The Trip That Never Was- Part 3, Sloggin’ it Out in Tokyo

If I were really cruel, and let’s face it, my nickname isn’t Cruella DeVille due to the grey streak down the center of my fluffy tail, we’d start Day 6 of our tour with a traditional Japanese breakfast with something many natives adore- Natto on rice:

Natto on Rice Wikipedia.com

A very traditional dish started by composting soybeans and bacteria until it achieves a slimy consistency similar to that of cooked okra. Together they ferment happily to form a union whose blissful marriage is complete when a pungent aroma is released that wreaks havoc upon the olfactory glands while at the same time delivering a pugnacious punch to the paunch causing many to sprint for the bathroom, that is, unless one happens to be Japanese or of a ferrous constitution. I am one of the few non- Japanese that will actually partake of Natto, however, only when feeling particularly homesick for Southern food like okra and fried green tomatoes. But- one packet of Natto can kill a tour dead in its tracks so instead of starting with a light breakfast of Natto, I’ll save my Cruella tricks for another day. Everyone gets to sleep late, have breakfast on their own, after which we will begin with our first stop for Day 6 in the Ginza District of Tokyo, promptly at 9:55 in front of Mitsukoshi Department Store.

Mitsukoshi Department Store- Wikipedia.com

Promptly at 10:00, all the uniformed employees of Mitsukoshi, line up at the front doors, bow, and ceremoniously welcome the customers in to this upscale department store. At this point, our tour storms the building Navy Seal style and heads down to the basement for another very Japanese phenomenom- the food basement. Day 6- Ginza, Mitsukoshi Department Store, Akihabara, Tokyo Tower, Koishikawa Korakuen GardenNestled in the very bottom of most department stores in Japan, is a floor filled with food. Picture taking isn’t allowed in Mitsukoshi, however, not wanting to deprive my virtual tour goers of this wondrous site, I brought along the “fanny pack cam” which I recommend for all department store commando invasions such as these. The pictures don’t do the sweets and offerings justice, but, one gets a sense for the variety and diversity of fare. Orderly lines, cordoned off and managed by kerchiffed wearing matrons direct patrons to the counters containing items in high demand. All the big names in fashion and jewelry have a flag ship store in Ginza as the Beautiful People come in from the East to buy what is guaranteed to be the Real thing. Sauntering around Ginza’s back streets shopping with the creme de la creme, blissfully fingering Mikimoto pearls while “oohing and aahing” over a centenarian aged bonsai would send the teenagers in the group into full out rebellion, so once the locusts have swarmed through the basement and eaten everything edible, it’s wise to move along. The Tokyo Tower- In Central Tokyo close to Roppongi, looms what will soon become Tokyo’s second highest point, the Tokyo Tower. The bottom of the Tower houses an aquarium- yes- I know it’s strange- but true- and a currently a dinosaur exhibit- yes- even stranger. And right now, due to the earthquake, the very tip top of the tower is sporting a definite lean. But no matter, because to get one of the best views of Mt. Fuji you won’t have to scale that part. A trivia note for you- Mt. Fuji is called Fuji-san here. Just like a person’s name. Like Ouiser-san. All mountains are referred to as if they are people- hence Fuji-san. After soaking in the panaramic view of one of the largest cities in the world, let’s put in our ear plugs and head to the sheer chaos that is Akihabara. Or Electric town. If it’s electronic, or a game, one can find it here. I would rather spend an afternoon in a glass box covered in poisonous snakes. The pinging, popping, bell ringing and glass shattering bedlam of Electric town combined with the thousands of teenagers shopping, eyes fixed on the game currently being played as they shop, along with the lights-camera-action- of 250 shops all operating simultaneously at different frequencies infuses a player like 100 Red Bulls shot right in to the carotid artery.

Anime Character Electric Town- Akihabaran- degenerasian.blogspot.com

Best to send in the game lovers while the belly button contemplaters in the group can enjoy the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden close by:

Day 7- Disney Sea, Ueno,

What to do? The last day…. A tough choice. Here I have two options.

Let out your inner child- the one that wanted to drink beer- and go to Disney Sea. Nothing like enjoying the Disney characters, with cirque de soleil, Japanese food, and beer.

Option 2- Ueno Park

On the northern side of Tokyo lies the Ueno Park area. Attached is a map outlining famous temples, museums, pagodas, gardens, and other historic and traditional sites. It will keep one entertained for at least a day.

However, the two most important reasons the Japanese will tell you to visit Ueno park are the newest residents to the Ueno zoo- the two panda cubs. Born in September.

As they say in showbiz- never follow a kid or animal- although I’m sure there are several reasons why. So- I’ll end the tour there with a promise of a couple more tidbits that I left out of the tour for the next two posts.

As I said before, Tokyo is home to countless museums, galleries and historical sites of which books and guides cover in thorough detail. I have barely begun to scratch the surface.

Emiel van den Boomen from posted a picture of himself with one of the very elusive geisha in the comments section of the last post which I’d encourage you to check out. I would love to hear your comments and suggestions on sites you loved in Japan and any good pictures you’d like to share if so inclined… In the meantime, a few things left out- for next time….

