Two Weeks in Tokyo, Japan Winter Wonderland



Table of Content
1.     Where to stay in Tokyo
2.     SIM and Pasmo Card
3.     A Week in Tokyo
3.1 Odaiba  (Highlights: Toyosu Fish Market, Rainbow Bridge, Fuji Television Building, DiverCity)
3.2 Ryogoku, Sumida, Asakusa (Highlights: Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo Skytree, Senso-ji Temple, Kappabashi Dōgu-gai)
3.3  DisneySea
3.4 Tsukiji, Ginza, Shimbashi (Highlights: Tsukiji Fish Market, Nakagin Capsule Tower, Uniqlo Ginza, Itoya)
3.5 Harajuku, Shibuya, Naka-Meguro, Roppongi (Highlights: Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Takeshita Street, Omote-sando Hills, Shibuya Scramble, Meguro River, Roppongi Hills)
3.6 Chiyoda, Shinjuku (Highlights: Imperial Palace, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Omoide Yokocho, Kabukicho Ichibangai, Shinjuku Golden Gai)
3.7 Yanesen, Ueno, Akihabara (Highlights: Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, Kayaba Coffee, Ameyoko, 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan)

4.    6 Days 5 Nights out of Tokyo (Highlights: Daio Wasabi Farm, Matsumoto Castle, Shirakawago, Kawaguchiko Lake, Mt. Fuji, Hakone Open-Air Museum, Yokohama)


Beginning the year of 2019 ‘officially’ after the Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration, we looked back in gratitude for having the privilege to visit our 4th country in 2018 for winter in Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures. We got to witness the winter illumination that lit up the city, the snowfall, and the bustling crowd during their New Year’s holiday.

From the buzzing streets to quiet commute, the ancient temples to futuristic architectures, minimal aesthetics and the spirit of Zen, to mega discount chain store with cluster of products, Tokyo embraces all kinds of its contrast.

We travelled in a considerably large group of 19 people in our family. In order to better coordinate the group, we requested a guide to plan our day trips out of the city, while we took charge of our own program in Tokyo. I have consolidated both the places we managed to go and others that I missed out within Tokyo. Some were unfortunately closed during New Year’s holiday.

Below is the sequence I personally think best for each day if it aligns with your interest. However, there’s never a one-guide fits all and I hope this serves as a helpful overview for your plan.

1. Where to stay in Tokyo

Hotel

Super Hotel Ueno-Okachimachi

Super Hotel Ueno-Okachimachi provided us a comfortable stay, adequate space for a room for two, and without a doubt, an excellent service. On a side note, their bathroom is rather small and some people who have taller and bigger body size may find it hard to move around. The hotel provides not only the basic amenities and toiletries such as comb, towel, toothbrushes, pajamas, they even have a variety of pillows to choose from, and pamper ladies with face masks, body relaxing sheets, all sorts of hair, facial and body products.

Their breakfast is decent and healthy. The hotel is close by to Ueno and Okachimachi station, with close walking distance to places such as Ameyoko market and Akihabara. There are plenty of vibrant food streets around the area too.

Hotel Villa Fontaine Tokyo-Kayabacho

Hotel Villa Fontaine Tokyo-Kayabacho has a much more spacious room and bathroom compared to Super Hotel Ueno-Okachimachi. Basic amenities and toiletries are well provided. The nearest Subway station is Kayabacho and it’s only a 5-mins walking distance away. As compared to Super Hotel Ueno-Okachimachi, the surrounding of this hotel is much quieter.

This hotel provides free shuttle bus service to Tokyo station, which you can then take the bus or the train to the airport.

Airbnb

Arakawa-ku

The Airbnb we stayed in is within 5-minutes walking distance to Mikawashima Station, in the quaint neighbourhood of Arakawa-ku. I wouldn’t really suggest staying in this area as I feel it’s less convenient to travel into the city. Regardless, it was fun that all 14 of us could fit in to their local 3-floor terrace house although the space was rather packed. 3-floor terrace house sounds like a promising bungalow, but be reminded to place all your hopes down and do not expect too much.

Let me share a little with you on the layout of the house. There is only a narrow alleyway at the side of the house to access the main door. The first floor was mainly used as a car garage facing the main road. Upon entering the door, you’ll find a bedroom on your left that fits two queen-sized beds with limited walking space, and an attached bathroom.

