Monday, July 26, 2010


And finally, the last post from our trip to Asia that was 6 months ago.  The first several pictures of of the Meiji Jingu shrine.

At night we tried to go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (TMG) for the view over the city.  It was closed for some reason and we never found out why.

Tokyo Tower all lit up and right near our hotel.

Sensoji Temple.  Unfortunately we didn't get to poke around the temple or the neighborhood too much as it started to rain.  And yes, I did shop at the GAP while in Tokyo.  It started out because I needed new gloves since mine had a hole in them but they had much cooler things than I saw in the US.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tokyo - Eating

Neither Nick nor I like sushi.  We've tried it several different times, by good chefs, at the supermarket, you name it.  It's just not really our thing.  And we haven't really been exposed to much Japanese food as the midwest is not the place to for that (other than what other people call good sushi).  So I was a little apprehensive about what we were going to eat in Japan.

What I did know was that I wanted noodles.  We stopped at this noodle shop.  There was a menu that had pictures to the right, we selected what we wanted and paid using this machine which was outside of the tiny shop.  Then we went inside to wait for our food and eat at the little counter.

I had soba noodles with some sort of tempura and egg.  Nick had udon noodles with tempura.  Yummmm.  I fell in love with soba noodles.  And I even managed to eat them with chopsticks.  The cook recognized that we are inept Americans and gave us forks as well.  Ever since coming back to Chicago I have been on a search for some soba.
Later that night we went to Harajuku.  We saw all the young girls in their crazy fashions and browsed through the shops.  Needless to say, I didn't buy anything as that style doesn't fit with my preppiness.  We also saw a Wolfgang Puck.  It's not all raw fish in Tokyo!

We did not eat at Wolfgang Puck.  We did eat at Harajuku Cafe Crepe.  Unfortunately we'd devoured most of the crepe before we thought to take a picture.  They wrap up these large crepes like ice cream cones and stuff them full of all sorts of deliciousness such as cheese cake, whipped cream, strawberries, and caramel.  It was so good that we stopped by again the next day.

I would have loved to have eaten in one of Tokyo's many Michelin starred restaurants.  Even though we love to eat, with our minimal time we didn't have the time to devote to a long meal.  Plus we might have fallen asleep if we didn't keep moving.

We got up early the next morning to go to the Tsukiji fish market.  What a great experience.  The Tsukiji fish market is the biggest fish and seafood market in the world.  We didn't actually eat here though.

We saw some crazy species of fish.  Huge octopus, eels, and other slimy sea creatures along with tuna and crabs.

As I said before, we're not sushi fans.  However, since then we've had a couple experiences with great sushi at a restaurant in Vancouver and several raw fish dishes at L2O.  I wish we'd hired a guide to show us around and take us to the famous sushi counters located at the market.
Our final meal in Tokyo was to be lunch at a wonderful bento box place I'd found recommended on the internet.  We never did find that little restaurant even with explicit directions.  Instead we ended up at another restaurant in the neighborhood where I had a wonderful dish that had chicken and a wonderful sauce and Nick had another noodle dish.  Both were excellent.  I was so impressed by all the food I had in the short time that I hope to be back in the future for a full culinary tour.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tokyo - Hotel

We had less than 24 hours in Tokyo. Needless to say it was a whirlwind. We changed our plans not long before we left on our trip to include an overnight stopover in Tokyo between a long flight from Bangkok to Tokyo and an even longer flight from Tokyo back to the US.

We had the pleasure of having a delayed flight while leaving Phuket. Which meant we got to stay in the airport overnight instead of being able to steal a few hours in a bed. So we sat in some awkward plastic chairs for a while. Amazingly there were lots of other people staying in the airport overnight.

At the Tokyo airport, we stored all our bags and threw a change of clothes and pajamas into a backpack. We weren't messing around with taking time to lug our bags and to check-in to our hotel, with only 24 hours we were on a sightseeing mission.

We finally arrived after a day of sightseeing to our hotel at 10 pm. Tokyo is a notoriously expensive city. Especially if you consider we were just in Thailand and Cambodia. We were able to book a room at The Prince Park Tower Tokyo for about $175 a night. The Prince Park Tower was highly rated on Trip Advisor and received a Travelers' Choice 2010 Award.

We showed up at the front desk a little worse for the wear. We hadn't showered in a while, we'd been on a ferry and 2 airplanes since then, and we'd run around the city all day. Yet the front desk couldn't have been more hospitable. They insisted on placing our 2 small backpacks on a luggage cart and taking them up to our room for us.

The lobby was really nice.

I was excited to stay in a Japanese hotel room. The Japanese are known for their gadgets and they did not disappoint. I insisted on using every setting on the toilet. I particularly liked the warming toilet seat after coming in from a cold day of walking around. The lights had gadgets, the bath tub had gadgets. Yet they didn't even have WiFi, you had to hook up with a cord.

While the room was pefectly nice and adequate, it wasn't what I'd call a top ranked hotel in a major city as Trip Advisor seemed to indicate.  Our decor was a little oudated.  We decided to go with the room with 2 double beds since it was $100 cheaper than the room with a queen or king-sized bed.  I'm wondering if the more expensive rooms were better. 

The hotel does seem to have several amenities that we didn't get to check out since we were there all of 8 hours including a spa, pool, and restaurants.

Overall I'd say it was worth the $175 price tag since most lower level hotels in town seemed to be at least $130/night.  However, if rooms are at their $400/night rack rate, I would either upgrade to a hotel that's truly stunning or pick a more budget friendly hotel.