Today felt like I was in Asia. Sure, we’ve had bits and pieces, but today really felt like Asia. We started off by going to the Tsukiji Fish Market, which is one of the most famous sights in Tokyo. If you want to get up at the crack (like seriously 3am), you can get in line to watch the fish auction that starts at 5:30. They auction off large tunas that sometimes go for as much as $10,000. We, or perhaps I should say I, opted not to do that. But we DID set alarms today! As we made our way down there, we encountered the outer markets, which sell all kinds of things, but mostly fish/seafood. We kept seeing this one yellow thing that was on a stick that everyone seemed to be loving. We had no idea what it was, but found a stall that had samples. Loren made me go first and it was like a cold, slimy egg. No bueno. I did not like it. Not at all.
We then made our way into the fish market. It pretty much had all the fish and creatures from the sea that you can imagine…and some that you can’t. Lots of blood and the floor was soaking wet. And it smelled. But it was definitely an experience! I got to see lots of interesting looking fish! We then wandered around the outer markets and we got ice cream cones. I had a mango one. It was really good! That was breakfast (ok, with some peanut butter I had before leaving the hotel room).
From there, we went to the Senso-ji Temple. It’s a Buddhist Temple and one of the most popular and oldest in all of Japan. The temple also has a large market and we were able to get some souvenirs there. The first shot glasses I’ve seen so far! Then we approached the temple and like yesterday where we had to wash our hands (which was a Shinto Temple/Shrine), we had to wave burning incense over us before proceeding. The temple was very beautiful, but unfortunately you can’t take photos of it. There were people inside praying, though, which I thought was interesting. The gates to this temple were very beautiful and I got some good photos there. We then explored the grounds and went into a smaller temple area, another off-shoot market, and we saw the 5-story pagoda. The pagoda was closed, though, so we couldn’t go in (not sure if it’s ever open). This was just a very cool area and the architecture was quite stunning.
We then took a separate trainline to the Tokyo Sky Tree. This is a tower that is 634 (2080 feet) tall. It offers a 360-degree view at the top. It was a great view, but it was hazy in the distance, so we couldn’t see Mount Fuji (or the other mountain that is out there, forgot the name). It was an interesting process to purchase tickets. When we got to what appeared to be the main ticket counter, the sign said foreign visitors were to go somewhere else to get tickets. So we did. It was not cheap and we’re pretty sure that they charged us more, but after buying the ticket we were led to the front of the line (the wait was over an hour for them at that point) and went straight to the elevator. So even if they charged us more, we got a benefit for it. The stupid thing is that the fare only takes you to the 350th floor and if you want to go further, you have to pay extra. We decided not to do that.
During this time, my friend Helkei was making her way to Tokyo to hang out with us. So we left the Sky Tree and needed lunch, as it was after 2pm. Loren was craving KFC, so that’s what we did. I will not get used to the fact that people can smoke indoors here. We walked in to the restaurant and immediately smelled smoke. But I got a chicken sandwich, cole slaw, and a ginger ale. (Not only did they not have Diet Coke, they had PEPSI).
Helkei met us there and then took us to “kitchentown”. This area is the kitchen utensil/gadget area. Everything you could ever want to cook can be found on this street. There is even a shop where you can buy plastic food. It’s for the restaurants to buy and display so that non-Japanese speakers will know what they are eating! As we were walking around, we came to a shop that Helkei went into to look for a pan. We saw a film crew inside the store and Loren and I waited outside. The film crew was exiting the store and the guy with the boom mic walked straight up to me and put the mic in my face. All of a sudden, I was being interviewed. They asked where I was from, what I thought of the area, why I came to Japan, and what I had bought (I had a little bag with me). The lead guy (who apparently looks like the prime minister) was the translator. We think they were interested in what I bought, thinking it was from the neighborhood. But it was from the Shrine. They were very nice and as I walked away, someone ran to stop me and give me a gift. A pen with the news station’s abbreviation on it! NHK! So yeah, like I said, I’m kind of a big deal. Gonna be on TV!
We then wanted to relax, so we went to Ueno park, but after we got off the metro we saw a bakery. We went in and ended up buying two cubes, similar to what Loren had for breakfast yesterday. We took them and went to the pond area of the park. That’s when I saw them: swan boats. I saw the swan boats on the Amazing Race! We didn’t ride them, but I liked watching them anyway! It was turning into a beautiful night (from the hot and grossly sticky day…we actually misted ourselves at the Sky Tree because it was so icky out) and we sat by the water and chatted.
Eventually we went in search of sake and found some flea market area. It was very interesting. We went to some stand-up bar (I don’t remember the name for it) and got some sake. Helkei ordered us hot sake. I couldn’t drink it. But I tried. I took three drinks. It was so incredibly strong. And I don’t think I liked it hot. Heleki drank mine, too, so by the time we were done there, she needed food! She was a little tipsy. We went to a place that had tempura for dinner. Helkei and I each got a tempura bowl and Loren just got vegetable tempura.
First, it came with some weird pickles as a palate cleanser. Gross. Then I realized that there weren’t just shrimp in my bowl. I gave Helkei the pepper, the eggplant, and something else I can’t remember now. The shrimp was fine. I think it would’ve been better with less of the “tempura”. I don’t need that much fried batter. I even ate some rice! But after two shrimp and about a quarter to a third of a cup of rice I was stuffed. I definitely ate more today than I have in days, so I don’t think my stomach was used to it! Even though I could eat the tempura, I wouldn’t choose to have it. Like go out of my way. We’ll see what I come across in the future, but after day 3, the food isn’t receiving high marks from me!
Tonight is another early night for us. Loren and I were ready to go to sleep at 8pm. But we had to come back and pack up our stuff, as we head out to Kyoto in the morning. Looking forward to seeing a new part of the country!