On the right from the entrance, it’s a narrow staircase that fits only one person going up and down at a single time, leading you straight to the kitchen and the dining space on the second floor. You’ll be able to see all the way to the end of the second floor if you open up all the sliding doors, where you’ll find a makeshift communal space with tatami-mat, wooden table, and a floor mattress, which is where my partner and I slept in. Towards the end is another bedroom that fits only one queen-sized bed, with nothing else in it. You couldn’t even fit a medium-sized luggage laying flat on the ground for that room. Most of the time I get changed in the huge wardrobe in the “room” we were in. But being at the center of the entire floor, privacy is the last thing you’ll ever think about.

Walking to the third floor, you’ll first see the toilet, and on the right you’ll find some sort of a living room with a TV, but we used it as a bedroom that fits only one single mattress on the floor. And there’s another bathroom that’s separated from the toilet, leading to another room that has two queen-sized beds, again with very little walking space, connecting the balcony where the washing machine is. A couple of days staying in this old terrace building is nevertheless a unique and personal experience, it’s good for bonding because there’s nowhere else to linger and hide.

2. SIM and Pasmo Card

To maximize our trip, we bought DoCoMo’s 15Days 4GTLE + Unlimited Data SIM card on Singapore Qoo10’s website for SGD35 per person.

Both Suica and Pasmo reloadable transport cards can be used to take the bus and train around Tokyo and they work the same. We opted for Pasmo card and got the full refund upon returning the card on the last day before we flew off from Narita Airport.
The differences between Suica and Pasmo card can be read here.

3. A Week in Tokyo


3.1
Day 1 – Odaiba

Toyosu Wholesale Fish Market – Rainbow Bridge – Aqua City – Fuji Television Building – DiverCity Tokyo Plaza – Palette Town – Hibiya Park Christmas Market

We bought the Odaiba One-Day Pass first thing in the morning at Shimbashi Station that will enable us unlimited journeys on the Yurikamome. More details can be found on their official website by clicking this link.


Our first stop was the Toyosu Wholesale Fish Market. The tuna auction is open for public viewing from 15th Jan 2019 onwards. The new market is extremely clean and polished, a rather sterile space as compared to Tsukiji Fish Market. The entire area however is undeniably more spacious and comfortable, guaranteeing a pleasant viewing and shopping experience.



We had lunch in Aqua City Shopping Centre and walked around the compound area with Odaiba Statue of Liberty and Rainbow Bridge in sight.  You may plan to come back after sunset to enjoy the lights illuminated along the Rainbow Bridge.


The “Hachitama” Spherical Observation Room in Fuji Television Building is located on the 25th floor where you can enjoy a 360 Degree panoramic view of the Tokyo Waterfront area via a paid entrance. We decided to only take a photo of the distinctive building from the outside and we moved on to DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.




The huge Unicorn Gundam statue stands at 19.7 meters tall at DiverCity Tokyo Plaza. When we arrived there, the Gundam was in Unicorn mode, marked by a white frame with a single antenna. After my husband shopped in Gundam Base Tokyo on the seventh floor of DiverCity, we came out to find it in Destroy mode, where its frame expands and was emitting green and yellow lightsThe Unicorn Gundam changes at 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, and 17:00, and with some night shows happening every 30 minutes from 19:30 till 21:30.




From there we walked further to Palette Town, visiting Venus Fort Shopping Mall briefly and into Toyota Mega Web, a hands-on car showroom and amusement park. We engaged with some of their interactive designs and technology and that was our last stop in Odaiba.

You may consider checking out Oedo-Onsen Monogatari, an Edo Period themed hot spring for the evening. For more activities to do in Odaiba, there’s also the Takoyaki Museum, Tokyo Ramen Kokugikan Mai, Mori Building Digital Art Museum, Museum of Maritime Science, National Museum of emerging Science, Ferris Wheel, Leisureland, Tokyo Big Sight, Panasonic Centre and more.


