29 September 2008

Tokyo 11-16 April 08 - Asakusa & Ueno

Back in April this year, I brought my mum, aunt and youngest brother to Tokyo for a 6 day 5 night tour. My mum, like me has an affection for Japan (inclination towards Japanese merchandise/packaging/groceries :p). My younger and youngest brothers are both fans of Japanese manga, animation, games (too bad my younger brother was having exams then and couldn't make it for the trip). My aunt, I don't know, probably just to 'look see'.

It was my first time ever acting as a 'tour guide' without hubby, bringing along 3 family members who have never been to Japan, don't speak or understand the language and have not tried such free and easy trips before. It certainly wasn't easy as a tour guide, since I have to take care of the different needs and budget. Pace was relatively slow so that they could shop to their hearts' content but I also added a ryokan stay at Lake Kawaguchi so that they could experience a bit of unique Japan culture. Chose to stay at Shinjuku Washington again (same as the previous trip in 2007) due to its convenience and price.

Didn't take many photos for this trip (quite tiring as a tour guide), so shall just blog about some highlights.

Day 1 - Singapore to Narita Airport, Tokyo. Shinjuku.
Day 2 - Asakusa - Sensoji, Ueno - Ueno Park.
Day 3 - Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko (Fuji Five Lakes).
Day 4 - Kawaguchiko to Shinjuku. Harajuku - Takeshitadori, Omotesando.
Day 5 - Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinjuku
Day 6 - Shinjuku. Narita Airport, Tokyo back to Singapore

Sensoji, Asakusa
I guess all first-timers to Tokyo must visit Sensoji (Asakusa Kannon Temple), a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. And it is almost customary to enter through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), the outer gate of the Sensoji and popular symbol of Asakusa. Upon entering Sensoji, most people would already be mesmerise by Nakamise, a shopping street of over 200 meters which leads from the outer gate to the temple's second gate, the Hozomon.
A large variety of traditional Japanese souvenirs like yukata, fans and snacks like Ningyoyaki (Japanese Red Bean Pancake人形焼, ‎にんぎょうやき), Senbei (Japanese rice cracker) are sold along Nakamise. We could spent like 1-2hrs shopping even before reaching the temple proper!

Sensoji was really crowded being an immensely popular, must-visit attraction. I think there was a 50th Anniversary (to mark completion of the main temple hall in 1958) celebration during our visit.

Omikuji. Fortune telling paper slips found at many temples. Be sincere in your prayers, randomly draw a stick and retrieve the paper slips according to the number drawn. Predictions range from daikichi ("great good luck") to daikyo ("great bad luck"). Tie the piece of paper around the provided structure, good fortune will come true or bad fortune can be averted. Brother had a go at it.
Ice-cream sandwiched between wafer biscuit. Yummy!
Agemanju - deep fried dough with red bean paste filling.

The sesame flavour was not bad.
Ramune ラムネ! (弹珠汽水, 波子汽水) A carbonated lemon-lime flavoured soft drink. This is so nostalgic! The bottle is made of glass and sealed with a marble. The marble is held in place by the pressure of the carbon dioxide in the drink. To open the bottle, a device to push the marble inward is provided with the bottle. The marble is pushed inside the neck of the bottle where it rattles around while drinking. Two little glass nodes inside the bottle allow the drinker to hook the marble in place while drinking. Source: Wikipedia.

Ueno Park, Ueno

Since Ueno is quite near Asakusa, we made a trip to Ueno Park after Sensoji to catch the remaining of the sakura bloom.

Besides sakura, lots of lovely flowers in full bloom as well.

Street busking.

And during this season, some eatery stores would be set-up near the large pond in Ueno Park, drawing some crowds.
Steam potato, steam till soft and fluffy, complemented with butter and mayonaise.
Grilled cuttlefish. Smelled and tasted really good but expensive!
One of Japanese favourite activities during the sakura blooming season - picnic gatherings among friends, family members or colleagues to eat, drink, sing, dance and admire the sakura (hanami - cherry blossom viewing). It is somewhat a culture, with people going to the parks in advance to 'reserve the best tree/view.

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