After having enjoyed the seven day JR pass to the fullest we were back in Tokyo on the bullet train for the last few days having visited Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. From Tokyo Station we headed to our hotel in Shinjuku – The Citadines right in the heart of the restaurant district. The winter air made our short walk from Shinjuku Gyoemmae station a pleasant one. We dumped our bags and headed into the restaurant district to the Ramen diner. The diner was just off the hotel and with a token from the machine outside we sampled the most delightful bowl of Ramen served on a base of Miso soup. We learnt that Ramen are Chinese noodles adapted by the Japanese and that there are numerous variations based on local flavours and meats and seafood. We had a wide choice on the menu but this time we decided to stay vegetarian. Before we came to Japan we were led to believe that vegetarians would either go hungry or live on a prison diet of bread and milk. Nothing was further from the truth with ample choices for vegans and vegetarians and I swear Malati never was hungry! Service here too, like in in most Japanese restaurants is very prompt and the staff are warm and friendly. Over the next few days we sampled Ramen, Indian, Japanese, Continental and bakery food. The next day we set out to the Indian restaurant Turry Ya on Shinjuku Dori for a traditional Indian meal of Dal, Roti and Sabzi. This is a very popular restaurant in Shinjuku run by a second generation immigrant from Nepal. Traditional Indian recipes had been modified to suit the Japanese palate leading to slightly sweet and hugely oversized Naan Roti and unlimited servings of curry and dal. If you don’t compare it with the original that your mother makes, it was a very welcome change from the international fare that we gorged ourselves over the past two weeks. Over the next few days we made it a point to try out different cuisines but mostly at lunch. Dinners were light and it was a soup, salad and sandwich from the nearby Seven Eleven. I would particularly recommend the Pork bun. These buns are freshly made with a slight tinge of sweetness and mildly spiced and simply melt in your mouth. Just right with a bowl of soup.
The next day’s lunch was at a Japanese restaurant at the Tokyo Sky Tree. We sampled Okonomiyaki laid out on a hot Japanese griddle which also served as a table! The griddle called Teppan is heated with gas flame under the table. Okonomiyaki is a popular main course meaning okonomi – what you like and yaki meaning cooked. As with most Japanese dishes there are many variants of the additional ingredients added to the base which is a batter made of flour and cabbage. The server brings all the ingredients onto the griddle and is cooked on the griddle itself. Another variation to this is the dish is cooked and the finished product is brought to you. The dish when fully cooked looks like a pancake and is eaten with a metal spatula kind of spoon. The helping was very large and it took two us to finish it. We chose the vegetarian version this time again only to prove to ourselves that a vegetarian could get a decent Japanese meal .
There are three popular viewing towers in Tokyo. One is the Tokyo Sky Tree in Sumida , the second is the Tokyo tower in Minato and the third is The Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku. Each of these towers give you an aerial view of a different section of the city and if you have the time do all three. However we selected the Tokyo Sky Tree which at 2080 ft is the second tallest tower in the world after the Burj El Khalifa in Dubai which stands at 2700 ft. As a further comparison the Eiffel tower pales at only 1080 ft but then it was built about a 120 years before either of these structures.
The Tokyo Sky tree dominates the horizon and is most easily accessible from the Oshiage SKYTREE metro station which is at the foot of the tower. The base of the tower is an amazingly large town called the Solamachi which houses numerous shops, restaurants and even an aquarium. It was a rather crowded day when we got there but the crowds were managed very well and we soon got tot the top of the tower. There are two viewing levels at the 350 and 450 floor. These levels are known as the Tembo Deck and the Tembo galleria. You can buy tickets for the lower level only or both the levels which cost us 3100 Yen per head. Besides these options which are the most popular ones, for an additional 2500 yen you can visit the Skydeck at floor 150 and feel the cold Tokyo breeze in your hair. A very high speed elevator got us to the Tembo deck at floor 350 which is a circular viewing gallery at two levels. As with all such tourist spots there are restaurants cafeterias and souvenir shops but what really interested us was the view. From that height and with a clear map in hand we were able to identify most of the landmarks in Tokyo but could not see as far as Mt Fuji due to the cloud cover. After spending some time at this level we took the elevator to the next level which is the Tembo Galleria. There wasn’t much of difference in the view at Floor 350 and Floor 450 except that we were a hundred floors higher. That somehow didn’t seem right and I passed it off as local nomenclature. The Tokyo Sky tree is also lit up at night and is open till nine pm each day. I would recommend that you go in the later part of the evening when you can get a view of the sunset as well as the lights of Tokyo. Better still do it once in the day and once at night!
The return journey took us first to the Tembo deck at level 340 and then back to level 5. We spent the rest of the day walking through the Skytree town at the base of the tower sampling the shops and the restaurants. We picked up the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and paralympic games mascot Miraitowa (mirai= future Towa =eternity) and Someity and a football for our little grandson Uday back home. Japan offers tax rebates in cash at most large stores and Malls and I decided to give it a try. I got a refund of a princely sum of 950 yen through a very simple procedure unlike some of the other countries like Thailand which offer a similar refund.
Another day well spent and we were back on to the hotel in Shinjuku to rest our aching legs and be in great shape for our next days’ programme – Kappabashi and Akihibara .