It turned out that while I was in Yokohama yesterday, MJ and Wilson had spent a whole fortune shopping back in Tokyo. So on the excuse that they were broke, they bailed on our prior plans was to visit Disneyland this morning. As they ignored by desperate pleas, I was left wondering why I was the only one who still remembered the splendor of Disney Resort.
Wilson decided to spend the day visiting parks, while MJ would spend today doing more shopping (the irony). Since visiting Disneyland alone seemed like a sad affair, I ended up trailing them instead. Something that I would come to regret deeply.
After breakfast, Wilson brought us through an uncharted route towards a nearby park. He heard that the Sakura here were already in full bloom. We eventually arrived at Koishikawa, a small park to the west of Tokyo Dome. The park didn’t open until another half hour’s time so I suggested waiting. MJ was more concerned that there was 300 yen entrance fee to the park. Wilson insisted on coming back some other time though, so off we headed to the JR Suidobashi station for Ueno Park.
At the station, I remembered to get a scratch card this time. Despite it being my birthday, I wasn’t any luckier today.
By the time we reached Ueno Park, most of the rain had already stopped. Throngs of other tourists had already gathered. Wilson and I proceeded to take pictures here while MJ denied the fact that he was tourist. He refused to take any photos in an attempt to appear local.
Ueno Park is Tokyo’s most popular Hanami (flower viewing) spot, more Sakura trees lined the main road here than anywhere else.
We took a quieter road to where a shrine was built. The gate here looked particularly superstitious, strange charms were pasted on the gate.
The shrine was pretty quiet. Just your usual Chinese couple who completely ignored the fact that I was taking a photograph. They ran into my shot and proceeded to pose in front of the shrine so I had to wait for them to finish before I could continue. Just like at Asakusa, this shrine was also covered from the heavy rains during Spring so we couldn’t witness the full splendor of the building.
The shrine had some nice charms so I bought a couple. Wilson and MJ mentioned that they had spent hundreds on charms during their last visit to Japan. Most of them were unwanted (since their families and friends were too superstitious) so this time round they didn’t really purchase any.
We returned to and continued down the Sakura-lined road. There were Singaporean, Malaysian and Filipino tourists taking photos on every corner. There were also many homeless around. The workers cleaning up the mess left behind at the park had a hard time dealing with the vagrants.
Located this iconic stretch of tori gates near a food stand. I ended up waiting quite a while to take any photos because of the endless hordes of people running into shot. The path lead down into a courtyard where another shrine was located.
The Gojo shrine here housed multiple Kitsune statues. The creepy statues were placed there to ward off evil, instead they warded me off.
Near to where the road of Sakura trees ended we turned into to the adjacent Shinobazu Pond.
Another stretch of food tents were set up on the way to a temple built at the pond.
The Bentendo temple is a Buddhist temple dedicated to the Brahma Saraswati, a deity shared in Hindu and Taoist religions. By this point both MJ and I already had our fair share of parks and temples, so we paid more attention to the surrounding pond and wild life here.
Circling the pond, we ended up at a flea market by the back entrance of the park. Nothing of particular interest though, just a bunch of old folk selling their unwanted belongings.
We decided to leave the park to find a nearby Metro station. We had to change our coupons to Limousine tickets for tomorrow’s ride back to the airport. The receptionists at the help desk were clueless though so we decided to visit the main counter at Shinjuku later instead. Wilson left to visit another park while MJ and I checked out the shops in Ueno.
There was the longest stretch of Gashapon machines here that I’ve every seen. It lead to a multi-floor toy and collectible store which we entered. MJ pondered for the longest time whether to buy some Final Fantasy XIII merchandise here but we eventually left the store empty handed.
MJ lead the way through the first side street that was lined with stores selling vegetables and fish. We turned into a old stairway. Climbing up, we ended at a deserted Hello Project store. MJ had to fulfill more merchandise requests from the local Hello Project fans. He emerged empty handed though as the store didn’t have what they were looking for.
There were about 4 streets at Uechun filled with shop houses. Almost every other shop here sold shoes. Had we come here earlier, we would had spent much less effort finding shoes elsewhere. MJ ended up purchasing a grungy pair of boots for $200 at one of the shops. So much for saving money.
