Welcome to Day 3 of Janet, Randy and Family Japan Adventure 2016
Saturday, April 9th, 2016
Even though I was totally exhausted the night before, I ended up waking up at 1:30am and couldn't get back to sleep. I tried to get back to sleep for a few hours, but finally just got up at 4:30am and worked on my travel journal.
Just after 7:00am, we decided to head out to Starbucks for some breakfast. On the way there, we ran into Kay and Bea and found out that the Starbucks doesn't open until 8:00am on weekends. So, to kill some time, we did a little walk around the Ginza area. We came across a new glass tower that had a sign saying it opened on March 31st. However, for some reason there was a line of security guards standing at regular intervals all down the street next to the building. There were some shops on the ground floor of this new building, but it didn't look like they were going to open at 7:30 in the morning. So, not sure what was going on.
We got back to the Starbucks around 7:45am, so just sat at one of the outdoor seats while waiting for the store to open. At 7:50, the barista came outside to let us know the store was open. She seemed ever so happy to invite us in. I have no idea what she said to us. She could have even been telling us that she was serving us early, and that we were crazy for being there so early. So we went in and ordered our drinks and some chocolate chunk scones (nicely warmed up). While we were sitting at the starbucks there was a dude that walked in and had the traditional Japanese geta shoes, Janet said that she would likely break a leg wearing these. I've seen the ladies wear them but not the men.
From there we headed back to the hotel in order to meet up with the family for our agreed upon 9:00am time. First order of business was to walk to the Yurakucho station and get Suica cards for everyone. This is a preloaded payment card that can be used for all the transit in Tokyo. It makes taking the train or subway so much easier as you just tap it as you go in and out in order to pay. Otherwise, you need to figure out how much you need to pay for your ticket (which is different based on which zones you are travelling between) and then stop to buy a ticket before each trip. Yup, let's just make this easy.
We then headed to Tokyo Station to get our JR Rail Passes. Processes seem to have changed since I was last in Japan 6 years ago. Last time we just had to go to a JR ticket office to get our rail pass and any reservations for trips we wished to make. This time we had to fill out a form at a table in this rotunda area. Then we were ushered into a ticket agency (where we had to wait a bit). Once an agent was free, they literally checked every word (and letter) of this piece of paper against the original voucher and our passport. Then someone else had to verify it before we finally got our rail pass (it seemed like it was more of a make work project). To actually reserve seats on the trains we wanted to take, we then had to go to a completely separate office (in a different part of the station).
Luckily the train reservations went much more quickly than getting the rail pass. I had printed off a list of the exact trains that we wanted to take, so the gal just used my list and went through the system to set up our reservations. It was quite simple. Once everyone got their reservations, we decided to head back to Yurakucho station to find somewhere for lunch. Prior to going for lunch we stopped at my favourite electronics store (in the world), Bic Camera. We picked up some SIM cards for our phones so that we could bring up a map or do a search if we needed to find something.
We tried to go to a sushi place where they have the conveyor belt sushi, but the place we had gone to in the past was now just a regular sushi restaurant. So, we wandered through a food hall near the station and ended up at a small curry place. There were no tables, just seats at a counter. I ordered a chicken cutlet dish, and Randy got some chicken curry. Randy's parents had also ordered the chicken cutlet, but there was some confusion as they ended up with the curry instead (which I think they were less than impressed about). But overall, it was tasty. We liked ours... so it was all good !
I had booked a Togoshi/Musako walking tour in the afternoon, so after lunch, we just went back to the hotel to hang out a bit until it was time to go meet our guide. I tried to sleep, but wasn't able to. At 1:15pm we walked over to Yurakucho station and took the Yamanote train to Osaki station. We were a little early, but our guide Ayuho showed up right at 2:00pm to meet us at the station.
Ayuho first took us to the nearby Irugi Shrine, which was originally built a thousand years ago (the current structure was built in 1978). Ayuho showed us how to wash our hands before entering the shrine, and showed us how to bow and pray.
On the way to a shopping district called ogoshi-Ginza, she stopped at a local sweet shop for us to meet the owner and give us the opportunity to buy some sweets. We all got something to have for dessert later, and continued on our way to the shopping street.
Togoshi-Ginza is where the locals go to buy all their goods/food. It is a long shopping street that is treated like a pedestrian street, but vehicles and bikes also drive down it. It was quite interesting to see the different types of shops - from food to bonzai trees to sewing machines.
AAyuho took us to a nearby park where there were still cherry trees in bloom. In the spring, the locals will go and picnic under the cherry trees when they are in bloom, and we saw many families doing that. We also walked to where a samurai's estate used to be, but all that is left is a gate and a park. Again, more families having picnics under cherry trees here. Small children running around and playing... idyllic.
We continued wandering around the neighbourhood, stopping at a few more shrines along the way. yuho took us to another shopping district - this one was actually a street that had been covered with a roof. So, no vehicles on this street, but people were allowed to ride bikes through here, so you had to watch out for that.
TThis was a very long shopping street and by the time we reached the Musashi-Koyama subway station, we were all starting to get tired from all the walking. Ayuho showed us which subway line would take us to the Meguro station where we could catch the Yamanote line back to our hotel. We thanked her for being such a great tour guide, and went to catch the subway. Since we were taking a part of the transit system we hadn't used before, it was a challenge to figure out where we were and number of stops to transfer.
It took us about half an hour to get back to urakucho station, and we walked back to the hotel - arriving around 5:30pm. We all had sore feet, so we agreed to just relax for an hour before heading out for supper.
FFor supper, we ended up just going across the street to Sushizanmai as there had been requests to have sushi. We were seated right away, and brought an English menu. But then we seemed to be ignored for quite some time. We were in a corner and it was hard to flag down any of the waiters that went by. Finally we managed to grab someone and ordered some plates of salmon sushi, tuna sushi and some tempura. Our drinks and food arrived not long after that, and everyone was very full. Near the end of the meal I noticed that there was this dark egg like/size item on the table that had a pearly like button on it... when I pressed it, within 20 seconds there was one of servers over to ask us what we needed... apparently that's how we are supposed to flag down our servers. Note to self for next time !
As I hadn't slept well the night before, I was hitting the wall with fatigue, so we just went back to our room. I believe the aunties were going to go for a walk. Back in our room, I downloaded the pictures from the day and started to work on the journal. But I literally started falling asleep while typing and so fell into bed at 9:00pm. I think we both hit the wall and that was it for the day !
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