Imagine standing in front of an opened freezer.
The cold wind is swirling around you and sending chills up your spine.
Now imagine having to deal with that for eight days.
Because that is how cold Tokyo was when we were there to avoid this year’s Chinese New Year.
The temperature ranges between -2-degree Celsius to 16-degree Celsius.
But most time, you just need to put a pair of gloves to make sure your hands doesn’t freeze up and drop off.
Having said that, Tokyo is AMAZING!
The first thing you would notice as we walk to our hotel from Shinjuku station is how incredibly clean it is.
It is much cleaner than Singapore, but you be lucky if you can find a rubbish bin.
Since it is the first time to Japan for all of us, we decided on an eight days trip to make sure we have time for things.
The trip started early as our flight on Delta is scheduled at 6:55 am.
And Delta beats Singapore Airline hands-down. They have HBO (I caught Silicon Valley for the first time. It is incredibly funny), unlimited beverages and snacks, better food and…wait for it… Starbucks coffee!
Well, there’s not barista to make the fancy kind for you. Just brew of the day which is good enough for me.
Let The Coldness Begin
We were checking in on the weather before the trip and knew it would hover around 8-degree celsius. But we didn’t know what to make of it.
It didn’t take us long to find out as we step out of the airport.
By the time we arrived, it was already late 2 pm (factoring in the time difference).
We took a speed train from the airport to Shinjuku. That took a good 90 minutes and cost us around ¥7,000.
I heard about how punctual the trains are in Japan, but the awe sets in when you get to experience it.
They would set off and arrive exactly the minute it was forecast. We had the opportunity to be in the front cabin once, and you could see the train captain doing safety gesture, talking to himself to ensure everything is on track (no pun intended).
The best part is you get views like these.
We alighted near Takashimaya and was ushered to this fantastic night view.
Our rumbling tummies were screaming out to us in Japanese. We headed to the first eating joint we could find.
The food was okay. We should have picked the one next door where a short line obstructed the entrance.
Nonetheless, the warm soup made us forget how cold it was.
After we had dropped our bags at the hotel, we went straight into an exploratory mode.
We found a lego uncle in Uniqlo
And giant crabs donning the frontage of building
You gotta love their vending machine selection.
The excitement was quickly replaced by fatigue from the commute. We decide to retire and shiver ourselves to bed.
But not before a bubble bath!
Day 2 – Kimono at Asakusa | Shibuya
The night before I did a search online to find out what a traditional Japanese breakfast looks like.
Apparently, it includes a mixture of Natto, rice and raw eggs.
We went to Matsuya to find this fix.
It made me miss my Joo Chiat roti prata even more.
Still, it’s Japan so nothing could dampen our spirit!
Onwards to Asakusa!
From what I know, Asakusa was once Tokyo’s largest pleasure district filled with gangsters, geisha, courtesans, writers, artists, actors and beggars.
Today, it is filled with tourists crowding around souvenir shops in front of the famous Sensoji.
So the missus had the bright idea of wearing their traditional outfit to walk around modern Asakusa.
Which is okay if it was freezing my nuts off.
I had seen the temple on TV before but to feel it is actually different.
The extremely scientific wife didn’t take long to have her life predicted by random sticks.
And immersing herself in the smoke of vitality
Before sticking paper litter on a fence.
A family picture to claim our flag to the place.
And how can you forget the ice cream to make sure the inside of your body is at the same temperature as outside.
Before my nipples fell off, it’s 4 pm and we need to return our dresses.
After a quick change of clothes, we headed to Shibuya for our dinner.
Shibuya is most famous for the multi-direction pedestrian crossing that turned green all at the same time.
It makes for some massive human visual effects.
Another underwhelming dinner, I’m glad we manage to chance upon this yakitori place.
A bit hefty at ¥500 per stick but it is bigger than what you can usually get elsewhere as well.
Something else that I learned too is that people there generally don’t walk and eat.
