We visit Ameyoko for things to take back home26 March, 2011 by Chad
This was our last full day in Tokyo so we had to tie up any lose ends before flying back tomorrow evening. Fortunately, we had already settled most our errands a couple days before and without as much pressing matters we could afford a more leisurely pace today. The morning saw us visiting Ueno’s Ameyoko to get some stuff to take back to Singapore.
For a more detailed walk through the area, you can take a look at this post on Ameyoko Market. It’s basically a large tourist fueled shopping haven, though bargains can be found for those who look. The three of us headed there at 9 AM this morning. The shops were only just starting to open and the main crowd had yet to arrive.
Here we stumbled upon a wholesale candy shop. The Niki no Kashi shop occupied two shop houses here, one full of picked or dried snacks and another just for candy and biscuits. You could purchase the items individually, or in bulk at a discount. Wilson and Yan proceeded to grab a bunch of snacks. I didn’t want to lug around a large bag of confectioneries so decided to return later.
Wilson got a chicken kebab from a franchised shop along the street. His review, good. Though we wondered how it compared to the stores at Akihabara. While there I checked my phone for the directions to a particular shop I was looking for. It was actually just right in front of us.
Yokosuka is of course where the American Naval Base is located in Japan. Post war, the American soldiers stationed there started sewing tacky Japanese imagery into their varsity jackets and thus the Sukajan was born. Over the years, the jackets have caught on in popularity with the locals and the gaudy designs also align well with the tourist’s image of Japan so you’ll find dozens of shops selling these jackets all over Ameyoko.
Okuma Shoukai claims to be one of the oldest and most established Sukajan shops in Japan, with a 60 year long history. Not like any of this mattered. Since the only reason why I wanted one was because of AKB48 product placement. In fact, I passed by this shop on a previous trip to Tokyo and didn’t care for it then. But Majisuka Gakuen helped changed that.
I was considering getting the jacket that Haruna wore for the drama. Unfortunately, the shopkeeper informed me that they were sold out in all but the smallest size. Still a possible fit but it just wouldn’t be as badass, so I reconsidered. But even then, the next larger size was too big. So the idea would have to be scrapped.
It was 10 AM and the crowds had already started settling in. Yan left to return for Nakano, agreeing to meet us at Shinjuku in the late afternoon. We were to return to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building before evening to catch the sunset and a possible glimpse of the elusive Mount Fuji. After checking out some of bag shops around the area, Wilson and I took a break at a Mister Donut along one of the less busy streets.
There were some flavors on offer this afternoon. Grabbed one of them, together with some safer choices. I was addicted to the “Pon de Ring” doughnut and its variants, which were the springiest, chewy doughnuts you could find anywhere. Wish I hadn’t left my point card back in Singapore, considering the number of times we’ve visited Mister Donut this trip. For ever 100 yen you get 3 points credited to a magnetic card (that look like those old Transitlink Cards). Points that can be traded for amusing doughnut themed items or just more doughnuts.
Strangely, I hadn’t had the time to visit any electronic stores this trip so next, Wilson and I paid the nearby Yodobashi Camera a visit. Wilson ended up getting a screen protector for his camera, while my search for sealable photo pockets turned out empty. Took a bunch of camera pamphlets in case I finally found the cash to replace my broken camera. We amused ourselves with the various electronics stuff upstairs before leaving to battle the crowds outside once more.
We also went to check out the large Yamashiroya toy shop but apart from the first floor being taken over by Monster Hunter merchandise, there wasn’t much new to see.
I returned to Niki no Kashi wholesale confectionery shop, emerging with a few kilos of candies and snacks. Then it was back to a luggage shop that we passed by earlier.
The particular shop was clearing off their stock of luggage bags that had scratches on them for a discount price. The bags were going to get scratch in customs anyways, so it didn’t make much of a difference. I mustered what little Singaporean in me to drive the price further down and the owner finally agreed upon a lower price provided I pay in cash.
With that done, Wilson went off to do more shopping while I dragged the luggage bag (full of candy) back to our hotel for safekeeping. It was just a stop away, so I had time to chill for a while and still arrive early at Shinjuku. Took a look around the area. There were two Lammtara’s opposite of each other there now, which I don’t remember seeing before. Lammtaras are everywhere now, all of them are decorated with AKB48 singles but loop Kara PVs constantly.
Yan arrived on top but Wilson sent word that he would be slightly late so the two of us checked out the supermarket inside of Odakyu Station/ HALC. Like every other shopping center basement, it was packed with all sorts of confectionery shops. I ended up getting a tart from the most expensive shop there.
Wilson soon arrived and we proceeded toward the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which offers a free sky view of the city from its 45th floor. The building is a couple of kilometers away but the distance is normally bridged by a network of travelators spanning the Shinjuku underground area. Sadly, they were off service.
The three of us reached the building only to find a huge crowd of mostly Chinese tourists (perhaps from a tour group) waiting for the lift to take them up the building. The queue stretched all the way into the car park such that guards had to be assigned to control the traffic and number of people up at the viewing gallery.
