harajuku

Day 05 –

Sauntering the streets of Harajuku is always a good way to spend your day. Lot’s of shops, people and, of course, delicious crêpes. We began our day by eating croque madame with onion soup and a berry smoothie, upstairs in a little café. If we didn’t eat breakfast at the hotel, personally, I found it quite difficult to find anything suitable. Most eateries open in the morning looked to only serve dinner style food and there wasn’t really any difference between breakfast, lunch and dinner. For someone that is used to eating eggs and cereal, I found it hard to eat noodles and seafood for breakfast. I digress, the croque madame was delightful and set us up for the day.

After looking in little trinket shops and finding a street completely dedicated to fancy stores full of second hand items, we decided to munch on a crêpe and make our way to Yoyogi park. This area of Tokyo is very alive with stalls, music and people of all ages.

_mg_2366As the sun started to make it’s way behind the buildings, we made our way to Korakuen for a ride on the giant rollercoaster, Thunder Dolphin, and some dinner. A mini theme park in the middle of the city, with lots of rides, a shopping centre and plenty of eateries. The Thunder Doplphin, in my personal experience, is on par with the Superman rollercoaster at Warner Brothers Movie World, on the Gold Coast. It’s a long ride that travels along a track that weaves around the park rides and shopping centre. If you can get over the extremely high and steep ascent, there are many beautiful views, before you plummet very quickly back down to Earth. Jordan and I were on an adrenaline rush for a couple hours after we stumbled off the ride.

Craving some westernised food, we ate burgers for dinner and finished up at Starbucks with a caramel frappucino.

tsukiji fish market

Day 04 –

On all the past trips to Tokyo, I have never ever been to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Jordan had been looking forward to this in the weeks leading up to the trip and it was finally here! What an experience! A chaotic and magical place. I have never seen so much seafood in my life. The colours, shapes and creatures were captivating. The narrow walkways lined by fishermen selling all things imaginable. Very early in the morning there is a tuna auction, where they only allow a certain amount of people into the venue and you have to line up a couple hours before as well! We didn’t go to that, but there was plenty of giant tuna to be seen around the market. Some used bandsaws to cut the frozen tuna down as they were so big. The octopus were my favourite.

After the fish market, we wandered through the vegetable and fruit market, and ended up at another little market full of food, trinkets, clothing, crockery and lots of people. We tried some odd tasting but somewhat delightful Japanese candy, and some sweet omelette cubes  on a stick.

 

Whilst we were in the area, we went for a stroll in the Tea Garden nearby. I love the contrast of the peacefulness of nature, and the hustle and bustle of the city and the buildings in the photographs above. The way these large parks are maintained and left untouched by the city, and are still a sanctuary, is incredible.

 

After the pleasant walk through the tea garden, we took a train to Tokyo station and made our way to the beautiful Imperial Palace Gardens. Here we ate some lunch on the lawn that we had picked up earlier at Natural Lawson. It consisted of Gyu-Don, peach iced tea and some dark chocolate (that I was hesitant to share).

Next was the National Museum of Modern Art. A short walk from the Imperial Palace Gardens exit, we were there, pondering the art work and making sure a breath was not heard. My favourite pieces were from a collection of large war-time canvas paintings. They were very entrancing and showed a lot of storytelling and movement.

a day exploring

Day 03 –

The first priority of the day was to get to Hiro-o to meet a flamboyant personality, namely Yuka Mazda, that would show us the Japanese cooking ways and some popular staple dishes. Once at the Hiro-o train station, I whipped across the road to a small bakery and collected a handful of sweet and savoury goods. We ate them for breakfast as we watched out for more confused wanderers also taking part in the class. Once grouped, we walked to her home. In the nice, modern apartment, she showed us her kitchen, tools and the recipes we would be learning in the class.

We started by making a mix for pork Gyoza and learnt how to roll the dumplings. We took turns cooking, learning the tips and tricks of the Japanese chef. We prepped a stock to be used for Gyu-don and made the best miso soup I have ever tasted. After eating the fluffiest rice and tasting some matcha tea, we gave our thanks and jumped on a bus to Shibuya.

We had planned to all go to a popular bistro for dinner located in Shibuya, but after wandering around for a little while, Pop unfortunately fell ill and needed to return to the hotel. After offering to go back with him, he insisted that Jordan and I still go to the bistro ourselves, as we wouldn’t make it back to Shibuya this trip. We agreed and said goodbye.

After a little shopping, we stopped off at Starbucks and sipped on caramel frappucino’s whilst browsing google maps for the bistro, 35 Steps. After determining the general direction, we quickly looked for a bathroom. Starbucks was on the first floor and the next couple floors looked like shopping areas. We caught the lift to the seventh floor (lucky number), where a lavatory sign was present. Walking out of the elevator, we saw we were in a completely different place. A magazine (super)book store combined with a stylish bar and eatery. I must say it was an interesting experience – I would spend so much time here!

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We explored well into the night, immersing ourselves in all the chaos and bright lights. We walked and walked until we were sure we were going the wrong direction. A lit up Natural Lawson (convenience type store) stopped us in our tracks as we stumbled in looking for some hope. The man at the counter nodded as we spoke of our destination and reached for something underneath. Out he pulled the oldest, dinged up street directory I have ever seen and began to search. This started an intensive investigation of speaking to the other employee, using different maps and even calling the bistro. Eventually he gave up, took of his apron and just started walking. We followed as he spoke to us in perfect English about the time he spent in Perth and of how much he loved Australia. We even learnt some Japanese! On the way he pointed out another Natural Lawson store, which he owned as well. After a solid twenty five minutes of walking, we ended up at our destination, of which we wouldn’t have found without him. A hole in the world and absolutely no English in sight. He waved us off with a giant smile and disappeared into the night.

Lost for words. This place was awesome.

We descended down a spiral staircase that looked to be leading down to a dungeon. Down 35 Steps, we reached a door, entering into a short hallway – we were in the right spot! We took off our shoes and the waiter placed them into one of many compartments in the wall. He then proceeded to tell us, as we didn’t have a reservation, that we only had an hour and  a half. We agreed politely and sunk into the floor behind the bar that followed the outside of the kitchen. The chef in front of us took our drink order and recommended us some dishes. There was not one other soul in the entire venue. We started with a share plate of sashimi, which came out more like cutlets of fish. Open minded, we began to try the several different types of fresh fish on the plate. Surprised and delighted, we tried most of the food on the menu, including freshly “blow torched” mackerel and of course more gyoza. Every time someone walked into the bistro, all of the chefs and waiters would greet them with loud shouting exciting. I loved how close we were to the cooking and plating up. We got to see all the different dishes, ingredients and tools they used. Every table was filled with locals by the time we were leaving.

We wandered back to central Shibuya, aimlessly, talking about our day and in a food coma. As we continued, we passed a cute little shopfront, that had many little ornaments, statues and pictures of owls. I peeked my head in the window to find an owl staring back at me. Confused at whether it was real or not, I looked closer, another owl looked up at me from the floor, an owl café! We spent half an hour patting and admiring the beautiful creatures in their home.

Sad to leave the buzzing area of Shibuya, we strolled back to (what I thought was) the train station, until, once again, we ended up at Natural Lawson. I don’t know why, but I just feel drawn to the store. Like a homing pigeon! So we walked the opposite direction, found the station and got on a train, heading  back to our hotel for a well deserved sleep, ready for Tsukiji Fish Market in the morning.