Monday, December 16, 2013

Tokyo (9-16 Sept 2013) Part 4: Harajuku and Asakusa

Finally the last part! You can click on the travels-japan label at the end of this post if you missed the last 3 posts!

As kids, when we first got our hands on a film camera then later a digital camera (all 1.3mega pixels of it), we would excitedly go around taking pictures of all the sights we saw. My mum would then say.. no kids you need to be in the photo otherwise it'll be like you bought a postcard (since pictures back then were all developed into print). Now we can take unlimited photos with high storage digi cams, but I think the habit stuck, everytime Elvine takes a picture of whatever attraction we're at, I'd go stand in front of his camera hahaha fhl. 

As an estimate, Elvine took 900 photos while I took about 400!! In these 4 posts, there are 150-200 photos in each one (this post has the most at 200+) and I took more than the whole length of our trip to finish my 4 posts! Whaaat? 


Ok! Last 2 days of our trip: 

We moved to a hotel in Shibuya, if you ask me now, I'd say the only reason was for Elvine to go eat Ichiran ramen day and night. I can't even remember the name of the place, but I know we moved there so it'd be easier to go shopping (till late) in Shibuya. Though it looked really near to the main shopping belt/Shibuya station, the map doesn't tell you that it is also on a hill. My feet were already in pain before starting the day, that by the time I got back to the hotel at night I was ready to collapse by the roadside. (so dramatic but really. If I had watched this clip of Gabriela Anderson limping to the finish line in the 1984 olympics marathon before this I'd compare my pain to hers hahaha. Only her body was legit shutting down due to dehydration :( and she did run 42km while all I did was shop. In really bad shoes)

Trying to take photos against the cityscape but failing quite miserably. 

First stop, the train station where we tried to book some train tickets to Hakone the next day. The poor girl couldn't
speak a word of english and we couldn't speak any Jap as well, so a simple ticketing request took an hour:( And in the
end we didn't even go because the fast train "Romance Car" was canceled due to bad weather.

And no, the 'romance car' wasn't a high speed roller coaster! This was just some brochure we picked up at the office.

After that, breakfast! Ichiran ramen wasn't very hard to find, it was a 5min walk from Shibuya station.
See Elvine getting so excited about his ramen:

After purchasing your meal tickets, you can circe your ramen preference. eg slightly tough noodles, alot of garlic etc.
Seating was in individual booths.

I opted to add an egg and it came like that.. must peel it yourself haha. 

The dividers can actually be folded back.. but this elvine wanted to be antisocial!
Such that when he later did want to befriend me again I ignored him hahaha so childish! 

Elvine kept telling everyone that all you saw was the servers' crotches hahahaha so sad but true.
They would come, say something to you in Jap (all the time we can't see their faces), take your meal stubs and ramen
preference forms, then return very quickly with your meal and shut the blinds. So you now have a 3 way box haha. 

There is also a corresponding lighted button for each booth outside, so you'd know which booth inside wasn't taken.
Totally brings self service to a whole new level. 

Elvine's first ramen of the day.

It was super super super tasty, like you really couldn't have asked for a more satisfying bowl of ramen.
I don't even like noodles but I find myself craving this sometimes. All the raving reviews and recommendations
for this place have been well deserved. And despite the popularity, the prices remain similar to other ramen stores.

Because I needed a picture with Hachiko!
If you're wondering why my photog so weird chop off my legs at my ankles,
errrm actually I cropped the pic myself because my slippers very unglam!

Then we were off to Harajuku/Meiji Shrine!

The very pretty/cooling footpath to the shrine
Donated barrels of Sake

Ok before I start I first have to apologise (to whoever might feel upset) for being disrespectful to the place. See, shrines aren't really my thing, but I was happy to view it as a tourist attraction. Besides, the gardens were really pretty and the large spaces were a welcome respite in crowded Tokyo.
But, because of my shoe/foot problem, I had to swap them out for havaianas, which is possibly the worst footwear choice in a place of respect. Secondly.. there were few wedding ceremonies going on on that day which got me really excited! Which meant that I learnt nothing about the place because I got carried away looking at the bride/wedding party outfits etc. So yea, Meiji Shrine to me = weddings! oops!

Gah wrinkles begone!

Little wedding guests. Look at his blazer + shorts + high socks + trainers outfit!

