May 2, 2008

Tokyo - Tsukiji, Asakasa, Odaiba

Friday kicked off early, as Mike met Bob and Maho for breakfast at Sushi Dai just outside the inner market of Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish market in the world. The fisherman come in in the wee hours, and hold big fish auctions for the fresh catch. (As you might imagine, its quite a good spot for sushi for breakfast.)

Sushi Dai consists of a counter-top sushi bar with about 12 seats. People line up outside at all hours. We met before 7 AM, and waited about an hour in line. (Bless Maho, who waited in line, while Mike and Bob grabbed coffee and toast at the tiny coffee shop next door). Bob and Maho were greeted warmly as repeat customers (maido!). It was unquestionably worth the wait, as it was simply the freshest and the best sushi Mike had ever had. We all got a set course that included a chef's selection of sushi. It was prepared and served piece by piece. And it was literally melt in your mouth good. You only use soy sauce on a few pieces; most of the sushi is made with special sauces or toppings. At the end, you get "seconds" of your favorite piece. (Mike's favorite was snapper that was flavored with sea salt and citrus). Just an unbelievable meal.

After breakfast, the three of us wandered through the manic inner market at Tsukiji. It was very busy and crowded, with little fish-market mobiles zipping to and fro, workers carving up huge slabs of fish with band-saws that were reminiscent of wood-shop class, and many varieties of fish (many of which were still moving!).

We met up with Ilena and the kids at the entrance to nearby Hama-rikyu Park, a delightful park for a stroll with many interesting flora and large fields. The park includes a 300 year-old pine tree (in the background in the below picture), the biggest aloe plant we had ever seen, and a classic tea house overlooking a serene lake. The glass skyscrapers of Shiodome (our hotel room actually overlooked this park) rise in the background of the park, which is a funny but common sight in Tokyo. The kids had fun running around and chasing birds. At one point Jacob went to get a drink at the water fountain and it shot up 20 feet in the air like a geyser. We were all cracking up.

After a nice stroll through Hama-rikyu, we took a water taxi ride up to Asakusa, one of the traditional shitamachi (old downtown) areas of Tokyo. Here is a family picture near the famous Kaminarimon Gate to Sensoji Temple. We walked the long alley between the gate and the temple, which is lined with all sorts of interesting little shops. We got the kids these yoyos made out of slightly filled water balloons and a rubber band. Hours of entertainment. When we got to the temple, it was a bit drizzly, and the burning incense smoked in the raindrops. (After Matthew's luck with fortunes at this same temple, we took a pass on getting a fortune here.)

After a sukiyaki lunch, we took the monorail over to Odaiba. We spent most of our time there at Sega Joypolis, where Jacob and Lauren played games galore. Jacob played some fighter pilot games and went on a virtual white-water rafting trip with Ilena and Maho. Lauren's favorite was a virtual aquarium that had large LCD touch-screens. When you touched them the fish reacted. In the aquarium area were interactive learning games where you could play with virtual bugs, fish, construction vehicles, and (best of all) create your own virtual princess. She could have moved in and stayed for the week. Our favorite was the whack a mole game (which included a personal play-by-play in very loud Japanese). The coolest thing there was a stand-up roller-coaster on a semicircular track that simulated a snow-boarding half-pipe. The place was quite the sensory overload, but it was definitely a lot of fun.
After some down time at the hotel, we picked a dinner spot in Ginza. The Ginza area is one of Tokyo's numerous Fifth Avenue type areas. Lots of neon at night. And the wide streets are lined with pretty much every fancy store we had ever heard of and a bunch that we hadn't. (Bob tells us that over 1/3 of the world's luxury goods are consumed in Japan! And we believe it.)

More importantly for us, Ginza was where the Tex-Mex restaurant that Bob and Maho had found was located. At Zest Cantina, they actually gave us our own private room. Which was perfect. After a massive vanilla milkshake and some wings, the kids were in a happy place, and Lauren and Jacob even put on a little dance show for us. ("Jacob, will you spin me around"?) Our Western cravings were deeply satisfied by the nachos and margaritas, and the burgers and tacos. Besides dancing, Jacob also takes decent photos:

As we walked through the rain-drops down the main drag in Ginza back towards Shiodome, Lauren passed out as she was being carried. Since Mike was up early to hit Tsukiji for the sushi breakfast (bizarre culinary day!), he took the kids back and crashed, while Ilena went out with Bob and Maho to a blue-collar bar near Shimbashi Station.

With Bob and Maho as our guides, we were certainly all over Tokyo today. Long day, but a good one!

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I want sushi for breakfast!!!