[Japan Series] Day 5 Cont’d: Asakusa 浅草, Katgetsudo Melon Pan 浅草花月堂の店舗, Ueno 上野, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building 東京都庁

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After visiting Akihabara, we decided to train to Asakusa which is known for the Sensoji temple. Funny how the first thing we saw was another Don Quijote store though! Oh by the way… if you are here around Halloween time and need a costume, this is the place to buy it! I bet you will stand out when you return to Vancouver!

 

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Asakusa has a mix of modern but older buildings as well. Asakusa was known to be the leading entertainment district back in the day. During the Edo period, it was the site of kabuki theaters and a large red light district. Today it is most famous for the Sensoji temple, Tokyo Skytree Tower, and the bridge above the Sumida River. I remember visiting a few years ago during one of their famous festivals and this was the spot to watch fireworks. It was crazy hectic!

 

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If you’re going to visit a temple in Tokyo, then you should probably check out Sensoji Temple, as it is probably one of the most famous in Tokyo. You’ll first walk through a large entrance gate called Kaminarimon which leads to Sensoji Temple. I believe there are two gates in total before you hit the temple.

 

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Sensoji is famous because it is one of the oldest Buddhist temples, built in the 7th century. However, the ones we see today were built post-war, so are reconstructions. Still, it is pretty neat, especially with the large Japanese lanterns. Admission is free and you can usually go inside the temple but when we arrived it was near closing. The temple closes at 5pm.

 

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You will find tourists and locals doing rituals here such as writing a wish and tying it on this bar in a knot. There is also a water fountain where you pour the water over your hands along with some other rituals which are supposed to give good luck. Look around you and follow if you want to try it out!

 

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Between the first gate and the second gate, you will find a shopping street of over 200 meters, called Nakamise. You will find traditional Japanese souvenirs as well as local snacks here. At night time, it is lit up and is quite lively.

 

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My friend had told me there is a bakery that I needed to try at Asakusa. Tucked away in a street off this busy shopping street is Katgetsudo. They are famous for melon pans!

 

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Melon Pan is a sweet bun with a cookie like crust at the top. It is shaped like a melon, hence the name. It had some crystalized sugar on top, and when warm, the bun was soft and fluffy! Too bad we arrived near closing as well, or else they have other varieties to choose from, including adding ice cream inside. I thought it tasted like a pineapple bun that we commonly eat in Hong Kong. Worth trying as it is a cheap snack and Katgetsudo is known to be one of the best!

 

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After snacking, I suggested we visit the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center which is nearby as I heard they have a free observation deck. The center is only eight stories, but you can still get a good view of the Nakamise shoppign street and the Sensoji Temple. It was quite gloomy that day, but I would suspect you can get some decent pictures.

 

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To our right, we saw the Tokyo Skytree and what is that…? A golden yam? Turns out that is the Asahi Beer Tower and Asahi Super Dry Hall! Too bad we didn’t get a chance to check it out. I believe they have a restaurant and beer on tap.

 

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We decided to then head over to the Ueno district to look for food. Ueno is famous for its park and also many museums. However, if you get off at Ueno station and walk out, you will find that there are tons of restaurants along the streets. There was also a street that sort of reminded us of a night market.

 

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We ended up finding this building that housed many restaurants and found a izakaya type restaurant called Kotekichi. They featured okonomiyaki and many omelette type of dishes. First up was a pork omelette filled with cheese and topped with mayo and takoyaki sauce. Really enjoyed this piping out.

 

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Next was a shrimp yakisoba. We were surprised that the shrimp were tiny dried ones. The flavour was great but I wanted fresh shrimp instead. Guess that would’ve cost a lot more though!

 

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Last but not least was a seafood okonmiyaki. They actually brought us the okonomiyaki with the wrong filling so we returned this back to the kitchen and they were very nice about it. Perhaps there was a language barrier issue!