As the Yurikamome leads us back to Shimbashi station, we went straight for Ichiran Ramen just a couple of minutes walk away from the station for dinner.  Right after that, we pop by the seasonal and German-inspired Hibiya Park Christmas Market, with stalls selling mostly foreign cuisine and some exquisite crafts and ornaments. With our full stomach we only went for hot mulled wine to warm the night. If you’re visiting during the season, you should definitely check out at least one of their many Christmas Markets.


Tokyo puts serious efforts in winter illumination and one of their best would be Caretta Shiodome Illumination. The display lasts till Valentines Day, with theme inspired by Disney and Pixar films. Be sure to check where all their illuminations are if you are up for the light-up events.  

3.2
Day 2 – Ryogoku, Sumida, Asakusa

Ryogoku Kokugikan – Tokyo Skytree, World Beer Museum – Sumida Park – Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center – Kaminarimon – Nakamise Dori Shopping Street – Senso-ji Temple – Suzukien – Nishi-sandō Shopping Street – Hoppy Street – Homemade Pancakes Benitsuru – Kappabashi Dōgu-gai (Kitchenware Street)

To access the sumo stable for their early-morning training session, you’ll need to book a tour accompanied by Japanese speaker. Alternatively, you can visit Ryogoku district and check out their Chanko hot pot for a sumo meal, or a quick visit to the Kokugikan Stadium and the free sumo museum next to it. 




We went to see Tokyo Skytree building up close. The tickets for Tembo Deck (Floor 350) and Tembo Galleria (Floor 450) are sold separately. Here’s the link to it.

The World Beer Museum offers an international selection of beers for tasting and their menu states an estimate of 1,500 JPY for lunch while 4,000 JPY for dinner.

If you are up for walking, you can take a stroll and picnic in Sumida Park along the river. This park is also known for its cherry blossom attractions.



The Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center has a free observation deck and café on the 7th floor, a building you’ll definitely not miss, as it is right opposite of Kaminarimon.

We ate at Tempura Tendon Tenya in Asakusa, a tempura chain store that offers budget-friendly and good tempura rice bowls. The slices of vegetables and fresh seafood are thinly fried, with a generous portion of rice, udon or soba at your selection. Highly recommended for a simple, hearty, and affordable meal.




Thereafter, it started drizzling and we had to walk through the crowd and umbrellas all along Nakamise Dori Shopping Street, reaching Senso-ji temple at the end of it.



If you are a fan of matcha-flavoured desserts, do not miss visiting Suzukien Asakusa for their matcha premium No.7 gelato. This is the richest I have ever tasted, with just a slight taste of bitterness. We even bought a box of chocolate that offers the wide range of matcha from the lightest No.1 to the most intense No.7, with additional hojicha-flavoured chocolate.


Few minutes walk away, you’ll come across Nishi-sandō Shopping Street, an Ukiyo-e inspired wooden shopping arcade. We went in to check out some souvenirs, and my partner wanting to buy samurai swords from one of the shops.






Hoppy Street is lined with old-fashioned Japanese style bars that offer cheap food and drinks. The shops open all-day for any hungry tourist to have a drink and soak in the atmosphere of old-town Tokyo.

Another Asakusa backstreet food to satisfy your sweet tooth would be Homemade Benitsuru, known for their fluffy pancakes served with eggs and bacon, or as simple as with honey and butter.

We reached Kappabashi Dōgu-gai (Kitchenware Street) when many of the shops have already closed at around 4-5pm. We managed to visit the remaining shops that sell plastic and wax food samples, cooking utensils, wooden and ceramic bowls, pans and many more.


Depending on your pace and selection of places, you could also visit Ueno on the same day as Asakusa. I would suggest not rushing through, as there are a couple of places to visit in Ueno itself and could be better and practical to split them into two days.

3.3
Day 3 – DisneySea










Regardless of which day you’re planning your visit to DisneySea, it’s important you reach as early as you can. Our cousins booked the entrance tickets online and printed them out prior to the visit. Before that, you should also have an overview of what the park offers, what are the rides you shouldn’t miss and plan for which FastPass to get the minute you enter. You can only get one FastPass ticket for every 2 hours in DisneySea.

We went straight to queue for Journey to the Center of the Earth for our FastPass. And in that 2 hours, we went for other rides, watch the opening show, planning the whole time to maximize our time and deciding the other FastPasses to go for. Some of the FastPasses are only available till certain timing; it’s best you download the Disney app to check the waiting time for each ride and the closing time for FastPass.

