Japan Trip 2016 – Day 3

The first time I went to Tsukiji with Anna we got there around 6:00 AM. This time I didn’t want to rush everyone out the door too early so I said it’d be okay if we left the apartment around 6:30 AM.

If you want to skip straight to photos, go to my Day 3 gallery here!

Well, the IDEA was for it to not be rushed but…

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It seriously bears repeating. Get this thing ASAP!

JAPAN TRAVEL TIP: I said this in a previous post, but it bears repeating that you should get your Suica card AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Suica cards are what you use to take the subway no matter which line you need. You put money on it as needed instead of having to deal with tickets. Since the subway lines are privately owned, the biggest problem with tickets is you have to get ones specific to the subway line. If you get the wrong ticket you can’t go through the turnstile. With a Suica card you just tap, and go through. You buy them from specific Suica card machines that have a black border around them.At the time I was using both Google Maps, and also a subway app to get directions which was a big mistake because the subway app didn’t include JR lines. Also there are so many subway lines that sometimes you’ll be trying to distinguish between shades of orange. Tokyo’s subway system must be a huge pain if you’re color blind.

We got our tickets but went to the wrong turnstile. Then went back and forth through the subway trying to find the correct one. I asked some staff for directions, but my Japanese wasn’t good enough to completely understand them except for when they said “left” or “right” and would point up or down.

Long story short, we found the right subway but wasted some time doing it. Next time I’m getting my Suica card as soon as I get off at Narita (or just bringing my old one and hoping it still works).

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Remember, Tsukiji is where tons of people work. You are in their way, so be as accommodating as possible to the workers!

We also had to take a detour to a Lawson to use the bathroom, and ended up getting to Tsukiji around 8:00AM. When I saw people in line for other sushi places I already regretted not leaving earlier. Whenever we saw other tourists I told my friends to walk faster just in case they were also going to the same restaurant. I knew that being behind another group of people could mean another 30-60 minutes of waiting!

Finally we got to our destination, Sushi Dai!

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I’m sure there are other good sushi places at Tsukiji, but why risk it??
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While we were still lucid enough to make faces

The line was huge. Even longer than the first time I went. I wasn’t even sure if we were going to make it in, because they close for the day at 2:00 PM! We crossed our fingers. The host came outside to count people, and ask how many were in our group. She counted us and didn’t cut the line off, so we were in! I knew they must know exactly how many people they can fit in, and sure enough after about a dozen people behind us they put up a sign saying the line was capped.

PHEW!

We ordered the large omakase which incredibly is only 4000 yen! I’ve spent far than that on sushi in the U.S. and of course it was nowhere near as good as a famous place literally next to the fish market all the sushi came from.

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Line capped!

But… the wait ended up being four hours long O_O

Coincidentally this was the first time in the trip that the sun came out in the crazy humidity.

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It was REALLY hot when I took this

TRAVEL TIP FOR STAYING COOL: Bring a parasol! Another thing you can buy are cooling strips. In Japan they’re typically used to bring down a fever. They stick to your skin, and the chemicals in there cause a reaction that makes it very cool almost to the point of a burning feeling. This was the one and only time I used one during our trip, but I’m glad I had it. Otherwise I probably would’ve felt faint or even worse.

Finally at around noon we were in!

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Our skilled and friendly sushi chef!

As soon as we got in, the sushi chef said in English “I’m SOOOO SORRY! Are you okay???” We kind of laughed, put our bags away, and eagerly sat down. I forgot to ask his name, but this chef was also there during the last trip to Japan! He was really nice and his English pronunciation was very good. He kept asking Heather’s son JL about sports he played, and teams he liked.

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I’ve heard you should judge sushi restaurants based on their egg because it’s very difficult to get right. Theirs was delicious!

First piece was O-Toro! When the FIRST piece is O-Toro you know you’re going to be in for something good. I was a bit worried JL wasn’t going to be able to finish the full omakase, but with just a little bit of help he ate it all. I was feeling pretty full by the end so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to help if needed. The worst thing I could imagine was any of the precious sushi going to waste.

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O-toro!

We sat mostly in silence as the delicious sushi melted in our mouths. I could tell from looking and listening to Mark and Heather eat that the wait was worth it.

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My cat Uni’s delicious namesake!

Even though the only thing I did was guide them to the specific place that I had been taken to before, I felt a great moment of relief that everyone was enjoying it.

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I think this was clam. It still moved as it was set in front of me
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I’ve never seen tuna as red as I have at Sushi Dai
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I’ve never had eel sushi like the kind I’ve had in Japan. Totally different texture!

Even though we got there at 8:00 AM the meal ended up being our lunch, so we decided to head to Akihabara next for some more geeky shopping. Akihabara is still very intimidating to me, but I knew of a few places from the previous trip so we went straight to Super Potato. Mark loves all things Nintendo so I knew he’d be beside himself when we got there.

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Even though I’d been there before, Akihabara is still pretty mind blowing

I was right.

These were Mark’s expressions when we got there and gazed at the walls of retro game carts, consoles, and incredibly rare video game stuff. Now I know that when Mark is excited he contains it, but you can see it peeking out behind his eyes. I was overjoyed to see this.

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Mark’s expression says to me: “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
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Heather getting nostalgic about an original Gameboy

I had to remind myself what it was like seeing all of it for the first time, because even seeing it all just once is enough to temper the excitement, but it was fun to enjoy through my friends’ eyes.

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Mark doesn’t know where to start
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Pretty much every wall was like this.

We also made a stop at Kotobukiya where we saw more Ghibli stuff, but their selection wasn’t as diverse as Kiddy Land’s. Also I knew that there were better stores for Ghibli merch that we’d get to later. We made a quick stop at Madarake, which sells collectors’ items toys. I’m not really the type of person to buy super expensive toys anymore so I think I can safely skip it next time I go to Japan.

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Overwatch billboard I saw. Apparently published by Square Enix in Japan

By the time we finished with Madarake it was around dinner time, and we decided to get tempura. I did some googling and found a tempura place nearby in an indoor mall. Here’s another cool thing about Japan, their indoor mall restaurants are all super nice!

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Finally got some decent rain while in Akihabara

It occurred to me that there aren’t many chain fast food places in Japan. Of course there are McDonalds, Subway and other places, but ramen stores and other small shops are the go-to way to get fast and cheap food that’s also DELICIOUS. Not only that, but they’re open incredibly late which means they’re the hangover food for drunk people in Japan. In the U.S. we have diners and IHOP…

The tempura place we ended up at was pretty fancy looking and delicious! The tempura batter was a totally different texture than what I’m used to getting in the U.S. Usually when I get tempura it feels like a layer that comes off very easily. The batter of this tempura adhered to the meat and veggies better. I don’t know if there’s anywhere in the U.S. where I’ll be able to get tempura like this.

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I’ve never seen tempura with this color and texture

This was also the first day we had some significant rain. We had to stop underneath an overhang before dinner because it was raining so hard, but I knew it was the kind of torrential rain that lasts only a few minutes then eases off.

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Our apartment came with an umbrella…that we then lost and had to replace…twice.

We went back to our apartment in Shibuya and took another break. I went with Mark to a bar close by called “Goodbeer Faucets,” got some nice craft beers and called it a night.

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They have a TON of beer here
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Mark’s beer flight

Day 4 was going to be one of the most jam packed of the entire trip!

 

 

 

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