Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 8 - 2nd Day In Tokyo

(Above) Tokyo By Night
Rising early at 6am, we get a good washup and some hot green tea before we leave the hotel at 7am. Reaching Shinjuku station at 7.20am after a brisk walk, we will take the Oedo subway line (below) to Tsukijishijo Station.
It takes about 20 minutes and costs ¥ 260(SGD$4.11). We will walk out from exit A2 of the station and take 2 minutes to reach the famous Tsukiji market. The market derives it’s name ( which means "reclaimed land,") from the fact that it lies near the Sumida River on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay in the 1700s, during the Edo period.
(Above) Tsukiji Market
Tsukiji is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market opens most mornings except Sundays and holidays and some infrequent closing days within the week. There are two sections of the market – the inner market which is a licensed wholesale market where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls.

The outer market is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood, and many restaurants, especially sushi restaurants.
(Above) Sashimi and Sushi restaurant at the market
Most of the shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon, and in the inner market even earlier. The market is most busy between 5:30a.m. and 8:00 a.m., and the activity declines significantly afterwards. Many shops start to close around 11:00 a.m., and the market closes for cleaning around 1:00 p.m. Tourists may visit the market daily between 5.00 A.M. and 6:15 A.M. and watch the proceedings from a designated area.

We will have a Japanese sashimi breakfast (above) there at one of the outer market restaurants. Restaurants and eateries typically open from 5.00am and close between 12.00pm to 3.00pm. One thing though, keep a watch on your belongings as the market has been hit recently by a syndicate of pickpockets preying on tourists.

After breakfast, we will take a view of the market proceedings. There’s a lot of activities going on to capture your interest - men in black rubber boots rushing wheelbarrows and carts through the aisles; hawkers shouting for attention while whipping out their knives chopping and slicing. The aisles are filled with things you never dreamed were edible. This is a good place to for photo –taking. We are told that that the people working here burst with pride if you single them out for a photograph and there’s a always a ready soul willing to be the subject of your photographs.
One point to note is that being a wet market, the floors are wet, so don’t wear brand new fancy shoes there. Also keep a lookout for your safety as you wander around the market as it is a very busy area with trucks, forklifts, and small vehicles moving about.
(Above) Map of Ginza
We will leave the market by 9.30am and head back to the for Tsukijishijo Station to take a train to Ginza. Ginza is considered the high fashion centre of the Tokyo area and boasts an upscale shopping, dining and entertainment district, featuring numerous department stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and café. (Above) Ginza City
(Above) Unique architecture in expensive Ginza
It is said that one square meter of land in the district's center is worth more than ¥10 million(more than $SGD150 000), making it one of the most expensive real estate in Japan.If you bought an apartment similar to a new HDB 4 room flat, measuring about 86 square metres in Ginza, it would cost you $SGD12.9 million dollars.
(Above) Chanel Store in Ginza

It is where you can find the infamous $10 cups of coffee. From Tsukijisho Station, we will hop on a train to Shiodome station. From Shiodome station, we will take the Tokyo Metro Hibaya line to JR Shimbashi station reaching there slightly past 10.15am. We will then take a 10 minute walk to the Ginza shopping district.
Along the way, we will also take a stroll past Ginza Core, which is a collection of high end shops and eateries, and is a good place to view creative window shop displays. Walking up to the intersection of Chuo Dori and Harumi Dori is where the main Ginza shopping hub and Heart of Ginza is. The intersection of Chuo-dori and Harumi-dori is dominated by the glass cylinder facade of the San-ai Building(Below - Day and Night views). With its huge neon sign, it's a famous image of Ginza found on many postcards and travel books for decades now.

