02 August 2011

Tokyo May 2011 - Part I

Even though we did not make it to Tokyo back in March due to the earthquake, we did eventually in May!!! Yippeee!!! Big thanks to hubby's colleague who graciously invited us to attend his wedding - a Shinto Wedding at Meiji Shrine followed by reception at a jazzy restaurant at Omotesando. We were really lucky. To us it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to witness a Shinto Wedding, not as a tourist or bystander but a guest!

As it was just a 4D3N short trip, we took the red-eye flight to maximise my shopping time, and reached Tokyo in the early hours of the morning. As we touched down and stepped foot onto Narita Airport, I whispered silently, "I'm back!". Haha, think I was crazy? The weather was a cool 22-24 degree celsius, nice! Even though it was already May. Over the next few days, the weather even dropped to 18-20 degree celsius =D We like!

There was literally no queue at the immigration counters, I guess most tourists chose to avoid the country due to the nuclear crisis and supposedly uncertainties due to more earthquakes, power outages, food shortages etc. In fact, an immigrations officer was quite surprised to hear that I was there on holiday when he asked me for purpose of visit. Anyway, lots of news reported were actually over-sensationalised. It is safe to go (except the tsunami hit areas) and I didn't notice much difference in Tokyo. In fact, the Japanese are ever more gracious, friendly and polite, to them they are grateful that tourists/visitors show support for them.

As usual, we took the Airport Limousine Bus into Tokyo; usually the journey would take about 80-90 mins but this time it took only an hour. I guess due to the lesser number of visitors as well as traffic. The bus dropped us directly at Shibuya Excel Tokyo which is right next to the Shibuya JR station and Shibuya Mark City. Even though it was slightly more pricey, we decided to stay there due to its excellent location and convenience.

It was about 10+am, too early to check into the room; the gracious front desk staff proceeded with the check-in procedures and told us that we could collect the room key from 1pm onwards and luggage would also be delivered directly to the room.

We decided to go for a super early lunch nearby, none other than 松屋 Matsuya Foods, the cheap cheap good good "fast food" chain. I remembered a long long time ago, our first meal in Tokyo was also Matsuya Foods :) It's a little like Yoshinoya in Singapore. My set was the beef rice bowl, with salad, egg and miso soup.

With our stomach filled, we were all ready to go. I set off to Jiyugaoka whereas hubby went fishing for his favourite fishing tackle shops.

Oh my, I was so happy to be back in Jiyugaoka after a 2-year hiatus! As usual, I went around to all my favourite zakka shops here and here and walked/shopped to my heart's content :p Not many changes in Jiyugaoka, probably addition of new shops and oh, Afternoon Tea shifted to a new building near to Hotch Potch. And boohoo, the Mont-Blanc pastry shop no longer sells my favourite financier!
A new shop, Apivita near the train station, selling beauty products like body wash, shampoo, facial and stuff. I bought some lipgloss and bath gel there.
I heard that this 自由が丘swiss roll house sells very nice swiss roll, so went searching for it. It was a little far from the train station and main district but sure is popular. Several people were queueing inside the shop which is really tiny, with only a cold display counter featuring different flavours of swiss roll and two small open displays of cookies. As the swiss roll is best eaten fresh, I was hoping that they have tables for dining in but nope. Regardless, I still bought the signature swiss roll and asked for an ice pack which could last for 2hr, enough time for me to return back to hotel.
Just outside the train station, there's a new Danish Bar that sells this yummy danish pastry. Smells heavenly!Couldn't resist one :p It was crispy on the outside and soft chewy sweet inside.
By late afternoon I was dead beat from the lack of sleep and all the walking and shopping so decided to bade farewell to my beloved Jiyugaoka and headed back to the hotel.

Hubby was already in the room and sleeping so soundly that I knocked at the door for several minutes before he finally heard me.

Anyway, here's our room at Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu. Very spacious for a Tokyo Hotel.
Comfortable king-size bed with 2-seater sofa at the side.
Work desk, dressing table and TV console.
Spacious wardrobe.
Ensuite bathroom with bathtub and separate shower.

I washed up a bit and then we proceeded to Tokyu Hands, one of my must-go store for more shopping. By the time we were done, it was late in the evening and we were famished. Decided on ramen for dinner and found this ramen shop which seemed quite good.
Like most eateries, we have to buy meal tickets from the vending machine before handing them over to the staff.
This was my char siew ramen with sides of seaweed and beansprouts. The broth was very light and fragrant and noodles very chewy. Yummy!

After dinner, we roamed around for a while before retiring to the hotel.

The next day, we were supposed to meet hubby's colleague R, his wife N and R's parents D & S for lunch at 12 noon. We woke up late since shops won't be open till 10-11ish. Around 10.30am, I decided to pop over to Shibuya Mark City to take a look while hubby lazed in the room. To my pleasant surprise, there are a few zakka shops within Shibuya Mark City too! Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to buy anything and had to go back to the room to freshen up before the lunch.
We met R, N, D and S at the Shibuya Station and then proceeded to Shinjuku for tempura. N who is a Japanese, recommended this traditional tempura shop.
Different flavoured salt for dipping - seaweed, ume, couldn't remember the other two.
This was mine, a typical set lunch with two prawns, three veg, miso soup, pickles and rice. The tempura was fried to a perfect crisp, oiishi!!!
We also tried tempura ice-cream, which was not bad.

After lunch, we separated our ways and hubby and I went to Isetan Shinjuku. I wanted to see the food hall there, apparently one of the best in Tokyo. Yes indeed I was overwhelmed by the variety of food sold, especially pastries and dessert! It was a feast for the eyes and I wished I could buy everything. But most pastries and dessert have short shelf-life so I could only buy a few. Then we went up to the children's department to get some clothes and toys for dear son.

After shopping at Isetan, I wanted to go back to Shibuya Mark City for my zakka shops, while hubby continued to hang out in Shinjuku. We agreed to meet at the Shinjuku Kani Doraku for dinner.

With that, I rushed back to Shibuya Mark City and had two hours to complete all my shopping.

There are Natural Kitchen, Afternoon Tea, Timeless Comfort to name a few... I was happy!

After the shopping at Mark City, I went back to the room to drop my bags. Still had 30 minutes more, decided to hop over to francfranc across the street before going to Shinjuku to meet hubby.
And finally, met hubby at 7.30pm for our crab feast! It was expensive but thought we should give it a try at least once.
Very cozy and traditional interior.
Our booth seat.
Japanese zither entertainment.
Cold crab. The meat was very sweet and refined.
Crab sashimi. We didn't like the sashimi, thought the texture was too mushy for our liking.
Crab chawanmushi. Yummy!

Grilled crab. The meat was very juicy with tinge of smokey flavour, I like!
Crab tempura. It was good!!! Crispy on the outside and chewy juicy meat inside.
Crab kamameshi. The rice absorbed the juice of the crab meat and was very fragrant.
And finally sherbet for dessert. The only dish without crab. Haha. Well, we sure had a luxurious but cholesterol-laden meal. Just for once :p

After the sumptuous dinner, we strolled around and went back for a good night's rest.

To be continued...

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  1. Oow. I am staying at same hotel next month. Enjoyed reading this post. Lots of good info. Looking forward to next instalment!

  2. Hi Lisa,
    Shibuya Excel is good! And location is excellent, lots of food, shopping and next to Shibuya JR Station which is a major and busy station. Enjoy your trip!