Tying up loose ends22 February, 2013 by Chad
This afternoon, finally found time and suitable conditions to do some shopping. After discovering a whole new face to the neighborhood and a fulfilling lunch there, I’d head over to geek haven Nakano Broadway to pick up some previous missed items for Randy and myself, before spending the rest of the afternoon shopping in Shinjuku.
After last night’s disappointing dinner, I had took some time to search online for better dinning options nearby. Was craving for some fish, since had yet to have any since the first in Tokyo. After a bit of checking, discovered that there was a Sushizanmai within walking distance from the apartment, in the opposite direction of where I had gone yesterday. Waking up in the late morning, I thought I’d go catch a quick brunch before the shopping.
This would be the first time walking toward this side of the neighborhood. Monzennakacho Station was the furthest subway station from our apartment so we had opted not to use it before. Turning around the corner from the apartment, I would discover an entire main road that while quite run down, was lined with a good number of market stalls and dining options. It looked much like a more humble, dilapidated Asakusa. Had we known about it earlier, our stay in Tokyo would had been made a lot more convenient.
The Sushizanmai here was a small chain restaurant type establishment with mostly counter seats and just a couple of tables. It was run by a couple of chefs and a middle aged lady who handled the register and serving. According to one of the many food blogs Yan frequents, it was apparently one of the better chain restaurants in Japan as far as sushi goes. Sushizanmai’s original store calls the universally known Tsukiji Fish Market home.
Decided to go with the rice bowl below which was being advertised outside the store. For just 1,000 yen (SGD$14) you get a generous mixture of different tuna cuts and rice. While the image below does not show so, they were the thickest pieces I’ve ever had. Needless to say, was satisfied. Will definitely give their other outlets a visit in the future.
After, caught a train over to Nakano Broadway. Randy had finally decided that he wanted the set of Kamen Rider toys that he saw days ago here, so helped him picked them up. A set of 8 set him back about SGD$160. Still with fond memories of the past two days’ mini-lives, I picked up shop posters for HERO / Sweet Jewel and Beat Generation / No More Distance. The TRIO at Nakano Broadway stocks up on promo posters, the kind usually displayed whenever there are new music, movie, drama and or even product releases. The Fairies posters cost 1,500 yen each. Spotted a Sea A poster for 800 yen, which was surprising. Offered to purchase it for Randy, he declined.
800 yen at TRIO. twitpic.com/c5iao6
— Supermerlion (@supermerlion) February 21, 2013
Got a message from Yan in the late afternoon urging for company to visit Tengu Izakaya. Had already been there once this trip so wasn’t that keen, but complied thinking that it’d be no harm and he’d promise to make it at my convenience anyways. Headed on down to Shinjuku to meet him for an early dinner since I ought to head back early to start packing for the return trip, and to see how much luggage space I had left, or was lacking.
Unexpectedly it’d be quite a few hours before he’d turn up, since it turned out that he was shopping elsewhere and was preoccupied with getting a pair of pants tailored. Spent some time looking around Takashimaya Times Square and then more than an hour at a nearby bookshop. Was tempted to buy quite a few of them, including a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu guide on hipster Tokyo, but managed to resist the urge. On hindsight, probably should had, since the pressure to purchase something eventually led to far worse decisions.
The additional time left to kill led to me to spend the next hour or two returning to Takashimya Times Square and Marui Mens. Failing to find the TK bag that I was looking for or a suitable wallet, ended up caving in and getting a random wallet and bag. Regretted the decisions almost immediately after.
To prevent any more spending, decided to slowly make my way over to Tengu first. The entire street of Shinjuku Sanchome had been lined up with interesting festival stalls. The streets were packed with people coming in either direction to see the festivities and more huddled up outside the shops eating the foods that they had purchased there, was quite keen on getting some festival food myself since many seemed quite appetizing.