The other corners are occupied by Wako and Mitsukoshi, two of the most prestigious department stores. Wako departmental store is famous for its watches, jewellery, porcelain, dishware, and handbags, as well as foreign luxury goods. Mitsukoshi is owned by Isetan after a merger of the two departmental stores. A similar departmental store there is Matsuya, well known for introducing the concept of well designed gift wrapping and packages to Japanese shoppers. The Ginza store of the Mitsukoshi department store chain offers goods and services on twelve floors.
Opposite Matsuya is the Apple store (below) which is a haven for Apple fans as it showcases seven floors of Apple’s line of products, including a theatre which screens tutorials of apple products.
Other departmental stores there that we can drop by include the following :

Seibu Departmental Store
Located in the Yurakucho Marion Building, the Yurakucho store of the Seibu department store chain consists of nine floors, offering a wide array of fashion and accessories.

Ginza Wako
Built in 1932, the clock tower of the Ginza Wako building is the symbol of the Ginza, standing at the northwest corner of the district's centrally located junction of Chuo and Harumi Dori. Inside the building, jewelry and other luxury items are sold.

Sony Ginza
Sony Building on Sukiyabashi Crossing. The Sony Showroom has four floors of the latest Sony products, with a small shop on the 3rd floor. The building also houses a BMW showroom. The newest products by Sony, including DVD recorders, televisions, cameras, audio sets, mobile phones, computers and Play Station products, are displayed to the public in the showrooms in this building. There are also a few shops, restaurants and cafes.

The Ginza store of the Nagoya based Matsuzakaya department store chain offers goods and services on ten floors. Printemps
The Ginza store of the Paris based Printemps department store chain offers ten floors of fashion, accessories, wines, foods and restaurants . For lunch, we will head for a recommended good tasting and value for money café called Lois café. It offers trendy fusion cuisine, which allows us to take a break from Japanese food and sample something different in Japan. Lois café offers a unique mix of traditional Eastern dishes with a Western interpretation. Some recommended dishes include :
- Curry dishes like Masala curry at ¥1000
- Miss Saigon ( salad with cappellini and seasonal vegetables) at ¥1100
- Desserts like The Very Berry Parfait which has jelly, fresh fruits and ice cream in it or Sesame Chiffon cake(¥650)

The café is well known for having diners throughout the day and features a Southeast Asian theme, fused with avant garde lacquered tables and a charming floor with pebbles and glass boxes where decorative items are encased in. Lois café is located at Ginza Five Building, Basement 1F, 5-1 Ginza (03-3569-8905), and is opened for business from 11am-10pm daily.
We will then walk toward Yurachuko Station where the Central Tokyo Disneyland Ticket Centre is located. We plan to purchase in advance our tickets to Disneyland for the next day so that we don’t have to join the long queues at Tokyo Disneyland. We will purchase a 1 day pass each priced at ¥5800(SGD$91.40) which will allow us access to the park and most of it’s rides. We will also pickup some English language leaflets so that we can plan in advance our visit for the next day when we visit Disneyland.
After lunch, we will head back to Shimbashi station to take a train to Shibuya (Above). Shibuya is known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people, and as a major nightlife area. From Shibuya station, it’s shopping galore once again. Main places for my shopping princess - Gayle to conquer are :

Mark City
Departmental Store filled with 4 floors of women’s fashion, accessories, shoes.

Shibuya 109 Building
Shibuya 109 Building (ichimarukyū) shopping centre is filled with trendy clothing boutiques. It is very popular among young people, especially teens, and it is famous as the origin of the kogal subculture. Kogals are known for wearing platform boots, a miniskirt, copious amounts of makeup, hair coloring (usually blond), artificial suntans, and designer accessories.. You can also shop online at their Shibuya 109 website.