Many of the shops sold Timberland shoes at a fraction of the cost in Singapore, they even had designs exclusive to Japan. I saw a particular design that I liked but it was way too large. It was also the last of it’s kind. I tried in vain to search the other shops for the same pair but none of them carried the same design since it was part of their winter lineup. Disappointed, we headed for lunch at one of the shops MJ saw earlier.
We sat on the second floor of the shop. It had one of those small lifts for bringing food up to the second floor. One waitress was positioned permanently by the lift and she served the floor exclusively. The waitress turned out to be a China national. She was also incredibly rude.
I had the tuna and squid rice, while MJ had the partially cooked salmon rice. My meal was awful, such that I even left with a stomachache.
We took the train over to Shinjuku. With some difficulty, we managed to find the hidden Limousine bus counter. The woman at the counter told us we could use the coupons and just needed to phone the hotel to confirm our seats. She helped us make the reservations and I purchased another ticket for Wilson as well. MJ wanted to take a bus that would reach the airport 4 hours before our flight on the logic that there was nothing left to do anyways. After much convincing, we took the bus that would reach the airport at 4.15 pm instead (our flight was at 6.30 pm).
After settling the bus tickets, we hung around the large Uniqlo outlet at Shinjuku. Here we met up with Wilson after he was done with his park visits. Like many of the Uniqlo shops before, many of the customers here were tourists. This particular outlet was unique in that it had another floor selling an exclusive, made in Japan line. MJ purchased a couple of pairs of jeans from the normal line. Despite Wilson’s advice, he was convinced the Jeans here were different from those in Singapore.
There weren’t any other shops that we intended to see at Shinjuku so we decided to head over to Shibuya (much to the dissatisfaction of Wilson who had just came from Shibuya).
We split up at Shibuya to go about our individual shopping destinations. At the toy shop this afternoon, there was a nice house mix of Ghibli songs playing on the speakers. I tried my luck at the HMV here. With some help from the salesperson, I learned that the CD I was looking for was by Daishi Dance. Unfortunately, they were sold out.
I also looked around the ABC Shoe Mart here in a futile effort to find the Timberland shoes I was looking for. We met up later at Tsutaya, the building that has the HMV overlooking the busy Shibuya crossing.
I kind of craved a return trip to Midori Sushi (which MJ and I visited on the second day here) but with my stomach still unsettled from the toxic lunch I decided to skip on this idea.
Wilson and MJ were keen on eating at Musashi ramen (which they ate at yesterday afternoon). After much persuasion, I eventually complied.
This ramen chain was unique in that it served dipped ramen in a similar manner to soba. Except that instead of clear broths, the noodles came with a thick mess of various meats stewed together. Their menu was confusingly named and offered no clue to what the soups contained. I was urged by the other impatient locals and eventually decided to order at random.
Most who know me would remember that I for one have never been favorable to ramen. I wasn’t expecting a particularly pleasant meal, but Musashi ramen surpassed my expectations by becoming what was one of my worst experiences in Tokyo.
The noodles at Musashi were thick like udon but with the usual ramen texture. They were a challenge to down on their own but the broth turned out to be a brown starchy mix of coagulated lard and salmon scraps (I hate the stale salmon taste). Barely halfway through the meal, my gag reflex took action when I could no longer endure.
After dinner, MJ lead the way to a leather shop that resold belts and shoes at ridiculously marked up prices. Wilson mentioned that he saw a similar shoe to one of their products at Shibuya 109-2 for a fragment of the cost. MJ had no lack of imprudent purchases today but he still ended up buying a belt here for more than $100.
My morale had already hit rock bottom since the meal. I solemnly returned back to our hotel, stopping only at the nearby 7-11 to pick up some snacks to drown my sorrow. They would be the only pleasant comfort of a day filled with countless disappointments. Today had been the worst birthday ever.
I guess it was too much to expect a certain amount of sympathy today. Tonight I lamented the loss of our last chance to visit Disneyland. My dream of visiting Disneyland this birthday, shattered.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.