We visited on a Sunday, and you can already imagine how bad the crowd gets. The rain also caused some rides to not fully operate, and the queue went up to 3-3.5 hours for the famous ones. We decided to take a break from queuing and just walk around. Generally, go during non-peak days to have a better experience. I know I don’t sound very excited talking about this, but that shouldn’t stop you from revisiting our childhood dream and fantasies about Disney stories and characters in both DisneySea and Disneyland.

3.4
Day 4 – Tsukiji Chuo-ku, Ginza, Shimbashi

Tsukiji Fish Market – Hamarikyu Gardens – Nakagin Capsule Tower – Don Quijote@Ginza – Kabukiza Theatre – Ginza Six, Ginza Tsutaya Book Store – Uniqlo Ginza – Itoya Fukumimi Ginza/Gyoza Gaudi/Gado-shita

Be an early bird for Tsukiji Fish Market. We got there at 10am and the alleys were extremely packed, to an extent where everyone is completely standing still, full body attached with others all around you. And you don’t need to do the walking; the crowd will somehow push you through. You can call it an experience, but to me, it would have been more pleasant and less stressful. There are many reviews out there on which stall to eat but the fact is, when faced with the crowd, and without familiarizing yourself on each location and map, it is hard to be specific. I brought along a whole long list of what-to-eat but had to discard the idea quickly and be more spontaneous and flexible about it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the standing sushi-bar that fits only 4 at a time that my friend has recommended, the skewers and scallops, all the savory bites, seeing and hearing the seafood auctions happening in some stalls, the packing and unpacking of seafood. Everything about the chaos and the rawness to it draws me wanting to visit Tsukiji again, much more than Toyosu Fish Market.






During cherry blossom season, you may visit Hamarikyu Garden, which is only 15 mins walk from Tsukiji Fish Market. I have heard a lot about Nakagin Capsule Tower and had wanted to see it with my own eyes especially when the risk of it being demolished is said to be nearing. There are private tours to visit the interior of the building if you are keen. Our group only stood outside of the retro-futuristic building, all wondering how the structure was assembled.


The shopping officially starts during our first stop in Don Quijote, Ginza. We did our research in products we are aiming to get for comparison in the next few days. From there we walked to Kabukiza Theatre, and to Ginza Six mainly to visit Tsutaya Book Store, known as “The World’s Best Art Bookstore”. I honestly think for anyone who loves both art and books should spare half a day here, visit the exhibitions, slowly browse through the selection of books, enjoy a sip of coffee at Starbucks and read a random book or magazine displayed on the table.






If you love both sake and ramen, go for Ginza Kazami, where they serve sake-broth in ramen bowls tucked away and hidden in a small alley.

Since the winter sale is up, we walked all 12th floors of Uniqlo Ginza and bought some winter clothing. But let me mind you, some of them could end up cheaper when there’s a promotion out of Japan (for us we compared with Singapore outlets). And especially the after winter sales, it is even way cheaper than the discounted price when in Japan.


GU Ginza is only a few doors beside Uniqlo. I recommend checking out this local Japanese brand. The clothing are pretty much similar, except that I realized some are cheaper than Uniqlo at discounted price too. More importantly is the chances of you wearing the same winter wear could be minimized since GU is only available in Japan.

We also visited Itoya, a 100-year old stationery shop, with 12 floors for you to slowly browse through their amazing variations of papers, notebooks and pen, delicate crafts, fancy ribbons, stickers etc., a true haven for stationery lovers.


We were there in time for Fukubukuro, and I do think if you have a particular brand in mind, cosmetics and accessories you want to get, go visit those stores in the morning and grab those Fukubukuro bags before they are gone. For more shopping in Ginza district, you may visit Ginza Wako, Tokyu Plaza Ginza, Mitsukoshi, Matsuya, Marronnier Gate.

We came across Fukumimi Ginza, and were extremely delighted by the great service, food and ambience. We had a matcha-flavoured beer, seared vinegar mackerel, Japanese cod roe omelet, and pork belly skewers, rice cake with sliced pork and cheese. I do recommend coming here earlier as some skewers were sold out by the time we get there at around 7-8pm.







