Japan (day 3) – Tokyo
Monday, 20 October 2014
For breakfast, I decided to try a different cafe. I went to a nearby Segafredo cafe near the hotel. While the coffee and paninis are good, I was surprised to see they allowed indoor smoking in the cafe. I had to finish my food quickly as I am not a smoker and the smell really annoys me.
Today is another free and easy day, focusing more on the historic parts of Tokyo. In the afternoon, we took the metro to Asakusa to visit Sensoji temple. Asakusa is located in north Tokyo, the more traditional part of the city. As we were approaching the entrance of the temple, we saw a number of rickshaw tourguides. One of them approached us and explained his service. Turns out the tour is quite interesting so we took the 30 mins package.
Our guide, Honjo-san, took us to the west and north areas around the temple. We saw the comedy district, traditional shops and the Geisha district. As we went along, Honjo-san explained the various cultural significance of the attractions in the area. In the comedy district, we stopped in front of the Asakusa Engei Hall, which is famous for its rakugo (japanese verbal entertainment).
The Geisha district seems like a normal neighbourhood. Honjo-san explained the various exclusive invite-only restaurants in the area, used mainly for private meetings with Geisha entertainment. He also showed us a Geisha office, used for clients to procure Geisha services. It really looks like any other office! Typical Geisha services include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance, games and even conversation to entertain clients.
The tour ended at Sensoji Temple. We took a photo with Honjo-san and thanked him for his excellent service.
From there, we explored the Hondo, the main temple in Asakusa. Although it’s in the middle of a weekday, there are a lot of people at the temple for worship. We observed some of the rituals and explored the other buildings in the temple grounds.
From the main temple, we walked towards Nakamise-dōri street, where it is lined with various souvenir shops. A great place to buy gifts for family and friends back home.
I was most interested in the samurai weapon souvenir shop. They sell various replicas of samurai weapons (cosplay grade, not weapon grade). This include the katana, wakizashi (short short), spear, bokken, shinai and many more. Despite being cosplay grade (meaning it’s blunt and toy-like), I know something like this will definitely give me problems with the customs officers at the Malaysian airport. After much consideration, I bought the action-figure samurai, and a small decorative katana set (to be used as a letter opener).
After buying souvenirs for people back home, we had lunch at Aoi Marushin, a tempura shop we saw during the rickshaw ride. The tempura was perfectly cooked and the restaurant had an authentic Japanese feel to it.
The bill was 5,600 yen (about US$45) for 2 people. A bit expensive compared to your average restaurant but it was worth it. For more photos, read my review at TripAdvisor.
After our late lunch, we visited the Asakusa Tourist Information Center. The tourist info center itself is a tourist attraction. It has an interesting facade with a cafe at the top floor that oversees the rest of Asakusa. We went to the viewing deck to enjoy the nice view.
We went back to Shinjuku around 5PM. Later that night we went to a Thai restaurant in Lumine, the shopping mall on top of Shinjuku Station.