Almost all the wedding guests had their hair/makeup professionally done!

I believe that hall is a ceremonial hall (or at least a hall of importance) because the brides would walk out from there
towards the shrine (I think?!) before going to another area for a family photo. 

Tourists were barricaded at this point, but Elvine zoomzoom his lens to be secondary wedding photographer haha. 

yes another slippers photo that I chopped off.
Elvine always says cannot chop the photo at the joints but this photo was
chopped at my calves but it still looks odd. 

Super hot and sweaty, can you tell?

I was walking around reading the wishes.. and realised that almost every chinese girl wished for a good man to marry!
HAHAHA is that the life goal of a chinese girl? Thats why I don't need my own plague la, my wish already came true!

HAHAHAH this elvine go and stand beside the wedding photographer
and snap photos of the bride also. The bride must've been like
urgh stupid tourists I'm not a car model ok! 

She had to look at him coyly haha I also felt shy for her.. so many eyes staring at them! 

Be rich, be a taitai. Great life goals my fellow women! What happened to feminism?! 

They'd pray then clap their hands a couple of times. 

We also paid a little bit to go into this little garden reserve. Ummmm waste money? 

I'm just making this up but maybe someone important used to live in this little house and the surrounding garden was
his private garden? But the highlight of the place, ie the house, was not for viewing! cheh! 

Beside the lake there were these little raccoons that came out to play.. and suddenly all the tourists shifted their
cameras to them haha. (they're raccoons.. right? I'm so bad at naming wild animals)

All the little japanese ladies were fussing to each other but I couldn't ask them whether these were raccoons haha.

How cute are the pill-like shrubs!

Then we headed opposite to the Harajuku/Omotosando area. Harajuku is the teens street style shopping area and Omotosando Hills is more upmarket with branded shopping malls.

First stop, a cold drink!

Here I'm trying to take picture outside the service door but I know you're
too distracted by my weird face/eyes. I don't know whassup with it also!
I asked elvine and he said it looked normal? Ah? I have crazy eyes! 

Anyway whatever try not to look anymore. I'm showing you how small the
door is! Actually the whole cafe/drinks stand was so narrow its like a natural
deterrent for fat staff!

See the outside door is already smaller than regular doors,
but the service door is almost half the size of it! 

A nice new mall we came across with a super nice rooftop garden!

Jap display is number 1 seriously. This was a store in store concept. 

Candy coloured luggages - looks good enough to be eaten! If it wasn't sooo expensive I would have bought one!

HAHAHA this was hilarious. We walked past this lingerie shop which had a augmented reality TV outside. 

It could tell that I was a girl and would put lingerie on me. Elvine would have little speech bubbles above his head.

And thumbs up or heart emoticons. 

BUT THE BEST OF ALL! Heart shapes on his eyes and a 'so cute' caption! 
My hair was tied up and I was wearing a pinafore dress (equals I have no curves) so I don't know how the machine could tell I was a girl! John says it uses facial recognition features hmm. lemme put lynntan in front of it hahah.

The super nice roof top garden! 

They had machines blowing out this cool mist.

We wanted to get Starbucks like the rest of them but the queue was too long.
So we sat there to enjoy the cool breeze for abit before continuing. 

These are sloths. Right? 

SO CUTE (and ugly!) 

Super popular cafe

with a queue that went on forever. If I have time on my next trip I also want to queue! Queues are good, right!

This was a queue to buy a bracelet?!

Hahaha I also want ridiculous adidas shoes!

I brought Elvine into a few 'cool' stores like Supreme, Neighborhood etc but he hated them hahaha.
but the stores were honestly quite crude and very.. black street style. as in like hiphop not.. the colour. 

Takeshita street - I was literally bursting with excitement when we got there
because... I wanted to see cosplayers! But we didn't see a single one?!
What?!?! Feel super cheated :( 

We saw some mascots though. But no cosplayers :(:(:(
After that it was just way too crowded for us to take anymore so we headed off.

Using google maps, I insisted on walking thru some back alley. He was very annoyed with me and basically being
super untrusting of google maps haha but his annoyance subsided when he spotted this Hasselblad store!
"Its Hasselblad!" "umm.. so?" "Its Hasselblad its like the rolls royce of cameras!!!!" "oh.. okay" Moving on. 