Would end up having to wait at Tengu for another one and a half hours after Yan’s stipulated arrival timing. To makes things worse he had gotten lost in Shinjuku. Eventually managed to find him. The Tengu that we was one of their washoku branches, so we had to search for a different branch, one that served the Western dishes he was craving. Found another outlet a few blocks away near the Seibu Station.
Probably wasn’t in the best of moods by this point. Ordered just the usual raw ham pizza and diced steak, as well as a side of salad, since wanted to save up the space (and yen) to try out the festival food instead.
After a quick and somewhat awkward dinner, we headed back toward the direction of the festival, squeezing our way through the tight crowds. Since it was just a narrow pedestrian pavement, the crowds put even weekend Harajuku to shame.
There were a great number of food stands and a wide variety of street food and snacks available there. Many sold the usual festival food like yakisoba and okonomiyaki, while some more unique stands sold stuff like grilled “horumon” or intestines. Yan ended up getting a serving to try. It was tough and difficult to chew but would had been fine had it been warm, but was cold by the time he ate it. He also ended up getting a candy apple from one of the many shops that were selling them. Apart from the usual candied apples, they also sold mini ones and candied strawberries. We grabbed a pack of yakisoba to share, which was probably one of the better buys at the fair this evening.
After getting our snacks, we decided to squeeze in toward the main shrine, which was the cause of the festivities. The inner area was especially packed since seats had been set up inside some of the tents to serve barbecued seafood and oden. Looked good but was quite pricey so gave it a miss. Yan was still in budget savings mode, and I was feeling the pinch too after having spent about $400 earlier on the two accessories. Under different conditions or company would have loved to give the experience a try.
It seems the festivities were set up to celebrate two concurrent events in Japan, Shichi Go San and the Tori no Ichi festival. This was probably just one of the many shrines that had celebrations, but being located in central Shinjuku definitely drew in the crowds. Apart from the main entrance which we came from, festival tents had been lined up in the courtyard and along the other exits of Hanazono shrine.
Stayed around for a while to observe the people while Yan went off to get more goshuin from this shrine. To celebrate Tori no Ichi, many visitors purchased these elaborately decorated bamboo rakes for good luck. They were sold by various flower companies, who had set up stands within the courtyard. Interestingly, the shop keepers would break out into musical number that involved chanting and slapping bamboo sticks together whenever someone purchased one of the rakes, to wish them good luck.
When he was done, it was time to make out way out back to the main road to get more snacks. Passed by one elderly man making the amezaiku (the candied animals that we had previously seen in Odaiba) on the spot.
Really like squid, so was tempted by the numerous stalls selling grilled squid, though they were quite pricey at 300-500 yen a pop. Got one from one of the more popular stalls. Disappointingly, it didn’t taste much more than burnt even with the thick sauce. Might fare better earlier in the day when the grill is still clean.
For dessert, thought that I’d get one of the chocolate coated bananas. Again, there were many stalls each with their own draw points. One of the stalls used hundreds and thousands for example, which were more favorable than conventional sprinkles. This old lady didn’t get too much business since he choco-bananas looked the plainest out of all. To make up for this, they were cheaper and she offered customers a second one free, if they could win her in a game of janken. After observing her patterns for a while, was pretty sure could take her on. Sure enough, got an additional one free which I passed to Yan.
Before leaving, Yan grabbed a pack of Okonomiyaki to bring back to his hostel. The ones served here looked really good and were affordable to boot. It’s a pity that Singaporeans aren’t too fond of the dish and all the nice okonomiyaki stalls in Singapore have since closed down.
We parted ways here since I could catch the much nearer subway back to our apartment. The highlight for today was definitely lunch that and probably browsing at the bookstore. The sheer amount of magazines and mooks in Japanese bookstores are nothing short of impressive. And one can easily get lost in these multi-storey complexes for hours. I can foresee myself spending spending quite a bit of time at bookstores if I were to live here permanently. Being a book otaku ain’t that bad a thing right? I’m sure many Asian parents would be proud.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.