We woke up at 8 am today on what was our first morning in Tokyo. Fresh from last night’s sleep and bursting full of touristy enthusiasm, it was to be (what I feel) was one of our more fruitful days. This morning, we were to take a step back in time to feudal days at Edo Tokyo.
Breakfast ran from 6 to 10 am. It was a self selection of different baked buns, croissants, toast and boiled eggs. Butter and packet spreads of Strawberry, Blueberry and Marmalade jams were provided. Milk, juice, coffee, green and Chinese teas were provided to wash down the breakfast. Not nearly as luxurious as what I had at the Olympic Inn but with hotel charges at nearly 70 dollars less, it certainly ain’t anything to complain about. It’s still better than what I have each morning at work.
Despite chances of rain this week, the skies were clear this morning. We made our way to the JR Suidobashi station for our first destination
Suidobashi literally translates to Water Road Bridge. The river flows through Akihabara and past Suidobashi. The JR Sobu train line we would use most often, rides alongside this river. Suidobashi is part of the Bunkyo ward, the culture capital of Tokyo. We’re located just north of the Imperial Palace and near Todai, Tokyo University. This town had a nice feel to it and whats more, we are equally near all the city spots in Tokyo.
We boarded the station in time to see the last rush hour train pass by. With people being shoved into the train, we decided to wait for the next train. We were to head to Yotsuya to switch trains for Koganei but MJ insisted that we could switch at Ichigaya instead. Got off at Ichigaya, no lines to switch to so we had to get back on the next train to Yotsuya.
After about 20 minutes, we eventually ended up at Musashi-Koganei, the nearer of two Koganei stations from Suidobashi. Koganei is a small suburban town in the Tama region outside of Tokyo. Despite the two train stations being located at either end of the town, it takes only 2 minutes to travel between the stations.
Koganei is home to the Studio Ghibli studios. The quaint little town was the inspiration for many areas in their animations. Some of the buildings in their movies and actually exist here in this town. MJ was probably tired of hearing me repeated about how I would love to live here.
This innocent mailbox would soon fall victim to MJ’s cam-whoring tendencies. Video will be posted soon enough. We kept stopping at random streets to take self portraits of us walking down the street.
We exited the East exit of the station and were to head north, so common sense told me to turn left and keep walking straight. MJ didn’t trust common sense though so after walking straight for 10 minute we headed into a combini for directions.
The friendly middle aged woman brought us outside the store back to the road to give us directions. She just told us to continue walking where we were headed for another 10 minutes.
At the next traffic light was a small stream passing through the town. The path along the stream stretched as far as we could see so MJ took the opportunity to take more self shots for his Facebook account.
Just across the road was the entrance to where we were headed, Koganei park. The tiny metal birds mark the entrance to government protected nature reserves.
Koganei park was pretty big. We only manage to explore less than half the park. The sight was beautiful though partially due to our depravity in Singapore.
Edo Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum occupies the north west quarter of Koganei park. Historical buildings from around Japan are picked up and laid to rest here.
An old man by a ground stove in one of the buildings was puzzled as to why we were interesting in the buildings. He asked if old buildings was our hobby. We told him we were from Singapore and that we came here because there weren’t such nice buildings in Singapore. Upon hearing we were from Singapore, he conversed with us in English. He told us he visited Singapore some 10 years ago. He said it was a beautiful country despite all the concrete buildings.
He was really kind and friendly. He introduced that he was a volunteer to keep the stoves burning in the park to protect the house’s roof and support. He explained that by burning the fire, insects could be chased away and the soot helped to coat the roof. In this way, by keeping the fire burning, the buildings could survive another 25 years more. I was really touched by his selflessness.
The building we were in was one of the two oldest buildings in the park. Both belonged to the Edo era from some 200-300 years ago. Most of the houses were the former residences of former Samurai status families and politicians.
It turned out that Edo Tokyo ran almost entirely with the help of a few volunteers. It was really empty and apart from us, there were only a few other groups of people in the park. There was a group of guys from a university club, a group of elderly folk from outside town, two young girls, a local couple and a couple from China. The woman from China had a Leica.
Lone old folk sitting around drawing and painting the scenery were also scattered throughout the park. It must be really nice to be able to do this leisurely in their retirement.
Thus far, we had only explored western part of the park. We walked over to the eastern side where the relatively more modern buildings from the Meiji era resided.
One of the old buildings housed an active Udon store, the Kura noodle shop. It was the only source of food in the park. Since it was already lunchtime, we decided to have our lunch here.
