My Japan Trip Journal: Day 3 – Around Tokyo

This post contains the journal of my Japan trip on day 3, 28 March 2017: Tsukiji Fish Market, Gotokuji, Shinjuku Gyoen, (wasteful) Daily Chico and Mutekiya.

You can read about the previous day of my trip (Kawagoe and Shinjuku) here.

 

The places mentioned above are all far apart from each other. There were no other choices tho. We HAVE TO go to Sushi Dai since it was said to be one of the best lower-range sushi in Japan. Gotokuji is the temple where the legend of the lucky cat started (you thought it was from China, right? So were we) and it has a lot of cute cat statues. We’re DYING to see at least one large sakura tree, so Shinjuku Gyoen is again in our itinerary. There’s this hype among Indonesian food bloggers to taste the 8-stacked soft cream by Daily Chico in Nagano and of course we would not miss it. There’s also this hype among Indonesian food bloggers to taste this rich broth ramen in this restaurant called Mutekiya (aside from the very famous Ichiran) and it’d be the first ramen we’d taste in Japan so how could we miss it?!

The day started with an alarm at 5:30. We’ve set our air conditioner to the warmest it could possibly get, yet the floor was still cold. With a lot of struggle we dragged our ass to get ready.

People said that no matter what time you start queueing in Sushi Dai, you’d have to wait for 2 hours at the very least. We arrived at Tsukiji Fish Market at 8:00. Because everything was of course very confusing again, we couldn’t find Sushi Dai; yet Google Maps offered no help. After asking around at the information centre, we finally found the really small restaurant, only to find out that the waiting time will be around 3 hours. As we learned our lesson about the damned Shinjuku Gyoen and afraid that we won’t be able to make it in time, the next door restaurant called Yamazaki seemed more appealing to our time constraint. A quick google showed that Yamazaki serves really good sushi too. With no further ado, we got in the line.

One hour, that’s how long it took for us to get in. We chose the JPY 3900 (US$ 35.20) 11 pieces of sushi set. The chefs and waiters were quite welcoming. I asked for no wasabi because…I just hate it, although they said that supposedly a good sushi restaurant’s wasabi will have a really mild taste. The meal first started with 2 pieces of tamagoyaki (fried egg), and 5 pieces of nigiri I didn’t quite hear about because the chef said the names in English with his Japanese accent while speaking to us, while saying the Japanese names to the people besides us. I had no idea what I ate, but I loved the rightmost nigiri and didn’t quite like the next 4 ones, although my friend loved it. Oh, and the waiter served a small bowl of miso soup and it was amazing.

Tamagoyaki

Then, for the seasonal nigiri the chef showed this alive large prawn (tiger? I have no idea at all), skinned it, smeared a lil soy sauce above, and finally served it in front of my eyes. Its tails were still weakly wiggling. It took quite a courage to eat it… I had to grab the tail as I bit the whole sushi. My God. Turned out it was the sweetest prawn I’ve ever tasted. It was really fresh and tender. It was the best prawn sushi I’ve tasted my whole life, I can proudly say.

If you look closely, you’ll notice the faint movement on the tail area.

The next was chutoro (or akami? I heard that the chef said chutoro but Sonia heard that the chef said akami. Chutoro is a medium fatty tuna while akami is the lean one. After a 12th thought I think it’s akami) and otoro (tuna belly, the part of tuna that contains most fat). Those were the first tuna sushis we tasted in Japan. They had no fishy smell or any sort. You can taste the sweetness and freshness lingering inside your whole mouth. The otoro melted on my tongue the second I put it. Spreading around the fat all over my mouth, and there was no slight guilt of consuming it. Words simply cannot describe how amazing the sensation was!

Nope, Akami (?)

After the heavenly otoro, the chef served a piece uni nigiri (sea urchin). For me it tasted really really weird. Despite the sweetness, it was creamy in a very unpleasant way, and it had a distinct fishy smell. But for Sonia, it was the best uni she tasted for the entire journey. I guess I just couldn’t appreciate it (?). At this moment, I suspected my decision to get rid of the wasabi was wrong. Well it couldn’t be helped as the last pieces of sushi got served… and they were 2 different kind, small pieces of anago (saltwater eel). They were great, that’s all I can say.

The left one had salt sprinkled above, and quite a bit of lemon peel. The right one were just smeared with soy sauce.

The person beside us ordered a piece of aburi toro (half-baked tuna belly) at the beginning of his meal. I was really, really tempted to ordered it too because I LOVE aburi sushi. So we decided to throw out the extra cash for that, and my fucking god, there were no regrets. None. It was heavenly. The tuna melted even more quickly than the previous regular otoro. Anyone who read this HAVE TO taste aburi toro in some point of their lives, especially if they go to Tsukiji Fish Market.

Anyway each of us paid JPY 4756 (US$ 42.92).

After our short trip to heaven, we hurriedly move to the next destination, Gotokuji Temple (the word “ji” actually stands for temple, but the town where the temple stood was also called Gotokuji). It was located in the middle of a small suburban area. All of Japan’s suburban areas are nice. They’re all quite and have those calming environment. All of them are perfect places to set your mind empty and daydream once in a while.

Gotokuji neighbourhood

Much to our favour, there were very few tourists that visited the temple. It was definitely the emptiest temple we visited in Japan. I smiled all the way inside while strolling around the temple because the environment was extremely soothing. We spent our time to take numerous shots around the temple as we admired the buildings and the gardens. Regretfully, we were too early for the sakura trees on the site.