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24 Responses to The Trip That Never Was- Part 3, Sloggin’ it Out in Tokyo

  1. Natto sounds hmmm interesting. The nice thing about following your adventures is that I can live vicariously and safe without any punches to the paunch! Thanks for taking the time to create such magical trips for for me!
    Chris

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    • amblerangel says:

      The Eastern breakfast are what I find Westerners have the hardest time with- except for my daughter- who loves Japanese style cucumbers and eats them every morning for breakfast… the Natto is really hard to describe with justice! Glad your enjoying from your perch on that comfy couch!

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  2. Stephanie says:

    Now I know why I skip breakfast! Don’t know if I could handle that! But, WoW…Is that really a shopping mall?? I would be in heaven!! I love your blog!

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  3. Love the surreptitious fanny pack photo…that food looks a lot better than the Natto!

    Akihabara sounds like a place Jim and the kids would love…I would not…

    Thanks again for the armchair tour! A lot less expensive than the real thing!

    Wendy

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  4. Oh, the panda cubs are soooooo cute! My question is this–how did you get up the nerve to try the Natto on rice? Did you know what it was ahead of time? Are you generally a daring eater.

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    • amblerangel says:

      Kathy- I’ll try everything- Once. I did know what it was- and the smell hits you long before it ever gets close to your mouth. We have some Japanese friends and the wife has banished Natto from the family menu- that’s just how rank it is….

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  5. I’ll pass on the natto for breakfast, thanks – even tho’ you made it sound SO appealing…! I haven’t even got my head around congee yet. Thanks for a great tour!

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  6. Tori Nelson says:

    That’s it. I’m going to nag the tar out of The Mister until he buys me a house with a food basement.

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  7. tokyobling says:

    Actually I had never tried Okra before coming here but it rules! If you like the slimy stuff you should also try out one of the teishoku restaurant chains here in Tokyo: Negishi (http://www.negishi.co.jp/)

    It’s good to hear that I was not the only one who had to find something else to do during the long Golden Week. Some people are obviously not as strong hearted as you and me! (^-^) I am actually thinking of writing a guidebook to Tokyo, the “Ultimate 1, 2, 3 day tour of Tokyo”. I would include Odaiba (easy on the eyes for western visitors… and good shopping), and Tokyo Tocho in the one day “strictly Tokyo” tour. For the longer tours Kamakura and Enoshima can also be included.

    But in this day and age of Internet, do people still buy and read guidebooks?

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    • amblerangel says:

      I’ve still not been to Odaiba and haven’t even heard of Tokyo Tocho. Was going to scout out Odaiba but was afraid it was too young for the teenagers? Kamakura and Enoshima are of course great ideas. I think you should write a tour book- I use everything when I travel and always start with a tour book. Usually Lonely Planet, National Geographic or Eyewitness Travel- I admit it- I like the history basis and the pictures- and I rarely buy a tour guide in black and white- usually. Then when I get a “lay of the LAN” I go to the Internet- everything is so haphazard there- it’s still hard for me to zero in on what I want easily without hang an idea of what I’m looking for first. That being said, Demographics has a lot to do with the target audience and how they access the information….I know you know Japan like view others!

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  8. jacquelincangro says:

    Now having lived in the South I do love me some okra, but that natto…it looks so innocent, yet is so sinister.

    That department store reminds me of Harrod’s.

    Wondering if Electric Town is anything like Funky Town.

    Great tour! Can’t wait to read about our two surprise stops. Have you read the essays about Japan in David Sedaris’s latest book When You Are Engulfed in Flames? You might enjoy his take on things.

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    • amblerangel says:

      If it were Funky Town I’d crank up Parliament and boogie on down. I am currently reading Mr.Sedaris- he’s hilarious – but haven’t gotten to the Japan part yet. I’m sure it’s going to be something….. I’m telling ya- this tour guiding business is wearing me out- holy smokes it’s more work than I thought!!!

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  9. Olga SE says:

    I’ve never seen a newborn panda before. They are so cute! My daughter and I enjoyed the video. 🙂

    Emily, if you ask, I’ll tell you that I love lots of sites in Japan. But what I’m really interested in is Japanese everyday life because I haven’t yet got a very clear picture of it in my head. What is their daily routine? Do Japanese women look after themselves a lot and follow latest fashion? What is the way they raise their children? I’d also like to know about Japanese legendary self-discipline and order at workplace. The Japanese are said to possess some unusual sort of wisdom and I wonder how it shows. Have I given you any ideas for future posts? 😉

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  10. Michi says:

    This post about Tokya really made me miss city life! The Natto on rice looks sweet – the picture reminded me of a garbanzo and honey recipe I tried out once. Though the smell was nothing like what you described! I’ll make sure to try it if I make my out to Japan someday. 🙂

    Can’t wait for the next tour!

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    • amblerangel says:

      Hey- is the offer still good on the souvenir from the festival? If so I’ll email you my address…. I think you might be the only volunteer to try the Natto but that doesn’t surprise me a bit!

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  11. Now I have two reasons not to eat Natto. The gooey consistency is a turn-off (especially those slimy strands!), but knowing how it’s made makes it so much worse. Feel the same way about fish sauce. It was still okay before I found out how it was made.

    The cute little pandas get my vote.

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