I had the kitsune udon. The ticketing machine was in Japanese so MJ’s solution was to press the first button on the top left so if not for me he would had ordered hot coffee.
The handmade Udon was delicious. The best udon I’ve had yet. The warm clear soup was exactly what we needed in the cold weather. What’s more, it was incredibly cheap at only 600-700 yen a bowl. We had no regrets eating here.
On our way out, we looked a the few remaining buildings that we missed.
We walked all the way back to the Musash-Koganei station. This time we took a side road instead. I looked in envy at all the nice houses to live in. Back at station, there was a small adjacent shopping district. Koganei’s largest departmental store was only 4 floors high. Without time to spare, we decided to pass on the street. Instead, we hurried to our next destination.
We alighted at Shibuya Mark City. I remembered Yan telling me about a great sushi place here called Midori so I took a mental note to return here for dinner if the queue permitted. Exiting Mark City, there was a Freshness Burger across the street. Despite just having our lunch not too long ago, we decided to stop here for tea.
Freshness Burger is a burger joint that prides itself in serving healthy burgers. There was a general artsy wannabe aura to the cafe. It was basically the burger equivalent of Starbucks.
We both ordered the shop’s signature dish, the Freshness Burger. Those looking for fast food had better look elsewhere. The burgers were made upon order. The patties were done just right and the toasted buns were hot to the touch. The burgers didn’t come cheap though. A single patty burger cost 460 yen.
It was well worth the price though. The patties oozed with juiciness. While there was no dressing within the burger (they provided sauces separately) the huge slab of onion inside the burger provided more than enough flavor.
MJ commented it was the best burger he had ever ate and I would have to agree. Though just a week earlier I brought him to Carl’s Junior and he said the same thing about the Sante Fe burger there.
What wasn’t worth the price though were the drinks at Freshness Burger. The drinks there cost as much as another burger. I ordered a cola, but unknowingly they gave me a Pepsi Nex instead. MJ didn’t make the same mistake, he got his drink at the next vending machine in sight after leaving the cafe.
We headed for Shibuya 109-2 for some shopping ahead. Home to many boutiques selling host club styled clothing. It was where I got Yan his Jackrose bag previously.
MJ didn’t come with a jacket, so we went shopping for one. He found one. Out of peer pressure, I ended up purchasing one as well. I would regret this decision later on in the evening. The jacket set me back about 13000 yen ($200).
When we were done shopping, we went to the basement of the building. MJ had to check out the Hello Project shop there. I looked around the adjacent stores. There we two closed fortune telling shops. One of them belong to an old Caucasian swami. He must be pretty famous based on his photographs with various celebrities, politicians and the fact that he could afford a shop at such a prime spot in Shibuya.
It was dinner time and we returned to Mark City to check out Midori. Through some good timing, we arrived earlier than the crowd. There was still a queue but we didn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes.
I ordered the middle end set. It came with a Chawanmushi appetizer. Despite not being a fan of Chawanmushi, it was pretty decent. The big chunk of scallop inside helped make it more palatable.
MJ ordered the cheaper set which was about 400 yen less. Apart from the lack of an appetizer. The main differences between our orders was that instead of sea urchin and sweet prawn, his came with shrimp and salmon. The sushi was our freshest yet an incredible bargain too. My set cost only about 2000 yen (SGD$30).
A Chinese woman and her mother identifiably from South East Asia were in the table next to us. They didn’t seem to be enjoying their meal though. It was almost as if they were disgusted to have to eat fish raw. They should had known better to enter a Sushi restaurant.
MJ ended up ordering another serving of salmon rolls. I passed due to my general gag reflex towards salmon. I was full enough from just one set too.
I finally understood why people were willing to queue hours for Midori. They served great sushi at discount prices. Our combined bill was only about $70. A single set with fish not nearly as fresh would set us back the same price in Singapore. After dinner, we were to head back to our hotel. MJ and I vowed to return here again.
In the evenings, three food carts selling ramen, oden and imagawayakii were set up outside Suidobashi station. The aroma of imagawayaki filled the entire station. If we weren’t so full today, we would have definitely grabbed some.
We decided to walk through Tokyo Dome this night since it was on the way to our hotel anyways. Most of the stores had already closed though except for an amusement center.
Back at the hotel, an envelop was sent to me. Inside were the front row tickets for the AKB48 concert at Yokohama on the 24th! I didn’t know that there was going to be a concert while we were here till last week and by then all tickets had sold out. Instead I had to buy this pair from Yahoo Auctions Japan on Monday. Sweet dreams ahead as we await the next day to come. Tomorrow we head for the Morning Musume concert at Shinjuku.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.