May 6, 2009

Tokyo Part I - Ginza, Tsukiji, Roppongi

Here is our Tokyo trip in two parts.

On Friday we headed off to Tokyo for a family Golden Week trip. It was a pretty clear day, and we got a really nice view of Mount Fuji (Fuji-san) as we zipped by it on the Shinkansen.

We took a family trip to Tokyo during part of Golden Week last year too. Last year, we got to spend time with some close friends (who are away in the US right now), but we still thought it would a good time to head back. With the exception of a couple of areas (e.g., Harajuku on Sunday!!), we find Tokyo to be not-so-busy during Golden Week in the same sense as NYC in the summer - people try to get out of the city. Traveling with Mike's Aunt Joyce, we got to show her and re-experience some of our favorite spots, and we also got to explore new spots.

Friday - Ginza
We stayed at the same hotel we stayed at last year, Villa Fontaine Shiodome, in the modern glass skyscraper/raised walkway haven of Shiodome Shiosite area near Shimbashi Station. It is very centrally located, just a short walk away from Tsukji (wholesale fish market and sushi Mecca) and Ginza (Tokyo's 5th Avenue), and the wide above-the-street walkways and escalators give the kids ample room to roam.

We spent our first afternoon strolling around Ginza. Our first stop was Hakuhinkan Toy Park; this was a great stop for the kiddies. We had to tear Jacob away from the remote controlled Shinkansen and Lauren away from some of the interactive coloring toys that she attached herself to.

The other highlight was the Sony Building, which has a very cool display of the latest Sony gadgets - you can play with the cameras and stereo equipment, check out new video games and gawk at the television displays. The coolest were these amazing sounding headphones that inserted into your ears (hard to explain, but amazingly crisp sound). Strangest gadget was an as-yet-to-be-released robot/musical companion that rolls around and plays music.

We finished off our day of wandering with some great Chinese food/dim sum at a little second floor joint near Yurakucho Station. (Getting warmed up for Hong Kong!). It is our continued experience that it is damned near impossible to go out for dinner in Japan and have a bad meal.

Saturday - Tsukiji, Hamarikyu Garden, Asakasa, Ueno Park, Roppongi & Nishi Azabu

Saturday was pretty much The Perfect Day. For Mike it began early, with a trip with Joyce to Tsukiji Fish Market at 6:30 AM. This was Mike's second time there; it is an amazing frenetic place. The sheer size of it, the action of hundreds of workers zipping about, carving up fish left and right, is a sight to behold.

We did not go to Sushi Dei this time (the line was just insane), but we found another little sushi joint with a short wait, and breakfast was stellar.

After breakfast, we met up with Ilena and the kids and walked to nearby Hamarikyu Gardens, and then took the boat from there to Asakasa. This was a repeat of last year, but this is one of our favorite garden spots in Tokyo, with a serene pond and teahouse, a 300 year old black pine, all set against the glass skyscraper background of Shiodome. And the boat-ride, under thirteen bridges is a pleasant way to get up to Asakasa.

Once there, we browsed through the stall-shops that line the path to Sensoji Temple. The kids checked out the mini-Ninja costumes. This was Mike's favorite item (Astro Boy is just the coolest):

After our first (of many) Baskin Robbins lunches of the trip -- there was a special Golden Week 2 scoop special!! -- we headed to Ueno Park. (Tokyo has really great parks and gardens.) For Joyce, it was the National Museum. For us, it was people-watching, the playground, the Ueno Zoo (very playful Black Bears and Sea Lions were the highlight; unfortunately the famed Panda passed away last year), and watching kids baseball games.

In the evening, Joyce (bless her heart) volunteered to take the kids out for Pizza and to watch them so that Mike and Ilena could go out. We headed to Roppongi fully intending to have some Western-type meal, but ended up in a basement tempura joint run by an elderly hushand and wife. We sat at the wooden counter and had the place to ourselves. The husband doted over us and cooked for us. It was wonderful.

From there, we did a little pub crawl, after meeting up with a Japanese friend of ours who lives in Tokyo. The evening took us from the swanky open-air alley bar Tiptop, to a great little tachibana (standing up bar) in Nishi Azabu called Joe. We finished the evening at Ganpachi, the inspiration for the Kill Bill scene in which Uma Thurman flashes her dazzling sword-play. They also make a terrific sake mojito, not to mention our delicious post-1 AM snack of rice-bowls, topped with egg and chicken (OK, while it's not the Philadelphia cheesesteak, the midnight snack of our college years, it did hit the spot).


Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Sounds like a great trip. I always loved my trips to Tokyo, so many things to do. I never did make it to the fish markets though, I'm so not a morning person.

Melissa said...

I'd like to see a blog post by Joyce about taking care of your kids! :)

jmgesq said...

Either they or I will never been the same again...I'm not sure which. I'll leave it for you to say ;-)

Actually we had a fun evening eating pasta and pizza, bathing the kids and watching a movie. The three of us commune on a much closer level these days. It wasn't exactly Roppongi Hills but it was fun.

jmgesq said...

I forgot to say...the sushi was beyond compare and the sights of the market were amazing not to mention the agility required to dodge those motorized carts! Thankfully Michael was very protective.