Sunday, 8 November 2015

13.08.2015 ~ Tokyo

Today was the last day of our JR Passes which have been so worthwhile and indispensable when doing so much travelling. We formulated a plan of where we wanted to go, but we were wary as today was the official first day of the Obon holiday so knew that some places may be closed. I looked into breakfast that we'd paid for at the hotel and was sorely disappointed; waste of money as it was set trays of small amount of food with a limit on how many pastries and hot drinks you could have. So we went to the newsagents in the station & got 'Breakfast Morning Cake' instead which is the most amazing banana cake ever!

First up we went to Nippori Textile Town as I had hopes of buying some 'proper' Japanese fabrics, possibly from the big store(s) called Tomato. Unfortunately (and as semi-predicted) due to Obon half the street was closed, however there were some small independent shops still open which had some beautiful fabrics. I found 6 fabrics I loved and so bought 1m of each as I knew we were close to our 23kg limit for our suitcases; definitely would have bought more if I could have.
On the way back to the station we stopped by a clothes shop as one of M's friends wanted some authentic Japanese T-shirts. We found an amazing shirt which we got for ¥600 (£3.30):

After triumphant shopping we headed to the Tokyo Skytree; as we'd done the Yokohama Landmark Tower we weren't as desperate to go up this one but as there was no queue we decided to go for it. WARNING: do not be suckered in by the 'International Visitors Fast Track' desk. We paid ¥2820 (~£15) each for this which was basically security queue jump, but then we still had to queue for the lifts. It was around 11:30 & there was no queue at security; we didn't think it was worth the extra money. However, the lift queue went down quickly as there are 4 lifts (1 for each season) and the lift travels 350m in 50 seconds.

(We got the Spring lift on the way up)

Our first impression of the viewing deck was overcrowded. We were underwhelmed by it, possibly because the Yokohama one was more picturesque, quieter, cheaper. We took photos at each 'side' then took the escalator down as we'd seen signs for a glass floor viewing area. We were disappointed by the glass floor as it was severly overcrowded and only 2x2m square. There are route signs, and guides directing you the whole way round the Skytree but the area that really needs guidance/monitoring is the glass floor so you could actually get to see down through the floor. The queue for the lift down was long! Lucky the lifts fit a lot of people in. Overall we thought it was a waste of money compared to the Yokohama experience, although if it had been clear weather and we'd been able to see Mt Fuji we probably would've said it was worth it.

(View through the glass floor) 
(We got the Winter lift back down) 

We stopped at McDonalds for lunch where we got a Quarter Pounder meal & a Chicken Burger meal for ¥1000! Strangely McDonalds seems to be treated as a cafe/restaurant by the Japanese as there were lots of tables full of people just chatting or working at laptops etc. Maybe we were seen as the odd ones because we found somewhere to perch, inhaled our fast food & were off again in under 10 minutes. Next up was to find the 'Asakusa Sugarcraft' shop that I'd seen in the news months before. We found it in East Yard and it was impressive; the owner/maker works at the store and does demonstrations of making Sugar Koi fish. There are wares on display all round of the different animals he creates, so beautiful and clever though not realistic to buy as souvenir as I doubt they'd survive 24 hours travel with 2 plane journeys...

(Still unbelievable that these are made of sugar!)

We left Skytree and went back to the hotel to put the shopping down and for M to make a list of what he wanted to get form Akihabara in the afternoon. We went out again at 16:40 and went straight to BookOff on arriving to look at prices then compared with Trader prices. Then it was time for Don Quijote again! (NB. tax free shopping starts at ¥5400 in Don Quijote. You can either buy your items on each floor or take them all up to the 5th floor desk and buy them there with valid passport to get tax free).


We got back to the hotel at 20:00 to put the shopping down & freshen up before heading out to look for dinner. We found a (French/Italian) chicken restaurant near to the station and were seated at 20:45. We ordered a whole chicken to share, artisan breads and a bottle of wine. We waited an absolute age for the chicken which arrived to the table at 22:30! The food and wine was really good but it was let down by poor service and ridiculous waiting times.
Straight back to the hotel and bed after super long and late dinner.

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