Eri's last day in Japan17 January, 2013 by Chad
Eri would be returning to Singapore this evening, so we would have the morning and afternoon to cover some remaining “must see” sights in Tokyo. We’d begin with visiting Asakusa in the morning for the iconic Sensoji Temple.
Sensoji is pretty much one of the first spots for anyone traveling to Tokyo. Thankfully, it still offers some things of interest for those who’ve already been here too many times, namely the numerous snack shops and dining options along the side roads.
Not too many pictures of Asakusa itself, I’ll also save the effort in describing it in detail as most should already be all too familiar with it. For the few who don’t, there should be a link to our dedicated guide to Asakusa somewhere above, that comes complete with plenty more photos.
We had arrived about half an hour later than the stipulated timing at Asakusa, since Eri had to pack up and such in the morning. At Asakusa, Yan was nowhere to be found. We joked that perhaps he had gone to some other station to use the Wi-Fi there, rather than wait around for us again. Unfortunately, we were right. Not sure why he couldn’t just wait around, but the rest of us had to for his return.
It was a Monday but Asakusa was quite crowded. I’m not sure if there is any day where it isn’t, since it attracts visitors from other parts of Japan all year round too. The first course of action after picking up Yan was to head toward the main temple building, squeezing through the mass of people along the way. It’s a lot tougher to navigate along the narrow street here since people were coming in both directions and others standing around the shops. There seemed to be a sort of natural, generous consensus that everyone kept to the left though.
Sensoji was unchanged from how I last remembered it. Plenty of tourists shoving their cameras in the faces of the people praying here. Or breathing down people’s necks recording videos of people praying, even inside the main temple hall. Let’s show some respect people. If you must absolutely do it, get a long focus lens instead.
Like other shrines and temples, you can get your fortune “told” at Sensoji. These “omikuji” take the form of random sheets of paper distributed in a series of drawers. You’re supposed to shake a box of numbered sticks and draw the fortune from the number of the first stick that falls out.
Yan had a go this day. Though most of it is in Japanese, in recognition of how popular the temple is with tourists there is also a short summary in English on the back.
Spent some time looking at the side temples behind the main building. There’s a nice Buddha statue and koi pond over there but beyond that it was mostly shop houses. Spotted this strange ride on top of one of the buildings there.
Was hoping to perhaps hit up the Tokyo Sky Tree this afternoon too. It had actually been one of my main reasons for visiting Tokyo again this year. Unfortunately the weather didn’t seem to agree with us today. Last night’s rain had continued onto this morning and it was still really cloudy for the most part. You can see the Sky Tree being enveloped by the clouds, visibility would be poor.
We went back down the main street, stopping so that the rest could try some of the ageman from the shop that I had visited earlier this year with Gage. It’s one of the more popular shops, judging by the constant number of old people crowded around it. Business was so good, that this is one of the few shops where we were chased off from eating in front of the store. The rest usually encourage it, since didn’t want people littering and it has the effect of attracting more customers.
Randy and Eri ran off first since they wanted to get some souvenirs from the shops along the street. Randy in particular was looking for a Daruma. Followed Yan to a cloth shop where he bought some handkerchiefs and a pouch. Ended up getting some handkerchiefs myself since the designs were quite nice, though I have no idea what to do with them.
Along the way you’d pass by a crowd of people gathered at one of the main junctions. Everyone was staring off into the distance like one of those Godzilla scenes. But turning the corner, we realized that the weather had cleared up and that they were just admiring the Sky Tree.
Brought the rest over to Asakusa Nobu. It’s a lovely, modest Western style restaurant along one of the side streets. The food here is great and definitely worth a visit.
Ordered omurice all round, the restaurant’s specialty. The other thing that seemed to be good was their steak. Told myself I’d give it a try the next time I visited, so I did. The first 20 customers each day are entitled to the “service steak”, which is slightly cheaper at 1,360 yen. And while I don’t drink, it also meant free red wine for everyone in my company. Shared the steak around, it was great too but you’d want to eat it while it’s still hot.
The dad here seemed to had mistaken that I wanted to switch my order from omurice to steak rather than as an additional order. It came with an additional bowl of rice too. We didn’t realize it at first but this meant that Randy had to wait longer for the last omurice to be served.
At some point, a young lady and her parents came in for lunch too. Was the first genuinely “pretty” woman we’d come across in Japan. She looked like Angelababy. Randy commented that she looked nothing like her parents though.
We were a little stretched for time and the rest didn’t really seem that keen on hitting up the Sky Tree, so somehow we ended up heading over to Nakano in the afternoon instead. Personally, Nakano Broadway is the more interesting of the two “otaku” havens in Tokyo. You can find lots more interesting stuff here apart from the usual anime and manga related merchandise.
While the main strength of Broadway lies in the number of toy and novelty shops. You’ll find amusing shops catering to niche interests too like old enka or movie posters and vintage paraphernalia among other things. For the kinky, there’s also a tailor specialising in school uniforms, and a tsundere maid cafe. There are also a couple of shops that deal with just Duffy bears, its accessories and other Duffy related merchandise.
Checked out a lot of the figure shops at Nakano. Randy was keen on purchasing some chibi-sized Kamen Rider figurines, the same ones that we had encountered over at the amusement park beside Lake Biwa. The shops here carried a greater variety all the way up to old series that had already long sold out. Randy was eyeing a set of the first, most expensive series.
The rest mainly looked around the capsule boxes and TRIO outlets for idol photos. I was kind of tempted to get the Fairies poster for Hero / Sweet Jewel but wasn’t quite sure what I’d do with it.
Spent a good few hours looking through just about every shop in Nakano Broadway. Eventually we’d stop for a short break to grab some drinks while Randy got some ice cream from a small snack counter on the top floor.
Again, no photos for the rest of the day. Yan and Eri made a return to Akihabara again for some more last minute idol shopping, before catching her plane back to Singapore. In the meantime, Randy and I were invited to another event by our idol friend.
Not much can say about it, except that it was even more surreal than the last. Beside us was a seemingly normal gyaru who upon the start of her favorite song, brandished a whole bunch of glow sticks and started dancing along. There was one performance in particular that I enjoyed though, which had certain elements of Shibuya-kei in it.
Had a bit of time to mingle after the concert. Bumped into the previous birthday girl that we met the other day. She started speaking really fast such that couldn’t really catch what she was saying. Something along the lines of thank you for coming to her birthday and that she won’t forget it, you know typical idol stuff.
Our friend came around and asked if I knew what “suteki” meant, then in English went “she say you suteki” pointing to the girl who had performed the Shibuya-kei-ish song earlier. Definitely a first. I must admit, it made my day.
It was getting late, so made plans to meet up with our friend again tomorrow and while bidding the bunch of them goodnight. Randy took the chance to bid the suteki girl “ki o tsukete” (take care) to which she replied a sing song “hai”.