IMG_6715

We finally went to the famous cat statues site. Behold of the lv 9999 cuteness.

My friend squealed every 5 seconds and I can understand why.

It was already 1 pm and we decided to go back to the Gotokuji Station. Along the way, I chatted with a friend of mine that had been to Japan for more than a month. He said that we could buy the cat statue and as I told the exciting news to Sonia, we rushed to the temple once more. She bought 3 statues with different sizes for a total value of JPY 1600 (US$ 14.45). It was really expensive since the statues were small, yet she knew she’d have a lot of regrets if she didn’t make the purchase. Along with the cat statues, the shopkeeper gave her a piece of paper that contained the temple’s legend. More or less, this is the summary (as written in Wikipedia):

A long time ago when the temple was a shabby hut and the Monk could barely live on the small income he gained as practising mendicant, he had a cat and cared for it like his own child, sharing his own meal with it. One day he said to the cat, “If you are grateful to me, bring some fortune to the temple.” After many months, one summer afternoon, the Monk heard sounds around the gate, and there he saw five or six samurai warriors on their way home from hawk hunting, approaching him and leaving their horses behind. They said, “We were about to pass in front of your gate, but there a cat was crouching and suddenly it lifted one arm and started waving and waving when it saw us. We were surprised and intrigued, and that brought us to come here to ask for some rest.” So the Monk served his bitter tea and told them to relax. Suddenly the sky darkened and heavy rain began to fall with thunder. While they waited a long time for the sky to clear, the Monk preached Sanzei-inga-no-hou (past, present, future reasoning sermons). The samurais were delighted and began to think about converting to the temple. Immediately, one samurai announced, “My name is Naotaka Ii. I am the king of Hikone, Koshu province. Due to your cat’s waving, we were able to hear your preaching. This has opened our eyes, and seems to be the start of something new. This must be the Buddha’s will.” Soon after they returned home, Naotaka Ii donated huge rice fields and crop lands to make the temple grand and generous as it is now. Because of the cat, fortune had been brought to the temple. Therefore, Gotokuji is called the cat temple. The monk later established the grave of the cat and blessed it. Before long the statue of the cute waving cat was established so that people might remember the episode and worship it. Now everybody knows the temple as the symbol of household serenity, business prosperity, and fulfillment of wishes.

At about 2 pm we arrived at Shinjuku Gyoen. They charged an admission fee of JPY 200 (US$ 1.80). As soon as we entered the park, we immediately saw this huge tree that were only a quarter bloomed with this huge crowd that took pictures under that tree. Being the photo bitches as we were, we occupied a spot for roughly 20 minutes for these close up pictures. Of course we took turns with other people who wanted the spot!

Shinjuku Gyoen is extremely huge. There was actually this huge field for people to do hanami (picnic below the sakura tree), but none of the sakura trees had bloomed. We were really sad so we decided to stroll around the beautiful park. Everything was aesthetically arranged.

After one and a half hour of walk, we arrived at a site with tall sakura trees. Of course, we took the chance once again.

Fun fact: we didn’t even cover half of the park after such long walk. Well obviously, part of it was because we spent a lot of time taking pictures. We also spent a lot of time to admire the landscapes. After a while, the park was closing and we hastily rode a metro to Nagano for a taste of the famous Daily Chico. It was immensely cold at 9 degrees celcius again with light rain and winds, but there’s no excuse for ice cream!!

Nagano is actually a really nice shopping/eating area that looked a bit like Osaka’s Namba Area. Too bad that it wasn’t in our itinerary. After getting lost again, we finally found the stall inside the mall. Because the weather was too cold and we wanted to save our belly for ramen, we ordered the 4-stacked one that I totally forgot how much it costed.

The flavours in which we ordered were green tea, melon, grape, and soda. Much to our disappointment, it tasted so-so. Sonia had been to Hokkaido before and she said that the 8-stacked ice creams there were a hundred times better. Sigh! A good 45 minutes was wasted for that! Along the walk to the Nagano station we bought sakura dorayaki for JPY 100 (US$ 0.90) to be eaten the next day and Sonia bought a very tasty pudding.

Sonia and I headed to Ikebukuro afterwards and bought something from Choux Cream Chouxen in the station for JPY 280 (US$ 2.53). A bit too overpriced although tasted nice. We went straight to wait in the line for Mutekiya. After one hour of freezing we finally got in and ordered the menu number 1 (the almost richest pork broth) and number 9 (spicy version of number 1, although I suspect that it’s not as rich). The medium and the large portion had the same price, so we ordered the large ones.

I didn’t really like the noodles because the strains were thick. In contrast, the sliced roasted pork I love. They were really thick and juicy. Overall it was really satisfying. Both of the dishes were awesome, but I was leaning more for the spicy one. The meal costed each of us about JPY 1100 (US$ 9.95). We stayed a lot longer than the other customers as our legs became really stiff. That day I wore a 7 cm elevated kind-of ankle boots/sneakers as we were walking for more than 10 km. Hmm. No wonder. It was only 8 pm and we decided to go back to Asakusa to get some rest. The next day was going to be a full day trip to Hakone so we had to save our energy!

 

Next day: Hakone

Disclaimer: All of the photos above were taken by my friend and me using Nikon D5500 and iPhone 5s. I reduced the quality of the pictures and videos to save my WordPress storage.

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