Monday, August 13, 2012

Last day in Tokyo

Our last day in Tokyo was a little more relaxed than the rest of the trip.  We started out by walking to Ginza.  It was raining lightly when we started our, but it cleared before too long.  Instead of taking an underground route throughout the city, this time we took elevated walkways almost the whole way to the Ginza district (about 1 mile from the hotel).  We were able to see the A&F store and stopped in a department store on our quest for some souvenirs.  Before long we were off to the Ueno area, which is near Asakusa.

In Ueno there is a market called Ameyoko which is one of the premier markets in Asia (according to our book).  This market has been around a long time – after WW2 it was the place to buy black market electronics and other goods.  We were once again on the hunt for souvenirs.  The market was crowded and lively and it was a fun place to shop.  After leaving the market we went to Ueno Park, which houses Ueno zoo (the oldest zoo in Japan) and a large lake with thousands of lotuses.  We didn’t know about the lotuses, so they were a big surprise and were very nice to look at.  There is also a temple in the park called Bentendo, which is unique because it is octagonal shaped.  The whole park was very nice.  As we exited the park we saw banners for a King Tut exhibit.  I guess King Tut was in town and people were lining up like crazy!  We were considering buying tickets for the exhibit, but for 2700 yen and what looked like at least an hour long line, we decided to pass.

Next we headed to Shinjuku, home to the world's busiest train station.  Each day (on average) 2 million people pass through this station.  When we arrived, it certainly was busy.  We headed out from the station in search of a place for lunch.  We ended up at a place called Kirin City, which I think was run by the Kirin brewing company.  We had beef medallions, fried chicken, and potatoes with bacon and cheese for lunch; everything was delicious.  What made this lunch more noteworthy was the beer I ordered.  It was called some sort of a frozen beer - basically it was regular beer and then the head was shaped like a soft serve cone and was frozen.  The head didn't taste any different, it just gave a different sensation and it was really neat.

After lunch we headed to Shinjuku's skyscraper district, which includes the Park Hyatt Tokyo (from Lost in Translation fame) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, which includes a free observatory.  We made our way the the south tower of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building and had a great view of the whole city.  Most of the weather and haze from the morning was gone, so this was the perfect time to be up high.  We were able to see Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Sky Tree, and another thing that had (mostly) eluded us up to this point - Mt. Fuji.  It is barely visible in the pictures and it was barely visible from the observatory, but its there.  After heading down the elevator we saw many banners for Tokyo's 2020 Olympics bid, it would be cool if they were able to host it!

After Shinjuku we headed back to the Conrad to prepare for dinner.  When I booked this trip I was determined to have sushi in Japan and up until this point it had eluded me for one reason or another (mainly the tonkatsu was amazing), but tonight I was determined to have raw fish!  So we asked the concierge for a recommendation and he pointed us to a restaurant named Robataya, which served sashimi (not the type of sushi I normally eat, which is maki) and other grilled vegetables and meats (not teppanyaki style, if that's what you're thinking).  The place was in the Roppongi district, which was an area we hadn't visited up until that point.  We took the subway there and proceeded to get lost trying to find the place.  Eventually I was able to reconcile the GPS map on my phone with the map provided by the hotel and we made it inside.  The restaurant is a long counter on 3 sides with 2 chefs sitting above you with 2 open grills where they cook the food.  In front of them is the selection of vegetables and meats, along with an aquarium like tank housing live seafood.  We ordered drinks and then selected our vegetables and meats and I ordered a sashimi plate.  We got a shashimi style appetizer which was really good and then I received my shashimi plate with flounder, 2 types of tuna, and salmon.  It was excellent and extremely fresh (as I was about to find out).  When people ordered stuff or asked for something or went to the bathroom, they chefs and waiters (who rotated jobs with each other) would yell out (in Japanese) the order or what was happening.  It was all very entertaining.  The drinks and foods were given to you by the chef on a long wooden paddle and he could reach his entire side of the counter with it.  At one point, someone on the other side of the table ordered prawns - the chef on the far side crawled over his grill and reached into the tank to grab 3 prawns!  As he reached in there he disturbed what looked like a flounder to me - that's very fresh fish!  It made me a little squeamish to see him skewer the prawns while they were still moving and then cut into them, but there is something to say how high quality and fresh the food was.  Towards the end of the meal we were sitting around (mainly because we didn't know we had to tell them we were done) and they brought out a photo book - many many many celebrities had dined here before us.  Some of them were: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Christina Augulera, Britney Spears, Daniel Craig, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Martin Scorcese.  I was afraid of the bill (I forgot to ask how much beforehand), but it ended up being a pretty reasonable 16000 yen.  It was an amazing end to an amazing trip and an unforgettable dining experience.  When we go back to Japan, we will definitely stop here again.

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