Asakusa, Senso-ji and Kappabashi Kitchen Street

A continuation of our Kanazawa trip.

After our short Kanazawa trip, we took the train from Kanazawa to Tokyo. We only had 1 night, so we couldn’t do a whole lot, but we were able to enjoy a few things in the Tokyo Station area and surroundings. I guess since I have been to Tokyo a lot, I usually change up what I see and do each time to keep it interesting. This is just one small example of Tokyo.

We arrived at Tokyo Station after the 2.5 hour train ride from Kanazawa. From there we transferred lines for only 1 stop to Shin Nihonbashi; our hotel, Tokyu Stays, was a short walk from there. The hotel was actually very spacious for Tokyo! It also had a lot of nice amenities (there was even a washing machine in the room for those of you on long trips), so I would highly recommend this hotel for all these reasons. The only down side to this hotel is the breakfast buffet was not very good, though it was cheap (500yen)– I would not get it again, and just head towards the station for a decent and cheap breakfast.

We were finally about to get out and explore by 5pm, but since the tourist sites were mostly closing, we had to settle mostly for walking around. We walked outside the Imperial Palace area (in the Kokyo gaien 皇居外苑), by the large number of pine trees until we were hungry for dinner.

At this point, we decided a cheap “western-style” dinner would be best since I am pretty sure my MIL was getting a little tired of Japanese foods. We took her to a typical family restaurant, Saizeriya, which we don’t have in Okinawa (it was also my husband’s first time at this restaurant chain). It is sort of a cheap Italian-y diner food, so nothing gourmet or exciting, but a nice place to sit and get some decent food, somewhat similar to Gusto and Joyfull restaurants. The biggest bonus is the price– we left there for less than 2000yen for 3 people. And most important, everyone was satisfied.

On the way back to the hotel we passed through Tokyo Station’s Character street~~ kawaii everywhere. This is definitely a good place for finding some of your favorite character goods. I, of course, went to the Moomin and Aggressive Ritsuko shops.


The next morning, we ate our disappointing hotel breakfast and went to Asakusa 浅草 to Senso-ji (shrine) 浅草寺. I have been here a few times, and morning is by far the best. None of the hawkers are open and only a few tourists visit this time of day, so it is quiet and peaceful. My husband showed MIL how to draw fortunes the traditional way.

I enjoyed the ukiyo-e 浮世絵 painted shutters (“picture scrolls”) on the small retail shops outside the shrine area in the Nakamise shopping district. These can only be enjoyed while the shops are closed– so after 8pm and before about 10 am. Honestly, I could have spent a lot more time here just looking at all of these! But we were headed nearby towards Kappabashi dougugai かっぱ橋道具街, a.k.a. “Kitchen Town,” in Taito.

As we walked, Tokyo Sky Tree was easily visible in the distance. My husband and MIL enjoyed all the various kitchen wares, knives, ceramics, and such, while I mostly looked for all the kappa. I have to say, this area had everything and anything kitchen/restaurant related, even the fake food (食品サンプル shokuhin sanpuru). It was pretty fun, and some stuff was reasonably priced so if you are interested in these things it is definitely worth the trip.

At this point, it was time to shuttle off to the airport, going our separate ways. I made sure to purchase some limited edition Tokyo Banana (Banana Shake Flavor) omiyage for my coworkers.


Images:

http://imgur.com/a/Irgyv

Hamamatsu-cho Station, near Haneda

I recently had to return home to Hawai’i for a very short few days, but on the way I had to pass through Haneda Airport with an 8 hour layover. So rather than stay in the airport for that long, we opted to take the monorail to the very last stop (maybe about 20 minutes if you take the express), Hamamatsucho-eki 浜松町駅. I did not find many ideas online of what to do with all this time (most people seem content to just stay in the airport, shopping or eating), but I was determined to make the best use of these few hours and decided on Hamamatsucho as my destination (most of the other stops did not sound like there was much around).

When we first got off at the station, we headed to the Japanese garden park that was adjacent; Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden 旧芝離宮恩賜庭園 is formerly an Imperial garden. It is small but pretty, and admission was only 150yen. We were too early for sakura, though there were a few buds here and there. We were also at the very end of ume (plum blossoms) so not much to see there either, however, there were some other nice seasonal plants. It was refreshing, though a bit on the cold side.

After this we walked down the street and visited the Kumano jinja 熊野神社 (shrine) and Zōjō-ji (temple) 増上寺, located just in front of Tokyo Tower and next to Shiba Park. We were hungry, so we did not have a chance to wander through Shiba Park or Tokyo Tower (I have been there before anyway), just this small area around the temple and shrine, as well as the Unborn Children Garden. These are not uncommon to see at many temples in Japan, with rows of stone statues which represent unborn children (such as miscarried, aborted, or stillborn). Parents choose a statue, decorating it with clothing and toys. Often you will see a small gift for Jizo 地蔵 (guardian of unborn children). If you see stones are piled up near the statue this is meant to make journey into the afterlife easier.

To finish up, we headed to a place located just behind the station called Devil Craft Brewery… craft beer and Chicago-style pizza! Yes, I know… most people go to Japan and are not looking for this type of thing, but we live here and these types of places are few and far between. So how can we turn this down?

Apparently there are 2 other locations in Tokyo as well. They have some craft brews of their own, and some others from around Japan. Many foreigners will also be happy to know there is an English menu for both food and drinks. We did not make reservations, but since we got there at opening time (5pm) we got a table– keep this in mind if you decide to visit, get reservations! This place is super popular.

We each ended up to try 2 beers (pints) each, splitting an appetizer and a pizza. To be honest, it was my first time to have Chicago-style pizza! My husband loves it and it is his favorite type; since we have never seen another place serving Chicago pizza in Japan we knew we had to come here and try it. And it was so good!

Overall, it was pretty awesome, though a little costly. But when you consider that the craft beer scene in Japan is still a little new, I think their prices were fair to be honest. I would highly recommend trying this place out if you find yourself in the area.

Once we finished eating, it was time to get back on the monorail to the airport for our late night flight.


Addresses:

Hamamatsucho-eki: https://goo.gl/maps/ryqETJVBZ922

Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden: https://goo.gl/maps/LaKjv9U49nC2

Kumano Shrine: https://goo.gl/maps/Ar5YmhSQ5kQ2

Devil Craft Brewery: https://goo.gl/maps/CJ6aLTiXS5G2