It is considered rude and inappropriate so for stalls like this; you stand outside to eat.
Which also make sense since they provide trash bin, a rare item in any part of Tokyo.
Steps taken: 15,760
Day 3 – Ichiran Ramen | Pokemon Center | Sky Circus
After a day of meh meals, I can’t wait to get my hands on some of their excellent stuff.
We headed to Ichiran Ramen for that.
They have some outlets around Tokyo and opens 24 hours.
I had the impression that if a place doesn’t close, the food must be ordinary. I am so wrong.
The interesting bit about Ichiran is not just the ordering of your food via a kiosk, but that you could barely see the waiting staffs.
They operate behind the rows of cramped seats and transact with you through the hole in front of you.
If you need extras, just fill up a piece of order sheet and press the bell to alert them.
This has gotta be the best Ramen I ever had. The soup is aromatic, yet it doesn’t taste overpowering (read: MSG).
After breakfast, we slowly make our way to Pokemon Center.
Although the wall colour of their buildings is very bland, they more than make it up with the colourful signages.
The Pokemon Center we headed to is situated at Sunshine City in Ikebukuro.
We had the impression it is some theme park place.
But it is just a flagship boutique with all things Pokemon.
Kyan went crazy over this Pokemon called Lunala.
From soft toys to mugs to pencils, whatever you want they have it in a Pokemon version.
You would think that the Pokemon hype is dying but the crowd proves otherwise.
We also came across this place called the Sky Circus. It is on level 60 of Sunshine City.
Our original intention is to check out Tokyo Tower. But since this is just beside us, why not.
I would best describe the place as a post-modern abstract circus floating in the sky exhibition.
It gives a bird’s eye view of the surrounding – which is typical of Tokyo regardless of which part you are.
They have things to teach kids about lightning, water, the wind, that kind of stuff.
This is their favourite as they try to strike each other with lightning.
We grab a late lunch at Asakusa Tokyo.
Before heading back to out hotel.
Dinner was uneventful, but we did chance upon a good tea joint.
We also bought supper from Takashimaya. They have significant discounts just before their closing to clear all the freshly prepared foods.
Food quality is pretty decent too.
Steps taken: 24,837
Day 4 – Cupnoodles Museum | Calbee+ | Sanchome no Yuta yakitori
Our day started with a burger breakfast – freshness burger to be exact.
I was quite a fan of them when the first outlet opened in Century Square Tampines.
But unlike MOS burger, they didn’t last long in the market.
We proceeded to the train station and headed towards Minatomirai station.
Compared to Shinjuku or Shibuya, the area around Minatomirai station feels like a dead town.
And it is next to the sea which makes the unbearable chills even worst.
The journey from the station to the museum took us about 15 minutes on foot.
You would probably know that instant noodles are invented in Japan but did you know that the invention came from a single person?
That is Mr Momofuku Ando
In it, you witness a massive wall of the different instant noodles they came up with since the very beginning.
They even made a replica of his house when he first started, toiling every day trying to figure out instant noodles.
They even made instant noodle into a beautiful display piece.
And if you are curious about the exact date instant noodle was invented
They also have a trick eye room which is cool.
The highlight of the place would be making your cupnoodle.
Not the thing inside but at least the container.
Here’s what the kids did for theirs.
Then you get to choose the ingredients that go into your cup before it gets sealed up like a regular cup noodle.
The place also has an impressive view of the sea.
We had some snacks around the area before heading down to get some Calbee+.
It’s located around Harajuku area and took us a while as we pause every few seconds to verify our route on Google maps.
The place sells every variety of potato chips and strips you can think so.
Chocolate potato chip, Macha potato chips, and whatever else you can think so.
We sent the kids back to the hotel before heading out again to grab some yakitori.
Fortunately, we found this place and the food there is awesome.
The chef will decide what to cook. You just eat. But oh man was it good.