 

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After dinner, we headed back to Shinjuku and S suggested we walk to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁). He read online that we can visit the observation deck for free. What a great idea because you can get a panoramic view of the city! We visited at night time, and I believe it closes at 11pm. However, there was still a line up to go in. We probably waited around 30 minutes as they have security check and also a wait to go up and down the elevator. The view was amazing and well worth the wait, especially since it’s free!

 

Senso-ji Temple
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito 111-0032, Tokyo Prefecture

Kagetsudo
Address: 2-7-13 Asakusa, Taito 111-0032, Tokyo Prefecture

Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
Address:
2-18-9 Kaminarimon, Taito 111-0034, Tokyo Prefecture

Kotekichi (Ueno)
Address: 1-54 Uenokoen | Uenonomori Sakura Terrace 2F, Taito 110-0007, Tokyo Prefecture

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Address: 2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0023, Tokyo Prefecture

Fukumame ふくまめ (Ueno) – Tokyo

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There’s tons of things to do in Tokyo, but during our visit, we coincidentally were there for the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival. This year, it was on July 26. The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival is a huge event held every year and attracts millions of people. We decided to head to Asakusa to see this event. We knew it would be crowded, but I have never been in such a huge crowd in my life. Asakusa is quite a tourist area, with the famous Senso-ji Temple. It is a Buddhist temple and the oldest in Tokyo. Both women and men were all dressed up in their kimonos as well!

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We didn’t really know where we going, so we just followed the crowds. At one point, we saw the Tokyo Skytree, a very new addition and tall building. It’s used mainly for broadcasting, but also features an observation deck and restaurant.

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We finally figured out that everyone was trying to cross the Sumidagawa or the bridge that is over the Sumida River. You’ll literally be walking one step forward and stopping when you near this area. Here, you can see the Asahi Brewery buildings and that odd gold piece of art that is on top of the Beer Hall. Not too sure what it’s supposed to be… Anyways, there are tons of patrol here and the organizers assign groups of people numbers. The police will announce when each group can start moving forward. It’s super organized even though you are literally shoulder to shoulder to the stranger next to you. Now imagine this in 30 degree weather. Yup, sweaty arms brushing up against you.

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I couldn’t get a lot of nice firework pictures since I only had my iPhone, but it was pretty spectacular. Basically, the festival is very different from any of the ones I’ve been to. The idea is to let groups of people on the bridge so that they can experience the festival for at least 5 to 10 minutes. The displays are exploded from both sides of the river and is supposed to be a competition. The fireworks literally go on for 2 hours straight so that everyone has a chance to get on the bridge. Once you’ve had your time, they announce that you must proceed forward and let the next group view the fireworks. The fireworks are pretty crazy, with complicated shapes and colours that I’ve never seen. Apparently at one point, there was a Pikachu! Leaving the Asakusa area was also a nightmare. You could barely move and by the time you got to the train station, there are people patrolling the area to make sure not too many people crowd in the station.

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I wanted to meet T since she coincidentally was in Tokyo as well so we decided to go to Ueno station for a late snack. Ueno is roughly 2 stations away, but it took us over half an hour to get there because of all the commuters trying to go home! Anyways, we finally arrived at Ueno station, and there are streets filled with bars and izakaya type of food. We decided to go to Fukumame which was on the 4th floor of a building. The restaurant is very posh looking and you get a lot of privacy with lots of barriers between tables. They are famous for their Yakitori, which are chicken skewers. I ordered the set which came with 5 skewers. To be honest, I was sort of confused at what I was eating. It didn’t exactly taste like chicken because it was very moist and soft. I feel like it was mixed with some sort of bean and battered with egg. Some had a teriyaki sauce on it, while other soy glaze, radish, and guacamole. They were good, but not meaty enough for me.

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We also got a desert to share. It was the Vanilla Ice Cream with Mochi and Red Bean. A very typical scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream and sweet red beans. I was sad that it only came with three mochi balls, but they were very good! I can’t comment too much about the food since we only ordered two dishes. However, based on what we had, it was decent and the atmosphere was really nice for long chats. And that ended our last night in Tokyo!

Address: 6 Chome−13−9 Ueno, Taitō, Tokyo