And yes, ramen for lunch. 
He had read online recommendations for this place but it was so-so only la. 

Elvine's #2 ramen bowl for the day.

Then it was Shibuya for shopping!! We walked underground so this is the basement entrance to 109. 

I decided I wanted to do selfies with the 109 logo in it but..... we failed so terribly!
"Eh you never look in the camera!"

"Your head is blocking the sign!"

Haha fail on a new level.

I was telling him to move his head when the camera snapped

Now we not only don't have the logo, we also look like unfamiliar friends who stand at a distance.

We finally moved all the way to beside the sign hahaha this photographer totally angle fail lah.
I was still not happy with this but we were so hot and sticky so he walked off and refused to entertain me anymore:(

Once in Shibuya he realised it was all girls stuff so he left me and went across the road to the coffee shop hahaha.

Actually not really my kind of fashion la so I only went to the bra store Jenn said I "HAD TO" check out.
It turned out to be a whole store of erm.. lacy stuff which is really not my kinda thing la! But I had brought one
set of clothes too little (because we changed mid day on one day) so I had to buy a set. It took so long because
of the language barrier and I wanted something lace-less in a store drowned in lace (and their sizing was
completely off from my normal so I bought 3 sizes up in the end?!)

Men's is in another building

Fake flowers in francfranc. I really hope the singapore branch has some because I wanna get some for our home!

Some street parade which we're guessing is in celebration of Tokyo's 2020 bid!

Yuwen said I'd shop at F21 but I was all.. huh Singapore also got why go Japan to buy F21? But I really did buy
a bunch of stuff from there. On two days haha!

Wanted a picture with the busy shibuya crossing but fail until...
Looks familiar? Its Ippudo Ramen, only in Japan its nothing like the atas ramen store we have a Mandarin Gallery.. 

We went to the Ebisu Garden place branch because it looked to be the nearest branch from where we were (Shibuya). I don't know if we should have walked directly or taken a bus, but we walked to Shibuya station to take one stop down to Ebisu Garden station, then walked about 15mins from the station.

Now when no one recommends Ippudo in Japan, there really is a reason. Because they've somehow taken the franchise and improved it so much that it hardly resembles the original. No fancy side dishes, no queues, just a simple menu with a few ramen choices.

Gyoza was good though! I think the Chinese must be beating themselves up. 

First they invent la mien, then the japanese take it away and perfect it as ramen. 

Then they make jiao zi, and the japanese take it away and call it gyoza. 

Even xiaolongbaos, which is a Shanghainese delicacy, is much nicer over in Ding Tai Fung Taiwan!
Thats what happens when you don't put 100% pride in your work. 
Do you know even Kiwi fruit is from China? 

And tada Ramen #3 of the day for him. 

Still trying to find Supa Panda candy! 

Final day, we woke up bright and early to catch our train to Hakone. 
It was pouring but we were like *whatever it can rain in Tokyo but we're going to spend the day in Hakone! 

Then... lightning struck (literally), our fast train got cancelled due to the typhoon. Typhoon?!?! 

They very efficiently refunded us our tickets so we spent some time around Shinjuku (where the train station was) before heading to Asakusa. 

from ig. I've had this trusty polka dot umbrella since a London trip a while back, and its served me really well!
But..  while at asakusa, I realised I was still getting wet and found to my horror, a hole in the roof :(
So I had to replace it with a transparent one, which is a story for later. 

Lots of beauty salons at train station basements. 

The price lists had 2 prices, which we guessed to be makeup/updos and makeup lessons.
This elvine kept asking me go for makeup lessons =_= my makeup got so terrible meh?
Their version of Soup spoon, only classier and pricier haha.
We had some corn soup here - have you been to angus house at Taka? Tastes abit like that! 

After we painfully got to Asakusa (some train stations weren't connected and we had
to walk above ground!) we realised the tourist tours were cancelled!! gah typhoon!!

In the visitor centre

The shopping street which leads up to the shrine /temple (sorry I don't know the difference!)

Couldn't visit Skytree also because.. wheres the fun in looking at fog?

Still insist my makeup doesn't need help ok! (though I look kinda odd here!)
Oh! This was the full outfit I bought from Japan!
Top from GU, shorts from F21, undergarments from Peach John wtf

Food to fill our tummies first! 

