Tokyo Getaway Day 2: Tsukiji and Sakura in Ueno Park

Day 2 started off with a trip to Tsukiji Fish Market.  This is the biggest fish market in the world.  We have been here once before and knew we didn't want to get stuck in the huge mess that the crowd can be but we wanted to do a little shopping for kitchen knives and have some sushi for breakfast/lunch.  But of course since it was a weekend, and somewhat like a holiday (many people in town for the cherry blossoms) it was even more packed than we could have imagined.
The streets were packed with people so it wasn't so easy to get some pictures, but I did the best I could.  

Massive crabs!

Lots of sushi and sashimi stalls around.  Sushi for breakfast is not uncommon here and by midmorning some places have 1-2 hour waits.  This (at Tsukiji) really is the freshest and best sushi you can find anywhere.
Some things I took pictures of but really had no idea what they were.

This is inside the wholesale fish market.  You can't buy stuff in here for personal consumption since it is wholesale, but they let tourists in later in the morning after the major business has wrapped up.  It is still ridiculously busy and requires you to pay attention at all times since there are little trucks and carts darting around.


The fish here are huge and I couldn't resist watching this guy with the fish head.  As strange or gross as that sounds, he seemed very skilled and focused with this task.  Of course since everyone was taking pictures of him, he eventually seemed to be a little annoyed.  I can't blame him!  So I quickly moved on.  
I almost always ask before taking pictures, which is the correct way to do things here.  Some people say no and you just need to respect that and move on.  At one place the first guy said no, but the older gentleman at the register told me it was ok.  I was ready to walk away but glad he let me take some photos.

This is sea pineapple, which is apparently an Asian thing, so I don't think you can find it in the US.
I have no idea what these are.  Obviously something in a shell, but they are huge!
Here is a better shot.  
No clue about these either, but they looked neat.




Still alive fish for sale.
A quieter section.  This was around 10 am.
Giant shrimp!
Little octopus guys.
More massive crabs!
We attempted to get a seat at the famous Daiwa Sushi (we have eaten there before, thankfully, since it continuously gets mentioned as a top spot for sushi).  No such luck!  They were full for the time being with a long enough wait that they had an employee turning people away.  As a back up, we went with Sushi Zanmai, which is a chain with 9 (I counted on a map) locations within Tsukiji.  This seemed like a good and comfortable choice.  We knew we could get in rather quickly and that the food would be good.
Cute set up
Ryan and I split a tuna sampler.
Then I had crab and a scallop and Ryan had a piece of salmon.
After the sushi we went to get a piece of tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet).
Mmmmmmm, one of my favorites!
Love the little disposable forks with them.
Some more really big crabs!


After strolling around a little more I spotted this, which I thought was interesting.  Turns out this is ostrich egg pudding.  Yeah, I could not resist that.
It was delicious!
This is an ostrich egg.  It's huge!
While I ate my pudding (which was very eggy and custard like), Ryan had a strawberry smoothie.
After the fish market we headed to Ueno park to check out the sakura (cherry blossoms).  The first stop, however, was the Hard Rock, which I have looked for a few times and never found.  Well, I found it this time!  I have been to the Roppongi location but this one says Ueno and the other location just says Tokyo, so I definitely wanted to go here too.
Then we spent some time strolling around Ueno park, which is a huge park in Tokyo.  This is listed as one of the best places for sakura viewing.  You can see that everyone else got this memo too!  This place was packed, packed, packed!
This was the first weekend they were out so not every tree was in bloom yet, but they were still beautiful.


No idea who this is a statue of, but I liked that he had a dog with him.
The tree with the deepest pink color that we saw.





Tons of people!


Like I said, the crowds were insane.  


Since it was a big celebration in the park for the sakura, there were tons of street food vendors.  we decided to try some of the panda shaped pancakes.
We almost tried the okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese savory pancake.
But instead we went with the grilled corn.
While eating our corn we realized we were close to a 5 story pagoda, which was neat because we had never seen this in the park before.  The park is huge so there are many areas we had not been to see yet.
Gotta love the sign!
Yes, I took a ton of pictures of the blooms.
Then we entered the shrine area.  This is the Toshogu Shrine.