Marui Jam
Marui Jam is a department store aimed at women, with a wide collection of clothes, accessories, shoes and bags. There is a hair and nail salon on the top floor, while the 6th and 7th floor offers a wide range of sporting goods, yoga products and swimsuits. From Shibuya, we will make our way also down to Harajuku. Harajuku is famed for it’s Harajuku girls, dressed to their best in their Lolita or gothic fashion. In the afternoons at Harajuku, one will be able to see the cos-play-zoku youths(above) who will be out in their huge numbers The cos-play youths are always game for photography and will readily strike a pose for you in their unique costumes.Along the way, we will pass Omote-sando(above), which is a tree-lined shopping street filled with trendy fashion boutiques and shops plus cafes, some of which is towards the higher end.
It is known as an upscale shopping area featuring several international brand outlets like Louis Vuitton(above) and Gucci to the more affordable Gap, The Body Shop, Zara, and others. Omotesandō is also home to the famous Japanese toy store Kiddyland, a well known and extremely trendy shopping center geared primarily toward young women Laforet, Oriental Bazaar, and Gold's Gym. It is sometimes referred to as "Tokyo's Champs-Élysées." Its latest development, Omotesandō Hills, opened in 2006. Omotesandō's side streets feature a range of trendy cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as boutique stores specialising in everything from handbags to postcards to vintage glass bottles.

Once at Harajuku, we will head for Takeshita-dori, located opposite Harajuku station. Takeshita-dori is a narrow street packed with young fashionable people and lined with fashion boutiques and cafes. This is well known as a place to be seen for the young and trendy. Takeshita-dori is well known for representing the cutting edge of fashion in Tokyo where you can see all the latest in Japanese street fashion and then buy these in the boutiques around the area. Watches, shoes, clothes, bags, you name it, Takeshita-dori has it. Before reaching Takeshita-dori, I read that along the way there, there is a 4 storey glass building filled with women’s shoes of all sizes and variety. Now that would definitely be a pit stop for my princess.
Right opposite the JR Harajuku station is also the comprehensive “Snoopy World” store, filled with a wide array of Snoopy related merchandises, from toys to stationery to food.
We will probably take a look there. I may buy something related to Snoopy’s stint as a WWI ace (below).
Another departmental store to shop at is Laforet(above), known as a place to find leading brands and also as an incubator for creators, artists and entrepreneurs, and also as a venue for trend-setting events. We will probably shop past dinner until our stomachs rumble and we have to take a dinner break. I will bring Gayle to have shabu shabu (above) for dinner at Genkaya Shabu Shabu Kan, a eatery recommended by Frommers.It is located 5 minutes from Harajuku Station. From the Meiji/Omotesando Dori intersection, we will walk on Omotesando Dori toward Aoyama and take the 3rd right (just before Kiddy Land) towards the end of this street, and turning left to reach the restaurant. This casual restaurant with a rustic interior is one of the most value for money for shabu-shabu and sukiyaki. For ¥1,680 (SGD$26.50), you can have all the shabu-shabu or sukiyaki you can eat in 90 minutes; for ¥1,260 (SGD$19.85), you can add all you can drink. For ¥3,150 (SGD$49.70) you can eat and drink all you can consume, including side dishes like rice, kimchi (spicy Korean cabbage), and pickled vegetables, for 100 minutes.
After dinner, we will continue shopping around Harajuku till 7.30pm. Shops there close at 8pm. We will probably be carrying a haversack to stuff all our shopping. We will head for Aoyamaitchome Station to take the Toei Oedo line to Akabanebashi Station. From Akabanebashi Station, we will take a 5 minutes walk to Tokyo Tower (above), a must see tourist attraction which provides a bird eye view of Tokyo. Built in 1958, this Eiffel Tower-like structure stands at 332.6m high and is the tallest self-supporting steel structure in the world, the tallest artificial structure in Japan and is the 20th tallest tower in the world.Built as a TV and radio communications tower, it is located in Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo. This orange and white lattice tower Tokyo Tower doubles as a major Tokyo tourist site. Over 2.5 million people annually visit the tower's recreational Foot Town and two observations decks. Foot Town is a 4-story building located directly under the tower that houses museums, restaurants and shops. Departing from here, guests can visit the two observation decks. The 2-story Main Observatory is located at 150 meters, while the smaller Special Observatory reaches a height of 250 meters .