We agreed to not partake in the folly of what was probably at least an hour’s wait. Guess it wasn’t such a good idea to try such a popular travel spot on a weekend. But usually, they’d have two of the building’s towers open to public. Unfortunately, the Tokyo Marathon was scheduled for tomorrow and the rest of the building had been sealed off as part of the route. Yan left to visit a ramen place he was yearning for leaving Wilson and I in Shinjuku.
The thing is, there are dozens of skyscrapers all over Shinjuku and most of them have a free gallery open to the public. We had to look no further than the adjacent Sumitomo Building for our solution.
No queue for the elevator up here. In fact, there wasn’t anyone else apart from one couple and an elderly Japanese woman. Granted, the 52nd floor here did seem a floor or two lower than the Metropolitan Building but the difference hardly justified the long queue.
Wilson sighed in disappointment as he realized that his camera’s battery had gone flat. He had forgotten to switch the screen off after previewing through pictures on the train. Defeating his purpose in visiting a skyscraper this evening.
We had arrived too late for the sunset too, not that it mattered anymore. But looking closely we could still see the outline of Mount Fuji in the distance. Here let me make it easy for you.
I was yearning for some Yakiniku, which was the food I most wanted to eat again after learning that it was impossible to get a decent equivalent in Singapore. There wasn’t a Yakiniku place and we were already starving from having missed lunch so we settled for Shabu Shabu at a small restaurant here.
This particular restaurant had the fortune of facing Mount Fuji in this triangular shaped building. We were given seats beside the window, being the only other customers other than an elderly family at another window seat. The shop was ran by a Mama-san and her young cross-eyed apprentice wearing a kimono.
We both went with the basic Shabu Shabu set, which for 4,400 yen, you get a bunch of sides and a decent serving of rib. It had been a while since we actually had like proper meat, the only two times being Tengu in Osaka and the steak we had in Kobe the following day.
The starters were nothing fancy, the first dish consisting of some greens, shoots, preserved mackeral as well as some sort of gastronomical experiment.
This was followed by some sashimi, which was nice though a more generous serving would had been better. Finally, we were given a piece of fried lotus and radish each before our beef was served.
The cuts were decent, as far as beef is concerned in Japan. We were concerned though when the hot pot was completely bare of any seasoning, just plain water and vegetables as opposed to the broth kind more commonly seen in Singapore. Made a joke about how healthy the food was at the expense of the old couple sitting in front of us. Separate dipping sauces were provided for the vegetables and meat though.
The first bite proved a bit tasteless but I realized that was a result of me leaving the meat inside the pot for too long while chatting away. The remaining meal was sinful satisfaction, after paying attention not to let all of the valuable fats melt away in subsequent “shabu-ing”.
During our appetizers, we were asked if we had wanted rice or noodles to go along with our meal. Choosing udon, the staff dumped a bunch of noodles into the pot after we were done with our meats. It was left to simmer for a while before they served us our portions.
Finally, the meal ended with some tofu masquerading as ice cream. It was really good though such that it didn’t matter.
After dinner, we took a stroll back toward Shinjuku Station where all of the shops were. A young lady called Nanakaratto was here singing in the streets. Honestly, she kind of sucked but was no worse than any other ani-song artist.
It was a rare occasion that we be in a shopping area without all the shops closing on us so we took a walk around Shinjuku, dropping by some fashion outlets before eventually stopping at the HMV inside of Shinjuku Station’s My City.
We ended up hanging around for quite some time here. Wilson grabbed a couple of house mix CDs that couldn’t even be found on sale online. I was initially quite keen on getting a Miyamoto Emiri single and also pondered again on Kuwata Keisuke’s album but ended up walking away with a copy of Watarirouka Hashiritai’s Valentine Kiss instead, despite my efforts to save money. While I was contemplating my purchase, one guy came in and bought the entire stack of Sakura no Ki ni Narou CDs there. Crazy fan.
Back at the hotel, I still had my strange cake/tart hybrid that I purchased from Giotto in HALC. The tart was supposed to be consumed within the hour but that was a pretty tough instruction to follow.
So far all of the shops that we purchased cakes from put these cooling gel packs inside of the boxes to keep the sweets fresh. It was a similar situation with the ramen that Yan failed to carry away at Tokyo Station. The Japanese take great pride in all things they do and were pretty adamant about people eating their dishes in their ideal state, much less they walk away with an unfavorable impression due to the effects of time.
But as a Singaporean, I’m pretty used to eating food left out in the open and even our base ingredients come to us at least a couple weeks old, so what was a few hours without refrigeration when the temperature was a single digit anyways. Well, it was delicious.
The first episode of the new AKB48 drama Sakura kara no Tegami was airing at the wee hours of the night but I ended up staying to take a look anyways. It turned out to be shit. I thought Majusuka Gakuen was bad but at least that was to be taken with a pinch of salt. This time they got the girls to act in a melodramatic soap opera. The last thing I wanted to see was bad acting and cliched emo drama before I went to bed.
Perhaps the only interesting moment was when the show cut to an advertisement where the rest of Lolirouka were upskirting Watanabe Mayu, with Kikuchi reaching for a feel.