Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 4: Time Warp

We were tired so we slept in which was just as well. It was a wet dreary day outside. When we did eventually crawl out of bed, we had cup soup and instant coffee for breakfast. Then it was time to pack our bags - we were headed to the more traditional part of Tokyo, Asakusa, for a two-day stay. Fortunately, we did not have too much to pack. I had deliberately double-booked our accommodation so that we could leave our things at Oakwood Shinjuku and only bring a day bag or two with us.

But first a visit to the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum was on the cards. HM had seen a flyer for it and, since it was a stone's throw from Shinjuku Station, we decided to store our day bags in the lockers at the station and visit the museum before heading to Asakusa. Alas, it wasn't to be.

When we arrived at the station, we discovered that the lockers we had been intending to use were not available that day. The sign slapped onto the lockers cited security concerns. We had no choice but to trudge on with our bags. (We would discover later that the ban only applied to lockers outside the station, not the ones inside the station...)

Outside, the weather was slowly but surely turning for the worse. We would probably have stayed drier had we stayed underground, but we weren't sure if we could find our way to the museum that way. It would have been all too easy to lose one's sense of direction in that massive underground complex without the area's landmarks to navigate by. We finally stumbled into the museum and not a moment too soon. We were drenched and our poor umbrellas were just about to give in, in the battle against the wind.

The museum was excellent. It was small but well-curated and we had the place to ourselves. The current exhibition was western-style fashion in Japan from the 1800s to the 1970s, and included the work of haute couture designers. As we wandered around, admiring the perfect preserved articles of clothing, accessories and hats, we marvelled at how small women's waists had been.

Before leaving the museum, HM detoured to the toilet and I prepared myself to confront the elements again. The auntie who was both ticket seller and hat check "girl" looked worriedly out, through the glass doors, at the scene outside, and, I swear, muttered something about typhoons under her breath. Right, just what we needed - a typhoon.

We made our way back to Shinjuku Station via the underground. There, we found a good place to have a spot of lunch.

in Shinjuku Station

our fellow lunchers

HM's chumpon ramen (840Y/$12.60)

my dry ramen...

... with shoyu dipping sauce and stewed egg (790Y/$11.85)

It was my first time eating dry ramen. The sauce was delicious although it was overloaded with garlic.

After lunch, we took the Chuo Line to Kanda and then the Tokyo Ginza subway to Akasuka. From the station, it was a short walk through Asakusa's walking street, Nakamise Streeet, to Ryokan Shigetsu where we would be staying.

We were a little early and our room wasn't ready yet, so having checked in, we left bags there and went for a walk. We didn't get very far, just round the corner and into this traditional dessert(?) cafe cum shop that was on the end of Nakamise Street nearer the Sensoji shrine.

It was cold out - colder than it had been on our first day in Tokyo - and we had been on our feet for most of the morning, barring a quickie lunch. We were only too glad to sit down and relax in warm surroundings, and eat dessert!

We quickly established that the staff, all aunties, spoke no English and of course they discovered that we spoke no Japanese. To order, we had to pop out to the window display, with one of the aunties, and point out what we wanted.

so many choices

ooh do those look good or what?

We needn't have bothered. In the end, we went for the tried and tested, our favourites:


soba (buckwheat) cakes with soy powder and malted sugar

We justified this by on the basis that we had to try the real thing and see if it was even better here in its land of origin. We had no regrets. Perhaps because the ingredients used were authentic - Japanese red bean paste is incredibly flavourful, not just sweet - both desserts were terrific. The bill came up to 1176Y ($17.64), money well spent.

EVERYONE liked this place

Outside, on Nakamise Street, were rows and rows of shops, both touristy and traditional. We watched a man make these:

begin with the end in mind

first squeeze the dough into the moulds

seal the red bean paste in

The area around the Sensoji shrine was peppered with specialty shops, particularly traditional ones.

traditional shops

a model shop, hehe

combs galore


lanterns and more

In the old days, the area was noted for its live entertainment, from standup comedy to porn shows, and even an amusement park. Remnants of that remain today, and the amusement park is still open.

live action preview of a show at the amusement park

you gotta be kidding

grand opening of a new porn show?

HM refused to pose with this

In the rain, the area was very atmospheric.

shutter art

the real picture


a pot of stewing meat, ooh...

tour guide as rickshaw man - spot the tourists!

awww a scaredy cat

haven't we seen that face before?

We slowly made our way to Kappabashi Dori, where homeware shops congregate.

top of the line knives

so kitschy - must buy!

what a load of crock - irresistable to HM

wonder what these contained or will contain

highend brand

upmarket range - also irresistable to HM

Chinese influence

more Chinese goods

But what Kappabashi Dori is most well known for are the ultra-realistic plastic food models.

luscious or not?

a yin yang pot!

pei tan aka century eggs

ever wondered what the insides of a sea urchin look like?

on the grill

alaskan king crab and baked potato... NOT!

As always, there was a quaint sight or two...

beetle attack!

Eventually, the rain, the cold and the wind got too much for us. On our way back to the inn to hide out, we came across a yakitori stall.

raw meat

Never one to refuse good food, we bought five sticks for 1300Y ($19.50)

four sticks of chicken and one of chicken liver

Back at the inn, the staff had kindly moved our bags up to our room. It was time to find out what our room at the inn was like.

three cheers for futons

small but adequate

Our room was cosy and comfortable. A hot bath later, we were tucked up, snug as a bug, in our futons, ready for our nap.

When we woke up, it was already evening. We got dressed and went in search of dinner.

On our way out, we had a look around the inn.

hushed corridors

atmospheric corners

the way to the baths

the common area

Ryokan Shigetsu

Outside the rain had stopped, although the ground still glistened with rain.

Only a handful of shops on Nakamise were still open.

if you wanna be a samurai

We found a restaurant for dinner.

the restaurant

a nice pot of tea


drum roll please



everything also got* kamameshi - mine of course

* chicken, mushrooms, crab, abalone, scallop, fish, prawn, bamboo shoot

uni (sea urchin) kamameshi - HM's

The good food rounded up our day nicely, for 7100Y ($106.50), not bad at all.


pmp said...

The clams look like they're sticking their tongues out at you! Those futons look like they must have been beautiful to fall into after a rainy day out.

blobbes said...

oh they were. futons are wonderful things...

J.S said...

Excuse my ignorance but are all those dishes to be eat as they are served? I mean raw (is sashimi a name of this kind of dish?) you just scoop the clamps to your mouth, leaving the shell out ofcourse :) Could be interesting.

blobbes said...

Sashimi is raw food basically, usually fish, although you can get beef sashimi and whale sashimi too. Those clams were actually lightly grilled with a little salt.