We plan to buy tickets to get up to Tokyo Tower’s one of it’s two observation decks—the Main Observatory. It offers a 360 degree view of Tokyo and, on clear days, Mount Fuji can be seen to the south. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, neither observation deck at Tokyo Tower is located near the top of the structure. The two-floor Main Observatory, located at 145 m, it will provides us with a beautiful night view of Tokyo. On the Main Observatory, the first floor is home to a small café and Club 333—a small stage that is used to put on live music shows.
Also located on this floor are two "look down windows"(above) that allow visitors like us to stand over a small clear window and look to the ground 145 m below. The second floor (at 150 m) is home to the Goods Shop (a small souvenir shop) .The elevators leading to the Special Observatory are also located on this floor. Located at 250 m, the Special Observatory is a small, completely enclosed circular observatory whose walls are made almost entirely of glass. This design will allow visitors like us to have the best possible views of the city and take unobstructed photos of the night view (below). Some trivial of the Tokyo Tower is that it is often featured in movies to locate a film scene in Tokyo. It is frequently used in anime and manga such as Digimon and Sailor Moon. The tower has also been the location of the climatic battles between Godzilla and King Kong (King Kong Escapes).
To get to the Main Observatory, tickets are priced at ¥820(SGD$14) for each adult. The tower is opened from 9am to 10pm daily unless there is severe stormy weather in which it will be closed to the public.

We will probably stay here till 9.30pm before taking the train and transit at Azabu Juban Station to take the Toei Mita line to JR Meguro Station. From JR Meguro Station, we will take the train to Shinjuku Station. From JR Shinjuku Station, we exit from the south exit and take a leisurely 15 minutes walk along Koshu-Kaido street(above) and turning into the intersection between KDDI Building(below) and Shirjuku NS Building where our hotel - Shinjuku Washington is located. We will probably be quite tired by then and plan to have a good rest for tomorrow’s visit to Tokyo Disneyland.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A nice dinner

I decided to cook a nice western dinner for Eugin today as he would be away on a working trip for the next few days. Went to the gourmet butchery Espirito Santo at Parkway Parade yesterday to buy some lamb, one of Eugin's fave food. The stuffed lamb saddle was available, so I got two of that, and another 2 sausages, one Spanish beef chorizo, and the other bacon and onion. They specialise in brazilian meats and the sausages are meatier than the German ones, and are really yummy and chunky. Then I went over to Cold Storage and got us some veggies for the salad. There are lots of pre-packed salad varieties available, so I normally get that as it saves a lot of trouble in preparation.

I started the cooking by frying some onions and garlic in butter, adding a little black pepper and salt for taste. I fried till the onions are soft and fragrant, before laying them nicely on the baking tray and squeezing the juice from half a lemon over them. After that, I seared the stuffed lamb saddle and sausages in the pan for a few minutes, so as to bring out the flavour. When that's done, I placed them on the onions and garlic on the baking tray. When I started searing the meats, I had already prepared the oven with pre-heating, so that once the lamb and sausages are ready, they can go straight into the oven. I set the oven at 180 degrees, and baked for 15 min, as my Dar Dar and I like the lamb medium rare, with a little bit of redness in it. For those who like it well-done, you can bake it a little longer. While the meats were in the oven, I took out the salad, added some tomatoes, and dribbled some thousand island dressing on the veggies. When the meat was ready, Voila! Dinner time!! :-)
Here are the photos!

Yummylicious lamb and sausage with wholegrain mustard sauce
(The Spanish beef chorizo was really spicy!)

Healthy salad with tomatoes and 7 types of leafy veggies

Here's the greedy gal waiting eagerly for the first crumb to fall..hehe..

