It was finally time to visit Japan again: when we arrived at the Warsaw Airport we realized the plane is completely packed! We knew that this is going to be an awful flight – we made a last minute decision to switch from LOT economy to business class in order to make it easier and less exhausting on ourselves. LOT business class isn’t as fancy as Emirates or Singapore Airlines but it includes the most important things: bed-sits (and thus not having to deal or fight for space with complete strangers) & better food! Overall, it would have probably had been sufficient to just upgraded to 1st class and enjoy comfier sits and more leg room for half of the price of business class but as it usually goes with us: fast, “go big or go home” decisions are made on whim without proper consideration.
Once on Haneda airport we went to pick up our portable wifi and figure out our way to get to the car rental shop. In all this commotion we forgot to take out some cash from the ATM (two chaotes together!) and only realized we had no means to pay for the road toll once we were on our marry way to Tokyo. Luckily I still had some JPY in my wallet from our previous trip to Japan which proved to be just enough to get to our hotel in Shiba. We stayed at Hotel Celestine near Tokyo Tower. The hotel was beautiful with comfortable rooms and amazing breakfast buffet. It was fairly early in the afternoon so after resting a bit inside our hotel room we decided to head out for a quick stop at Shinjuku Alta’s Liz Lisa store. I bought myself some items from the Autumn/Winter and proceeded to visit other stores inside the mall. We were getting quite hungry & the jet leg was starting to hit us a bit so we decided to just grab a quick bite at McDonald’s (very uninspired) across the street and grab a cab back to our hotel. It was getting dark at this point, we instructed the driver and sat silently in the back unwinding. Once we got out of the taxi an awful realization struck us: we were at the wrong Hotel Celestine! Apparently there are two of those in Tokyo! We considered getting another taxi but eventually decided to just walk to the train station and commute. After taking a little nap we walked over Matsuya around 3:00 in the morning to grab a quick beef bowl (…is it our first day in Japan middle of the night tradition yet?).
The next day we headed out to Asakusa. We bought some souvenirs and tried some local street food. We ended up going to the big Don Quijote store and spent quite a bit of time shopping there before heading out to Tokyo Sky Tree where we explored a bit, shopped at Donguri Ghibli Store & Pokemon Center ad had some delicious katsudon & unadon for dinner . On our way back we tried the super hyped Korean fried cheese (it was okay, it’s a corn dog, nothing to rave about imo.)
In the evening we went to see a modern kabuki-style performance by team Wagaku on Tokyo Bay Dinner Cruise. “Wagaku” means learning and enjoying Japanese culture. The concept of Atakemaru (a replica od Edo era battle ship) is ‘to combine the pleasure of a night cruise through Tokyo Bay with the pleasant relaxation of dinner theatre.’ The performance is a mix of Japanese styles of dance, including Kabuki-style and courtesan-style, accompanied by drums, string instruments and song. During the cruise a small-personal buffet style food is served. Dan & I took turns picking dishes to try and rate. My personal favorites were octopus, nigiri & yams! It is said that the performance is usually accompanied by at least one English speaking cast member to help foreign visitors, however, that was not the case for us. Besides us and a small group of Russians all the tourists were Japanese. It didn’t take away from the fun of the performance though. It was a very interesting and fun experience overall.
On our third day in Tokyo we decided to return to Tokyo Sky Tree and explore the place a bit more. We spend a long time sampling and buying Japanese sweets & wagashi. My absolute favorite was Ringo Panda Tokyo. It’s white and milk chocolate with apple sauce sandwiched between to light cookies. Delicious! For lunch we decided to eat at Soratoraya where we had some gyoza and noodles. I personally loved my bowl but Dan was less impressed with his choice.
After lunch we went to the planetarium. I love the planetarium – the shows always make me tear up. Dan on the other hand struggled with his headset and fell asleep mid show (maybe he was just tired)… Following the show we got caricature portraits drawn of our chow chow ,Xiao Dou Dou (That would be Azuki Chan in Japanese – surprisingly I’ve learned that it is one of the most popular dog names in Japan!), & Dan’s sister’s doggy Leia. We followed this up with a bit more shopping and a visit to the aquarium. The aquarium at Tokyo Sky Tree is fairly small and holds mostly native spices of aquatic life. The spotted garden eels is definitely the stars of the establishment! So cute! We closed off the day by having some food at the rooftop Christmas market.
On day four we had this ‘great idea’ to go to the opening day of the Nintendo Store in Shibuya Parco Mall. What could go wrong? – they said. We arrived in front of the mall where we were welcomed by a giant line. My first instinct was to just leave – I hate queuing! But Dan was eager to figure out how it all worked. We were rushed to one end of the que by staff members who gave us wristbands. At the end of the line we received a little paper with a time stamp at which we can start to que for the actual entrance of the store – ‘the real que”. ‘How bad could it be? We already got time stamps’ – we thought to ourselves. So we decided to kill some time by going to the Disney Store and Shibuya 109 to have some desserts. We got back to the que and this is where the nightmare begon. We stood in line up three flights of stairs going around Shibuya Parco Mall. Once on the rooftop we joined another que that zig-zagged all the way around to another flight of stairs this time going down. If Behemoth was a que this would be it! All this took us maybe 3-4 hours in rain and freezing cold. People around us were shivering and shaking from the bad weather conditions. Dan wanted to give up mid way but that’s when the roles switched and I became committed to this living hell of an experience. Once we got to the last stage of the que that went back down flights of stairs at least there was a rooftop above our heads – dry at last!
Once inside we got rewarded with the ‘awesome opportunity’ to spend our money on pricey Nintendo merchandise! What a treat! Totally worth it! (Not really…) We got a bunch of Zelda merch for our friend and some Animal Crossing goodies for me (PJs, mugs, stickers & some pins). The total costs of all this was around 350 USD and awful back pain for Dan from all this hours of standing up. We were planning to explore the entire Cyperspace Parco floor which also includes a new Pokemon Center & Capcom store but by the time we got out of the Nintendo Experience everything was slowly closing down. We decided to just head back to the hotel. On our way back I grabbed two new bags from the Jill by Jill Stuart store. We ended up just eating some food from the combini for dinner as we were too tired to go out to eat. And that was our last full day in Tokyo that trip before we made our way down to Matsumoto. But more on that in my next Japan Trip post.