Trivia #1: Before Tokyo, it was Edo – it became the capital city of Japan in the middle of the 19th century.
Trivia #2: Vending machines are everywhere in Tokyo – some sell really peculiar items!
Trivia #3: The title of the largest and busiest seafood wet market in the world goes to Tsukiji.
We started off in Ueno, a busy area oozing with shopping and cultural delights. For starters, Ueno is fairly comprehensive, and dotted with a lot of cafes, art galleries and museums.
If you ever visit Tokyo during the cherry blossom season (hanami), you definitely should include Ueno Park in your itinerary. After all, Ueno Park is the first and the oldest park with a lot of historic significance. But do mentally prepare yourself for the massive crowd as Ueno Park is hugely popular with both the locals as well as tourists. You’ve been warned:)
From Ueno, we took the train to Ochanomizu, an area that is famous for its assortment of specialty street shops ranging from sports to high-end guitars. Interestingly, ‘Ochanomizu’ means ‘tea water’ in Japanese, and we learnt from Google that a shogun in the Edo period loved its local green tea immensely so it was named as such. We later learnt that it was made from the spring water nearby. Neat.
Takeshita Street, Harajuku (Tokyo).
Takeshita Street (also known as Takeshita-dori) remains one of the busiest shopping belts in Tokyo for the latest street fashion, quirky side cafes and psychedelic eats. Amazing crowd, amazing vibes. And so kawaii. Oh, be warned – weekends ARE crazy at Takeshita Street!
Once you’re done with stuffing yourselves silly with yummy-licious snacks, hipster tees and vintage accessories, do consider to drop by the famed Meiji Shrine for a touch of Japanese zen amidst the forest.
Harajuki Owl Forest Cafe (Fukuro no Mori):
Japan never ceases to amaze me. Well, it appears that one of the latest cafe rage is…Owl cafes! To be frank, after a few days of foot exploration in the packed Tokyo streets, it was quite a welcoming change when we stepped into this owl cafe we spotted – quite therapeutic, even!
Located in the heart of Harajuku right on the famous shopping strip, Takeshita street, we paid the beautiful and mysterious nocturnal birds a visit after endless shopping and snacking. For a fee of 680 yen each, we entered the magical world of these nocturnal birds.
Gentle, atmospheric lighting and a stream of soft background music greeted us when we first stepped in. It’s more like a walk-through trail where the cafe is lined with artificial trees and you embark on your little adventure to interact with the feathered residents. We patted the heads of some of them and found that they are definitely friendly! There were some owls which look grumpy or even stern. I find them comical actually:)
However, do bear in mind that owls are sensitive creatures, so do be gentle, refrain from dishing any sudden movements or noise, please. And remember to wash your hands thoroughly first – you certainly don’t want to stain their heads with your greasy hands from snacking at Takeshita Street. Upon leaving the cafe, if you’re game for more animal interaction, you can check out Bengal Cat’s Forest for your next dose of animal therapy.
Cup Noodle Museum (who would have thought?):
Yeah, you got it right. Cup Noodles Museum by Nissin, the inventor of instant noodles. When we entered the museum, it was mind-boggling to know that there are actually so many different flavours of instant noodles this company has produced.
Also, I read that when founder Momofuku Ando created instant ramen, he originally wanted to end world hunger. It was on the fateful day in August 1945 that gave him the inspiration to invent ramen that could tide his people over (Japan was having serious issues of food shortages post WWII), hence, instant noodles was born in 1958, some years after Ando rebounded from his tumultuous corporate life.
We love how we can customise everything on our personal instant cup noodles – packaging (check out what we have drawn!), broth flavours and lot of ingredients for us to choose from.
After an eye opening moment at the Cup Noodle Museum, we had a good lunch around the area. Desserts were some Hawaiian malasada donuts at Leonard’s Bakery and ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Completely satisfying!
Below: Street buskers duo performing just outside Akihabara station in the evening
We visited the popular Gundam Cafe, which is about 2 minutes walk from the Akihabara station. We were pleasantly surprised with its efforts to reward the anime fan with lots of fan service essentials – the futuristic cafe design, gundamised food and while you’re there, do check out the toilet:) All you need to do is to push the button and you’ll be experiencing a Gundam startup with all its lighting and sound effects! Hardcore fans will be very pleased.
More cafe hopping – Pokemon cafe, Doraemon and Sanrio Rainbow World Restaurant. I think checking out these cutesy cafes brought out the kid in us! And anyway, it was pretty tough to resist the temptation to cart home the anime memorabilia, especially the exclusive stuff that can only be found in Japan! Looks like I gotta eat instant ramen for the rest of the month lol.
All in all, though this trip to Tokyo was a short one, we had a really fun time shopping, cafe hopping and wandering (including spotting stylishly bizarre street fashion in Akihabara). Tokyo is really big and immersive, and I think there’s something for everyone if you know where to look – food, culture, entertainment and with its quirks and all the cool stuff, how can one not love Japan?
We simply adore Japan:)
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