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 7 - 1st Day in Tokyo

(Above) Tokyo Haneda Airport Control Tower Terminal

On arrival at Tokyo Haneda airport Terminal 1 (North Wing) at 1.35pm, after collecting our luggage, we will head for the tourist information centre on the 1st floor, Unit 3-2 to get free maps and information. The tourist information centre there is staffed from 9am to 10pm every day. (Above) Haneda airport terminal interior ( Terminal 1 for JAL domestic flights )

By the time, we leave the airport, it would most probably be about 2.30pm. We will head for the Tokyo Monorail Counter located on Basement 1 to purchase tickets. As we have arrived on a Sunday, we will be entitled to purchase the Monorail and Yamanote Discount Tickets allows passengers to travel from Haneda Airport Terminal 1, Haneda Airport Terminal 2 to anywhere on the JR Yamanote Line for ¥500(SGD$7.43). It is a reduced fare ticket that is only available on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays, and it is extremely handy for access to the center of Tokyo or to the metropolitan areas.
(Above ) Tokyo Monorail
It is just right for us since to travel to our hotel in Shinjuku, we have to use both the Tokyo Monorail and JR lines and without the discount tickets, we would have to pay ¥660(SGD$9.80). We will most probably catch the 3.01pm monorail and it will bring us from Haneda Airport Terminal 1 to Hamamatsucho station(below).

(Above) Bustling Shinjuku

There we will make a transfer to the JR Yamanote line and proceed to Shinjuku station. We are reminded not to leave our tickets in the automatic ticket barrier since our tickets need to be reused for transfer to the JR line.
(Above) Koshu-Kaido Street , one of the oldest main streets in Tokyo, en-route to our hotel.
Once, we exit from Shinjuku station’s south exit and take a leisurely 15 minutes walk along Koshu-Kaido street(above) and turning into the intersection between KDDI Building(below) and Shirjuku NS Building where our hotel - Shinjuku Washington is located.
(Above) KDDI Building , a point of reference to guide us to our hotel - Shinjuku Washington
(Above) Where we will be staying in Tokyo - Shinjuku Washington hotel

By this time, we estimate it would be about slightly past 4pm. We will check into the hotel, settle down and have a rest before we set out at 5.30pm. (Above) Shinjuku station
From Washington Shinjuku hotel, we will take a 10 minute walk along Koshu-Kaido Street towards JR Shinjuku station. I plan to use JR Shinjuku station as a point of reference for us to move around the attractions of Tokyo.
(Above) Central layout of surrounding shopping areas of Shinjuku station
Basically, from what we learnt, there are three main exits at the station. The "East Exit" leads towards the high street shopping area; The "South Exit" leads towards the Times Square Shopping Centre and the "West Exit" leads towards the skyscraper and business zone. Arriving at Shinjuku station, we will take a walk around the station building as it is well known for its vast selection of shops and restaurants inside the station building as well as its underground mall and famous department stores in the area. They include the following :
(Above) Lumine EST facade at night

(Above) Snoopy corner at Lumine EST store

Lumine Est - above JR's east exit

Odakyu department store (above ) - above the Odakyu line concourse
Odakyu Mylord (above) - above the southern end of Odakyu line concourse

(Above) Cakes Galore! Sweet Treats! (Below)
LUMINE 1 shopping mall - above the Keiō Line concourse
LUMINE 2 shopping mall - above JR's south and Lumine exits
Keio Department store (above) - above the Keiō Line concourse

Keio Mall - underground mall to the southwest of the Keiō Line concourse

Odakyu Ace - underground malls beneath the bus terminal by the west exit.

In addition to the above, the Metro Promenade, which is an underground mall owned by Tokyo Metro, extends eastwards from the station beneath Shinjuku-dori avenue, all the way to the adjacent Shinjuku-sanchōme station with 60 exits along the way. We will probably shop till we drop or until the shops and stores close between 8pm to 10pm. Along the way, we will head for one of the many eateries in Shinjuku area. One good source of where to eat in Shinjuku can be found at the following URL :

We will then head back to our hotel for a rest and also find some way to create more space in our backpacks for more shopping tomorrow.