curry and other japanese set menu. At first I thought it was some random personally owned restaurant, later I found out that it was Matsuya, a japanese fast food brand like Yoshinoya and Sukiya. Ordering here is pretty easy (my first time using japanese vending ordering machine), I'll jot down the steps below
1. Find the button to change the language into English.
2. Browse the menu first using the touchscreen interface. Every menu has a clear picture and short english description
3. Put your money into the machine (you can use coins and 1000 JPY note)
4. Choose the food by using the touchscreen interface.
5. After the machine make sure that correct payment has been made, it will give you the change and print out small tickets containing your order.
6. Give the ticket to the waiter
Let's get straight to the point. IMO Matsuya is yummm. Gyudon and curry quality is the same or maybe better than Sushi Tei in Jakarta. Waiting time is less than 10 minutes. Refillable water provided using jug. Food portion is big (If you are not that hungry or a girl with less apettite than me, I suggest you order the smallest possible portion)
One of Matsuya's best seller - Gyudon (stir fry sliced beef in soy sauce with onion, grated turnip, scallion and soft boiled egg) The flavor is well balanced, rice a bit mushy and need a bit more shoyu. Break the egg for some gooey goodness, mix well with the rice and meat. The messier the better.
Rice with minced meat in red sauce and a sunny side egg
The red sauce is a bit spicy, so so far from the chilies and sambals from Indonesia. IMO, the combination is off, I don't think I'll ever order this dish again.
After breakfast, we were rushing to Ueno Park for Cherry Blossoms viewing. From Asakusabashi station, we change twice using the JR Pass. First go to Akihabara Station using the Sobu Line (Yellow) and then take Yamanote Line to Ueno Station. All of the trip is covered by JR Pass so our super expensive JR Pass was very usefull. Ueno Park is located right in front of Ueno Station. All you need to do is exit to the gate and walk across the road.
By the time we arrived, Ueno Park was already crowded. Since it was also Japanese's holiday week, the place was super packed!! From grandmas and grandpas but also kids from Kindergarten to university students. The view is exactly what I've imagined from watching all those japanese anime, movie and manga. Lots of people are already sitting under the Sakura trees with some beers, snacks and bento boxes. This Hanami is really unique! Being a very clean and organized country, even though it was a mess and packed, there's no litter anywhere. The park's administration provides many many garbage dump site and categorized by the type of trash. Coollll
The sakura hasn't reached the full bloom when we went there. Many trees are still in their winter form, bald and dead. Fortunately, some spots has already bloomed, not bad for photos LOL I gotta admit, it was beautiful. Even though my first sakura encounter is not that impressive, I was still awed by the beauty. It's very Japan, the flower was delicate and beautiful, not eye catching like roses but more subtle and soft. It was magical...
Snack sold inside the park
Ueno Park is quite big.. There are paths lined with sakura trees, small shrine and some picnic area. There are also a medium sized temple near the park. Do remember to get the free Ueno Park Guide since it will help a lot during walking around the area.I think there are more than one museum in the area, if you guys have the time I think it'll be good. We had to choose between visiting the museum or visiting the zoo. Sorry museum, Zoo with Panda won us LOL
To visit the Panda, just go straight from the park entrance, at the end of the road you'll find the Ueno Zoo. The zoo is not that big but very well organized. The star of the zoo was the Pandassss. The first thing we do is find the Panda Exhibit and it was the first exhibit from the entrance. We had to queue to get closer to the exhibit. Worth the money and the wait... Not long after watching Kungfu Panda, we can see 2 real pandas at Ueno Zoo. Too bad the panda was sleeping when we visited but still the stupid pose Panda has when sleeping is soooo C.U.T.E
After Ueno Park, we went to visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine. Meiji Shrine is a shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Meiji Emperor and the Empress Shoken. (Source: Japan Guide) We entered the shrine from the entrance closer to Yoyogi Station (use Hyperdia) It was the wrong decision... It was so far and the roads are not asphalt so it was very tiring. It took us around 20 minutes from the entrance to reach the main building. It only took us 5 minutes to get out through the north entrance near Meiji Jingu Station.
I am not a temple/shrine afficionado so I didn't find it that interesting. Compared to Hongkong's or Bangkok's temple, Japanese temple are rather simple. The interesting features are the Torii Gate (A mark to separate sacred grounds from profane world) and the purification trough (A sink like structure with water fountains and wooden/bamboo laddle, it was used to purify the hand and mouth of shrine visitors before entering the shrine's main building). Some shrines have big Ema (A hanger for wooden plates on which prayers are written) and also sells various amulets. The temple building itself is quite simple, maybe related to the different concept of Shinto-ism and Buddhism.
When we visited the Meiji Shrine, there are two wedding ceremonies happening at the same time. It was such a rare opportunities to watch a traditional wedding ceremony at the temple. For a moment there I felt "serene".
After taking a little walk around the shrine, we walk towards the north entrance.. Found this huge sake barrels. The Sake Barrels are offerings from various people and companies around Japan. The barrels were sooooo cool. Feels like living in an anime (please forgive the geek in me)
Just outside the Meiji Jingu lies the great street of Omotesando. This part of Tokyo is my fave. Too bad I didn't much time here, If I have the chance to go back to Tokyo, I'll dedicate a whole day to explore this neighbourhood.