If you are a fan of gyoza, Gyoza Gaudi in Shimbashi nightlife district offers gyoza from 15 different flavors. Alternatively, you can visit Gado-shita (means “below the girder (steel beam)” in Yurakucho district, where plenty of restaurants and bars built into the brick arches below the Yamanote Line for late-night drinks.

3.5
Day 5 – Shibuya, Harajuku
With
 (Option 1) Ebisu, Daikanyama, Naka-Meguro
 (Option 2: Roppongi)

Meiji Jingū (Shrine) – Yoyogi Park – Takeshita Street, Harajuku – Gyukatsu Kyotokatsugyu – Gomaya Kuki – Dominique Ansel Bakery, Omote-sando Hills – Tokyu Plaza Omote-sando – Mega Don Quijote Shibuya – Magnet by Shibuya 109 – LE PAIN de Joël Robuchon/Boul’ange


Start a relaxing morning walk in Meiji Shrine. If you are there in the first days of the New Year, or any other shrines, you’ll find locals and visitors going for the year’s first prayers (hatsumode). On other days, you may be able to witness the traditional Shinto weddings taking place. Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks and you could have barbeques and picnics there as well. During the weekends, it is said that the park usually has events that will keep you entertained.

Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) will definitely already be in your list-to-go by now. You will find fashion boutiques, crepe and cotton-candy stands, owl café, cat café, Mame-Shiba café, discount chain store, fast-food and food courts. I bought Zaku Zaku’s cream puff stick and it was absolutely tasty. The warm crust on the outside is crunchy but not too hard, the cream custard on the inside is both soft and rich.



Our meal in Gyukatsu Kyotokatsugyu was also greatly pleasing. The set meals aren’t too pricy and it comes with a generous portion of salad, sauce, and side dishes to go with the beef cutlets. And their beef cutlets taste just as good whichever way you want to eat it with.


For sushi on conveyor belt, Heiroku Sushi was a palatable and affordable meal. Do not miss out Gomaya Kuki’s Black Sesame ice cream. Earlier before this, we had a taste of the very rich matcha gelato in Asakusa, I was eager to have a taste of what the reviews suggests as “the world’s most flavorful black sesame ice cream”. It was very unfortunate for me as the shop was closed for a couple of days in New Years and this surely is one of my regrets till now.

Ditch your low-carb diet for a while and visit Dominique Ansel Bakery at Omotesando. Dominique Ansel is an award-winning French pastry chef and the Omotesando bakery is the chain’s first international store. We had the advantage of coming as a group and trying out as much pastries as we wanted, from Frozen S’mores, Cronuts, Paris-Tokyo Cake, Perfect Little Egg Sandwich and more. To us, the croissant wasn’t really the best, but the rests are delectable. Be there earlier as this is a popular spot for locals too and the pastries may be sold out earlier than its closing time.



Tokyu Plaza Omote-sando standouts with its grand mirrored entrance, and there’s also a sixth-floor rooftop terrace area where locals rest and hang out. If you’re planning to shop everything at one-go, you could visit the Mega Don Quijote in Shibuya, the biggest of its store in Japan. I don’t know about you but I get mental and visual fatigue in the aftermath.

It’s fun to see how people take tourist photos at the Shibuya Scramble. Some ran and lied down on the ground, some jumped, and some are like us, crossing 5-6 times just to capture some motion lapse videos. The deck at Magnet by Shibuya 109 is where you can get a taller bird’s-eye view of the scramble intersection. Otherwise, you can join the crowd in Starbucks and have your own sweet time taking photos and videos too.

LE PAIN de Joël Robuchon in Shibuya and Boul’ange provides quality pastries and a foodie friend of mine has particularly commented the croissant from Boul’ange being one of their favorites. 

If time allows, you can explore further south to Ebisu, Daikanyama, and Naka-Meguro. Here are some places you can look into. 

Option 1:
Ebisu, Daikanyama, Naka-Meguro

Afuri Ebisu – Tsutaya Books Daikanyama – Wagyumafia The Cutlet Sandwich – Meguro River Cherry Blossoms Promenade Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

If you are not overdosed with ramen yet, you may check out Afuri in Ebisu. What’s different here is you can order yuzu-tsuyu tsukemen and vegan ramen.