An excolleague recommended this tempura place (but at the harajuku branch). We didn't find it there, but
when we came across the chain store at Asakusa we decided to go in.
But we should have just gone with our gut feel and left as soon as the tour group came in:( 

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't mind-blowing. We've heard of super super good tempura places eg the Michelin starred
Tenichi which offer life-changing tempura so this was pretty disappointing :( 

Should have just tried the giant prawns from the takeaway counter! 

Ok back to the tourist trap street! Thats my replacement brolly.

I feel bad for taking pics of the uncle like that but really?!? 

If there weren't the guys walking past in my pic above, you'll see his wife who was quite the poser! 

On the one hand, people were paying for these paper wishes - They'd shake the can and find the corresponding
drawer with the chopstick that was shaken out. Then they'd tie the paper (which had some good luck stuff on it)
on this rail above. And on the other hand, the workers would come and just slide all the knotted paper down into
their cartons to be taken away to burn. I guess people believe what they want to believe especially when it comes to
religion, but I can only see a money making venture right there. 

There was this smoking pit in front of the temple, and people were waving the smoke into their hair.
This was pretty interesting to me because.. from where I come from, girls/women run away from BBQ smoke.
Sorry I think I'm being disrespectful again!

Haha er not nice :( Still don't know what I ate either. 

Had matcha ice at a random dessert cafe. I picked it out from a window
display of fake foods! It tasted like flavoured sugar syrup.

He really, like really wanted to try puffer fish! 

Hey there scary fish!

But we decided against it in the end because the restaurant looked dodgy!
I know licenses for puffer fish chefs are very strict but we were in this rather dodgy alley!

Another beauty salon offering makeup lessons!

I think this was the Taka food hall.

You know the Mr Bean pancake thing we have? This was similar except instead of soybean, it was matcha batter,
and the filling was a red bean macaron! 

Unfortunately it didn't taste very good sigh. 

This green tea biscuit tasted sooo good though! We got a box of 12 for 1500 yen ($23)?! Ridiculously expensive!
Have you had Hokkaido choc biscuits before? The blue and white packaging that people always buy as gifts?
This tasted like that with the white chocolate in the middle and melty biscuit on the outside! 

Think of the best chocolate eclair you've ever had. Now imagine what a matcha eclair would taste like.
It tastes better than your imagination. The japanese are genius! 

Couldn't sneak a good enough picture, but this was at one of the Taka top floors. (Taka has something crazy like 15
floors btw!) Anyway they specialise in selling fake roses, and it is so so so expensive but looks 10times nicer than
the most perfect real rose you've seen. You've really gotta see it to believe it. You can google Claude Quinquaud too!

Then it was an early dinner at Imahan (人形町今半)

Established in 1895, this is the go-to sukiyaki restaurant. We went to the Shinjuku Takashimaya branch, but there are plenty more branches. I'm abit confused as to which Imahan branches are the same, because there are plenty that use the Imahan name (same ancestor but developed as independent stores) but I guess these 12 should be.

This was a pretty interesting fact on their FAQ page:
During the Meiji period, Japanese people began cooking with beef and many cows were brought to the Tokyo market. However, many of these cows were not fit for consumption as they were often sick or old. The Japanese government owned a slaughterhouse in Imasato village (now, Shiba Shirokane, Minato ku, Tokyo) "Ima" means only uses the good beef from Imasato village and "han" is from Imahan's founder's name "Han taro".

The meal was really expensive - for an individual serving of sukiyaki or shabushabu beef its 4515 yen, for top quality its 6090 yen. I can't see it on the online menu, but I think there was an even more superior option for even more!! And you can also choose to add beef to your meal. There is a lunch menu which is slightly cheaper at 3990, and I'm sure you'll get the same thing so thats definitely the better option, we missed it by a short while.

Elvine doesn't like sweet sauce, though the restaurant is famous for sukiyaki, so he got the shabushabu instead. It basically came as a clear pot of water (we doubt its soup because it was so clear), but the ingredients made the soup tasty by the end of the meal, and the waitress served it up with some noodles.

Individual serve of premium beef

As you'd expect me to say - this was the best shabu shabu I've had in my life. Really lah. Though it was more the thin sliced fatty beef than anything, no secret! I think I can afford a 3990 yen lunch so I'll definitely be back, at least to try the sukiyaki!

