I honestly thought that jet lag was going to be one of my biggest issues for the first few days in Japan but NOPE! I can proudly say that I crashed at 9PM and woke up at 5:30AM 🙂
The breakfast buffet at our hotel started at 7AM so we had plenty of time to get ready and go down to eat. Can I just say how much I missed Japanese breakfast? I have something against breakfast foods, at least in the States. I don’t believe in monotonous breakfast everyday. I know that breakfast is such an important meal because it kickstarts your day, but there’s something about waking up and thinking of toast every day that seems so unappealing. If we can have variety in our lunch and dinner foods every day, why can’t we choose something equally as savory for breakfast if it’s so important? It’s a topic I’m very sensitive about, so please don’t fight me on this.
This breakfast though. Oh boy. I know that they set it up for tourists and locals don’t eat like this every day but wow. It fulfilled my dream of having dinner for breakfast. This buffet had so many amazing options and nothing was heavy! I have strong feelings against super heavy foods.
After breakfast, we headed out to the Sensoji temple in Asakusa, a district of Tokyo. It’s one of the most popular temples in Tokyo, attracting the most tourists. Most temples have little shops leading up to them, from what I remember from six years ago when I last visited Japan. We’re going to be visiting a lot more temples in Kyoto, so I look forward to seeing the different environments of each temple setting.
This Sensoji temple is really well-known for the huge lanterns in the gates leading up to it, but it was hard to get a good picture because there were so many tourists. Not a problem, though, because tourism is all part of the experience. While in the temple, I decided to test out my fortune. The way this works is that you stand at a station and shake this shaker thing that has a bunch of sticks inside with different numbers. You keep shaking until a stick comes out of the hole, and then you open the drawer with your corresponding number to get your fortune.
I got the number 18, and then I realized that I can’t read Japanese. Let me repeat. I am completely and utterly illiterate when it comes to Japanese. Thankfully, my grandpa was available at the click of an email so we asked him to translate it for us. He didn’t reply right away, so we decided to hang out around the area just in case I got a bad fortune and had to tie the paper on the bad fortune rack in order to leave the bad luck behind.
This is where this day got good!!!
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in previous posts and I’m honestly too lazy and embarrassed to go back and read my own writing, but I have a huge addiction to matcha. I love the bitterness of it combined with the slight sweetness that just hits the right spot and honestly makes me swoon a little. It sounds like matcha and I are in a relationship. It feels like it sometimes.
Matcha in America honestly just isn’t that good unless you’re in an authentic Japanese restaurant where they basically import their matcha products. I’ve bought matcha ice cream from Asian supermarkets, and it just tastes like vanilla (I’m not complaining, though). Matcha pastries in Asian-American bakeries are bland. Matcha Kit-Kats are actually quite good, but they’re imported. Matcha boba just isn’t matcha-y enough and I feel like I’ve set my expectations so high that nothing matcha in America can satisfy me.
Back to the present. I found this matcha ice cream shop called Suzukien Asakusa that was a four minute walk from the Sensoji temple and it’s famous for being the most concentrated matcha ice cream in the world. There are seven levels to the matcha flavor. I chose the level 5 matcha flavor and it was PERFECT.
Wow, I think my heart just skipped a beat as I looked at those pictures again.
I would also like to add the fact that it was 10:30AM and we were already having ice cream. Being on vacation is amazing because you get to treat yourself like this, but I’m also putting myself at bigger risk for health issues because now I’m telling myself it’s okay to eat sugar for breakfast. It’s okay, Chloe. It’s okay.
It began to rain heavily as we walked back from the matcha shop to the temple, but my grandpa replied with my fortune! Apparently it was very good and it lines up with my future plans. It talked about trees at one point 😉
My mom wanted to recreate a photo we took years ago at the Tokyo SkyTree, so we headed over there next. It was a short walk across the river to the famous skyscraper, but the sun came out and the humidity started to really catch up to us.
The SkyTree had a food court where we ate lunch at, and there were so many options to choose from! I decided to go basic and got zaru udon with tempura, which are chilled noodles with a dipping sauce and deep fried shrimp. We also shared a takoyaki, which are octopus dough dumplings.
We didn’t end up going to the top of the tower, but it amazes me at how fancy Japanese malls are. Not only do they pay attention to the detail within the mall, but they also landscape the surrounding area so beautifully.
Our next destination after the SkyTree was Shibuya, the main hub of Tokyo and a big shopping district besides Ginza (a high end shopping district similar to 5th Avenue in New York City). On the way to Shibuya, we stopped by a convenience store for the convenience of it (haha I suck at jokes).
Japanese convenience stores have a beauty within themselves with the whole concept of it. I mentioned in my first post the complexity of Japanese convenience stores, and you can see just how much they’re thought through in the picture below. You could easily go in and get lunch. Foods we often pay a lot of money for in Japanese restaurants in America are at your fingertips in Japanese convenience stores for a couple hundred yen. They have an entire hot bar with croquettes and vegetable tempura.
I bought a cheap green tea drink because I needed caffeine. In Japan, you don’t see people walking around with their drinks, such as coffee or a soda bottle, or food. People just eat at the store and then head out. I assume this is to help preserve the cleanliness of the city, and I guess it also is just more efficient for everybody if people aren’t distracted by the food or beverage in their hand while walking in a public space.
We took the local metro to Shibuya and got out at Exit 8. This exit is special because it’s where a dog named Hachiko waited for his owner for a long time after his owner died at work one day. Hachiko would go out at the same time every day and wait at the station for his owner who would never return, and it became a very touching and emotional story for people in Japan. There’s even a movie about it. At the mouth of Exit 8, the city erected a statue in memory of Hachiko. Hachi in Japanese means 8, so it makes sense that it would be at Exit 8.
Shibuya is also home to the busiest crosswalk in the world. I thought that the busiest crosswalk would be in China or India since they have larger populations, but nope! It’s Shibuya! There’s a lot of foot traffic in Japan because people walk everywhere, so it makes sense.
We did some window shopping around Shibuya, and I finally got an adapter for my laptop (you can read about my careless mistake here). Honestly, we were just killing time until about 5PM when we had to head over to a new section of Tokyo in Koto City. I reserved tickets for my family and I to go to this digital art museum called TeamLab Borderless at 6PM.
We ate a quick dinner at this shopping mall called Palette Town that strangely looks like the Venetian in Las Vegas (see below) and then we dashed over to the museum.
I’ve never really been the type of person to do things for Instagram, but WOW! This entire digital art museum is made for Instagram!
They had multiple rooms. One was called Memory of Topography where you walked through a forest of lilypads on sticks and light projected onto them. Another room was called the Crystal Universe and you walked through a room full of mirrors and hanging LED lights that changed colors and patterns and had sound effects to them. There was a central room that had a small hill with a waterfall projecting onto you while cherry blossoms and sunflowers bloom around your head.
My favorite room was probably the Forest of Resonating Lamps, which looks like something straight out of Tangled. This room was also a mirrored room, so it made it look like the hanging lightbulbs went on for miles and miles (or should I say kilometers and kilometers…). The colors of the lightbulbs changed from pinks to blues to greens and it was so gorgeous. Each group of 30 only got about a minute to be inside the room, though.
These daily posts are going to be so long, but there’s honestly so much to do in these major cities that I can’t help it! The teamlab Borderless exhibit might be one of the highlights of my trip, and it was only the second day 🙂 The advance features of Japan never fail to amaze me. I remember when a popup exhibit called the Infinity Rooms also came through my hometown, and I missed it. Those were also by a Japanese artist. I’m really glad I got to experience something similar (and get that aesthetic Instagram picture!!!).
See you tomorrow!