After that, you could easily spend your afternoon at Daikanyama T-SITE where both Tsutaya Books and a garden are housed here. Tsutaya Books has an area where a wide selection of magazines from around the world is available to be browsed through, and a lounge area for coffee or alcohol to rest and read. There’s also a specialty shop for pet supplies, a toy store, and a camera shop.

Wagyumafia The Cutlet Sandwich in Naka-Meguro serves gyu-katsu sandwiches and the prices can range from 1000JPY for the minced version, better cuts going up to 5000JPY for Zabuton Sando and Waygu Fillet Sando for 10000JPY. The most costly on the list is the Kobe Beef Shabu Sando at 20000JPY. Yes, this probably is going to be the most extravagant sandwich you have ever tasted. We gave it a miss this time, but that doesn’t mean we will not take a chance next time round.

Meguro River is another popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo. Half day here sounds just nice to visit these 3 districts and you can consider visiting the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum to top it off.

Option 2:
Roppongi and Akasaka

Mori Art Museum Tokyo Midtown Tokyo Tower – Akasaka Palace – Hedgehog Café HARRY – Hie Shrine

If you’re visiting the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills, it is best you spare also half a day for the museum and for the observation deck. We noticed a long queue going up to the observation deck mostly to catch the sunset view, and I do recommend you going earlier if you’re not catching any exhibitions.




Meanwhile, if you have someone visiting the museum and you’re not that keen, you can choose to visit Tokyo Midtown, Tokyo Tower and Zozoji Temple (with Tokyo Tower in sight).

Akasaka is only one-metro stop away where you’ll find Akasaka Palace, Hedgehog Café HARRY, and Hie Shrine with the red torii gates stairs.

3.6
Day 6 – Chiyoda, Shinjuku

Imperial Palace – Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – Lunch@Tachi Sushi Yokocho/Himawari Zushin Shintoshin – Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane/Piss Alley) – Kabukicho Ichibangai – Shinjuku Golden Gai

The Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to public throughout the year, but if you’re there on 2nd January (New Year’s Greeting) and 23rd December (Emperor’s Birthday), you’ll get the chance to enter the inner palace grounds and possibly see the members of the Imperial Family. Whichever season you’re visiting Tokyo, take time for Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has an observation deck with free admission from 202 meters above the ground and you may spot Mt. Fuji on a clear day. We originally planned to go for Himawari Zushin for sushi off the conveyor belt, but it was again closed on New Year’s Day, and we stumbled upon Tachi Sushi Yokocho. The downside is their translated menu in English has limited options, but their sushi were very fresh and tasteful, in a friendly and nice ambience where the chef prepare all your orders on the spot and serve altogether.


Omoide Yokocho probably is best experienced in the evenings till midnight where you can savor yakitori (skewers) and have a drink in the small bars that fits mostly 5-10 people.

Kabukicho Ichibangai is known to be “the town that never sleeps”, with gleaming neon signs of restaurants, bars, karaoke parlors, and bars along the streets.  The Godzilla’s head statue is also around the corner.

Most bars in Shinjuku Golden Gai open from 9pm onwards, explore the six alleys but take note of shops that only allow locals to drink and dine in.

3.7
Day 7 – Yanesen, Ueno, Akihabara

Nezu Shrine – Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street – Ueno Sakuragi Atari – SCAI The Bathhouse – Kayaba Coffee – Hakubutsukan-Dobutsuen Station (till 24th Feb 2019) Ameyoko Takeya 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan – 3331 Arts Chiyoda – Akihabara

Yanesen consists of three areas, Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi, a neighbourhood that still captures the atmosphere of old Ueno and escape the hustle of the city. One of the oldest shrines in Tokyo, Nezu Shrine, also has a smaller version of the tori gate tunnel, which resembles the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.  The three other nearby shrines such as Tennoji, Kannon-ji Temple and Yushima Tenjin Shrine are known to each have unique landscape of greeneries, ancient trees, oldest standing mud wall, and ume (Japanese plum) garden. Walk down the memory lane of Yanaka Ginza shopping street to trace the marks of yesteryears.

There’s also a collection of three houses in Ueno Sakuragi Atari, all built in 1938 during the Showa Era, now house Yanaka Beer Hall, Kayaba Bakery, an event space, and OshiOlive that sells gourmet salt and olive oil.