Ningyocho Imahan
Times Square Bldg 14F (Shinjuku Takashimaya)
5-24-2 Sendagaya Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Then it was back to Tokyu Hands to pick up more rubbish.. There is a 8 or 9 storey Tokyu Hands next to Taka.
Pictured above is a self ear digger - you can look at what you're digging hahaha.

We were at the right platform getting the train back to our hotel, but when this sleeper came along, Elvine thought
we were at the right platform and didn't get on! Turns out, this particular train happened to come from the outskirts
so it had more comfy seats that the rest.. aiyah could have had the best train ride ever, wasted! 

100 yen shop to buy more nonsense! 

All my shopping just.. hanging out on the windowsill.
I really really didn't think I'd buy anything at all! I knew stuff was expensive, and the fashion really wasn't my style,
so I expected to buy food but no clothes. OHwells. these things happen hahaha! 

And even after all that, we managed to come home with just one shared luggage between us (medium sized Crumpler), and a longchamp travel bag! (you know those nylon ones that can fold up?)
See.. totally possible to travel light to/from Tokyo! Though I think I will listen to the old man (elvine's dad haha) and just bring a larger luggage next time!

By night, I started to get hungry, so Elvine went out to dabao food for me because... he wanted to eat his Ichiran Ramen, again. So he got me this sushi platter from Sushi zanmai! I think its called sushi zanmai, its a chain store and there was branch in Shibuya near our hotel. Pretty decent quality at fairly cheap prices! Surpisingly this was the first time I'd had salmon my whole trip! All the other sushi restaurants didn't serve salmon hahaha I think too non-atas for them!

And on the last morning, because it was raining, Elvine told me to stay in the hotel while he went down to Takashimaya to collect the beef he had ordered. His dad asked us to buy Kobe/Matsuzaka beef and a melon on our way back, so we'd been going to every food hall to look for the best beef we could find on our whole trip! Elvine decided he liked the one from Taka's food hall best, which was why we kept returning to Shinjuku.

Almost 5 minutes after he left the hotel, he sent me this pic:

Typhoon spoilt my umbrella!!!! Gah mad scary! But on one hand, really thankful that the weather was quite good (if not a little too hot) for our whole trip, it was only when we were leaving that the typhoon/rains started.

When we got back home, we read on the news that the typhoons were a little more serious than we had thought! Thank God for His protection!

So he da baoed lunch for me from Taka's food hall, a wagyu beef yakiniku don! So yummy! So maybe Taka's food hall is the best!
And because he walked through Shibuya to get back to our hotel, you can guess where he had his lunch?

Yup... Ichiran Ramen. We also bought back the ready made pack to try to recreate the experience at home.. Nope nowhere near!

When we got to the airport, we found that our flight was delayed yet again - they had previously sent a message/email to inform about the first delay.

Handwritten note! 

So we walked around the airport and bought too many 'souveniers' like Tokyo Banana and Hokkaido cookies, and a few packs of Kitkat etc. Its like a mobhouse at the DFS lor people buy by the cartons! And its not even cheap!!

See all the red carrier bags?

This is the Scoot queue for our flight.. every flight was delayed (for an indefinite time with little news) so you can imagine one tightly packed room with angry people :(

Our flight was finally given the go ahead (some others like Air Asiana continued to be delayed) so I guess.. good job Scoot?

Aiyah whatever the case I'm very thankful to Scoot for bringing me to Tokyo for the first time in my life! And at an extremely reasonable $171 for 2 people including taxes heeheee:)

Can't wait to go again!


Anonymous said...

hi Lynn, just wanted to leave a comment bc you mentioned (in some blog posts) that no one does, but I wanted to let you know that people (or at least, one person) do read your blog!! I love your blog so much that I spent the whole of yst afternoon and today reading your blog. I finished your dyre yesterday too!!! haha wanted to say that I was super impressed with your housewife skills, and I was telling myself that I dont think I could have done so if I had to. then I got to the part in your blog where you were initially feeling depressed / useless re the housewife thing so I wanted to let you know how impressed I was and how well you're doing! k gonna continue reading your blog (:

happycrocus said...

你跟你的老公很 cute leh!!! And wahhhh you look super cute in the pinafore.

鞠田アキ said...

veryvery beautiful diary!