There were lots of people around but I managed to get close enough for a picture.
Ryan even joined me, thanks to the nice Japanese couple nearby that offered to take a picture for us.
I liked this spot because the cherry blossom tree was mixed in with a street light.

Before heading out, we stopped at the Starbucks.  This place was nuts!  Japan is not like the US where there is a Starbucks on every corner, and many people visiting for the sakura viewing may come from areas (like where we live) where there isn't a Starbucks nearby (ours is 45 minutes).  This was the line for the truck out front.
And that is the actual Starbucks in the back with lots and lots of people.
First we waited in line behind a rope, patiently, I might add.  A gentleman asked if we wanted to have our coffee there or to go.  We said we wanted to have it there and he handed us a number.  We had no idea what to do with the number, but we took it anyway.  Waiting in line I saw this new specialty drink and knew this was what I wanted to try.
After we were let inside (they did about 5 people at a time) and able to go up to the register, we had a short wait before ordering.  After ordering we were shown to another line where we waited for our drinks.  After we got our drinks someone else was waiting and took our number and escorted us to our reserved seats.  Yes, we had reserved seats waiting for us!  The had the whole operation so organized.  This way people were not fighting over tables or taking up space holding tables but waiting an hour for a drink.  Everyone had a seat ready for them when their drink was ready.  It was so amazing.  But I doubt this would ever go over well in the States.  Although I also know this situation would never have happened in the US because there are more than enough Starbucks!

After the coffee we headed out to explore the Ueno area before heading to the Ebisu neighborhood for dinner.  This was my first time passing by the front of Ueno Station so I decided to take a picture. It is one of the larger stations in Tokyo, although they have quite a few big ones.  They usually have large shopping malls and restaurants areas attached, which is one reason they end up so big.
Dinner was at Khumbila, which is a Tibetan restaurant.  I loved the Tibetan food we had in Korea so much that I haven't stopped talking about it, so Ryan was eager to see what all the fuss was about.  I found this restaurant by searching online and was glad to see it was close to our hotel (we even ended up walking back to the hotel).
Ryan had a noodle dish, which he said was amazing, and I don't doubt that!  It had meat in it, otherwise I would have tried it.
The momo on the menu had meat in them but I asked if they could do them vegetarian (the traditional way, since most Tibetan food is vegetarian to begin with) and they were very happy to make them for me this way.  It took a little longer, but it was totally worth it.
I also ordered a noodle soup dish, which they also specially prepared for me without meat.  It was definitely worth the few extra minutes I waited for my food (after Ryan was served).  The food here was amazing.  It confirmed my love for Tibetan food.  No joke, Indian has always been my favorite, and it is much easier to comb by, but Tibetan food (which is often served alongside Nepalese and Indian dishes because they are similar) is quickly becoming one of my favorite cuisines.  If you ever have the chance to try Tibetan food, do not pass it up.
Last up for the night was a quick stop for a Yebisu beer in the Yebisu Beer Garden.  Since we were in Ebisu, the neighborhood where the brewery first started, it seemed most appropriate to go in and have a beer.  This place had only been open a week when we went and has a great location right outside the metro and JR station.
Mmmmm Yebisu! 
That does it for our quick getaway to Tokyo on the trip that I had won.  I am so glad we got to use the trip and that we had perfect weather for those few days in Tokyo.  It was a blast and I look forward to our next trip to Tokyo.  Oh yes, there will definitely be more!

QUESTIONS:  Do you have cherry blossoms where you live?  Have you ever tried Tibetan food?  Have you ever tried Yebisu beer?

2 comments:

Meredith Targarona said...

This is what I get for watching too much Top Chef - here is one of your unknowns :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoduck

YES WE HAVE FREAKIN CHERRY BLOSSOMS - People are crazy about them

Alice Brody said...

Japan! It's that one place where both foodies and health freaks can totally roam freely around. Japan has one of the most advanced technologies in the world as well and this made their medical industry superb! I love the variety of food choices in Japan and I find them all to be absolutely delicious. Reading your blog post made me reminisce my first visit to Tokyo. Glad to see you had fun!

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