The streets are full with cafes, shops and department stores. People are everywhere and do pay attention to where you walk or you'll be hit. Let the food hunt begins!!!!
This is The Gindaco, a popular takoyaki (A ball shaped fried/grilled snack made of flour, eggs, octopus and topped with shaved dried bonito/katsuoboshi and mayo) joint around Japan. My first and best encounter of Takoyaki during the whole trip. The takoyaki is big and a bit crispy at the outside but gooey at the inside. What I love about their takoyaki is the takoyaki doesn't lose its shape when you eat or bite it. The other takoyaki kind of shrink after the first bite. LOVE!!!!
The other think we ordered was the Croyaki (A fish-shaped croissant/pastry with red bean filling) The croyaki was also gooodddd. Skin is crunchy and chewy, glazed but not too sweet and the red bean filling is sweet and smooth. I never like red bean paste in Jakarta but this one... me likey!!! The pastry was sweet and buttery, deadly combo.
We went for a walk for like 4 hours (my feet ached so muchh that day) and ended up in Shibuya. Shibuya is one of Tokyo's popular area consisting in mostly shops or shopping centres. The area is very hip and alive. This area has that ultra modern Tokyo feel, the neon lights, the giant screen, the people and the music are very overwhelming yet I feel in place.
Off all the travelling I've done till now, Tokyo is the first one that makes me overwhelmed. It's like damnnnn so many things to do, so many shops to check out yet so little time. Shibuya is my biggest regret... I should've spare one whole day to explore the Omotesando/Harajuku/Shibuya area since IMO it was my favorite part of Tokyo. Not like Indonesia, shopping in Tokyo means wandering around in a certain area, getting in and out shops on various small but medium high building and shopping malls. There are plenty of shopping malls but the size is relatively small compared to Jakarta's.. I think each shopping malls (or maybe department store is a better term) has different and unique item/brand, therefore checking them one by one is a must. Not to mention all the unique stores and also cute cafes around the area.. Seriously, do not repeat my mistake and spare more time to explore these areas.
One of my must try list in Tokyo is Maisen Tonkotsu, said to be the best tonkotsu place is Tokyo. As an avid pork fans, it has been my mission to experience yummy tonkotsu in Japan. After a long and thorough googling, we finally found Maisen Tonkotsu. We accidentaly got lost because we were confused of the result of Google Maps search and the info given by Ratu Lebah. Finally, we realized that Google Maps result and Ratu Lebah's direction is not the same place, it's 2 different branch. So STUPID --" We ended up at Shibuya branch of Tonkotsu Maisen at the Shibuya Hikarie Building.
The restaurant is located at the dining floor in the Shibuya Hikarie building. Place itself was small like any other place in Japan, service is good and attentive but staff's English skill could be better.
Kurobuta Pork Katsu (3000 JPY)
What's special here is the kurobuta pork. Kurobuta pork is the top pork in Japan, the meat was tender but not full of fat. No smell whatsoever and yes it was so tender. It feels like eating chicken breast but more tender. Downside, I find it lack of seasoning. IMO.... Katsusei's (a tonkotsu restaurant in Jakarta) actually tastes better!!!
Katsudon (1700 JPY)
Another menu we tried there is the Katsudon. I pick the second most expensive pork and cooked with egg and sauce... Yes it is good but again not special. I dunno if it was because I was too tired to enjoy the meal but the meal didn't leave an impression :(
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by a coffee shop, 24/7 coffee roasters. I think I read somewhere that this coffee shop is nice. The interior is kinda dark but comfy. Simple yet homey, not pretentious or heavy on decor like some of Jakarta's coffee shop
Milk Coffee (400 JPY)
This is my first encounter with Japan coffe. First impression, their coffee is smooth and light. No acidity or overwhelming bitterness. Somehow it tastes "liquid" I am lacking vocabulary to describe coffee (please forgive me)
Hotcake with fresh strawberries, strawberry sauce and yoghurt sauce
Japanese pancake has different consistency than the usual american pancake we have at Pancious. It is thick but more heavy and dense yet smooth. Sometimes, when we have thick pancake it will be dry and hard to swallow. This pancake is dense but smooth like typical japanese cake. If only the toppings are a bit bolder, this pancake would be perfect.
Pigging (the act of becoming a pig) in Japan is quite easy. At the road leading to our hotel, we made the last stop for the day, a ramen store. I don't know the ramen restaurant name but it was steps away from the Asakusabashi Station. Just turn right after the exit and go across the road.
Seriously I couldn't even remember what I ordered. The first picture is the clear soup one. Ramen is cooked in front of us (and without the excessive yelling). Soup is light but salty, I don't really like it even though the soup is rich and flavorful but I just don't like it. The second pics was the aka ramen (spicy ramen). IT WAS YUMMMM!!!! The warm soup drove the chill of Tokyo night immediately. Love the heavy and spicy soup, the bamboo shoots and scallions give the soup some fresh and earthy flavors and the egg was cooked perfectly. Damn... how can a random ramen restaurant serves ramen this good. Seriously, way better than all those ramen restaurants flocking in Jakarta's malls...
That's the end of my second day in Japan. Next.. Tsukiji Fish Market!!!