SCAI The Bathhouse used to be a public bathhouse, now run as a contemporary art gallery. If you are café-hopping, don’t miss out Kayaba Coffee since 1938, a family-run coffee shop in the wooden house that dates back to the year 1916.

Hakubutsukan-Dobutsuen Station is an abandoned subway station and it is now open to the public only till 24th February 2019, between 11a.m.- 4p.m. on Fridays and weekends.

For museums-goer, there is also the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, The Ueno Royal Museum and many more.

If you have not gotten any fresh seafood from Tsukiji Fish Market, you may look for them in Ameyoko market. We found the cheapest deal for Kit Kats in one of the shops along the market, and you may also drop by at Takeya discount departmental store (main branch in Okachimachi) or Takeya Select nearby for more shopping. They do not have as many products as Don Quijote, but if you have something specific in mind and have the time to make comparisons, and in our case we managed to buy items that are cheaper here than any other stores.

2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan lies underneath the elevated railway tracks featuring all sorts of artisanal shops, studios, galleries, and cafes. And just 5 minutes walk away, there’s the 3331 Arts Chiyoda serving as an arts hub for arts and crafts practitioner to express and create in an open expanse for the public to enjoy, communicate, and be inspired.

Akihabara is the wonderland for the tech lovers and anime geeks. Frankly speaking, we didn’t find the electronics there to be particularly cheap. All in all, it’s my least preferred district, a result of not being too keen towards the Otaku culture.

If you’re interested to go out of the way to check out some other quirky and interesting places, here’s some of them!

Shakaden Reiyukai Temple, a building similar to something out of Star Trek, opens to the public and offer free Japanese lessons for foreigners. There’s also a reservoir that contains 400 tons of drinking water to be used during emergencies.

Anata No Warehouse, an arcade that replicates Hong Kong Kowloon Walled City.

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, dedicated to showcase preserved buildings of the late Edo period.

Pigment, an art supply store with 4200 pigments and 200 brushes!

Kawagoe Starbucks Coffee Kawagoe Kanetsuki Dori, fitting into Saitama’s ‘Little Edo’, a combination of traditional and modern outlet with designs reflecting the Japanese culture and elements.

Arimasuton Building, a concrete residential building that was built without any blueprint and was assembled solely by its owner, Oka who is a first-class registered architect.

  
4.    6 Days 5 Nights out of Tokyo

The surrounding prefectures each give a fuller picture of Japan in its diversified landscape. With their old, rustic wooden houses, towns with their distinct personality and specialty, all of which I personally feel do not risk losing its charm in the modern times.

We were constantly on the move for a total of 6 days and 5 nights. Our guide planned the following itinerary and we had little to no control over it. Most of the time I sit back with the least expectation awaiting for surprises. While not all places captured my interests, you may read on to find out where we went.

Day 1
Yamanashi Prefectural Maglev Exhibition Centre – Sasaichi Sake Brewery@Otsuki-shi – Daio Wasabi Farm – Overnight@Richmond Hotel Matsumoto










Day 2
Matsumoto Castle – Takayama Sanmachi Street – Hida Kokubun-ji Temple and surrounding area – Overnight@Hida Hotel Plaza Takayama





















Day 3
Shirakawago – Food Replica Workshop@Sample Kobo, Gujo-Hachiman – Overnight@Hida Hotel Plaza Takayama







Day 4
Miyagawa Morning Market – Kawaguchiko lake – Mt. Fuji – Oshino Hakkai – Toki no Sumika Slow House Villas








Day 5
Hakone Open-Air Museum – Gotemba Premium Outlet – Toki no Sumika Slow House Villas






Each dome in Toki no Sumika has a huge bear!

View of our dome and Mt. Fuji

Day 6
Ōwakudani – Hakone Ropeway – Yokohama Chinatown – Ramen Museum










Even though cost remains a major drawback in visiting Japan, and even though I have experienced the country in three different occasions and in multiple cities, therein remains my anticipation to ski in Hokkaido/Nagano one day. I honestly can’t wait to see for myself the fluffiest snow everyone has told me about!

Thanks for reading!



Cheers,
Christabel



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